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(Un)Civil Societies Report: December 5, 2001


5 December 2001, Volume 2, Number 48
ALBANIA
FLAG DAY CELEBRATED. Ethnic Albanians across the Balkans celebrated Flag Day on 28 November, which is Albania's day of independence, RFE/RL reported from Prishtina. At least 30,000 people attended a ceremony in the Kosovar capital, at which a statue of the national hero Skanderbeg was dedicated. The commemorations passed peacefully, except in the Macedonian town of Tetovo, where one Macedonian civilian was injured in the celebratory gunfire traditional in much of the Balkans. In communist Yugoslavia, the ethic Albanians in Kosova used the Albanian flag -- a double-headed black eagle on a red background -- as their official symbol. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

ARMENIA
MILITARY PROSECUTOR ACCUSED OF HUSHING UP MISTREATMENT OF CONSCRIPTS. Former senior Armenian military official Ruben Martirossian told Noyan Tapan on 29 November that the Military Prosecutor's Office has systematically thwarted the investigation of cases of mistreatment of servicemen, including cases that resulted in their death or permanent disability. He cited several instances in which the perpetrators were absolved of any responsibility, and one case in which an innocent serviceman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the killing of a fellow soldier. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES PLANS TO ASSASSINATE AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SON. In a statement released on 29 November, the Armenian National Security Ministry rejected as "complete rubbish" and "an outright provocation" the claim made the previous day by a former Azerbaijani prisoner that Armenian security officials tried to recruit him to assassinate Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham, according to Mediamax on 29 November, as cited by Groong. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

PRESIDENTIAL BODYGUARD TO BE CHARGED IN CAFE DEATH. Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard, is to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the killing in a Yerevan cafe two months ago of Poghos Poghosian, an Armenian from Georgia, RFE/RL reported on 27 November. Poghosian was found dead on the cafe premises early on 25 September, having apparently been beaten by Kocharian's bodyguards after he insulted the president. An autopsy determined that he died from a blow to the head. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

AZERBAIJAN
ISLAMIC PARTY ACTIVIST ARRESTED. Hajiaga Nuriev, the deputy chairman of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, was arrested on 25 November at the Astara border post with Iran on charges of resisting the authorities and offering a bribe, Turan reported on 27 November. AP quoted National Security Ministry spokesman Araz Gurbanov as saying that Nuriev was attempting to take "suspicious documents" into Iran. National security officials have since sealed the party's headquarters in Baku. Nuriev was one of four members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan imprisoned in April 1997 on charges of spying for Iran. The four were pardoned by President Heidar Aliyev in November 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

POLICE PREVENT GATHERING TO COMMEMORATE FORMER PRESIDENT. Police in Baku resorted to violence on the evening of 29 November to prevent participants in a ceremony to honor deceased President Abulfaz Elchibey from entering the theater where the event was to take place, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

BELARUS
MASS ARRESTS REPORTED. Over the past two weeks, Belarusian prosecutors have brought 210 criminal cases to court and issued arrest warrants for 720 people, mostly state officials of various levels and managers of state-run enterprises, the Charter-97 website reported on 27 November. The website suggested that the recent wave of arrests reflects President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's deepening mental disorder. Earlier this year Belarusian psychiatrist Dzmitry Shchyhelski publicized his diagnosis that Lukashenka is suffering from a "moderately pronounced psychopathy with the prevalence of traits of a paranoid and distractive personality disorder." "The demand made by the head of state to eradicate corruption is entirely fair. That is why we accept his complaints that corruption still exists. At one time the president gave the KGB the task of preventing Belarus from turning into a place in which secret services could act freely," KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau commented on the recent arrests to "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" last week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

COURT BANS UNION OF STUDENTS. The Supreme Court on 3 December ordered the closure of the Union of Belarusian Students (ZBS) because of four warnings issued to the union by the Justice Ministry, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The Justice Ministry found that the ZBS disobeyed the law by altering the color of its registered emblem from red to black (the ZBS said they had no color printer at the time), distorting its registered name in English (the ZBS preferred to write "Belarusan" instead of "Belarusian"), ignoring letters from the ministry (the ZBS said the ministry used a wrong address), and preventing the ministry's officials from checking the ZBS's books (the ZBS said the officials came when nobody was around to show them the books). Under Belarusian regulations, two warnings are sufficient for an NGO to be closed down. "Lukashenka is persecuting students and rectors because most students voted against him in the presidential election," ZBS leader Krystyna Sidun said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

NEW SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY LAUNCHED. Some 130 delegates, all defectors from Mikalay Statkevich's Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly), set up a Belarusian Social Democratic Party at their congress in Minsk on 2 December, Belapan reported. Alyaksey Karol, who was elected leader of the new party, criticized Statkevich for pursuing an authoritarian style, abandoning social democratic positions, and seeking unjustified compromises with the authorities. Apart from Statkevich's and Karol's organizations, there is one more social democratic party in Belarus, which is led by Stanislau Shushkevich. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

BOSNIA
PRIME MINISTER: KARADZIC, MLADIC SHOULD TURN SELVES IN. Speaking to Bosnian federation television from Banja Luka on 2 December, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic should voluntarily surrender to the UN's war crimes tribunal in The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ivanic stressed that this would be the best way for the two men to "defend their ideas." The prime minister also called on the media to launch an open discussion about what happened during the 1992-95 conflict, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT: NO WAR CRIMINALS HERE. Mirko Sarovic said that neither Karadzic nor Mladic are in the Republika Srpska, AP reported from Belgrade on 1 December. He added: "We have stressed to all international organizations, including the tribunal that...our findings indicate that no one of those publicly indicted for war crimes is in [the] Republika Srpska.... I can say with full responsibility that not a single state body, not a single institution in [the] Republika Srpska, is helping anyone publicly indicted by the tribunal." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

OSCE: KARADZIC STILL ADVISING BOSNIAN SERB PARTY. Robert Beecroft, who heads the OSCE mission to Bosnia, told "Dnevni avaz" that the leadership of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) continues to maintain contact with Karadzic, who was its founder, RFE/RL reported from Sarajevo on 1 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

BULGARIA
TURKISH MUFTI PLEDGES DURING VISIT TO FIGHT RADICAL ISLAM. Turkey's top spiritual leader, Mufti Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, pledged on 3 December during a three-day visit to Bulgaria to fight the spread of radical Islam in his country and among Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish community, AP reported. The mufti, who also heads Turkey's governmental agency on religious cults, said he plans to work with Bulgaria's Muslim minority to prevent "fundamentalist groups from infiltrating Islamic education." Yilmaz said he is taking steps to keep teachers and books preaching radical Islam out of schools in Turkey and ethnic Turkish communities in Bulgaria. Turkey finances a number of Islamic schools in southern Bulgaria and provides training for many of the community's teachers. Yilmaz met with Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and with leaders of Bulgaria's Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

CZECH REPUBLIC
UZBEK DISSIDENT DETAINED IN PRAGUE... Prominent Uzbek dissident Mohammad Solih was arrested by the Czech authorities upon his arrival at Prague's Ruzyne airport on 28 November and faces extradition, Human Rights Watch said the following day. That organization called on the Czech authorities to refuse Uzbekistan's extradition request, release Solih immediately, and guarantee his security while in the Czech Republic. Solih is chairman of the opposition Erk Democratic Party, which is banned in Uzbekistan. He was the only genuinely independent candidate to challenge President Islam Karimov in the 1991 presidential elections. Following those elections he was harassed and repeatedly detained by the authorities, and ultimately was forced to flee the country. In November 2000, Uzbekistan's Supreme Court sentenced Solih in absentia to 15 years in prison on charges of terrorism and antistate activities arising from his alleged involvement in the February 1999 bombings in Tashkent in which 16 people were killed. Solih intended to meet in Prague with RFE/RL broadcasters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...AND COURT ORDERS HIS DETENTION... On 30 November, a Prague court ordered Solih's detention pending the arrival of documentation demanding his extradition, which must reach the court within 40 days, CTK and international agencies reported. A decision will be made by the court after those documents arrive or Solih will be freed on the 41st day after his detention, a spokeswoman for the court said. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Solih said he is requesting political asylum in the Czech Republic. Solih has already been granted political asylum by Norway, which earlier refused to extradite him to Uzbekistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

...AS OSLO ASKS PRAGUE TO RETURN SOLIH TO NORWAY. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Peters asked his Czech counterpart Jan Kavan to return Uzbek opposition leader Muhammad Solih to Norway rather than extradite him to Tashkent, CTK reported. Solih was detained last week at Prague's airport. Kavan said he supports the Norwegian request. The two foreign ministers met at the OSCE meeting of chief diplomats in Bucharest. Solih has been granted refugee status in Norway. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

ESTONIA
JOINING VISA SCHENGEN SYSTEM TO BE COSTLY. Kristel Praun, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's Foreign Relations and Eurointegration Department, estimated that it will cost about 655 million kroons ($37.4 million) for Estonia to implement the Schengen border and customs control system from 2001-2005, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 3 December. The greatest expenditures (569 million kroons) are for investments in training and equipment needed to bring the country's external border controls up to EU standards. Integration into the Schengen Information System will require more than 32 million kroons, but the funds are expected to be obtained from the EU's PHARE program. Estonia is preparing to join the Schengen Agreement in two stages; the first should be completed by 2004 and cover external borders and passport controls, as well as the full adoption of Schengen laws. The second stage is to be completed by 2006, when Estonia's borders will become internal borders of the EU. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

GEORGIA
THREE KIDNAPPED MONKS FREED. Three of the four monks and novices abducted in the Pankisi gorge in eastern Georgia on 19 November have been released, Caucasus Press reported on 29 November. A local police official said no ransom was paid for their release. The kidnappers had demanded $1 million. But two of the three monks subsequently disappeared without briefing police on the circumstances of their kidnapping as they had promised to do, Caucasus Press reported on 30 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

HUNGARY
STATUS LAW PROVOKES DISPUTE IN PARLIAMENT. Istvan Csurka, the chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), on 29 November sharply criticized in the parliament the basic treaties concluded with neighboring countries, Hungarian media reported. Csurka proposed the elaboration of a "national strategy" that would include the revision of those treaties. Deputies representing the opposition Socialist Party and Free Democratic Party said the latest EU report on Hungary contains over 40 critical remarks dealing with the Status Law and the public media boards. In response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the passage of the Status Law is a major step forward for Hungary's national strategy, as it will surely help handle the "Romanian and Transylvanian problem" in relation to EU accession. Orban said EU accession is an important means of "catching up," as it would help Hungary attain Western living standards. Integration into the EU would also enhance the competitiveness of the economy, he added, which facilitates national sovereignty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

CALVINIST SYNOD BANS PASTORS FROM POLITICAL CAREERS... The Calvinist Church synod on 29 November passed a conflict-of-interest regulation that bans pastors from membership in political parties and states that pastoral service is irreconcilable with a parliamentary member's position, Hungarian media reported. The synod ruled that if a pastor accepts political party membership, becomes a deputy, or goes abroad on an official mission, he or she must suspend their church service for that period. The amendments will take effect on 1 March 2002. Lay President Attila Kalman said the church must take part in public life but not in party policy. Bishop Gusztav Bolcskei called the decision "historic," saying it is high time to clarify that pastors undertaking political roles do not represent the Calvinist Church. The decision came one day after the synod strongly criticized an anti- Semitic article written by Calvinist pastor Lorant Hegedus Jr., deputy chairman of MIEP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...AS CALVINIST PASTORS STRUGGLE WITH POLITICAL ISSUES. The Calvinist Diocese Tribunal suspended Geza Gorgey from his pastorship for 60 days on 3 December for his recent criticisms in Hungarian media of the links between several representatives of the Calvinist Church and the MIEP. Gorgey said he regards the decision as unlawful. In other news, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities and the Hungarian Calvinist Church on 3 December concluded an agreement to refrain from taking political positions or providing or accepting support from political parties. The signatories said they await other "historical churches" to join the pact. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

STUDY GAUGES RACISM AMONG STUDENTS. Minority ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach told reporters on 27 November that according to a recent survey, 14 percent of students in their final year of teacher-training college are expressing racist views or harbor prejudices, Hungarian media reported. The survey found that a considerable number of future teachers are unaware of issues affecting ethnic minorities. Only 7.4 percent of the respondents hold open and tolerant views, while 36.5 percent can be described as "mildly affected by prejudice." Another 38.5 percent acknowledge the constraint of "coexistence" without hostile feelings, but do not consider Roma as equals. Political State Secretary Laszlo Sio said the Education Ministry will conduct its own survey of students and teachers regarding ethnic minority and nationality education. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

KOSOVA
SERBS DEMAND DEPUTY POST IN PARLIAMENT. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova and Presevo, told chief UN civilian administrator (UNMIK) Hans Haekkerup recently that the newly elected parliament must have two deputy presidents, one of whom must be a Serb, the "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported on 4 December. Serbs make up less than 10 percent of Kosova's population and hold 22 out of 120 seats in the parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER: 'OVERCOME BLOODY WALL.' Kosovar Serb leader Rada Trajkovic said the time has come for Serbs and Albanians to overcome the "bloody war and bloody wall between us" and jointly "resolve problems of crime, human trafficking, and illegal trade in arms, drugs, and property." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

SERBIAN PATRIARCH TO VISIT KOSOVA. Leaders of the Povratak coalition met with Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle in conjunction with their political strategy meeting in Belgrade, "Vesti" reported on 3 December. It was decided that Pavle will visit Pec, the site of the medieval patriarchate, on 9 December to administer the oath of office to the 22 Serbian deputies in the Kosova parliament. He told his visitors that the times awaiting them in Kosova are arguably the toughest in the history of the Serbian people in the province. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

KYRGYZSTAN
LAWSUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT POSTPONED. A Bishkek district court has postponed hearing a lawsuit brought against President Askar Akaev by jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 3 December. The hearing will now take place only after completion of two concurrent criminal investigations in which Kulov is a codefendant. Kulov brought a civil and a criminal case for libel against Akaev in September in connection with defamatory statements in a book the president published; the court threw out the criminal case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

MACEDONIA
UN CALLS FOR FUNDS. The UN's mission in Skopje has appealed to that body's unspecified "wealthier members" to donate $41 million to finance its humanitarian work in one of former Yugoslavia's poorest regions, AP reported on 3 December. Most of the money will be used to help the 100,000 people displaced by the recent conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

MOLDOVA
SMIRNOV'S ELECTORAL RIVALS SUBJECTED TO INTIMIDATION. Unidentified assailants on 3 December beat up the driver of Alexei Belinskii, who heads the electoral campaign for Tom Zenovich, one of separatist leader Igor Smirnov's challengers in the "presidential election" scheduled for 9 December, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokeswoman for Zenovich's staff said that "not finding Belinskii in the car, the attackers beat up the driver, who has been hospitalized with injuries." Earlier on 3 December, Transdniester "Foreign Minister" Valerii Litskay demanded that the Central Election Commission ban a television clip of the Zenovich campaign in which Litskay was shown vacationing abroad, and voters were asked whether this was why they paid taxes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

POLAND
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST LAWMAKERS POSSIBLE. Following a motion from the country's ombudsman, the Constitutional Tribunal on 28 November ruled that deputies can be brought to trial if legal proceedings against them started before their election to the parliament, PAP reported. The law on Sejm deputies and senators stipulates that legal proceedings against lawmakers should be suspended because they are protected by their parliamentary immunity. On the other hand, the constitution requires that the chamber should adopt a separate resolution suspending proceedings against a given deputy or senator. The Constitutional Tribunal agreed with the ombudsman's argument that if no such resolution was adopted, proceedings should be continued. The ruling means prosecutors and courts may pursue their actions against several deputies from the Self-Defense farmers union, including Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

VISA CURBS FOR EASTERN NEIGHBORS DELAYED. Chief EU negotiator Jan Truszczynski said in Brussels on 28 November that Poland will not meet its commitment to introduce EU-style visas for Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians in 2001 because the meager national budget cannot afford the costs that would be incurred in opening new consulates and hiring more diplomatic personnel. "The introduction of visas is an enormous task. In 2000, Poland was visited by 5.9 million Belarusians, 2.75 million citizens of Russia, and 6.1 million Ukrainians, while our consulates all over the world issued [only] 185,000 visas the same year," PAP quoted Truszczynski as saying. The agency said Poland's EU negotiators unofficially suggest that Warsaw will introduce visas for Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians in 2003, shortly before Poland's anticipated accession to the EU in 2004. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

ROMANIA
NATIONAL DAY MARKED WITHOUT INCIDENTS IN TRANSYLVANIAN TOWN. Romania's National Day was marked without incident in Miercurea Ciuc in the presence of Chamber of Deputy Chairman Valer Dorneanu and Sports and Youth Minister Georgiu Gingaras, Romanian media reported. Miercurea Ciuc Mayor Csaba Istvan Csedo, one of the signatories to the appeal to boycott the festivities participated in the ceremony wearing an armband with the colors of the national flag rather than the black armband the appeal had urged ethnic Hungarians to wear in mourning on 1 December. Csedo said on 30 November he "made a mistake" in signing the appeal, and attributed the mistake to "pressure" exerted by Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Senator Csaba Sogor, a member of that formation's "radical group." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

ANTI-POVERTY PROTEST. Some 15,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest on 29 November against poverty and the government's austerity program, RFE/RL reported. The demonstration was organized by the National Syndicate Bloc and demonstrators called for the dismissal of Premier Adrian Nastase and his cabinet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

MINISTER WORRIED ABOUT DEFINITION OF MOLDOVAN. Meeting with deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk on 27 November, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana suggested "avoiding the confusion about the definition of the ethnicity of the Romanians who say that they are Moldovans" during the Ukrainian census scheduled for 5-14 December, UNIAN reported. Geoana said that "Stalin's theory about the existence of a Moldovan language and a Moldovan nation is [still] being implemented," adding that this theory is "fiction that formally hampers the development of relations" between Ukraine and Romania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

RUSSIA
DUMA ADOPTS PACKAGE ON LEGAL REFORM... On 27 November, the Duma approved on final reading a legislative package aimed at reforming the legal system in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The package extends professional requirements for judges, establishes norms for disciplinary and criminal responsibility, sets the retirement age at 65 years of age, and will introduce jury trials nationwide beginning in 2003. The legislation also introduces open public competition for judicial offices for the first time in recent Russian history. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

...PREPARES BILL ON COSSACKS' STATUS... The Duma Committee for Federal and Regional Policies introduced a new bill on 27 November on the status of Russian Cossacks, RIA-Novosti reported. The bill defines Cossacks as a "historical ethno-cultural entity that has specific relations with the state." The bill defines the term of "Cossack community," defines regulations for their service in the Russian armed forces, and outlines their rights to wear traditional clothes, carry arms, and have a specific form of self-government. Similar bills have been circulating the Duma for some years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

...AS MVD WANTS TO CHANGE LAWS ON FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND STATUS OF FOREIGNERS. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said at a hearing in the Duma that because of the expanded functions of his agency, his experts are drafting amendments to the laws of assemblies and manifestations, individual identification documentation, and the status of foreigners and refugees. Gryzlov explained that the essence of these amendments is to streamline current legislation and keep it in line with constitutional norms. Gryzlov also said the additional areas of responsibility that the MVD has been granted give his organization the right to initiate legislation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

BEREZOVSKY WARNS OF 'LAW OF DICTATORSHIP.' In an open letter published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 December, Boris Berezovsky called on Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and all whom "Yeltsin's enemies call 'Family' [members]," to quit their positions before they are dismissed and create "a genuinely strong and liberal opposition." Berezovsky stressed that the main "mistakes" of President Vladimir Putin's policy have been the national tragedy in Chechnya, the extremely expensive operation to salvage the "Kursk," and, more importantly, the implementation of vertical executive power and dictatorship of law. Berezovsky added that, in his view, "dictatorship of law" is turning into a "law of dictatorship." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

NEWSPAPER SHEDS LIGHT ON SCHISM ON PUTIN'S TEAM. President Putin has no real presidential team, as his staff is divided into those who came to the Kremlin before Putin became president, and those came with him, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 November. In the first category belongs the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, his aides Vladislav Surkov and Igor Shuvalov, and Prime Minister Kasyanov. The second group includes Voloshin's deputies Igor Sechin and Viktor Ivanov, who are considered to be Putin appointees; Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev and his deputy Yurii Zaostrovtsev along with other former KGB officers in power; Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov; and Mezhprombank President Sergei Pugachev. Paradoxically, neither group is completely pro-Putin, but the second group is becoming more politically active, the newspaper reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

ACADEMICIAN CLAIMS PUTIN'S ENTOURAGE 'EXAGGERATE RUSSIA'S REAL POTENTIAL.' A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Mikhail Zalikhanov, said President Putin's entourage painted him a picture of a Russia that does not corresponded to reality, "Vechernyaya Moskva," reported on 29 November. The social and economic statistics presented to the Russian president by academic institutions, government experts, and secret service analysts on dozens of occasions exaggerated the real potential of Russia and prevented him from making sound and objective decisions. "If Putin wants to get an undistorted picture, he should know that Russia is a very poor and cold country producing less than 2 percent of the world's gross product, lagging behind developed countries on labor productivity by 5-6 times, and in personal income by 10-15 times," Zalikhanov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

PROSECUTORS ACCUSED OF INTERFERING IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on 29 November, former Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev charged that there are "clear signs of interference by the Prosecutor-General's Office in the election struggles in regions." He continued, "It is completely obvious that in Yakutia prosecutors are carrying out various activities that do not fall under general judicial procedure." Kovalev accused the Prosecutor's Office of acting in support of Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov, who is a candidate in the race. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Sakha (Yakutia) canceled on 29 November the registration of three candidates in the 23 December presidential elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Local Interior Ministry head Semen Nazarov, along with businessmen Mikhail Sannikov and Afanasii Maksimov, lost their right to participate in the elections. ALROSA head Vyacheslav Shtryov was ejected from the race earlier. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

WEEKLY SAYS LUZHKOV'S FUTURE DEPENDENT ON TURNOUT FOR MOSCOW DUMA ELECTIONS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov intends to resign if Moscow city Duma elections are declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout, "Novaya gazeta," No. 88, reported. According to the weekly, voter interest in the election fell after Fatherland, Unity, Yabloko, and the Union of Rightist Forces agreed to support a single list of candidates. The weekly noted that the elections have become a vote of confidence in Luzhkov and an indicator of his authority in the city. The elections will be held on 16 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

PACE CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR BROADER PARTICIPATION IN SEARCH FOR CHECHEN PEACE. During talks in Grozny on 3 December with Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov, PACE Chairman Lord Frank Judd said that "as many people as possible" should be brought into the talks on ending the fighting in Chechnya, Reuters reported, quoting RTR. Judd also welcomed the first round of peace talks 10 days ago between President Aslan Maskhadov's representative Akhed Zakaev and Russian presidential representative to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev. But Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus military district, told Interfax in Grozny the same day that continuing talks with Maskhadov "makes no sense" because other field commanders, including Shamil Basaev and Khattab, do not acknowledge Maskhadov's authority. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS PLAY DOWN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CHECHNYA. Meeting with the PACE delegation in Grozny on 3 December, Vladimir Kalamanov, President Putin's special representative for human rights in Chechnya, said that he receives far more appeals in connection with criminal offenses than complaints about human rights violations, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov similarly told Interfax on 3 December that the incidence of mistreatment of Chechen civilians by Russian servicemen, and the number of complaints he receives about such mistreatment, is decreasing. Also on 3 December, the Russian deputy prosecutor-general for the Southern federal district, Sergei Fridinskii, pledged that NGOs will be allowed access to the investigation of crimes committed in Chechnya to the extent that the law allows, Interfax reported. He said the Prosecutor-General's Office is ready to investigate any information concerning crimes or human rights violations in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN BLAMED FOR DEPUTY MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S KILLING. An investigation has established that Russian troops, not Chechen fighters as originally assumed, were responsible for the death of Roman Grigorian, the deputy military prosecutor of the combined Russian forces in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 3 December. The servicemen opened fire on Grigorian's car when it refused to slow down to pass a checkpoint on the outskirts of Argun. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

INFORMATION ON CHECHNYA. Several organizations provide regular updates on human rights in Chechnya via the Internet. Human Rights Watch provides extensive material in English at http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/, while the Russia-based Human Rights Network (http://www.hro.org/war/english.htm) and human rights group "Memorial" (http://www.memo.ru/hr/hotpoints/northkavkaz.htm) also provide English-language news. In addition, "Memorial" has created a special site called Kavkazskii Uzel (http://kavkaz.memo.ru/analyticstext/analytics/id/406263.html), which features an English-language report on the North Caucasus Peace Process, edited by Valery Tishkov. (Center for Civil Society International, 3 December)

DUMA DECLARES AMNESTY FOR WOMEN AND MINORS... The Duma on 30 November approved on third and final reading an amnesty for minors and women, Interfax reported. The vote was 352 in favor with zero abstentions or votes against the measure, ntvru.com reported. The amnesty will apply to some 10,000 minors and 14,000 women charged with petty crimes, a group that represents 9 percent of the overall population of Russian prisoners. In his speech in favor of the bill, Union of Rightist Forces deputy Aleksandr Barannikov said the population of women and minors in Russian prisons is 45,900 and 18,900, respectively. Candidates for amnesty are prisoners who committed a crime while they were minors (under 18), were sentenced to less than six years in prison, had never previously been incarcerated in disciplinary institutions, as well as those minors who have served more than half of their sentence. Amnesty will also be considered for pregnant women, single mothers, female invalids, women over 50, and widows. The amnesty does not pertain to minors who were sentenced for violent crimes, rapes, terrorism, kidnapping, or the trading of narcotics. The bill will be implemented on the day of its promulgation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...AND DRAFTS BILL ON EXTREMISM. The Justice Ministry has drafted a law on extremism that is intended to counter radical and violent political groups, "Izvestiya" reported on 3 December. Although the bill has been in preparation since 1999, the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States have given it special significance, according to Sergei Nikulin, one of the bill's authors. The bill includes a provision that permits banning or suspending activities of extremist organizations not only by a court order, but by an administrative directive of the government. In addition, the bill contains a provision that makes "subversion of national security in any form a crime." The definition of subversion includes "any public appeal for committing socially dangerous acts," Nikulin added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

RALLY AGAINST 'ISLAMOPHOBIA' IN THE WORKS... In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 29 November, Abdul-Wahid Niyazov, a State Duma deputy and leader of the Eurasian party, said his group is planning "a rally against xenophobia and chauvinism" that will take place in the middle of Ramadan and one month after the pogrom at the Tsaritsyno market in Moscow. According to Niyazov, "Islamophobia" must be stopped in Russia immediately, because 20-25 years from now one-third of Russian citizens will be Muslim. He added that according to current figures some 22 million of Russian citizens are Muslim. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...ALONG WITH NEW PLAN FOR ETHNIC GROUPS. Niyazov also said he plans to propose a bill that will call for a national referendum on giving ethnic-cultural autonomies special status within Russia's federal structure. Under such a system, for example, German ethnic districts in the Altai Krai or Karelians in Tver Oblast would be formed as special administrative units within those regions. According to Niyazov, the current federal structure does not properly address the needs of ethnic groups. "The Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug cannot handle the problems faced by Khanty and Mansii people; instead it is forced to deal with matters of importance to oil companies," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

UDMURT LANGUAGE GIVEN LOWER STATUS IN LOCAL LAW? Deputies in Udmurtia's legislative assembly approved on 27 November a law establishing the republic's state language, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the republic's constitution, the state languages in Udmurtia were Russian and Udmurt. Under the new law, state organs can use Udmurt along with the Russian Federation's state language, Russian. Official signatures within the republic's borders should be made in both languages, but beyond the republic borders in Russian. Signs for towns, cities, rivers, and national parks should be written in both languages -- Russian first, then Udmurt. Street signs do not have to be written in Udmurt. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

PUTIN MEETS WITH RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS. On 3 December, President Putin met with the administration of the Russian Academy of Sciences and prominent Russian scientists in the Kremlin, Interfax reported. Putin expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that only half of the Russian Academy of Sciences' institutions are working in the industrial sector and that "there are few examples of cooperation with business." He said that the extrabudgetary financing of the academy has grown from 5 percent to 50 percent over the past few years, but "the rates of commercialization of science are very low." The president called on the scientists to create a national innovation system and ensure for the legal protection of patents. He also encouraged the scientists to create a system for forecasting crisis phenomena, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

ORTHODOX CHURCH THREATENS TO EXCOMMUNICATE SCIENTISTS INVOLVED IN CLONING RESEARCH. The Russian Orthodox Church has responded strongly to recent reports of human embryo cloning in the United States, saying it will excommunicate any Russian scientists engaged in such research, as well as persons who receive or use cloned stem cells for medical treatment, Interfax reported on 27 November. "We unconditionally condemn therapeutic and reproductive cloning," Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Father Anatolii Ilin told the agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL TRIES TO STEM FEARS OF LOW STANDARD OF LIVING. On 3 December, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko announced in an interview on RTR television that the forthcoming increase in salaries of state employees will not be reduced to zero by inflation. She explained that the inflation rate will reach about 14 percent in 2002, according to forecasts of the government, while an increase in salaries will amount to 60 percent on average and will be doubled for some categories of state employees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

'IZVESTIYA' ARGUES THAT ALL SOVIET POLITICAL VERDICTS SHOULD BE ANNULLED. The serious attempts being made by some political groups to rehabilitate historical figures like Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the leader of the White Movement during the Russian Civil War, and by other groups to prevent such rehabilitations are off-target, "Izvestiya" said on 3 December. The daily said that such efforts are akin to rehabilitating the participants of the Decembrist Uprising or those of the rebellion of Emeliyan Pugachev. "Izvestiya" argued that instead of watching politicians engage in such fruitless efforts, the Supreme Court should ask the Duma to proclaim all Soviet-era political verdicts as null and void. Such a decision would be not an amnesty or rehabilitation, but a transformation of this painful issue from a legal into a historical one, the newspaper concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

COMMENTS SOLICITED ON DRAFT HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM. USAID/Russia is asking for responses to its draft Human Rights Program, which is provide legal assistance, improve judicial enforcement, and increase Russian NGO public policy input. Should the program focus on regions with the most serious human rights issues -- such as Chechnya, where AID now has no programs -- or should it be active in regions with greater access to officials? Which regions should be considered? Should conflict prevention and management be a selection factor? Comments will be accepted until 19 December. For more information, contact Alexander Borzov in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at aborzov@usaid.gov or Gary Juste with USAID/Russia at gjuste@usaid.gov. (Center for Civil Society International, 3 December)

SERBIA
DEL PONTE SAYS YUGOSLAVIA PROTECTING GENERAL MLADIC... The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told the UN Security Council in New York on 27 November that the Yugoslav authorities are shielding indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She added that she has his address in Belgrade, and called on the council to demand his arrest. Del Ponte said Mladic is living "under the official protection of the Yugoslav army, [which] depends directly on the president of the federation," Vojislav Kostunica, Reuters reported. She noted that "General Mladic is said to enjoy military immunity, and he is being shielded from both national and international justice." The prosecutor stressed that his continuing liberty "is an affront to the authority of this council, and mocks the entire process of international criminal justice." She added that the army is also protecting three officers wanted for atrocities in Vukovar in 1991. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

...AND PROVIDING SANCTUARY FOR KARADZIC. Del Ponte also told journalists in New York on 27 November that Radovan Karadzic lives in Serbia but that the tribunal does not have a fixed address for him, Reuters reported. She added that "we are pushing the [Serbian authorities] and NATO to execute the arrest of Karadzic...." She also slammed excuses made by President Vojislav Kostunica's government that it needs time to prepare legislation on cooperating with The Hague, saying, "I see no effort on their part to ensure adoption of such legislation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES DENY DEL PONTE'S CLAIMS. After Del Ponte spoke to the Security Council on 27 November, Yugoslav Ambassador to the UN Dejan Sahovic told the council that cooperation between his government at the tribunal is "proceeding well," Reuters reported. He said that this cooperation will be even better when the long-planned legislation is in place. He did not indicate when that might be, however. In Belgrade, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that her claims are "completely unfounded." He told the news agency: "If Ms. Del Ponte knows that Mladic is in Yugoslavia, then she must know where in Yugoslavia. She should say where the army is guarding him so the army and everyone else can respond." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

SERBIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE: MLADIC IS IN BELGRADE. The president of the NGO Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Sonja Biserko, said in Belgrade on 28 November that indicted war criminal General Mladic "has frequently been seen in Belgrade in recent days...and there are witnesses to this," RFE/RL reported. She added that Mladic has been seen on the streets, in cafes, and at sporting events. Biserko argued that the government's "ignorant" policy and refusal to acknowledge requests from The Hague to extradite Mladic and three officers implicated in the 1991 Vukovar massacres has led many foreigners to wonder what kind of people really won the 5 October 2000 elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

VIOLENCE TO RETURN TO SOUTHERN SERBIA? The BBC reported from the Presevo Valley area on 29 November that local ethnic Albanians say that promised changes have not come to the region. One public official argued that violence could erupt again if Milosevic-era officials are not replaced in free and fair elections. Some farmers complained that police treat them abusively and, in one case, confiscated a man's cattle and had them slaughtered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

UKRAINE
PRESIDENT HAILS 1991 INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM AS HISTORIC EVENT. Leonid Kuchma said the 1 December 1991 referendum in which more than 90 percent of Ukrainians supported the country's independence was "a historic event not only for Ukraine but also the world," Interfax reported. "If there had been no referendum, there would have been no independence," was a comment from independent Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, who was elected to his post by some 62 percent of voters on the referendum day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

PICKETERS WANT PARLIAMENT TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE, EDUCATION FUNDING. Several thousand people representing the Ukrainian Federation of Trade Unions, the Communist Party, and other organizations picketed the parliamentary building on 29 November to demand that lawmakers increase the minimum wage and public education funding in the budget draft they are currently debating, Inter television reported. The trade unions want the minimum wage to be established at 165 hryvni ($31) per month in January-June 2002, and increased to 183 hryvni beginning on 1 July 2002, while the government and the deputies suggest that the 2002 minimum wage should be 140 hryvni. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

KYIV REPORTS AIDS STATISTICS. The Health Ministry revealed last week that 600 Ukrainians contract AIDS every month, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 December. The ministry said thousands of adults and 50 children have died of AIDS in Ukraine over the last several years. As of today, more than 3,000 Ukrainians have contracted the disease and nearly 42,000 have been infected with the HIV virus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)

REGIONAL
SLOVAKIA AGAIN SHARPLY CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW... Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo, speaking to the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, said on 29 November that the Hungarian Status Law infringes on Slovak sovereignty, and fails to respect basic norms of international relations and the provisions of the basic Slovak-Hungarian treaty, the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" reported. Commission Chairman Peter Weiss said that unless Hungary makes concessions that are reflected in the law's implementation, the commission will recommend that parliament issue an official condemnation of the Status Law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...AND HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER REJECTS CALLS FOR CHANGE. Viktor Orban said in a letter to his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase that Hungary's Status Law does not need to be changed and will become effective as of 1 January 2002, as planned. Orban told Hungarian radio on 28 November that he was responding to a letter in which Nastase outlined his objections to the law. Slovakia has also called for changes to the law. Orban argued that the law does not have to be changed, as it is a "framework law," but he added that the government is prepared to discuss the implementation decrees and will strive to reach agreement on as many questions as possible with neighboring countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)

HUNGARY CONCERNED OVER TREATMENT OF CSANGO GROUP IN ROMANIA. FIDESZ deputy Arpad Potapi said in parliament that "alarming reports" from Romania indicate that the Csango minority in the northeast of the country are being harassed by Romanian authorities in their homes and that Hungarian-language classes are being impeded. In response, Foreign Ministry Political State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said a recent recommendation by the Council of Europe states that Csangos are entitled to use the Hungarian language and to attend native-language classes. He added that unless Romania settles the matter in an acceptable way, it cannot be ruled out that Hungary will have to resort to bilateral or international measures. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)

BELGRADE DENIES WAR CRIMES COMMITTED IN KOSOVA... In Belgrade on 29 November, the Serbian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that police General Sreten Lukic, whom The Hague tribunal is investigating for war crimes in Kosova in 1999, "acted professionally, in accord with the law, as well as in line with the rules of conduct," Reuters reported. The news agency added that in May, Lukic told reporters that he does not believe Serbian forces committed atrocities in Kosova. Speaking in London on 29 November, Yugoslav President Kostunica argued in the same vein, saying that "these people defended their country during the NATO bombing" and that The Hague's investigations will promote "instability." He did not mention that the NATO campaign began in response to atrocities in Kosova, and not the other way around. In August, former President Slobodan Milosevic said in a telephone interview that his forces were under orders only to "eliminate terrorist groups" in Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

...WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH POINTS TO ATROCITIES. The New York-based NGO said in a new report that Milosevic and his associates -- including police General Sreten Lukic and his army counterpart, General Nebojsa Pavkovic -- conducted a "coordinated and systematic campaign to terrorize, kill, and expel" Kosovar Albanians in 1999, Reuters reported on 29 November. The study added that "the Yugoslav army, Serbian police, and paramilitaries were all responsible for war crimes." At that time, Pavkovic and Lukic commanded their respective forces in Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)

HAGUE SAYS MILOSEVIC TO BE TRIED FOR CRIMES IN CROATIA, BOSNIA, AND KOSOVA. Reuters reported from The Hague on 30 November that chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said that the tribunal plans to try Milosevic under all three indictments -- one each for Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova -- in a single trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)

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