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Sofia - Mummers' Procession. Today is the last day of Shrovetide. A mummers procession ended at the National Palace of Culture with mummers' games and dances. Pressphoto BTA Photo: Vladimir Shokov


A colourful procession conquered Vitosha Boulevard on Sunday on the occasion of Sirni Zagovezni or the first Sunday before the Great Lent. This is the day of the year when people welcome spring, chase away the evil winter spirits and ask for forgiveness. Lyulin Stamenov/Sofia Echo.

Calm night in Tetovo crisis region, while series of shoots violated the public peace and order in Kumanovo - Lipkovo crises region on several occasions Sunday night.
The Interior Department in Tetovo, registered series of rifle and sporadic shots, fired at about 11:30 p.m. from the complex of facilities in Arabati Baba Teke. There were also shootouts coming from the direction of Rasadiste county along the road Tetovo-Popova Shapka, and from the villages of Mala Recica and Selce.
In Kumanovo - Lipkovo crises region total of 110 riffle and sporadic shoots coming from the direction of the villages of Ropaljce, Matejce, Opae, Vistica, Nikustak, Vaksince, Grusino and the locality of Bukurica, were registered in the afternoon till midnight. Three brief riffle shots were fired upon the police checkpoint of Umin dol.
Starting from Monday, the village of Matejce will be exempted from the General Plan for redeployment of the Macedonian security forces into the village, as the necessary preconditions for police's patrolling 24 hours a day were fulfilled. In the rest of the villages in Kumanovo - Lipkovo region, Otlja, Orizare and Lipkovo, the patrolling activities continue as planned.
According to the Media Activity Center at the Coordinate Body for Crisis Management, the public order and peace was also violated in Gostivar and Skopje region.
Series of 75 riffle shoots were registered in Gostivar and in the village of Grusino, near Skopje, eight sporadic shots were registered as well.
Traditional carnival festivities in Strumica began with announcing the prince and the princess of the carnival, along with the opening of the child carnival on Sunday during which a thousand young masked attendees paraded through the city's streets. These festivities are held each year to celebrate the so-called Trimeri holidays.
In organization of "Blagoj Jankov Muceto" - House of Culture, an exhibition of masks made by the pupils in primary and secondary schools will be opened Monday evening. Also an exhibition of caricatures will be open, where aphorisms will be read and the awards will be presented to the winners of the International concourse of caricature and aphorisms. More than 1,800 aphorisms from 200 authors from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, France, Slovenia, Switzerland as well as from Sweden were sent at the concourse.
The awarded aphorisms are the works of Mile Georgievski and Miroslav Sterjovski from Macedonia, the winners of the first and the second prize, while the third prize went to Srgjan Jovanovic from Yugoslavia. The two special awards were presented to Nikolaj Nesev from Bulgaria and Petar Jovanovic from Yugoslavia. The special award of the "Osten" - specialized magazine for humour and satire was given to Angjelko Erdeljan from Yugoslavia.
The first award for best caricature was presented to Kosta Dragostinov from Bulgaria, while the second to Natasa Kostova from Macedonia. The third award went to Aleksandar Klas from Yugoslavia. The special award by the Municipality Council of Strumica was given to Jordan Pop Iliev from Macedonia, while the two special awards by the carnival organizer were presented to Goran Celicanin from Yugoslavia and Trajce Trajcevski from Macedonia.
In the organization of Municipal Council of FEEC (International association of the carnival cities), and under the patronage of the mayor of Strumica, Kiril Janev, the main carnival happening is to be held Tuesday night. Over a thousand masked persons are expected to attend the carnival as individuals or as groups. Besides the guests from allover the country, following the tradition, a groups from the carnival city of Pernik - Bulgaria, will also have their presentation at the Strumica festival.

Evil Forces Expelled by Carnival in Parvenetz.
A priest and imam were embracing each other in front of an orchestra of zournas on first Sunday before Lent.
Kostadin Arshinkov
The residents of the village of Parvenetz in the Rhodope mountains chased away the evil spirits. The traditional procession on the first Sunday before Lent started along the streets before the sunrise. A crowd of more than 50 masked man, women and children filled the central square in the village at 5 a.m.
Together with the obligatory for each procession bride and bridegroom many devils, animals of all breeds and comic personages of people of all professions walked. A group of boys had put on the worn out Comsomol uniforms of their fathers and grandfathers and until noon they didn't stop to chase and beat wherever they could an about 30-year-old man who was foolish enough to dress in white suit like bin Laden. To be even more authentic he had written 'al-Qaeda' on his turban and the treacherous inscription 'Tora Bora' on his back, obviously aiming to direct the NATO forces to their exact address. The specially invited for the carnival Dospat orchestra of four zurnas and a drum added colour to the feast. All day a priest and an imam in a friendly embrace were rocking at the rhythm of the music. Only 3-4 men from the masked crowd were dressed in traditional mummer's costumes. 'The tradition is already fading away and my father and I borrow costumes from the Plovdiv Theatre in order to look more authentic', 38-year-old Mihail Shishkov explained. Not long before noon the masked crowd walked from house to house to chase away the evil spirits. The hosts met them with brandy and wine.
At about 2 p.m. the whole village gathered in the yard of the local school.
There a national orchestra expected them and with dances the feast continued until late in the evening.
Foreign Minister Passy Firmly Believes Bulgaria Will Receive Invitation at NATO Summit in Prague.
Sofia, March 17 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy firmly believes Bulgaria will receive an invitation to join NATO at the Prague Summit.
Commenting on the results of his three visits last week - to Washington, to Madrid and to Barcelona, in the Nedelya 150 political roundup show on Bulgarian National Radio Sunday, Passy said he returned to Bulgaria feeling much more optimistic than when he left.

In Washington Passy received encouraging signs from US Secretary of State Colin Powell and a dozen of key senators. "For me it was very important to meet the skeptically-minded senators, and above all Senator Warner. I believe our meeting changed his opinion to a considerable degree," Passy said.
Senator Wilson, one of the very influential US senators, asked for his right to a one-minute statement in the Senate outside the agenda to energetically defend Bulgaria's stand and Bulgaria's bid to join NATO.
"I believe now we are closer to NATO membership than before," the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said.
"In a word, if the Prague Summit were held tomorrow, I would have been positive that Bulgaria would be invited. So in the next seven or eight months we should concentrate all our energy, the energy of the Government, of the opposition, of Parliament, to receive this invitation," Passy said.
According to him, ten more similar visits to Washington would conclusively turn public opinion there in Bulgaria's favour. The visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Washington is expected with great interest there, Passy said.
Bulgaria's chance is in its very good domestic policy, according to Passy.
"Naturally we are forced to take unpopular measures. But I am convinced that this is the road to be followed and we will continue to implement these measures until we achieve the desired results and the results can already be seen," Passy said.
"We expect to be invited to NATO in November in Prague. We expect to complete negotiations with the EU in 2003. Each of these two events will to a great extent restore the hopes and confidence people pinned on us in the elections," Passy said.
Foreign Minister Passy said that in Madrid, too, Bulgaria received very energetic support for its membership in NATO and the EU.
Bulgarian Policemen in Kosovo Will Continue to Perform Their Peace Keeping Responsibilities, Lt. Col. Kirilov Says.
Pristina, March 17 (BTA spec. corr. Andrey Sharkov) - At the beginning of Bulgaria's road to united Europe, the Bulgarian policemen in the international police contingent of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) have covered a considerable part of the road to the results expected of the peace keeping mission in Kosovo, the chief of the Bulgarian police contingent in UNMIK, Lieutenant Colonel Kiril Kirilov, said in his report to the Bulgarian participants in the mission and a delegation of the Ministry of the Interior, including Chief Secretary Boyko Borissov and National Police Director Vassil Vassilev.
General Borissov thanked the Bulgarian policemen for their good performance in UNMIK. Acting Police Commissioner Adalbert Gross decorated 20 Bulgarian policemen with UN medals for good service in the cause of peace.
At a meeting with the Bulgarian delegation, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Kosovo Charles Brayshaw, KFOR Commander Lt. Gen. Marcel Valentin and Regional International Police Director in Kosovska Mitrovica John Neil praised the efforts of the Bulgarian contingent in Kosovo which have contributed to the peace processes in the province.
The international police in Kosovo has received signals of the beginning of a fight for power between Albanian parties, of growing economic crime and of insufficient efficiency of the economic police in combating organized crime, Lt. Col. Kirilov said. Albeit the several UNMIK operations, there remains an enormous amount of illegal arms with a tendency of their being used not only in self-defence from other ethnic groups but for drawing profits from the economic crisis in Kosovo, he said.
Another alarming tendency is a redirection of criminal activities towards Macedonia,. Lt. Col. Kirilov told the delegation of the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior. As Bulgarians and as officers of the Interior Ministry, the Bulgarian police officers in UNMIK will continue to apply the experience gained by Bulgaria in its participation in international peacekeeping missions.

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