Issue No. 294 - October 28, 2002


by Valeh Rzaev

by Slobodan Rackovic

by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol


by Valeh Rzaev

        On Saturday, October 26, at 5:30 a.m., Russian FSB special commandos conducted a 50-minute assault operation on a theater center located in Moscow about 20 minutes from downtown.  More than 700 people, the audience at the popular musical "Nord-Ost," have been held hostage there since October 23.

        For more than 60 hours, 15,000,000 Muscovites, and nearly all Russians, were glued to the round-the-clock TV coverage, fearing for the innocent lives of those taken hostage by a group of about 50 terrorists led by Movsar Baraev, the 23-year-old nephew of Chechen commander Arbi Baraev.  Arbi Baraev, well known for his kidnappings, was killed by Russian federal forces last year.

        At 9:00 p.m. on October 23, the first word was received that unknown terrorists had seized people in the theater center when journalists in the auditorium there began calling from their cellular phones.  An hour later, a huge crowd had gathered in front of the center, made up of relatives of captives who had gotten the news in similar manners.  Police, fire trucks, and ambulances were also on the spot.

        Soon there were about 200 members of the crowd being treated for shock and nervous upset the psychological clinic next to the theater center.

        According to accounts received from inside the center, there were about 50 terrorists, of whom about half were women.  They were armed with pistols and wired with explosives.  The building was wired with explosives as well.  Shots and machine-gun fire were heard several times.  The terrorists announced that they were ready to die and willing to blow the building up with the hostages inside.  There were about 60 children among the hostages.  The terrorists demanded an immediate halt to the war in Chechnya and withdrawal of Russian forces there in exchange for the freedom of the hostages.

        That was the beginning of a long standoff.  All Russian television channels except STS canceled their regular programming and broadcast live from the scene of the crisis, taking advantage of the fact that the terrorists allowed the hostages to continue using their cellular telephones.  Later, the phones were taken away from their users.  The leader of the terrorists told television viewers through the hostages that they were demanding a halt to the war in Chechnya and would not enter into any negotiations.  The terrorists refused a request to accept food, water and medicine for the hostages, and to release the children, but said they could release children under 12.  The older ones "are not children.  In Chechnya, they are already fighting," one of the terrorists said.

        Nearly all the terrorist except Mosvar Baraev wore masks. The women were dressed in black and watched over the hostages in the auditorium.

        The earliest reports going out over Moscow television were unconfirmed, contradictory and sometimes mutually exclusive.  The body of a 20-year-old woman killed by the terrorists was shown. A hostage said over the telephone that a 25-year-old man had died of an attack of acute appendicitis.  There was an impression that the government, when it shook off its initial confusion, began an information campaign against the terrorists.

        The head of the Moscow police stated on the first day of the crisis that the terrorists had released: children, pregnant women, Georgians, Abkhazians and all Muslims present in the audience.  No journalists saw those people, however.  It later was found that that statement had been false.  After their seizure, a total of 98 people, women and children were freed. Six performers were able to lower themselves from a second-story window and flee to safety under police cover.

        President Putin canceled his foreign visits and began consultations with the special services.  He also met with Russian Islamic leaders and thanked them for their civic-minded positions on the situation.  He emphasized that the terrorist acts had been planned abroad and that its goal was to create divisiveness among the religions and ethnic groups of Russia. Touching on the possibility of retaliation against Chechens, Caucasians and Muslims, the president ordered strict measures to stop any acts of extremism and prevent ethnic or religious conflicts.  However, attacks on Caucasians were recorded in Moscow and other cities.  In particular, a group of youths beat an Azerbaijani near the entrance to a Moscow subway station.  He was hospitalized in serious condition.

        Members of the Chechen community in Moscow offered to take the places of the hostages.  At the same time, the Moscow police conducted widespread searches of the homes of Chechens and
Caucasians and made many arrests.

        On the second day of the crisis, news was received that there were 75 foreigners among the hostages, citizens of the United States, Holland, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Great Britain and Yugoslavia.  The terrorists agreed to receive the heads of the diplomatic corps of those countries and to free their citizens.  Then they changed their minds and refused to.

        In Chechnya and Dagestan, mass meetings were staged to protest the terrorists' actions.  Chechen leaders in diaspora and Russian cultural figures went on the air to say that the taking of hostages would not lead to peace in Chechnya, but only stir up anti-Chechen sentiment in the public, which could lead to civil war in the country.  The terrorists suggested that the relatives of the hostages hold a meeting on Red Square to protest the war in Chechnya.  Authorities did not grant permission for that meeting, but a meeting was held on nearby Theater Square with about 500 people in attendance.

        Some members of parliament, especially the extremists Zhirinovsky and his deputy Mitrofanov from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, called for the deportation of all Caucasians from Russia, but they did not find support among their colleagues.  Most politicians urged people not to release their emotions on people of Caucasian or Muslim origin.  Law enforcement agencies were instructed strictly to enforce public order and to prevent any interethnic conflict.

        Places of strategic significance, such as electric plants, government offices and places of mass assembly, were placed under increased security in all large cities.  Those emergency measures were not called off after the release of the hostages.

        Minister of the Interior Gryzlov stated that supplemental security measures would be instituted in Moscow and access to the city by people of Caucasian origin would be limited.

        Chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia Geidar Djemal stated on a special edition of the Today show on NTV that "Aslan Maskhadov and Akhmet Zakaev would hardly take part in planning a terrorist act in Moscow.  The true instigators of this operation are clearly to be found outside of Russia."  A Muslim politician said that the people barricaded inside the theater center were "people who believe in what they are doing," and that they had "struck a serious blow against the authority of the Russian government."  Djemal emphasized that the action took place at just the moment when there was a real chance for Russia to align itself more closely with the Arab world.  Saudi prince Turki al-Feisal, former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, was on an official visit to Moscow at that time, presumably for an official announcement of a change in the Saudi position on Chechnya.  The terrorist act, according to Djemal, was initiated by an international radical Islamic organization bent on "driving a wedge between Russia and the Arab world."

        President Putin, however, claims that Maskhadov knew about and took part in preparations for the terrorist act.  Television stations broadcast a video, provided by Russian intelligence, that showed Ichkerian president Maskhadov declaring "soon an action will be carried out that will turn Russia around and rid the Chechen land of the Russian aggressors."  Putin may have laid so much emphasis on Maskhadov's involvement because a multitude of public figures appealed to Putin after the seizure of the theater center to open peace negotiations with Maskhadov.

        "London Sunday Times" correspondent Mark Franchetti, who conducted a 20-minute nighttime interview with terrorist leader Movsar Baraev, said that he "sat in a mask and seemed calm."  "We are in a very good mood because our dream of becoming suicide fighters is coming true," Franchetti quoted Baraev as saying. Franchetti also confirmed the demand that Russian federal forces withdraw from Chechnya "of which the Russian side should give a sign to the Chechen people."  "They do not consider themselves terrorists," Franchetti wrote, "because they are not demanding money and an airplane as terrorists usually do. I did not see the auditorium, did not see the hostages, but I saw three women death fighters."

        The tragic events in Moscow have once again raised the question of the role of the media in emergency situations.  The government closed down the Moskoviya television station and Ekho Moskvy radio station the day before the storming of the theater center by the FSB, and issued warnings to the Rossiya state television station and Mayak radio.

        Sergei Goncharov, president of the Association of Former Alpha Special Commandos, said that "the behavior of the mass media can be seen in a negative light.  The terrorists watch all channels and media where there is coverage of the hostages who escaped, where they show how they got out, the windows and doors, where our military hardware is located outside and the special services operatives around the building.  I don't understand that.  If you want to provide support on your television station, that probably isn't the way to do it."

        "The mass media make a lot of noise.  But this isn't a show. Everyone is trying to get publicity for their party.  I think that it is all not being taken seriously," said a former KGB commando, who once stormed the presidential palace in Kabul.

        In spite of the chaos in information gathering, journalists were able to relay bits of news that were at odds with the official account.  Russian newspapers noted that, on the first day of the tragic events, four different commands were in action, testifying to the government's disorganization and unpreparedness, even though a week earlier a car bomb exploded in front of a MacDonald's in southwest Moscow, with casualties. Authorities aver that that blast was the work of organized crime, not terrorists.

        On the second day of the crisis, the Kremlin authorized the FSB, under the helm of deputy director General Pronichev, to head the operation.  He led the attack on the theater center, which was declared triumphant.

        Ministry of the Interior representatives say that the storm of the center was begun at 5:00 a.m., after the terrorists shot two hostages to death and wounded two others.  Thirty-four terrorists were killed in the attack, two were taken into custody, and the remainder, whose exact number is not known, managed to escape. More than hundred hostages died in the attack and later in the hospitals. More than 400 hostages were hospitalized with injuries of varying degrees of seriousness. Many of them remain in intensive care.

        According to official information, the hostages did not die of gunshot wounds.  Journalists think the most likely cause of death was the nerve gas used during the attack.  Newspapers covered an attempt to free the hostages the day before the attack.  That attempt was unsuccessful.  One policeman died in it and another was seriously wounded.

        Even though the 60 hours of terror are over, politicians and journalists are still asking questions.  How were 50 armed terrorists able to get to Moscow, where passports are checked so often that the paper wears through?  Who helped them in the city? Who kept them informed from the outside?  This once again shows that modern terrorism cannot be fought with primitive and discriminatory passport checks.  The terrorists are not likely to have registered with the police, as regulations for nonresidents require.  The hostage crisis should make government and intelligence officers think about better mechanisms for fighting terrorists, who are keenly aware of their possibilities and of the state's unwieldiness.  FSB head Patrushev appeared on television after the freeing of the hostages and said that "the operation is not finished but is continuing."

by Slobodan Rackovic

        The coalition "For a European Montenegro" led by current Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic won a decisive victory at early parliamentary elections held on Sunday, October 20, in Montenegro. The coalition's opponent was the pro-Serbian political bloc supporting Montenegro's remaining in a joint Yugoslav state with Serbia.

        The coalition was made out of Djukanovic's Democratic Socialists' Party (DPS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 48 per cent votes and an absolute majority in Montenegrin parliament.

        One should first say that Djukanovic's unexpected triumph will not make Belgrade or Brussels happy, especially because the pro-independence Djukanovic has irritated politicians in the European Union and Serbia who are openly lobbying for Yugoslavia's survival.

        With the latest victory, Djukanovic reinforced his negotiating position in respect to both Brussels and Belgrade just before a definite decision is to be taken on the nature of the future Serbian-Montenegrin state. Djukanovic had the initiative during talks about redefining economic and political ties with Serbia, winning complete sovereignty in economic, monetary, border, and custom matters within the future union to be called Serbia and Montenegro. Now it is expected that the Montenegrin president will be the dominant force at defining the overall Constitutional framework, the adoption of which is necessary for entry into the Council of Europe scheduled for November 8. FRY and Belarus are the only European countries that are not members at this moment.

        The day after the election Djukanovic quickly sent a clear message to a biased Europe that he would not accept the principle of direct elections of representatives in the joint state Montenegrin-Serbian parliament, which is the option favored by both Belgrade and Brussels, but said that Montenegro will choose its representatives as it wished, meaning via indirect elections.
And that is of utmost importance to the future status of the union state joint parliament (it will not be a federal parliament). Serbia and the EU want the parliament to be an influential law-making institution with decisions obligating both Serbia and Montenegro.

        On the other hand, Montenegro wants the parliament to be an advisory institution that cannot take decisions having legal force. Already on Wednesday, October 23, Djukanovic told Stefan Lehne --- a close associate of European High Comisssioner Javier Solana, the man who had resolutely influenced the passing of the Belgrade Agreement in March about future relations between Serbia and Montenegro and establishing the new federal state of Serbia and Montenegro --- that Montenegro sees state community with Serbia as a temporary creation, expiring in three years (the time set for reconsidering state status). Djukanovic told the Associated Press agency that the new state creation can only be a loose union. After signing the Belgrade Agreement, Djukanovic cancelled an already scheduled referendum on independence and accepted a minimum of three years in a union with Serbia. But this was only because he had an unresolved political situation at home, especially that caused by the disloyalty of the old separatist party Liberal Alliance, which turned its coat and went over to the pro-Serbian-Yugoslav bloc. Now when he has secured an absolute majority of 39 MPs in a parliament of 75 members, Djukanovic can already plan a referendum on the idea of independent, democratic, civic, multinational and multicultural Montenegro, which is allowed under the Belgrade Agreement after three years. It is almost certain that he will win once again.

        The absolute triumph of "For European Montenegro" coalition is also very important for the political and security situation in the country, which has been precarious. Now long-term stability has been secured, which is illustrated by the fact that the pro-Serbian opposition proclaimed immediately after elections that it admitted defeat and accepted that the elections were held in accordance with world standards and with a minimum of irregularities [, as determined] by foreign monitors and OSCE. The opposition, which won just 38 per cent of the vote and 30 seats in parliament congratulated Djukanovic on his victory --- the first time that has happened in a 13-year-old history of pluralist politics in this small country.

        Djukanovic and the pro-independence forces have benefited further by the initial collapse of the  Serbian-Yugoslav bloc --- which had adopted the paradoxical name "For Changes." The People's Party announced that it would break its ties with the Socialist People's Party and Serbian People's Party. The results showed that the pro-Serbian coalition's negative election campaign, not offering new solutions or proposing changes, making threats of arrests of political opponents if it won, and questioning everything that the transition has achieved so far, had no appeal, especially since this time it did not have a powerful Belgrade propaganda and finances supporting it. In addition, the party with the longest pro-independence credentials, Liberal Alliance, dug its own grave (it got only 4 MPs and 5,7 per cent votes) by allying last summer with a coalition having the opposite political position and favoring a Serbian-Yugoslav alliance.

        With Djukanovic's victory at presidential elections expected, it is clear that Montenegro is moving fast towards complete independence --- towards Europe. However, winners at last Sunday's elections don't have an alibi anymore not to address seriously the difficult social and economic situation that persists in the country. They have enough time and authority to continue with democratic and reform processes, to completely clear out crime and corruption, and address all negative consequences of transition. Only then can they say that they have earned the trust given to them on October 20 by Montenegrin people.

by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol

        "Save the Polish countryside against the EU!" appeals the English aristocrat, Sir Julien Rose. In 2000, he established with his Polish friend, Mrs. Jadwiga Lopata from Stryszow, near Krakow, the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, ICPPC. Now they resist the EU-accession of Poland for as long as the Union reforms itself. .

        The Coalition gathers almost five hundred organizations from 23 countries. In its manifesto, Charta 21, ICPPC appeals to the Polish government to protect, develop, and support the Polish countryside in its current framework --- with a large population of peasants and traditional family farms. The signatories plead for:
        * ecologic agriculture and forestry,
        * use of local food of the best quality,
        * strengthening of regional agricultural markets,
        * protection of the Polish countryside with its natural biodiversity
        * food manufacturing directly on the farm and ecologic tourism,
        * renewable sources of energy.

The House Full of Sun

        Mrs. Jadwiga built an ecologic passive house from clay and reeds in her 1.5 hectare large Sunflower Farm. "Passive" means that the building uses heating from only a very small quantity of fuels. From the early spring until the late autumn the only heat source is sun. Through veranda windows, which look like the Apollo capsule, sunrays pour onto the clay and stone floor and are absorbed. In the winter heat is provided by a biomass oven, 2ith only 10 to 15 kg wood per day. The oven makes for a comfortable 25 degrees indoors even if outside is it minus 20.

        Even though the building is not connected to the power network, the electricity comes from wall sockets because the house has its own power station. Two 75-watt solar batteries feed two special accumulators (120 Ah each), which can work over years and not be damaged by frequent and deep discharges.

        A transformer converts the direct current of 24 Volts into alternating 230 V, which works for all conventional appliances. In the voltaic (solar energy) the Sunflower Farm cooperates closely with the German Solarfabrik in Freiburg, representing it in Poland.

        Mrs. Lopata finished studies in mathematics and worked over years the as programmer, so it is not surprising that one finds such high-tech innovations on her farm.

        The efforts to implant ecologic technologies onto the Polish ground and to work out alternative models of the development of the Polish countryside have been rewarded. Mrs. Lopata was honored this year with the Goldman prize, the "green Nobel." She handed over the check of $125,000 to the ICPPC Foundation.

        Shortly thereafter, the British successor to the throne, Prince Charles, visited Sunflower Farm in June. It was his adviser, Julien Rose, who brought him there.

Smells and Tastes of Childhood

        Rose has used the Polish experiences at home, in England. He divided his 150-Hectare farm in a few pieces after discovering the beauty of the Polish small farms.

        The single estates are independent from each other and run by the experts in the respective area. "If the dimensions are lower, one can watch the details better. The small farms produce therefore more, as the great", insures Rose. "This is surprising, how much one can win on this way."

        Therefore he sees in the traditional family farms the model for the future Europe.  Asked for the optimal size of such farms, he refers to a rule which says that from one hectare one can feed two, three persons. Would the people like to go back to the countryside, one could divide the great farms between them- said Sir Julien.  The smaller farms could be more autarchic and more

        Rose has found in Poland the forgotten smells and tastes of his childhood. In England they are no more, since agriculture was industrialized and chemicalized, with a high use of fertilizers and pesticides.

        "The Polish peasants have an inborn, ecological sense of agriculture," says the Englishman. "Only a few of them use chemicals. Maybe it is because they mostly have no money for it," he admits. "Anyway the Polish farmers use no chemistry. They till the soil in a really organic way."

A Worm in an Apple

        "An apple with a worm inside is not yet ecology," contradicts Andrzej Koraszewski, the Polish journalist who occupied himself for years with the problems of the Polish countryside and who farms a few hectares in North-Poland himself. The food which the peasants make is mostly neither ecologically produced nor healthy. If it were, the Polish villager would be healthier than the city dweller.

        "The contemporary peasant works often with deadly materials", says Koraszewski. "My problem is that my worker sprays the field with an extreme dangerous medium without a mask and without gloves. I have to take care that he doesn't eat a roll with his bare hands that are dirty from poison or, worse, give it to his child." It is not possible to spring over from this backwardness all at once into the ecologic super-modernity. "In the West, it is simpler to run an ecologic farm, because around them everyone applies chemicals so there is neither weed, nor plagues of ill plants and animals," refers a Pole who lived long in Sweden and Great Britain. Not more than ten per cent of Western farmers till their soil in an ecologic way. What is clear: ecological agriculture needs better and not less educated farmers. Unfortunately, the peasants in Poland have mostly only a grade school education.

Await or Stay Hard

        "Don't repeat our errors!" warns Sir Julien Rose. He did not accept the Brussels vision of the development of agriculture in Eastern Europe at all. The goal of the European Union is to make the farms there greater and more productive.

        "In Poland, it means the driving away of at least each second peasant from his soil. If the EU would like to realize its intensions, one million two hundred thousand people will have to leave the countryside," believes Rose.

        For this reason, the ICPPC is against the membership of Poland in the EU. "We should not access to the EU so long as the conditions are not created that would protect our agriculture," adds Lopata. "We ought to wait, until the Union has reformed oneself, or set hard conditions [...]."