Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: March 23, 2004

23 March 2004, Volume 5, Number 9
NGOS PROTEST SLOVAK POLICE BRUTALITY IN QUELLING ROMA UNREST... The leaders of 10 countries convened in Bratislava on 19-20 March to discuss NATO and European Union enlargement in the "new Europe," with violent ethnic clashes in the Balkans and Caucasian security topping their agenda.

Meanwhile, activists in Slovakia have been trying to bring attention to racism in their own society, two weeks away from the first round of the presidential election on 3 April and ahead of Slovakia's entry into the European Union on 1 May. "We're full of prejudice. We don't judge people by their deeds, but through the lens of our prejudice," commented Ladislav Durkovic of People Against Racism, a Slovak nongovernmental organization, in a press release on 17 March announcing participation in a European-wide week against racism. Some of Slovakia's estimated 400,000 Roma were involved in violent unrest in recent weeks, particularly in communities with unemployment nearing 90-100 percent, CTK reported 8 March. Facing discrimination at home, Roma have been largely unsuccessful seeking asylum in EU nations. NGOs fear that the plight of Romany migrant laborers and refugees will be indicative of the situation many East Europeans will face in a reunited Europe.

Human-rights groups have alleged that Slovak police used unnecessary force on Roma in the wake of riots in February protesting welfare reductions and a lack of adequate housing and employment. About 80 Roma looted a grocery store in Levoca on 18 February after the announcement was made that there would be cuts in their benefits, and unrest then spread to other communities. In the largest deployment of force since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Interior Minister Vladimir Palko sent over 2,000 policemen to eastern Slovakia to quell streets protests against the welfare cutbacks and the continued looting of food stores, "The Slovak Spectator" reported, citing "Sme" on 25 February. On 23 February, demonstrations by several hundred Roma in Trebisov in the Kosice region turned violent when police broke up the meetings. Protesters threw bottles and stones and damaged several buildings and police cars. Roma demonstrators threatened to block highways unless looters arrested during the disturbances were released from prison, and demanded that authorities withdraw police from the region.

The European parliament's rapporteur for Slovakia, Jan Marinus Wiersma, responded to reports of violence and looting by saying that the poor social situation of the Romany community could not serve as an excuse for breaking the law, TASR reported on 25 February. The Slovak cabinet refused to back down, and said 128 out of about 200 Roma detained and charged during the turmoil would be held in pretrial detention, CTK reported 8 March.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda denied that the cabinet had underestimated the impact of its economic reforms and said unrest was incited by money-lenders who would lose their income with the reduction of social benefits, CTK reported. A Romany woman from Kosice who advocated peaceful protests told Slovak Radio that she opposed looting and that money-lenders were not active in western Slovakia, CTK reported.

Human-rights groups have looked beyond the current crisis to long-simmering problems in Slovakia. The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and its affiliated Slovak Helsinki Committee in Bratislava said in a news conference on 16 March that the new Slovak law on social benefits had a "clearly discriminatory intent" against Roma and had led to the unrest. The activists cited a clause in the legislation that reduced benefits for families after their fourth child, saying it targeted large Romany families. While the Slovak public grumbles that Roma have "too many children," Romany community leaders and their defenders in human-rights groups say Roma face housing and job discrimination. In many countries, distressed communities tend to have larger families due to high infant mortality, emigration, war, and the traditional need for child labor in seasonal work. The rate of infant mortality for Roma in Slovakia is three times the national rate, and life expectancy is 17 years less than the national norm, the U.S. State Department said in its latest human-rights report for Slovakia.

Amnesty International, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) in Budapest, and the Center for Roma Rights Slovakia (CRRS) have filed a petition with the Prosecutor-General's Office against the Slovak police. The rights groups say police inappropriately treated detainees in Trebisov and Eaklov. Local Roma claim to have a videotape showing the police beat demonstrators and used stun guns on them, "The Slovak Spectator" reported on 2 March.

The ERRC and CRRS say that at dawn on 24 February, about 240 police officers raided the Romany community in Trebisov, "The Budapest Sun" reported on 4 March. The activists say police entered Roma's homes without warrants and kicked in doors, beating some with truncheons, and using electric cattle prods. The human-rights groups cited the case of a 16-year-old mentally disabled youth who was beaten and also given shocks with a cattle prod, "The Budapest Sun" reported. The boy was reportedly held for 2 hours and forced to sign a statement he did not understand. Other youths were also reported to have been beaten in the police raids.

Human rights groups in Slovakia and abroad have also called for an impartial investigation into the death of Radoslav Puky, a Rom who was missing after riots in Trebisov and whose body was found in a canal, CTK reported on 8 March. Although officials say he appears to have accidentally drowned, his relatives say they saw him being chased by police before being led away after his capture. Puky's girlfriend claimed police broke into her house and beat Puky before he attempted to flee. Police deny her story and say he was not arrested during the rioting, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 March 2004).

Alexander Patkolo of the Romany Initiative of Slovakia has called for the resignation of Klara Orgovanova, government commissioner for Romany affairs, accusing her of favoritism of some Romany groups and of sowing division in the community, CTK reported 4 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2004). She denied the charges, claiming Patkolo himself was hurting Roma's interests. Patkolo condemned the looting and called on the government to provide compensation for the welfare cuts. He also criticized the use of the army in suppressing unrest, CTK reported. Other groups appear to be attempting to work quietly with officials. International Romany Union and Romany Association leaders met with Orgovanova to draft a program for the better integration of Roma into Slovak society, "RFE/RL Newsline" reported 8 March.

...AS EUROPEAN OFFICIALS ATTEMPT TO COPE WITH ROMA ISSUE. Despite expectations that impending membership in the European Union would improve the lot of Slovakia's Romany population, activists say the Slovak government has failed in the last decade to address civil rights for Roma and to bring about social inclusion. "Discrimination, inequality, and neglect of the Roma question continue, while the authorities concentrate their energies into covering the alleged damage caused by the Roma on Slovakia's image abroad," Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation, said in a statement issued 16 March.

Hundreds of Slovak Roma have been turned back from seeking asylum in Finland in recent weeks, some for the second time, and others after unsuccessfully applying in other EU states. Finnish authorities are finding that desperate would-be refugees are using a living allowance given out in asylum-reception centers, ranging from 35-150 euros, to survive when they are deported back to Slovakia, "Helsingin Sanomat" reported 18 March.

Human-rights activists say Roma have fled to EU countries because Slovak officials practice both a formal and informal form of segregation, by denying residence permits in some areas or ignoring discrimination by landlords. The moves have led to the isolation of Roma in slums and a high unemployment rate. Romany children have been placed in special schools or classes for children with learning disabilities, reports the ERRC. The ERRC has also charged local officials with misusing greatly increased funding for Roma that perpetuates the systematic segregation of school-age Roma children in rural regions, and for failing to account for EU funds for assistance to Romany communities.

European institutions have spent millions of euros trying to rectify the plight of the Roma. Recently Nicolae Gheorghe, the representative on Romany issues for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), took some tough questions about how such funding is spent on programs such as his own in an Internet discussion forum organized by Transitions Online on 26 February. A reader from Bucharest complained that programs for Roma at the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) seem to exist merely "on paper" and funds go to high salaries for staff and consultants and travel around Europe, while poor Romany communities do not feel any immediate impact. "How transparent is ODIHR?" the reader asked.

Gheorghe invited the reader to attend OSCE meetings and hear how the funds were being spent, and also said the OSCE had expressed concern to Slovak authorities and offered assistance to prevent a further crisis. Gheorghe said he made a distinction between looting shops and peaceful protest against human-rights abuses. He characterized the unrest in Slovakia as "rioting" and "a form of urban revolt," although recognizing the appeal of some Roma leaders for nonviolent protest. "I think that states are legitimate to deter elements of instability in their countries," he commented, while offering to assist the Slovak government in tackling the root causes of the conflict.

Among the such causes of discrimination are characterizations of Roma in the media. Gheorghe cited cases where the European Court of Human Rights had addressed racially offensive rhetoric in Slovakia in the past. In a recent broadcast, Slovak television showed about 10 Romany women arrested by police on charges of stealing from a local grocery store, saying the women had "insulted" police and showing one elderly woman who threw a brick at police, CTK reported 8 March. Such coverage has prompted human-rights groups to try to balance this reporting by producing their own tapes showing police brutality.

NGOs tend to be far more harsh than officials in their assessments of how Europe is coping with the Roma issue. Karin Waringo, a freelance reporter and adviser to the European Roma Information Office in Brussels, writing in Transitions Online on 17 March, criticized EU officials for remaining silent during the recent police crackdown on unrest in Slovakia, although she acknowledged that some parliamentary members spoke out. British tabloids have campaigned against Roma, she notes, producing testimony that Roma migrants planned to "jump on the first bus to London to live on the back of British taxpayers."

In February, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that residents of the eight East European nations about to join the EU will only be allowed to remain in Britain if they can support themselves and will not be permitted to go on welfare, reported 23 February, citing the BBC. Britain has faced a large increase in asylum applications and refugee flows in the last decade. More than 1 million foreign workers, 60 percent from outside the current EU, already work in the U.K., according to Migration Information Source, and the immigrant population has doubled despite tighter laws. Finland's plan to return Roma as quickly and as inexpensively as possible to Slovakia, and to reduce daily maintenance for asylum-seekers in its camps, may be setting the tone throughout the EU.

Recently, the South Korean automobile manufacturer Kia announced plans to build a plant in Slovakia, and Hyundai is to follow suit with a $160 million deal to make cars there. NGOs point out that the jobs and business created will benefit mainly western Slovakia, not eastern Slovakia, where Roma are concentrated. Local media have also expressed concern that the Slovak government will have to invest in roads and other infrastructure to support the plants.

KYRGYZSTAN ACTIVISTS COMMEMORATE AKSY TRAGEDY, CALL FOR JUSTICE. In Bishkek, government officials banned demonstrations to mark the second anniversary of the shooting deaths and injuries of demonstrators in Aksy in March 2002, claiming such actions might disrupt preparations for the celebration of Novrouz on 20 March, the newspaper "MSN" reported 16 March. Several political parties, including Asaba and Karan El, unsuccessfully tried to obtain a permit to hold a rally in Old Square in the capital.

The parliamentary legislative assembly had earlier convened a hearing on 10 March and urged President Askar Akayev to take personal charge of the Aksy investigation to ensure that those responsible for the shooting would be brought to justice, "Kyrgyz Weekly" reported in its 7-13 March issue. They set a deadline of six months to respond. At the hearing, Kurmanbek Osmonov, chair of the Supreme Court, reported that on 5 March the court had ruled to accept an appeal to review the case filed on 12 December 2003 by relatives of those killed. Although invited to the hearing, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev did not attend, "Kyrgyz Weekly" reported.

Despite official denial of permission to hold the memorial rally, prominent politicians, parliamentary deputies, human-rights activists and other democracy supporters gathered on 17 March in Bishkek at the monument to Maksim Gorky, "MSN" reported on 18 March. Tolekan Ismailova, director of Civil Society Against Corruption, said the victims had died defending justice and democracy. Speakers called for an impartial investigation to be opened into the incident.

The Aksy shootings came at a time of mounting popular dissatisfaction with the government. On 17 March 2002, hundreds of supporters of opposition parliamentary member Azimbek Beknazarov gathered in the Aksy District of Jalal-Abad province in southern Kyrgyzstan, protesting his imprisonment on what appeared to be political grounds. According to eye-witness reports, police blocked the marchers, then fired on demonstrators who refused to disperse, killing five and wounding at least 13. Government sources said 47 police officers were injured when demonstrators threw stones at them, Human Rights Watch said in a report on the incident that condemned Kyrgyz authorities for using unnecessary force. Local rights activists said the demonstrators were unarmed and produced a police videotape that they said showed the police provoked violence by blocking a peaceful march then shot at unarmed demonstrators.

The Kyrgyz Bureau of Human Rights and Rule of Law as well as other regional NGOs conducted an independent investigation of the incident and concluded that police had provoked the disturbance and fired live rounds at unarmed protesters. Following continued public outcry over the events, the Osh Province Military Court sentenced four local officials to two to three years of imprisonment in December 2002. In May 2003, however, the Military Court of Kyrgyzstan acquitted them all, saying they had acted lawfully, the "Kyrgyz Weekly" reported in its 7-13 March 2004 issue.

The same tendencies to repress dissent that led to the Aksy tragedy appear to remain in place, but local activists at times successfully challenge them in court. At first Aksy officials refused to give a permit for a demonstration in Kerben submitted by Dilbar Momunkulova, chairwoman of a local association called the Movement of Mothers of Killed and Wounded in the Aksy Tragedy, and Zhanysha Kurbanova, leader of the Committee to Defend the Victims in the Aksy Tragedy, reported 17 March. The rejection followed a letter to the local administration in February asking for permission to hold a rally and verbal assurances made to the women leaders on 10 March from the local chief of administration that permission would be granted. The women pressed for a written authorization to hold the rally in Kerben, but obtained no answer. On 16 March, they received a letter from the administration that they could conduct a memorial only in the village of Bospiek, 13 kilometers from Kerben, which would make it difficult for people from various areas to make it to the meeting, human-rights activists reported. Kyrgyz law provides the right to peaceful demonstrations, but authorities often restrict the time and place of such meetings.

The two women leaders then appealed to the Aksy District Court to overturn the administration's decision, characterizing the refusal to grant a permit for a demonstration in Kerben as "unconstitutional." A representative of Kylym Shamy (Light of the Century), a local human-rights group, was allowed to be present at the hearing. The judge first attempted to urge the sides to reach an amicable resolution outside of court, but the plaintiffs were unable to locate the official who had rejected their petition. A witness was found from the administration who confirmed that verbal permission had originally been given to the women, and the judge ultimately ruled that the administration's rejection of the application was unlawful, so they could proceed with the rally.

With less than 24 hours to get organized, the women scrambled to alert supporters and family members of victims who traveled from various parts of the country. At noon, demonstrators gathered on a snowy street and marched to the administration building and then the district court, calling for justice for the victims of the police shooting, reported 18 March, citing Kylym Shamy.

On 17 March, near the village of Bospiek, where a monument to the victims of the Aksy shootings was constructed, about 60 people gathered, including 20 women who were relatives of the victims. Azimbek Beknazarov also attended the ceremony, reported the same day, citing a report from a local nongovernmental group, the Public Fund for International Tolerance. Due to the inclement weather, the demonstrators moved to the local House of Culture to continue the ceremony, but found that the doors were locked. They proceeded to the district court, where they obtained a permit to convene the memorial meeting at the House of Culture. About 250-300 people gathered to hear speeches from Beknazarov, former political prisoner Topchubek Turgunaliev, and local residents, reported 17 March. Official reluctance to deliver justice for the Aksy tragedy has been among the top issues the opposition has sought to resolve with the Kyrgyz government, and the failure of President Akayev to take action has fueled public distrust in the administration.

TURKMENISTAN: DISLOYAL FORMER MUFTI SENTENCED TO LONG PRISON TERM. A former mufti who fell afoul of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's rigid control of religion has now been convicted on treason charges, human-rights groups report. The International League for Human Rights (ILHR) and the Forum 18 News Service reported 17 March that Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah, an ethnic Uzbek and the former chief mufti of Turkmenistan, was sentenced on 2 March to 22 years of imprisonment. The first five years of his term are to be spent in a high-security prison. ILHR said the sentence was not officially announced on state-controlled media and the judge refused to discuss the case further.

The charges are said to be related to Ibadullah's refusal to use the spiritual guidebook known as "Rukhnama" ("Book of the Soul"), devised by Niyazov, who requires that the guide be used and displayed in mosques. At least 95 percent of Turkmenistan's population of 5 million is said to be nominally Muslim, although only a minority regularly attend mosques. Sunni Islam is one of two state-sanctioned religions (the other is Russian Orthodoxy). Both ethnic and religious affiliation are determined by birth under Turkmen law.

The former mufti's arrest also seems to be part of a pattern of the president's effort to remove ethnic Uzbeks from positions of authority. In January 2003, Niyazov replaced Ibadullah as chief mufti with an ethnic Turkmen, Kakagely Vepaev, who was said to be more compliant and willing to use "Rukhnama" in his teachings. On state-controlled television in January 2003, Niyazov choreographed a public humiliation of Ibadullah, reported on 7 January 2003, citing BBC and Turkmen TV. Billed as a "serious and open" televised conversation about religious and social issues, the broadcast culminated in Ibadullah expressing his "endless gratitude" for the president's guidance. "I swear to my children and all my friends to continue to live by the teachings of Rukhnama from now on, too," Ibadullah vowed on TV, although he was known to have refrained from its use. Niyazov then commented during the broadcast that Ibadullah had supposedly "asked to be released from his post" and had suggested his replacement. "Let him carry on working, he is intelligent," Niyazov said magnanimously at the time about Ibadullah, claiming he would be allowed to "work a little bit in parliament on issues of the rule of law." A year later he was in prison.

Niyazov's fears about a radical Islamic insurgency spreading in Turkmenistan from other countries in the region and the Arab world was indicated in his warnings to Vepaev during the broadcast that foreign citizens would come to Turkmenistan to try to buy his influence, and he should not accept their financial support. "They tell you that they will give money to your mosques...Some will turn into imams of mosques trying to build a religious state," he cautioned.

Forum 18 News Service, a Norway-based monitor of religious rights, reported on 8 March that its sources in Turkmenistan had commented that Ibadullah's arrest appeared to be related to his defiance of the president's efforts to control the Muslim community, and was unrelated to the alleged assassination plot against the president in November 2002, as prosecutors originally claimed. Several hundred people have been detained, with at least 60 sentenced to prison terms in connection with the purported coup plot.

In a book allegedly written by former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, himself in the custody of the National Security Ministry, Ibadullah is portrayed as a key conspirator in the plot to overthrow the president, Forum 18 reported on 8 March. According to the book's version of events, Ibadullah was supposedly rallying Muslim clerics and the ethnic Uzbek community in preparation of a coup to install Shikhmuradov. Forum 18 has cautioned that they have been unable to confirm if Shikhmuradov has written while in prison, and cited several sources within Turkmenistan who did not believe the former mufti was involved in the November 2002 events. The Turkmenistan Helsinki Initiative, a group operating outside of Turkmenistan, believes Ibadullah's jailing is part of a new wave of persecution of ethnic Uzbeks, Forum 18 reported. So far Ibadullah is the only imam reported to have been arrested, although other ethnic Uzbek imams have been replaced with ethnic Turkmen, Forum 18 said.

Ibadullah is described by Forum 18 as having a "long track-record of obedience to Soviet authorities" and as formerly loyal to Niyazov in his capacity as the one-time head of the government's Religious Affairs Office and a deputy chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs. The Turkmenistan Helsinki Initiative said that Ibadullah had himself reportedly removed several imams from mosques in the 1990s for not reciting special verses in praise of the president during Friday prayers.

Erika Daily, director of the Open Society Institute's Turkmenistan Project, said the imam's arrest could be seen in the context of an ongoing direct attack on religious freedom, IRIN reported 18 March. For the past year, attacks on religious minorities in Turkmenistan have escalated with fines, harassment, raids on private homes, and jailings, Daily said.

In October, a new law on religion was passed which Western governments and the OSCE say further limits religious practice and education. Although Turkmenistan has included freedom of religious belief in its constitution, the U.S. State Department says in its recently released report for 2003 on human-rights practices worldwide that the government has "severely restricted" religious rights. The new law is providing "a legal basis for the Government's systematic harassment of religious minority groups," the State Department report stated. Under the law, all religious organizations must register and, if they refuse, their activity is deemed a criminal offense. Only groups with 500 members or more can be legalized, but some groups with more than 500 followers who attempt to follow regulations, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, are still banned. Last November, security forces closed down a mosque which refused to place "Rukhnama" on the same stand with the "Koran."

In April 2003, authorities closed an Islamic secondary school operating under the sole remaining theological faculty, again, reportedly in part due to the refusal of school administrators and teachers to promote "Rukhnama," the State Department reported. One Islamic educational institution remains open but is carefully controlled and limited to 15-20 students a year. In 1997, the government began prohibiting mosque-based imams from gathering pupils and formally teaching Islam in madrassahs, the U.S. reported in its International Religious Freedom Report of 2003.

Not all observers have perceived the arrest of Ibadullah as relevant to religious freedom. Vitaliy Ponomarev, head of the Central Asia Program for the Memorial Human Rights Center in Russia, told IRIN that "the main problem is political," and characterized his case as a separate issue from religion. In this interpretation, Ibadullah's refusal to promulgate "Rukhnama" is more about political disloyalty than religious dissent. As he is an ethnic Uzbek, his arrest is also seen within the context of general discrimination against Uzbeks, as ethnic Uzbeks are being replaced with ethnic Turkmen in government posts. Ethnic Turkmen make up about 77 percent of the population of Turkmenistan.

In Uzbekistan, the autocratic President Islam Karimov has ordered the jailing of thousands of devout Muslims characterized by human-rights groups as engaged in peaceful religious dissent against state-sponsored Islam. Human Rights Watch has gathered numerous reports of torture of detainees and harassment of relatives. Western governments have cautioned that the radical group to which many of the arrested persons belong, Hizb-ut Tahir, has been linked to violent incitement in some countries and the movement's efforts to establish a caliphate would entail abridgement of basic human rights, including freedom not to espouse a belief.

Whatever the original motivation, the Turkmen authorities have succeeded in intimidating ethnic Uzbeks as well as religious believers with the arrest of the prominent imam. Loyalty to the president is paramount in all aspects of public life. Imams are also being forced to place the Turkmen flag above mosque entrances, to begin every sermon with praise of "Turkmenbashi" (the "Father of the Turkmens" as the president prefers to be known), and to place the "Rukhnama" in a prominent place and encourage visitors to touch the book reverently, Forum 18 reports. ILHR also notes that in another sign of the government's tightening restrictions, two RFE/RL reporters in Turkmenistan, Rakhim Esenov and Ashyrguly Bayryev, were detained earlier this month and warned to end their cooperation with the radios. Both have been released from jail but are charged with treason and awaiting trial. In a statement circulated 17 March, ILHR said the reporters' arrests and the sentencing of Ibadullah were "politically motivated and part of a campaign to quell legitimate criticism of Niyazov's regime."

Since the launching of the international war on terrorism following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September 2001, authorities in Central Asia and the Caucasus have stepped up their control of Muslim communities, sometimes making brutal attacks and torturing detainees in prison, local and international human-rights groups report. Western officials have repeatedly pleaded with the region's authoritarian rulers to respect human rights, but to little avail. In Azerbaijan, a court ruled to expel the Muslim community from the 1,000-year-old Djuma Mosque in Baku's Old City. Believers were determined to remain at the mosque and face police with flowers, Forum 18 reported 5 March. The planned expulsion was characterized as "a page out of Azerbaijan's communist past," by the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Djuma Mosque's imam, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu Allahverdiev -- arrested last year after a wave of election-related antigovernment unrest -- remains in prison, the investigation apparently languishing. The popular imam was known for his Friday sermons criticizing the government, which attracted many educated people (see "Azerbaijani Authorities Target Religious Community," "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 30 January).

INTERNATIONAL United for Intercultural Action is a network of 560 organizations throughout Europe working against racism and fascism. The organization is leading action campaigns in 40 European countries from 20-28 March against racism:

KYRGYZSTAN The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights reports regularly on cases of violation of civil and political rights and social issues in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia (in Russian and English):

SLOVAKIA The Slovak Helsinki Committee is affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (in Slovak and English):

People Against Racism has been working since 1997 to monitor racist expression in Slovakia and counter it with educational programs in tolerance (in Slovak and English):

TURKMENISTAN Reports from the U.S. State Department and from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on human rights in Turkmenistan: and:

"I, Shikhmuradov Boris Orazovich," "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 15 March 2004. A 62-page text has appeared on a Turkmen opposition website purporting to be an admission of guilt by jailed former Foreign Minister and opposition leader Boris Shikhmuradov. Analysts say it is a fresh contribution to an old genre -- the Stalinist confession:

UKRAINE "2003 Survey Reveals Public Attitudes and Expectations," "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 16 March 2004: