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(Un)Civil Societies Report: January 23, 2002

23 January 2002, Volume 3, Number 4
PARLIAMENT COMMISSION REJECTS ALTERNATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. The ad hoc parliament commission charged with reviewing various sets of proposed constitutional amendments rejected on 17 January a packet of amendments offered by six opposition parties that envisages the abolition of the presidency, according to Noyan Tapan and Mediamax, as cited by Groong. On 14 January, one of the authors of those proposals, parliament deputy Shavarsh Kocharian, argued that they should nonetheless be put to a nationwide referendum. President Kocharian said last month that only the amendments drafted by a commission he established three years earlier will be put to a referendum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

WITNESS IN CAFE DEATH THREATENED. Andranik Poghosian said on 21 January at the trial of Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard accused of the manslaughter of Poghosian's brother Poghos, that he received a telephone threat three days earlier, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

GOVERNMENT YIELDS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE PRESSURE OVER POLITICAL PRISONERS... Returning to Baku on 14 January from talks in Strasbourg, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev told journalists he informed Council of Europe officials that Azerbaijan has complied with its obligations to that body on pardoning or releasing political prisoners, Turan reported. An Azerbaijani Appeal Court official told AFP the same day that the court will review the convictions of three prominent former officials whom the council regards as political prisoners. They are former Defense Minister Rahim Kaziev, former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov, and Alikram Gumbatov, who declared an independent republic in southeast Azerbaijan in the summer of 1993. The review process will take place behind closed doors and will begin next week, lawyer Chingiz Ganizade told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service on 15 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

...AS PRISONER REJECTS REVIEW OF HIS SENTENCE. Alikram Gumbatov, whom the Council of Europe considers a political prisoner whose sentence should be reviewed, has written to Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov informing him that he is prepared to serve his life sentence, Turan reported on 16 January. Gumbatov said he "does not want the image and state interests of Azerbaijan to suffer" as a result of the pressure exerted on Baku by the Council of Europe. Gumbatov declared an independent republic in southeastern Azerbaijan in the summer of 1993. He was arrested later that year, escaped from pretrial detention in October 1994, and was recaptured in 1995. He was sentenced to death in February 1996 on charges of treason and attempting to mount a coup d'etat, but that sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

PROBES INTO DISAPPEARANCES OF OPPOSITION FIGURES NOT A PRIORITY FOR PRESIDENT. Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau briefed journalists on 16 January on the successes in combating crime and investigations that are under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's personal control. A correspondent of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that the disappearances of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar are not on Lukashenka's list of priority investigations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

MINSK TRACTOR FACTORY WORKERS WANT THEIR DIRECTOR BACK. Employees of the Minsk Tractor Factory (MTZ) have sent a letter to President Lukashenka urging him to release their former director, Mikhail Lyavonau, and reinstate him in the post, Belapan reported on 17 January. Lyavonau was arrested some two weeks ago, dismissed from the post of MTZ director by Lukashenka, and formally charged on 17 January with abuse of office, negligence, and bribery. Lyavonau's lawyer told the agency the same day that his client denies all of the charges. The MTZ workers said in their letter that Lyavonau is innocent. "We do not oppose punishment of the people who break the law. But it is necessary to gather evidence of their guilt first and then place them in jail, not vice versa," they wrote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

BOSNIA RECOMMENDED FOR COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on 22 January in Strasbourg to admit Bosnia Herzegovina as a member, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Committee of Ministers must ratify the measure later in 2002, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Bosnia is now obliged to bring its legislation and human rights practices into line with European standards. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

NO FUNDING FOR HAGUE CASE. Zivko Radisic, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, told Serbian state television that Bosnian Serb deputies will not vote for a bill to appropriate $200,000 to pay expenses of Bosnia's representatives in The Hague in a case against Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 15 January. Bosnia has filed a suit with the International Court of Justice against Yugoslavia for genocide and aggression in conjunction with the 1992-95 war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

GOVERNMENT FILES SUIT IN THE HAGUE AGAINST SERBS. The government of the Republika Srpska filed legal documents with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal against 12 Serbs suspected of crimes against civilians in the 1992-95 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 19 January. This is the first time that the authorities of the Republika Srpska have filed such charges against Serbs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE. Unemployment in Bulgaria grew by 0.14 percent last month, primarily due to the loss of seasonal jobs in tourism, agriculture, and construction, BTA reported on 15 January, citing the Employment Agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

MAYOR OF CAPITAL QUITS AFTER DRUNKEN HIT-AND-RUN. Milan Bandic resigned as mayor of Zagreb on 20 January following a request by his Social Democratic Party for him to step down, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Pressure for him to quit came in the wake of a recent hit-and-run accident in which he was intoxicated and following which he attempted to flee police. His ouster has been widely greeted as a milestone in holding public officials accountable for their actions in the same way that ordinary Croats are. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

ZEMAN SPEAKS OUT ON THE SUDETEN GERMANS. In an interview with the Austrian magazine "Profil" on 21 January, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia prior to World War II were Adolf Hitler's "fifth column," and that many of them "committed treason, a crime that under the then-valid legislation carried the death penalty even in times of peace. If they were expelled or transferred, this was a more moderate punishment than death." Edmund Stoiber, the recently designated rightist candidate for the post of German chancellor, on 21 January called Zeman's comments "absolutely unacceptable." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

CABINET INKS BILL ON INCREASING POWERS OF SECRET SERVICES. The cabinet approved on 16 January a draft amendment to laws on secret services and their control by the parliament, CTK reported, quoting government spokesman Libor Roucek. The amendments allow the heads of the services to request aid and information from any Czech source, rather than from administrative bodies alone, as is presently the case. The heads of the secret services are also to be allowed greater scope in managing state budget resources, in consultation with the relevant ministries. The draft defines the services as "armed bodies of the state." It grants members of the Military Defense Intelligence (VOZ) and Czech police that carry out operations for the Office for Foreign Relations and Information the right to posses and carry arms, and to use them in case of "extreme necessity." The draft envisages creating a single seven-member parliamentary commission to control the activity of both VOZ and the Czech Security Information Service (BIS), rather than two separate commissions as is presently the case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

NO ACTION IN WAKE OF DEFROCKED PRIEST'S ATTACK ON PENTECOSTALS... Members of the Word of Life Pentecostal Church, human rights activists, and some politicians have complained about the failure of the police or prosecutor's office to take any action so far in the wake of last month's attack on a Word of Life service in a cinema in the center of Tbilisi. The mob raid -- the latest in many attacks on minority religious communities dating back to 1999 -- was led by Basil Mkalavishvili, a defrocked priest of the Orthodox Church who seems to enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution for his violent raids. (Keston News Service, 11 January)

...LEADING TO FURTHER CALLS FOR HIS ARREST. "Basil Mkalavishvili should be arrested immediately for violating the law and citizens' rights," Elena Tevdoradze, chair of the Georgian parliament's human rights committee told Keston News Service from Tbilisi on 11 January, three weeks after Mkalavishvili led a violent raid on a Protestant service. Tbilisi's chief prosecutor told Keston on 11 January that the case against Mkalavishvili and one of his closest associates was completed last October and has been sent to the court of Tbilisi's Didube-Chugureti district. No date has yet been named for a trial. (Keston News Service, 11 January)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTS ON DISCRIMINATION. The annual report on Hungary by the international organization Human Rights Watch states that the majority of the population enjoys civil and political freedoms and a modernizing economy, but those on the margins of society continue to be exposed to discrimination and harassment, Hungarian media reported on 17 January. The report said anti-Semitism and homophobia remain prominent in Hungary, and took note of the difficulties experienced by the Roma minority and overcrowded prisons. In response to the report's criticisms, government spokesman Gabor Borokai said a number of similar reports have been issued and the cabinet is aware of the existing problems. "For our government, the primary concern is what Hungarians think," Borokai said. "While we do pay attention to these kinds of reports, at the same time we also prepare our own assessments of the Hungarian situation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

BUDAPEST GHETTO COMMEMORATION TURNS INTO POLITICAL DEMONSTRATION. A commemoration on 17 January marking the 57th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest Jewish Ghetto by the Soviet Union's Red Army turned into a political demonstration, with Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky speaking out against growing anti-Semitism in Hungarian society, Hungarian and international media reported. Demszky told a crowd of some 3,000 that this phenomenon had been propagated by state media organs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

NEW OPPOSITION ALLIANCE UNVEILS PROGRAM... At a press conference in Almaty on 14 January, representatives of the National Congress, Azamat, and the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan outlined the program of the United Democratic Party to which they aligned last month, Interfax and reported. As the first step toward abolishing the presidency and establishing a parliamentary republic, they advocate abolishing the present two-chamber parliament and replacing it with a unicameral body with 150 deputies; reforming the country's administrative-territorial structure to reduce the present 14 oblasts to five-seven; and electing local government bodies. They also want a ban on members of the president's family holding government positions and the equitable division among the population of the proceeds of exporting the country's oil wealth. The party plans to hold consultations with the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) and other political parties on the possibility of adopting a joint action program. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

...AND HOLDS MASS MEETING. The newly created opposition movement DVK convened a meeting in Almaty on 20 January that its organizers said two days earlier would include 30-40 delegates from each of the country's 14 oblasts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Speakers called for expanding the powers of the parliament, reforming the judiciary, and holding elections for the oblast and regional administrators' posts, according to ITAR-TASS. President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev were invited to attend but failed to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

PRIME MINISTER ADVOCATES EXPANDED POWERS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister Toqaev argued in favor of delegating more powers to local authorities and strengthening their budgets, Interfax reported on 16 January. Making the posts of oblast and local administrators elective and a reduction in the existing 14 oblasts are among the demands recently set forth by the new opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan and the United Democratic Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

DISSIDENT CHARGED WITH INSULTING PRESIDENT. Karishal Asanov was summoned on 15 January to the Almaty City Prosecutor's Office where he was informed that he has been charged with insulting the honor and dignity of President Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported the same day. Asanov told a press conference in Almaty in November that Nazarbaev has neither the skills nor the moral right to remain in office and should resign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

SECURITY OFFICIAL CONFIRMS PLANS TO ASSASSINATE PRESIDENT THWARTED. Addressing a session of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of parliament) on 16 January, National Security Committee Chairman Major General Nurtay Dutbaev confirmed that last fall Kazakhstan's intelligence service, working in conjunction with its counterparts in other unnamed countries, prevented two planned attempts to assassinate Kazakh President Nazarbaev within a three-month period, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and reported. Dutbaev said the potential killers have been taken into custody, but did not identify them. Prime Minister Toqaev claimed last November that international terrorists had planned on two occasions to kill Nazarbaev, and implied that the founders of the opposition movement DVK were involved in those plans. At a 16 January press conference in Shymkent, South Kazakhstan Oblast, leading members of the DVK announced that they plan to bring a libel suit against Toqaev in connection with those allegations, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

CONTROL OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS TIGHTENED. On January 17, the Mazhilis adopted amendments to the law on religious freedoms, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The amendments stipulate that any missionary organization working in Kazakhstan should register on the day its representatives arrive in the country. ITAR-TASS quoted Culture and Information Minister Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed as explaining that due to its geographical location, "Kazakhstan has always been at the focus of expansion-minded religious centers abroad," some of which, he continued, espouse "religious extremism and radicalism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

DID SECURITY POLICE KILL DEVOUT MUSLIM? The lawyer representing a Muslim man who died of serious injuries in the town of Turkestan on 3 November has told Keston News Service that she believes he died of beatings by officers of the security police, the National Security Committee (NSC). Kanat Beimbetov was arrested by the NSC on 26 October, due to alleged links with Uzbek Islamic terrorist organizations, the lawyer said. She added, "Beimbetov's only 'crime' was that he attended mosque regularly." A representative of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law said: "We have identified dozens of cases where prisoners have been tortured by the law enforcement agencies. Yet these crimes always remain unpunished." (Keston News Service, 14 January)

HUGE COMMEMORATION OF MASSACRE. Up to 20,000 persons attended a ceremony in Recak on 15 January to mark the third anniversary of the massacre of several dozen ethnic Albanians by Milosevic's security forces, Reuters reported. One speaker noted that the massacre "was a historic turning point for Kosova. The international community recognized what the Serbs were doing in Kosova, and we got their support." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

OPPOSITION CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN. Leading members of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Asaba, Communist, and Ar-Namys parties convened a press conference in Bishkek on 21 January at which they demanded that President Askar Akaev resign, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They accused the Kyrgyz authorities of targeting opposition figures under the pretext of waging a war against terrorism, of reversing earlier democratic transformations, and of ignoring the nationwide protests over the arrest earlier this month of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov. Some 270 people are currently on hunger strike to demand Beknazarov's release. Also on 21 January, an unnamed official at the Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL that Beknazarov will not be released pending his trial, as there is documentary evidence that he has tried to thwart the investigation into his case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

PARLIAMENT SESSION RESUMES, DISCUSSES BEKNAZAROV CASE. Deputies of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament) resumed on 17 January the session suspended three days earlier, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Two deputies reported on their meeting in Djalalabad on 15-16 January with arrested deputy Beknazarov, who continues to insist that his arrest on charges of abuse of his official position was politically motivated. The public committee established in support of Beknazarov issued an appeal to international organizations and diplomats on 17 January to take measures to ensure that human rights and freedoms are protected in Kyrgyzstan. Also on 17 January, the Temporary Committee for Human Rights formed the previous day appealed to President Akaev to release Beknazarov, and to the IMF and the World Bank to suspend any further funding for Kyrgyzstan's "corrupt" leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

AUTHORITIES TARGET SECOND PARLIAMENT DEPUTY. Members of the Kyrgyzstan and Communist factions in the Legislative Assembly wrote on 16 January to speaker Abdygany Erkebaev protesting that National Security Service officials tried but failed the previous day to detain parliament deputy Bektur Asanov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. A search is also reportedly underway for materials that could be used to compromise Asanov's relatives. On 14 January Asanov joined the hunger strike in Bishkek to demand the release of Beknazarov. The number of hunger strikers has now reached 50. The organizers of an ongoing picket in Bishkek whose participants are similarly demanding Beknazarov's release said on 16 January that over 5,000 people have signed a petition backing that demand. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

LATVIA, UN SIGN AGREEMENT ON JUDICIAL SYSTEM SUPPORT. Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka, Supreme Court Chairman Andris Gulans, Constitutional Court Chairman Aivars Endzins, and UN permanent coordinator in Latvia Jan Sand Soerensen signed an agreement in Riga on 18 January for the project "Judicial System Support," BNS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

STATE LANGUAGE COMMISSION TO BE FORMED. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins issued a joint directive on 16 January forming a state language commission to oversee Latvian-language protection and to open a debate on problems faced by minority languages, BNS reported. They appointed poetess Mara Zalite as the commission's head. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

PRIME MINISTER SAYS SECURITY SITUATION 'DETERIORATING.' Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 17 January that "our intelligence indicates a renewed outbreak of the crisis in Macedonia," AP reported. EU envoy Alain Le Roy dismissed such allegations recently as unfounded. There has been speculation in recent weeks that Macedonian hard-liners close to Georgievski may be seeking an excuse for a new armed campaign against Albanians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

HELSINKI COMMITTEE LEADER THREATENED WITH ARREST. The president of the Helsinki Committee, Mirjana Najcevska, was threatened with arrest due to Committee efforts to hold the government accountable on its human rights pledges. Speaking on A1 and Sitel TV in early January 2002, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski labeled her "state enemy number one" and "attorney for the Albanians." This reaction is evidently based on a draft of the Helsinki Committee's Annual Report. Najcevska's husband, Sasko Todorovski, was removed from his position as Macedonia's Acting Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe. (International Helsinki Federation, 16 January)

GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO DISCUSS CHISINAU PROTESTS... Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev told a delegation of the parliamentary group of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) that participated in closed-door government meeting that his cabinet "owes nothing" to the protest demonstrators in the capital, and is refusing to place the protest demonstrations on its agenda, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The premier said a special governmental commission will discuss and respond to the protest petition that was signed by 25,000 people who oppose the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

...AND 'SUSPENDS' PPCD. The Moldovan authorities on 22 January "suspended" the activity of the PPCD for one month because it organized the ongoing protest demonstrations against compulsory Russian-language classes in schools, Romanian radio reported. Under the legislation, a suspended party cannot take part in elections and cannot organize protest meetings. PPCD Secretary-General Ion Neagu said the formation will appeal the decision in court. President Vladimir Voronin told a joint meeting of the government and the parliament on 19 January that the PPCD has involved itself in "inadmissible actions" by having "mobilized without authorization" parents and school students in the ongoing demonstrations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Justice Minister Ioan Morei on 20 January called on the Chisinau mayoralty to take "immediate measures" to stop the protests. Meanwhile, the protests continued and some 46,000 people are reported to have signed the petition against the compulsory classes. Also on 20 January, Education Minister Ilie Vancea said he intends to resign if the dispute is not solved, because he cannot "oppose public opinion" that "favors optional, rather than compulsory Russian-language classes." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

THREE SENTENCED FOR CHRISTMAS ATTACKS. On 21 January, the local court in Berane sentenced one individual to 1 1/2 years in prison and two others to one year each in jail for attacking police during altercations at a Yule log festival according to the Orthodox Julian calendar, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The season of Christmas and New Year according to the traditional calendar has become a time of deliberate political provocations in Montenegro -- much like rival marches in Northern Ireland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

CRITICISM OF ORTHODOX METROPOLITAN. Leaders of NGOs and representatives of most parties in the parliament criticized recent New Year's remarks by Metropolitan Amfilohije of the Serbian Orthodox Church as inflammatory and an incitement to hatred and violence, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 15 January. The pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party has not commented on the remarks by Amfilohije, whose church is a bitter rival of the breakaway Montenegrin Orthodox Church. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

LARGE-SCALE LAYOFFS TAKE TOLL ON MILITARY INDUSTRY. Some 10,000 people will lose their jobs in Romanian military industries as of 1 February, Mediafax reported on 14 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TINKERS WITH ELECTION RULES. The Constitutional Court ruled on 15 January that an election result can be overturned if a court finds that a candidate has been unlawfully removed, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to the radio station, it was previously thought that an election could be annulled only if the unlawful removal of a candidate was proven to have affected the election's outcome. The State Duma's envoy to the Constitutional Court, Valerii Lazarev, told the station that the "authorities will now find it harder to get rid of inconvenient candidates." The court also ruled that some provisions of the federal election laws violate the constitution, such as three points of Article 64 of the law on basic guarantees of the electoral rights and the right to take part in referendums, as well as three points in Article 92 of the law on elections of State Duma deputies, according to ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

PRO-KREMLIN DEPUTIES SIGN UP ANOTHER SPONSOR. The pro-Kremlin People's Deputy group in the State Duma has concluded a "cooperation agreement" with the Metalloinvest firm, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 January. The daily asserted that this is the "first time in Russia" when a commercial organization officially registered its relationship with legislators. The daily noted that while it is "no secret" that commercial structures use deputies to achieve various aims, this relationship is generally "absolutely informal." For example, another deputies' group, Russian Regions, works closely with LUKoil, according to the daily. Metalloinvest President Dmitrii Gindin said that the cooperation between the company and the deputies will consist of meetings to discuss legislation, particularly laws on natural monopolies and tariff policies. According to Gindin, although the agreement does not state it directly, the company is ready to give the group financial assistance -- but only insofar as it can be done "legally under the law on elections." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

PUTIN TELLS FSB IT MUST BETTER PROTECT STATE SECRETS, ECONOMY. Speaking on 18 January to the Collegium of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the agency's top administrative organ, President Vladimir Putin said he is satisfied with the work of the Russian intelligence community in the past year, but that it must improve its ability to react to new threats to national security, RIA-Novosti reported. In particular, he said the FSB should concentrate its activities "on the protection of scientific-technological secrets, the military-industrial complex, and problems of drug trafficking and illegal immigration." He noted that the routes for illegal immigration coincide with those of drug trafficking and illegal financial flows. According to Putin, nonresidents of the Russian Federation receive up to 45 percent of the country's annual cash turnover of foreign currency through national credit institutions and siphon those funds into shadow or criminal businesses. He added that last year the FSB exposed about 100 officials who helped criminal entities put energy, metallurgical, and raw material sectors under their control. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

BUSINESS DENOUNCES METHODS OF INVESTIGATING ECONOMIC CRIMES. On 21 January, Arkadii Volskii, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, wrote a letter to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov saying that the Russian business community is worried by the way law enforcement agencies are investigating economic crimes, Interfax reported. In particular, Volskii stressed that Sibur's managers who are being held in custody pose no threat to the public and will not attempt to flee the country. "With a few more arrests of this kind we can forget about the successes achieved in the past two years in improving the investment climate, while Russian business, due to foreign competitors' 'advertising,' will finally acquire a criminal reputation," Interfax quoted Volskii's letter as saying. The bureau of the union's board requested that senior officials of the Prosecutor-General's Office meet with business people to discuss the most pressing issues in relations between companies and law enforcement agencies, and added that it is "ready to post bail for Goldovskii and Koshits if the prosecutors release them before court hearings begin," Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT IN APARTMENT BUILDING BOMBING. The Supreme Court has upheld the verdicts handed down on 19 March 2001 by Daghestan's Supreme Court on six men found guilty of the bombing of an apartment building in Buinaksk in September 1999 in which 58 people were killed and some 150 injured, Interfax reported on 21 January. Two of the six defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, two to nine years in prison, and the remaining two were amnestied and released. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

RUSSIAN ARMY WANTS MORE STUDENTS. Lieutenant General Vasilii Smirnov, the deputy chief of the General Staff's Main Mobilization-Organizational Administration, said his agency has asked the government to reduce the number of higher education institutions granting students deferments from the military draft, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS ALL OFFICIALS FOR CRIMES COMMITTED IN CHECHNYA... On 16 January during his official visit to Paris, President Putin said that in Russia, "all officials, including servicemen, will be prosecuted if it is proved that they have committed crimes in Chechnya," Russian news agencies reported. Putin added that more than 20 servicemen have already been prosecuted in Chechnya, and said that Russia has never denied any humanitarian organization a chance to work on Chechen territory, RIA-Novosti added the same day. After being urged by French President Jacques Chirac to resume peace negotiations with Chechen separatists and to not limit the Chechen conflict "to its sole terrorist aspect," Putin answered that the Al-Qaeda organization shielded by the Taliban regime also operated in Chechnya "under the cover of another criminal regime." Speaking of the ongoing military operations in the region, Putin emphasized, "we [Russians] have the right to apply any military means to this regime if juridical ones prove to be ineffective," RIA-Novosti continued. Putin also made a parallel with other separatist movements in Turkey and Europe, and said Europe could be "plunged into chaos if these people [separatists] receive further support," international news agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

...AND DENIES ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS UNDERWAY IN CHECHNYA. In an interview on 15 January with the Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" and the TVP TV channel, President Putin said the Russian armed forces are not engaged in any military activity in Chechnya, only "local operations," Interfax reported. At the same time, Putin said, a political dialogue is being conducted with those members of the population who are willing to participate in such talks. Only through such a dialogue, Putin continued, can a "final solution" be found to the Chechen crisis. Putin characterized the forces in Chechnya that oppose Moscow as "a deadly mixture of international terrorists and separatists." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

UNHCR, PACE URGE RESUMPTION OF TALKS WITH MASKHADOV. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers told a press conference in Moscow on 18 January following his tour of displaced persons' camps in Chechnya and Ingushetia that he believes the Russian leadership should resume talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whom he described as "an acting politician," on terms for ending the war in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He suggested that other persons in Chechnya with the influence to expel foreign mercenaries and end the fighting should also participate in such talks. Commenting later that day on Lubbers' statement, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that contacts with Maskhadov could be resumed provided that the latter agrees to the terms stipulated by Russian President Putin in September. On 21 January, the newly elected chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Peter Schieder, said that Akhmed Zakaev, who represented Maskhadov in talks last November with Russian presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev, has been invited to the current PACE session, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

ASLAKHANOV SAYS POPULATION WOULD ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT SIGNED BY MASKHADOV. Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, told journalists in Moscow on 16 January that support within Chechnya for an end to the fighting is increasing, Russian agencies reported. He said that talks could be held with Maskhadov provided the latter unequivocally condemns Basaev and his lieutenant, Movladi Udugov, but at the same time acknowledged that Maskhadov has no influence over either Basaev or small groups of fighters whose sole occupation, according to Aslakhanov, is to terrorize both the civilian population and the Russian military. Aslakhanov nonetheless predicted that the Chechen population would support any peace agreement Maskhadov signed because it would mean an end to the ongoing "sweeps" by Russian forces searching for Chechen fighters, in which civilians are frequently targeted. Dozens of Chechen civilians have been killed in such sweeps in the village of Tsotan-Yurt and the town of Argun since the beginning of this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

ARGUN RESIDENTS DEMAND END TO SPECIAL OPERATIONS. Some 500 residents of the Chechen town of Argun staged a demonstration there on 15 January to demand that the Russian military discontinue special operations in urban areas to identify and detain Chechen fighters, Interfax reported. Argun has been subjected to five such operations in the past six months, and two since early December, and speakers at the protest rally claimed that a further such search is scheduled for 23 February. Also on 15 January, residents of the village of Tsotan-Yurt, where drunken Russian troops reportedly killed dozens of civilians during a special operation in early January, staged a similar protest in Grozny. But those protests are unlikely to achieve their objective, given that Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov argued on 13 January that it is essential to continue special operations to identify and detain Chechen fighters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

INTERIOR MINISTRY TO MODIFY ACTIONS IN CHECHNYA. Russian Interior Ministry troops will not conduct further large-scale random sweeps of Chechen villages in the hunt for militants, First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev told journalists in Moscow on 16 January. Instead, they will mount small-scale "special operations" aimed at apprehending specific individuals. Local administrators, military prosecutors, and clergymen will accompany the troops engaged in such actions, Vasilev added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

CAMPS IN CHECHNYA FOR DISPLACED PERSONS TO BE CLOSED. Presidential Human Rights Commissioner for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov told Russian media on 17 January that all existing tent camps in Chechnya for displaced persons forced to flee their homes during the fighting will be closed down by the end of February. He said the estimated 1,500 inmates of those camps will be offered alternative accommodation either in two hostels in the town of Sernovodsk or in three apartment blocks in Grozny that will soon be made habitable. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

NATIONALITIES MINISTER SAYS FIGHT BEING WAGED OVER ISLAM WITHIN RUSSIA. Russia's minister without portfolio for nationalities issues, Vladimir Zorin, told a gathering in Tyumen Oblast that agitation among Muslims in Russia is currently his most acute policy problem, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 January, citing Zorin said the struggle for a "Russian Islam" has begun, adding it is not yet clear if this religion will take a similar form to that in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. He added that the state is responsible for the rights of each of its citizens, and should fight extremism and criminality. During his visit, Zorin made a donation to the restoration of Orthodox monuments in Tyumen Oblast. Meanwhile, Zorin's former boss, presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko, told Interfax on 9 January that traditional Islam needs to be strengthened in Russia in order to avoid the penetration of radicalism into the religion. Kirienko complained that over the past few years, hundreds of religious leaders have returned to Russia from training in Arabic countries such as Saudi Arabia, and started spreading radical versions of Islam such as Wahhabism, which he said are alien to Russian Muslims. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

PUTIN EXPRESSES WILLINGNESS TO INVITE POPE AS HEAD OF VATICAN STATE TO RUSSIA. In his interview with Polish media, Putin stated that he is ready to invite Pope John Paul II to Russia "at any moment." However, he added "if the pontiff thinks that if he goes to Russia he must go there on a full-fledged basis based on full relations with the Russian Orthodox Church -- then this [decision to invite him] is not based on me alone." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

PUTIN TELLS GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE HOMELESS CHILDREN PROBLEM. During his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko on 15 January, President Putin said he is not satisfied with her report on the government's program for supporting homeless children, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. Putin said that while the government reported that the number of homeless children stands at some 1 million, the Prosecutor-General's Office has estimated that number at 2 million. In any event, the president said the government is not addressing the issue properly and should take immediate measures to remedy the situation efficiently. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

RUSSIA CRITICIZES NEW U.S. ENTRANCE VISA REQUIREMENTS AS TOO SEVERE. Beginning on 1 February, the United States will implement new entrance visa requirements for Russian citizens that include a questionnaire which "Rossiiskaya gazeta" described on 15 January as "much more severe than those that existed in the Soviet era." Although the measures were drafted as antiterrorist precautions and initially were applied only against 26 Muslim countries, the extension of the strict measures to Russian citizens basically leaves them without a "legal way to enter the United States," NTV opined the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

MECIAR PARTY'S POPULARITY KEEPS GROWING. If elections were held in January, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) of former Premier Vladimir Meciar would garner 32.5 percent, CTK reported, citing a public opinion poll conducted by the Slovak Statistics Office (UVVM). The figure represents an increase of four percentage points over the support registered for the HZDS in December 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

ROMANY LANGUAGE TO BE USED IN SCHOOLS. Klara Orgovanova, government commissioner for Romany issues, said on 17 January that the Slovak Roma should be allowed the chance to be educated in their mother tongue in addition to the Slovak language, CTK reported. She said that for this purpose the Romany language needs codification in Slovak, as the dictionary and the grammar book put out in 1971 uses Czech-Romany translation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES NEGOTIATING WITH BIN LADEN. Speaking at a press conference in Dushanbe on 18 January, Islamic Renaissance Party Chairman Said Abdullo Nuri rejected as "slanderous and provocative" media allegations that he mediated several years ago in talks between Iranian intelligence and Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

BAPTIST FREED FROM PRISON; PRESSURE CONTINUES. Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been freed before the end of his four-year sentence, Keston News Service has learned. He was released from prison in the city of Turkmenbashi on 8 January and has been reunited with his wife Artygul and five children. The terms of release have not been made clear, however, and Atakov has received neither a release certificate nor his identity papers. The Turkmen authorities continue to put pressure on Baptist congregations, whose activity the government regards as illegal. The church in Balkanabad was raided on 23 December and a leading member of the Ashgabat congregation died in mysterious circumstances on 22 December. (Keston News Service, 10 January)

COMMUNISTS WANT TO OUST CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION HEAD. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko appealed to the parliament on 15 January to dismiss Central Election Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Symonenko said Ryabets and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual recently signed an accord on U.S. assistance to Ukraine's Central Election Commission in organizing the parliamentary election. According to Symonenko, this accord is a "brutal interference" on the part of the United States in Ukraine's internal affairs. Ryabets commented later the same day that the accord does not provide for financing the election campaign but only for technical assistance measures, including training sessions for judges and an international conference to sum up election results. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

ARAB HUMANITARIAN AID FOR CRIMEAN TATARS? Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Abu Dhabi on 15 January that the support provided by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Ukraine's entering the World Trade Organization can become an important tool for improving bilateral cooperation, UNIAN reported. The Ukrainian side also expressed interest in receiving humanitarian aid from the UAE for the resettlement of deported Crimean Tatars, and for cooperation programs to build residential housing and establish the necessary infrastructure in Crimean Tatar settlements. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)

FOREIGN OBSERVERS TO MONITOR REFERENDUM. An unspecified number of foreign observers will monitor the conduct of the 27 January referendum in which some 13 million citizens of Uzbekistan are called upon to approve or reject the creation of a bicameral parliament and the extension of the presidential term from five to seven years, the National Information Agency of Uzbekistan reported on 17 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

U.S. SENATOR: MORE PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle told a news conference in Tashkent on 18 January that "we believe that our country will recognize that our presence and relationship with the people of Uzbekistan and the countries in the region is not simply in the immediate term," Reuters reported. He said long-term relations "are critical to our success in the region." Daschle again thanked the Uzbek leadership for its cooperation in the antiterrorism campaign, but added that he is disappointed that "we have not seen as much progress" in the field of improving human rights as Washington had hoped for. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

WHAT IS THE STUMBLING BLOCK IN THE BALKANS? Erhard Busek, who is the new head of the EU's Balkan Stability Pact, said in Vienna on 16 January that Kosova remains the biggest problem in the region because it has no government and hence no one authorized to speak for it, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that additional problems are the security situation in Macedonia and the dysfunctional domestic political situation in both Montenegro and Albania. But Busek's predecessor, Bodo Hombach, said in Berlin that the EU's own bureaucracy has held back progress in the Balkans. He stressed that the only way for the countries of Southeastern Europe to become prosperous is by admitting them to the EU. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

SLOVAK PREMIER READY TO MEET HUNGARIAN COUNTERPART TO DISCUSS STATUS LAW... Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 17 January briefed President Rudolf Schuster on the dispute with Hungary concerning the Status Law and told journalists after the meeting that if no agreement is reached with Budapest on the matter, he is prepared to go to Budapest or invite his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban to Bratislava to try to bridge their differences, TASR and CTK reported. The premier said he will "never agree" to have Slovakia "placed at disadvantage" by introducing foreign legislation on its territory or accepting discrimination among Slovakia's citizens.("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January)

...AS UKRAINE WANTS STATUS LAW BENEFITS TO FALL INTO LINE WITH 'ROMANIAN MODEL.' Ukrainian officials have proposed that seasonal job opportunities in Hungary extended to all Romanian citizens be offered to all Ukrainian citizens as well, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 19 January. Citing reliable sources in Kyiv, the newspaper wrote that Ukrainian members of the Ukrainian-Hungarian intergovernmental joint committee made the proposal at the committee's last session. A compromise was reportedly agreed upon, under which Ukraine will request that all Sub-Carpathian inhabitants, rather than just ethnic Hungarians, be entitled to the job opportunities made available under Hungary's Status Law. Ukraine's Sub-Carpathian region has a population of 1.3 million, of whom some 160,000 are ethnic Hungarians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)

ROMANIAN PREMIER 'CLOSELY FOLLOWING' MOLDOVAN EVENTS. Premier Nastase said on 16 January that he is "closely following" the events in Moldova, which he described as a "chain of developments" aimed at "eliminating the Romanian national identity," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said Bucharest "does not wish to interfere in Moldova's internal problems," but added that it is "questionable" whether the introduction of Russian-language compulsory classes is legitimate in a situation where "two-thirds of the country's population is Romanian, while the Russians are less than one-third." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

PUTIN SAYS POLISH VICTIMS OF STALINIST REPRESSION CAN SEEK 'REHABILITATION' UNDER RUSSIAN LAW. Answering a question from a Polish journalist about calls for compensation to surviving Poles deported to Siberia after the Nazi-Soviet partition of Poland in 1939, Putin ruled out financial compensation similar to that being paid out by Germany to Third Reich slave laborers. But he added: "We do not want to close our eyes to the negative sides of the Stalinist regime. As is well-known, in Russia there is a law on the rehabilitation of individuals who were wronged during political repressions. I feel that the opportunities for the implementation of this act may also be used by Polish citizens who were wronged in those days." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January)

VISA-FREE CROSS-BORDER MUSLIM GRAVEYARD VISITS? An Uzbekistan human rights organization has appealed to Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov to allow Muslims to visit graves in Turkmenistan on two festivals a year without paying the $6 visa fee -- more than the average monthly wage. In December a riot resulted when hundreds of Uzbeks forced their way through the border to reach a cemetery in Turkmenistan on the Ramadan Haita festival. (Keston News Service, 18 January)

EXPLANATION DEMANDED FROM UZBEKISTAN FOR FRONTIER SHOOTINGS. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has sent a formal note to its Uzbek counterpart requesting an explanation of the 11 January incident on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in which Uzbek border guards opened fire on three Kyrgyz herdsmen, killing one and wounding a second, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)