16 May 2001, Volume
UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL GRANTMAKERS WEBSITE.
The website of United States International Grantmakers (http://www.usig.org) developed by the Council on Foundations in Washington, DC, "serves both grantmakers and grantseekers to support and facilitate the process of making grants overseas." The site is currently offered as a free service, but "with the addition of new features," it warns, "portions of this site may become restricted to members only and be accessible only through a password." In other words, it might not be free much longer. (Center for Civil Society International, 9 May)
PREMIER PLEDGES RENEWED ANTICORRUPTION DRIVE.
Andranik Markarian reaffirmed in Yerevan on 8 May that his government "regards the fight against corruption as one of the key challenges facing the state," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian was speaking at a ceremony marking the acceptance of a $300,000 World Bank grant earmarked for developing a comprehensive program to combat bribery, nepotism, and similar crimes. Markarian said that one of the main objectives of the program, which will include the enacting of legislation on the civil service, licensing, income declaration, and state procurements, is to improve the investment climate in Armenia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH SHORT-TERM EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM.
The Armenian government will invest nearly $1 million in programs to provide short-term employment in the public sector for the most impoverished stratum of the population, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Jobs will include road construction and cleaning activities, and will pay 800 drams ($1.5) per day. Social Security Minister Razmik Martirosian told journalists that the government hopes to obtain additional funding for the program from international aid agencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)
POLICE BREAK UP UNSANCTIONED RALLY.
Up to 1,000 police used violence on 12 May to break up an unsanctioned march in Baku organized by the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADP), Reuters and Turan reported. Between 12-15 of the estimated 150 participants in the protest, who also included representatives of the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, were arrested. Several journalists were manhandled and one was knocked unconscious, according to Turan. The protesters were demanding the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights, and the creation of conditions that would permit political emigres to return to Azerbaijan. ADP Chairman Rasul Guliev has lived in the U.S. since resigning under pressure from his post as parliament speaker in the late summer of 1996. Police in Nakhichevan suppressed a similar protest by some 40 members of the local branch of the ADP on 12 May, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)HOW MANY POLITICAL PRISONERS ARE THERE?
In the last annual report of the U.S. Department of State on the state of human rights in the world, it is noted that there are 50 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The existence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan and calls to release them were stated in obligations the Council of Europe put to Baku. Recently, a common list of political prisoners was made with the participation of all the human rights organizations and political parties of the country. According to that list, there are 204 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. ("Azerbaijan Bulletin," 10 May)
YOUTH JAILED FOR MOCKING LUKASHENKA.
A Minsk district court on 10 May sentenced Syarhey Pyanykh, a member of the youth opposition group Zubr, to 10 days in prison for a 21 April street show mocking President Lukashenka, Belapan reported. Pyanykh pretended to ski and play hockey on the pavement in a Minsk park, hinting at the Belarusian president's known passion for ice hockey and his alleged mental problems. Police arrested some 30 people involved in the show. On 25 April, the same court sentenced eight of them to three days in jail. Fines equal to $85 were imposed on two others. Fourteen got off with formal warnings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)PRESIDENT TIGHTENS RULES FOR DEMONSTRATIONS.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree that tightens up regulations regarding the organization of street demonstrations, Belapan reported on 8 May. Under the decree, rallies involving more than 1,000 participants may be organized only by political parties, trade unions, or public organizations. The decree empowers the authorities to disrupt demonstrations if their participants "pose a threat to public security...or hide their faces behind masks." The decree envisages banning organizations that fail to ensure the proper organization of demonstrations or cause "great damage or considerable harm to the rights and legal interests of citizens, organizations, or state and public interests." Mikhail Pastukhou, a former judge of the Constitutional Court, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that "this decree is connected with the preparations for September's presidential elections, its evident goal is to quell the political activity of citizens." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)MINSK WARNS OSCE OVER CONTACTS WITH OPPOSITION.
Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou has warned Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, that the Belarusian government may "revise" its agreement with the OSCE on the group's stay in Belarus if the group fails to meet the conditions of that agreement, Belapan reported on 7 May, quoting a statement by the Foreign Ministry. Khvastou stressed that it is inadmissible for Wieck to be involved in uniting Belarusian opposition groups. Wieck commented to Belapan the same day that his meeting with Khvastou did not contribute to resolving the existing controversies between Minsk and the OSCE. Wieck added that the OSCE and the Belarusian authorities still disagree on the training of observers for Belarus's upcoming presidential elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
FIRST SYNAGOGUE SINCE 1945.
The foundation stone for the first new synagogue in any former Yugoslav republic to be built since 1945 has just been laid in Mostar. Building work will last until the end of 2002 and Mostar will then be the third city in the world (after Sarajevo and Jerusalem) to have Orthodox and Catholic churches, a mosque, and a synagogue all within 100 meters of each other. Representatives of the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Muslim community, seven ambassadors, and two members of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Collective Presidency were present at the laying of the foundation stone. (Keston News Service, 9 May)MUSLIMS PROTEST MOSQUE VIOLENCE.
After the riot ended, Bosnian Serb police identified 32 persons whom they think are responsible for the violence, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 8 May. Some 10 of the suspects were arrested, but it is not clear who arrested them. Shortly after the rioting, two Muslims threw a grenade at a Serbian Orthodox church in Sanski Most, slightly damaging the building. One of the two men confessed to the crime. On 8 May, several hundred Muslims demonstrated peacefully in Sarajevo against the Banja Luka violence. As the demonstrators filed past an Orthodox church, they chanted: "We won't do anything, this church is also ours," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)BANJA LUKA MUSLIMS FEAR RETURN OF WARTIME HARASSMENT.
A local Muslim in Banja Luka told Reuters on 8 May that "you could see the hate" in the Serbs' faces during the riot. A Muslim woman added that she feels "terrified" that the Serbs could again harass Muslims as they did during the war. A second Muslim woman said that the police could have prevented the violence had they wished to. A Serb argued that the rebuilding of Ferhadija constitutes an attempt by the international community to destabilize the Republika Srpska. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, who was also inside the building, said that the Republika Srpska and Banja Luka are returning to their bleak wartime reputations, "Dnevni avaz" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
LIBYA AGAIN POSTPONES TRIAL OF MEDICS.
A Libyan court on 13 May postponed for the 12th time the trial of the six Bulgarian medics accused of willfully infecting children with the HIV virus in a Benghazi hospital, AP reported, citing Bulgarian radio. The court postponed the trial for 2 June to enable questioning of witnesses that are now missing. Defense lawyer Vladimir Sheitanov said the adjournment is a "positive sign" for the defendants and that the defense will now be able to gather witnesses it wants to question, but declined to name those witnesses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)
POLICE BREAK UP HUMAN TRAFFIC RING.
Croatian police on 8 May broke up a criminal gang suspected of smuggling at least 1,500 Romanians into Western Europe over the past year and a half, AP reported from Zagreb. Two Croats and a Romanian are under arrest, while two additional Romanians are on the run. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)
SHORT 'TRANSITION' TO FREE LABOR MOVEMENT ACCEPTABLE TO FOREIGN MINISTRY.
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 9 May that he is willing to personally accept a "two-year transition period" on the free movement of labor following the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, AP reported. Kavan told Czech Radio he is confident that "at the end of the day, a compromise will be reached" on the issue and that a short transition period would be acceptable "on condition that it would be reviewed after two years. If such a review proves [that German and Austrian] fears of a cheap labor influx lack foundation, any restrictions would have to be abolished." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)HAVEL REJECTS POSTPONEMENT OF EU FREE MOVEMENT OF LABOR.
Vaclav Havel told visiting Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt on 7 May that he rejects the assumption that the free movement of labor within the EU would "send Czech workers flooding into EU countries," CTK and dpa reported. Havel said such arguments only help Czech "Euroskeptics" to oppose EU accession. He said that postponing the free movement of labor would amount to a "postponement of the principle that everyone on this continent is European." After an earlier meeting with Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 7 May, Verhofstadt said restrictions on the free movement of labor should vary according to the different situations in individual countries. "If there is no problem with a candidate state, I do not see the need [for a transition period]," he commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)SUSPECTED COMMUNIST POLITICAL CRIMINALS TO STAND TRIAL.
Former communist prosecutor Karel Vas has been charged with complicity in the murder of wartime hero General Helidor Pika, dpa reported on 7 May, citing the daily "Pravo." Vas is suspected of having falsified papers that led to Pika's hanging in 1949. "Pravo" also reported that a court in Brno is investigating torture allegations leveled against a former commander of a forced labor camp that operated at a Czech uranium mine. The accused, identified as "Jaroslav D.," is suspected of torturing political prisoners at the Vojna camp, which the communists operated from the late 1940s until 1961. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)CZECHS, AUSTRIANS AGREE ON COMPLETING TEMELIN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT.
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer, meeting in Prague on 12 May, agreed that the Czech side will meet Austrian demands for the completion of the recently submitted expert report on the environmental impact of the Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. Kavan said the report will include the so-called "zero variant" dealing with the potential impact of not putting into operation the controversial nuclear power plant, and will improve public access to information on measures concerning possible serious accidents at the plant. The documents are to be submitted to Vienna by mid-June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)
GOVERNMENT PROMISES MORE FUNDS FOR PENSIONS.
Leaders of the ruling government coalition have decided that pension reforms, health care, and national defense will be the priorities of next year's state budget, ETA reported on 10 May. Finance Minister Siim Kallas said that in next year's budget pensions will be allocated 1.5 billion kroons ($85 million) more than this year. The coalition agreed that, if necessary, the state budget could have a deficit of up to 1 percent. Prime Minister Mart Laar, however, noted that there might be no deficit because additional funds will be obtained from privatizations and the sale of Estonian Railways. Kallas and Laar agreed that neither VAT nor income taxes should be raised to obtain more revenue. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)
OSCE TELLS HUNGARY TO CONSULT NEIGHBORS ON STATUS BILL.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel told Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi in Budapest on 8 May that Hungary must consult its neighbors and the EU on its plans to grant special status for ethnic Hungarians abroad. Romanian and Slovak officials have expressed fears that the special benefits granted to ethnic Hungarians could spark tensions between ethnic groups. In other news, visiting Yugoslav Minorities Minister Rasim Ljajic told reporters on 8 May that his country "understands" the Hungarian government's considerations in seeking to pass the Status Bill. Foreign Ministry Political State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth proposed to Ljajic that the two countries set up a joint committee for minority affairs and conclude an agreement on minorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
TBILISI HAILS RUSSIAN VISA STATEMENT.
Speaking in Moscow on 8 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the visa requirement for Georgian citizens wishing to enter the Russian Federation is "a temporary measure" that was imposed in connection with the war in Chechnya, and that it will be lifted as soon as the ongoing "antiterrorist" operations in the North Caucasus are successfully concluded, Russian agencies reported. Unnamed Russian officials had said last week that Moscow will not lift the visa requirement for Georgian citizens that took effect on 1 January until Tbilisi abandons its policy of tolerating the presence on Georgian territory of Chechen fighters. In Tbilisi, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze told Interfax on 8 May that the Georgian leadership would welcome both a Russian decision to abolish the visa requirement, and any further steps to improve bilateral relations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY DEFENDS NAZARBAEV AGAINST BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS...
Arat Narmaghambetov, a leading member of the OTAN party created in January 1999 to support President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has addressed an open letter to Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusypbekov, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Swiss Justice Ministry stressing that President Nazarbaev has repeatedly rejected as untrue articles published in the U.S. press over the past 18 months implicating him in accepting huge bribes from Western oil companies that were allegedly paid into foreign bank accounts. In the letter, Narmaghambetov appeals to Tusypbekov to bring legal proceedings for insulting the honor and dignity of the president against the foreign newspapers that published such articles. A copy of Narmaghambetov's letter was faxed to RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 10 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)...AS OPPOSITION CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO MONEY LAUNDERING.
RFE/RL's Almaty bureau also received by fax on 10 May a copy of a second letter signed by leaders of the opposition Communist Party, republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, the Workers' Movement, LAD (representing Kazakhstan's Slav population), and Orleu among others, which was addressed to the U.S. Congress and the OSCE. That letter claimed that the recently enacted legislation offering impunity to persons who transfer back to Kazakhstan capital they had previously deposited in foreign bank accounts has encouraged unnamed Kazakh officials to engage in money laundering, rechanneling such capital via Kazakh banks to other foreign banks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)
TWO OPPOSITION POLITICIANS GO ON TRIAL.
The separate trials opened in Bishkek on 8 May of opposition Ar-Namys party Deputy Chairman Emil Aliyev and of People's Party Chairman Melis Eshimkanov, who owned the independent newspaper "Asaba," which has been declared bankrupt, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Both men are accused of organizing an unsanctioned demonstration in Bishkek on 13 April to protest the closure of "Asaba." Aliyev was fined 1,000 soms (about $20), and the hearings in Eshimkanov's case adjourned until 10 May. Interfax on 8 May quoted Eshimkanov as terming the hearing "political harassment." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
PARLIAMENT RESTORES PENSIONS TO SOME WORKING PENSIONERS.
The parliament by a vote of 67 to 35 with eight abstentions amended the state Pension Law on 8 May to allow pensioners who earn less than the established minimum monthly salary of 430 litas ($107.5) to receive their full pensions beginning 1 July, BNS reported. Pensioners who earn up to 650 litas will receive the base monthly pension of 138 litas plus an additional pension of up to 218 litas, while those earning more than 650 litas will receive only the base pension. The parliament also raised the excise tax on cigarettes from 30 to 32 litas per 1,000 units from 1 June. Even after the increase, the level of the tax will have to be increased more than four times to reach the European Union's minimum level, i.e., 57 percent of the average retail price of the most popular brand of cigarettes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS MACEDONIA AGAINST 'CHECHEN' SOLUTION.
Petar Stoyanov said in Sofia on 10 May that "the Republic of Macedonia should not allow the use of the Chechen model for solving the crisis through use of force. Political dialogue is the only way to end the crisis by achieving a political and ethnic agreement," Reuters reported. He added that "a state of war is not a solution to the problem, but a step towards ethnic war. Unleashing a wave of refugees from Macedonia to Kosovo can lead to a humanitarian catastrophe." Stoyanov called for a greater international presence in Macedonia to help end the crisis. He also urged politicians in Macedonia not to exploit the crisis in the run-up to early elections expected at the start of 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)
WORLD BANK URGES POLAND TO REFORM LABOR MARKET.
The World Bank has urged Poland to fight rising unemployment by cutting taxes, investing in education and training, and pushing ahead with plans to loosen rigid labor regulations, the "Financial Times" reported on 10 May, referring to the bank's report published the previous day. Poland's unemployment rate reached 15.9 percent in March. World Bank experts predicted in Warsaw on 9 May that Poland's jobless rate is likely to veer between 15 and 18 percent over the next five years, twice the EU average rate of 8.7 percent. "The primary objective cause in unemployment growth in Poland over the last years is not government economic policy...but economic restructuring," dpa quoted World Bank analyst Jan Rutkowski as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)
MAGISTRATES ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF BRIBE-TAKING.
Judge Valentin Acatrinei and Prosecutor Cristian Bojinca, both from the Bucharest Court of Appeals, were arrested on 7 May on suspicion of taking bribes to facilitate the release from prison in January 2000 of Shimon Na'or, an Israeli who was detained after being accused of international arms smuggling. Na'or, who is now in Israel, denied any knowledge of the affair. Two other judges were ordered not to leave Bucharest, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation, Mediafax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
PUTIN REVIEWS RED SQUARE PARADE.
Standing in front of the mausoleum where Vladimir Lenin is entombed and with the red banner of the armed forces again floating past, Russian President Vladimir Putin on 9 May reviewed the first Victory Day Parade in which aging World War II veterans did not march and in which the Russian defense minister was a civilian, Russian and Western agencies reported. As 5,000 servicemen marched past, Putin and other dignitaries faced a banner on the opposite side of Red Square reading "USSR-Victory!" Putin told the crowd that "the victory elevated our country, glorified the people of Russia, rallied and steeled them." He said "we won the most just war of the 20th century," and concluded his speech with congratulations for all Russians: "Glory to the victor-people! Glory to Russia! Hurrah!" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)PUTIN CALLS FOR FIGHTING FASCISM.
On the eve of Victory Day, marked in Russia on 9 May and described by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as "the greatest holiday of modern times," President Vladimir Putin called on the nations of the world to fight manifestations of fascism and other forms of political extremism now and in the future, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 May. Addressing military commanders and veterans, Putin said that Moscow will do everything it can to protect its citizens and compatriots in other countries and will oppose efforts by any other country to try to dominate the world unilaterally. He said that "the reason a multitude of wars has been unleashed remains the desire for world domination," noting that "today this ambition still survives and it is extremely dangerous." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)LUZHKOV WORRIED BY IGNORANCE OF YOUNG ABOUT WORLD WAR II.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 7 May that he is increasingly concerned by the level of ignorance among the young about World War II, Interfax-Moscow reported. Luzhkov said many children do not even know whom the USSR fought in that conflict. Luzhkov also said that the extreme nationalist Russian National Unity (RNE) group should be put "outside the law." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)1.5 MILLION SOVIET SOLDIERS WENT FROM NAZI PRISONS TO SOVIET GULAG.
Aleksandr Yakovlev, the chairman of the presidential commission for the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions, told Interfax on 8 May that 1.5 million Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans during World War II were sent directly to the Stalinist Gulag camps upon their release at the end of that conflict. Yakovlev said that fears by soldiers and officers that this would happen had prompted 180,000 Soviet POWs to choose to remain in the West rather than return to their homeland. Yakovlev also called for the erection in Moscow's Lubyanka Square of a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repressions in the former USSR, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)WOUNDED IN CHECHNYA, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST IN 'CRITICAL CONDITION.'
In November 1999, two months after the outbreak of the second Chechen war, prominent Moscow human rights activist Victor Popkov began a public 40-day water-only fast in solidarity with all victims of the Chechen war; Moscow authorities did not allow this vigil to take place in a central location. Respected Moscow human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina is asking for anyone who can help Victor to contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. He urgently needs medicine and his family -- wife and two children, all with significant disabilities -- need financial support. (Center for Civil Society International, 9 May)YELAGIN ADMITS PROBLEMS IN PROTECTING AID GROUPS IN CHECHNYA.
Vladimir Yelagin, the minister for the coordination of the restoration of the social-economic sphere of Chechnya, told Interfax on 10 May that the Russian authorities are having difficulties protecting humanitarian relief workers in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP MARKS 25TH ANNIVERSARY.
Yurii Orlov, Natan Sharansky, Lyudmila Alekseeva, and other Soviet-era dissidents assembled in Moscow on 12 May to mark the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russian and Western agencies reported. Speakers noted both the progress that had been made over that period and the problems still remaining, with Alekseeva stressing the need to work with the government in order to defend human rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)LACK OF TRANSPARENCY COSTING RUSSIA $10 BILLION IN ANNUAL INVESTMENTS.
A group of experts at the PricewaterHouseCoopers auditing company said that Russia is losing $10 billion a year in potential foreign investments because of corruption, inadequate accounting procedures, weaknesses in its legal system, and lack of reliable financial information, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The experts said that Russia ranks at the bottom of most indicators and that, in the news agency's words, "Indonesia alone can compete with Russia with respect to corruption." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)CASES AGAINST FORMER PROSECUTORS DROPPED.
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 11 May announced that it has closed corruption cases against two former prosecutors-general -- Aleksei Ilyushenko, who served in that post from 1994 to 1995 and Yurii Skuratov, who was prosecutor-general from 1995 to 1999 -- Russian and Western agencies reported. Both had been charged with corruption. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)DRUGS THREATEN RUSSIAN SOCIETY, MILITARY.
In a report published in the "Krug Zhizni" supplement to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 May, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy said that drug use has become "a mass, all-national problem that directly threatens the state." The report says that the actual number of users has reached 2.5 to 3 million, most of them young people under the age of 30. Particularly disturbing, according to the report, is the increasing use of drugs in the military. During 2000, it said, more than 20 soldiers in Chechnya were caught trading ammunition and uniforms for drugs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)68 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS THINK ARMY COULD DEFEND COUNTRY.
A poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by ITAR-TASS on 11 May found that 68 percent of Russians believe that the Russian army is capable of defending the country, with 21 percent saying that they do not believe that it is. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)FUND FOR THE HUMANITIES CREATED.
On 10 May, the Russian government approved the charter of the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund, which will use public and private funds to support work in the humanities in Russia, Interfax reported. Among its particular tasks will be to strengthen ties between Russian scholars and international organizations and institutions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)MOSCOW CITY INTRODUCES NEW REGISTRATION RULES FOR FOREIGNERS.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed a directive on 9 May setting new rules for foreigners working in city markets and trading centers, Interfax-Moscow reported. According to the new rules, anyone wanting to work in Moscow will have to obtain a special document by presenting a declaration with personal information, place of work, and identity certification. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)MOSCOW RECEIVED 4200 EXTRADITION REQUESTS IN 2000.
Isa Kostoev, the chief of the international legal administration, told Interfax on 7 May that Russia last year received 4,200 requests for extraditing people sought by the authorities in other countries and has extradited more than 2,500 of them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)DUMA TO CONSIDER MAKING ILLEGAL THE TRANSPORT OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
The Duma Committee on Legislation is preparing to discuss a draft on making the transport of illegal immigrants into or through Russia a crime, Interfax reported on 7 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)AMERICAN JAILED FOR 'ART SMUGGLING.'
Maura Winston is being held in a Moscow jail after she was detained at the airport for allegedly taking artwork from the country. She bought these paintings at a flea market and their value does not exceed $1,500. She is not allowed to see anyone and has had no contact with her family in the U.S. A lawyer has been hired and the U.S. Embassy is involved. (Center for Civil Society International, 5 May)ONE RUSSIAN IN SIX SEES POSITIVE FEATURES IN FASCISM.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 11 May, 16 percent of Russians believe that there are positive aspects to fascism, but three-fourths of those surveyed say that Russia must adopt laws to prevent the growth of fascist groups in their country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)MUSLIM TIES WITH OTHER FAITHS IN TATARSTAN SAID CLOSE TO IDEAL.
Gusman-Khazret Iskhakov, the mufti of Tatarstan, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 May that relations between Muslims and other faiths in his republic are "ideal" in large measure because of the tolerance Tatarstan's Muslims show to each other and to members of other faiths. Meanwhile, on the same day, "Vremya MN" reported that officials in Tatarstan's Naberezhnie Chelny intend to open a market that will sell only goods prepared in correspondence with the norms of the Muslim shariat law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)KUBAN COSSACKS CONDUCT POGROM AGAINST MESKHETIANS.
Local Cossacks in the Krymskii raion in Krasnodar Krai have been conducting a campaign of violence against the stores and homes belonging to Meskhetians, RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent reported on 25 April. According to RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent on 24 March, at numerous unsanctioned meetings, Ataman Bezuglyi has demanded more or less the quick expulsion of ethnic Turks from the Kuban, using as his main argument "the age-old incompatibility of Slavic and Turkish populations." The Cossacks also accuse the Turks of showing a lack of respect for their Cossack neighbors, and of providing assistance to radical Muslim organizations. According to official information there are some 13,500 Meskhetians in the krai, but unofficial estimates put the total at 20,000. Of this number only some 2,500 have Russian citizenship, the rest are residing with temporary registration, having become as of 1 February persons without citizenship. A number of ethnic organizations in Krasnodar Krai have expressed their opposition to plans by the Turkish government to open a consulate in Novorossiisk, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 May. According to the daily, Ishkhan Khudoyan, head of the Kurdish society of the Kuban, said with the creation of the consulate the Turkish intelligence service will have a legal outpost in the krai. Also opposed to the consulate are the Cossacks and ethnic Armenians in the krai. The daily speculates that with the opening of the consulate the conflicts between the Meskhetians and the local Cossacks "could take unprecedented forms." ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 May)ROLE OF NON-RUSSIAN LANGUAGES DEBATED IN REGIONS.
Karelia Republic head Sergei Katanandov told Interfax-Northwest on 8 May that his government intends to continue its efforts to give the Karelian language the status of the republic's second state language after Russian. Last fall, deputies in the republic's legislative assembly rejected a proposal by the presidential administration to give Karelian official status. According to Katanandov, some 14 percent of the population in the republic is ethnically Karelian and more than two-thirds of those residents use their native tongue. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Syktyvkar correspondent reported on 28 April that instructors in Komi folklore and Finno-Ugric language and literature at the state university in the Komi Republic will be required to teach their courses in Russian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)PATRIARCH CONDEMNS POPE'S PLAN TO VISIT UKRAINE.
Patriarch Aleksii II and visiting Greek Archbishop Christodoulos on 11 May issued a joint statement saying that Pope John Paul II should have secured the approval of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine before planning to go there, Russian and Western agencies reported. In other comments, they said that "the future will show whether the Pope was sincere" in his apology for past Roman Catholic actions against the Orthodox, and they criticized efforts by Universal Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to involve himself in what they called the internal affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and Estonia. On 12 May, some 1,500 people in Moscow assembled to protest the papal visit to Ukraine, Interfax reported. One of the organizers was arrested, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)WHAT WILL PUTIN'S RELIGION POLICY BE?
A source close to the Russian Academy of State Service (RASS), which draws up government policy, has told Keston that a religion policy has not been adopted. The head of the RASS religion department, Nikolai Trofimchuk, believes that the policy should address the "negative impact of foreign religious organizations and missions" cited in Russia's National Security Concept, signed by President Putin. The department head believes that American Protestant missionaries are part of a U.S. plan "to wrest away from Russia the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and after that all of the Far East." (Keston News Service, 10 May)FOUR TIMES MORE YOUNG PEOPLE RELIGIOUS NOW THAN TWO DECADES AGO.
Yurii Kovrizhnykh, the deputy minister for secondary and professional education, said that approximately 45 percent of Russian young people aged 13-14 believe in God, a figure that is "four times more than in the 1980s," Interfax reported. Some Russian Orthodox clerics put the figure even higher, with one telling the news agency that in many regions of Russia up to 80 percent of students in the fifth and sixth grades are believers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)SUCCESSOR ORGAN TO COUNCIL FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS IMMINENT?
Speculation over the creation of a successor to the Soviet-era anti-religious Council for Religious Affairs, abolished in 1990, has recently increased. Advocates of such an organ, which is opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church, believe that it is necessary to curb what they see as the excessive influence of the Orthodox Church on secular authority arguing that "Freedom does not mean absence of control." But even these advocates cannot say how a CRA successor would resist the lure of religious organizations with money or influence looking for preferential treatment and admit that the organ's neutrality could not be guaranteed, saying "anything is possible, of course." (Keston News Service, 10 May)ORTHODOX VETO ON KOLOMNA MOSQUE CONSTRUCTION?
Muslim leaders have accused the administration of the town of Kolomna, 115 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Moscow, of violating Russia's law on religion and in effect raising the status of Russian Orthodoxy to that of state religion. Chief Mufti Ravil Gainutdin told Keston News Service that the local Orthodox hierarch's call for discussion in the Kolomna press of an application by local Muslims to build a mosque is effectively a veto on construction, because public opinion opposes the building of mosques. The Mufti warned that the difficulties could lead to an increase in Islamic extremism. (Keston News Service, 4 May)KABARDINO-BALKARIA REJECTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESS REGISTRATION.
Despite a court ruling that the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in Russia's North Caucasus should proceed with the re-registration of three local Jehovah's Witness communities, the official responsible for registering religious communities at the Justice Ministry continues to reject their registration. She told Keston News Service that the ministry will appeal against the court decision to the republic's Supreme Court. (Keston News Service, 1 May)
KOSTUNICA HEDGES ON WAR CRIMES COOPERATION...
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who is in the U.S. to accept a private award as "statesman of the year," was to face "difficult talks" with top U.S. officials on 9 May, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The previous day in New York, Kostunica was equivocal in his willingness to work with the tribunal, which he has called an anti-Serbian tool of U.S. foreign policy. "We are very firm about and aware of our international obligations including those with The Hague tribunal, but we need a legal frame for that cooperation at this moment.... We have to cope with a Western reluctance to give us a chance to build our institutions and establish the rule of law by allowing our judiciary to implement national laws and try war crimes suspects, among others," RFE/RL quoted him as saying. Croatian President Stipe Mesic has called Kostunica's legal arguments "words for children" and noted that Croatia quickly changed its legislation on cooperating with The Hague after the change of government in early 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)...BUT DEL PONTE 'CONFIDENT' OF COOPERATION.
Speaking at the UN in New York, Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said: "I am confident that next week, next month, we will have positive results" on persuading Belgrade to extradite Milosevic. She noted that she has received assurances from U.S. officials that "they will do all that is possible to achieve what we are asking for," Reuters reported. Referring to complaints by Milosevic's supporters that his health is deteriorating in a Belgrade prison, she said: "I'm sure that our prison is much better, and so I invite Milosevic to come as soon as possible. He will have very good accommodation in our prison." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)BUSH TELLS KOSTUNICA: COOPERATE WITH THE HAGUE.
President George W. Bush joined a meeting of Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and visiting Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica for about 10 minutes on 9 May, VOA reported. Bush called on Kostunica to take "concrete steps" to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which wants to bring former President Slobodan Milosevic to trial there. Bush did not offer specifics, but State Department officials said that Washington would like Belgrade to set a date for the extradition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)POWELL SAYS U.S. SUPPORT FOR DONORS CONFERENCE DEPENDS ON COOPERATION WITH HAGUE.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington on 9 May that he told Kostunica in a "good, candid talk...to keep moving in the direction of democracy and economic freedom. [I] indicated to him that he would continue to enjoy the strong support of the United States [if he does so].... He received similar assurances from President Bush and Vice President Cheney and Dr. Rice earlier today," Reuters reported. Powell stressed, however, that Washington's support for a donors conference for Serbia will depend on Belgrade's cooperation with The Hague: "I look forward to seeing what else Yugoslavia will be doing in the weeks ahead that will allow me to make a judgment with respect to releasing that condition." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)KOSTUNICA: FERHADIJA MOSQUE RECONSTRUCTION 'PROVOCATION.'
Kostunica said in New York on 8 May that while he is "very concerned and unhappy because of the incident of violence and religious intolerance in the case of Banja Luka" on 7 May, some churches and mosques should not be rebuilt because it "might provoke these incidents," Reuters reported. During the riot, several thousand Serbs trapped some 300 Muslims and foreign officials, including the UN's Jacques Klein, in the Islamic community building. The nationalists chased a pig into the area where the 16th-century Ferhadija mosque will be reconstructed, killed the pig, and hung its head in front of the Islamic community building. The visitors were stoned and beaten, prayer rugs and an Islamic flag destroyed, and some 30 people injured. Bosnian Serb police took six hours to restore order. Ferhadija is one of 16 mosques in Banja Luka and 618 throughout Bosnia that Serbian nationalists destroyed during the 1992-1995 war. Ferhadija and another Banja Luka mosque were both listed as UNESCO-protected cultural sites prior to the conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
CZECH ROMA ASK FOR ASYLUM IN SLOVAKIA.
A man, a woman, and three of their children, "probably of Romany origin," on 11 May applied for political asylum in Slovakia, saying they "feel threatened by unknown individuals," CTK reported citing Slovak television. A similar case was registered in Slovakia eight years earlier, though on numerous other occasions since Slovak Roma have demanded asylum in the Czech Republic. The five have been sent to the Adamov refugee camp in eastern Slovakia, where they will have to spend 30 days in quarantine and await a decision on their application, which is to be made within two months. CTK said the family's chances of getting asylum are "minimal," since the Czech Republic is considered by Slovak migration authorities to be "a safe country." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)SLOVAK HELSINKI COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR 'POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION' OF ROMA.
Miroslav Kusy, chairman of the Slovak Helsinki Committee, told journalists on 10 May that if Slovakia were to introduce "positive discrimination" toward its Roma population, the measure would prevent a future exodus of Roma such as the one that is currently underway, CTK reported. Kusy said he is opposed to any measure that would infringe on Roma civil rights, in reference to a proposal that passports be taken away from members of that minority. Kusy said incentives must be introduced for the Roma to see their futures in Slovakia, rather than elsewhere. He explained that positive discrimination does not mean putting other people at a disadvantage. "No Rom should be admitted to a university just because he is a Rom, but conditions must be created for Roma to be able to register at a university," he said. Kusy also proposed that companies willing to employ Roma should be granted tax breaks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)GOVERNMENT DISMISSES ROMANY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER.
Deputy Premier Pal Csaky told journalists on 9 May that the government has dismissed Vincent Danihel from his position as Romany affairs commissioner, CTK reported. Danihel had recently filed a complaint against Csaky, alleging he misused World Bank funds allocated to the commissioner's office. Csaky said Danihel had "not always acted in line with the duties of a civil servant" and had also misused international grants aimed at improving the situation of the Romany community. Csaky said he hopes a new commissioner will be selected from among several candidates by June. He said the cabinet headed by Mikulas Dzurinda continues to regard Romany problems as "a priority" and does more to address those problems than any other government in East Central Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)GOVERNMENT APPROVES WAGE RISE FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS, TEACHERS.
Amid threats of a strike, the government on 9 May approved raising wages for health care workers and teachers, CTK reported. Health care workers in the state sector are to receive wage hikes of between 20 and 40 percent as of June. Teachers are to benefit from a gradual increase in wages, amounting to a total raise of some 16 percent by April 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May)
PRESIDENT CONVENES MEETING ON CRIME, SECURITY ISSUES.
Imomali Rakhmonov convened a meeting on 8 May with the heads of law-enforcement and security agencies, impressing on them the need for and importance of more effective and systematic actions to strengthen legality and national security and to eradicate drug trafficking, terrorism, and extremism, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov stressed that his 30 April address to parliament, which also focussed on those issues, constitutes "a program of compulsory actions" for security and law-enforcement agencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May)
SECRET POLICE RAID BAPTIST SERVICE.
Baptist pastor Vasily Korobov was told by the KNB secret police on 7 May not to lead religious services and or to leave the city for at least six months. As all Protestant activity has been banned, the Soviet-era practice of holding open-air services to avoid detection has been revived. The KNB officer suggested to Korobov and two fellow Baptists that they should go to the Russian Orthodox church (the only legal Christian denomination in Turkmenistan) and "there would be no problem." The "suggestion" came after Pastor Korobov and his colleagues were detained the previous day for leading a Sunday service in the open air near the town of Mary, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Ashgabad. Since all Baptist and other Protestant activity was banned, Turkmenistan's Baptist churches have all been closed down, including Korobov's own in Ashgabad. (Keston News Service, 10 May)
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE FEARS EXPULSION.
Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate fear that the local authorities will deprive them of one of only two remaining churches in Ukraine's western Lviv region. The parish priest of St Volodymyr's church, Father Volodymyr Kuseh, told Keston News Service that two Orthodox churches of different jurisdictions are next to each other on the same site, but the Lviv authorities recognize the rival Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate as owners of both. The deputy head of Lviv regional administration admitted that there is a "property dispute," but denied to Keston that the Moscow Patriarchate congregation would be expelled. (Keston News Service, 8 May)
EXILED DISSIDENT SAYS PRESIDENT APPROVED PLANS FOR HIS ASSASSINATION.
In a fax to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service in Prague on 11 May, Bahram Muminakhunov, an Uzbek citizen currently residing in Moscow, said he was asked in the fall of 1999 by two senior Uzbek Interior Ministry (MVD) officials to arrange through his Chechen contacts the murder of Mohammad Salikh, the exiled leader of the banned Uzbek Democratic Party ("Erk") who currently lives in Norway. Muminakhunov also said he was present at a meeting in April 2000 between those officials and Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss plans for the assassination. He says he has tapes of conversations with the MVD officials discussing the planned killing, for which they offered to pay $2 million. Muminakhunov then tipped off Salikh, whose relatives announced his disappearance. The Uzbek officials refused, however, to pay the full fee for the killing until Salikh's body was found. In a telephone conversation with RFE/RL and at a separate press conference in Oslo on 11 May Salikh confirmed Muminakhunov's statement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May)
THE 30th ROMANI NATIONAL DAY: 8 APRIL 2001
By Ilona Klimova
The Fifth World Romani Congress (Prague, July 2001) for the first time widely publicized the claim of the Roma to national status. However, the idea of the Romani nation and the struggle for political participation are not new phenomena. Romani political mobilization gained momentum with the First World Romani Congress (London, April l971) which among other things declared its opening day -- 8 April � Romani National Day. Ever since, the number of cultural events and parades taking place on Romani National Day has grown as a result of efforts of individual leaders and organizations.
This year's special 30-year Jubilee was, however, carefully staged to become the greatest global manifestation for the recognition and rights of the Romani Nation yet. For the first time all events were centrally coordinated between many Romani groups and organizations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Unlike the purely cultural spirit of the celebrations in the past, the Jubilee had a more radical political expression, signified by the use of the term "Ustiben" (Rising) and the staging of "The March of 100,000." The main thrust of the manifestations was for recognition of the Roma as a nonterritorial nation with the right to a seat in the UN General Assembly, as well as the observance of human rights for Roma, not to mention equality, an end to racial attacks, better treatment for Romani refugees worldwide, protection and safe return for Roma of Kosova, and an end to the recent violence in Macedonia.
The main events around the globe that took place in celebration of the Jubilee and Ustiben 2001 were a peaceful demonstration at Union Square in New York; a rally in Gent focusing on the situation of Romani refugees; a rally at Parliament Square in London calling for a Traveler Law Reform Bill, accompanied by a cultural program and academic conferences focusing on the Romani movement at the Universities of Greenwich and Cambridge; flower-casting into the Danube to commemorate victims of fascism and racism at Lom, Bulgaria; a rally at a former Romani concentration camp in Lety, Czech Republic; a concert in Vienna City Hall; a conference in Delhi and Chandigarh, co-sponsored by the Indian Ministry of Culture; and major manifestations and cultural events in over 90 cities and towns in over 40 countries. In addition, the Romani Community Center in Serbia and a new Romani cultural society in Montenegro now bear the date of 8 April in its name. The Belgrade-based organization "Rrominterpress" released on the occasion a collection of authentic records of Romani extermination at Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II and a booklet about the importance of 8 April for the Romani people.
Although this year's events have not included presenting a petition to the UN as originally planned, the momentum for the recognition of a Romani Nation will be carried forward to the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in South Africa (August 2001). This momentum is based on Point 5 of the Warsaw Recommendations to the NGO Forum of the 2001 UN WCAR calling for the UN to confer "the status of a nonterritorial nation to the Romani people, providing for adequate representation in international governmental organizations." (For the full text, see http://www.hri.ca/racism/meetings/warsaw.htm). In addition, the regional WCAR NGO meeting in Quito, Ecuador (March 2001), included in its Action Plan lobbying the UN to declare 8 April International Romani Day.
Although the target of these efforts for recognition is the UN, it is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that has provided support for celebrations of 8 April in Kosova for the last couple of years. In addition, the OSCE Mission in Kosova issued an International Romani Day Press Release. The U.S. government also expressed its support by issuing a press statement calling "attention to the pressing need to improve respect for the human rights of Roma" (Richard Boucher, Washington, DC, 6 April 2001) on the occasion of the Jubilee. Shortly after the Jubilee, the Czech Foreign Ministry was the first governmental institution to recognize in a written agreement that Roma living in Europe are a part of the Romani nation whose request for general recognition is legitimate (Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and the International Romani Union, Article 2).
This year's 8 April has had both external and internal significance for the Romani political movement. Obtaining recognition from bodies such as the OSCE and the U.S. government will hopefully pave the way for a declaration of an official UN International Romani Day.
But perhaps more important, coordination around the world contributed to strengthening Romani solidarity. Diverse Romani communities joined on this day to celebrate their brotherhood, unity, culture, and unique postmodern nonterritorial nationhood. (Ilona Klimova is a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, researching the transnational political mobilization of the Roma.)