KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 21 February 2001

I. KOSOVO: CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF ORTHODOX
GRAVEYARDS. Orthodox graveyards in Kosovo have suffered sustained
attacks by extremist Albanians (see KNS 11 September 2000), which
international peacekeepers seem powerless to prevent despite complex
arrangements for protection of believers visiting the cemeteries. A video
produced to document the damage was presented by its makers in Belgrade
on 15 February.

II. RUSSIA: WILL INDEPENDENT BAPTIST CHURCH BE
LIQUIDATED? The fate of the independent Baptist church founded by US
missionary Dan Pollard in the Pacific port of Vanino depends upon a
decision by Khabarovsky krai regional court. The Khabarovsk city court has
ruled that the church should be registered, but the department of justice has
appealed against this decision to the regional court.

I. KOSOVO: CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF ORTHODOX
GRAVEYARDS

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Orthodox graveyards in Kosovo have suffered sustained attacks by extremist
Albanians (see KNS 11 September 2000), which international peacekeepers
seem powerless to prevent despite complex arrangements for protection of
believers visiting the cemeteries.

`Our request to visit the Serbian Orthodox graveyard in Musnikovo village,
in Sredacka Zupa in Kosovo, on 17 February, the Serbian Orthodox All
Souls' Day, was rejected by the German KFOR general, with the explanation
that this day is reserved for the local Albanians to have their recreation day.
The general advised us to alter our All Souls' Day!' Momcilo Ilic, president
of the Board for Human Rights in Brezovica told Keston News Service by
telephone on 14 February. `The representative of the OSCE office in Prizren
also told us to change the date of our religious holiday. We cannot visit our
family graves when our faith says so, but we have to ask a German general!'

To demonstrate the extent of the destruction to cemeteries, Orthodox priests
Father Zivojin Kojic and Father Radivoje Panic and Gordana Subaric-
Georgijeva presented a documentary video - Kosovski Rekvijem (Kosovo
Requiem) - at a 15 February presentation organised by the Belgrade office of
the Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Raska and Prizren. The audience in
the Belgrade Youth Hall saw 40 minutes of video footage of destroyed and
damaged tombstones, dug out and emptied graves, burned chapels and
obscenities written on the gates of five Kosovo cemeteries.

`This material is only a fraction of what we have recorded as a testimony of
how people are living and dying in Kosovo today, after the war and after the
NATO destruction. It was done mainly with an amateur camera and with the
understanding of some KFOR officers and UNMIK police inspectors, for
which we are thankful,' Fr Kojic, a parish priest in Urosevac, told Keston.
`The situation is terrible. In order to visit a graveyard, we have to give seven
days notice so that KFOR and UNMIK can investigate if there are any mines
or unexploded bombs, then we visit the graveyard under police protection.
For Prizren, Pec and Urosevac KFOR will not approve any visit or give us
protection.'

The way the graveyards have been destroyed shows, according to Father
Panic, that it is part of the systematic eradication of Serbian monuments,
churches, graveyards and monasteries from Kosovo, which KFOR is
powerless to stop. �It is frightening even to think about it,� he said. �For
example, someone has exhumed three bodies from the graveyard in
Urosevac; no one knows where they are, and the local priest or the local
Serbian population have not been informed about it. One day we went there
and there were only holes in the ground, no casket, no bodies, nothing.�

`In Djakovica we were not allowed to make a video recording of the local
graveyard, the Italian KFOR commander was not willing to let us do it. We
think that KFOR is trying to avoid organised visitations because they are
afraid of the findings. We were also forbidden to enter the graveyard in
Potkalija near Prizren by the local KFOR. During our visitation to the
Pristina Orthodox cemetery we were only allowed to be there for 11
minutes! KFOR and UNMIK police respond that they are trying to protect
the living and cemeteries are left alone.'

`When an Orthodox dies in Kosovo, we perform burials under KFOR
surveillance,' added Fr. Kojic. `We have only two hours to do it. If I have
two burial services to perform in one day, I can do only one and at the other
place a deceased is buried without a proper service, because KFOR does not
want to spend too much time or personnel on it. When the procession starts
from the house of the deceased, KFOR tanks and UNMIK police vehicles go
at the head and the rear. During the ceremony in the cemetery, UNMIK stops
the local traffic and creates even greater disturbance.'

`Despite all the problems we met some wonderful people in KFOR and
UNMIK who helped us make a video record of the tragic situation in
Kosovo,� Subaric-Georgijeva told Keston. �All we can do is to present it.
Unfortunately, we still cannot afford to translate and sub-title it, to show to
interested people abroad,' `In the months to come we will present more video
documentaries with our findings from Kosovo. The world must see what is
truly going on there.' (END)

II. RUSSIA: WILL INDEPENDENT BAPTIST CHURCH BE
LIQUIDATED?

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The fate of the independent Baptist church founded by US missionary Dan
Pollard in the Pacific port of Vanino depends upon a decision by
Khabarovsky krai regional court, church secretary Dina Morozova told
Keston on 21 February.

After repeated refusals by the local department of justice to re-register the
church in accordance with the requirements of Russia's 1997 law on religion,
the church decided to challenge the reason given most recently by the
department - the irregularity of citing the church building as its legal address
since it is Pollard's private property.

The church filed suit against the local department of justice at a Khabarovsk
city court in December (see KNS 12 January 2001). On 8 February,
according to a message to Keston from Pollard, who is currently in the
United States having been repeatedly denied a visa to enter Russia, this court
ruled in favour of the church and ordered the justice department to reregister
it, but 'officials from the registration office [justice department] were angry
and threatened to take it to a higher court.'

Notwithstanding the fact that the church had filed a suit against it, Morozova
told Keston, on 25 January the local department of justice ordered a local
Vanino court to liquidate the church since it had failed to obtain re-
registration by the deadline of 31 December 2000. A court representative
subsequently visited the church, said Morozova, but no further action was
taken once a fax of the Khabarovsk city court's order to re-register the
church was shown.

On 21 February main specialist at Khabarovsk krai department of justice,
Anna Vodnenko, said that she was unable to tell Keston anything concrete in
view of the fact that legal proceedings were in progress. However, she
confirmed that the department had already submitted documentation to
Khabarovsk krai regional court appealing against the Khabarovsk city court's
order that the church be registered. She did not know when the appeal was
likely to be heard.

Since the Vanino court is an executive organ, according to Morozova, the
outcome of the department of justice's appeal to the regional court will
determine whether it follows through the order to liquidate the church.
(END)