1 August 2001, Volume
EMIGRATION REDUCES POPULATION.
Officials of the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) told a news conference in Tirana on 25 July that the population count in the 2001 census is 3.09 million, down from the 3.18 million people reported in the 1989 population survey. "The 3 percent [population] decrease is a result of the big flux of emigration in these years," INSTAT Director Milva Ekonomi said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)
PARLIAMENT GUNMEN'S LEADER AGAIN INSISTS KILLINGS 'NOT PREMEDITATED.'
Testifying during his ongoing trial in Yerevan, Nairi Hunanian again insisted on 25 July that the shootings by himself and four other gunmen of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999 were undertaken spontaneously in self-defense, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Relatives of the murdered men remain convinced that the killings were premeditated and that the gunmen acted not on their own initiative, as Hunanian claims, but at the behest of senior figures within the Armenian leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)ARMS CACHE FOUND AT REGIONAL OFFICE OF FORMER RULING PARTY.
The head of the Vanadzor branch of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), Ashot Manukian, has been arrested after Armenian National Security officials discovered quantities of grenades, detonators, and ammunition on 23 July at the party's Vanadzor office and a second location in the town, Mediamax reported the following day. Commenting on that find on 25 July, the pro-government daily "Hayots ashkharh" accused the HHSh of plotting "large-scale terrorist acts" in a bid to overthrow the present leadership and return to power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)
OPPOSITION PARTY OUSTED FROM HEADQUARTERS.
Officials from Azerbaijan's Ministry of Economic Development on 27 July formally witnessed the handover by the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) of the building AMIP has occupied for the past several years, Turan reported. The ministry had issued an ultimatum to AMIP to vacate the building within five days. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)
NGO WANTS DISMISSAL OF OFFICIALS OVER DEATH SQUAD ALLEGATIONS.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BKhK) has demanded the dismissal of Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman, deputy chief of the presidential administration Yury Sivakou, and Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau, Belapan reported on 23 July. The BKhK says recently publicized documents implicate the three men in the organization of a death squad that allegedly killed opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The statement also urges the National Assembly to call an emergency session in order to launch a parliamentary probe into Lukashenka's possible implication in the disappearances of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, and Dzmitry Zavadski. More that 50 Belarusian politicians and public figures have addressed Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn, urging him to set up a commission with the participation of international experts to probe the death squad allegations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)RALLY DEMANDS TRUTH ABOUT MISSING PEOPLE.
Some 1,500 people formed a "chain of concerned people" in downtown Minsk on 26 July to demand answers from the government about the fate of opposition figures who have disappeared in Belarus, Belapan reported. The protesters included the wives of disappeared or imprisoned politicians as well as several participants in the presidential election campaign -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syarhey Kalyakin, Syarhey Domash, Mikhail Marynich, and Syarhey Antonchyk. "This is a warning to those who give illegal orders and to those who carry them out. We must understand that Belarus is turning into an enormous cemetery and that the organs of power are becoming undertakers," AP quoted Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the United Civic Party, as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)FOUR YOUNG OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS PUNISHED WITH 'CORRECTIVE LABOR,' FINES FOR GRAFFITI.
A Minsk district court on 26 July sentenced Alyaksey Shydlouski and Syarhey Koktysh to two years of corrective labor each, and imposed fines of some $500 on Anatol Alizar and Alyaksey Yermakou. The four, who are members of the youth opposition group Zubr (Bison), were found guilty of "damaging public property" while they sprayed the name of their organization on several buildings in Minsk in January. The sentence of "corrective labor" in Belarus's criminal code means that Shydlouski and Koktysh will remain at their regular jobs, but the authorities will be withdrawing a percentage from their earnings for two years (in this case, 20 percent and 10 percent respectively). "All these accusations are far-fetched. Even for more cynical graffiti hardly anyone has ever been subject to criminal prosecution. This is a political trial," Shydlouski told Belapan. He already served 18 months in a labor camp in 1998-99 for political graffiti. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)SECURITY FORCES BEAT, DETAIN YOUNG DEMONSTRATORS.
Several protesters were injured and 20 arrested in Minsk on 27 July after security forces forcibly stopped a demonstration of several hundred people celebrating the anniversary of Belarus's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, AP reported. The march was organized by the youth opposition movement Zubr (Bison), and was stopped by a large group of men in plain clothes as the demonstrators reached the Svisloch River. The protesters sat down and held pictures of opposition figures who have disappeared in the past two years while chanting "Where are these people?" and "Long Live Belarus." The group of men then began kicking and beating the protesters as the police arrived and made arrests. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has abolished as a national holiday the day Belarus gained its independence from the USSR. Belapan reported the next day that 15 of the 20 people arrested will be tried for violating street demonstration regulations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)
WAR CRIMES SUSPECT TO TURN SELF IN.
General Rahim Ademi plans to fly to The Hague on 25 July to face charges of war crimes, dpa reported on 23 July. Elsewhere, a Zagreb court put an unnamed general on its wanted list in conjunction with a similar indictment by The Hague-based tribunal, Hina reported. He is believed to be General Ante Gotovina, who was indicted at the same time as Ademi. Media reports have suggested that Gotovina is defiant and in hiding, possibly in Herzegovina. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)
ROM KILLED IN RACIAL ATTACK.
A 22-year-old man with ties to the extreme-right skinhead movement has been arrested in the fatal stabbing of a 30-year-old Romany man on 21 July in a bar in Svitavy, east Bohemia, CTK reported on 23 July. A police spokeswoman, Iva Markova, said the assailant first shouted racist insults, then stabbed the Rom repeatedly in the stomach. He has been charged with racially motivated murder and faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. Romany leaders called on the government to take action in the case. Czech President of the International Roma Union Emil Scuka said the incident "scared" him, as he had begun to be optimistic that racially motivated crime was a thing of the past in the Czech Republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)COURTS LAX ON RACIST CRIME?
The Czech government's commissioner for human rights, Josef Jarab, told the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 25 July that the Czech legal system deals "benevolently" with attacks committed by right-wing extremists, CTK reported. "From police investigators, who do not want to investigate such cases as racial crimes, to state attorneys and judges, who pass the lowest possible sentences," he said. Jarab pointed to the recent case in Svitavy, in which the alleged attacker had already been convicted for a similar offense. But after serving a relatively light sentence, he was later placed only on probation for yet another offense, even though he was a repeat offender. He said such light sentences can only be explained by "certain -- conscious or unconscious -- sympathies with the offender," and that prejudice against Roma might be the only explanation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)AI POINTS TO FAILURE TO PROTECT ROMANY CITIZENS.
In a report issued on 25 July for a UN conference on racism to be held in South Africa next month, Amnesty International has again pointed to the Czech Republic's failure to protect Romany citizens from racially motivated attacks, CTK reported. The report said that police don't take accusations of racially motivated attacks seriously enough, and that courts give light sentences to perpetrators of attacks. In other news, Mikulas Horvath of the Romany Civic Initiative in Ostrava, north Moravia, said he cannot rule out clashes between the unarmed Roma self-defense patrols, proposed in reaction to recent attacks, and members of the far-right Republican Party youth movement who want to monitor the patrols. Horvath called the situation in Ostrava "highly emotional." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)ROMANY GROUPS FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST GOVERNMENT.
Representatives of the Romany Civic Initiative and the Democratic Union of Roma have filed a criminal complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court charging the government with inciting racial hatred, CTK reported on 27 July, citing the daily "Pravo." The complaint says that although there is no visa requirement between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, the selective screenings by British officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport curb citizens' right to travel. The checks have mostly affected Roma, so the agreement between the two countries clearly damages their interests. More than 50 passengers, almost all Roma, have been denied permission to fly to Britain since the checks began on 18 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
POLITICIANS, JEWISH GROUPS OUTRAGED BY ANTI-SEMITIC COMMENTS.
Jewish groups and politicians in Hungary protested on 26 July a statement made by Laszlo Bognar, the vice president of the ultraright Hungarian Truth and Life Party, about a Hungarian businessman who is Jewish, AP reported. In commenting on the purchase on 21 July of the popular Ferencvaros soccer club (FTC) by businessman Gabor Varszegi, Bognar said: a "dirty, greedy, unscrupulous business interest with no link...to Hungarians has bought FTC," and said that the sale of Hungary's most famous club to Varszegi was a "betrayal." A communique signed by the leaders of eight Jewish organizations stated, "Hungary's Jews protest and condemn this behavior and ask the government institutions to ensure social order and calm." Youth and Sports Ministry State Secretary Imr Szakacs condemned the tone of Bognar's comments and said he is happy that a Hungarian company has purchased FTC. Socialist deputy Magda Kovacs, who heads the parliament's human rights committee, said Bognar's remarks are reminiscent of the fascist era. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)EU CONCERNED BY OVERCROWDED PRISONS.
Albert Takacs, Hungary's deputy ombudsman for human rights, said on 26 July that the country's overcrowded and antiquated prisons need to be improved before it can join the EU, Reuters reported. Takacs said the issue has become a problem in talks with Brussels on the chapter for justice and internal security. Takacs said Hungary is currently housing some 17,000 inmates in cell space designed for 10,200 prisoners. He added that "about one-third of the inmates awaiting trial are in a cell with convicted inmates. So we have someone who [perhaps] stole a bicycle sharing space with a convicted murderer." Takacs said most of Hungary's 31 prisons were built in the 1800s and are understaffed. Zoltan Marki, the deputy state secretary at the Justice Ministry, said four prison extensions will be built by the end of next year, which will add some 700 cells to the prison system's capacity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES APPEAL TO PARLIAMENT FOR PROTECTION.
Following a total of over 80 attacks on its members by followers of defrocked Georgian Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili, the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Georgia has appealed to the Georgian parliament to "compel state agencies to uphold the law and constitution" and prevent further such assaults on religious freedom, Caucasus Press reported on 25 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)
EXIT RULES SIMPLIFIED FOR CITIZENS.
The Kazakhstan government has adopted a resolution that eliminates the requirement that Kazakh citizens who seek to travel abroad obtain special permission from the organs of internal affairs, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS DUAL CITIZENSHIP.
Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court has rejected a proposal by some 70 parliament deputies to amend the constitution to allow for dual Kyrgyz- Russian citizenship, parliament deputy Omurbek Tekebaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)NGOS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT.
The heads of 16 Kyrgyz NGOs on 27 July sent a letter to President Askar Akaev registering their concern at amendments approved by the government on 18 July creating additional formalities with which NGOs must comply, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They noted that any public organization or mass media outlet may now be classified as criminal, and that any criticism of the authorities may be construed as being directed against the constitutional system. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)
OSCE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS�
The head of the OSCE mission to Skopje, Ambassador Carlo Ungaro, expressed concern about rising pressure on civilians in the Tetovo area in an interview with the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" on 25 July. "I don't think that there have been cases of ethnic cleansing as seen in other parts of former Yugoslavia...but it is sure that the [incidence of] threats and violence against civilians has risen. We prepared a detailed report on that. We believe on the basis of that report that the international community can do something to stop or minimize this tendency, which [emerged] only during the last two weeks, whereas before there weren't any cases [of measures against civilians]. We noticed a lot of these alarming and intimidating cases, and we are very concerned about them," Ungaro said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)�AND CHARGES ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS WITH 'ETHNIC CLEANSING.'
The Macedonian government's charges against the UCK leaders include "crimes against humanity and of creating a criminal gang with the aim of seceding a part of Macedonia's territory and creating a greater Albania and greater Kosovo," AP reported from Skopje on 27 July. Elsewhere, the OSCE said in a report that the fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) have carried out a policy of "ethnic cleansing" recently against Slavic Macedonians in some villages near Tetovo, "The New York Times" reported on 27 July. The study noted that Macedonian Slavs are under "heavy pressure [through]...kidnappings, temporary detentions, and serious, persistent forms of intimidation." This behavior, the OSCE added, "is consistent with an attempt to ethnically cleanse the area." Some elderly Macedonians, who could not flee, stayed with ethnic Albanians, who treated them well. But many who returned to Lesok found their homes looted and did not feel safe enough to remain. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC LEADER BLASTS JINGOISTS.
Branko Crvenkovski said in Skopje on 25 July that "waging war with the whole world will not save Macedonia. [Such a conflict] will be lost before it even starts," Reuters reported. Crvenkovski added that "our priority must be gaining international support....That's the job of a responsible government and not to offer the people suicidal politics.... Today, Macedonia is not defended by destroying shops or beating up journalists. It is defended in Tetovo. The chance for a political solution is defended in Tetovo. If Tetovo falls, it will be a defeat for all Macedonia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)MACEDONIA 'BACK FROM THE BRINK': TALKS TO RESUME.
Representatives of ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political parties said in Skopje that political talks will resume soon, RFE/RL reported from Skopje on 27 July. President Boris Trajkovski said that the negotiations will take place in Tetovo. He noted that "Tetovo is a kind of melting pot of Macedonia, of people of different ethnic, national, and religious denominations. We are going to Tetovo to defend those achievements," "The New York Times" reported. He made the remarks sitting next to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, who said: "We came as worried friends. We go away from here as hopeful friends." Javier Solana, the EU's security policy chief, said that "the political process is back on track, the cease-fire is back on track," "The Washington Post" reported. BBC television said at midday on 27 July that both the time and the location of the talks are now in question, however. Meanwhile, some 47 elite U.S. Marines arrived to protect the U.S. Embassy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)IS OPTIMISM ON MACEDONIA JUSTIFIED?
Robertson and Solana said in Skopje on 26 July that "95 percent of those things that were to be negotiated are already agreed," "The Washington Post" reported. The BBC's Serbian Service reported the next morning that four main groups of problems remain. The first is the issue of language usage, which is complicated by the absence of universally accepted census figures and full agreement on the proper location of boundaries for local government units. The second matter involves the selection of local police chiefs, with a compromise in the works whereby local councils will appoint chiefs from a list of persons proposed by the Interior Ministry. The third problem involves use of national symbols, but this issue is relatively unimportant at present. The fourth concern is an amnesty for UCK fighters. The government's announcement that it intends to press war crimes charges against UCK leader Ali Ahmeti and 10 others will complicate matters, the broadcast concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
RUSSIAN AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE?
Moldovan parliament Deputy Chairman Vadim Misin said on 26 July that Russian will obtain the status of an official language in Moldova by September, Flux reported. Speaking to ethnic minority organizations at the Coordinating Council on Interethnic Issues, Misin said that the recently adopted law on national minorities already gives the Russian language a status close to that of an official one. According to Bucharest-based "Curentul," Misin also said that the governing Party of Moldovan Communists will do their best to bring Moldova into the fold of the Russia-Belarus Union. Similar statements have drawn protests from Bucharest, which considers Moldova a "Romanian" state. Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev on 27 July began an official visit to Romania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
NEW ILLEGAL CHILD ADOPTION SCANDAL.
The former director of Bucharest's fifth precinct Child Protection Office was arrested on 23 July, Mediafax reported. Sorin Diaconescu is charged with assisting in the illegal adoption of eight children from foster homes. Four children were selected for adoption by families from abroad through a Constanta-based foundation. The Romanian police are also investigating the allegedly illegal adoptions of 62 Romanian children by families in Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Israel, and the U.S. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)
MOSCOW SAID DENYING VISAS TO NGO WORKERS.
According to a report in "The Moscow Times" on 27 July, the Russian Foreign Ministry is currently denying visas to foreign nongovernmental organization workers if they have been involved in Chechnya or in other areas in ways that Moscow views as a security risk. Valentin Gefter, head of Moscow's Human Rights Institute, told the paper that "visa denials for certain groups, like human rights activists and environmentalists, have become systemic; but I wouldn't connect them with Putin -- they started before his coming into power." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)DEPUTIES DRAFT BILL THAT COULD CHALLENGE LEGALITY OF RUSSIAN TROOPS IN CHECHNYA.
Fourteen Duma members, led by Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Valentin Chaika, plan to introduce a bill in the fall that could call into question the use of the army in Chechnya, "Moskovskie novosti," No. 28, reported. Chaika told the paper that the measure, called "On Securing the Territorial Integrity of the Russian Federation," specifies that "the army cannot be used for the resolution of conflicts within the borders of the Russian Federation." He said that the measure is based on a 1995 decision by the Russian Constitutional Court which said that the parliament has the right to determine whether the government may use troops within the borders of the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)CHECHEN WAR BECOMES LESS POPULAR.
As the fighting in Chechnya has dragged on despite Putin's repeated suggestions that victory is just around the corner, Russian officials have begun to redefine the conflict as evidence grows that the war is increasingly unpopular in Russia, "The Washington Post" reported on 28 July. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii has described the fighting in the North Caucasus as being like that in Northern Ireland, a parallel others have begun to repeat, the paper said. But such a description, which appears intended to prepare Russians for a long and indeterminate conflict, undercuts Putin's claims that he is fighting "the world Islamic movement." Meanwhile, an article in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 26 July noted that the current impasse is characterized by: the transition to a partisan and unpredictable conflict, the growth of antireform and anti-Western inclinations in Russia as a whole, the primitivization of society, the drive for gaining access to oil even if it means Russians killing Russians, the continuing threat of a new upsurge in the fighting, and the absence in Moscow "of any way out of the current situation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)MOSCOW TO SPEND $1.7 BILLION ON RESTORATION OF CHECHNYA BY END OF 2002.
Chechen Affairs Minister Vladimir Elagin said on 26 July that the Russian government will devote 50 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) before the end of 2002 to the restoration of Chechnya, Interfax reported on 26 July. Elagin made this statement following a meeting with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dszsokhov in Vladikavkaz. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)PUTIN SAID TO BE 'A WALKING LABORATORY.'
A roundtable discussion on "Putin's Team and the Future of Russia" published in "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 25 July concluded that Putin will continue to experiment in his policies because he and his team are "a walking laboratory" prepared to seek answers on a trial-and-error basis. The participants also agreed that Putin's support as reflected in the polls is likely to remain high even if his policies are unpopular. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)PUTIN MAINTAINS POSITION IN POLLS.
According to an article in "Tribuna" on 25 July, Putin would receive 44 percent of the vote were a presidential election held today. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov would trail with only 14 percent of the vote. The paper said that both the absolute and relative position of these two politicians has remained more or less constant for the last 18 months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)MOISEEV DEMANDS TRIAL BY SUPREME COURT.
Valentin Moiseev, a former senior Russian diplomat who has been accused of spying for South Korea, on 24 July demanded that his case be heard by the Russian Supreme Court, AP reported. Moiseev's lawyers said he did so because his trial has been shifted four times to different judges and each time the trial has had to begin again. Moiseev was convicted by a Moscow city court in December 1999, but his conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court in June 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON PAST PRIVATIZATIONS.
The Constitutional Court on 25 July ruled that privatizations can be reversed if participants in the process have not complied with the terms of the agreement, but that such reversals require the decision of a court, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian government officials, including First Deputy Property Relations Minister Aleksandr Braverman, welcomed the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)MIRONOV WANTS HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIALS IN FEDERAL DISTRICTS.
Russian human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov told Interfax on 25 July that he wants the Duma to adopt legislation that will require that there be a special human rights ombudsman attached to the leaders of all of the federal districts except the central one. There, he said, the federal ombudsman could take responsibility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO STATE IS UNIVERSAL MODEL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.
In an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 24 July, Igor Ivanov said that Russia today "does not have imperial or great power ambitions" which would lead it to challenge the international system. He added that all countries have human rights problems and that no country is so perfect in that regard that it can hold itself up as a model for others. He sharply criticized the idea of "pariah" states and "humanitarian intervention," which he termed survivals of the Cold War. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)DISPLACED RAILWAY WORKERS OFFERED JOBS ON BAM CONSTRUCTION.
Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told Putin on 24 July that the 500,000 railwaymen dismissed from their positions last year and the 400,000 more who are to be fired by 2005 can be put to work on the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. Aksenenko has been urging for several years that the construction of BAM be renewed and extended, and Putin's plans for an east-west transport corridor have provided him with an opening, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)NEMTSOV PROPOSES HOURLY MINIMUM WAGE.
Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), has proposed setting a minimum hourly wage in place of the minimum monthly wage now set by the government, "Rossiya" reported on 24 July. He said that the minimum hourly wage should be set at six rubles ($0.20). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)'NATURAL' POVERTY LEVEL SAID MUCH HIGHER THAN IN WEST.
In an interview published in "Trud-7" on 26 July, Yevgenii Gontmakher, an adviser to the cabinet of ministers on social development questions, said that the number of Russians with incomes below the poverty line had fallen from 54.4 million in the first quarter of 2001 to 42 million in the second quarter. He said that "a 12 million drop [in those living in poverty] is something to be proud of" and predicted that this positive trend will continue. At the same time, he said there will always be poor people in Russia just as there are in other countries, but he said this "natural" poverty group includes 30 percent of the population in Russia compared to only 7 percent in Germany and 5 percent in Sweden. Equally disturbing, Gontmakher said, is the fact that most Russians living below the poverty line are employed, a situation he said is "not found in developed nations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)FAR NORTH GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE GHOST TOWNS WHERE PEOPLE STILL LIVE.
Authorities in the Karelia Republic plan to "liquidate" almost a hundred villages, RFE/RL's Karelia correspondent reported on 26 July. According to data from the State Statistics Committee, no one lives full time in 33 villages in the republic, and Karelian authorities believe that these towns should therefore lose their official status. One effect of such a change in status will be that the government will no longer be responsible for providing for basic conditions of life in these places. However, local journalists have discovered that life still exists in many of these villages marked for "liquidation." The majority of the persons are either elderly and/or they are poor people who are unable to defend their rights. In one village scheduled for elimination reside 47 families, who have already lived for the past several years without electricity. According to RFE/RL's correspondent, despite the need for more investigation into the matter, in their last session deputies in the republic's parliament approved the abolition of some 14 villages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)40 ACCIDENTS AT NUCLEAR POWER FACILITIES SINCE 1993.
In an article published in the 24-30 July issue of "Versiya," Vladimir Kuznetsov, a member of the Higher Ecological Council of the Duma Ecology Committee, listed all the accidents at nuclear power facilities in Russia up to 1992 and said that secret reports show that there have been an additional 40 accidents that have potentially harmed both operators and people living nearby since 1993. He said that operators use drugs, that security is lax, and that officials do whatever they can to cover up accidents and their consequences. Given this record, Kuznetsov asked rhetorically, "What awaits us after 20 tons of foreign nuclear trash arrives in Russia?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)GREENPEACE RUSSIA BEGINS BAIKAL PROTEST.
Activists of Greenpeace Russia on 23 July began a protest action against the pollution of Lake Baikal, Interfax reported from Irkutsk. The activists have set up an international ecological camp which over the course of the next month will seek to clean up part of the lake and call attention to those firms that are polluting it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)PUTIN SAID TO BACK PLAN TO ATTRACT ETHNIC RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS.
Aleksandr Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs, nationality, and migration, said on 24 July that Putin has given formal approval to the ministry's plan to attract ethnic Russians from neighboring countries back to Russia to help solve the country's demographic crisis, Interfax reported. Blokhin said that at present only about 4 million ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics have expressed interest in emigrating to Russia but that perhaps as many as 20 million could be encouraged to do so in the future. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)RUSSIANS DIVIDED ON WHO IS A SLAV.
Two-thirds of all Russians (68 percent) consider themselves to be Slavs, while 22 percent deny that they are, according to a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 26 July. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that the term Slav is equivalent to the term Russian, 16 percent said it also includes Belarusians and Ukrainians, and 6 percent said it includes other groups as well. For 2 percent of the sample, Slav is the proper designator for everyone who lived in the Soviet Union. Fifteen percent said that Slavs are distinguished by their positive qualities, while 6 percent said they are set apart by their negative features. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)A PARABLE OF POST-SOVIET RUSSIA.
"Izvestiya" reported on 27 July that officials in Magadan have begun the destruction of a never-finished 14-story House of the Soviets and will help construct an Orthodox cathedral on its site in 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)PROPERTY QUESTIONS LIKELY TO PREVENT UNION OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD WITH MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE.
According to an analysis in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Religii" on 25 July, whatever chances that exist for a union between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate are likely to founder on the different property arrangements in the two. The emigre church, the paper said, allows each of its congregations to own its own facilities, while the Patriarchate claims ownership of all churches subordinate to it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July)PUTIN SAYS SOLDIERS MUST ACT WITHIN LAW.
In a speech to senior officers on 23 July, Putin said that "every military operation must take place exclusively within the framework of existing legislation and...every citizen of the Russian Federation must be certain" of that, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin added that the military must improve cooperation among its branches, and that he has told his Security Council to develop proposals for achieving such cooperation. He noted that Russia currently is threatened by instability from the directions of the southwest and Central Asia. He added that officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) have been successful in preventing the distribution of falsified financial and credit documents in Russian markets. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)JUSTICE MINISTRY DISCOUNTS NEED FOR LAW ON PARDONS.
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 23 July that there is no need for the law on pardons for which some Duma deputies have lobbied because there is a constitutional provision that gives power over pardons directly to the president, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Chaika suggested that the government would oppose any such bill if it were offered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)MONEY TO COMPENSATE NAZI VICTIMS SAID STOLEN.
Lyudmila Narusova, the head of the Russian Fund for Understanding and Reconciliation, said on Ekho Moskvy radio on 24 July that 83 million marks ($36 million) of the 400 million marks Germany has sent to Russia since 1994 as compensation for the victims of Nazi crimes never reached their intended recipients, AP reported. She said that it is "sacrilege" to "steal from the victims of Nazis." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)GRYZLOV CRITICIZES MOSCOW POLICE FOR FAILING TO COUNTER ORGANIZED CRIME...
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 26 July that the Moscow police who are subordinate to his agency have been doing "a very bad job" combating crime and organized criminal groups, Interfax reported on 26 July. He said that 40 percent of the victims of crime do not turn to the police in that city because they do not trust them. Gryzlov also said that there are at least 21 criminal groups in Moscow whose leaders remain at large, which is the fault of the Moscow police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)�JOURNALIST POINTS TO LINKS BETWEEN MOSCOW POLICE AND UNDERWORLD.
In an article in "Versiya" on 23 July, journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein said that Vasilii Kuptsov, the first deputy chief of the Moscow section of the Interior Ministry, has had direct involvement with the Golyanov organized crime group. That gang is thought to be responsible for some 40 murders. Khinshtein added that senior police officials have worked to cover up both Kuptsov's connections with this gang and the gang's activities. Moreover, the journalist said, when the leader of the gang was finally arrested, those police officials arranged for him to escape from custody. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)BRIBES WORK FOR CRIMINALS.
According to an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 July, many people accused of crimes in Russia routinely use bribes to escape trial and punishment. The paper said that the police expect the smallest amount in bribes to let someone off while the courts expect the largest. Police can often be bought off by a bottle of imported liquor, but judges sometimes have to be paid large amounts to dismiss a case. The paper cited the case of a "new Russian" who paid a judge $50,000 to have a drug case against his son dropped. The paper said that bribes remain so common that professional criminals generally know exactly how much they will have to pay and view this as part of the cost of doing business. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)PRISON RIOTS COULD TORPEDO LEGAL REFORM.
According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 July, some Duma deputies believe that the chances for successful legal reform could be destroyed should an outbreak of riots in the country's prisons occur. Such an outbreak, the paper continued, is increasingly likely because of bad conditions in many prisons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)LUZHKOV RULES OUT 'LOVE PARADE.'
The office of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov issued a statement on 23 July saying that "the city government will not allow holding [a Love Parade by members of sexual minorities] in Moscow on the Day of the City or on any other day, because such demonstrations outrage the majority of the capital's population, are in effect propaganda of dissipation, and force upon society unacceptable norms of behavior," AP reported. The statement added that homosexuality "goes against traditional moral values of most Russians, as well as the canons of the main religious confessions in the city." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)
REFUGEES CONTINUE TO RETURN TO PRESEVO.
A UNHCR spokeswoman said in Belgrade on 26 July that about one-third of the ethnic Albanians who fled their homes in southwest Serbia since 1999 have now returned, Reuters reported. She added that this is "one of the rare success stories" in the Balkans. The Serbian authorities seek to "make a showcase" out of the Presevo Valley, as Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic recently put it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
SLOVAK ROM 'ASKED' TO BE HANDCUFFED TO RADIATOR.
Karol Sendrei, the Rom who died while under police custody on 6 July, was handcuffed to a radiator in his cell at his request "because he wanted to lay down," CTK reported Interior Minister Ivan Simko as saying in Salzburg on 27 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July)
RUSSIAN SCHOOL MAY CLOSE BECAUSE MOSCOW WON'T HELP.
Anatolii Shchelkunov, the Russian ambassador in Ashgabat, said on 26 July that the only Russian school in Turkmenistan may close because Moscow officials are not willing to provide the $20,000 needed to keep it open, Interfax reported. The school was set up to provide instruction for the children of Russian border guards. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July)
RUSSIA'S ALEKSII II NOT INVITED TO RELIGIOUS CELEBRATION IN KYIV?
Metropolitan Kirill, a high official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told journalists in Kyiv on 23 July that Russian Orthodox Church head Aleksii II has not obtained an official invitation to attend the 950th anniversary of the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery on 28 August, Interfax reported. Last week the agency quoted Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko as saying that Patriarch Aleksii II will be invited by Metropolitan Volodymyr, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)PRESIDENT FIRES JUDGE WHO HAD ALLEGED POLITICAL PERSECUTION.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 24 July dismissed Judge Mykola Zamkovenko, who gained attention this year by ordering the release of opposition leader and former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, AP reported. Following Tymoshenko's release, the Prosecutor-General's Office launched a criminal case against Zamkovenko for alleged abuse of authority. Law-enforcement agents raided Zamkovenko's home and office in May and confiscated computer software and files. A regional court in Kyiv, acting on Zamkovenko's appeal, ruled last month that the search was illegal. Zamkovenko has described the scandal around him as political and an attempt to intimidate other independent-minded judges. Kuchma's office said Zamkovenko was fired for "violating a judge's oath." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July)
DATE SET FOR PAPAL VISITS TO ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN.
Pope John Paul II will visit Armenia from 25-27 September at the invitation of President Robert Kocharian and Catholicos Garegin II within the framework of the year-long celebrations to mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 July. The pontiff was originally scheduled to visit Armenia two years ago, but that trip was cancelled due to the terminal illness of Garegin's predecessor. Prior to his arrival in Armenia, the pope will visit Kazakhstan from 22-25 September at the invitation of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Interfax reported on 20 July, quoting the presidential press service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July)
OPERATION CIVIC FORUM
By Alexander Verkhovsky
Putin�s stabilization of the party and the political system has forced opposition politicians to search for new activities and to turn for support to genuinely independent nonpolitical associations (human rights, ecology etc.). For about a year, Grigory Yavlinsky has been trying to conduct such a policy. Boris Berezovsky quite recently also started doing that. Although their achievements are rather modest, the Kremlin has already become envious.
We should at once take notice of a third attempt which is now underway. This effort is not being conducted by the Presidential Administration itself, but by an organization close to it: Gleb Pavlovsky�s Fund for Effective Policy (FEP). It is not accidental that it is Gleb Pavlovsky's team that was assigned this undertaking. Traditionally, FEP positions itself not as a group-for-hire -- serving the interests of the Kremlin and other clients -- but as a public organization concerned about social development which only earns extra money from its campaigns-on-order.
It all began on 12 June when President Putin met with community representatives which included rather wide-ranging organizations: cosmonauts, philanthropists, and even gardeners. It was clear from the start, however, that the meeting did not include a single organization that could -- even to the smallest extent -- arouse the authorities' misapprehension. Cosmonaut Leonov -- a man, by the way, who has never been known for his democratic views -- proposed the formation of a certain Union of Civic Unions -- a Civic Chamber attached to the Office of the President. President Putin agreed on the spot.
Ten days later, the meaning of this initiative become clear. Vladimir Kartashkin, the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, declared that the authorities are not willing to cooperate with just any community representatives, but only with those who are "constructive." Kartashkin immediately singled out those "authorized" human rights activists with whom cooperation is not planned. He said, "Many human rights activists, particularly in the capital, unfortunately continue their destructive struggle -- they have not forgotten their dissident past, although the situation has totally changed." Then Kartashkin pointed to the two largest Russian human rights organizations, presenting Memorial as a negative example and the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) as a positive one. Kartashkin�s statement gave rise to a scandal: Memorial immediately accused him of slander, while MHG claimed its position does not differ at all from Memorial's.
But this is not the most important issue. Certainly, Kartashkin has a right to his thesis on constructive and destructive NGOs. Moreover, the human rights community has frequent debates about its relations with the authorities. (Human rights groups in all countries face this issue). There are, of course, those groups which reject any kind of cooperation, but these certainly do not include MHG and Memorial. Kartashkin deliberately "moved the target." In effect, Kartashkin stated that NGOs can only demonstrate their loyalty by accepting his equation of loyalty and being "constructive." (In fact, MHG was the target of a more subtle proposal: simply to keep quiet and, by doing so, to accept the Kremlin rules of the game.)
Meanwhile, organizational work was initiated on the 12 June target. And so as not to repeat the crude scandals such that described above, it is not officials who are doing this work. Rather, it is public activists close to Gleb Pavlovsky. And so, the coalition headed by Nina Belyaeva, "We are citizens!" (My grazhdane!), has already started organizing regional NGOs that are willing to take part in setting up the Union of Civic NGOs planned for October. "We are citizens!" is actually an NGO coalition, the successor of the coalition "For honest elections!" organized in 1999. One of Nina Belyaeva's declared tasks is to minimize the governors' influence on setting up the future Civic Chamber. This, we will note, is as useful for NGOs as it is for the aims of the Presidential Administration.
At the same time, FEP started to organize a certain Civic Forum (which is tentatively scheduled for September) to precede the Civic Chamber. Possibly, FEP does not trust Belyaeva enough and it is also possible that FEP wants to make a preliminary selection. Well-known political scientist and FEP member Sergei Markov heads up the quickly recruited Forum staff. Indeed, the entire Forum staff still works out of the FEP office. FEP is located in the same building as RIA-Novosti where the 11 July press conference took place when the entire project was publicly announced.
It was very obvious that the people who spoke at that press conference were in one way or another associated with the earlier concept of the 1990's "democratic opposition." In all their speeches they repeated Kartashkin's notions about "constructive" and "destructive" NGOs. In other words, these speakers were part of the same propaganda operation. The most impressive contribution in this sense was made by deputy Vyacheslav Igrunov, head of the Moscow branch of the Yabloko party.
The figures of Igrunov or, for example, Ella Pamfilova were meant to persuade the public that the Civic Forum is an authentic civic initiative and not a new invention of FEP political technocrats. And some will certainly be persuaded. NGO leaders are being "told" that they should demonstrate their loyalty in a milder form. They can meet in their own circles without Kremlin officials in the presidium and not to worry about who is the organizer. In exchange, those NGOs that get into the Civic Forum and then to the Civic Chamber will be given something along the lines of a government patent -- privileges in their relations with the government. As a result, however, these NGOs will take part in a process that fundamentally contradicts civil society principles.
There is still another aspect. All NGOs will of course have equal voting rights at each forum. And if respected human rights organizations and other NGOs agree to take part in this scheme, they will be lost among the thousands of NGOs of different types. After all, there are probably a few hundred gardeners' clubs in this country. One can imagine how decisions will be made and governing bodies elected.
Civil society can have only one kind of hierarchy -- that of authority in a particular field. The FEP-managed Civic Forum will create a new hierarchy which is in its essence is bureaucratic and political. For civil society such an outcome would without doubt be very harmful. But it would be useful for FEP in fulfilling its order to create an alternative to Berezovsky's and Gusinsky's political plans. (Translated by Yulia Aleksandrovskaya)
(Alexander Verkhovsky is the vice president of the independent Panorama Research and Analysis Center in Moscow.)