7 November 2001, Volume
EXEMPTIONS FROM U.S. EMIGRATION TEST?
The Bush administration has started consultations with Congress on removing Russia and six other former Soviet republics from the list of countries for which the U.S. links normal trade with emigration policies, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated on 26 October. According to Reuters, under the Jackson-Vanik amendment passed in 1974 during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and other communist countries could not have normal trading relations with the U.S. unless they could show that they did not restrict emigration. The requirement to pass the annual test has been a regular irritant in trade relations with Russia and abolishing the requirement would be a gesture of goodwill toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, a U.S. official said. Boucher said the six other countries which the Bush administration wants off the list are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Georgia and the three Baltic countries are already exempted. In practice, the U.S. has certified in recent years that the countries have open emigration policies. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 6 November)
OPPOSITION LEADER DEMANDS NEW KARABAKH PEACE PROPOSALS BE MADE PUBLIC.
Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar told a session of the conservative Democratic Congress in Baku on 5 November that the Azerbaijani government should make public the revised proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict discussed during a meeting the previous day between the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)THREE OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
The leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the Taraggi (Progress) Party signed an agreement in Baku on 5 November formalizing their intention to nominate a single candidate for the presidential elections due in 2003 and a single joint list of candidates for the next parliamentary ballot the following year, Turan reported. They also pledged not to engage in propaganda directed against each other. The agreement must be endorsed by the three parties' respective steering committees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)MILITARY CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER SENTENCED.
Former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, who has been subject to repeated harassment in recent years for his efforts to publicize corruption within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, was sentenced on 5 November to eight years imprisonment on charges of arranging the murder in 1993 of Rear Admiral Eduard Huseinov, Turan reported. The court rejected all evidence presented by Mirzoev during the trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
OSCE CONFIRMS NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT OF ELECTION.
The observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has released its final report on the 9 September presidential election in Belarus, Belapan reported on 1 November. The mission confirmed its preliminary conclusion that the 2001 presidential election process in Belarus failed to meet Council of Europe standards and OSCE commitments for democratic elections formulated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. According to the report, the election process in Belarus was flawed by: the regime's drive to block the opposition at all costs; arbitrary changes of the electoral environment made by executive authorities; a defective legislative framework of the election; a nontransparent early voting procedure; a campaign of intimidation directed against opposition activists, domestic observation organizations, opposition, and independent media; and a smear campaign against international observers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
BOSNIAN SERB PENSIONERS ON STRIKE.
Up to 2,000 pensioners demonstrated in Banja Luka on 30 October to demand the payment of their entitlements, which they have not received for four months, AP reported. Their $51 per month pensions are not enough to make ends meet in the Republika Srpska, where, according to official statistics, a family of four needs $210 per month to live. The pensioners demanded free medical care for retirees. Medical staffers are also on strike to demand the salaries they have not been paid for four months. A doctor earns $230 per month, while a nurse takes home half of that. Defense Ministry employees demonstrated recently for payment of their salaries, which they have not received for three months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
MASS PROTEST RALLY MARKS GOVERNMENT'S FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE.
Thousands protested on 1 November in Sofia, marking 100 days in office of the cabinet headed by Simeon Saxecoburggotski, international agencies reported. The rally was called by the two main trade unions, which issued 17 demands, including tax cuts to encourage business and create more jobs, and a 20 percent pay raise for state employees. Confederation of Independent Trade Unions leader Zhelyazko Hristov told the protesters that the government's pre-election promises have not been honored. He urged the government to either begin discussions with the unions or face strikes. Deputy Premier Lidia Shuleva said the government has already raised the minimum monthly salary to 100 leva ($46) from 85 leva, and that it plans to increase social welfare spending by 20 percent in 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)POPE TO VISIT IN MAY.
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists on 1 November that he has received confirmation that Pope John Paul II will visit Bulgaria in the second half of May 2002, AP reported. The information was passed on to the ministry by Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Mennini. Pasi expressed the hope that the visit will help "erase from Bulgaria's image the blemish of...[its alleged 1981] involvement in the attempt on the pope's life." Three Bulgarians suspected of complicity in the assassination attempt carried out by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca were acquitted by an Italian court for lack of evidence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
NURSE ARRESTED IN SWITZERLAND ON WAR CRIMES CHARGES.
The Croatian Interior Ministry said in a statement on 2 November that Swiss police have arrested Zorana Banic, a former Serbian paramilitary who holds Croatian citizenship, in connection with the 1991 killings of 43 Croatian civilians in the Adriatic village of Skabrnja, dpa reported. She was in transit at Zurich airport from Dubai to an unnamed third country at the time of her arrest. The Croatian authorities have asked Switzerland for her extradition. If returned to Croatia, she faces a 20-year prison sentence, to which a Croatian court has sentenced her in absentia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
PUBLIC PROTESTS IN TBILISI DIE DOWN.
The number of people still picketing the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi to demand President Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation dwindled to a few dozen by late on 4 November, most of them students and supporters of late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, but rose to around 150 on the morning of 5 November, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. But the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization headed by Djaba Ioseliani, who was instrumental in ousting Gamsakhurdia and bringing Shevardnadze back to Tbilisi in 1992, has endorsed the call for Shevardnadze to step down, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. Meanwhile, the situation in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi, where demonstrators also called on Shevardnadze to resign, remains unclear. A student leader in Zugdidi told Caucasus Press on 3 November that the students had ended their protest, but that agency reported the following day that two people were seriously injured in fighting between one faction that supports Shevardnadze and a second that backs former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania and parliament deputy Mikhail Saakashvili. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)
U.S. PROVIDES FUNDS TO STEP UP SECURITY AT BACTERIOLOGICAL RESEARCH CENTER.
According to a report by RFE/RL on 31 October, the United States has allocated funds for increasing security at Almaty's Center for Bacteriological Research in order to prevent any anthrax or other organisms from falling into the hands of terrorists. The same day, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported, the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan called on the Kazakh government to appeal to the United States for help in cleaning up the consequences of the testing and production of biological weapons that took place there during the Soviet era. Meanwhile, Kazakh police seized 786 firearms during the last week, Kazakhstan Today's website reported on 31 October. Kazakhstan is also taking measures to tighten control over migrants: the same website reported that the country has deported more than 5,000 foreigners since 20 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)WORKERS SET TO STRIKE AT CANADIAN OIL FIRM.
Kazakh Commercial TV on 31 October reported that workers at the Canadian Hurricane oil firm plan to strike if the company goes ahead with plans to dismiss the staff of all the subsidiary services that support the company's activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
PRESIDENT SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IMPROVING.
Askar Akaev on 1 November said that the human rights situation in his country is improving, RFE/RL reported. Indeed, he said, OSCE officials have told him that "Kyrgyzstan has been a model country in learning from criticism lodged against it." But in September 2001, the Sakharov Foundation cancelled plans to hold a congress in Bishkek to protest continuing human rights violations there. Meanwhile, on 1 November, a court in Jalal-Abad sentenced journalist Samagan OrozAliyev to nine years in prison on weapons charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)OPPOSITION PARTIES CLOSE RANKS, ELECT KULOV AS LEADER.
Meeting in Bishkek on 3 November, leading members of the opposition Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, and People's parties announced the formation of a People's Congress and elected as chairman of that body imprisoned Ar-Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The congress adopted a declaration condemning what they termed the country's "authoritarian" leadership and "totally corrupt" government, which they blamed for the fact that 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. They called for sweeping political reforms including amendments to the constitution to create a presidential-parliamentary system, and for Kulov's release from jail. The Asaba Party attended preliminary talks on 30 October but failed to join the congress. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)SECURITY FORCES ARREST MORE ISLAMISTS.
A spokesman for the Kyrgyz National Security Service told Kabar news agency on 1 November that there are some 2,500 to 3,000 followers of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamist movement active in Kyrgyzstan and that Kyrgyz officials have arrested 288 of them. Meanwhile, journalists in Bishkek complained to the news agency on 31 October that some new Christian groups active in Kyrgyzstan are insulting Kyrgyz national traditions and values. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)ENERGY SECTOR WORKERS STRIKE.
Some 100 employees at the Bishkek power and heating plant began a strike on 5 November to demand payment of back wages totaling about $155,000, RFE/RL reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
JUDICIAL SYSTEM CRITICIZED.
A report by the Open Society Institute released in Brussels on 11 October concluded that the political environment in Latvia does not promote the development of an independent court system, BNS reported. It criticized insufficient funding of the courts and unsatisfactory working conditions, which create other problems such as backlogs of untried cases and ineffective enforcement of verdicts and corruption. The authorities, especially the Justice Ministry, still retain too much influence on the courts in administering court powers, funding, and the career development of judges. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 1 November)
POPULATION HAS FALLEN BY 5 PERCENT SINCE 1989.
The deputy director of the Statistics Department, Petras Adlys, stated on 30 October that preliminary census results as of April 2001 indicate that Lithuania has 3,491,000 permanent residents, ELTA reported. This is 5 percent less than the 3,674,802 permanent residents recorded in the January 1989 census. Adlys said the decrease of 184,000 residents is due to several factors, such as the end of the Soviet tradition of padding population figures, the departure of some 50,000 Soviet soldiers, and the emigration of some 120,000 to 130,000 people. City populations fell by 142,000; Kaunas led with a 9 percent decline. The rural population fell by 42,000. The population decline in Lithuania is considerably less than that of Estonia and Latvia, which recorded 12 and 11 percent drops respectively over the same time period. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
PRESIDENT RAISES MASS GRAVE CLAIM.
President Boris Trajkovski wrote to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal from Skopje on 1 November asking the court to investigate reports of an alleged mass grave near Tetovo containing the remains of 12 Macedonians, RFE/RL reported. Local Albanians say no such grave exists and that some Macedonian politicians invented the story so as to deny a promised amnesty to Albanian guerrillas. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
GOVERNMENT REJECTS STATEMENT OF OPPOSITION PARTIES AS 'DEMAGOGIC.'
A statement released by the government on 31 October said the cabinet considers a declaration adopted the previous day by the National Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and several extraparliamentary opposition parties, and civic organizations, as a "demagogic text that distorts reality," Mediafax reported. In the declaration, the signatories criticized the government for "negotiating away Romania's national interest" in discussions under way with Russia on the new basic treaty and in the proposals made by the premier on the implementation of the Hungarian Status Law in Romania. The government said it is being criticized by the same people who "hastened to conclude the bilateral treaty with Ukraine" without taking into consideration the then-opposition's plea to introduce in it a condemnation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. It also said the cabinet "nowhere" said it is willing to renounce the return of the Romanian state treasury from Moscow. The government said the signatories "in bad faith" have ignored its statements that Romania will never accept the Status Law's extraterritorial and "socioeconomically discriminating" aspects. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)DEMOCRATIC PARTY PROPOSES OUTLAWING STATUS LAW.
Democratic Party Chairman and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu told journalists on 1 November that his formation will initiate a draft law banning implementation of the Hungarian Status Law on Romanian territory, RFE/RL reported. Basescu said the draft will be submitted to the parliament if negotiations with the Hungarian side produce no results "by December." Cosmin Gusa, the secretary-general of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said Basescu's initiative "does nothing but repeat what the government itself has said on numerous occasions." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)SENATE APPROVES LAW BANNING SEXUAL HARASSMENT, GENDER DISCRIMINATION.
The Senate approved a law on 1 November banning sexual harassment and any form of gender discrimination, Romanian television reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)
PUTIN PRESENTS HIS 'OCTOBER THESES.'
According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 31 October, President Vladimir Putin presented an outline the previous day of his entire political program, an outline the paper described as his "October theses." These include the belief that cutting tax rates will lead to higher state revenues; that terrorism must be combated by cutting off its funding; that monopolies can be divided, but only after careful study; that Russian businessmen must view their country as their "home and castle"; that Russia wants to be a member of the World Trade Organization, but not at any price; that Russian oil is a factor in international stability; that Russian can pay its own way; and that land sales are necessary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)OMBUDSMAN SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS WIDELY VIOLATED.
In an interview published in "Trud" on 31 October, human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov said the human rights of Russians are violated across the entire spectrum of rights as classified by international agreements, but he added that the greatest number of complaints reaching his office -- some 40 percent overall -- involve the violation of rights of people involved in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" reported the same day charges by Russian human rights activists that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov routinely violates the constitutional rights of the capital's residents. The paper also provided details on the legal profession in Russia: There are now 42,000 lawyers, 145 lawyer collegia, and about 5,000 legal consultation offices. The lawyers annually deal with some 5.5 million queries from citizens, of which 54 percent are handled pro bono. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)KREMLIN WANTS DIALOGUE WITH SOCIETY.
In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 1 November, Sergei Abramov, the head of the main administration for domestic policy in the presidential administration, said the government wants to increase its dialogue with society and consequently has decided to hold the Civic Forum meeting at the Kremlin on 21-22 November, Interfax reported. But in an interview published the same day in "Rossiiskaya gazeta," Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said that her group and others should take part in that meeting only under certain conditions, among them being that there would not be elections to determine who was present and that there would be follow-up roundtables on specific questions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)YAVLINSKY SAYS TALKS BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, RIGHTS GROUPS UNLIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky doubts that the dialogue being promoted by the Kremlin between the federal government and human rights groups will be successful, Interfax reported on 3 November. He said that the human rights groups need support, but are so diverse as to make any single approach to them impossible. Moreover, Yavlinsky added, the two sides are in a very different position: The government may make concessions, but "when human rights activists make a compromise with the powers, yielding to its [sic] demands and counting on the outcome of negotiations, they become political," which is wrong. Meanwhile, on 5 November, Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Interfax that she and other human rights groups look more favorably on the Civic Forum meetings, because the government has indicated that it is not simply interested in "giving legitimacy to some kind of central committee" but actually in talking to various groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)TATAR NATIONALIST GROUPS FACE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION FOR GATHERING.
Meanwhile, the office of the prosecutor-general in Tatarstan is preparing materials to present in court against some of the organizers of meetings and activities in Kazan held on 14 October to mourn those who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in 1552. According to the prosecutor's press service, organizers such as the All-Tatar Public Center, People's Front, and Idel-Ural gave speeches and used slogans, which "threatened the constitutional security and territorial wholeness of the Russian Federation." According to regions.ru, the organizers of the action will be accused of violating Tatarstan regulations on conducting public meetings and demonstrations. If found guilty, the organizers face a fine of five minimum wages or two months of corrective labor. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, some demonstrators called for the creation an Idel-Ural confederation, the rejection of Russian passports, and the transfer of law enforcement and military bodies to local authorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)PUTIN CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
President Vladimir Putin on 1 November told a meeting of international jurists that the decade of activity of Russia's Constitutional Court "testifies that the country is developing as a democratic, law-based state" in which "human rights and freedoms" are protected, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that "for the first time, a body has emerged [in Russia] that limits legislative and executive powers." He called for the court to cooperate more with foreign courts and the parliament to protect the rights of Russian citizens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)BEREZOVSKY DOES NOT INTEND TO RETURN TO RUSSIA.
Speaking on NTV on 2 November, embattled entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky said that, as before, he does not intend to return to Russia to face prosecutor's questions as he cannot count on the Russian legal system to protect his rights. Meanwhile, also on NTV, Duma deputy (SPS) Vladimir Golovlev, who was stripped of parliamentary immunity and now faces corruption charges, said the same day that Russian prosecutors misled the Duma in order to secure deputies' agreement to lift his immunity from prosecution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)PROSECUTORS WON'T OPPOSE RESTORATION OF DEATH PENALTY.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov said on 31 October that prosecutors won't object if the Duma decides to pass legislation ending the current moratorium on the use of the death penalty, RIA-Novosti reported. The Council of Europe has made that suspension and ultimate abolition of the death penalty a condition of membership, but since the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States polls suggest ever more Russians back the use of this form of punishment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS RUSSIA MUST DEFEND PRISONERS' RIGHTS OR THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL...
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 1 November that his agency is obligated to do "everything possible" to ensure that the criminal justice system protects the rights of prisoners, because if Moscow doesn't, "then the Council of Europe will take up the issue," Interfax-AFI reported. He said that possibility makes it a question of "the prestige" of the state. Chaika added that the government has allocated 350 million rubles ($12 million) for the reconstruction of prisons and interrogation facilities in 2000 alone, the news service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)...SEEKS TO BAN NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY.
The Justice Ministry on 5 November asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Moscow region court decision on 27 September and ban the activity of the National Bolshevik Party, Interfax reported. Party leaders said that they have not yet received any official notification of this action. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)MOSCOW CITY PLANS FOR 7 NOVEMBER MARCHES.
The Moscow city government announced on 5 November that it has given permission to four different groups to stage marches on the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November, Interfax-Moscow reported. These include a column of supporters of the Labor Russia movement, another of the Left radicals, a third of the Communist Party and allied groups, and a fourth of the pro-Kremlin Walking Together movement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)PROTEST IN MOSCOW AGAINST U.S. ACTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN.
About 70 members of the For Popular Democracy movement, the National Bolshevik Party, and the Communists staged a demonstration in Moscow's Pushkin Square on 2 November to protest the American bombing of Afghanistan, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)POLLS SUGGEST NATIONALISM GROWING AMONG YOUNG MUSCOVITES.
A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 2 November found that many Muscovites believe that young people in the city are increasingly nationalistic. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" the same day carried an interview with Aleksandr Ivanov-Sukharevskii, the leader of the People's National Party, who suggested that the pogrom was "a natural reaction" on the part of young people to the influx of non-Russians into the capital. He called for "the consolidation of the Russian people with the help of the German, Italian, and French peoples to stop the expansion of Jewish pan-Americanism." And on 3 November, Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told a group of his supporters that Moscow must "cleanse the capital" of "criminal groups consisting of people from the south," Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)300 YOUTHS STAGE POGROM IN MOSCOW AGAINST NORTH CAUCASIANS...
Two people were killed and at least 15 were injured on 30 October when 300 young people burst into a Moscow market and beat people from the North Caucasus selling goods there, Interfax-Moscow reported. The attack at the market near Tsaritsyno metro station began at about 10:30 p.m. Moscow time. Interior Ministry officers arrived on the scene and have increased the guard force there. Several of the participants have been detained, officials said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)...INCLUDING NATIONAL UNITY MILITANTS.
Militia officials stressed on 31 October that most of those involved in the rampage of some 300 youths the previous day at a Moscow market were soccer fans celebrating a victory, Russian and Western agencies reported. Other officials noted that Russian National Unity militants were involved as well, Interfax reported. The authorities increased the police presence in the areas where the pogrom took place, pledged to bring the guilty to justice, and held meetings with representatives of the Caucasus diaspora in Moscow to try to calm the situation, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)ACTIONS OF 'YOUNG NAZIS' IN MOSCOW DECRIED...
Officials, ethnic organizations, and parliamentarians have all denounced the Russian nationalist pogrom against people from the Caucasus that took place in Moscow on 30 October, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported. Prosecutors and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said they are convinced that the action was "well planned." Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the terrible actions should serve as a wake-up call to Russia because the country does not have "a normal nationality policy," Interfax reported on 1 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)...AS SKINHEADS' ACTIVITIES IN REGIONAL CAPITALS DOCUMENTED.
Following the recent pogrom in Moscow by members of Russian National Unity, "Komsomolskaya pravda" carried a small survey by its network of regional correspondents documenting a number of similar incidents in regional capitals over the past year. For example, in Kaliningrad, a group of skinheads severely beat two African students from the Baltic State Academy. African students have also been accosted by skinheads on the streets of St. Petersburg and Krasnodar. In Volgograd, skinheads from 13 to 18 years old attacked a Romany camp, killing one Rom on the spot while another died afterward in the hospital. Several other members of the community suffered other injuries. Recently, more than 100 Roma were deported from Krasnodar Oblast to Voronezh, where they were officially registered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)ABDULATIPOV WARNS OF MORE NATIONALIST ACTIONS...
Federation Council member and leader of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia Ramazan Abdulatipov called on the government on 2 November to take immediate measures to ward off more pogroms. He said that in the absence of such actions, the "most unpredictable consequences for Russia" are possible -- including "the collapse of the country," Interfax reported. He said that his group has collected hundreds of reports of discriminatory actions by Russian law-enforcement personnel and that Russian media and entertainment cultivate nationalist prejudices. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)...AND DECRIES RISE OF ISLAMOPHOBIA.
Abdulatipov said in an interview published in "Trud" on 3 November that there has been a dangerous rise in Islamophobia in the course of the antiterrorist campaign. That increase, Abdulatipov said, is particularly threatening in Russia because there is no policy protecting the gains Muslims have made over the last decade, and because little or nothing is being done to prevent the multiplication of various non-Islamic religious sects which have emerged like poisonous "mushrooms" in many regions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)EURASIANISTS CALL FOR DEFENDING UNIQUE FEATURES OF RUSSIANS, OTHER PEOPLES IN RUSSIA.
More than 250 politicians, scholars, and activists are taking part in a three-day Moscow conference on "Eurasianism -- the Future of Russia as a Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations," Interfax reported on 31 October. Participants said Russia must find its own path, one that defends its uniqueness, and they added that the authorities must provide more assistance to protect and develop the various minority nationalities in Russia. Meanwhile, in an article in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" the same day, Vadim Pechenev argued that the parliament must adopt a special law on the status and future development of the Russian nation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)GASPRINSKII CONFERENCE TAKES PLACE IN MOSCOW.
An international conference devoted to Ismail Gasprinskii (Gasprali), the great 19th-century Crimean Tatar activist and Islamic modernist, opened in Moscow on 1 November, "Vremya MN" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)MUSLIMS WORRY ABOUT 'ISLAMOPHOBIA.'
In Chelyabinsk Oblast, Muslims in the city of Zlatoust are organizing a peace march, regions.ru reported on 2 November. The march was suggested by a member of the city's branch of the Eurasian party in part to dispel rumors about the involvement of all Muslims in the Afghan conflict. In an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" on 30 October, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said he is concerned about "Islamophobia," noting that one of the aims of international terrorism is to provoke a clash between Christians and Muslims. According to Shaimiev, Islam is an extremely peaceful and tolerant religion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)THE CHECHEN CONFLICT BY THE NUMBERS.
The Russian presidential press service told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that federal troops have killed about 11,000 Chechen militants since October 1999, that Russian forces have suffered 3,438 killed and 11,661 wounded, but that the militants still operate some 100 groups with up to 2,000 fighters. Meanwhile, Interfax reported the same day that federal forces have located a satellite telephone system that the militants used to coordinate their military activities. And in yet another indication that the militants still represent a serious force, Russian General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the commander of the Unified Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, told the news service on 1 November that the number of military stations in Chechnya must be dramatically increased to control the situation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)YASTRZHEMBSKII GREETS U.S. 'ENLIGHTENMENT' ON CHECHNYA.
Speaking to an American-Russian investment symposium in Boston on 3 November, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii welcomed what he called American "enlightenment" on the nature of the conflict in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Yastrzhembskii said that "everybody knows about the White House's statement about Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network and its close links to international terrorists operating in Chechnya." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)MOSCOW OFFICIALS DENY ANY DEAL ON CHECHNYA.
Alisher Khozhaev, a spokesman for President Putin, on 1 November denied media reports that Russian officials have reached a preliminary agreement with Chechen militants under the terms of which Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov would be allowed to leave Russia if he agreed to end his fight against Russia, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Khozhaev said that the reports, including in "Izvestiya" the same day, were "totally false" and that there had not been any meeting, let alone an accord. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)RUSSIAN HELICOPTER CREWS QUESTIONED OVER CIVILIAN DEATHS.
The crews of three Russian military helicopters are being questioned about the 27 October deaths of a woman and a four-year-old boy near the village of Komsomolskoe, Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov told Interfax on 30 October. The helicopter crew members claim they fired warning shots at a car in a bid to halt it, then again opened fire when the driver tried to escape, wounding the passengers whom they then transported to a hospital. Residents of Komsomolskoe and other villages picketed the Chechen administration building in Gudermes on 29 October to protest those deaths and other cases of the death or disappearance of local residents. Also on 29 October, the pro-Moscow Chechen administration's consultative council appealed to the Russian authorities to set up a special commission to investigate crimes committed by the Russian military against the Chechen civilian population, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)HEALTH MINISTRY NOTES DECLINING FERTILITY, RISING MORTALITY IN CHECHNYA.
Health Ministry officials in Grozny told Interfax on 1 November that the birthrate has declined by 67 percent and the death rate doubled in Chechnya in recent times. The officials placed the blame on "the worsening of the ecological situation and the constant stress situations of people" there, in the words of the news service. The officials noted that more than 80 percent of the medical institutions in the republic have been destroyed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)AID AGENCIES SIGN ACCORD WITH CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION.
John Macallan of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees led a delegation to Grozny of more than 20 representatives of humanitarian organizations on 31 October and signed accords with the Chechen administration on cooperation in providing humanitarian assistance to the Chechen people, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT SAYS CHECHEN REFUGEE CAMPS NOT READY FOR WINTER.
Ruslan Aushev said on 31 October that the Chechen refugee camps in his republic "are absolutely unprepared for winter" and that the people in them "are forced to live in unbearable conditions," Interfax reported. He said there are not enough tents, medicines, or other basic necessities. Aushev said he has addressed the issue with Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov, "who will resolve these problems after the liquidation of the Ministry of Federation Affairs, Nationalities and Migration." He said his republic is currently owed more than 580 million rubles ($19 million) by the federal authorities for services provided to the refugees, and noted that for his republic "this is a significant sum." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)REPORTED PLAN TO CREATE STATE BODY TO SUPERVISE RELIGIONS DENIED.
Andrei Sebentsov, the deputy chairman of the government commission on the affairs of religious organizations, on 2 November denied press reports that the government is planning to create a Soviet-style body to supervise religious groups, Interfax reported. He also denied reports that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and of Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar failed to take part in his committee's deliberations. He said that his working group deals primarily with queries from the regions concerning how to deal with religious issues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)PAPER SPECULATES CHURCHES MAY BE NEXT TERRORIST TARGETS.
"Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 31 October that Moscow officials believe that terrorists may attack religious institutions in the Russian capital. The officials said the attacks are likely to be carried out by Muslim women and to involve not only Orthodox churches but also Roman Catholic churches, synagogues, and even mosques. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)ALEKSII WANTS ORTHODOX CULTURE TAUGHT TO RUSSIANS, MUSLIM CULTURE TO MUSLIMS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
Patriarch Aleksii II on 30 October called for the introduction of Orthodox culture as a subject of instruction in Russian secondary schools and of Muslim culture in schools located in the country's Muslim regions, Interfax reported. Such instruction, he said, will help students orient themselves in the world today. Meanwhile, government officials said they are considering building an Orthodox church on the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Washington, the news service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)PROSECUTORS AGAIN SEEK TO BAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES.
Prosecutors on 30 October launched another attempt in a Moscow court to strip the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination of its registration as a religious group, Interfax reported. Prosecutors earlier tried over 30 months to convince a Moscow court that the group is stirring up interconfessional conflicts. Prosecutors appealed against that ruling, and on 30 May 2001, a superior court ordered a new hearing, which began this week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)HIGH-PROFILE SPY TRIALS CONTINUE.
A Kaluga court resumed its closed hearings in the case of Americanist Igor Sutyagin, who is accused of spying for "a NATO country," ITAR-TASS reported. He faces 12 to 20 years if convicted. Meanwhile, on 29 October, the Military Tribunal of the Russian Pacific Fleet resumed its closed hearings of the repeat trial of Grigorii Pasko, a military journalist who is also accused of divulging state secrets. Pasko was convicted the first time around only of "professional negligence," and the FSB has successfully won a new trial against him on the more serious espionage charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)PAPER NOTES 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF REMOVAL OF STALIN'S REMAINS FROM MAUSOLEUM.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October described the way in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was removed from the Red Square mausoleum 40 years ago on 31 October 1961. It noted that his reburial in the Kremlin wall was the only case in which someone's remains were interred there "without speeches, orchestras, and a farewell salute." Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" the same day reported that in January 1954 following Stalin's death, Soviet officials destroyed many of the archives and thus made future rehabilitations and prosecutions more difficult. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)DAY OF MEMORY FOR POLITICAL REPRESSION VICTIMS MARKED.
Human rights activists and others in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities on 30 October marked the Day of Memory of the Victims of Political Repression, Russian agencies reported. In some places, they staged meetings; in others, they called attention to the number of victims who have survived but have not yet been rehabilitated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)BACKERS OF ANTICORRUPTION BILL TO TRY FOR 11TH TIME TO PASS IT.
The Duma has included a draft bill on corruption for consideration in the near future, the 11th time that it has done so without success, former Interior Minister and Duma Security Committee member Anatolii Kulikov said in an interview published in "Tribuna" on 31 October. He said the parliament needs to approve the measure because Russia's direct losses from corruption total at least $15 billion a year and its indirect losses in terms of loss of public and investor confidence in Russia and its government are even greater. In other comments, Kulikov said corruption has not declined under President Putin but only taken other forms, with the government drawing on the shadow economy to increase its own revenues. Meanwhile, Yurii Biryukov, the deputy prosecutor-general, told the Duma the same day that capital flight from Russia will total $20 billion in 2001, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)EVER MORE RUSSIANS AGAIN SEE 7 NOVEMBER AS REVOLUTIONARY HOLIDAY.
According to polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 November, the percentage of Russians who view 7 November as "a great revolutionary holiday" has risen from 22 percent in 1993 to 39 percent this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)RUSSIA'S OLIGOPOLIES SAID TO HAVE 'NEW FACE,' OLD ESSENCE.
According to an analysis published in "The Moscow Times" on 1 November, "a huge slice of the nation's GDP is controlled by a handful of powerful industrialists that have at times appeared to violate if not the letter then certainly the spirit of the law." In this, the article suggests, the situation resembles in many ways the pre-August 1998 crisis pattern. But there is a major difference: "under Putin, overt political activity has transformed into aggressive lobbying; corporate governance has become a topic of discussion and action; and the idea of taking enormous profits and investing them domestically instead of exporting them abroad looks appealing." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)INCOMES UP, INCOME POLARIZATION DECLINES SLIGHTLY.
The percentage of Russians earning more than 3,000 rubles ($100) a month rose from 15.9 percent in 2000 to 30.8 percent in 2001, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 30 October. At the same time, income polarization declined slightly, with the incomes of the highest-paid 10 percent now totaling 33.5 percent of all wages and salaries, down 0.8 percent from 2000. Meanwhile, incomes of the bottom 10 percent in the income pyramid continue to total 2.4 percent of all wages and salaries, the committee said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)UNEMPLOYMENT SLIPS.
The number of people unemployed in Russia stood at 5.7 million, or 8.1 percent of the work force, at the end of September, compared with 8.2 percent in August, Reuters quoted the State Statistics Committee as saying on 22 October. Russia's producer price inflation (PPI) slipped 0.1 percent in September compared with unchanged prices in August, the committee said. ("RFE/RL Business Report," 30 October)49 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS GET SOME STATE BENEFITS.
According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 3 November, 49 percent of all Russians get some type of government benefits, including 31 percent who receive discounts on communal services and discounted or free public transport, 11 percent who receive discounts for the purchase of medicines, 8 percent who receive free or discounted railway or airline tickets, and 6 percent who receive free or heavily discounted medical services. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)ALCOHOLISM, TUBERCULOSIS, AIDS INCREASINGLY SERIOUS PROBLEMS.
Chief public health officer Gennadii Onishchenko said on 2 November that 27,000 Russians died from ingesting poor quality vodka during 2001, Interfax reported. The same day, officials in Yaroslavl reported that they had uncovered a tank containing 255,000 liters of illegally produced vodka, the news service said. Meanwhile, the British medical journal "The Lancet" reported in its November issue that there are now 16 million Russians infected with tuberculosis and that this could interact with the spread of HIV infections and result in more people coming down with both diseases, Reuters reported on 2 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)CANCER RATES, INFECTIOUS DISEASES INCREASE.
Valerii Chissov, the director of the Moscow Oncology Research Institute, told Interfax on 5 November that the incidence of cancer in Russia has increased from 1,150 per 100,000 in 1991 to 1,500 in 2000. He blamed this increase on increased smoking by women and a narrower choice of treatments. He noted that ever fewer people are turning to doctors at the early stages of the disease when they are more likely to be cured. Meanwhile, public health officials the same day noted that there has been a significant increase in serious viral respiratory illnesses this year, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER BLASTS GOVERNMENT...
Boris Shikhmuradov, the former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan who had been Ashgabat's ambassador in Beijing until 30 October, on 1 November issued a statement denouncing the regime of President Saparmurat Niyazov as "a primitive police state" that combines "the worst methods of the Soviet style of leadership" with methods drawn from "the technology of the administration of a traditional Eastern society." Niyazov, Shikhmuradov continued, has isolated the country, committed crimes and allowed crimes to be committed, and persecuted people on religious and ethnic bases. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)...AND IS SLAPPED WITH ARREST WARRANT.
Turkmenistan's prosecutor-general has issued an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and asked for his extradition from Russia, his presumed whereabouts, Interfax reported on 2 November. Shikhmuradov is accused of the theft of state property valued at $25.27 million, including warplanes and armaments that he is said to have sold to Russia. Shikhmuradov, who was fired as foreign minister in the summer of 2000, was dismissed from his post of ambassador to China on 30 October and two days later issued a statement accusing President Niyazov of ruling over "a police state." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)
PRESIDENT SIGNS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL, BUT WITH OBJECTIONS.
Leonid Kuchma has signed into law a bill on parliamentary election that was passed by the parliament earlier this month, Interfax reported on 30 October, quoting presidential spokesman Ihor Storozhuk. Storozhuk told journalists that Kuchma simultaneously asked the parliament "to urgently introduce a number of amendments" to the bill in order to hold next year's parliamentary election "with full observance of Ukraine's Constitution and legislation." In particular, Kuchma proposed to change the procedure for forming precinct election commissions and cancel the clause banning the participation in elections of parties that were set up less than one year before the election date. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
MOSCOW CONTINUES TO RAISE ETHNIC ISSUE IN ESTONIA, LATVIA.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on 5 October that Moscow remains concerned about the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia, ITAR-TASS reported. At the Congress of Compatriots in Moscow, attended by about 600 delegates from 47 countries on 11-12 October, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov called the attitude toward Russian-speaking people in Latvia and Estonia "blatant apartheid," LETA reported. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 1 November)ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN EXCHANGE PRISONERS.
Three Azerbaijani civilians detained on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the past two months were handed back to the Azerbaijani authorities on 3 November in return for one Armenian soldier taken prisoner last month, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of the OSCE and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies monitored the exchange. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)