23 November 2000, Volume
ASN ANNUAL WORLD CONVENTION.
The 6th Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of the Nationalities is sponsored by the Harriman Institute and the Watson Institute and will be held on 5-7 April 2001. Deadline for proposals is 7 December. The central theme of the 2001 Convention is "Nation-Making -- Past and Present: Community, Economy and Security," and specifically refers to a core number of panels. As in previous years, proposals are welcome on a wide range of topics related to identity, nationalism, conflict, and nation-building in Central Europe, the Balkans, Russia, Ukraine, Baltics, Caucasus, Central Asia, and adjacent areas. Due to instability in the Caucasus and the Balkans, proposals dealing with these areas are solicited. Sessions and presentations involving films, slides, and videos are encouraged. The ASN website (http://asn.uno.edu) contains a complete list of the 2000 panels, registration forms and other relevant news. For information on panel and paper proposals contact Dominique Arel, ASN convention program chair at email@example.com (MINELRES, 17 November)
OPPOSITION VIOLENCE IN ALBANIA.
The 20 November issue of the Democratic Party's daily "Rilindja Demokratike" quoted party leader Sali Berisha as saying: "I ask you to protest every day so that the government cannot find a minute of peace." The Democratic leadership claims that the governing Socialists stole the local elections in October, despite reports of international monitors to the contrary. On 17 November, a crowd threw fire bombs at the office of Prime Minister Ilir Meta and beat up a U.S. photographer and a diplomat, whom they allegedly mistook for government informers. On 20 November, several hundred Berisha supporters demonstrated outside the parliament and set fire to a Socialist deputy's car, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)
ARMENIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEETS WITH HUNANIAN.
Members of the Armenian presidential human rights commission met on 13 November with Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament one year ago, "Aravot" reported on 15 November. The newspaper quoted commission member Vartan Harutiunian as saying that Hunanian was "calmer than I could imagine." He added that Hunanian "thinks of himself as an ideological fighter who happens to be in jail but is continuing his struggle." Hunanian said at the time of the murders that his purpose was to rid Armenia of officials "who drink the people's blood." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)ARMENIA URGED TO END TORTURE.
Amnesty International on 20 November called on Yerevan to "implement without delay" the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture issued on 17 November. In a press release, the international human rights organization said that it has received credible reports of torture in Armenia and noted that "in many cases," the authorities have been "reluctant" to investigate. Meanwhile, the Free Hayk Mission has called on the Armenian authorities to release political prisoners, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)
OPPOSITION LEADERS SAY AZERBAIJAN IN CRISIS.
As protests continued on 20 November in Sabirabad and Nardaran, opposition leaders, including the Democratic Party's Sardar Jalaloglu and the National Independence Party's Etibar Mamedov, said that Azerbaijan is in crisis. Many of them protested what they said were up to 100 arrests in Sheki over the weekend, while officials rejected that figure. Meanwhile, Popular Front leader Ali Kerimov said that the arrests in Sheki would fail to intimidate the population, Turan reported. And in a conversation with U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson, Mamedov said that he fears both the authorities and the opposition could lose control over the situation, something he said other forces would undoubtedly exploit, the Azerbaijani news service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS BLAST OPPOSITION.
Ali Akhmedov, the executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, said on 20 November that "rallies in Baku and the country's other regions are aimed at destabilizing Azerbaijan and provoking confrontation with the authorities, with foreign support." But he said that "we have enough forces to oppose and to cut short these attempts." Meanwhile, Ali Hasanov, an official in the presidential administration, told Turan that the demonstrations over the weekend highlighted the weakness rather than the strength of the opposition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)
LUKASHENKA'S SECURITY SERVICE ACCUSED OF MURDERING JOURNALIST, OPPOSITIONIST.
A number of Belarusian media outlets have received an e-mail from an address on the yahoo.com free server accusing Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Security Service of killing Russian Public Television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski and opposition politician Viktar Hanchar, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 20 November. The sender, who identified himself as a Belarusian KGB officer, said the KGB arrested nine people, including five officers of the presidential Security Service, who confessed to killing Zavadski and burying him near Minsk. According to the sender, the arrested group was also "directly involved" in killing Hanchar, who disappeared in September 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER THE TARGET OF ARMED ROBBERY.
In a 15 November 2000 letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, WAN and the World Editors Forum (WEF) expressed their serious concern over an armed robbery at the offices of the independent newspaper "Shag." According to reports, on 5 November the Baranovichi offices of "Shag," Belarus' largest independent regional daily, were broken into by armed robbers and all its computers, printers, scanners, and production equipment were stolen. The security guard was beaten, tied up and threatened with a pistol, before the robbers broke into the newspaper's offices, removed its equipment and escaped in a truck. WAN and WEF are concerned that the motive for the attack might have been to silence the newspaper, rather than robbery for financial gain. (World Association of Newspapers, 16 November)LUKASHENKA AGAIN SLAMS OPPOSITION AS 'ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.'
Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 17 November accused the opposition of opposing the planned construction of a second link of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline in Belarus as part of Gazprom's scheme to bypass Ukraine via Poland and Slovakia. Lukashenka said such oppositionists can be called "traitors" and "enemies of the people." "They are so embittered and hateful toward their people and Lukashenka that they are ready to act as with the Czech [grain] credit: let the Belarusian people kick the bucket, along with such a president," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)
BBC SCHOOL IN SARAJEVO PLANS NEW COURSES FOR BROADCAST JOURNALISTS.
The BBC School of Journalism in Sarajevo is offering 10-week courses for radio and television journalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Applications can be found at http://www.bbcschool.sarajevo.btinternet.co.uk/course10w-ad-b.html Interested radio or television journalists can also contact BBC School Administrator Sanela Mesihovic at the school in Sarajevo on telephone/fax (387-33) 260-570 or (387-33) 260-571, or the Soros Media Center in Banja Luka at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (International Journalists' Network, November 20)
YOUTH CENTER FOR OPEN EDUCATION.
The activities of the Youth Center for Open Education from Rousse, Bulgaria are focused mainly on the development of civil society and democracy. The center works on the following programs: Civic Education, Ecological Education, Career Development, and Knowledge of the European Community. The Youth Center for Open Education is looking for partners to join us in the work on these programs. For information contact Nikola Benin, Chairman of Youth Centre for Open Education, at email@example.com (Center for Civil Society International, 14 November)
OSCE CRITICIZES CROATIA FOR SLOW MOVEMENT ON REFUGEE ISSUES.
An OSCE report issued on 15 November criticizes Croatia for failure to make greater progress on minority rights and reforms in the media and judiciary, Reuters reported. Bernard Poncet, head of the OSCE mission in Zagreb, said "despite government policies pointing to the right direction, progress has been modest and uneven." Poncet urged the government to focus on the return of the mostly Serbian refugees and the restitution of property. He said "a serious obstacle remains the passivity or obstructionism of many local authorities who hamper the well-intended government policies." An estimated 270,000 Serbs were displaced from Croatia during fighting in the 1991-95 war of Yugoslav succession. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND EUROPEAN INTEGRATION.
The Conference "Human Rights In Southeastern Europe And The Process Of European Integration," which is organized by the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, takes place in Zagreb on 22 and 23 November 2000. The conference is scheduled to take place just before the 24 November EU Balkan Summit in Zagreb, bringing together representatives of the 15 EU countries along with leaders from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, and Albania. For copies of the conference report, contact firstname.lastname@example.org (International Helsinki Federation, 17 November)
NEW REGIONAL INDEPENDENT TV AND RADIO STATION.
The new independent television and radio station Shankhai has been founded in the Naryn Province. Its founder, Roza Jumaeva, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Naryn on 20 November that the name Shankhai is not related to the Chinese word of Shanghai. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 20 November)
RUSSIAN EXTREMISTS DETAINED AFTER ILLEGAL ENTRY INTO LATVIA.
Latvian police on 15 November detained four members of Russia's National Bolshevik Party after they illegally entered Latvia by jumping off the St. Petersburg-Kaliningrad train, BNS reported. The Latvian National Police Headquarters announced that the Russian extremists were in Latvia "with the purpose of carrying out actions aimed at discrediting the Latvian state." The Russian Federal Security Service had last week warned Latvia about possible provocations by Russian extremists and had assisted the St. Petersburg police in detaining some National Bolsheviks who intended to travel to Latvia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November)RUSSIAN EXTREMISTS SEIZE STEEPLE IN RIGA TO PROTEST EXTREMISTS' ARREST.
After buying tickets to ascend the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church on 17 November, three persons pulled out grenade-like objects and threatened to blow themselves up if four recently detained National Bolsheviks were not released, BNS reported. The three also hung a red cloth from the steeple. After an hour of negotiations and a telephone conversation with the Russian embassy, the three surrendered to the police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)
ORTHODOX CHURCH THREATENS MOLDOVAN LAWMAKERS WITH EXCOMMUNICATION.
The Moldovan Orthodox Church said in a letter to the parliament that any deputy who votes for an abortion bill will be excommunicated, AP reported. The letter said that "legalizing abortion means legalizing the killing of children, and those who decide to end the life of a child...can be qualified as killers." The letter was signed by two top Church officials "with the blessing of [Metropolitan] Vladimir," who heads the Church. The bill is expected to pass. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)
ORTHODOX CLAIM DISCRIMINATION OVER CHURCH BUILDING.
A leader of Poland's Orthodox minority, Archbishop Jeremiasz of Wroclaw-Szczecin, has accused officials in Zgorzelec and Glogow of preventing the construction of Orthodox churches and denying Orthodox Christians the same "rights and opportunities" as Roman Catholics. The director of the Polish government's Confessions Office, Andrzej Czohara, told the Keston Institute that religious freedom was "strongly established" under Poland's constitution and laws. But he pointed out that building permits were a matter for county and town councils. Orthodox parishes have often complained of discrimination in Poland, where Roman Catholics make up around 95 percent of the 39-million population. (Keston News Service, 17 November)
FSB INTERROGATES 'VERSIYA' JOURNALISTS, CONFISCATES COMPUTERS.
Between 10 and 17 November, the Federal Security Service (FSB) questioned the staff of the independent weekly, "Versiya," in an investigation on the "Kursk" disaster, particularly on the source of photos which purportedly show the result of its collision with an American sub. These photos, according to the Glasnost Foundation, have served as the basis for a criminal investigation. Photos later published by "Versiya" are spy satellite photos of British and Norwegian navy bases. On 10 November, FSB employees confiscated the desktop computer of the paper's investigation department editor, Dmitri Filimonov, who was interrogated for four hours about who gave him the photo; the FSB later removed the editor's documents relating to the "Kursk." According to Filimonov, he had received the photo from an "unknown person who gave him a diskette with information in an envelope." (Glasnost Defense Foundation Information Sector, 17 November)ABRAMOVICH IS TOUTED AS REPLACEMENT FOR BEREZOVSKY AT ORT.
"Segodnya," which is owned by Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST Group, reported that rumors about Boris Berezovsky's sale of his share in Russian Public Television (ORT) to former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich are sweeping the State Duma's corridors. The daily admits that there is no proof that such a deal has occurred but goes on to argue at some length that Abramovich is an ideal person to replace Berezovsky as a part-owner of ORT. For one thing, the daily asserts, Abramovich is "virtually the only person" with the financial wherewithal to fund the channel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November)NTV ANCHORMAN SAYS SUMMONS WAS NOT PRESSURE TACTIC.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General on 19 November issued a summons to NTV General Director and anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev to appear for questioning. The announcement of the summons was made soon after the broadcast of the show "Itogi," which Kiselev hosts and which criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for returning to Soviet management techniques, AP reported. Kiselev told reporters on 20 November that his summons to the Office of the Prosecutor-General does not appear to have been politically motivated and was not intended to exert pressure on NTV. After meeting with prosecutors that day, Kiselev said that the conversation had been about how Media-MOST gathered materials three years ago for reports on the privatization of the aluminum industry. Kiselev added that "if the laws in our country are observed, this [interrogation] is not a threat to me or my colleagues. [But] I don't know if the people in the Kremlin who concocted this whole mess will be satisfied with my answers." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21 November)MEDIA-MOST, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT...
Kiselev's summons came two days after Gazprom-Media and Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST, which owns NTV, reached a new agreement settling the latter's debt to the former. The new agreement differs from one signed previously only in that it offers more legal guarantees for Gazprom-Media and the contract is concluded with Media-MOST rather than with Gusinsky himself. Under the agreement, Gazprom-Media receives a blocking stake of 25 percent plus one share of all Media-MOST companies, except for NTV. Another 25 percent of the company is provided as collateral, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Gazprom-Media will also receive another 16 percent stake in NTV, increasing its 30 percent stake to 46 percent. In addition, a 25 percent plus one share in NTV will be sold to a foreign investor. Most of the provisions of the agreement have to be completed by 20 December, according to Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REOPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST GUSINSKII.
Aleksandr Gorbunov, the head of the department for "especially important cases" at the Office of the Prosecutor- General, told Interfax on 17 November that the investigation against Gusinskii on charges of fraud was prematurely ended and the case has been reopened. Last July, Gusinskii left Moscow after prosecutors dropped charges against him in a case involving the privatization of the state run company Russian Video. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)BEREZOVSKY ALLEGEDLY TRYING TO SELL STAKE IN TV-6...
Boris Berezovsky is negotiating with the Kirchgruppe, a major European media holding, over the sale of a large stake in the TV-6 television channel, "Vedomosti" reported on 17 November. TV-6 General-Director Aleksandr Ponomorev told the daily that his channel "is interested in a company that will come to Russia not simply to set up its own subsidiary here but also to develop a specifically Russian channel with foreign capital." Officials from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. were reportedly mulling the option of acquiring a stake in the channel, which they ended up not doing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). Berezovsky owns a 75 percent stake in TV-6, while 15 percent belongs to LUKoil and 10 percent to the Moscow Science and Technology Committee. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)...BUT DENIES SALE OF ORT SHARES.
Berezovsky told NTV on 17 November that he does not intend to sell his shares in Russian Public Television (ORT) to former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, as some news outlets had reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 2000). Also on 17 November, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed that Berezovsky has been sent another summons to appear for questioning in the Aeroflot case on 27 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)BEREZOVSKY TO FACE SLANDER CHARGES?
State Duma Anti- Corruption Commission Chairman (Fatherland-All Russia) Nikolai Kovalev told reporters on 20 November that the commission will look into Boris Berezovsky's recent claims that he transferred money from Aeroflot to Unity and to help fund President Putin's presidential campaign. Kovalev said that he hopes that Berezovskii will offer more concrete details of and documentation substantiating his allegations. He added that if Berezovsky cannot substantiate his accusations, he could face slander charges for tarnishing the image of the president and the country, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT URGES DUE PROCESS FOR RUSSIAN MEDIA MAGNATE.
The U.S. State Department called on Russia to ensure due process and full legal protection for Vladimir Gusinsky, the Russian media magnate, who owns the country's only independent television station, press services reported. A State Department spokesman said Washington would be watching the case as it continues to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin's commitment to press freedom. Critics have charged that the Kremlin is retaliating against Gusinsky, because his NTV television station has been highly critical of President Putin. (International Journalists' Network, 20 November)FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER OF MARI-EL NOW MEDIA MINDER.
Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn nominated a former interior minister, General Vasili Grigoriev, to be deputy prime minister in charge of information security, Regions.Ru reported on 15 November. Grigoryev told a 15 November news conference that "information security in Russia is vulnerable, the West wishes our country to turn into a fuel appendage, and oligarchs control the mass media." He said that "in Chechnya, we have lost the information war. It is these problems which are now urgent for Mari-El and not the presidential election struggle." Grigoriev, who had earlier stood in opposition to Kislitsyn, asserted that the one who has information possesses the world. Grigoriev also said he believes that the government should own the media. ("RFE/RL Volga Region Weekly Review," 17 November)COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL SAYS RIGHTS SITUATION IN CHECHNYA IMPROVING.
In a letter to Vladimir Kalamanov, President Putin's special representative on human rights in Chechnya, Bruno Haller, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said he has evidence that the human rights situation in that North Caucasus republic is improving, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)DID NEW GOVERNOR'S MEN ATTACK RUTSKOI'S FORMER DEPUTY?
The former vice governor of Kursk Oblast, Sergei Maksachev, was hospitalized for injuries he says he sustained during a beating at the Kursk regional administration building on 19 November. Maksachev said he went to that building to submit his resignation; while there, he encountered someone who introduced himself as the new vice governor and who asked Maksachev to disclose details about former Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi's alleged "financial machinations." When Maksachev refused to do so, he was beaten up "for three hours" and subjected to anti-Semitic remarks. Maksachev's father is Jewish. Earlier this month, newly appointed Kursk Governor Aleksandr Mikhailov claimed that he and President Putin were both seeking to rid Russia of Jewish "scum," among which he included Rutskoi (who has a Jewish mother). He later apologized for those remarks (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 22 November 2000, upcoming). Mikhailov denies any knowledge of the alleged 19 November beating. Meanwhile, Putin has asked federal Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to take personal charge of the investigation into Maksachev's claims, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)PUTIN SUGGESTS MIGRATION AS SOLUTION TO POPULATION PROBLEM.
Putin suggested that immigration from the former Soviet republics to Russia might solve the country's demographic problem. He added that the government needs to formulate a migration policy, directing immigrants to specific areas of Russia once priority industries and regions have been determined. Addressing the State Duma the same day, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok noted that the Russian population has declined by 6 million people since 1992 and now totals 145.6 million. He said that according to some forecasts, Russia could move from being the seventh most populated country in the world to the 14th if, as forecast, its population sinks to 138.4 million people by 2015. He added that the probability of accidental death in Russia is 4.5 times higher than in Europe on the whole. Vladimir Volokh, an official at the Ministry for Federation and Nationalities Affairs, told the Duma the same day that Russia currently hosts some 1.2 million illegal immigrants. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)RUSSIAN FIRST LADY PICKS LANGUAGE AS HER ISSUE.
Addressing a panel discussion on culture and education in Novosibirsk on 17 November, Lyudmila Putina, Russia's first lady, said she has committed herself to "supporting and encouraging the Russian language," ITAR-TASS reported. She suggested that it is important for students to be provided with "better and more exciting" Russian-language textbooks. Meanwhile, AP has obtained a copy of the draft of proposed bill on the Russian language from one of its authors, Duma deputy (Unity) Aleksei Alekseev. The bill would mandate the use of Russian words instead of foreign ones and make the use of foul words in public a criminal offense. For example, politicians talking about default on debts would have to say "nevypolnenie obyazetelstv" instead of the more popular and succinct "defolt." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)GRANTS COMPETITION TO SUPPORT CRISIS CENTERS FOR WOMEN IN RUSSIA.
The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) has announced Round III of a Small Grants Competition under the Program to Support Crisis Centers for Women in Russia, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal of the project is to strengthen and provide support to Russian institutions that provide crisis counseling and legal services to victims of domestic violence, that raise awareness of domestic violence issues among specialists and the general public, and that promote alternatives to violence. Activities related to any issues other than domestic violence are not eligible for funding under this program. The deadline for Round III submissions is 15 December. For Round III grant competition applications and additional information on the Program to Support Crisis Centers for Women in Russia, please visit the IREX/Moscow website at http://www.irex.ru/ or the IREX/DC website at http://www.irex.org/ (Center for Civil Society International, 3 November)NEGLECTED CHILDREN PLAGUED BY ALCOHOLISM.
About one-third of neglected children in Russia suffer from alcoholism, an all-Russian conference devoted to the problems of neglected children revealed on 16 November, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Participants in the conference organized by the Russian Red Cross argued that the magnitude of the situation with neglected children is approaching that of a national catastrophe. Specialists noted that Russian authorities are doing little, while foreign charitable organizations are the primary funders of children's orphanages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November)WAGES STILL LAG BEHIND PRE-CRISIS LEVEL.
Real wages in Russia in September were 19 percent lower than in December 1997, Interfax reported on 15 October, citing the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy. According to the center, the share of the population with revenues lower than the survival minimum in Russia equaled 27.6 percent in the second quarter and 33.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. In 1998, this proportion was 24.6 percent on average, and in 1997 it was 21.2 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)U.S. CITIZEN SUES KRASNOYARSK AUTHORITIES FOR RETURN OF ILLEGALLY SEIZED VISA.
A lawyer representing U.S. citizen Albert G. Decie filed on 19 November a suit against the Krasnoyarsk authorities for the return of Mr. Decie's entry-exit visa. Decie's visa was seized on 3 July 2000 by the director of Krasnoyarsk Passport-Visa Services (OVIR) on the basis of a request from the Krasnoyarsk Krai Department for Taxes and Levies. At the same time, the Krai tax department launched a probe into Decie's personal income tax payments. Kirill Polischuk, Decie's Moscow legal counsel, says that "Russian authorities had no right to take Decie's visa before proving that he violated the law." Since 3 July, Decie, who had been working on democratic reform projects in Siberia, has not been able to leave Russia and return to his family in the United States. All the while, Russian authorities have made no charges or demands against him. (CivilSoc Mailing list, 16 November)HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL ATTACKS UES.
Human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov has appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office to "check out the legality of cutting off electricity to citizens who pay for it," Interfax reported on 20 November. In response, UES board member Andrei Trapeznikov said that any "constitutional violations" aren't the fault of UES, but the fault of paying agents, who mediate between various UES subsidiaries and its consumers. UES spokesperson Yury Melikhov said that UES only supplies energy to its subsidiaries in the regions, putting the blame for power cuts on UES's regional subsidiaries, which are responsible for distributing the energy. "We do not take seriously the appeal of Mironov if it does not offer any threat to UES," said the United Financial Group's Mikhail Seleznyov. ("The Moscow Times," 21 November)EUTELSAT SIGNS CONTRACT WITH RUSSIAN COMPANY.
Eutelsat has signed a contract with the Russian Satellite Communications Company for the purchase of 12 transponders on the Express AM1 satellite, which is scheduled to launch in early 2003. (email@example.com, 15 November)
KOSTUNICA MEETS MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica received on 10 November a representative from the international journalism organization Rapporteurs Sans Frontieres. Alexander Levy presented Kostunica with a letter of support and confidence from the president of the organization. Levy told media that Kostunica had said that he was flattered by the organization's trust in his commitment to media freedom. The president also warned that the Yugoslav media had been through very hard times and effort was now needed to reorganize the media sector along democratic and European lines, reports Beta. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)PEJCIC: WE WILL RETURN MONEY SEIZED FROM MEDIA.
The Serbian Ministry of Information is to propose that funds be set aside from next year's Serbian budget in order to return money to those media which suffered heavy fines under the Public Information Act, Co-Minister of Information Bogoljub Pejcic announced on 10 November, Beta reports. At a press conference the previous day, Pejcic said that the adding of around 30 million dinars to the Ministry of Information budget would be proposed, i.e., the exact sum Serbian media had been obliged to pay under the controversial Information Act. "That is justice," concluded Pejcic. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)DEMANDS FOR URGENT APPOINTMENT OF RTS MANAGING BOARD.
The Association of Independent Serbian Journalists has demanded that, regardless of the current governmental crisis, the Ministry of Information urgently appoint the new Radio Television Serbia Managing Board in order to prevent the present illegitimate situation which occurred as a result of the self appointment of the Radio Television Serbia Strike Committee as the managing body, Beta reports today. In its statement, the Association also estimated that the board had preserved the state television property as a communal service belonging to all Serbian citizens and had begun programming that pubicizes the malversations of the former management. However, the Association stressed that the explanation of the non functioning of the Serbian transitional government as the only reason for the self-appointment of the Strike Committee as the Radio Television Serbia Managing Board was not acceptable. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)RADIO CONTACT IN BELGRADE.
In cooperation with other Contact Net members, Pristina's Radio Contact founded Radio Contact in Belgrade on 13 November with the aim of establishing a "daily informative Belgrade--Kosovska Mitrovica--Pristina bridge." The radio will rebroadcast radio B92 services, but will also have daily specials dedicated to displaced persons from Kosova, refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as socially endangered groups and victims of civil war. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)POPOVIC SAYS MEDIA POISONING MONTENEGRO-SERBIA RELATIONS.
Media in Montenegro are poisoning relations between Serbia and Montenegro, creating an unnatural atmosphere of blatant anti-Serb intolerance, the vice president of Montenegro's National Party, Predrag Popovic, said on 14 November. There was a similar anti-Montenegrin mood in Serbia, said Popovic, adding that he believed this was a result of the Milosevic's regime's campaign against the southern republic. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SCHEDULES DEBATE ON INFORMATION ACT.
The Federal Constitutional Court has scheduled a public debate aimed at estimating the constitutionality of the Serbian Public Information Act for 24 November. Around 100 experts in the field, including representatives from the Association of Independent Serbian Journalists, are to participate in the public debate. Under the republican Information Act independent media in Serbia paid fines amounting to over 2.5 million German marks. After the recent political changes in Yugoslavia, independent media stopped the action "Stop the violence" and launched a new campaign to demand compensation for all fines paid under the Information Act. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)COMPENSATION FOR PAST FINES?
The Association of Independent Serbian Journalists and those media fined under the Public Information Act demanded on 16 November compensation amounting to 2.5 million German marks, reports FoNet. In its statement, the association reminded the public that two years ago independent media directors and editors-in-chief launched an initiative in the Federal Constitutional Court for the revision of some regulations of the Public Information Act. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 11-17 November)
POLL SAYS SLOVAKS CONCERNED ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT.
A poll conducted by the MVK polling agency in late October and early November found that 39.9 percent of Slovaks consider unemployment and the lack of job opportunities to be the most serious social problem in the country, TASR reported on 15 November. The other pressing social problems listed by respondents include the increasing gap between the rich and the poor (33.2 percent), the high cost of living (26.9 percent), the high crime rate (25.3 percent), and poor health care (18.6 percent). Only 0.8 percent of respondents pointed to the situation of national minorities in Slovakia as a social problem. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
TAJIKS ARREST ISLAMISTS, TALIBAN RECRUITER.
The Tajik Interior Ministry told Asia-Plus on 17 November that it has arrested nine activists of the banned Islamist party Hizb-e Tahrir who had been distributing leaflets calling for the overthrow of the country's government. Meanwhile, police officials added that they have arrested a recruiter for the Afghanistan-based Taliban movement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)
DID UKRAINIAN POLICE FIND BODY OF MISSING JOURNALIST?
The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 16 November that police have apparently found the body of "Ukrayinska pravda" chief editor Heorhiy Gongadze, who disappeared in September. The newsletter's journalists have visited a morgue in Tarashcha, Kyiv Oblast, where they were shown a decapitated body that was found near that city earlier this month. The journalists could not identify the body because it was too decomposed but said that judging by the description the journalists received from local forensic experts and by the bracelet, ring, and talisman found, the body is that of Gongadze. The body mysteriously disappeared from the morgue after the journalists' visit. Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha told Interfax on 16 November that the body is now being examined by forensic experts in Kyiv. Dzhyha added that the experts have not yet established the body's identity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
UZBEKSTAN COURT SENTENCES OPPOSITION IN ABSENTIA.
Human Rights Watch on 17 November condemned the decision by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan to convict 12 men, nine of whom were tried in absentia, on terrorism and other anti-state charges. The two men sentenced to death were Tohir Yuldash, spokesman for the so-called Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and Jumaboi Namangani, the militant group's field commander, neither of whom was present at the trial. Three accused militants present in the dock received sentences ranging from 12 to 16 years. The government of Uzbekistan charged that IMU fighters--who this summer fought in pitched battles against soldiers from the Uzbek and Kyrgyz military--were in fact terrorists responsible for the bombing in Tashkent in 1999. The court sentenced exiled opposition leader Muhammad Solih and nine other defendants to lengthy terms on charges of terrorism and other crimes, and sentenced two accused militants to death. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 17 November)
JOURNALIST'S ALLEGED ASSASSINS ON TRIAL IN MOSCOW
By Sophie Lambroschini
Earlier this week, a military court in Moscow's decrepit 19th-century Matrosskaya Tishina prison began the reading of an 800-page indictment of six men accused of murdering journalist Dmitrii Kholodov in October 1994. The full reading of the charges against five former paratroopers and a paratrooper-turned-businessman could take up to 10 days.
Kholodov's murder triggered outrage in the capital. It was widely perceived as post-communist Russia's first contract killing against a journalist because of his investigative work. Kholodov was killed by a booby-trapped briefcase that he had been told contained important documents.
At the time, the 27-year-old reporter for the feisty "Moskovskii komsomolets" was investigating cases of graft in the Western Army Group, which had just pulled out of eastern Germany. Kholodov had accused the Western Group of setting up what he called a "mafia" to illegally sell planes, helicopters, and thousands of tanks. The then defense minister, Pavel Grachev, was often the direct or indirect target of accusations or allegations of corruption by Kholodov and other journalists.
The assassination occurred only three years after the Soviet era, and censorship appeared to have ended. Its effect--and perhaps its intention--was to frighten journalists away from sensitive subjects. Vladimir Kosarev, head of the Defense Ministry's information department at the time, told RFE/RL: 'They scared them, they really did scare them. I know journalists who really became more careful after that. [Military affairs reporter] Aleksandr Zhilin, who was working then for 'Moskovskie novosti,' kept out of sight for several months, and he wasn't the shy sort. It's certainly possible that this reaction--the fright--was what was intended, but I don't have the evidence to confirm that."
In its indictment, the prosecution rules out any contract killing. It accuses the six former paratroopers of having concocted the briefcase murder on their own initiative, simply to please the Russian Defense Ministry by ridding it of a journalist seen as meddling in military affairs.
The six defendants, who have already spent up to two years in jail, all pleaded innocent to the charges. They say the case against them is based mainly on testimony that has been retracted since it was first given.
Last week, when the trial formally opened, the daily "Vremya novostei" tried to give the prosecution's view of the murder. According to the newspaper, the prosecution believes the idea for the assassination came from Colonel Pavel Popovskikh, former head of the paratroopers' intelligence department. In 1994, Popovskikh was often present at meetings presided over by Grachev where the minister lashed out at journalists' criticisms of the army.
According to "Vremya novostei," the prosecution contends that in order to ingratiate himself with Grachev, Popovskikh decided to teach journalists a lesson. The daily says Popovskikh asked two paratroopers from an engineering regiment, Aleksandr Soroka and Vladimir Morozov, to make the bomb and booby-trap a briefcase, and the two involved four other alleged accomplices.
Eventually, Kholodov was told in a mysterious phone call that he would find documents relevant to his investigation in a briefcase left in a Moscow train station locker. Kholodov went to the station, picked up the briefcase, took it back to his office, and opened it. He was killed almost instantly.
The defense, however, says that this entire scenario is based largely on the testimony of a single soldier who was serving in the same regiment as the alleged bomb-makers and has since retracted his accusations. The defense also notes that one of the indicted former paratroopers, who first admitted his guilt, has since also retracted his testimony.
At the time of the murder, Kholodov was due to speak out at a State Duma hearing on corruption in the army. In addition, the dismissal of a Western Group general some weeks after Kholodov's murder implicated the Defense Ministry even further. Deputy Defense Minister Matvei Burlakov--who commanded the Western Group until it left Berlin--was fired by former President Boris Yeltsin because of what was called "on-going investigations" and to "save the honor of the armed forces." Burlakov was regarded as a close associate of Grachev.
Former Defense Ministry information chief Kosarev confirms that Grachev was furious at the time about articles that had raised suspicions of corruption about himself or the Western Group. "Indeed, [Kholodov's articles] irritated the heads of the Defense Ministry at the time--I mean, above all, Minister Pavel Grachev. Sometimes they enraged him to the point where he screamed. He would get indignant, saying, 'That little kid allows himself to cover me in mud.' Not only that, at ministry meetings, I would be rebuked for not stopping this flow of criticism."
Over the years, many journalists have expressed their concern that Kholodov's murder will never be solved. Some fear the ex-paratroopers may be only scapegoats in a case that involves individuals much higher up the military ladder. Reporting on the trial earlier this week, the private NTV station commented that "one accused is missing--the seventh one, the one who ordered the murder."