28 February 2002, Volume 3, Number 9
ARMENIANEW EVIDENCE EMERGES AGAINST TWO FORMER SUSPECTS IN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING. Military prosecutors said in Yerevan on 15 February that the trial of six men accused in connection with the October 1999 shooting in the Armenian parliament of eight senior officials has brought to light new evidence against two men who were initially suspected of involvement but were subsequently cleared of suspicion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two men are both friends of Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who perpetrated the bloodbath. Pollster and former journalist Nairi Badalian was charged with complicity in the killings and spent several months in detention but was then released, while former police officer Armen Harutiunian was released in July 2001 under a general amnesty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
AZERBAIJANTRIAL OF RADICAL ISLAMISTS OPENS. The trial opened on 20 February in Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes of six men suspected of membership in the underground Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Turan and Interfax reported. The six men, one Ukrainian and five Azerbaijanis, were apprehended in Baku in July 2001 and face charges of preparing to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S. Embassy in Baku and the headquarters of other international organizations, and of seeking to overthrow the country's leadership and establish an Islamic state. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)
PLANNED KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT PROTESTED. Sergei Davidian, who is chairman of the Central Election Commission of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, announced in Stepanakert on 22 February that in accordance with the enclave's constitution, presidential elections will take place on 11 August 2002, 28 days before incumbent President Arkadii Ghukasian's four-year term expires, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. On 23 February, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Matin Mirza denounced the planned ballot as illegal, adding that it will "undoubtedly" have a negative impact on efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
BELARUSOPPOSITION WANTS OBSERVER STATUS AT OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY. Belarus's Consultative Council of Opposition Parties proposed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly on 22 February that it grant observer status to both the Belarusian opposition and the Chamber of Representatives, a Belarusian legislature elected in the 2000 elections that were declared unfair and undemocratic by OSCE monitors, Belapan reported. The proposal was made by Uladzimir Nistsyuk, Anatol Lyabedzka, and Valyantsina Palevikova -- who attended last week's OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session in Vienna -- to OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Adrian Severin. Severin has not commented on the proposal. A delegation from Belarus's National Assembly, although invited, failed to appear at the OSCE gathering in Vienna. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
RUSSIAN UNITY PARTY MEMBERS CONVICTED OF MURDER. Igor Solyar and Konstantin Dashkevich, two leaders of the Russian Unity Party, an extremist Russian group with chapters in Belarus, were tried in Minsk City Court last week for the January 2001 murder of Maksim Breiner, a fellow party member, reported charter97.org on 25 February. At the trial, Breiner's mother testified that shortly before his murder, her son had said he no longer wanted to participate in the group. Solyar, said to be a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the party, was sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regimen labor colony and Dashkevich, charged with another murder and unlawful gunplay, was handed a 17-year sentence. (Charter 97, 25 February)
BOSNIAUN SACKS THREE BOSNIAN SERB POLICE. The UN mission that supervises police work in Bosnia has dismissed three Bosnian Serb policemen, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 19 February. The three were interrogators during the 1992-95 conflict at various prisons mentioned in the indictment against former Yugoslav and Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. It is not clear whether there are war crimes charges against the three men. Once dismissed by the UN, a person cannot be legally employed in police work in Bosnia again. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
BULGARIACALM RETURNS TO PLOVDIV DISTRICT AFTER RIOTS. Calm returned on 21 February to the Plovdiv district of Stolipinovo, after three nights of riots during which the inhabitants, who are mainly Roma, demanded that the power supply to their neighborhood be restored, AP and dpa reported. In a compromise with community leaders, the local authorities agreed to restore the power supply for the Muslim holiday of Kurban Bayram, which began on 22 February. The holiday lasts three days. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
LEADERS OF EVANGELICAL CHURCHES WARN AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM. Leaders of five Evangelical churches warned against a wave of anti-Semitism, according to a Tolerance Foundation press release dated 21 February. They said on 16 February that publications with a manifestly anti-Semitic character have recently been published and that Holocaust-denying literature is also being circulated. They cited a book by Volen Siderov, deputy editor in chief of "Monitor," one of Bulgaria's largest dailies. The book, they said, is nothing but a collection of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, but also targets Roma and other minorities. "If there are now people in Bulgaria who want to see the Jews dead," they said, "our answers as Bulgarians can only be: we are Jews as well." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
CROATIANO LONGER A 'PROBLEM' COUNTRY? Zdravko Tomac, who led Zagreb's delegation to the winter session of the OSCE, said 22 February that "Croatia is no longer being mentioned as a problem in Southeastern Europe but as an important factor that can help solve crises in the neighborhood," Hina reported. Tomac said his government thinks the OSCE should reduce, then discontinue, its mission to Croatia as soon as possible. Another delegation member, Ivan Milas, added that "the greatest success of our policy is that nobody is mentioning us in particular." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
CZECH REPUBLICRAPID DEPLOYMENT SOLDIER TO BE SANCTIONED FOR ATTACK. On 21 February, a member of the elite rapid deployment brigade attacked a 17-year-old boy in Hlinsko, northern Bohemia, brutally beating him while shouting Nazi slogans, CTK reported, citing Nova television. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said he would use the "stiffest possible measures" at his disposal, namely demotion and discharge from the army. Police later said a quick investigation revealed that the soldier belongs to skinhead groups. In related news, a court in Ostrava, northern Moravia, sentenced on 21 February to two years in prison a man from Krnov, who set fire to a flat inhabited by a Romany family in 1998, CTK reported. Radek Bedri, 21, threw a Molotov cocktail into the flat. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
FORMER COMMUNIST PREMIER ACQUITTED. A Prague court on 20 February acquitted former communist Premier Lubomir Strougal of charges of abuse of power linked to the killing of three people by the communist secret police in 1949, CTK and international agencies reported. The judge said there was not sufficient evidence to link Strougal to the crime. Strougal was charged with protecting seven members of the secret police from being brought to justice for those murders as well as stopping the investigation while he was the interior minister in 1965. The prosecution said it will appeal the verdict. Strougal became premier in 1970 and remained in that post for 18 years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)
GEORGIAETHNIC ARMENIAN PARTY OPPOSES MESKHETIAN TURKS' RETURN. The co-chairman of the Zang party of Javakhk (Samtskhe-Djavakheti region in southern Georgia), Mels Torosyan, said in an interview to A-Info Agency of Akhalkalaki that "the return of Meskhetian Turks to the region is groundless and inexpedient," Mediamax news agency reported from Yerevan on 19 February. Torosyan stressed that numerous Georgian media outlets and politicians were trying to link the problem of the return of the Meskhetian Turks with "resistance" by the local Armenian population and evade the implementation of Georgia's obligations to the Council of Europe. "We are confident that a solution to the problem mainly depends on the desire of the authorities and local Georgian population," Torosyan said. He mentioned unemployment, which reaches 85-90 percent in Djavakheti, among the reasons why the Meskhetian Turks' return to Djavakheti was inexpedient. (MINELRES, 24 February)
HUNGARYIRREDENTISTS PROTEST AT SLOVAK EMBASSY. Approximately 100 young people staged a demonstration outside the Slovak Embassy in Budapest on 23 February to protest Slovakia's rejection of Hungary's Status Law and demand the cancellation of the Benes decrees. The demonstration was organized by a youth organization called "64 counties," named so in memory of Greater Hungary, which was divided into 64 counties. The demonstrators sang songs about Greater Hungary and denounced the "anti-Hungarian" stands taken by Bratislava. The group submitted a petition to Slovak diplomats saying that if the demands are not met, Hungary will not support Slovakia's NATO and EU admission. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said: "We must ask whether this action is not a logical continuation of the embarrassing manifestations of nationalism in Hungary's internal political life. We expect the highest officials of the Hungarian Republic to clearly dissociate themselves from this action," CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
PREMIER OPENS BUDAPEST 'HOUSE OF TERROR.' Premier Viktor Orban on 24 February inaugurated the House of Terror museum in the Budapest building that was the former headquarters of World War II-era Nazi-like Arrow Cross, and which later served as headquarters of the dreaded communist state security police. About half of those 30,000 attending the opening were demonstrators from the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party. Critics of the museum, whose director is Orban's counselor Maria Schmidt, claim that there is a disproportionate under-representation of the fascist horrors in comparison with the communist atrocities, and that the exhibit deliberately attempts to link the Socialist Party (MSZP) with Soviet-era terror. MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said that if his formation wins the next elections, it will rename the museum "House of Remembrance and Reconciliation," in order to "commemorate the victims of terror, rather than terror itself," Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
KAZAKHSTANPRO-REFORM LEADER SLAMS AUTHORITIES FOR PROSECUTION. By prosecuting leaders of the pro-reform Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement, the authorities are tarnishing their own reputation, movement leader Bulat Abilov, a businessman and former member of the Majlis (the lower chamber of parliament), said in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Respublika 2000" on 7 February. He said that the pro-presidential Civic Party of Kazakhstan and the Fatherland (Otan) Party of Kazakhstan were in "a panic mood" over the emergence of the Ak Zhol (Bright Road) party and the Party of Patriots of Kazakhstan on the country's political stage. Abilov said that one could hardly expect anything really new from the present government, since its members were selected from the old guard, which, in turn, once again confirmed the fact that the government was short of new ideas. He also voiced the hope that the government would support the movement in its efforts to make the country democratic. (eurasianet.org, 21 February)
NEW NGO AIMS TO PROTECT OIL-SECTOR WORKERS' RIGHTS. Representatives of the Orleu Movement and the Communist Party of Kazakhstan founded a new NGO named Social-Political Council in northwest Kazakhstan's Aqtobe Oblast on 21 February, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The organization's main goal will be to protect the rights of Kazakh citizens employed by the Chinese management of AqtobeMunayGaz Joint Stock Company. There have been repeated disputes in recent years between the Chinese management and the Kazakh workforce. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
KYRGYZSTANFACTIONS APPEAL TO OSCE FOR ARRESTED DEPUTY... The Communist and Kyrgyzstan parliament factions submitted to the OSCE office in Bishkek on 21 February an appeal to OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis to help them establish an independent commission to determine whether or not arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov has been beaten while in custody, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Beknazarov has told visitors he was beaten, although while in the presence of prison officials he has denied it. On 23 February, Beknazarov's wife, Saken Mamakeeva, told RFE/RL that she traveled to Djalalabad Oblast on 19 February but has not been allowed to meet with her husband. Local and international human rights groups have called for his release pending trial on charges of failing to press a murder conviction for Djaparaly Kamchybekov after he killed a man in self-defense in early 1995. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
...AS POET WHO CONFIRMED BEATING IS CHARGED. An official from the Djalalabad City Prosecutor's Office said on 21 February that a criminal case has been filed against poet Asanbai Jusupbekov for "spreading false information," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Jusupbekov told RFE/RL on 18 and 20 February that when he visited arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov in detention last week, Beknazarov told him he has been beaten. Also on 21 February, three Kyrgyz parliament deputies told a press conference in Bishkek that they have written statements from persons who spoke to Beknazarov in detention confirming that he has been mistreated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
SUPPORTERS MEET WITH BEKNAZAROV IN DETENTION... Also on 19 February, two of his fellow parliament deputies met with Beknazarov in detention in Djalalabad, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Beknazarov denied in the presence of two police colonels that he has been beaten in custody, but whispered to one of the deputies just before they left that he had in fact been mistreated. The two reported that Beknazarov was limping. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
...AND VILLAGERS RELEASE HOSTAGES TAKEN IN PROTEST. Residents of the village of Kara-Suu in Djalalabad Oblast, which is the native village of arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, late on 19 February freed the local officials whom they had taken hostage the previous day to demand Beknazarov's release, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The officials had traveled to Kara-Suu after villagers kept their children home from school to protest Beknazarov's arrest and trial. A local police official denied on 20 February that the officials were forcibly detained, saying that they had to wait for transportation to return to the town of Djalalabad. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)
LATVIANATO SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES ELECTORAL LAW CHANGE. Lord George Robertson told the parliament in Riga on 21 February that NATO will decide on which countries to admit to the alliance on the basis of military, defense, and political achievements, including how they follow standards of democracy and human rights, LETA and BNS reported. He particularly mentioned the need to abolish the stringent Latvian-language requirements for candidates to the parliament and local councils. Robertson also met with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Andris Berzins, Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and parliament Chairman Janis Straume. He noted that the decision on which countries to join the alliance has not yet been made, but that no non-NATO country, such as Russia, will have a say in determining the matter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
MOLDOVAGOVERNMENT DROPS CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS. On 22 February, the government annulled the decision to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes in schools, and introduced a "moratorium" on the decision to replace the teaching of the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldovans." The parliament approved the changes the same day, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Russian-language classes will now be optional, with the choice depending on the decision of parents. A commission of experts is to examine replacing current history textbooks with textbooks on the "History of Moldova." The parliament also approved a resolution condemning street protests, which lasted several days, numbering some 60,000 people, as "endangering national security," and as "questioning and denigrating the Moldovan state and its people." It said that "extremist political circles" from Moldova, "above all the Popular Party Christian Democratic," are "backed by extremist forces from outside the country" and "pose a direct threat to the constitutional order and to the Moldovan Republic's independence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
POLANDSHIPYARD REINSTATES WORKERS TO END STRIKE... A weeklong strike by some 500 workers of the Gdynia shipyard ended on 25 February after the management agreed to reinstate 122 employees it fired last week in a wage dispute, AP reported, quoting shipyard spokesman Miroslaw Piotrowski. Under the 25 February settlement, the sacked workers will be reinstated, but they will have their contracts reviewed after a year. Piotrowski said the company plans to take legal action against three strike leaders for organizing an illegal labor protest. He added that the protesters have gained no concessions on their wage demands. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
�AS UNEMPLOYMENT REACHES RECORD 18 PERCENT. The Main Statistics Office (GUS) has reported that the unemployment rate at the end of January increased to 18 percent from 17.4 percent by the end of December, Polish media reported on 21 February. At the end of January, there were 3.25 million unemployed registered at job centers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
GOVERNMENT APPROVES SECRET SERVICE REFORM BILL. Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet has approved a bill to reform the country's special services, PAP reported on 19 February. Under the proposed reform, the current State Protection Office is to be disbanded and replaced by two bodies: an Internal Security Agency to deal with counterintelligence activities and grave crimes, and an Intelligence Agency to gather intelligence abroad. The two agencies are to be headed by civilians appointed by the prime minister for three-year terms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
ROMANIAINVESTIGATORS REJECT TUDOR'S REQUEST TO SUBPOENA ARAFAT, SHARON. Prosecutors investigating the lawsuit launched against Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor rejected his request to call Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon, and President Ion Iliescu as witnesses, Mediafax reported on 22 February. Tudor is under investigation for "spreading false information" in his claim that Romania has trained Hamas terrorists. In related news, Tudor demanded on 22 February that the parliamentary mandate of Senator Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, be revoked because he accepted a Hungarian ID card under the provisions of the Status Law. He also said that parliamentary deputy Sever Mesca, who resigned from the PRM the same day, has been "bought" by the ruling Social Democratic Party. Since the 2000 elections, the PRM has lost 14 deputies and one senator, who were either expelled or resigned from the party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
RUSSIACHECHEN VILLAGERS PROTEST SWEEPS, DISAPPEARANCES. Residents of the Chechen villages of Novye and Starye Atagi converged on the village of Tsotan-Yurt, whose residents have embarked on an open-ended protest against the brutality shown by Russian troops during two recent search operations, Chechenpress reported on 21 February. Starye and Novye Atagi were similarly subjected to such searches even though local administration head Musa Dakaev told "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 February that Novye Atagi is "one of most peaceful villages in Chechnya." On 22 February villagers of Avtury in Shali Raion southeast of Grozny blockaded an administration building to protest the disappearance on 19 February of four local residents whose burnt-out car was found two days later, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 February)
CHECHNYA QUIET ON DEPORTATION ANNIVERSARY... Security precautions were tightened in Chechnya on the eve of 23 February, the anniversary of the 1944 deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia on Stalin's orders, Reuters reported. No incidents were reported. On 25 February, chechenpress.org reported that leaflets are circulating in Grozny calling on the city's inhabitants to prepare for military action against the "Russian occupiers." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
...WHILE RUSSIAN ACTIVISTS COMMEMORATE CHECHEN TRAGEDY. Several hundred human rights activists demonstrated at the Solovetsk Rock, a memorial site for the victims of totalitarianism on Lyubanka Square, to mark the 58th anniversary of the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, reported PRIMA news agency in Moscow on 22 February. Organizers included the movement "For Human Rights," the Russian Pen Center, the Sakharov Museum and Civic Center, and the Democratic Union, which released a joint statement calling for an end to brutalities against civilians and an opening of peace talks with the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, and also condemning the closure of TV-6. Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov spoke of the increasing "militarization of the country," and the government's "endless stream of spy cases" and Valeriya Novodvorskaya noted that Russia's "current authoritarian system was born of the Chechen war." On 23 February, the Transnational Radical Party and the Anti-Military Radical Association staged an antiwar action on Smolensk Square in Moscow, chanting "The War in Chechnya is a Shame On Our Country" and "Down With War, Soldiers Go Home!" and "West! Save the Chechens!" CAF
PROSECUTOR GENERAL SEEKS TO REGISTER HOMELESS CHILDREN. Speaking to the State Duma on the issue of homeless children on 20 February, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said that the number of teenagers and children involved in juvenile crime has doubled over the past decade and has reached 1.14 million, RIA-Novosti reported. Last year, law enforcement agencies detained 301,000 children aged 13 or under, 295,000 of whom were not enrolled in school and 45,000 of whom were illiterate, according to Ustinov. He suggested to the Duma that it introduce state registration for all homeless children as well as those who are not enrolled in school. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)
INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS ON THE RISE IN RUSSIA. Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said on 19 February that, due to violations of labor safety regulations and negligence by management, more Russians have died or become disabled as the result of industrial accidents than in the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya combined, pravda.ru reported. According to the State Statistics Committee, some 45 percent of Russia's industrial enterprises are not in compliance with the most basic safety regulations, which results in about 500,000 workers sustaining some degree of disability each year, Pochinok said. He added that in the past few years the rate of industrial disability and trauma has risen by 15-20 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
INTERIOR MINISTRY CLAIMS TO HAVE IDENTIFIED MURDERERS OF STAROVOITOVA AND LISTEV. Speaking at a briefing in Moscow, Yurii Korolev, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's Main Criminal Police Department, said his agency has identified and issued international and federal arrest warrants for the alleged assassins of liberal politician Galina Starovoitova, who was murdered in 1999, and of ORT television General Director Vladimir Listev, slain in 1993, Russian news agencies reported. He noted that in both cases the perpetrators of the crimes are living abroad. Korolev also said that two Russian criminals recently extradited by the Czech Republic are unrelated to Starovoitova's murder. However, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 15 February, Starovoitova's former assistant Ruslan Linkov said that to find the persons who ordered and carried out the murder of Starovoitova "it is not necessary to travel to Riga or Prague -- [it would be] sufficient to search the closest associates of State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev or St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev." Linkov added that he spoke with some members of the special services about this and they said that there was simply "no political will or agreement from above" to extend the investigation to Yakovlev or Seleznev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 February)
ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL REFERENDUM STYMIED. Krasnoyarsk Krai's election commission rejected on 21 February a bid to hold a referendum on the question of banning imports of spent nuclear fuel to the region, RIA-Novosti reported. Environmental activists collected more than 40,000 signatures in support of holding a plebiscite, but the commission ruled that only 8,500 of the signatures were valid. By law, 35,000 signatures were needed. Meanwhile, the initiators of the referendum, the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces, plan to challenge the commission's decision in court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
PRESIDENTIAL COALITION IN DUMA SPLITS OVER DEATH PENALTY... State Duma deputies voted on 15 February to support a proposal by the People's Deputy group and the Fatherland-All Russia faction to adopt an appeal to President Vladimir Putin asking him to cancel Russia's moratorium on the death penalty. Some 266 deputies voted in favor of the measure, with 85 against, according to Interfax. At the same time, the deputy head of Unity's faction, Vladislav Reznik, spoke against the measure, noting that his faction's position on the issue coincides with President Putin's. According to polit.ru, Putin has publicly stated twice that Russia cannot restore the death penalty. Twenty-nine of the 47 members of the Russian Regions group, the fourth member of the so-called presidential coalition in the Duma, voted for the measure. Of Unity's members, 44 didn't vote, 36 voted no, and one member voted in favor of the measure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
...AS RELIGIOUS LEADERS ALSO DIFFER. On 16 February, Tamara Morshchakova, deputy chair of the Constitutional Court, called the appeal a populist measure which cannot be implemented because the death penalty is prohibited under the Russian Constitution. Also on 16 February, Talgat Tadzhuddin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, spoke in favor of restoring the death penalty -- a position at odds with that taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, polit.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
SKINHEADS GO ON RAMPAGE IN ST. PETERSBURG, MOSCOW. Ekho Moskvy reported on 17 February that there have been attacks by skinheads in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. In Moscow, a 10th-grade Azerbaijani student was beaten up by five unidentified men with shaven heads. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, about 200 skinheads went on a rampage on Prospekt Kultury, beating up passersby and smashing shop windows and advertising billboards. According to the city's MVD authorities, the youths were not drunk or under the influence of drugs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
PUTIN INSTRUCTS MVD TO MONITOR EMIGRATION, WATCH WATCHERS. At a meeting in the Kremlin on 18 February with Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, President Putin directed him to strengthen his agency's control over emigration and immigration to Russia, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported. "Entrance to the country must be liberal, but emigrants must settle down in those locations where their presence will be profitable for the Russian economy," Putin said. Gryzlov told Putin that in the last few months, his ministry has detained 81,000 persons who violated residence permit registration, closed 62 companies engaged in obtaining Russian entry visas, and expelled 120 foreigners who were in Russia illegally. Putin, unimpressed, commented that "120 people is a drop in the ocean." He also asked Gryzlov to intensify the struggle against crime within the ranks of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Gryzlov responded that the ministry's Internal Security Service detained 23 of its own officers on 16-17 February engaged in extorting money at various Moscow markets. Putin similarly commented that that figure "is good, but not high enough." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
SERBIAWOMAN KILLED IN KOSOVA. An ethnic Serbian couple walking down a street separating the Serbian and Albanian sections of the town of Lipljan were fired upon with an automatic rifle on the evening of 22 February, and the 57-year-old woman was killed, AP reported the next day. A UN spokesman said the woman's husband escaped injury. Some 1,000 Serbs protested the killing on 24 February, demanding protection by the international civilian and military missions in Kosova. Momcilo Trajkovic, a Kosovar Serb leader and a deputy in the Serbian parliament, said he viewed the shooting as "a carefully planned terrorist act" aimed at frightening the 2,500 Serbs living in the Lipljan area into leaving Kosova, Beta reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
PRIME MINISTER WON'T GIVE UP MLADIC, WANTS EU TO PAY UP. In an interview with the German weekly "Der Spiegel" released on 23 February, Zoran Djindjic said he won't order the arrest of war crimes suspect Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic for fear of starting a civil war, AP and Reuters reported. "Am I now to risk the lives of our police so that Mladic and his 100-strong personal guard can be served up at the table in The Hague? What if it caused civil war to break out? We have over 200,000 refugees from Bosnia, many of them armed. The price is too high," Djindjic said. In the interview, Djindjic also complained about slow and delayed reconstruction payments from the EU. "In the past year, two-thirds of the promised 300 million euros ($263 million) has been taken away as debts from the Milosevic time.... These are cheap tricks," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER READY TO DEFEND MILOSEVIC. Chamber of Trade and Industry head Yevgenii Primakov said he is prepared to speak out in defense of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in his ongoing trial at The Hague's international war crimes tribunal, RIA-Novosti reported in Moscow on 19 February. Primakov, who was prominent in diplomatic activity surrounding the Kosova crisis in 1999, added that the tribunal should take in account the positive role Milosevic played in negotiating the Dayton accords. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February)
PRESIDENT SLAMS MILOSEVIC'S HAGUE TRIAL. Vojislav Kostunica, who has long regarded the tribunal as an anti-Serb tool of U.S. foreign policy, said in Belgrade on 18 February that "so far we have seen much politics, a huge media spectacle, but least of [all] what this court should be about: trying the defendant for serious crimes," AP reported. He added that "the prosecution's opening statement had little to do with law but was full of shallow misinterpretation of history." Kostunica argued that "the prosecution's claim that this trial is against one person, not all Serbs, that there is no collective guilt but only individual [guilt], sounds extremely stretched. There is certainly room to ask the question" whether Milosevic can get a fair trial. In the spring of 2001, Kostunica opposed the extradition of Milosevic to The Hague. Elsewhere, Reuters reported that 40 percent of the Serbian respondents to a poll by the Belgrade-based firm Strategic Marketing gave Milosevic "full marks" for his testimony. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
SLOVAKIACHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS SUBMIT ANTI-STATUS LAW BILL. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) submitted a draft law to the parliament on 22 February that provides for sanctions against Slovak citizens who accept the Hungarian ID card under the provisions of the Status Law, CTK reported. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in response that the draft law is "unnecessary," and pointed out that the Hungarian Coalition Party has warned that the move might prompt its departure from the coalition and the fall of the government. The cabinet headed by Mikulas Dzurinda approved measures on 20 February aimed at "safeguarding Slovakia's national and state interests," but unlike those measures, the KDH-drafted law stipulates that organizations involved in issuing the Hungarian ID card will be disbanded. The government only approved a "check" on the legality of the involvement of those organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
SLOVENIACONTROVERSY OVER TRANSVESTITE SINGERS. A trio called Sisters won the right to represent Slovenia in the 46th annual kitschy Eurovision song contest, to be held in Estonia, Reuters reported from Ljubljana on 18 February. Miss Marlena, Daphne, and Emperatrizz wear stewardess-style uniforms with white gloves and red hats. Meanwhile, controversy broke out over the voting procedure, which critics charged was biased in favor of the trio. But social psychologist Vlado Miheljak told AP on 21 February that "it's a well-known phenomenon that if one is unable to face the real source of his trauma, he concentrates on anything surrounding it. So, everyone talks now about the vote, while clearly they're disturbed by the transvestitism." Observers note that gay and lesbian rights groups played an important role in the formation of the civil society in Slovenia in the 1980s, which helped the country make a smooth transition to democracy during the collapse of communism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 February)
TAJIKISTANPRESIDENT SOUNDS ALARM OVER POPULATION EXPLOSION. Imomali Rakhmonov told a 20 February national conference on demographic developments that Tajikistan urgently needs a long-term demographic policy to slow down population growth, Russian media reported. Rakhmonov pointed out that the country's population has increased from 5.5 million to 6.2 million over the past 10 years, while at the same time GDP has fallen by 64 percent, resulting in soaring unemployment, poverty, crime, and drug addiction. Rakhmonov and his wife have eight children. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
UKRAINESOCIALISTS CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE SYSTEM. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said in an election spot on Ukrainian Television on 21 February that the main point of his party's election program is to change "the whole system of unfair government." Moroz noted that the authorities -- including President Leonid Kuchma, presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko -- are afraid that "the truth about themselves" will be revealed on the secret tapes of former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Moroz accused the Communist Party, which placed Potebenko on its election list, of "playing the game directed by Kuchma." Melnychenko, who also appeared in the spot, said a recent U.S. expert examination confirmed that his tapes were not doctored. "Now the question is who must be held liable and when for the murder of a journalist, embezzlement, bribery, rigging the presidential election, and the April  referendum. The materials that I recorded in Leonid Kuchma's office contain answers to all these questions," Melnychenko said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
PRESIDENT DECREES PAY RAISE FOR SERVICEMEN, MOVES TO SHORTEN SERVICE. President Kuchma has signed a decree to increase wages for Ukrainian senior officers by 50 percent and to lower-rank servicemen by 100 percent as of 1 January 2003, Interfax reported. By virtue of another decree, Kuchma ordered the government to submit a bill to the parliament proposing to reduce compulsory military service in Ukraine to 12 months as of 2005. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)
END NOTEMEMORIAL HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER DOCUMENTS CHECHEN WAR ATROCITIES
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov, historian Yurii Afanasyev, and other intellectuals in the perestroika era in the mid-1980s, Memorial Society -- now a complex of diverse movements, chapters, and projects in some 60 cities -- was initially an effort to create a literal edifice to commemorate the victims of Lenin and Stalin (a project still awaiting fruition) which instead grew into a living monument of citizens' efforts to "promote the building of a developed civil society and democratic state under the rule of law to prevent the return of totalitarianism," in the words of the group's mission statement. Older Memorial workers still labor at uncovering the 75-year-old graves of the victims of Stalin, sometimes experiencing red-tape from the KGB's successors, while their younger colleagues in Chechnya unearth fresh mass burials of civilians said to have died at the hands of Russian forces. While some Russian citizens are tired of digging up the past and the present, and wish Memorial would put down its shovels and work on social and economic rights issues, the organization maintains its largely civil and political rights work is needed to achieve the kind of government accountability needed for a functioning civil society.
At a meeting at RFE/RL in Washington, D.C., on 22 February, Oleg Orlov, currently chair of Memorial's Human Rights Center, noted that while polls at the outset of the second Chechen war registered 80 percent of the public in support of federal military force, now only 50 percent support the war and most want peace talks and an end to hostilities.
A biologist by training and long-time human rights advocate, Orlov left his scientific career in 1991 to devote himself full-time to monitoring human rights and helping to change the kind of prowar public opinion indicated in the poll. A non-English speaker, Orlov is well-known at home but made his first trip to the United States only in February 2002, and has more often traveled to Strasbourg to speak at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where Russian membership gives activists some leverage to press for reforms. Orlov spends most of his time, however, in Nazran, Ingushetia, as well as Urs-Martan and Grozny in Chechnya, where his organization has established legal assistance centers as part of their Migration and Law project, a network of some 50 offices throughout the Russian Federation helping refugees and displaced persons to defend their rights in a climate of discrimination.
The Moscow activists began the Human Rights Center in 1989 during protests of the brutal suppression of a major demonstration in Tbilisi, and continued to monitor the former Soviet Union's "hot spots" outside Russia, becoming formally established within Memorial in 1991. They documented excessive use of force in the suppression of the 1993 White House rebellion, monitored the Ingush-Ossetian conflict, and denounced the mistreatment and expulsion of Caucasians and other non-ethnic Russians from Moscow.
Today, enriched by a new, younger generation of monitors, the Human Rights Center focuses almost exclusively on documenting atrocities in the second Chechen war and its related spillover, tracking the human misery of the more than 150,000 internally displaced in Ingushetia, now spending their third winter in tents, as well as the plight of the 440,000 war-ravaged residents and 160,000 displaced persons reported by UNICEF within Chechnya. The Russian attempt to investigate cases of Chechen civilian disappearances and killings which have largely gone unpunished as prosecution of war crimes by the Putin administration has languished.
Since 11 September, the workload of monitors like Orlov in the region has only doubled. They sense that "the world could care less" as Russian federal troops, now welcomed in the international war against terrorism, seek more vehemently to rout remaining Chechen resistance, some elements of which are reportedly tied to Al-Qaeda. Memorial regularly condemns the terrorist attacks mounted by Chechen fighters, including the hostage-taking dramas and revenge murders against pro-Moscow Chechen officials, and routinely calls for peace talks by the combating sides. But they note that the scale and brutality of the Russian military response have prompted many Chechen villagers to feel they are the victims of state terror, rather than the beneficiaries of an admittedly necessary use of state force to end nonstate terror
Asked about the safety for human rights monitoring and humanitarian work in the North Caucasus, amid concerns sparked by the killing of two Russian human rights monitors and the abduction of an American humanitarian worker last year, Orlov said, "I am most concerned for my Chechen colleagues," believing that he and other Muscovites were less vulnerable to attack. The recent attacks did not add up to any clear deterioration in the situation for concerned outsiders, says Orlov, given that "there are a lot of psychotics around with guns" and any war zone is going to have a high element of danger. Viktor Popkov, 49, a Russian human rights activist and devout Old Believer, and Luiza Betergirieva, 44, a Chechen monitor for the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, were shot in April and December 2001, respectively, both while driving near Russian military checkpoints, and died of their wounds. Human rights groups continue to call for investigation into both killings. Popkov is believed to have been targeted by an armed Chechen group.
Although Orlov explained that the Russian media engages in self-censorship to avoid government pressure, and fails to cover the horrors of Chechnya, Memorial and other local human rights groups continue to document and publicize military sweeps of Chechen villages, where Russian soldiers indulge in looting of homes, intimidate and beat civilians, detain and sometimes torture and even kill civilians apparently in revenge for attacks against them by Chechen fighters. Troops raided Starye Atagi repeatedly from 12-19 February, for example, detonating homes and killing six persons, including an older man who was beaten to death with metal rods. They then detained 44 persons in "filtration camps," releasing some after payment of 500 rubles each. Six remain missing and reports have come to light of two young girls held for four days, forced to stand in cold water. Such appalling mistreatment "isn't in my country's interest," Orlov told RFE/RL reporters. "It's creating new terrorists." Memorial works with local villagers to process their human rights complaints and maintains a cooperative working relationship with Vladimir Kalamanov, the special representative of the Russian Federation president for human rights in Chechnya.
Memorial leaders hope for attention to their findings in March when the 54-member UN Commission on Human Rights convenes in Geneva and Russia's failure to comply with last year's resolution on Chechnya, mandating admission of special rapporteurs, will be reviewed. Russian and English reports from Memorial Human Rights Center can be accessed at http://www.memo.ru/hr/index.htm.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick serves as UN representative for the International League for Human Rights in New York.