27 June 2001, Volume
ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WORKERS DEMAND PAYMENT OF WAGE ARREARS.
In an open letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian published in the independent daily "Aravot" on 23 June, some 160 employees at the Medzamor nuclear power plant warn that they will resort to unspecified "drastic steps" unless they are paid five months' salary arrears within the next two weeks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The nuclear plant, which supplies some 42 percent of Armenia's electricity, is unable to pay those arrears because it is owed $120 million by the Hayenergo national power grid. On 22 June, Energy Minister Karen Galustian nonetheless pledged at a press conference in Yerevan to pay two months' wage arrears to power sector workers by the end of this month, according to Noyan Tapan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)TWO FORMER INVESTIGATORS REPORTEDLY OBTAIN ASYLUM IN U.S.
Belarusian human rights activist Aleh Volchak told journalists on 18 June that former investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak have been granted political asylum in the U.S., Belapan reported. Last week, Petrushkevich and Sluchak accused top Belarusian officials of organizing a death squad and killing some 30 people, including Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "We do know of Mr. Petrushkevich and Mr. Sluchak's revelations. We think that these statements give further urgency to the need to clear up the fate of the disappeared and to bring those responsible to justice," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 19 June. Boucher did not comment on Petrushkevich's and Sluchak's whereabouts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
CLOSED TRIAL OF ANTICORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER BEGINS IN AZERBAIJAN.
The trial began on 22 June in Baku's Bailov jail of former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, Turan reported. Mirzoev was arrested in November 2000 on what many believe are fabricated charges of instigating the murder in 1993 of Naval Academy Director Eduard Huseinov. He had been dismissed two years earlier after implicating Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev in corruption. Members of the committee created to protect Mirzoev's rights told a press conference in Baku on 22 June that his trial should be public. They noted that Dutch and Norwegian diplomats have been refused permission to attend. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)AZERBAIJAN TO REGULATE RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY.
A state committee for relations with religious organizations has been established in Azerbaijan in accordance with a decree signed by President Heidar Aliev, Turan and Interfax reported on 22 June. Rafik Aliev, who was named to chair the committee, told Turan that the committee will monitor the activities of religious organizations and missionaries and ensure that those activities do not violate state laws. It will also engage in the publication of books and religious literature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER URGES PROPOSING SINGLE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka on 25 June said the main task of the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces is to hold a congress and appoint a single democratic candidate to challenge incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September elections, Interfax reported. According to Vyachorka, such a candidate should be selected from among Syamyon Domash, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Mikhail Chyhir, and Pavel Kazlouski, who are currently gathering signatures to register for the presidential race. Vyachorka added that Domash seems to be "the most acceptable, compromise candidate." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)TWENTY-TWO COMPETITORS TO COLLECT SIGNATURES IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
The Central Election Commission on 19 June registered the campaign groups of 22 aspirants seeking to run in the 9 September presidential elections, Belarusian media reported. Last week, 25 people filed applications with the commission to register their campaign groups. Each of the 22 aspirants, in order to be registered as a presidential candidate, must collect no less than 100,000 signatures in his/her support between 20 June and 21 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)BELARUSIAN PROSECUTORS NOT TO PROBE 'DEATH SQUAD' ALLEGATIONS.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has decided not to probe the allegations by former investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak that top state officials organized a "death squad" and killed several opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 21 June. "The leadership of the Prosecutor-General's Office resolved not to institute proceedings [against Petrushkevich and Sluchak], in order not to provide additional publicity to our former, immoral coworkers. Let this slander remain on their conscience," Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Alyaksey Taranau commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)FIRST COMPENSATIONS SENT TO CZECH FORCED LABORERS IN FORMER NAZI GERMANY.
The first payments of compensation to Czech victims of forced and slave labor in Nazi Germany during World War II were sent by mail to those eligible, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists on 19 June. "This day marks a historic moment. The compensation process to victims of the Nazi regime is starting in the Czech Republic," said Kavan, as cited by CTK. The premier said, "these people will be among the first in the world to receive in the next few days the compensations." The compensations are paid from a fund established by German industrialists and the German government. The victims are eligible to receive up to $6,500 if they were in concentration camps and up to $2,175 if they were forced to work elsewhere for German companies. The payments are to be made in installments, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)AUSTRIA SUBMITS REMARKS ON CZECH ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF TEMELIN...
The Austrian government on 21 June submitted to the Czech cabinet its remarks on the environmental impact assessment of the Temelin nuclear power plant conducted by Czech experts, CTK reported. The remarks emphasized that putting the controversial plant into operation would not be profitable, as there is currently a surplus of energy suppliers in Europe. Operating the plant would involve additional costs for safety equipment estimated at between 1 and 4 billion crowns (between $25 and $100 million). The shortcomings revealed during test trials at Temelin show that further large expenses would be needed before Temelin could become operational. The Austrian government said that the Czech estimations assess operations only under "normal" conditions and do not take into consideration the environmental impact of possible accidents or of spent nuclear fuel storage. Finally, the Austrian government said radioactivity could affect Austrian territory in the "remote possibility" of a nuclear accident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)...PROMPTING CZECH RESPONSE.
In a response released on 21 June, the Czech Foreign Ministry said the Austrian position was just one among several issues that will be discussed at a public hearing in Vienna on 26 June. The ministry said it continues to consider the environmental assessment prepared by the Czech experts to be the most important and the most thoroughly prepared document ahead of the public hearing. The ministry said it "regrets" that the long, 180-page Austrian document was delivered only six days before the hearing and "only in German." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)
PARLIAMENT MOVES TO REHABILITATE FORMER PRESIDENT.
Deputies voted on 19 June to reopen the suspended criminal case into the abortive 1993 attempt by former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia to return to power, Caucasus Press reported. That move is intended as a preliminary to closing the case and rehabilitating the deceased president, whose remains will then be brought back from Georgia from his current resting place in Grozny. National Reconciliation Commission Chairman Vassili Maghlaperidze said that the return of Gamsakhurdia's remains to Georgia is a precondition for reconciliation between the current authorities and Gamsakhurdia's supporters. Also on 19 June, some 100 former Gamsakhurdia supporters jailed for crimes committed in 1992-1993 embarked on a hunger strike to demand their early release, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
PACE CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Chairman Lord Russell-Johnston, responding to a Romanian journalist's question in Strasbourg on 25 June, said he "disagrees" with the recently passed Hungarian Status Law and does not "even believe the law can bring about an improvement of the situation of members of the Hungarian minority in neighboring countries," according to a Romanian Radio report confirmed by Hungarian media reports. Lord Russell-Johnston said the law "could even provoke discontent in Hungary itself" and added that "on this matter, I cannot agree with Prime Minister Viktor Orban." Hungarian Laszlo Surjan, who is Russell-Johnston's PACE deputy, said in reaction that the chairman had been caught "unprepared" by the journalist's question and his reply "reflected his own private opinion." Romanian PACE delegates said they are preparing a motion demanding that the implementation of the Status Law be "suspended." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)HUNGARY INCLUDED ON LIST OF MONEY-LAUNDERING COUNTRIES.
On 22 June, Hungary was included on the OECD's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of money-laundering countries. The list includes countries whose laws are likely to encourage money laundering. Hungary is the only European country on the list apart from Russia, and it was included because legislation still allows the opening of an unlimited number of anonymous deposit accounts. The Financial Controlling Authority said in reaction that it regrets that the FATF did not consult it before taking the step, as the government has already decided to scrap anonymous bank accounts as of January 2002 and that Hungarian banks are obliged to reveal the identity of holders of anonymous accounts in any transaction above 2 million forints ($6,993). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)
PRESIDENT SAYS CENTRAL ASIAN STATES SHOULD UNITE AGAINST ISLAMIC EXTREMISM.
Nursultan Nazarbaev told a Kazakh TV channel that the states of Central Asia should join forces to oppose the threat posed by Afghanistan's version of radical Islam, Reuters reported on 19 June. He said that radical Islam threatens to return the countries of the region to the Middle Ages. Nazarbaev hailed as a "historic event" the transformation at last week's Shanghai summit of the Shanghai Forum into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The six members of that organization -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- signed a declaration affirming their commitment to containing ethnic and religious militancy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)'GREENS' WARN OF THREAT TO LAKE BALKHASH.
Mels Eleusizov, the leader of the Tabiyghat (Nature) Party, told a press conference in Almaty on 19 June that if China proceeds with its plans to build several dams on the cross-border Ili River, the reduced flow of water from that river into Lake Balkhash could cause the desiccation of the lake on a scale comparable to the death of the Aral Sea, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)KAZAKH OPPOSITION, FINANCE MINISTER COMMENT ON LEGALIZATION OF SHADOW CAPITAL.
The 16 Kazakh opposition parties aligned in the Republican Forum of Democratic Forces issued a statement in Almaty on 21 June demanding that the government make public details of all illegally exported capital brought back to Kazakhstan within the framework of the current amnesty once the deadline for doing so has expired, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They also demanded that embezzled funds be exempted from the process. Under the law legalizing the return of capital, the identity of persons bringing funds back into the country need not be divulged. Also on 21 June, Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev told journalists in Astana that since the amnesty began on 14 June, some 5.22 billion tenges (over $35 million) has been transferred from abroad to Kazakh banks, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)
DAY OF REFUGEES IS MARKED IN KYRGYZSTAN.
The International Day of Refugees was marked in Kyrgyzstan on 20 June. According to the Bishkek office of the UNHCR, there are now in Kyrgyzstan about 11,000 foreign refugees, of which about 10,000 came from neighboring Tajikistan, the rest coming from Afghanistan, Chechnya, and other countries. About 80 percent of Tajik refugees are ethnic Kyrgyz and almost all of them want to acquire Kyrgyz citizenship. About 400 Tajik refugees returned home in 2001 and 1,000 more should return by the end of the year. The UNHCR office was opened in Bishkek in 1995 and has given Kyrgyzstan help of about 150 millions soms (about $43 million) since. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 20 June)
SEPARATISTS AGAIN DENY MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ENTRY...
The Transdniester authorities on 19 June denied President Voronin access to Bendery/Tighina, where he had planned to deliver a speech at a rally marking nine years since the outbreak of hostilities between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Infotag reported. His planned speech was printed in the official "Nezavisimaya Moldova" Russian-language newspaper. In the speech, Voronin condemned "the ambitions of politicians in Chisinau and Tiraspol, which led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured." He also wrote that "the Transdniestrians defended themselves, arms in hand, against the insanity that triggered the war" in 1992 and that Moldovans on the right bank of the Dniester River "wiped out this insanity in the 25 February free elections." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)...CASTING DOUBT ON NEGOTIATIONS' OUTCOME.
Voronin and separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 20 June began a new round of negotiations in Chisinau, and observers say that Smirnov has deliberately set the talks up for failure. At the previous round of negotiations on 16 May, Voronin submitted to Smirnov a draft on granting the Transdniester autonomous status within Moldova, but Smirnov is arguing that the draft "does not take into considerations previously signed agreements," ITAR-TASS reported. Voronin said after the previous day's incident that the Tiraspol leaders "are playing the game of negotiations, but are in fact afraid of a honest and frank dialogue." He said the separatists "realize that the times when they could arouse fears [among Transdniester's Russian-speaking population] are running out and people are beginning to understand who wants peace and who benefits from the confrontation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)STRASBOURG COURT TO EXAMINE COMPLAINT BY BESSARABIAN CHURCH.
The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg has decided to examine the complaint by the Bessarabian Church against the Moldovan authorities' refusal to register it, Flux reported on 21 June. The court ruled on 6 June on the "admissibility" of the case and is to start hearing it on 2 October. The Bessarabian Orthodox Church is subordinated to the Bucharest Patriarchate and successive Moldovan governments have refused to register it, claiming that to do so would be to interfere in the internal affairs of the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Bessarabian Church's representative before the court, Deputy Vlad Cubreacov, said the sides can still reach an "amiable settlement" and have the hearings suspended if this occurs before 2 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)
ROMANIA ESCALATES CONFLICT OVER HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW.
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 21 June told journalists that the cabinet has decided that the Hungarian Status Law "will not apply on Romanian territory." Nastase said the government has set up an interministerial commission to analyze and decide by 1 July what measures must be implemented to prevent any infringement of Romanian sovereignty through possible attempts to apply the law. Nastase said, "If necessary, we shall introduce [in the existing legislation] elements that clearly establish what associations and foundations can, and what they cannot do on Romania's territory." He also said Romania is "no colony from which Hungary can recruit workforce" and, "if necessary, we shall abrogate some bilateral treaties" regulating the labor movement between the two countries. He also said that in relations with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania his Social Democratic Party will be guided by the principle that "national interest must prevail over any other interest." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)GREATER ROMANIA PARTY PROPOSES COUNTERMEASURES TO STATUS LAW.
The Greater Romania Party (PRM) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies on 25 June submitted a draft law that would deprive of their civil rights any ethnic Hungarians in Romania who apply for "Hungarian identity cards" in line with the provisions of Hungary's Status Law. The PRM wants such Romanian citizens to have the status of persons holding double citizenship and, as a consequence, be deprived of the right to hold public or military office, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In related news, Robert Raduly, the deputy leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies, on 25 June told Viorel Hrebenciuc, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) group, that the UDMR will "withdraw" from debates on the law. He said it "might have been an error" to defend the Status Law and the UDMR should have left that task to "the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Embassy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)BARONESS NICHOLSON 'RADICALLY' CHANGES PRELIMINARY REPORT.
According to a Romanian radio correspondent's dispatch from Brussels on 19 June, Baroness Emma Nicholson, European Parliament rapporteur for Romania, has "radically" amended the draft report about to be submitted to the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Nicholson, according to the dispatch, said Romania had "superbly" reacted to the "cold shower" it received when the contents of her original report were announced and has taken significant measures to improve the situation of abandoned children. She also mentioned progress in preparing the privatization of mammoth companies and of banks, as well as the proposed elimination from the Penal Code of punishment of sexual minorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
FOREIGN MINISTRY DECRIES EAST EUROPEAN INTERPRETATIONS OF WORLD WAR II.
In an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 19 June, First Deputy Foreign Minster Aleksandr Avdeev said that Russians feel justified anger at the way some in Eastern European countries are rewriting the history of World War II to suit their current purposes. He said that in those countries, there are "influential forces interested in creating an image of Russia as a country not only with an unpredictable past but also with an unpredictable present and future" and as a country whose totalitarian and imperial past make it "incompatible with European values." To that end, the image-makers suggest that those from these countries who fought against the USSR on the German side were "'freedom fighters'' and "our warriors were 'occupiers.'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)MONUMENT URGED FOR THOSE WHO WENT FROM HITLER'S PRISONS TO STALIN'S CAMPS.
Aleksandr Yakovlev, the head of the presidential commission for the rehabilitation of the politically repressed, said on 22 June that Russia ought to build a special memorial to those 1.5 million Soviet soldiers who were captured by the Germans and then were sent immediately to the gulag upon their return home, Interfax reported. Yakovlev called the transfer from one set of prisons to another "one of the cruelest crimes of the Stalinist regime." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)EURASIANS MEET TO FORM PARTY.
The constituent congress of the Eurasian Party of Russia opened on 19 June in a Moscow suburb, Interfax reported. Seven all-Russia organizations, including Refakh, the Party of Justice and Order, Young Moscow, and the Congress of Buddhist Peoples, have agreed to join. Refakh leader Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov said that the new party seeks to promote the Eurasian ideology, which "must become the basis for integration processes and for the creation of a new union in place of the former USSR." Niyazov said that the new party's working name is the Russian Party of National Accord. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)PUTIN CRITICIZES SPY AGENCIES FOR 'COLD WAR' MENTALITY...
Putin told American journalists that both Russian and American intelligence services continue to be driven by Cold War priorities and "a misunderstanding of both prospects for the development of international relations and the real threats of today's world." He said that the intelligence services of both countries still prefer confrontation to working together against common threats. But he said that U.S.-Russian cooperation on Afghanistan provided a positive example of what might be achieved if they work together on other issues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)...BUT REAFFIRMS PRIDE IN HIS KGB PAST.
At the same time, Putin reaffirmed that his work with the KGB in the past served as a genuine education because he had the chance to work with a wide range of completely different people. He also said that the KGB taught him the importance of finding useful partners for joint work. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)GRYZLOV WANTS WRITERS TO HELP BOOST IMAGE OF HIS AGENCY.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that he hopes the creative intelligentsia will help increase public confidence in law enforcement by writing truthfully about what the Interior Ministry does, Interfax reported on 25 June. He said that many people have an incorrect notion about what the police do and that "it is necessary to work on public consciousness." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)KREMLIN SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONTINUE TO FIGHT STATE.
Mikhail Kartashkin, the head of the presidential administration's Commission for Human Rights, said on 21 June that "a certain section of the human rights community that cannot forget their dissident past are continuing a destructive fight against state power," RIA-Novosti reported on 21 June. He said that his organization will seek to counter this by coordinating the actions of all NGOs. But Aleksandr Daniel, a board member of Memorial, characterized Kartashkin's statement as "a wild lie." He said "human rights activists have never called for a struggle against the state and are involved in dialogue with state authorities at all levels." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONCLUDE WEST WILL NOT HELP THEM IF IT CAN ACHIEVE DEAL WITH KREMLIN.
Writing in the 21-24 June issue of "Novaya gazeta," analyst Andrei Piontkovskii said that the recent Ljubljana summit showed that "Washington will not focus on the problem of human rights if a compromise can be found on the key geopolitical issues." Consequently, he said, "if we want to fight for freedom of speech and an end to the war in Chechnya, it should be done here, in Russia. The West is not going to help." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONDEMN VIOLATIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA.
A meeting of Russian human rights groups have condemned Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for their violations of basic human and civil rights, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 June. The meeting concluded that the violation of these rights is leading to instability, noting that "the total persecution and defeat of the civil opposition in the early 1990s created inside Uzbekistan a vacuum which is now being filled by radical ideology, and for this [Uzbekistan's President Islam] Karimov himself is to blame." The human rights activists also criticized the Russian government for cooperating with Tashkent by arresting and extraditing persons who have fled from Uzbekistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)BEREZOVSKY SAYS HE WILL RETURN TO RUSSIA WHEN GUARANTEED IMMUNITY FROM ARREST.
Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio on 22 June, embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky said he will return to Russia as soon as he is guaranteed that he will not be taken directly from the airport to prison, Interfax reported. Berezovsky also repeated his statements that he wants to create a political party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)CATHOLICS, ORTHODOX CLASH OVER POPE.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the senior Roman Catholic prelate in Russia, said that a meeting between Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II and Pope John Paul II would help resolve differences between the two churches and should be held as soon as possible, AP reported on 21 June. He said that his parishes have sent repeated invitations to the pope. But officials at the Moscow Patriarchate said that such invitations are illegitimate and an attempt to put pressure on the civil and religious authorities of Russia, Interfax reported the same day. Moreover, Russian Orthodox officials continued to speak out against the upcoming visit by the pope to Ukraine, but a poll conducted in Russia by the Public Interest Foundation found that 50 percent of those surveyed are indifferent to a papal visit to Ukraine and 48 percent said they would welcome a papal visit to Russia, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)RUSSIAN JEWISH COMMITTEE SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE RISE.
Reacting to the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Velikii Luki last week, the Russian Jewish Congress on 19 June said that the actions there were planned, not spontaneous, and reflect "a growth of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and the march of chauvinist organizations of a pro-fascist kind" in Russia, Interfax reported. The congress added that the failure of officials to punish those who carry out such actions "is giving birth to ever new actions" of this kind. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)WAHHABIS SEEN AS THREAT TO RUSSIA ONLY IF COUNTRY BECOMES UNSTABLE.
An extensive article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June examined the role of Islam in general and Wahhabism in particular in Russia. It concludes that "the organized, wealthy, and purposeful Wahhabi minority [within Russian Islam] can come to power" only in conditions of instability. Otherwise, Wahhabism will remain a minor element in Russia's religious and political life. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)FEDERATION COUNCIL WON'T VOTE ON NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS.
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev has confirmed reports that the Duma-passed bill on the importation of nuclear wastes will go to Putin for signature without being considered by the upper house, Interfax reported on 22 June. That is because the Federation Council did not schedule consideration of the measure within 14 days of Duma passage as required by the constitution. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 23 June found that only 4 percent of Muscovites believe that importing nuclear wastes is a good thing for all of Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)ROSTOV REGION REFUSES TO BECOME A NUCLEAR DUMP.
The administration in Dubovskii Raion in Rostov Oblast has refused to allow its territory to be the site of a nuclear waste repository, RosBusinessConsulting reported on 11 June. The local officials said they do not believe that the management of the Rostov nuclear power plant demonstrated sufficient concern for the environment or the population living nearby. Meanwhile, German Environment Minister Juergen Tritten said that Berlin has no plans to send nuclear waste for permanent storage in Russia, NTV reported on 10 June. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 19 June)GREENPEACE BEGINS TO COLLECT TRASH ALONG LAKE BAIKAL SHORES...
Members of the Russian division of Greenpeace on 19 June began to collect trash from 70 kilometers of the coastline of Lake Baikal, Interfax-Eurasia reported. They are also seeking to monitor pollution levels in the lake. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)...EXPRESS RESERVATIONS OVER CPC, BLUE STREAM PROJECTS.
Greenpeace activists have also scheduled an Ecological Caravan along the Black Sea coast in August in a bid to persuade the Russian authorities to impose stricter ecological controls on the functioning of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, which traverses unique juniper groves near the Black Sea, Caucasus Press reported on 20 June. They also expressed concern that the planned Blue Stream gas pipeline will traverse and damage a nature reserve near Gelendjik that contains rare pines. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL SAYS GOVERNMENT CANNOT BEAR ALL COSTS OF SCIENCE.
At a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 21 June, council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that the government cannot assume full responsibility for the funding of science in Russia, Interfax reported. He said it is neither possible nor necessary for the government to fund science the way the Soviet government did. Meanwhile, some 500 people took part in a demonstration calling for more money for Russian science, the news agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)CABINET APPROVES RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE PROGRAM.
The cabinet on 21 June approved a four-year program for promoting the use of the Russian language in Russia and in the former Soviet republics and Baltic countries, Interfax reported. The program is budgeted to cost 80 million rubles ($2.6 million) of which Moscow will provide 50.8 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)AIDS SEEN THREATENING RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY.
Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said in Moscow on 25 June that the spread of HIV infections and AIDS in Russia has increased so rapidly that the disease now threatens Russia's national security, Interfax reported. Onishchenko was speaking before leaving for New York to participate in the UN General Assembly special session on AIDS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)POPULATION CONTINUES TO DECLINE.
Russia's population fell during the first four months of this year by 308,800 people, Goskomstat reported to Interfax on 22 June. And immigration reduced the total decline by only 6.3 percent, the statistics agency said, reflecting the lowest immigration for the period 1992-2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)STATISTICS COMMITTEE HEAD SAYS FEWER RUSSIANS POOR THAN OFFICIAL NUMBERS SUGGEST.
In an interview published in "Trud" on 14 June, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin said that he believes that the amount of poverty in Russia has been "considerably" exaggerated. According to official statistics offered by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, there are 53.4 million Russian poor. In fact, Sokolin said, the actual number is around 30 million. The reason is that the former number does not take into account the value of items sold by the population in markets or food consumed by those who grow it. Meanwhile, the Central Bank reported that real monetary incomes for the first four months of 2001 increased 7.3 percent, "Vremya MN" reported on 19 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)RUSSIAN UNDERWORLD SEEKING TO MAKE ITSELF LEGITIMATE.
In contrast to ordinary criminals who commit ordinary crimes, major underworld figures are seldom convicted of crimes and now seek to become a legitimate part of Russian society by participating in nominally above-board activities such as charities, according to an article in "Izvestiya" on 21 June. Prosecutors said that Russian criminals of this class are thus following in the footsteps of major criminals in other countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)CHERKESOV SAYS CORRUPTION OVERWHELMING NORTHWEST.
In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June, Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, said that the criminalization of the economy and state structures in his region represents a threat to Russia's national security. He said that "in the district the growth of the shadow sector of the economy and the widening of illegal economic activity is observed" and that "the number of economic crimes registered so far this year is 20 percent more than the same period last year." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)DUMA APPROVES NEW CRIMINAL PROCEDURES CODE ON SECOND READING.
The Duma on 20 June voted 290 to two to approve on second reading a new Criminal Procedure Code, Russian agencies reported. Prosecutors, appellate courts, and law-enforcement agencies opposed the measure because it gives courts, rather than prosecutors, the right to issue arrest warrants and search orders. Prior to the vote on the code, the Duma failed to approve two Kremlin-supported amendments, of which one would have prevented investigators from launching a case without the approval of prosecutors, while the other would have allowed the prosecution to set punishments without court hearings if the person charged acknowledged his guilt. The new code is significantly more liberal than the Soviet-era code it replaces, but human rights groups have noted that it still has many illiberal provisions. For example, it stipulates that the accused must prove his innocence rather than be presumed innocent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)SOLZHENITSYN'S CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY CRITICIZED.
Alla Dudaeva, the widow of first Chechen President Dzhokar Dudaev, has formed an initiative group that seeks to have the Nobel Prize committee strip Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of his Nobel Prize because of his calls for restoring capital punishment for terrorists, "Inostranets" reported on 19 June. Meanwhile, Lord Russell-Johnston, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said on 25 June that it was "a bitter thing" for him to hear "the author of the 'Gulag Archipelago' and other freedom-loving works end his career" with a call for the restoration of the death penalty, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)A LONGER WAIT AHEAD FOR CITIZENSHIP APPLICANTS.
Oleg Kutafin, who heads the presidential administration's Citizenship Issues Committee, said that those applying for Russian citizenship will have to wait five years instead of the current three under the proposed citizenship law changes, "Vek," No. 25, reported. He said that they will also have to renounce any other citizenship. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)MOSCOW TO RETAIN REGISTRATION SYSTEM.
Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev said on Ekho Moskvy radio on 22 June that Moscow does not plan to change its system of registration for residents, Interfax reported. He said that it "fully corresponds" to Russian laws. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)ULTRANATIONALIST GROUP BANNED IN PSKOV.
An oblast court recently decided to ban the activities of the Pskov region's most active ultranationalist group, the Union of the Venedy of Pskov, RFE/RL's Pskov correspondent reported on 16 June. Last year, a group of young people from Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party and the Union of Venedy attacked a local Baptist and a Christian Evangelical church as well as the Latvian Consulate with rocks and eggs decorated with swastikas and insulting slogans. In addition, Latvia's state flag was torn down. All of the activities were captured on videotape by one of the organizers of the raids, Georgii Pavlov, the leader of the union, who was sentenced by the court to five and a half years in prison. The oblast court also ruled that the group's name will be removed from a list of public organizations maintained by the local Justice Ministry department. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)UNIONS ORGANIZE PROTESTS AGAINST NEW LABOR CODE.
More than 300,000 people across Russia participated in protests on 19 June against the proposed new Labor Code, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. Dock workers in the ports of Nakhodka, Vladivostok, Arkhangelsk, and Magadan held brief work stoppages, while air-traffic controllers in seven cities also participated in protests. The head of the dock workers union's Far East branch, Vassilii Kozarenko, told ITAR-TASS that the proposed new Labor Code would extend working hours, reduce unions' protective functions, allow employers to blacklist unwelcome staff members, and empower management to fire staff at will. Protestors instead demand the adoption of a draft labor code that they find more "progressive," but which the government does not support. In Moscow, approximately 50 protestors took part in an illegal demonstration in front of the Duma building, according to Interfax. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)GOVERNMENT COMPENSATES VICTIM OF STALIN-ERA COLLECTIVIZATION.
Petr Akinshin, a resident of Kursk Oblast, received $344 from the government as compensation for property taken from his father during forced collectivization in the early 1930s, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)MOSCOW ACKNOWLEDGES CHECHEN FUGITIVES AFRAID TO GO HOME.
Vladimir Pavlenko, the head of the department of crisis situations at the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality and Migration Policy, acknowledged on 20 June that many displaced persons from Chechnya are afraid to go home, Interfax reported. His admission came on the United Nations' World Refugee Day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)
DEL PONTE CALLS FOR FIRMNESS TOWARD SERBIA OVER WAR CRIMES.
Following talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Berlin on 21 June, Carla Del Ponte, who is The Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, called on all members of the international community to put pressure on Serbia regarding cooperation with The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She stressed that each individual country is obliged to support the tribunal and that no one has the right to make deals at its expense. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)EU TO GO AHEAD WITH SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE.
After the Belgrade authorities issued a decree to permit the extradition of Yugoslav citizens, EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 25 June to continue with plans for a Serbian donors conference on 29 June, Reuters reported. The ministers said in a statement that "the success of this event will contribute to the further strengthening of the process towards democratization and reforms undertaken by the Yugoslav leadership, which will bring the people of the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] closer to European integration." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)SERBIAN POLICE SAY MASS GRAVE HOLDS REMAINS OF 800 ALBANIANS.
Captain Dragan Karleusa, a police official, said in Batajnica that the mass grave of Kosovar Albanians found there may contain the remains of 800 or more people, "The Times" reported on 22 June. Karleusa added that "there are no signs of gunshot wounds. Bones were broken, which tends to exclude suffocation. The victims' skulls were fractured. My opinion is that they were beaten to death, possibly with iron bars or hammers." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June)
SLOVAKIA'S REACTION TO HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL' IS RELATIVELY RESTRAINED...
The Foreign Ministry, reacting on 19 June to the approval by the Hungarian parliament of the "Status Bill" (see below), said in a statement that it hopes the law will be applied "in line with relations between sovereign states and existing bilateral agreements," TASR reported. The ministry said that, as passed by the neighboring country's parliament, the law "takes into account only some of the reservations earlier raised by Slovakia." It also said the law "will not in any way be implemented on Slovak territory without further consultation as a prerequisite." The ministry expressed the hope that "in exercising the law, the Hungarian government will act in line with our common interest in successful EU integration, confidence-building and understanding in mutual relations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)...WHILE PARLIAMENT RATIFIES MINORITY LANGUAGE CHARTER.
The Slovak parliament on 19 June ratified the European Charter on Regional Minority Languages with the support of coalition parties and amidst strong criticism from the opposition, CTK reported. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said the document "aims at creating conditions for the preservation and development of minority languages [and their use] in education, the justice system, state and public administration, the media, culture, economic and social life, as well as in cross-border cooperation." Many opposition deputies displayed inscriptions reading "Do not let Slovakia become another Kosovo." Most deputies representing the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party said the charter only benefits the country's Hungarian minority, and some of those deputies said the Hungarian Coalition Party intends to use the charter to secure the autonomy of southern Slovakia, where most ethnic Hungarians live. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
TURKMENISTAN'S MARRIAGE DECREE HELPS DEEPEN THE ISOLATION OF CITIZENS.
A decree authorized by Saparmurat Niyazov on 4 June, requires foreigners to pay $50,000 for official permission to marry a Turkmen citizen. Authorities have implied the move is designed to protect women from being duped into abusive relationships, and suggest that it is in keeping with long-standing cultural traditions. However, critics say the decree places an almost insurmountable barrier to international marriages. The legislation, they add, constitutes another measure taken by Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov to isolate Turkmenistan. (EurasiaNet, 19 June)
POPE PREACHES TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN LVIV...
Pope John Paul II preached on 26 June to the largest crowd of his Ukrainian trip at a hippodrome near Lviv, world agencies reported. According to different estimates, the crowd numbered 300,000-600,000. In a homily read in both Ukrainian and Polish, the pope urged Ukrainians and Poles to look to the future and live in harmony. "It is time to leave behind the sorrowful past. The Christians of the two nations must walk together," Reuters quoted the pontiff as saying. In a Polish-language ceremony, the pope beatified two Roman Catholic priests from the 19th century. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)...PAYS TRIBUTE TO HOLOCAUST VICTIMS AT BABI YAR.
The previous day, following a mass in Kyiv, John Paul II held a silent prayer at the Babi Yar ravine outside the Ukrainian capital. Babi Yar became a symbol of the Holocaust of Ukrainian Jews. In September 1941, the Germans killed some 33,000 Jews within several days and buried them in the ravine. Over the next two years, the death toll at Babi Yar rose to some 200,000, most of whom were Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)
UZBEKISTAN CONTINUES LAYING MINES ON BORDER.
Uzbekistan is continuing to lay mines on sectors of its mountain border that are difficult to access, Interfax reported on 19 June, quoting an interview given to the newspaper "Narodnoe slovo" by Major General Makhmud Utaganov, the chairman of Uzbekistan's State Border Committee. He said that such mining is confined to sectors of the border where there is no local civilian population, and that it does not contravene the 1980 UN Convention restricting the use of such weapons. Meanwhile, the local authorities in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken Oblast are preparing to remove mines along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in line with a directive issued last week by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev. Since late 1999, several Kyrgyz have been killed or injured by Uzbek mines laid in the border region. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)