23 May 2001, Volume
HOW SERIOUS ARE TENSIONS WITHIN MUSAVAT?
In the run-up to the congress of the Azerbaijani opposition Musavat Party scheduled for late May, Rauf Arifoglu, who is editor of the party's newspaper, "Yeni Musavat," has expressed sweeping criticisms of the party's leadership and tactics. But at the same time he has claimed that his criticism is ultimately aimed at making the party's chairman, Isa Gambar, president of Azerbaijan. Arifoglu's criticisms were expressed in an interview published on 12 May in the independent daily newspaper "525-gazeti." That interview was summarized by "Ekho" three days later. Arifoglu claimed in that interview that the Musavat Party is in the process of splitting into factions grouped around individual members of the leadership. He said that pressuring the present leadership to step down and thus make way for himself and his supporters could halt that process. If that happened, Arifoglu said, he could then bring Gambar to power. ("RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 21 May)PUBLIC LAW CENTER LAUNCHED IN BAKU.
"Yeni Musavat" reported that a public legal consultancy was launched in Baku on 11 May. In his welcome speech, the new center's director said that Azerbaijani citizens will be able to use the center's services free of cost. The center includes a law library and will hold seminars and discussions. Free legal consultations for citizens will be provided by lawyers; indigent defendants will be given free legal defense during trials. The ceremony was also attended by prominent lawyers, barristers, rights champions, and representatives of the Justice Ministry Board of Lawyers and the British and U.S. embassies. ("Yeni Musavat," 12 May)
LUKASHENKA PROMISES NOT TO STICK TO POWER 'BY FORCE AND INJUSTICE'...
"I will not cling to power by force and injustice," Alyaksandr Lukashenka told the Second All-Belarusian Popular Congress, to which he spoke for some two and a half hours. "Retaining power is no problem, but we must think beyond the presidential elections. If we go against our society, if we fail to persuade our people that they should support us at this critical point, if this persuading breaks the people instead of making them vote for us, then we will never keep power," he added. Lukashenka noted, however, that Belarus has reached a point at which "we can stay in power without quarrels or turmoil, without total propaganda, without spending millions." He pledged to hold the upcoming presidential elections "in an exceptionally civilized and open way, in full compliance with our laws and international standards." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)...BUT TELLS WEST TO 'LEAVE US ALONE.'
Lukashenka also lashed out the West, which has criticized Belarus, he argued, for alleged human rights abuses, AP reported. He said the West owes Belarus and other former Soviet republics for their role in defeating the Nazis in World War II. "We, Soviet people, did everything so that from Poland onward people lived wonderfully. We saved you, and you should pay us back your whole lives. And if you can't, or more likely, don't want to, please don't tell us what to do, leave us alone," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka reiterated his opinion that the West is spending money to form a "fifth column" in Belarus in order to destabilize the situation in the country. "You know what will follow if we give up and pass the power, against the people's will, into the hands of charlatans, [don't you]?" Lukashenka said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)POLICE ARREST MORE THAN 30 PROTESTERS.
More than 30 people protesting the Second All-Belarusian Popular Congress and demanding the truth about the disappearance of opposition figures were arrested in Minsk on 18 May, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Some of the protesters were beaten up by plainclothes agents. "We have witnessed a tragicomedy staged by one man and involving more than 2,000 extras. Its purpose was to improve Lukashenka's falling rating, promote him as a presidential candidate, and create an illusion of popular support," opposition politician Anatol Lyabedzka commented on the congress. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
POLIO CASES -- FIRST IN EUROPE SINCE 1998.
A 13-year-old Romany boy from the Black Sea city of Burgas was found in April to be suffering from polio, AP reported on 17 May, citing World Health Organization sources in Copenhagen. The report said another polio case was discovered in a 2-year-old Romany boy in Yambol this month. These are the first cases of the illness recorded in Europe since November 1998, when the virus was discovered near Turkey's border with Iran. In Bulgaria itself, the last cases of polio were registered in 1991. The Bulgarian Health Ministry announced plans on 18 May for an immunization campaign, after the discovery of the country's third case of polio within a month, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 21 May)
JEWISH COMMUNITY WORRIED ABOUT GROWING NEO-NAZISM.
The Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, in a statement released on 20 May, said it is "disappointed" that "Neo-Nazi activities are tolerated in a country where some 80,000 of our kin were killed by the Nazi regime," CTK reported. The statement said the federation had hoped that the parliament, the governments, and the courts of justice would realize by themselves that toleration of Nazism is "inadmissible." However, "we are witnessing the opposite situation" and such toleration has grown in the course of the last 10 years. Tomas Jelinek, chairman of the Prague Jewish Community, said the statement marked the start of a campaign, and that eight senators have already expressed support for the federation's initiative to hold public hearings on the danger of neo-Nazism, racism, and xenophobia. The Senate will also debate this danger in June, Jelinek said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES.
The government on 15 May established requirements of Estonian-language proficiency for private sector employees, BNS reported. The language proficiency requirement had currently applied only to physicians, pharmacists, and psychologists working in the private sector. Under the government decree, at least intermediate-level proficiency in Estonian will be required from all trade and service sector employees, while advanced proficiency will be required from teachers of private schools and universities, captains of ships or aircraft, rescue workers, pilots, and security employees. Education Minister Tonis Lukas said that he does not think that the new requirements will increase unemployment, but will encourage non- Estonians to learn Estonian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)
PRIME MINISTER CAUTIOUS ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP.
Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 20 May that while the Hungarian government has no objections to granting dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad, such a move would not facilitate the travel of ethnic Hungarians to EU countries, even after Hungary itself is admitted to the EU. Orban also recalled that neighboring countries assess dual citizenship in different ways, noting that Ukrainian laws ban dual citizenship while in Romania certain rights are withheld from those who hold dual citizenship. In other news, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said in the Romanian city of Oradea on 19 May that Hungary is "repaying an 80-year-old debt" by passing the "Status Law." He said it is a general reality of Central Europe that the borders of a nation do not necessarily coincide with that of a state, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
HEALTH OFFICIAL WARNS OF AIDS EPIDEMIC.
For the second time within one month, a health official in Kazakhstan has warned that the country may be on the verge of an AIDS epidemic. Turar Chaklikov, who heads the national center to prevent the spread of the disease, told a regional conference in Almaty on 16 May that 1,700 persons in Kazakhstan are officially registered as having tested HIV positive, more than in the other four Central Asian states combined, Interfax reported. He said Kyrgyzstan has 58 persons registered as HIV positive, Tajikistan 15, and Turkmenistan four. It is not clear to what extent the high incidence of HIV infections in Kazakhstan reflects the increase in that country in drug abuse. Last November, it was reported that the number of drug addicts has risen by 300 percent over the previous five years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)
DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER FINED FOR UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION.
A Bishkek district court fined deputy parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev 2,000 soms (about $41) on 18 May for taking part in the unsanctioned 13 April demonstration in Bishkek to protest the closure of the opposition newspaper "Akaba," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)TRIAL OF ALLEGED ISLAMIC RADICALS OPENS.
The trial began on 15 May at a military court in the southern city of Osh of one Tajik and one Russian citizen accused of participating in the incursion into Kyrgyzstan last summer of a group of fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Reuters and Interfax reported. That group took four U.S. mountaineers hostage. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)
PARLIAMENTARY TASK FORCE TO PROMOTE REPATRIATION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES.
Members of the Latvian parliament have established a task force for the promotion of repatriating people to their ethnic homelands, BNS reported on 14 May. The task force consists of seven deputies from the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK), People's Party, and Social Democrats, and is headed by TB/LNNK deputy Juris Vidins. Vidins said that the aim of the task force is to urge the country's executive bodies, including the Foreign Ministry, to take a more active stance in solving the problems of repatriation and to increase the funding of the repatriation fund. He expressed regret that no Latvian institution has reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement that it would be beneficial for Russians to return to Russia, as the country lacks workers and its demographic situation has worsened. At the beginning of the year there were more than 551,000 registered noncitizens in Latvia, most of whom are ethnic Russians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May)
Macedonian soldiers and ethnic Albanian insurgents fought intermittently from 18-21 May in northern parts of the country as the government said it was exercising restraint in the conflict, AP reported. Most of the fighting took place in and around the villages of Slupcane and Vaksince, north of the capital Skopje. No casualties were reported by either side. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski -- dressed in a military uniform -- toured the front on 19 May and pledged to end the crisis "both politically and militarily." Shortly after he left, machine-gun fire and heavy artillery detonations could be heard. Interior Minister Ljuben Boskovski said Macedonia "will crush terrorism with the minimum of violence and casualties -- all in accordance with standards of the civilized world." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)...AS RED CROSS AIDS CIVILIANS.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on 20 May that it had used various lulls in the fighting between Macedonian troops and the rebels to send in teams of aid workers to help the several thousands of civilians caught in the villages where the fighting is occurring, AP reported. ICRC spokeswoman Amanda Williamson said there is a serious lack of food and water and "that the health situation has deteriorated." The Red Cross estimates that some 6,000 to 10,000 people are still living in villages, many in the cellars of houses, either because they are unable to leave or in order to show support for the ethnic Albanian rebels. The Macedonian Defense Ministry claims there are some 1,000 civilians still in the fighting zone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
JARUZELSKI GOES ON TRIAL FOR 1970 KILLINGS.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's former communist leader, went on trial in the Warsaw Provincial Court on 15 May, on charges of ordering the shooting of workers in Polish cities in 1970, AP reported. In 1970, when Jaruzelski was defense minister, riot police and military troops killed 44 shipyard workers who were protesting price hikes. Hundreds of witnesses are expected to testify, and the trial is likely to last at least one year. Jaruzelski could get 25 years if convicted, but the case is widely seen as more of an effort to achieve moral justice than to put the 77-year-old general behind bars. Eight former communist officials stand trial along with Jaruzelski. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May)
ROMA FIND STRANGE PATRON.
Deputies representing the xenophobic Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 14 May submitted a draft "Bill on the Emancipation and Integration of the Roma," Mediafax reported. PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has in the past called for the Roma's isolation and internment in camps. The bill stipulates that a National Agency for Roma Emancipation and Integration be set up and that taxes levied on Roma "who are integrated in the production process" be reduced. It also calls for the "obligatory schooling" of the Romany population and says local authorities must grant those Roma who do not own land "at least 400 square meters" to encourage them to settle down and end migration, Mediafax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May)PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'ULTRANATIONALISM.'
Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu on 16 May said President Ion Iliescu wishes to "warn all political formations and organizations representing civil society" against displaying "ultranationalist, populist" positions under the pretext of reacting to the "Status Bill" currently under debate by the Hungarian parliament. Iliescu said "it would have been normal for the government in Budapest to consult the Romanian government before submitting the bill to debate and before including in it stipulations that are unacceptable to any sovereign state." He said he believes "rational, [mutually] acceptable" positions on the bill can be reached after consultations between the two governments, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Premier Adrian Nastase reiterated on 16 May that the "Status Bill" cannot be applied on Romanian territory, saying "I do not believe the Hungarian government would be very happy if we were to pass a law to be implemented in Hungary." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)
MOSCOW'S CASUALTY FIGURES IN CHECHNYA 'DON'T ADD UP.'
An article in "Novye Izvestiya" on 18 May said that figures released on 17 May by the Russian government about Russian casualties "don't add up" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2001). In order for the figures presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii provided to be true, the article said, far fewer Russian soldiers would have to have died than various Russian force ministries have reported in the past. The paper concluded that "the FSB has only succeeded in isolating Chechnya from the independent media" so that neither the Kremlin nor the Russian people know that what is going on is "a war more appalling than the Afghan war." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)SPIES SAID OPERATING IN CAUCASUS UNDER COVER OF HUMANITARIAN GROUPS.
Lieutenant General Vladimir Bezuglii, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) department for North Ossetia, told Interfax on 18 May that some of the employees of international humanitarian organizations working in the northern Caucasus are in fact spies. He said that five such people have been deported in the last year, and he said that "in Georgia, there are several international organizations that are 'covered' by the U.S. CIA. Through them, Chechen rebels get food and medicines," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)ANOTHER CALL FOR NEGOTIATIONS ON CHECHNYA.
In an article published in "The Moscow Times" on 18 May, Russian sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii noted "the war in Chechnya made Vladimir Putin president. And the same war may, in the end, bring down his administration." To prevent that from happening, Kargarlitskii argued, both sides must move to the negotiating table, but noted that he sees few prospects for that: "rational arguments do not sway the racists and fascists who are essentially the only remaining loyal supporters of Russia's Chechnya policy." And he said that "whenever talk turns to civil rights or a peaceful settlement, [these supporters] respond sarcastically that no Chechen ever won the Nobel Prize for mathematics. By that token, Luxembourg should also be considered a potential target for planned extermination." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)CHECHEN OFFICIAL: RUSSIAN CAMPS USED FOR 'EXTERMINATION.'
Russian forces in Chechnya are using filtration camps as part of a broader effort to exterminate the Chechen people, according to one who survived these camps and now serves as the Chechen health minister. Dr. Omar Khanbiev told an RFE/RL briefing in Washington on 17 May that he personally saw Russian troops engage in tortures that "can be imagined only by a totally depraved human mind" -- the beating of the wounded on the stumps of their amputated arms and legs, the use of electric shocks to genitalia, exposure to extreme cold, faked executions, and suffocation. Tragically, Khanbiev said, this is not the work of individual "sadists" but rather a system "created by the state" and intended to destroy the Chechen nation. ("RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 21 May)LAWYER: COLONEL WON'T GET MORE THAN THREE YEARS IN PRISON FOR MURDERING CHECHEN GIRL.
Sergei Dorofeev, a lawyer for Colonel Yurii Budanov, who is accused of murdering a Chechen girl, predicted that his client will receive at most three years in prison, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 17 May. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that "in human terms" he sympathizes with Budanov, Interfax reported on 16 May. Ivanov said that to a certain degree, he considers Budanov to be "a victim of circumstances." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17-18 May)OFFICIALS DENY RUSSIAN FORCES INVOLVED IN CHECHEN MASS KILLING.
Chechen Prosecutor Viktor Dakhnov said on 16 May in Grozny that an investigation has failed to provide any evidence that Russian troops were responsible for the deaths of 51 Chechens whose bodies were found in a mass grave on the outskirts of Grozny in late February, Interfax reported. In a report released on 15 May, Human Rights Watch accused Russian authorities of failing to investigate the circumstances of those deaths. The report noted that many of those killed were last seen alive when Russian troops detained them. A spokesman for Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 16 May that if Human Rights Watch has evidence of the involvement of Russian forces in the killings it should make that evidence available, according to ITAR-TASS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONS STAGE RALLY IN INGUSHETIA.
Some 5,000 Chechens rallied in a displaced persons' camp in Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia, on 19 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants called for talks on resolving the war, and for the conduct of elections to choose the future leaders of the Chechen people. They also appealed to influential Chechen political figures and businessmen to close ranks and help achieve an end to the conflict. Displaced persons held a similar meeting in Sleptsovskaya earlier this month at which they called for a halt to the arbitrary killings of Chechens, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and the initiation of negotiations with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 16 May. They said they will not return to Chechnya until those demands are met and their safety there is guaranteed. According to "Vremya-MN" on 19 May, 70 percent of the displaced Chechens now in Ingushetia are former residents of Grozny. Their return is being delayed by the Russian Finance Ministry's reluctance to provide funding for the restoration of housing in the shattered capital. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)OLIGARCHS SAID BEHIND CONGRESS MOVE ON RUSSIA.
Following a parliamentary hearing on 18 May, Dmitrii Rogozin, the People's Deputy member who heads the Duma's International Relations Committee, said that "donkey's ears of certain Russian oligarchs are sticking out of the draft resolution" being circulated in the U.S. Congress that questions Russia's further membership in the G-8, Interfax reported. Rogozin said that the oligarchs involved "have chosen the path of open betrayal of Russia" and have used various means to influence members of the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, an unidentified source from the International Relations Committee was quoted by the Russian news agency the same day as saying that the Duma is looking into "the financing of an anti-Russian lobby in the U.S. by Russian oligarchs." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)YOUNG, OLD DIVERGE IN VIEWS OF PAST LEADERS.
According to polls conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Izvestiya" on 16 May, young and older Russians have widely diverging views about past Soviet and Russian leaders. Younger people respect the last tsar, the polls found, while older people view Nicholas II negatively. Forty-eight percent of older people dislike former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, with only 28 percent having a positive view, while the young are equally divided on his role. Older people look back favorably on Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, and Yurii Andropov, while the young are mostly indifferent or hostile to these historical figures, the polls found. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)PRIMAKOV SAYS POLICE AGENCIES SHOULD MOVE AGAINST PUTIN'S ENEMIES.
In an interview published in "Vremya MN" on 18 May, Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgenii Primakov said that "law-enforcement organs must concern themselves" with "definite groups that are acting against" the Russian president. Primakov said that these are not necessarily criminal groups but "groups which want to weaken the president, restore those arrangements against which he objectively or subjectively is struggling." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)PRO-PUTIN YOUTH GROUP MARKS PUTIN'S FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE.
Young people who back President Vladimir Putin have constituted themselves as the "Walking Together" group and organized a 10,000-person-strong demonstration in Red Square to mark his first year in office, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 8 May. The group's leader, Vasili Yakemenko, said that "youth is rejoicing at Putin's presidency because he has turned his face to Russia and his backside to the West." Yakemenko, who earlier worked for the presidential administration, insisted that Kremlin officials have had nothing to do with his new group. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 May)PUTIN REVIVES SOVIET TRADITIONS ON V-DAY...
President Putin presented Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov a Soviet-style red banner as the new/restored official flag of the Russian military, RIA-Novosti reported on 8 May. Moreover, in his address to military commanders, Putin said that he had introduced this symbol to "revive 'the spirit of victory' in Russian troops." Speaking the same day to World War II veterans, Putin said that fascism is "not the only threat to the world." Others, he said, include "attempts by ambitious politicians or even whole countries to dominate the world or reshape it" -- a clear reference to Russian complaints about the United States. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 May)NO PARDONS FROM PUTIN IN 2001.
Anatolii Pristavkin, the head of Russia's Pardons Commission, told AFP on 18 May that President Putin has not pardoned a single prisoner this year and that his failure to do so raises questions about the future of the Pardons Commission, which was created in 1992. Pristavkin said that if the judiciary or prosecutors take control of the pardon process, few pardons are likely. He contrasted Putin's approach with that of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who pardoned 11,267 prisoners in 1999. In 2000, some 12,835 prisoners were pardoned but most of those pardons had been arranged before Yeltsin left office, Pristavkin said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)USTINOV POINTS TO PROSECUTORIAL SUCCESSES.
In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 18 May, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said that only his office is capable of preventing "dishonest people doing as they please" in future privatizations. He said that his office has succeeded in promoting the harmonization of 30,000 of some 37,000 regional laws not in correspondence a year ago with the federal constitution and laws. Ustinov noted that prosecutors have helped more than 27,000 people recover jobs from which they were illegally dismissed. And he said that prosecutors rehabilitated more than 30,000 people over the last year and will complete action on the remaining 200,000 cases by the beginning of 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE SAYS STAROVOITOVA MURDER CASE WILL BE SOLVED.
Aleksei Vostretsov, the head of the press service for the St. Petersburg FSB administration, said on 17 May that the murder of Duma deputy and rights activist Galina Starovoitova will be resolved, Interfax North-West reported. He did not say when this would happen. Starovoitova was shot by still unknown persons on 20 November 1998. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May)PUTIN ORDERS UNIVERSAL JURY TRIALS BY 2003.
President Vladimir Putin said on 16 May that the jury system will be introduced throughout Russia by 1 January 2003, Russian and Western agencies reported. That project will cost 111 million rubles ($3.9 million), Putin's aide Dmitrii Kozak told Interfax. After the jury system is in place, Russian officials indicated, they will be ready to eliminate the death penalty in Russian law and practice. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)VETERANS WANT NAME STALINGRAD RESTORED.
A group of World War II veterans has appealed to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to adopt legislation that would restore the name of Stalingrad to the city of Volgograd, Interfax reported. In another indication of a desire to restore part of the Soviet past, 89 percent of Russians told pollsters that they believe that Russia needs a youth organization similar to the Soviet Pioneers, the news service said. But another poll showed that only one Russian in six believes that the Soviet Union itself can be restored, while 71 percent do not believe in such a possibility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)5.9 MILLION STILL IN UNIFORM.
Despite downsizing and decay, Russia still has too many people in uniform serving in the army or militarized agencies, "Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 4 May. The Interior Ministry and the Communications Ministry have 1.5 million uniformed personnel each. The Defense Ministry has 1.2 million, the federal border guards have 200,000, and the Tax Ministry 164,000. Along with several others that adds up to a number -- 5.9 million -- roughly equal to the size of the German army that invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the weekly said. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 May)TOO MANY PEOPLE CLAIMING COMBAT VETERAN BENEFITS.
More than 10 million people are claiming benefits as combat veterans of World War II but only about one million Russians are still alive who actually fought in that conflict, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 8 May. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 May)ELIMINATION OF INTERNAL PASSPORTS URGED.
An article in "Izvestiya" on 16 May argued that Russia should do away with the internal passport system. That would radically change the consciousness of Russians who "like slaves, must be held on a short leash." "In Russia," the author said, "money is reacquiring its original meaning. Goods are returning. But freedom has not returned to Russia. There has been only a slight weakening of the regime." To change things, the author suggested, "one ought to begin not with judicial reforms, which in any case will take decades, but rather with the banal doing away with internal passports." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)PEOPLE ON LIST FOR PUBLIC HOUSING HAVE 100-YEAR WAIT.
According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 16 May that cites a report on Russian cities prepared for a UN General Assembly meeting next month, housing construction in Russia has fallen so dramatically in the past decade that "the last in the list of those who are 'privileged' to get social [government-owned] housing will have a housewarming party in 100 years." The paper said that municipal transport is "breathing its last" and noted that "while there are dying towns in all CIS countries, it is only in Russia that small towns are dying at such a pace." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)DEMOGRAPHIC DECLINE SAID 'ALMOST IRREVERSIBLE.'
In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 16 May, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said that Russia's "present demographic situation is almost irreversible." He noted that Russia has entered into a period of "lengthy and progressive population decline" and that the mid-range demographic scenario suggests that the number of pensioners will equal the number of workers by 2034, a trend that is forcing Moscow to adopt pension reforms. He said the situation is much worse than in Western Europe. On the one hand, in Russia, the number of children per family has dropped to 1.1, compared to the 1.6 to 1.8 found in Western Europe. Despite this decline, Pochinok said that introducing a tax on childless couples is impermissible. As a result of alcoholism and industrial accidents, Russian men live on average only to the age of 60. But those who make it to 60 tend to live 17 years more. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)300,000 RUSSIANS DIE EACH YEAR FROM SMOKING-RELATED ILLS.
Officials of the World Health Organization said that some 300,000 Russians now die each year as a result of smoking-related illnesses, Interfax reported on 16 May. Russians currently consume 300 billion cigarettes each year, of which 50 billion are imported. The announcement comes as Duma deputies take up consideration of a bill that would limit smoking, the news agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)DECLINE OF STATE-SUPPORTED EDUCATION SEEN HURTING RUSSIA.
Duma deputy Flyura Ziyatdinova said that requiring ever more students to pay for higher education is hurting Russia's scientific, technical, and cultural future, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 May. The paper noted that fewer than 50 percent of Russian students now attend state-supported institutions, compared to 98 percent of students in Western Europe and 77 percent in the United States. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 May)SOCIAL PROGRAMS HELP ONLY TOP 20 PERCENT.
In an interview published in "Vek," No. 17, Nataliya Rimashevskaya, the director of the Academy of Sciences Institute of the Socio-Economic Problems of Demography, said that the existing social development programs and liberal economic strategies are popular but meet the needs of only the top 20 percent of the population. The other 80 percent are being left behind, she said. As a result, mothers and children are becoming ever less healthy, men are dying earlier, and Russia's population will drop to only 55 million by 2055 if current trends continue, she said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May)OPPOSITION TO IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTE GROWS.
Ecological activists from the "Preservers of the Rainbow" group picketed the Duma on 15 May to protest the parliament's apparent willingness to approve on third reading in the near future a draft bill that will permit the import of spent nuclear fuel for final storage in Russia, "Vremya MN" reported on 16 May. The demonstrators said that the deputies are "crudely violating" the will of the voters, 90 percent of whom have told pollsters that they oppose the storage of spent fuel on Russian territory. Meanwhile, Valerii Prokhorenko, the mayor of the port of Novorossiisk, came out in opposition to such imports as well, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)FIRM HELPED NON-JEWS EMIGRATE TO ISRAEL.
St. Petersburg's Vesta company helped non-Jewish Russians who wanted to emigrate to Israel to do so over the last several years, AP reported on 19 May. Until its operations were closed down by the police, the firm prepared false documents suggesting that its clients had Jewish relatives, schooled them in Jewish traditions, and even put up anti-Semitic graffiti near their homes to suggest that they were being persecuted in Russia, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)DUMA FAILS TO PASS CONDEMNATION OF ANTI-SEMITISM.
On 17 May, 219 deputies voted for a motion calling on President Vladimir Putin to officially condemn in Russia "anti-Semitism, nationalism, and fascism," Russian and Western agencies reported. That was seven votes fewer than needed. Seventy-three deputies voted against; 108 abstained. Communist deputy Yurii Nikiforenko told Interfax that none of the 85 members of his faction voted for the measure because "the singling out of only one nation and the excessive crying about its supposed lack of rights hardly strengthens the friendship of the peoples, but only sows discord and represents an effort to draw us deputies into this campaign." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May)RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS PRAISES GUSINSKY, ELECTS NEW HEAD.
The third convention of the Russian Jewish Congress on 16 May praised the work of embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, who earlier headed the organization, and selected acting president Leonid Nevzlin, the deputy head of the Yukos oil company, as its president, Russian and Western agencies reported. On the same day, Jews in Moscow marked the restoration of the dome and Star of David on the capital's main synagogue, AP reported. The new star "will be visible from the former Communist Party headquarters near the Kremlin" where President Putin's administration has its headquarters, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)RABBI LAZAR RESIGNS FROM RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS.
Orthodox Rabbi Berl Lazar said on 15 May that he has resigned from the Russian Jewish Congress due to what he called its secret decision-making approach since the resignation of Vladimir Gusinsky as its president, Interfax reported. Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaev told the news service that he considers Lazar's action to be part of "a political game" intended to divide Russia's Jewish groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)NO NATIONALIST CRIME IN ST. PETERSBURG.
Veniamin Petukhov, the head of the Main Administration of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, told Interfax on 15 May that there are no crimes being committed out of nationalist feelings in that region. He acknowledged this does not mean everything is fine, "but we are open for dialogue and are carrying out significant work with the leaders of the diasporas" in the city. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)400,000 ILLEGAL RESIDENTS IN MOSCOW.
Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev told Interfax on 16 May that some 400,000 illegal immigrants from beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union now live in the Russian capital. Most of them come from Asian and African countries, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)CIVIL SPECIALISTS IN THEOLOGY TO BE TRAINED IN TULA.
Two universities in Tula will train students in theology, not so that they can become priests but rather so that they can work in a variety of secular positions, including universities and administrative organs, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)MISSIONARIES SAID TO BE SPENDING FAR MORE THAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BUDGET.
In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 15 May, Archbishop Aleksandr of Kostroma and Galicia said that missionaries from foreign sects spend $150 million a year in Russia, several times more than the budget of the Russian Orthodox Church. He said that these "totalitarian" sects represent a threat to society and that the church has set up several rehabilitation centers for young people who have fallen under their "spell." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)
SERBIAN OFFICIAL: CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC MAY INCLUDE WAR CRIMES...
Serbian Deputy Premier Zarko Korac said on 18 May in Geneva that the government is working to expand its charges against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to include war crimes, Reuters reported. Korac, speaking at a briefing after attending a conference in France, said that "we want to expand the charges against him. We would like very much to introduce war crimes into the charges." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)...BUT BELGRADE WANTS 'FIRST BITE' OF EX-PRESIDENT.
Korac added that although Milosevic could very well be extradited to The Hague for trial, the "first bite goes to Serbia," AP reported. Korac said, "we want to show that the supposedly great leader of a nation was a thief. After that, I'm pretty sure The Hague tribunal will also have a say." He added that "we don't want to make a martyr of Mr. Milosevic." Korac also called on NATO-led peacekeeping troops in Bosnia to arrest Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, who Korac said are hiding in Bosnia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)HAGUE COURT: SERBIAN LAW IS NOT ENOUGH.
Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in The Hague on 16 May that she "expects" the Serbian authorities to extradite Milosevic to the Netherlands as soon as a promised Serbian law on cooperating with the tribunal is passed, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann argued that passage of the law is not enough in itself and that "what is more important is that [the Serbian authorities] start to cooperate" with The Hague, Reuters reported. Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale added that "we are looking towards a law that should be an acceleration towards cooperation with the tribunal and not any type of law that puts forward any obstacles...or acts in any way as a brake." The tribunal expects the extradition of Milosevic and other indictees, access to Yugoslav and Serbian archives, and the ability to interview witnesses in Serbia. Hartmann said that Serbian cooperation on the archives issue has been "totally marginal." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)
ROMANY PARLIAMENT LAUNCHES APPEAL ON CENSUS.
The Slovak Romany Parliament, which was established in March, on 20 May called on members of the Roma minority to declare their nationality at the 26 May national census, CTK reported. The organization's chairman, Ladislav Fizik, told journalists that the state financing of Roma minority bodies depends on the number of Roma who identify themselves as such at the census and added that massive registration may help Roma cope with unemployment problems. Fizik said some 160,000 Roma, representing 87 percent of all Roma of working age, are unemployed. He said that at the 1991 national census only 82,000 declared their nationality as Roma, but the actual number was "several times higher." "We hope that at least 300,000 will register as Roma," he said. According to Fizik, one of the problems is that some 200,000 Roma in southern Slovakia are likely to register as Hungarians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
AUTHORITIES PRESSURE IMPRISONED BAPTIST'S FAMILY TO EMIGRATE.
Shageldy Atakov has been brought from a closed prison in Turkmenbashi, and his wife from her home in the town of Kaakha, to Ashgabat where the Turkmen authorities have tried in separate meetings with them to persuade them to leave Turkmenistan, Keston News Service reported on 14 May. Atakov was informed that if he refuses to emigrate he will be constrained to serve the entire four-year prison term to which he was sentenced in 1998 on fabricated charges of swindling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)
LAWMAKER SURPRISED AT INTERIOR MINISTER'S STATEMENT ON GONGADZE'S DEATH.
Oleksandr Zhyr from the Reforms-Congress parliamentary group said on 16 May he is surprised it was Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov who made public the results of an investigation into the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Zhyr noted that the investigation is being conducted by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Security Service, not the Interior Ministry. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said "top leaders of the Interior Ministry have become so entangled in lies" in the Gongadze case that now they need to find some credible explanation for them. Smyrnov stated the previous day that Gongadze was killed for "purely criminal" reasons in a "spontaneous, impulsive" assault. Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha provided more details by saying Gongadze was murdered by two drug addicts who gave him a ride. But Gongadze's wife maintains her husband went missing on 16 September 2000 after leaving their apartment simply to put out the trash. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)CRIMEAN TATARS MOURN 1944 DEPORTATION, DEMAND LAND.
Some 15,000 Tatars gathered in Simferopol on 18 May for a mass prayer to mark the 57th anniversary of the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by Joseph Stalin, Reuters reported. They called on the Ukrainian government to grant land rights to Tatar families in Crimea as well as improve welfare and support for returnees. "The land issue is the most painful issue for us. Ukraine's existing laws cannot solve the problems of the Crimean Tatar people and do not take into account that the indigenous people are returning to Crimea from where they were deported," Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told the agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
NEW UZBEK YOUTH MOVEMENT REGISTERED.
The Justice Ministry has registered the youth movement Kamolot, the founding congress of which took place in Tashkent on 25 April, Interfax reported on 15 May. Some 600 delegates participated in that conference. The movement's aims are to promote a healthy lifestyle, and to help young people find their place in society and fulfill their intellectual potential. Kamolot is the second public movement to be registered in Uzbekistan. The country also has four registered political parties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)POLICE ARREST OPPOSITION LEADER.
Police officers on 16 May arrested Syarhey Papkou, deputy chairman of the Conservative Christian Party, Belapan reported on 17 May. Papkou was reportedly to stand trial on 17 May on charges of putting up resistance to law-enforcement officers during an unauthorized opposition rally in Minsk on 25 March. However, Conservative Christian Party activists maintain that Papkou was arrested in connection with an opposition action in Minsk planned for 18 May to counter the Second All-Belarusian Popular Congress that is to be held by the authorities the same day. Papkou is one of the organizers of that opposition counteraction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)TRADE UNIONIST ON HUNGER STRIKE.
Alena Zakhozhaya, a Belarusian Free Trade Union (BFTU) activist at the Belshyna state-run tire factory in Babruysk, has been on a hunger strike for 13 days, demanding that the factory management provide the BFTU factory branch she heads with a legal address, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 14 May. A formal address is necessary for legally pursuing trade union activities. Zakhozhaya is continuing her protest without leaving her workplace. Independent trade union activist Syarhey Antonchyk on 14 May met with Ivan Bambiza, head of the Belnaftakhim State Concern, to which Babruysk's Belshyna is subordinate. "Bambiza said: 'Let Zakozhnaya obtain the legal address [she needs] by pitching a tent in front of Belshyna.' In short, it was a cynical answer," Antonchyk told RFE/RL. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May)WAR OF FLAGS MARKS NATIONAL SYMBOLS DAY.
The opposition Youth Front marked Belarus's Day of National Symbols by hanging out white-red-white flags in two dozen Belarusian cities this past weekend, Belapan reported on 14 May. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decreed the holiday after the 14 May 1995 referendum that introduced a Soviet-style coat of arms and a red-green flag to replace the national symbols of independent Belarus. According to Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets, the action called "The City Is Ours" involved some 300 Youth Front activists who hoisted some 120 flags. In Vitsebsk, a Soviet-style national flag with a photo of President Lukashenka attached to it was hoisted over a public toilet on the city's central square. "We combine the 'City Is Ours' campaign with spreading newspapers, leaflets, and graffiti. The aim is to show that the city will vote against Lukashenka for an independent and democratic Belarus," Sevyarynets commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May)EXPULSION OF OSCE MISSION HEAD THREATENED.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou on 17 May threatened to expel Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, if the latter does not stop his "destructive activity," Belarusian media reported. Asked to give an example of Wieck's "destructive activity," Khvastou mentioned "foreign financing" of Belarusian election observers in last year's legislative elections. Khvastou said the government is now concerned about and "baffled" by Wieck's attempts to organize "a network of domestic observers" for the upcoming presidential elections. "We think that the Advisory and Monitoring Group has transformed itself into an actor on Belarus's political scene.... This actor plays against the government," Khvastou added. "It is a unique situation when the country that invited an OSCE mission to assist it in democratization is now threatening to expel the mission's leader," OSCE press secretary Mans Nyberg told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May)
By Catherine Cosman
Vacation homes outside Moscow, better known as "dachas," give a glimpse of Russia at rest. And different dachas show how Russian life is changing.
On an early summer weekend, cars slow to a snail's pace as Muscovites head for their beloved rural retreats. Cars are loaded with an odd assortment of stuff, although simple supplies are now more easily available in dacha land. Garishly decorated furniture, home repair, and garden shops cater to the more prosperous.
Residential and factory suburbs comprise Moscow's outer perimeter. Roads are equal parts pot holes and asphalt. Factories show faint signs of activity. High-rise apartment houses and factories are often of slapdash brick. But "average" Russians are seen as lucky if they rent apartments anywhere near privileged Moscow.
Then one enters "dacha land," a restful place of grassy patches, gardens, tangled trees, and fresh air. In the middle of tiny garden plots are small, wooden shacks. Soviet-style, these plots are known as "six-one-hundred-niks" because they occupy six one-hundredths of a hectare. These well-tended potato patches feed many families.
But there are also rambling wooden dachas. Some have towers and most have porches. Their gardens are often disheveled swatches of green, dotted with flowers and edged with berry bushes. These "Chekhovian" dachas are the retreats of the country's traditional elite.
The "New Russians" build big brick "cottedges" which boast the best of modern amenities. Most of these proud new buildings feature high brick security fences. Some walls bristle with security cameras. Guard dogs pace around in the secure zones of the new "cottedges."
And so "dacha land" changes, even as Russia comes to rest.