4 January 2002, Volume 3, Number 1
ARMENIADASHNAKTSUTIUN CONCERNED OVER CAFE DEATH. Gegham Manukian, a spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) described the investigation into the death on 25 September in a Yerevan cafe of HHD member Poghos Poghosian as "flawed," but said his party does not intend to "politicize" the affair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 25 December. He noted that only one member of President Kocharian's bodyguard has been formally charged with the killing. Observers have cast doubts on the investigator's claims that Poghosian died of head injuries incurred as a result of a fall. Several members of the presidential guard beat Poghosian for allegedly insulting Kocharian. Manukian said the trial of bodyguard Aghamal Harutiunian will show "whether all Armenians are equal before the law or whether some persons are privileged." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
AZERBAIJANPARLIAMENT RAISES AGE LIMIT FOR MILITARY SERVICE... Parliament approved on 25 December by a vote of 77 for and 18 against, with two abstentions, a proposal by President Heidar Aliyev to raise from 27 to 35 the age until which men are eligible for military service, Turan reported. It also restricted the category of persons eligible for deferment of their military service. Parliament deputy speaker Ziyafet Askerov, who heads the parliament's Defense and Security Commission, stressed that military service is the "sacred duty" of every male citizen. But the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" on 26 December quoted former Defense Minister Tadjeddin Mehtiev as saying that there is no pressing military need to raise the age limit for military service. He described the parliament's decision as heralding "the politicization of the army." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
OPPOSITION STAGES NEW DEMONSTRATION... Between 5,000-7,000 representatives of opposition parties aligned in the National Resistance Movement took part in a sanctioned demonstration in Baku on 21 December, Turan and Reuters reported. Participants criticized what they termed the international community's use of double standards with regard to the Karabakh conflict, and the Azerbaijani leadership's failure to secure an acceptable solution to the conflict. They demanded that President Aliyev should resign, as he has failed to fulfill his constitutional obligation to restore Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
...DISCUSSES CLOSER COOPERATION. Responding to an initiative launched in mid-October by opposition Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar, representatives of some 20 opposition parties met at the Baku Press Club on 26 December to discuss possible approaches to resolving the problems facing the country and how to ensure that the next elections are free and fair, Turan reported. They considered the prospects for closer cooperation and discussed, but failed to adopt, a draft appeal to the Azerbaijani people, a cooperation agreement, and a statement on the political situation in the country. The independent newspapers "Ekho," "Zerkalo," and "Azadlyg" noted, however, on 27 December that neither the influential Azerbaijan National Independence Party nor the reformist wing of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party sent representatives to the meeting. Those two parties concluded their own cooperation agreement last month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
BELARUSPRESIDENT LAUDS WORK OF THE KGB. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka marked the Day of Workers of the State Security Bodies on 20 December by awarding a "heraldic sign" and a banner to the country's KGB at a solemn gathering of the KGB top leadership at the Feliks Dzerzhinskii Club in Minsk, Belarusian Television reported. "One cannot assess today's work of the Belarusian KGB through a prism of the tragic past. The state security bodies have undergone a radical change and now act strictly within the framework of law.... The current KGB generation has actually concluded an immense [and] noble task of rehabilitating innocent victims [of the former Soviet KGB and its predecessors]," Lukashenka noted. He said the KGB's priority task in present-day Belarus is combating corruption and organized crime. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
TWO SAY THEY WERE TORTURED TO INCRIMINATE FORMER PREMIER'S SON. On 19 December, a district court in Minsk began the trial of Alyaksandr Chyhir, the son of prominent opposition figure and former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir, on charges of car theft, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Alyaksandr Chyhir as well as Anton Yashyn and Dzmitry Yatskevich are charged with stealing eight cars and selling parts from them. If found guilty, they face from seven to 17 years imprisonment. Chyhir, who has been in custody since 10 February, denies any wrongdoing and accuses the authorities of trumping up the charge in revenge for his father's political activities. Meanwhile, Yashyn and Yatskevich told the court that police officers beat and tortured them in an effort to get testimony incriminating Chyhir. The police officers denied in court having used any rough methods against Yashyn and Yatskevich, but medical experts confirmed that both defendants have numerous bruises on their bodies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
FOUR WOMEN PUNISHED FOR PICKETING LUKASHENKA'S RESIDENCE. Two women have been jailed for 10 days and two others fined some $950 each for an attempt to picket the residence of Belarusian President Lukashenka on 19 December, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The four women came to Minsk from Babruysk (Mahileu Oblast) to let the president know about their grievances: they were fired from work after they protested what they say was the local authorities' unfair distribution of housing. The authorities promised to help the women after they staged a 10-day hunger strike on Babruysk's central square in August, but subsequently forgot about their promise. "Now it is ridiculous, but I believed Lukashenka, I hoped that he would meet us. Now I am convinced that it is impossible to reach him. Only bandits could treat people the way authorities treated us today," one woman told Belapan after the trial, which lasted for 20 minutes and was conducted without defense counsel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
YOUTH GROUP ACCUSES KGB OF DRIVING MEMBER TO SUICIDE. Seventeen members of the opposition youth group Zubr (Bison) picketed the headquarters of the Belarusian KGB in Minsk on 27 December, accusing the agency of being behind a Zubr member's suicide, Belapan reported. Andrei Zaitsev, 24, hung himself on 20 December, leaving a note to the effect that the KGB had tried to recruit him as an informer. Zaitsev was recently sentenced to three months in jail on a charge of raping a female minor, and the KGB allegedly offered him freedom in exchange for his cooperation. "Using threats and blackmail, [the KGB] tried to make the young man betray his friends," a Zubr press release said. According to Zubr, the charge against Zaitsev was in conflict with medical evidence. The activists demanded an official investigation, while the KGB denied sending an agent to recruit Zaitsev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
DEPARTING OSCE HEAD NOTES IMPROVEMENT, LISTS REMAINING PROBLEMS. Hans Georg Wieck, whose four years as head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus comes to an end on 31 December, told AP on 21 December that he sees some changes for the better in the human rights situation in Belarus. "Society recognizes the necessity of forming a democratic alternative," he said. "Independent [electoral] observers at the lower level have formed a network, and a consultative council of opposition parties has been created that can act as a single political front." But Wieck then went on to list the many improvements remaining to be made: "Meaningful functions of parliament, avoiding the monopoly of state TV, radio, and other media. Respect of individual human rights, nondiscrimination toward political opponents. And, of course, a market economy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
BOSNIASERB INDICTEES EXPELLED FROM NATIONALIST PARTY. Under strong pressure from the international community to disassociate their party from war criminals, 300 delegates to a convention of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) voted in Banja Luka on 24 December to expel any member who has been indicted for war crimes by The Hague-based tribunal, Reuters reported. Chairman Dragan Kalinic said: "The Republika Srpska must shake off its burden as an apartheid state and strive to offer other peoples and national minorities as much freedom as we demand for ourselves." He added that the vote to expel veteran party leaders Radovan Karadzic, General Ratko Mladic, and others shows that the SDS is serious about working "on restoring confidence and promoting reconciliation together with the other two peoples" of Bosnia, the Muslims and the Croats. But in Sarajevo, Senad Avdic, who is editor of the weekly "Slobodna Bosna," said the changes are only cosmetic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
BOSNIAN MUSLIM POLITICIAN SLAMS NATO, SERBS OVER WAR CRIMINALS... Sejfudin Tokic, the speaker of the House of Peoples of Bosnia's parliament, said in Sarajevo on 26 December that NATO and the Bosnian Serb authorities are responsible for the fact that Karadzic, Mladic, and more than two dozen additional indictees remain free, AP reported from Sarajevo. Tokic said: "I think that the international institutions charged with the implementation of the peace agreement are fully responsible for this situation, and by this I mean SFOR." Referring to the Bosnian Serb authorities, Tokic added that "the fact that they are not able to hand over those publicly indicted" indicates that they do not control all of their own territory. Tokic added that it is well known that Mladic is in Yugoslavia and Karadzic in the Republika Srpska, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
BULGARIAMICRO-CREDITING SCHEME TO BEGIN. Starting on 21 December, clients willing to borrow from the Guarantee Fund for Micro-Crediting can submit loan applications, Social Minister Lidia Shuleva announced. The credits range from 5,000 to 15,000 leva ($2,300-$6,900), BTA reported. The credit program will be available to existing or start- up small and medium-sized enterprises. The credits will be disbursed by the United Bulgarian Bank, Eurobank, and the Post Bank. A large-scale interest-free credit program was one of incumbent Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's electoral promises. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
CROATIACOURT DROPS CHARGES AGAINST SERB -- AND CROATS. A Zadar county court dropped war crimes charges against Momcilo Draca on 20 December and ordered him released after none of the 10 witnesses could identify him, dpa reported. He was extradited from Hungary in November in conjunction with charges stemming from the execution of 43 Croatian civilians near Zadar in 1991. Draca said he has no complaints about the functioning of the Croatian judicial system. In related news, the county court in Bjelovar dismissed war crimes charges against four Croatian policemen for lack of evidence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
CZECH REPUBLICPRESIDENT SIGNS JUDICIAL BILL INTO LAW, BUT WILL CHALLENGE SOME PROVISIONS. Vaclav Havel signed a bill on 19 December aimed at improving and accelerating court proceedings in the Czech Republic, but a spokesman said Havel will appeal to the Constitutional Court over clauses that could compromise judges' independence, CTK reported. The president said in a letter to parliamentary Chairman Vaclav Klaus that he "expected the law to more widely and consistently separate judicial and executive power, as provided for in the constitution," the agency added. Havel reportedly criticized two aspects in particular: one that allows judges to simultaneously work in public administration, and another giving the justice minister considerable authority over assessments related to judges' performance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
GEORGIAPRESIDENT, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAY APPOINTMENT OF PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S HUSBAND IS LEGAL. President Shevardnadze told journalists on 24 December that the appointment of Badri Bitsadze, the husband of parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, as deputy prosecutor-general does not constitute a violation of the law, Caucasus Press reported. Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze told a session of the parliament's bureau the same day that he is empowered by the Georgian Constitution to select his own deputies, and that his choice of Bitsadze was motivated solely by the latter's professional qualities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
AZERBAIJANI COMMUNITY PROTESTS DISCRIMINATION OVER PARLIAMENT MANDATE. A political party representing Georgia's estimated 250,000 Azerbaijani minority has written to President Shevardnadze to protest the decision taken by the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) not to allocate to Azerbaijani Mikhail Makhmudov the deputy's mandate recently surrendered by David Maghradze. Makhmudov was the next after Maghradze on the list of SMK candidates elected under the proportional system in the November 1999 elections. But Maghradze's mandate has gone to a Georgian who is next on the list after Makhmudov. The Azerbaijanis warned Shevardnadze, who resigned in September as SMK chairman, that they will resort to mass protests if their constitutional rights are not respected. Shevardnadze professed to be unaware of the controversy, according to "Svobodnata Gruziya" on 19 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
DISPLACED PERSONS, INVALIDS STAGE PROTESTS. Displaced persons from Abkhazia attacked the local Post Bank in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 21 December, breaking down doors and smashing windows, Caucasus Press reported. They had begun a protest two days earlier to demand payments of their allowances for the past six months, and to protest a ruling whereby as of 1 January 2002 they will be able to receive their allowances at the local Post Bank office only if they produce new Georgian passports. They said they cannot afford to replace their old Soviet-era passports with new ones. Also on 19 December, the league of invalids and war veterans held a protest in Tbilisi to demand that their allowances be raised. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
HUNGARYFIDESZ SIGNS ELECTION AGREEMENT WITH ROMANY ORGANIZATION. The major coalition party FIDESZ and the Romany association Lungo Drom signed an election cooperation pact on 21 December under which the senior governing party will provide three seats to Romany candidates on the FIDESZ-Democratic Forum national list and seven seats on regional lists. Lungo Drom President Florian Farkas described the cooperation alliance as "historic," Hungarian media reported. However, Jeno Zsigo, the president of another Romany organization, the Roma Parliament, said the agreement means "FIDESZ has declared war on Roma," as the coalition pact will politically divide Hungary's Roma. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
KAZAKHSTANPARLIAMENT DEPUTY STRIPPED OF MANDATE. Deputies to the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's bicameral parliament) voted on 19 December to strip their fellow deputy Bolot Abilov of his mandate, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. One of the cofounders of the new Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement, Abilov announced his decision last month to quit the pro-presidential OTAN party from whose ranks he was elected to parliament. He was subsequently expelled from that party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
KOSOVAMUSLIM PARTY TO JOIN COALITION? Ibrahim Rugova, who heads the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), has made an unspecified offer of a political alliance to the Vatan coalition, which represents Kosova's Bosnian Muslim minority, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 19 December. Rugova's party holds 47 seats in the 120-seat legislature, while Vatan has four. It nonetheless remains difficult to see how Rugova can put together a working majority without going into a coalition with either or both of the other two large Albanian parties or with the Serbian Povratak coalition. Rugova recently ruled out the Povratak option. Previous attempts to form coalitions with the other Albanian parties failed because of a lack of agreement on power sharing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
KYRGYZSTANOPPOSITION LEADER ON TRIAL AGAIN. The trial on charges of embezzlement of former Vice President Feliks Kulov and former Bishkek municipal official Aleksandr Gasanov opened in Bishkek on 25 December, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov, the chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys Party, was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abusing his official position while serving in 1997-1998 as national security minister. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
RUSSIAN FINALLY BECOMES AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev on 24 December signed into law the amendments to the country's constitution approved by both chambers of parliament earlier this year that designate Russian as an official language, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In an official message of thanks, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed the hope that the move will benefit Kyrgyzstan's dwindling Russian minority, according to ITAR-TASS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
LATVIAU.S. PEACE CORPS TO CLOSE ITS PROGRAMS IN SEPTEMBER. The U.S. Peace Corps will end its programs in Latvia in September 2002 after 10 years of operation, LETA reported on 19 December. Since 1992, 198 volunteers have served in Latvia, focusing on teaching English as a foreign language and assisting small businesses and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in improving their management techniques. By the time is finished its operations, the organization's volunteers will have taught English to nearly 22,000 students, and to have helped some 5,500 business people and NGO officers to develop their financial and organizational management skills. The volunteers served for two years or more in 67 towns and villages throughout the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
MACEDONIASTILL NO BREAKTHROUGH ON AUTONOMY LAW. EU envoy Alain Leroy failed in attempts on 25 December to persuade Macedonian and ethnic Albanian politicians to accept compromises aimed at launching greater home rule for ethnic Albanian communities, dpa reported from Skopje. No international donors conference is likely to take place before the local autonomy legislation is in place. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON FUTURE. Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 21 December that "we can conclude that the climax of the crises is behind us," AP reported. He added that "we still need to re-establish law and order in all of our territory, to bring back home the displaced." Trajkovski thanked the U.S., EU, Russia, and Ukraine for their help during the past year. He called for "understanding and confidence" between the ethnic groups, adding: "We have to learn to forgive and to strive to live together." He noted that Macedonia's "long-term strategic goal remains the same: full membership for Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family, in the European Union, and in NATO as the safest way out of instability and toward prosperity." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
MOLDOVACOMMUNISTS INITIATE INTRODUCTION OF RUSSIAN AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc on 27 December announced that his party, together with some deputies from the Braghis Alliance, have put forward an initiative at the Constitutional Court to introduce Russian as the country's second official language, Flux reported. Stepaniuc said Moldova is a "polyethnic state," and there is a need to introduce a second official language understood by all ethnic minorities. He added that Russian will not have "identical" status with the Moldovan language, but all civil servants will have to speak both languages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
POLANDUNICEF COMMITTEE ACCUSED OF MISMANAGEMENT. Officials from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Geneva withdrew support on 19 December for the Polish arm of the organization, accusing representatives in Warsaw of gross mismanagement, dpa reported. Lucjan Wolniewicz, the UNICEF head in Poland, is accused of racking up a huge debt, mismanaging charitable contributions, and abusing the UNICEF structures for private purposes. UNICEF European Regional Director Stephen Woodhouse said the charge of mismanagement means that less than 75 percent of charitable contributions made in Poland were used to help children. Moreover, according to UNICEF officials in Geneva, the Polish committee failed to deliver some $1 million in funds to UNICEF central structures, and made no financial contribution to international aid campaigns in 1998-99. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
UNEMPLOYMENT HITS NEW HEIGHTS. The Main Statistical Office reported on 20 December that Poland's unemployment rate in November reached 16.8 percent, the highest level since the fall of communism in 1989, Polish media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
RUSSIARESEARCHER IS REMANDED IN CUSTODY PENDING NEW INVESTIGATION. The Kaluga Oblast Court has agreed to a request for a further investigation of the case of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada who was arrested by the FSB in 2000 on suspicion of espionage on behalf of a "NATO member state," NTV reported on 27 December. Most importantly, the court ruled that Sutyagin must remain in custody during the new investigation. Earlier in the court proceedings, a state prosecutor demanded that Sutyagin be sentenced to 14 years in prison for divulging "state secrets." Sutyagin denied any wrongdoing, saying he shared with his Western colleagues only open-source materials and that he had never had security clearance to classified documents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ABOLISHES PARDONS COMMISSION. Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 25 December, President Vladimir Putin announced that he has decided to disband the Presidential Pardons Commission headed by writer Anatolii Pristavkin and to delegate its functions to the governors and heads of regional administrations, polit.ru reported. Putin said he is disappointed that the commission adopted "too humane an approach toward hard-core criminals and murderers." Putin's decision is a victory for his former colleagues from the KGB, including the deputy chief of the presidential administration, Viktor Ivanov, who had advised Putin to "halt the nonprofessional activities of Pristavkin's commission," the website commented. Meanwhile, several Russian human rights bodies, including Moscow Helsinki Watch Group and Memorial, appealed to Putin to reverse his decision, arguing that the "purpose of any punishment lies in its inevitability, not cruelty." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
PRESIDENT SPEAKS AT CHEKIST JUBILEE... Speaking at the Kremlin on 20 December during a ceremony commemorating Security Services Day, which is celebrated on the day of the founding of the VChK-KGB by Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, President Vladimir Putin said to an audience of Russian intelligence officers and KGB veterans that their most crucial task today is to protect the country's economy against foreign industrial espionage, strana.ru reported. He said another vital role of Russian services is combating terrorism, and that they must sustain "the trust of their compatriots by protecting their civil rights freedoms." Putin also extended his gratitude to the veterans of the KGB "who devoted their life to the cause." Strana.ru noted that Security Services Day has a direct connection not only to Lenin and the first head of the VChK-KGB, Feliks Dzerzhinskii, but also to Count Aleksandr Bekendorf. Following the suppression of the Decembrist Rebellion in December 1825, the count suggested to Emperor Nikolai I that he create a special secret service, and became the first chief of the Third Department. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
...AS FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF DEFINES HIS SERVICE'S ROLE... Sergei Lebedev told "Trud" on 20 December that the fight against terrorism in cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community is the Foreign Intelligence Service's (SVR) first priority, but that details of this cooperation are of such vital importance that he cannot reveal them. Lebedev, who worked in 1999-2000 as the SVR's official representative in Washington, added that the success of the international campaign in Afghanistan has shown the need for the antiterrorist coalition of intelligence services to continue working together after that campaign is finished. "One should not treat international terrorists as cockroaches, with each side having its own," Lebedev said. He also admitted during the interview that the arrest in the United States of Russian spies Aldrich Ames, Robert Hansen, and others were defeats for his service. "The SVR involved [itself] into a covert war in which there were victories, defeats, and betrayals," he said. He also referred to former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, who is still alive and resides in the United States, as a "Judas." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
...AND POLLS SAY SECURITY AGENCIES HAVE BETTER IMAGE. According to the Public Opinion polling agency, the image of the Federal Security Service and other KGB successor services has gained in prestige since President Putin came to power, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 20 December. According to a recent poll, 36 percent of citizens are positive about the work of the KGB successor's services, while three years ago this number was only 24 percent. Moreover, 42 percent of respondents said they themselves are ready to work for security organs. The radio station noted that the improvement in the services' image was facilitated by the mainstream mass media's depiction of former KGB officers who came into top positions under Putin as "real patriots." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT. Daghestan's Supreme Court on 25 December sentenced Chechen field commander Salman Raduev to life imprisonment for his role in the January 1996 Kizlyar hostage taking, Russian agencies reported. Three of his accomplices received prison terms ranging from five to 15 years. Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, both said they consider those punishments just, according to Interfax. Raduev told the court before the verdict was pronounced that he has "no regrets," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
DUMA ADOPTS LEGISLATION ON MARTIAL LAW. On 27 December, the Duma adopted on final reading the constitutional legislation on the "Martial State" that was submitted by the presidential administration, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 December. The law empowers the president to declare martial law in case of aggression or the threat of aggression to part of or the entire territory of the Russian Federation. It also codifies the measures for limiting civil rights in the event of a military threat. Specifically, it allows the president to ban the activities of "political parties and organizations if they undermine the defense and security of the country." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
NEW LABOR CODE PASSES CRUCIAL HURDLE... State Duma deputies passed the draft Labor Code in its second reading on 19 December. Before the code was passed, more than 2000 proposed amendments were considered, according to Interfax. In addition, the Duma received more than 7,000 letters and telegrams from workers' collectives and other public organizations requesting changes. The vote on the final version was 283 in favor, 125 against, and two abstentions. A third reading is scheduled for 21 December. Among the amendments approved was one requiring that the monthly earnings of employees be no less than the subsistence minimum, according to ITAR-TASS. Other amendments passed was one banning forced labor and another establishing the maximum work week at 40 hours, according to Interfax. The Communist faction and Agro-Industrial group voted against the bill. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
DUMA DEPUTIES PASS LABOR CODE... State Duma deputies adopted on 21 December on third and final reading a new Labor Code. The vote was 289 in favor, 131 against, and no abstentions. The bill had passed in its second reading just two days earlier. According to polit.ru, the government and Duma managed to forge a compromise on the required level of the minimum wage, which will reach the level that the deputies were insisting on in two years rather than immediately. On 27 December, deputies also approved on final reading a law on the all-Russia census. The vote was 338 in favor with one against, according to ITAR-TASS. The law stipulates what kinds of information will be gathered as well as how often. The next census will be conducted starting in October of next year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
...AND GO ON VACATION. Legislators' winter vacation began following the 27 December plenary session. The next session will be held on 16 January. Presidential envoy to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov told ITAR-TASS that the fall 2001 legislative session was a particularly productive one. "The Duma managed to do more over the course of the past year than the two previous Dumas did in the six years of its existence," he commented. Four federal constitutional laws were passed along with four codes -- the Land Code, Labor Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Administrative Code. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
NEW FEDERAL HOLIDAYS. A provision of the draft Labor Code named 23 February as an official federal nonworking holiday, Russian news agencies reported. That day, which was celebrated as Red Army Day in the Soviet era, will be known as Defenders of the Fatherland Day. The Duma also decided to add to rename the 7 November holiday known as the Great October Socialist Revolution Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, as the Day of Concord and Reconciliation. The proposal to amend the former Soviet holidays was made by the pro-Kremlin Unity faction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
PUTIN CRITICIZES INTERIOR MINISTRY. Speaking to senior Interior Ministry officers on 25 December, President Putin expressed his displeasure with the agency's work, saying that it has failed to stem the criminal wave and that the number of crimes committed during the first 11 months of the year exceeded 2.7 million, of which more than half were serious crimes, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a government probe revealed that the Interior Ministry failed to include some 68,000 crimes in its criminal statistics. In the future, any officer who fails to register a crime will be immediately sacked, Putin warned. He also called on the ministry to pay more attention to its duty to protect the security of citizens and society. The ministry's other vital tasks are to fight terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration, Putin added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
SAKHA POLL COULD BE CANCELED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST. City authorities in Yakutsk were offering residents who voted in 23 December presidential elections there a 100 ruble ($3.30) rebate on their monthly housing payments as well as a reduction in arrears on electricity payments. However, the election commission for the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) ruled that the offer seemed too similar to a bribe, and city authorities were forced to extend the offer to all residents regardless of whether or not they voted. Analysts fear that the election may be declared invalid because local law requires that no less than 50 percent of voters participate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
YAVLINSKY RETAINS HELM OF YABLOKO. At its 10th congress held on 22-23 December, more than 600 Yabloko delegates from across Russia gathered to transform the group into a party in accordance with the recently enacted law on political parties, Russian agencies reported. On 23 December, Grigorii Yavlinsky was re-elected as leader with 472 votes in his favor and 33 against, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. Yabloko now has 12,700 registered members. Also on 22 December, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky was elected as a cochairman of the new Liberal Russia movement, the bureau reported. Leaders of the new movement emphasized that despite their criticisms of other "democratic" groups, such as Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces, their programs have much in common and they do not rule out the formation of a joint election bloc. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
BASHKORTOSTAN'S VIOLATIONS OF FEDERAL LAWS TALLIED... Some 72 percent of Bashkortostan's legislation, including 184 laws and 179 decrees issued by the Cabinet of Ministers, violates federal law, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 27 December, citing the independent "Otechestvo" newspaper of 26 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
...AS PRESSURE TO HARMONIZE CONTINUES. However, on 24 December, the chairman of Bashkortostan's union of advocates, Rafik Giybadetov, told RFE/RL in Ufa that 104 amendments have been added to the republic's constitution since Putin was elected Russian president. Giybadetov also said he is concerned that "there are still voices calling for more amendments and claiming that the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan threaten Russia's integrity." He added that the term "unified legal space" in Russia -- touting the supremacy of federal laws over republican legislation -- is being used to reduce the powers of both republics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
CONFERENCE OPENS ON THE FATE OF SOVIET JEWISH COMMUNITY. The international conference Soviet Jewry: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow opened on 18 December at the Moscow Jewish Community Center in Marina Roshcha, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Participants include activists of the Jewish emigration movement through the 1970s and 1990s; leaders from most Russian political parties; heads of Duma factions; and a senior official from the presidential administration. According to Vladimir Engel, the director of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the goal of the conference is to study the impact the Jewish emigration movement had on the democratization of the Soviet Union and to use their findings to solve current issues. Another goal is to create the World Congress of Russian Jewry, which will unite the Jews who emigrated from the Soviet Union and now live abroad. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
CHECHEN, RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES TO INVESTIGATE THEFT FROM HOLY TOMB. Chechnya's Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov has called for an investigation into rumors that Russian servicemen stole antique rugs from the tomb near Pervomaiskoe of one of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad, Russian agencies reported on 19 December. Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the joint Russian military presence in Chechnya, will oversee the investigation personally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
DUMA PLACES RESTRICTIONS ON NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS. The Duma adopted on final reading an amendment to the Environment Protection Law that will require nuclear waste to undergo analysis by state ecological experts before it can be imported into Russia, RBK reported on 20 December. That waste will only be allowed for import for temporary storage prior to its technological processing. Another provision of the law bans the import to Russia of nuclear materials and waste for permanent storage or burial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
LOCAL HEAD ROLLS FOLLOWING PUTIN TELEPHONE CHAT. The mayor of Ust-Kut, Yevgenii Korneiko, resigned on 27 December, following complaints from a local youngster to President Putin, ntvru.com reported, citing the regional news agency "Sibirskie novosti." According to the site, the city started receiving attention and assistance from federal officials following President Putin's nationwide telephone chat on 24 December. A fifth-grader from the town telephoned Putin and complained that the cancellation of classes at his school because of a lack of heat might mean that he and his classmates will have to repeat a year of school. Putin promised that the Irkutsk governor would do something to address the situation and the following day, Irkutsk Oblast Deputy Governor Sergei Brilka announced that school No. 4 in Ust-Kut will have its heat restored by 7 January, when classes resume. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
SERBIAKOSTUNICA PROPOSAL ON HAGUE DROPPED FROM SERBIAN PARLIAMENT'S AGENDA. A majority of deputies voted on 20 December to cancel a discussion and a vote on a bill regulating relations with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which was proposed by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), AP reported. Voting against the DSS proposal were deputies from the other parties and coalitions in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said Kostunica's law, which arguably is aimed more at obstructing cooperation with The Hague than with promoting it, is "the worst possible solution" and "unconstitutional." Djindjic called on parliament to start work on a "real law" on cooperation with The Hague. Kostunica views the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of American foreign policy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
NGO SLAMS KOSTUNICA'S HAGUE 'COOPERATION' PROPOSAL. The Fund for Humanitarian Justice (FHP) said in a statement in Belgrade on 19 December that a legislative bill drawn up by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) on cooperation with The Hague tribunal actually calls the tribunal's legitimacy into question, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The bill would require local courts to examine and validate any indictments issued by The Hague. Kostunica regards the tribunal as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Many observers have suspected that any legislation proposed by the DSS would be aimed at obstructing cooperation rather than promoting it. The bill is likely to be regarded as a non-starter by The Hague, where chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said that Kostunica's government is knowingly harboring war criminals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)
YUGOSLAVIA CUTS MILITARY SERVICE TIME. On 26 December, the Yugoslav parliament adopted a $900 million budget, of which 70 percent is assigned to the army, AP reported. The legislature also approved a long-awaited package of measures aimed at modernizing and slimming down the military. The term of compulsory military service will now be nine months instead of the previous 12 months, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. There has been strong popular pressure since the fall of Milosevic to shorten the length of time of military service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
TURKMENISTANINCREASED REPRESSION OF PROTESTANTS. On 21 December, a court in Turkmenabad ordered the eviction of a Seventh Day Adventist because unregistered Adventists had been meeting in her flat. Other recent moves against Protestants include the threatened eviction of an elderly, blind Baptist. The police raid of the Baptist service held in his flat resulted in heavy fines for some 40 people; the expulsion of three foreigners to Russia, and two-week jail terms for several participants. A police raid on an Adventist meeting in Turkmenabad resulted in the brief detention of six and confiscation of religious materials. (Keston News Service, 27 December)
UKRAINEEARLY CENSUS FIGURES SHOW 6 PERCENT DECLINE IN POPULATION. Preliminary results from Ukraine's census were released on 27 December, signaling a decline of 3 million people since the 1989 study to 48.86 million inhabitants, AP reported. The census put the population of Kyiv at 2.58 million, according to the government daily "Uriadoviy Kurier." Detailed statistics are expected in April, the paper added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
U.S. CONGRESS GRANTS $154 MILLION TO SUPPORT DEMOCRACY. The U.S. Congress on 20 December approved $154 million in aid to Ukraine to carry out democratic reform in 2002, Interfax reported. Initially, U.S. President George W. Bush recommended that $169 million be granted to Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
UZBEKISTANPOPULATION RELOCATION DUE TO U.S. PRESENCE? "[U.S.] soldiers at Hanabad [airfield] operate in maximum secrecy and are kept as separate as possible from local residents, who are forced to use round-about routes to get to their houses and must endure continual security checks." According to the opposition "Birlik" website on 19 December, "plans are afoot to resettle [Hanabad's] population to enhance the security and operational convenience of the U.S. forces [based there]. To that end, local people are likely to be moved, at Washington's expense, to the nearby city of Qarshi or to towns around Tashkent." ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 27 December)
REGIONALRUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS GEORGIA'S INABILITY TO CRACK DOWN ON TERRORISM. Addressing the Belgian Higher Royal Institute for Defense in Brussels on 19 December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the Georgian authorities' collective inaction to crack down on Chechen fighters operating from bases in Georgia should be regarded as "an unfriendly act" against Russia, Interfax reported. Ivanov returned to that theme at a press conference in London the following day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December)
ARMENIAN DETAINED IN GEORGIA SMUGGLING URANIUM. Georgian police arrested an Armenian citizen in southern Georgia on 19 December in possession of 300 grams of uranium that he hoped to smuggle to Turkey and sell there, Caucasus Pres and Reuters reported on 22 December, quoting an unnamed Georgian security official. That official said he and his colleagues have "serious suspicions" that the uranium was stolen from Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power plant. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN PREMIERS SIGN AGREEMENT ON STATUS LAW. Viktor Orban and his visiting Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase signed an agreement on Hungary's Status Law in Budapest on 22 December. According to the agreement, not only ethnic Hungarians, but also Romanian nationals will be allowed to perform seasonal work in Hungary for up to three months. The two premiers also agreed that Romanian nationals who are married to ethnic Hungarians will not be eligible for travel and educational benefits in Hungary. The opposition Socialist Party sharply criticized the extension of employment benefits to Romanian nationals, saying that the more than 500,000 Hungarians who live off seasonal work will now have to face competition from Romanians. FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni told Hungarian television that the concession made to Romania is not significant, since Romania has not even exploited half of the 8,000 quota on seasonal work that was in force. For his part, opposition Free Democrat parliamentary group leader Istvan Szent-Ivanyi said the cabinet chose the worst possible solution and accepted the extension of job benefits to Romanians without first analyzing its impact. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December)
END NOTEBOSNIAN DILEMMA
By Patrick Moore
As the Dayton system enters its seventh year, calls can be increasingly heard for its overhaul. The dilemma facing Western policymakers regarding Bosnia is not easy.
Every week or two, it seems that some NGO or Bosnian or foreign politician calls for a review of the Dayton peace agreements that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. The thrust of the criticisms is that the nationalist parties in power during the conflict still wield effective authority throughout most of Bosnia, and that central institutions remain weak or ineffective.
Remedies suggested include a variety of measures, usually starting with abolishing or greatly circumscribing the authority of the two entities, namely the Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska. Some critics also call for the abolition of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) -- which is seen as particularly obstructionist -- and a curbing of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ).
Critics of Dayton concede that the current joint government and Croat-Muslim federal government are dominated by non-nationalist parties. But, the skeptics argue, this is largely because the internationally supervised November 2000 elections were held under rules that favored the nonnationalists at the expense of the nationalists, and that some additional nationalists were disqualified even after they won their respective races. Furthermore, the HDZ boycotted federal institutions for much of 2001 in a poorly considered move that cost the party a say in key decisions.
At Dayton, the international community had banked on the proposition that voters would eventually elect moderate candidates if the grip of nationalist parties on political, business, and military structures -- and links to organized crime -- could be loosened. So far, however, this hoped-for "reasonable" voter has yet to emerge as a Bosnia-wide phenomenon. If the foreigners want the non-nationalists to carry the day, the foreigners have to resort to a number of electoral maneuvers that seem more reminiscent of 19th-century machine politics than 21st-century European norms. Some critics say that this amounts to imposing a dubious democracy by fiat.
According to those critics, the vast majority of Bosnian voters will continue to elect nationalists if left to themselves. Does the international community have a legitimate right to tell the Bosnian voters that they cannot live in three separate, medieval-style mini-kingdoms if that's what they want, or to join their respective statelet to a neighboring country?
The reply to this argument is that such ministates are based on the results of "ethnic cleansing," and pose a threat to the stability and security of Europe as a whole, in that they constitute or have the potential to constitute a center of criminal activity. To put an end to that, the international community has invested a great deal of time, effort, and money to help Bosnia heal the wounds of war and move on toward eventual integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
But the results have been less than impressive. Some observers suggest that Bosnia already has a culture of dependency, which may have historical roots going back to Habsburg or even Ottoman times. Those observers argue that Bosnians have made less progress in helping themselves than many expected at the end of the conflict. Some foreigners who have worked in both Bosnia and Kosova suggest that the Kosovars have proven much quicker to get back on their feet.
Others say that the lack of progress is rooted in the weaknesses of Dayton. No one would deny that Dayton has succeeded in restoring peace, but many observers believe that war could erupt at any time again were the tough foreign peacekeepers to leave. Even Dayton's critics concede that it was the best deal that could have been hoped for at the end of 1995, but they add that the time has come to move on. And that means not just making the complex foreign presence more efficient within the framework of Dayton, but changing the agreement itself.
That leads to the question raised at the beginning of this essay, namely whether Dayton should be revised and by whom. A revision would mean curbing the roles of the nationalist parties -- which the voters seem to prefer -- and of the two entities. It would also mean correspondingly enhancing the position of the joint structures and of parties favored by the international community -- if not by the voters - - in order to promote important reforms in the economy and the legal system above all. It would certainly have to be better equipped than Dayton to enable people to return to their former homes and undo the results of "ethnic cleansing."
Would the original signatories to Dayton -- which is a treaty as well as a constitution -- have to approve the revision, or would it be the current Bosnian central authorities, or the foreigners, who seem to have the last word in Bosnia, anyhow?
This leads to the heart of the Western dilemma regarding Bosnia. In the interests of promoting stability in the region, is the international community ready, able, and willing to carry out what amounts to colonial rule or supervise a modern-day protectorate for an indefinite length of time, in what is not always a particularly hospitable place? The frequency with which serious observers are raising the question of a revision of Dayton suggests that dealing with these issues cannot be put off indefinitely.