17 August 2000, Volume
SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF GLOBALIZATION TO MEET AT PRAGUE CASTLE.
A meeting of supporters and opponents of globalization will take place at the Prague Castle, the official seat of the Czech president, on 23 September, a few days before an annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank opens in the Czech capital, CTK reported on 9 August, citing presidential spokesman Martin Kraftl. The idea of a dialogue between the sides was first launched by President Vaclav Havel two months ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
A NEW NGO NETWORK: 'THE CAUCASUS OPPOSES VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.'
At the first all-Caucasus meeting of women's groups held in Armenia in late July, a new NGO was formed to raise the issues of domestic violence against women and international trafficking in women. Organized at the initiative of the Center for Women's Rights in Armenia, the meeting was also attended by women's groups from Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as by representatives of the OSCE, UNDP, and various government agencies. (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan Press Release, 12 August)
OPPOSITION AGAIN DEMANDS ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS.
Between 1,000 and 5,000 people attended a government-sanctioned demonstration in Baku on 12 August demanding amendments to the election laws to ensure that the 5 November parliamentary poll is democratic and fair, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. Speaking at a press conference in Baku the previous day, parliament secretariat head Safa Mirzoev said he does not consider necessary any changes to either the national or the Nakhichevan electoral laws. He termed the failure of the Nakhichevan election law to allocate any mandates under the proportional system "an internal affair" of that republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)EDITORS TO COORDINATE ELECTION COVERAGE.
Editors of newspapers planning to give broad coverage of the runup to the 5 November parliamentary elections have formed a Media Union-2000 to that end, "Azadlyg" reported on 10 August. It is not clear whether they agreed to establish a uniform fee for publishing election-related materials submitted by parties contending the ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August)PRESS MINISTER TRIES TO CLOSE NEWSPAPER.
The editor-in-chief of "Uch noqte," a tri-weekly newspaper, received a summons from Baku city court on 16 August. Attached to the summons was a letter from the minister of press and information which stated that in accordance with the new media law, since the courts had three times found the newspaper in violation of statutes, it should be closed. Azer Hasret, chairman of the journalists' trade union, points out, however, that the first violation occurred before the new law was passed and hence the minister's request was not valid. (Eldar Zeynalov, 14 August)AZERBAIJANI POLICE DENY JOURNALISTS ACCESS TO DISPLACED PERSONS' CAMP.
Police and local officials resorted to violence and insults to prevent six journalists representing non-government funded newspapers from entering a camp for displaced persons in Azerbaijan's southern Sabirabad Raion on 11 August, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)NEW BRANCH OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER TO OPEN IN GANZHA.
The new human rights group will monitor the human rights situation in Azerbaijan's second largest city, with particular emphasis on conditions in the city's pre-trial detention facility and data on political prisoners. (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan Press Release, 13 August)
ANOTHER MAJOR OPPOSITION FIGURE PLANS TO RUN IN ELECTIONS.
Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly), has registered a citizens' group supporting his possible candidacy in the 15 October ballot from a Minsk constituency, BelaPAN reported on 14 August. Statkevich commented that he sees his participation in the ballot as a bid to protect himself from persecution by the regime, noting that he was handed down in June a two-year prison term for organizing an unauthorized rally. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir has given a similar justification for his participation in the 15 October ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)NEW STATE INFORMATION AGENCY?
President Lukashenka on 14 August conferred with government officials about the creation of a new state information agency and ordered them to prepare "all necessary documents" by October to make a final decision on the agency, Belarusian TV reported. "The main condition is that the agency should be absolutely state-run from the point of view of disseminating its product...and from the viewpoint of control [over its activities]," Lukashenka said. He added that the new agency will not abolish the current state-owned information agency, BelTA. The new agency will be created in cooperation and partnership with Interfax. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES FREEZE TRADE UNION BANK ACCOUNT.
The State Committee for Financial Investigations has frozen the bank account of the administration of Belarus's Trade Union Federation (FTUB), leaving some 120 FTUB employees without their July salaries, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 August. FTUB administration head Anatol Sadouski told RFE/RL that the committee's move is "groundless." President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration last month accused "some trade union leaders" of provoking international economic sanctions against Belarus through international complaints about violations of workers' rights in Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)WIFE OF MISSING ORT CAMERAMAN TOLD TO SIGN SECRECY PROMISE.
After she told journalists that investigators in the Dmitri Zavadsky case had requested her missing husband's blood type and a sample of his hair, Svetlana Zavadskaya was summoned the next day, 10 August, by the transport procuracy. She was told to sign an official statement promising not to divulge any information on the investigation. In response to an 8 August question from BelaPAN on Zavadsky's fate, Belarus Transport Procurator Nikolai Korolyuk said the investigation was proceeding "as usual." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 August)EDITORS INTERROGATED IN KRYCHEV.
The editors of three independent publications, "Krychavske Pravaaboronchi Vesnek," "Nasha Dumka," "Maladezhny Kurier"--each of which appears in 299 copies--were called to the local public prosecutor's office in Krychev. According to "Kantakt-Canter," a Mr. Novikov, an assistant prosecutor, demanded "explanations" on many different questions, particularly the financing of their publications. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 15 August)
HEAD OF MUSLIM CHARITY EXPELLED.
The head of the Bulgarian branch of the Kuwaiti Social Reform Foundation, Ahmad Musa, was expelled from Bulgaria on 9 August for alleged illegal religious activity with Muslim groups. A Ministry of Internal Affairs document, dated 6 June, states that Ahmad Musa, a Jordanian citizen, had "engaged in unregulated religious activity thereby violating national interests." Musa was arrested on 7 August, denied access to lawyers, and expelled two days later. Some 200 Muslims, including the Sofia regional mufti, appeared at Sofia airport to protest the expulsion. In the case of Ahmad Musa, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry has applied Article 47 of the new Law on Foreigners in Bulgaria, which provides that extradition orders motivated by considerations of "presenting a threat to state security" cannot be appealed to a court. (Tolerance Foundation press release, 9 August; MINELRES, 13 August)BULGARIAN MINERS STRIKE FOR BACK WAGES.
Miners at the Bobov Dol coal mine went on strike on 11 August to demand payment of their June and July salaries, Reuters reported. The Bobov Dol mine, 70 kilometers west of Sofia, is one of 10 mines being offered for privatization by the government. The average monthly wage there is the equivalent of $110. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)
MESIC: CROATIA CAN BE EXAMPLE FOR SERBS.
Mesic said that Croatia can help promote democracy in Serbia by treating its own Serbian minority well, the VOA's Croatian Service reported on 10 August. He stressed that if Croatia succeeds, it will have shown people in Serbia that it is not necessary for all Serbs to live in one state, as Serbian nationalists have argued. He also told the VOA that he intends to publish all important transcripts of recorded conversations by the late President Franjo Tudjman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
FEWER CZECHS THINK DEMOCRACY IRREVERSIBLE.
According to an IVVM poll reported by CTK on 11 August, 40 percent of Czechs do not believe that their country could revert to communism, down from 51 percent who held that conviction in 1991. Twenty-one percent said they are now uncertain that democracy will continue to develop in the Czech Republic. Eighteen percent said that they consider political pluralism and free elections to be the best guarantees, while only 7 percent thought that freedom of the press and other liberties are the best guarantors of democratic society. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)CZECH TV OFFICIAL RESIGNS.
Citing disapproval that individuals outside station management have become increasingly influential, Czech TV News Director Jiri Hodac submitted his resignation after four months on the job. ("Mlada fronta Dnes," 1 August)CZECH CULTURE MINISTER WON'T APOLOGIZE OVER JEWISH CEMETERY ARTICLE.
"Those who know me know I am no anti-Semite," Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said in reaction to a letter in which the Central and East European office of the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League requested that he "publicly apologize" for an article published on 14 July in the daily "Pravo," CTK reported on 10 August. The article's title, "When They Were Not Jews," apparently alludes to Chief Rabbi Efraim Sidon, who converted to Judaism (his mother was not Jewish). "I do not know why the Jews of Prague think the remnants of skeletons of their ancestors sold to the Jagellonian dynasty must be subjected to theatrical dances. It is strange that they did not mind [buildings over the cemetery] for 522 years, and they suddenly do so now," Dostal said. A ministry spokeswoman said Dostal "stands by what he wrote." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August)UN EXPERT SAYS CZECH ROMA FACE 'MINI-APARTHEID.'
Marc Bossuyt, rapporteur of the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, says the "segregation" of the Romany community in the Czech Republic amounts to "a mini-apartheid." Speaking in Geneva at the start of the committee's review of the Czech Republic's record on racial discrimination, Bossuyt said Roma continue to face high unemployment and physical threats. The measures undertaken by the government to combat discrimination against the Roma have so far proved to be "insufficient and ineffective." The Czech Republic's representative in Geneva, Miroslav Somol, said the cabinet continues to focus on combating racially motivated crimes, particularly against Roma, the RFE/RL correspondent reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)
FIRST VIRTUAL CRIMINAL CONVICTED IN ESTONIA.
A Tallinn City Court on 8 August convicted a man for promoting anti-social acts on his website, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. The 20-year-old student, Aleksandr Linkov, was forced to pay nearly 4,600 kroons ($265) in fines and restitution for the website "Protiv" ("Against" in Russian), which called for a "struggle" against the Estonian state. Linkov, detained in July, put his site on a server in Russia, thus giving Estonian officials no way of removing it without assistance from the Russian government. Linkov, who repented, was not given a prison sentence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ENDS PAPER SESSIONS.
The session of the Estonian cabinet on 8 August was the first session using a new computerized system that replaces all paper documents. For each cabinet member, a computer terminal replaced stacks of papers usually present at each session. The project also plans to allow ministers abroad to take part in cabinet meetings via video-conferencing equipment by next year. The government's chancellery said that savings from photocopying documents alone should total 3 million kroons ($173,000) annually, BNS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
FOUR BEATEN IN COURTROOM.
Sozar Subeliani, RFE/RL Georgian Service free-lancer, was beaten on 16 August by angry "Orthodox Christians"--members of a congregation of defrocked priest Basil Mkaveishvili--as Subeliani tried to prevent them from expelling a lawyer for Jehovah's Witnesses from the courtroom. An RFE/RL intern in 1996, Subeliani spoke on press liberty in Georgia at the RFE/RL Affiliates' Assembly in June; he was also a leading contender to be named to the post of Georgian Human Rights Ombudsman (Emil Adelkhanov, 16 August). The next day, another RFE/RL Georgian Service free-lancer, David Paichadze, in the courtroom covering proceedings, was also beaten by the same people. The group also set upon Giga Bokeria and Kote Vardzelashvili of the Liberty Institute, a press monitoring group; no serious injuries were reported. (RFE/RL Georgian Service, 17 August)JOURNALIST THREATENED, FIRED.
Georgian Ombudsman Nana Devdariani sent an official letter to Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze requesting an investigation into the police beating of journalist Vasily Silagadze. On 28 July, the Prosecutor's Office began the investigation. That same day, Silagadze received a phone call from, he believes, one of the attackers. "We should have killed you then like a pig," said the caller. He then demanded that Silagadze help stop the police investigation (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 8 August). Appealing for help from his colleagues, Silagadze told an 11 August press conference that he had been fired from his job as a reporter for "Eko daidzhest." Silagadze believes his firing is connected to a recent incident when he was beaten by men angered by his reports on police corruption. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 12 August)HUMAN RIGHTS BULLETIN.
The independent society Human Rights in Georgia and Human Rights Information and Documentation Center are offering free subscriptions to the independent monthly bulletin, "Human Rights in Georgia." The Human Rights in Georgia society has its own correspondents in various parts of Georgia. To subscribe, send an e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (Eldar Zeynalov, 11 August)
PREMIER'S REMARKS ON ROMA DRAW CRITICISM.
Commenting on the case of Romany families from Zamoly currently seeking asylum in France, Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 9 August that "Roma in Hungary should try to learn and work more." Orban also backed the controversial statements made last week by Social and Family Affairs Minister Peter Harrach, who said "the government has done more to help Roma than the Roma have done to help themselves." Magda Kovacs Kosa, Socialist chairwoman of the parliamentary National and Ethnic Minorities Committee, reacted by saying that Orban's remarks served to intensify the existing anti-Roma sentiments in Hungary. Jozsef Krasznai, spokesman of the Zamoly group, said Orban will be entitled to make such comments only when all Romany children are able to go to standard schools and Roma are not discriminated against on the labor market. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
CPJ PROTESTS EFFORTS TO CLOSE PAPERS FOR REPRINTING ARTICLES ON CORRUPTION...
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its outrage over the Kazakh government's apparent efforts to shut down the independent papers "SolDat" and "Vremya Po" for reprinting articles from foreign media about alleged corruption within the government. In June and early July of this year, according to CPJ sources, both papers reprinted stories from international media (the website of "Fortune" magazine and the Spanish daily "Corriere della Serra") alleging that Kazakh officials, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev, had accepted massive bribes from American and Russian businessmen for contracts to reprocess iron and aluminum ore and to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea area. Another Almaty newspaper, the Russian/English-language biweekly "Vremya Po," has come under similar pressure. On 6 July, the newspaper's regular printer, the state-owned company Dauir, refused to continue printing "Vremya Po" allegedly because the newspaper had an unpaid debt. Local sources told CPJ that officials had pressured Dauir to stop printing "Vremya Po" after 3 July, when the paper reprinted articles on this corruption scandal from "Newsweek" and "The Wall Street Journal." Ever since, the paper has only been able to publish on the Internet. (CPJ Press Release, 9 August)...AND ARTICLE ON POSSIBLE NAZARBAEV LINK TO 1986 PROTESTS.
In early July, the Kazakhstan prosecutor's office notified "SolDat" that it was launching an investigation into the newspaper's allegedly defamatory 30 May article, "Decembrists accuse Nazarbaev," reprinted from the Information Analytical Center Eurasia (http://www.eurasia.org.ru). The article held the president responsible for violent ethnic clashes in the former Kazakh capital, Almaty, in December 1986. The next day, Kazakh customs officials seized the newspaper's entire print run at the Russian-Kazakh border and arrested an editor named Bapi accompanying the shipment. The editor was held in custody for a few hours and then released. According to CPJ's local sources, the investigators have frozen the newspaper's bank accounts. As a result, on 10 July, "SolDat"'s entire staff was placed on indefinite unpaid leave. The newspaper's publication is currently suspended. (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 9 August)PRESIDENTIAL INTERNET ADVISER NAMED.
President Nazarbaev has appointed former transport and communications minister Serik Burkitbaev to be presidential adviser with responsibility for the Internet and communications technology, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported on 9 August. Nazarbaev's decree did not cite any reasons for what Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev subsequently described as "a normal rotation" of personnel.
BISHKEK MIGRATION MANAGEMENT CENTER DATABASE.
The Bishkek Migration Management Center (BMMC) is developing systems on migration management in Central Asia. The center is compiling a database of scholars/consultants in the social sciences and humanities who may be invited to conduct research on migration, refugee and asylum seekers within the region. Scholars and consultants who wish to be included are invited to register their interest by sending a resume/curriculum vitae (CV) to Ms. Ismailova Jyldyz at email@example.com (Civil Society International, 11 August)KYRGYZ PRESS TARGETS KULOV TRIAL JUDGE.
In an editorial published in its 10 August edition, the pro-government newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" implied that presiding judge Nurlan Ashymbekov may have been paid a large bribe in hard currency to acquit former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. On 7 August, Ashymbekov announced Kulov's acquittal for lack of evidence on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Minister in 1997-1998. Ramazan Dyryldaev, chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, told RFE/RL that he believes that President Akaev made the decision to acquit Kulov under pressure from the international community, to the displeasure of other senior members of the country's leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR TO APPEAL KULOV'S ACQUITTAL.
Sharapidin Sheishenaliev, who acted as prosecutor at Kulov's trial on charges of abusing his official position while serving as National Security Minister in 1997-1998, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 9 August that he intends to appeal Kulov's acquittal on the grounds that the presiding judge ignored evidence produced by the investigators. SheishenAliyev said he considers it strange that the court acquitted Kulov while handing down sentences of up to seven years' imprisonment on three co-defendants who were his former subordinates at the ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)OSHTV HIGH FREQUENCY BROADCASTS EXTENDED.
A special session of the Kyrgyzstan State Commission on Radio Frequencies extended the high-frequency license of the private Osh television company, OshTV, until the end of the year. The Osh Center for Mass Media considers this decision to be a result of the journalists' protests in which it played a leading part. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 10 August)GOVERNMENT DECREES MONOPOLY ON ARMED CONFLICT REPORTS.
The Kyrgyzstan authorities ruled on 12 August that all news on clashes with insurgents will be distributed through President Askar Akaev's press service, according to http://www.transcaspian.ru/cgi-bin/web.exe/rus/dirl/. Kyrgyzstan military sources claim there were at least 100 armed insurgents in the country. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 14 August)
FOREIGN MINISTER SEES NO ANTI-SEMITIC ACTS.
There are no actual manifestations of anti-Semitism in Latvia and it is not a problem there, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said in an 7 August interview with Latvian state radio, commenting on a much-criticized article in "Kapitals" magazine. The minister said Latvian officials have always condemned anti-Semitism and will continue to do so. Berzins said it is not important how the foreign media react to developments in Latvia but what matters are developments inside the country. (Baltic News Service, 8 August)
LITHUANIAN POLL LEADER ACCUSED OF FASCISM.
Parliament member Rasa Jukneviciene of the ruling Conservatives accused the center-left opposition New Alliance (Social Liberals) of being a "mediator of fascist forces," ELTA reported on 9 August. Jukneviciene called the party a "menace to Lithuania" for bringing in "fascist forces" and urged President Valdas Adamkus to distance himself from the party--one that he is expected to support in the October general elections. She cited a recent rally in the town of Siauliai by the unregistered radical Lithuanian National Social Union in which city mayor and party member Vida Stasiunaite participated, as well as the party's cooperation to elect Vytautas Sustauskas--who is known for radical protests and anti-Semitic statements--as mayor of Kaunas. The New Alliance recently polled at 16.5 percent, more than double any other party.("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
JOURNALIST IN COMA AFTER KNIFE ATTACK.
In a letter to Minister of the Interior Vladimir Turcanu, Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) expressed concern about the 10 August attack on Vadim Iamalieant, a journalist with the private weekly, "Vremia." RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard said, "We ask that you take the necessary measures to ensure that a thorough investigation is launched into this incident." The organization also asked to be kept informed of developments in the investigation. According to RSF information, Iamalieant was attacked with knives by unknown persons during the night of 9 to 10 August. He was found unconscious on a Chisinau street on the morning of 10 August and was admitted that same day to a Chisinau hospital, where he has yet to regain consciousness. An investigation has been launched to determine the motive for the attack. Iamalieant is known for his caricatures of, and critical articles about, Moldovan politicians. (Reporters sans Frontieres Press Release, 11 August)OSCE URGES CONFIDENCE-BUILDING BETWEEN MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER.
The OSCE mission to Moldova released a statement on 11 August saying that Moldova and the breakaway Transdniester region should work on measures to build confidence, Infotag reported. The mission released the statement after the "Peacekeeper" newspaper, which is run by the joint control commission, refused to publish it. "Such an approach," the mission said, "violates the underlying principles of the freedom of speech and to all appearances resembles censorship." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)
POLISH JUDGES UNDER SECRET SERVICE SURVEILLANCE.
Judges from Torun, northern Poland, say they are under surveillance by the State Protection Office (UOP), Polish Television reported on 10 August. According to the accusation, UOP officers have sought information from the judges' neighbors as to whether the judges abuse alcohol, take drugs, or live above their means. The UOP claims that it is operating in line with the law. "The issue is to verify whether a person can have access to classified information, and if that person is a habitual drinker or a drug abuser, or whether he is susceptible to blackmail or pressure," UOP spokeswoman Magdalena Kulczynska said. Poland's ombudsman, Adam Zielinski, however, has doubts that the regulations concerning the protection of the classified information--which allow such action with regard to judges--are constitutional, Polish TV reported.("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August)
NICHOLAS II CANONIZED.
The Russian Orthodox Church's Council of Bishops voted unanimously on 14 August to canonize Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Aleksandra, Crown Prince Aleksei, and Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatyana, Maria, and Anastasia. According to the council's decision, "the last Russian Orthodox monarch and his family tried to carry out the commandments of the Gospels in their lives" and "underwent their incarceration with gentleness, patience and humbleness," Interfax reported. According to the "The Moscow Times," on 12 August, the bishops are also expected to discuss two important documents--the church's "first-ever" social doctrine and a concept for its relations with non-Orthodox Churches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)JOINT STATEMENT WARNS OF NEW AUTHORITARIANISM.
In a statement entitled "Russia at the Crossroads" and carried by Interfax, businessman Boris Berezovsky, author Vasily Aksyonov, theater director Yury Lyubimov, Academician Aleksandr Yakovlev, and many others warned that President Vladimir Putin's approach threatens to wipe out the democratic gains of the last decade and reintroduce an authoritarian regime, DPA reported on 8 August. "The conflict between the authoritarian instinct of any authorities and the democratic hopes of society can lead either to the dismantling of the main achievements of the recent past or to the paralysis of power," the statement said. Its authors called for the establishment of a new social and political movement to protect democracy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August) Times, August 11)APPEAL FAILS TO SWAY POLITICAL ELITE.
Moscow-based politicians have reacted dismissively to the appeal published on 9 August protesting Russia's drift towards authoritarianism that was signed by Boris Berezovskii and former deputy head of the presidential administration Igor Shabdurasulov, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2000). Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov noted that "this is not the first time that Berezovsky is trying to create his own movement." Zyuganov continued, "he wanted to gather a more impressive team but he failed." Berezovsky told reporters the same day that no governors had signed the appeal despite his meetings with them because they "want to see the authorities' reaction to make up their minds how to participate." He added "I can assure you many of them will participate, but it's not clear if it will be in an open or secret fashion." Meanwhile, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called the appeal something "incomprehensible," according to "Izvestiya."("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)PUTIN CALLS FOR FINISHING OFF TERRORISTS WHERE THEY BEGIN...
Following the explosion in the Pushkinskaya metro station on 8 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that law enforcement officials are considering at least two scenarios: that the blast was the "consequence of a rivalry between criminal groups or was a terrorist act." He continued that if one views the bombing as a terrorist act, then "it would be wrong to seek a Chechen or any other [ethnic] connection. One cannot put a stamp on an entire nation because crime has no nationality nor religious affiliation." But Putin also said that Russia has "allowed an enclave of terrorism inside" its borders. He continued that the military campaign in Chechnya will be taken to its completion and that "the terrorists [there] will be finished off in their breeding grounds." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)...AS MOSCOW MAYOR PINS BLAME FOR BLAST ON CHECHNYA.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told NTV on 8 August that he believes that there is "an obvious Chechen connection" to the explosion. He added that "the testimony from several witnesses who were able to answer questions in the hospital shows that it was 100 percent Chechnya." Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also blamed Chechens, addressing a gathering in Moscow and calling for severe punishment of terrorists in the North Caucasus. As of 8 August, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo was more circumspect, saying only that he does not exclude a "Chechen link." "Segodnya" reported on 9 August that one unidentified member of the intelligence services said that one theory is that the explosion was the act of leftist radicals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)PAPER NOTES COURTS NEVER PROVED CHECHEN TIE TO BLASTS.
Remarking that Muscovites are quick to blame Chechens for terrorist bombings in their city, "Kommersant-Vlast" noted that "no court case has established Chechen responsibility for a single bombing in Moscow." The article goes on to point out that terrorist acts, such as the bombing in Pushkin Square, "happen, as a rule, at moments when anti-Chechen hysteria in society is starting to decrease." ("Kommersant-Vlast, 15 August)MUFTI URGES OPEN-ENDED INVESTIGATION.
Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 9 August that all possible causes of the Moscow explosion should be explored. He said it was a mistake to link it to the "Chechen trace only." And he suggested that "When making an assessment of this crime, politicians and public figures should be very cautions so as not to sparkle nationalist feud." To do otherwise, he said, "might trigger an ethnic feud between citizens of Russia, which is inadmissible." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)WEBSITE FOR ILLEGAL MOSCOW DWELLERS HEATS UP AFTER BLAST.
A website devoted to helping Moscow residents wend their way through the city's registration requirements has been averaging 100 hits a day and ranks in the top 30 of Russian Internet sites, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 August. The site http://www.nelegel,ru, appeared last year after apartment bombings in Moscow caused the capital's police to increase its scrutiny of outsiders, particularly those from the Caucasus region. The site provides practical information ranging from how to survive random ID checks to how to buy "black-market" registration. Presidential envoy to the central district, Georgy Poltavchenko, recently hinted that he might challenge the city's registration requirement since the Constitutional Court has already ruled it unconstitutional. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)FSB SAYS BRITISH NGO TRAINED CHECHENS AS TERRORISTS.
In a statement issued in Moscow on 10 August, the Federal Security Service (FSB) accused the British non-profit HALO trust of training Chechen fighters to use explosives and of engaging in espionage activities in Chechnya on behalf of NATO in November 1998. It said Chechen employees of the trust had confessed to training "combat engineers." The statement further claimed that the HALO Trust personnel maintained close contact with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and field commander Ruslan Gelaev. Speaking in London on 10 August, HALO Trust Director Guy Willoughby denied those charges, AP reported. "We are not involved--in any form--in spying. We were running a standard humanitarian mine-clearing operation and the Russian authorities knew about it," the agency quoted him as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August)PUTIN REPORTEDLY INTERVENES OVER SERBIAN ARRESTS.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants the legal status of international organizations in Yugoslavia "defined swiftly" to ensure their workers' immunity from arrest and persecution, London's "The Guardian" reported from Moscow on 11 August. Putin takes a dim view of "international hostage-taking," an unnamed presidential aide added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August)PUTIN MEETS KEY NEWSPAPER EDITORS.
President Vladimir Putin met on 10 August the editors-in-chief of the central Russian newspapers. Along with the editors of "Izvestiya," "Argumenti i Fakty," "Komsomolskaya Pravda," and "Moscow News," the editors of the opposition papers "Sovetskaya Rossiya" and "Zavtra" were present at the meeting. These two newspapers previously wrote in an open letter to the president of discriminating attitude towards "patriotic" journalists. According to "Sovetskaya Rossiya" the publication of this letter was perceived negatively by the liberal papers that tried to influence the president to prevent "editors-patriots" from participating in the Kremlin meeting (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 15 August). Commenting on this "virtually unnoticed" meeting with Putin, "Izvestiya," in an article titled "Which way do you go, Colonel?," noted that "Sovetskaya Rossiya" and "Zavtra" are "the main newspapers of the radical nationalist-communist opposition." ("Izvestiya," 15 August)LOCAL 'KOMSOMOLSKAYA' TOLD TO TOE REPUBLIC LINE.
Early last month, local newspapers more or less independent of the republican authorities wrote about the situation surrounding "Komsomolskaya pravda v Karelii," Petrozavodsk's "Gorod" reported on 5 July. According to those reports, the republican authorities had complained to the Moscow headquarters of "Komsomolskaya pravda" about an article written by journalist Natalya Yermolina expressing a personal, and presumably somewhat critical, view of the celebrations for the Day of the Republic in Karelia. The Moscow management of "Komsomolskaya pravda," apparently not wanting to spoil its relations with Petrozavodsk, ordered its Karelian branch to seek a replacement for Yermolina. Obeying orders from the capital city, the Karelian branch hired one Olga Mimmieva, who until recently had worked for the pro-administration newspaper "Karelia" and at some time or other reportedly studied with none other than Karelian Prime Minister Sergei Katanandov. Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil are major shareholders in "Komsomolskaya pravda." ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 August)"KOMMERSANT DAILY" TO PRINT FIRST URALS EDITION.
After the daily opens its Chelyabinsk plant on 15 August, its readers in the southern Urals will be able for the first time to get the paper on the day it is printed. For now, the paper has a print run of 2,000; it will be printed by the private printer "Paritet." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 10 August)BRYANSK SEMINAR FOR JOURNALISTS.
Organized by the Orlov section of the Russian Union of Journalists, a seminar was held on 9 August for local reporters. Led by the InterRegional Human Rights Center, the seminar theme was the relationship between journalists and human rights activists. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 August)NTV-INTERNET PROJECT AIMS FOR BROADBAND MARKET.
By late 2000, NTV-Internet hopes to attract 7,000 subscribers to its new broadband, high-speed, satellite Internet access service. NTV, formed in early 2000, is part of Memonet, which belongs to Media-MOST. Other high-speed, cable-technology-based Internet access systems are already available in Russia. ("The Moscow Times")KOSTROMA COURT HEARING POSTPONED, HARASSMENT CONTINUES.
The Kostroma Christian Center, the largest local Pentecostal church, faces a trial which may result in the denial of renewed registration. Although the trial--on accusations of using hypnotism in its services--has been postponed until the autumn, harassment continues. Pastor Andrei Danilov told the Keston Institute that the FSB keeps him under constant surveillance; meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has summoned him to a meeting without explanation and the head of the regional tax department has spoken on the radio about its investigation of the church. (Keston Institute Press Release, 11 August)TATAR OPPOSITION FIGURE SEEKS COMMON FRONT WITH AUTHORITIES ON REPUBLIC'S STATUS.
In an interview with TatarInform on 11 August, Rafis Kashapov, who heads the Chally branch of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, argued that the republic's authorities and democratic organizations should combine forces as a first step toward defending the republic's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 August. Then, he said, they should align with other republics in the Volga-Urals region. Kashapov blamed security forces for thwarting earlier attempts to create a united front. "If things continue the way they are going, Tatarstan will become a 'guberniya,' we'll lose our president and constitution. If we remain silent, we'll face baptism, the annihilation of our language, culture, religion, and national traditions," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)GOVERNOR'S GUARDS ROUGH UP ENVIRONMENTAL PROTESTERS.
Environmental activists protesting Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin's decision to use the region as a dumping ground for imported radioactive nuclear waste were harrassed and beaten by Sumin's guards, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 August. The protesters had blocked the driveway to Sumin's office. According to the Moscow-based Ecodefense environmental group, two of the 30 protesters had to seek medical assistance at a local hospital while 10 in all were beaten. Last February, more than 500 local residents demonstrated at the building site of the South Chelyabinsk nuclear power station demanding that work on it be resumed after a 10-year hiatus. A decade ago, a much larger group of protesters had demanded that work on the plant be stopped. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 August)
CAMPAIGN AGAINST FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXPANDED, SAYS DIENSTBIER.
The United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Jiri Dienstbier, said on 9 August that the police campaign against the freedom of expression in Serbia was being expanded. "In addition to 'Danas' being fined for the seventh time under the Public Information Act, the police have closed Belgrade's Center for Cultural Decontamination," said Dienstbier in a written statement. "On the justification of the need for financial audit, police confiscated photographs of artwork, videotapes, and two computers used by artists," said Dienstbier, adding that this was only the most recent attack on artists in Yugoslavia and that satirist Boban Miletic had already been sentenced to prison over a book published in 1997. "What is happening is particularly regrettable because it is happening in a country which, like the capital itself, used to be known for its writers and artists, fruitful media and theaters, films, and festivals," said Dienstbier. (ANEM Report, 10 August)OSCE DECISION ON ELECTION MONITORS DEPENDS ON MEDIA SITUATION.
The media situation in Yugoslavia will be one of the factors in the OSCE decision on whether to send an election monitoring mission for the September elections. The head of the OSCE's elections division, Hrair Ballian, told Beta agency today that the organization was examining the situation with Yugoslav authorities and that he expected Belgrade to give an accurate picture of the state of the media. Ballian also emphasized the significance of the number of observers to be sent, the countries they would come from, and the conditions under which they would work. (ANEM Report, 10 August)STATE TELEVISION SELLS ELECTION CAMPAIGN TIME AT 60 DM PER SECOND.
Serbian state TV will charge 60 German marks for each second of election campaign commercials, the Democratic Party announced on 8 August. The party was told by Radio Television Serbia's advertising department that commercials must comply with the Public Information Act. A statement issued by the Democratic Party accuses the regime of planning to use its information legislation to punish parties which produce ads critical of the authorities. (ANEM Report, 9 August)JOURNALIST ZORAN LUKOVIC ARRESTED.
The Association of Independent Electronic Media protests against the arrest on 16 August of journalist Zoran Lukovic, who has been taken into custody to serve a five-month prison sentence. The sentence was imposed in March 1999 after Lukovic wrote an article linking Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Milovan Bojic with the murder of a surgeon at the Dedinje Cardiovascular Institute. (Bojic, now Serbia's health minister, is director of the institute). According to his wife, Lukovic had twice been granted a deferral of his prison sentence. His last application for a deferral, in January, has not received a response from police. According to available information, it appears that Lukovic is now in the Padinska Skela prison. (ANEM Press Release, 17 August)INTERNATIONAL PEN PRESIDENT DECLINES YUGOSLAV AWARD.
To protest the repression of writers in Serbia, Homero Aridjis, the president of International PEN, is refusing the "Smederevo Golden Key" literary prize at the Smederevo Fall Poetry Festival (Belgrade, October 2000). Aridjis, an internationally acclaimed Mexican poet and a columnist for the daily "Reforma," was invited to come to Smederevo to receive the prestigious poetry award as the focus of the international poetry festival, and to participate in a six-day International Writers' Meeting in Belgrade. (PEN American Center, 8 August)'DANAS' FINED 340,000 DINARS UNDER PUBLIC INFORMATION ACT.
Belgrade daily "Danas" was fined a total of 340,000 dinars under the Public Information Act in a Belgrade court on 10 August. The newspaper's parent company, Dan Graf, was fined 200,000 and the publisher and editor-in-chief 70,000 dinars each. The convictions and sentences were a result of charges by Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj relating to the publication of an allegation by the Democratic Alternative that the Radical Party leader had paid $2 million for the printing of eight million posters. "Things are getting worse as the election date approaches and the question now is whether we will live to see the elections," said a "Danas" editor. (ANEM Report, 10 August)'KIKINDSKE NOVINE' CHIEFS IN COURT.
The editor-in-chief of "Kikindske novine," Zeljko Bodrozic, denied police claims during a court interrogation on 10 August that he had spoken at a protest rally in Novi Sad on 23 May on behalf of Otpor. Bodrozic said that he had spoken at a protest rally against regime repression of the media and fines imposed on "Kikindske novine" under the Public Information Act. (ANEM Report, 11 August)HUNGARIAN REBROADCASTING OF RADIO B2-92 'POLITICAL.'
The rebroadcasting of Radio B2-92 by Radio Tilos in Hungary began without consultation with the Serbian community in Hungary, the Organization for Serbian Autonomy in Hungary, President Pera Lastic, said on 11 August. Lastic, speaking to Beta, said that after the current contract expired on 31 August, Hungarian state radio would take over the Radio B2-92 program. Lastic described the broadcasting of an independent radio program from Yugoslavia in Hungary as a political matter and that under the Hungarian Minorities Act the country is officially involved in providing broadcasts from the mother countries of ethnic minorities, adding that the primary goal was the two countries should have positive relations. ANEM and Radio B2-92 said that they had had no negotiations for the rebroadcast of B2-92 by Hungarian state media and that ANEM and Radio B2-92 would not do anything to damage good relations between the Serbian community and the Hungarian authorities. (ANEM Report, 11 August)CENTER FOR CULTURAL DECONTAMINATION UNSEALED.
The premises of Belgrade's Center for Cultural Decontamination, sealed by financial inspectors on 9 August, were open the next day. The premises had been sealed by a financial inspector, although the center was showing an exhibition of Ukrainian artists. Director Borka Pavicevic and other members of the center's management were not present because they were on holiday. Over the past few months, financial inspectors have audited the work of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the Humanitarian Law Center, and the Forum for Ethnic Relations, but this was the first occasion when NGO offices were sealed. (ANEM Report, 11 August)VELICKOVIC ACQUITTED.
The Krusevac municipal court on 10 August ended the investigation and remand in custody of Vlastimir Velickovic. Velickovic had been in custody since 4 August, accused of having publicly ridiculed the Yugoslav president on 26 July. The District Prosecutor's office informed the court that it would not pursue the criminal prosecution. (ANEM Report, 11 August)MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST KOSOVAR MODERATES.
A bomb went off in the home of moderate Kosovar politician Avni Salihu near Prizren on 9 August, killing his wife and seriously injuring him and his son, dpa reported. This is but the latest in a series of attacks against members of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)HISTORICAL BOSNIAN MOSQUE TO BE REBUILT?
The Islamic Community, which is the principal Muslim religious organization in Bosnia, said in a statement in Sarajevo on 8 August that it is determined to rebuild the 16th-century Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka even without the permission of the Bosnian Serb authorities, Reuters reported. Serbian paramilitaries dynamited the UNESCO-listed structure in 1993. The area surrounding the mosque was bulldozed in 1996. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)
MOVING FROM PROBLEM TO PARTNER.
Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky, a self-described "child of the Hungarian revolution"--born in 1956--along with the Helsinki Final Act, is the highest-ranking ethnic Hungarian in the Slovak government and is responsible for human and minority rights. He suggested that "the biggest problem" Slovakia now faces is the mentality of its people. The Slovak government has also developed special programs for the country's 11 major ethnic minorities, programs that have been praised by the EU and other human rights groups. (RFE/RL News Release, 10 August)MORE SLOVAKS SEEKING ASYLUM IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
The Czech Interior Ministry announced on 11 August that 527 people from Slovakia have applied for asylum in the Czech Republic so far this year, CTK reported. Between 1993 and 1999, only 49 Slovaks had applied for asylum. Most of them cited racial discrimination as the reason for those claims. Up to now, the Czech authorities have never granted asylum to a Slovak citizen. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August)GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHES REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR HOLOCAUST VICTIMS.
The government on 9 August decided that Slovakia will observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust and racial hatred, AP and CTK reported. The day will be marked on 9 September, the date when the country's puppet government in 1941 issued the so-called "Jewish Code" that instituted repressive and discriminatory measures against Jews. Some 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported to concentration camps by the Nazi-allied regime of Jozef Tiso. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)
RFE/RL REPORTER BANNED.
Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, an RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent, was told by Turkmen authorities on 17 August that he must stop reporting for RFE/RL because he is not accredited. While working in Ashgabat as an RFE/RL reporter, Ovezberdiev has been under intense pressure from the Turkmen government; he has been detained numerous times and subjected to other forms of harassment. The ban on Ovezberdiev's reporting leaves the RFE/RL Turkmen Service without an official correspondent inside Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, 17 August)NEW TV CHANNEL DEBUTS, STARRING GUESS WHO?
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov opened a new television channel, "The Turkmenistan Epoch," on 9 August. The channel will broadcast five hours daily, singing the president's praises and, naturally, those of "his" country's achievements under his rule. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 9 August)
DEPUTY PREMIER STRESSES NEED FOR SINGLE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
Mykola Zhulynsky said on 14 August that "Ukrainian Orthodoxy, which is today split into three branches, should be one and unified and should consolidate the Ukrainian people," Interfax reported. He added that the Russian Orthodox Church opposes the creation of a single Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Zhulynsky was commenting on the meeting of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, which condemned the attempts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchiate) and some Ukrainian politicians to create a church independent from Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchiate) as the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine and regards the Kyiv Patriarchiate as "schismatics." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS UKRTELEKOM PRIVATIZATION BILL.
Leonid Kuchma on 8 August signed the long-debated bill on the privatization of Ukraine's telecommunications giant Ukrtelekom, Interfax reported. The parliament approved the bill last month. The bill calls for the government to keep a controlling 50 percent plus one share stake and auction off at least 25 percent of the company's shares. The State Property Fund estimates that the budget may obtain $548 million from Ukrtelekom's privatization. Ukrtelekom's gross revenue in 1998 was 2.4 billion hryvni ($440 million at the current exchange rate). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)
YOUNG EUROPEANS' MINORITY COURSE WEBSITE.
The Minority Course 2000 for 59 young Europeans, representing 32 diverse backgrounds and active in NGOs, ended on July 29th, after discussions in Denmark, Fryslan, and Transylvania on the European minority question and on minorities and the media. Its results will be made available on the Peoplesite website as will news about the Minority Course 2001 in July/August 2001, which the European Commission has granted 55,000 euros to. Visit Peoplesite (http://www.people.hojoster.dk) (MINELRES, 10 August)INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS NETWORK INTERNET FORUM.
The IJNet site provides IJNet Forums a venue for discussion of journalism training and media-related issues, as well as a place for IJNet users to meet and network with their colleagues. (International Journalists' Network, 31 July-4 August)EUROPEAN ROMA RIGHTS CENTER WEBSITE.
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defense for human rights cases. Roma Rights 2/2000, the ERRC quarterly journal is on this website: http://errc.org/rr_nr2_2000/index.shmtl. Data on grant guidelines in Romany is also available. (MINELRES, 14 August)COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT INTERNET DISCUSSION GROUP.
Alternatives Federal Credit Union has an Internet discussion group on Community Development (CD) Banking for CD Credit Unions, CD Banks, CDCs, CD Loan Funds, and non-profits. Discussions include construction, mortgage, and small business lending; job opportunities, conferences, fundraising to microloan funds, peer lending, and local currency. The site is a free resource of the Cornell Community and Rural Development Institute. Subscribe via list moderator Bill Myers at: WMyers@alternatives.org (Civil Society International mailing list, 12 August)
DEMONIZATION IN RUSSIA AND ITS DISCONTENTS
By Paul Goble
The 8 August explosion in Moscow has thrown into high relief the gulf that exists in Russia between those who are prepared to play on prejudices against the Chechens and those who recognize the dangers of demonizing an entire people.
Immediately after the blast, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that there were "many indications" that Chechen rebels were responsible for the bombing. But less than 24 hours later, President Vladimir Putin backed away from such assertions when he noted on national television that "it is very wrong when we brand one nation, because criminals-- terrorists above all--do not have a nation or a belief."
This difference in approach reflects a longstanding difference in the attitudes and calculations of the two men. Since at least October 1993, Luzhkov has played on the prejudices of some Russians against people from the Caucasus.
In the wake of the conflict between then-President Boris Yeltsin and the country's parliament, Luzhkov issued a decree expelling from the Russian capital "people of Caucasian nationality."
He has regularly invoked its provisions in the years since that time, most recently during what was called Operation Whirlwind at the start of Moscow's second campaign in Chechnya. And because his decree was enforced with the assistance of federal authorities, many other localities followed his lead and sought to deflect popular anger by moving against the Chechens.
And Luzhkov's playing to popular prejudice and extremist nationalist attitudes in this case appears to be part and parcel of his larger agenda, which has included demands that Moscow seek the return to Russia of all or part of Crimea from Ukraine.
Whatever his personal views, Putin, by way of contrast, has been much more cautious in this regard. Part of the reason for that appears to lie in his understanding that large-scale attacks on the Chechens as a whole--or on Muslims as a group--could complicate Russia's relationship with the
West and with Muslim countries as well as Moscow's ties with its own Muslim minorities.
When he launched the campaign in Chechnya last year,
Putin initially made some sweeping statements about the
Chechen nation, but he quickly backed away when it was pointed out that such remarks--which suggested that Moscow was interested in exterminating the Chechens as a group�were not playing well either in the Middle East or in Western Europe.
Another reason for Putin's caution appears to be his understanding that a sweeping attack on the Chechens as a whole has the effect of driving those Chechens who might be willing to cooperate with Moscow into the hands of pro independence Chechen groups and thus of complicating his efforts to end what he has called his campaign against terrorism.
Indeed, immediately after this week's explosion, Shamil Beno, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen interim administration representative in the Russian capital, said publicly that comments like those of Luzhkov threaten stability both "in Chechnya and in Moscow itself." Beno's words were echoed by other Chechens, including those opposed to Moscow's rule in that North Caucasian republic.
And yet a third reason for Putin's relatively cautious approach is that many Russians are not persuaded by official charges that the Chechens are responsible for this or earlier terrorist acts in the Russian Federation.
A poll released two weeks ago, for example, found that 50 percent of Russians did not believe government claims that the Chechens were behind the attacks on apartment buildings in Russian cities a year ago. And a survey of more than 5,000 Russians the day after the bombing found that slightly more than one-third of them did not think that the Chechens were to blame for the latest explosion.
These poll results suggest that many Russians are not prepared to accept charges--like those made by Luzhkov--without evidence. Many appear to take this position because they believe that the authorities must offer real evidence first. Others do so because they fear, on the basis of past experience, that sweeping attacks on the Chechens could lead to attacks on other groups or to serve as the justification for a new authoritarianism.
For all these reasons, Putin's reaction to the explosion in Moscow this week is likely to prove more politically prudent than the dramatic comments of Luzhkov, evidence of both the Russian president's pragmatism and the increasing unwillingness of Russian citizens to accept in the absence of clear evidence whatever the authorities say about Chechnya -- or indeed, about anything else.