Issue No. 273 - May 22, 2002

            By Stojan Obradovic

            By Slobodan Rackovic

            By Zvezdan Georgievski

    (An intreview with Nikolai Khramov)
    By Stojan Obradovic

    Nikolai Khramov is the president of the Russian branch of
Transnational Radical Party and is a secretary to the Anti-militaristic
Radical Asociation, one of the most active NGOs which opposes
Russian war politics in Chechnya with a series of actions.
    We interviewed Khramov just as he was commenting for Russian
media announcements that Russia won't confirm a decision to
establish a permanent International War Crimes Court. Khramov said
it was unfortunately the expected action of Putin's government because
one of the priorities of that court would be to put to trial those
responsible for horrible crimes in Chechnya.
    Q.: Do you think there is chance that somebody, sometime, will
be tried for Russian war crimes in Chechnya?
    A.: I can only say that I hope that one day those responsible
for war crimes and crimes against humanity will face the international
criminal court. It would be very unfair and strange to see Mr.
Milosevic in Hague, with no-one who is responsible for crimes in
Chechnya which are worse than those committed during war in
    Q.: How do you mean worse?
    A.: In the past seven years, during the course of two wars, at
least 150,000 civilians in Chechnya have been murdered. 400,000
people were forced into exile, there are towns like Grozny, which is
completely devastated, unable to compare with any destroyed town
in former Yugoslavia. That destruction can only be compared with
    Crimes must be punished, and war stopped. The only way to stop
the war are negotiations.
    Q.: Besides direct executors, what Russian politicians should
be held responsible for war crimes in Chechnya?
    A.: I think there is enough basis to call Mr. Putin to The Hague,
because he is the author of the second Chechen war, the
so-called election war which enabled him to come to power.
    There is no doubt that Putin has enormous political
responsibility for that war in Chechnya and I think it normal to
investigate to what extent he was responsible for crimes committed
in that war.
    I think that first, although symbolic, action was made when the
chief prosecutor of the current court in The Hague, Carla del Ponte,
hosted the official Chechen delegation. I think she gave a clear
signal that one day the international criminal court will focus on
Chechnya. And if we start investigation into Russian crimes in
Chechnya, such investigation won't be able to pass Mr. Putin.
    An investigation is also important to provide us with answers to
doubts about origins of the war. Many actions that have served as
a pretext for war, as well as terrorist attacks that Russian propaganda
claimed were staged by Chechens, are similar to well-known methods
of Russian secret services.
    Anyhow, we must start investigation about crimes in Chechnya
as soon as possible. At this time, death squads are roaming there,
units which systematically commit war crimes, kidnap, murder and
torture people. It is claimed they are outlaws outside of military
control, but that is yet to be investigated.
    Q.: What are the current possibilities for end of war in
    A.: Every day we hear news in our media about murders of
Russian soldiers and policemen in Chechnya. There is a guerrilla
war and such news shouldn't come as a surprise. What many people
don't realize is that there is no end or victory neither for
Russian nor Chechen side in this war. The Russian army won't be able
to break the Chechen guerrilla, and Chechens don't have illusions
that Russians will retreat in peace one day.
    That's why negotiations are the only and necessary exit and
solution to this war. Negotiations should be held between two
presidents - Putin and Aslan Maskhadov who was elected at
Chechen elections in 1997, which were acknowledged both by
the OSCE and Russia.
    Chechnya has a legally elected president, parliament and
government that are always open to negotiations. The problem is in the
Russian side which avoids them. We need to open and start real
official talks about ending war and these few meetings between
Russian and Chechen representatives at the Moscow airport are a
far cry from it.
    Q.: Are there political and civil forces in Russia that can
exert pressure on Putin to accept negotiations?
    A.: We can do whatever we want, but our government doesn't
react to it. Only the international community, especially western
countries, can exert any pressure on the Russian government. That's why
actions staged in Russia have to address not the Russian government
which ignores them but European institutions - the European
Commission, Council of Europe, OSCE, etc. They have to see the
displeasure and protest against the war in Chechnya in order to more
effectively press Moscow to accept negotiations and end war. I
think that the role played by the EU could be much greater.
The European parliament could invite Chechen president Maskhadov to
deliver his views of political solution to Chechnya. The EU could act
as middle-man in negotiations between the Russian and Chechen
    Compared to two or three years ago when many of us have
thought that organizing protests against war in Chechnya could
cause some positive reaction from the government, the situation
has deteriorated. The civil sector is now in worse condition than it was
during Yeltsin. The police state consolidated itself. The government tries to
obstruct NGOs in many ways - ranging from introduction of special
taxes to prevention of politically sensitive manifestations like
protests against war in Chechnya. They use various beaurocratic
pretexts to disallow such actions and we will be forced to ask the
Human Rights' Court in Strasbourg to protect us.
    Q.: What is the role of media in the Chechen war?
    A.: There is no more objective information about the war in
electronic media. The government decided to break independent national
TV broadcasts like NTV or TV6 primarily to prevent them to
objectively report about war in Chechnya. There is a widespread
censorship that has included, in a way, even the most liberal
    Authorities knew they suffered defeat in the first Chechen war
because they couldn't impose their media image about the war.
Then, objective media like NTV reported about the war without
bias, showing all sides. Now there's nothing of that sort. TV is
showing only one side, many radio stations reporting about the war
in Chechnya are now silent. There are only rare objective media
like newspapers " Nezavisnija Gazeta " or Radio Free Europe/
Radio Liberty, but their influence is minor. Nobody can stand up
to television, and thus the media battle for objective informing is
lost. I claim, under full responsibility, that in today's Russia
there isn't any independent TV station - they are either directly
owned by state or are controlled by firms dependent on the
government, which is similar to corporate organization as basis
for a fascist organization of state.
    Q.: How is the public opinion reacting to the war in Chechnya?
    A.: Polls show that those who do not support Putin's war
politics in Chechnya are growing in number. I think now there is a
majority of those who are against war. That is a significant
improvement compared to 1999 or 2000 when most citizens supported
war against Chechnya.
    But the problem is that is the silent majority which won't
bring on the necessary heat on Russian politics nor force it to
    Q. How, then, do you feel that end of war in Chechnya is
    A. As I said, this current situation of Russian military
intervention and occupation on one side and guerrilla resistance
on the other can last for years. But I think both sides are aware
of that. Especially important is that the Kremlin, including Mr.
Putin, also knows it. Putin is not stupid, he is a very pragmatic
politician. He started the war in Chechnya when such war could
serve him to grab absolute power in Russia. If he thought that
continuation of that war could harm his government, then he would
sit and negotiate how to end it.
    Besides, important will be the pressure of international
factors, and here is where I think things are starting to return
to their usual routine. The syndrome of 11th September is now more
realistic and rational . Putin used terrorist attacks on New York
and Washington to continue his dirty war, now camouflaged as fight
against terror. He represents himself and his policy as part of
holy alliance against terrorism. During the first, confused, phase
Western countries didn't protest much, but now that period is over.
The fight against terrorism will now disable various misuses of human
    But what is key is that all who are in favour of ending this
war must know that Chechnya, after all horrible crimes committed
by Russian forces, will never again be part of Russia. Political
forces in Russia fighting against war in Chechnya, if they really
mean it, have to exert constant pressure on president Putin to
accept negotiations but also prepare public opinion in Russia that
Chechnya cannot be part of Russian Federation anymore. The paradox
is that Russian military intervention in Chechnya brought it
independence, which will be a reality sooner or later.

                                    * * *
    By Slobodan Rackovic

    Although many felt it certain that parties fighting for full
independence of Montenegro, now still a member of the Yugoslav
Federation, would face failure at local elections on 15th of May,
they unexpectedly triumphed, thus announcing another step towards
full independence.
    Parties whose agenda is complete sovereignty of Montenegro such
as the Democratic Party of Socialists (led by Montenegro's current
President Milo Djukanovic), Liberal Alliance and Social
Democratic Party, gained a significant rise in popularity after local elections
last Wednesday, on 15th of May, while the opposed parties of
the so-called Serbian-Yugoslav political block suffered a sizable
decline in popularity.
    Independent experts in Montenegro say that Montenegrins who
feel they have Serbian roots reacted with much disapproval toward
the Belgrade Agreement signed on 14th of March which irrevocably
replaced country called Yugoslavia with loose union of independent
states. Also, they were greatly disappointed with the decision of the
three-party coalition "Together for Yugoslavia" to support
extradition of war crime suspects to the Hague Tribunal.  There
was some dispute among pro-Serbian parties joined in "Together for
Yugoslavia" coalition just before the election. As consequence,
members of that alliance - Socialist People's Party, Serbian
People's Party and People's Party - took part in elections
independently in many of 19 counties which lessened their total
election result.
    And while the failure of Serbian-Yugoslav unionist parties is
logical, success of pro-independence parties headed by president
Milo Djukanovic is quite a surprise because he accepted Belgrade
Agreement, effectively postponing independence referendum for
three years. It had been scheduled for this spring. That action
caused considerable apathy and resignation among Montenegrin
independentists who have been waiting for their independence day
since 1918. President Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of
Socialist have been abandoned by both their allies - Social
Democratic Party and Liberal Alliance, which caused strong
parliamentary crisis and fall of pro-Montenegrin government. There
have already been talks of early parliamentary elections and of
Djukanovic's failure in running for second five-years' term as
president. And then local elections surfaced all hidden strength
of independence block ,but also Djukanovic's charisma that was
undoubtedly one of the key factors in voters' choice on 15 of May.
Now weakened pro-Yugoslav block probably doesn't even want to
think about early elections, while encouraged Djukanovic can with
renewed enthusiasm form a new government with exclusively
pro-Montenegrin members and prepare for presidential elections.
    Referendum on independence is scheduled for 2005, the year
ending the "test drive" of the controversial Union between Serbia and
Montenegro (with independent economic, monetary and customs
systems). As stated in the Belgrade Agreement, the European Union
will give its approval for Montenegrin referendum that year, instead
of this spring.
    Although Montenegro is a small country with a total of 550
thousand registered voters, the world media paid special attention to
these elections, with 1,200 foreign and local monitors. These
elections were the first public poll in one of the two members of
still surviving FR Yugoslavia regarding Belgrade Agreement, into
which the EU poured almost all of its authority and reputation.
Although both the Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments ratified the
document, implementation is very difficult and slow, so there are
many who believe that the Union will never work out in practice. Not
only are the secessionist sentiments traditionally present in
Montenegro, but there is also a growing wish for independence in
Serbia itself, although it has until recently supported idea of
keeping joint country with Montenegrins (but with domination of
Serbs) so it is a big question what will happen with this infant
hatched by Javier Solana.
    Montenegrins use an expression "Those who are born a hunchback
cannot heal with time", is a reminder that during the Macedonian crisis,
Solana did not exactly become famous for his half-solution of relations
between Macedonians and Albanians. As a consequence, they have already
begun patiently building their attributes as state. Besides Montenegro
adopting the euro as their currency, forming their own customs service and
economic system, as well as implementing many democratic reforms,
Montenegrins laid foundations to their army during the past few
days in Cetinje, ancient Montenegrin capital!
    Together with other attributes of a state that have been
re-taken from federal state during years of opposition to Milosevic's
militant regime, these newest actions mean that Milo Djukanovic and
his followers have stepped onto a road to full independence from which
there is no return. After last year's barren success at parliamentary elections,
they needed a stronger push which they got at local election on 15th of May.
That's why these elections, although only of local character, have so much
importance both for Montenegro and the region as well as Europe.
                                * * *
    By Zvezdan Georgievski

    Parliamentary elections in Macedonia are officially set for
15th September. Many people in this country, greatly disturbed by
ethnic conflicts between Macedonian majority and Albanian minority
last year, expect elections to provide new government which will
secure stability.
    It is general belief that a countdown of last hundred days of
the strangest coalition ever formed on Balkans has begun. The
coalition made out of Macedonian nationalist party Democratic
party for Macedonian Unity ( VMRO-DPMNE ) headed by prime minister
Ljupce Georgievski and likewise nationalist Democratic Albanian
party ( ex  Party for Democratic Prosperity  of Albanians im
Macedonia ) one of the political parties of Macedonian Albanians,
has been ruling Macedonia for the past four years.
    This "multiextremist" coalition which was formed during the 1998
elections when Macedonian Social Democrat Alliance (reformed
communists) were removed from power didn't succeed in calming down
tensions between nations that have been growing since Macedonian
proclamation of independence in 1991. On the contrary, new
government flared the tensions until their escalation into war
that has ended only following intervention of international
    Experts predict that Macedonian Social Democrat Alliance and
former prime minister Branko Crvenovski will return to power
    For now there still isn't usual election euphoria and voters
are for the most part in a state of apathy. Parties are trying to
overcome that condition with frequent public polls. However, all
of them are partisan and, depending on the side which ordered a
poll, chances of opposition and government either rise or fall. As
polls never gave true result in this region, nobody takes them
into account seriously.
    Yet, disregarding which party will emerge victorious and get a
chance to form the government, what people in Macedonia fear is a
repeat of "clan democracy" where everyone votes for their own,
without any criticism towards previous performance of the party in
    Current prime minister Ljupce Georgiveski and his party are
justly pointed out as culprits for today's catastrophic political,
security and economic situation leading to a kind of international
protectorship as a consequence of ethnic conflict with Albanians.
However, neither are Branko Crvenovski and his party, the
Social Democrat Union, bound to win at elections either, which is
a certain success for Macedonia.
    Crvenkovski and his party already had their chance, but didn't
make any significant improvement in democratization and economic
progress of the country.
    Experts think that among clan democracy can also be counted
new political currents among Macedonian Albanians. Besides two
already existing Albanian parties, there appeared another,
Coordination Council led by Ali Ahmeti, former commander of
National Liberation Army of Macedonian Albanians (Macedonian UCK).
Many feel that he has great chances to get majority of Albanian
votes in Macedonians. Taking up civilian clothes, Ahmeti
envisioned his Coordination Council as rallying point for all
Albanians in Macedonia. Among his program is the request for
introduction of Albanian language as official in Macedonia,
strengthening local government in Albanian enclaves, looser ties
with Skopje, etc. According to some opinions, his program is equal
to program for federalization of Macedonia, and it is well-known
that Macedonians fear federalization as introduction into eventual
    Anyhow, there's no doubt that voters in Macedonia will vote
primarily by ethnic criterion, and only then according to their
political views. Only after that division will ensue negotiations
between Macedonian and Albanian side of how to form the
government. And the new government will have to tackle some
serious issues - Skopje still doesn't have total control over
whole Macedonian territory because in some enclaves Albanian
population doesn't allow Macedonian central authorities. Also,
although the international community organized the disarmament
of Albanian para-military groups, some evaluate that approximately
200,000 pieces of various weapons are still at large.