18 September 2002, Volume
PUBLIC UNREST ROOTED IN FLAWED ELECTIONS.
Looking at the former Soviet states in the last year, particularly in recent months, observers have been startled to see large numbers of people taking to the street with their protests.
Shaking off the apathy they seem to display at election time and confounding pundits' assessments that opposition movements are fractured and "out of touch with the people," ordinary citizens have increasingly been stepping out to make their voices heard. This week, an estimated 50,000-100,000 people rallied in Kyiv against President Leonid Kuchma on the second anniversary of the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Authorities responded with the largest roundup of Ukrainians since the Stalin era. In Kyrgyzstan, thousands of people marched from rural areas to the capital, Bishkek, calling for the resignation of President Askar Akaev, until authorities managed to negotiate a compromise and promise to meet some of their demands, which now include punishment of police officials responsible for the shooting deaths of demonstrators in Aksy (see "Kyrgyzstan" item, below). In Baku, 7,000-10,000 demonstrated against a deliberately complex and falsified referendum on the Azerbaijani Constitution believed to be manipulated to keep President Heidar Aliyev and his designated successor -- his son -- in power longer. Such rallies of thousands of opposition party members have been continuing since March. In Nardaran, Azerbaijan, 8,000 turned out for a meeting on the failure of authorities to respond to their mounting complaints since demonstrators were shot earlier this year. This time, police refrained from cracking heads and rounding up the usual suspects (see "Azerbaijan" item, below).
In Moldova earlier this year, crowds of protesters reaching 50,000, sometimes camping out overnight, enraged over the alleged Russification of textbooks in schools and lack of political participation. The Council of Europe has deployed its rapporteurs to attempt to negotiate the ongoing conflict between the Communist leadership and the main opposition party. In Belarus, hundreds of marketplace vendors have gone on strike in Minsk and other cities to protest onerous taxation and other restrictions. Even in the highly repressed climates of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, leafleteers and human rights activists have ventured out to vent their unhappiness in the marketplaces and have been whisked away by watchful police.
Observers are prompted to recall the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost campaigns kicked over the traces, demonstrations of popular fronts and other mass movements grew and grew until 100,000 people filled the main public square, and the momentum for democratic change was pronounced unstoppable. Sadly, the tactics of oppression that some regional governments are now deploying are more reminiscent of the Andropov era, and the future of these new, larger protest movements is highly uncertain.
Interestingly, the chants of the protesters today are not about the dire poverty many people are facing in these reform-stricken countries, which have been undergoing severe upheavals since the collapse of the USSR a decade ago -- or, at least, they are not only about economic deprivation. Rather, the demonstrations have all taken a decidedly political turn in calling forthrightly for the dumping of dictators, for changes in laws to gain more political participation, and for the prosecution of human rights violators. These are the ordinary people in countries that are not supposed to be "ready for democracy," who are in a very long queue to the EU, but, like people who know nothing about art, they know what they like.
The mounting unrest directly correlates with not only poor living standards but another mass phenomenon in the region: flawed, manipulated, and outright stolen elections. Although Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) planners might have hoped for a gradual move in the troubled region to "parliamentary elections and a mixed economy," the reality of the last two years has been quite dismal, and far from stabilizing societies, substandard elections have set them up for more unrest.
A study of the annual report and election reports of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (http://www.osce.org/odihr/) reveals that in Azerbaijan in November 2000, parliamentary elections, even with repeat elections held in January 2001, "did not meet a number of international standards for democratic elections." In Belarus, September 2001 presidential elections "failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections." In Kyrgyzstan, parliamentary elections in 2000 were "characterized by a series of negative trends that ultimately prevented a number of political parties and candidates from competing in the election on a fair and equal basis." In a statement that could characterize all of the season's substandard electoral conditions, in Kyrgyzstan the "pre-election period was marred by a high degree of interference in the process by state officials, a lack of independence of the courts, resulting in a selective use of legal sanctions against candidates, and a bias in the state media." Parliamentary elections in Moldova did "meet international standards," yet there were "excessively restrictive provisions on media in the electoral code." As for parliamentary elections in March 2002 in Ukraine, while the government "met in full or in part a number of commitments such as universality, transparency, freedom and accountability, it failed to guarantee a level playing field, an indispensable condition to ensure the fairness of the process."
By contrast, elections in East and Central Europe have produced quite different evaluations from the OSCE -- i.e., "marked improvement" (June-August 2001 parliamentary elections in Albania) or they have "met OSCE commitments for democratic elections, as outlined in the 1990 Copenhagen Document" (June 2001 parliament elections in Bulgaria). In Estonia, more than 15,000 candidates are contesting some 3,000 seats (see "Estonia" item, below). The triumphant spirit of successful democracy this week in Skopje (see "Macedonia" item, below), despite pre-election violence, is ample evidence of the ways in which elections have deepened and extended democracy in East and Central Europe, even as they have helped entrench dictators in the former Soviet states and led to increased public frustration now spilling out onto the streets. CAF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SETS DEADLINE TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.
A Council of Europe delegation that recently visited Yerevan set a deadline of June 2003 for Armenia to ratify Protocol No. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, parliament Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hovhannes Hovanisian said on 12 September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That protocol bans the death penalty in all circumstances except in times of war. The Armenian parliament passed amendments earlier this summer to the Criminal Code that would allow for handing down the death penalty for crimes committed before the amendments came into force. The move was made in response to public pressure to execute the five gunmen who shot dead eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS.
The Armenian government approved on 12 September a 13 percent increase in state pensions, effective 1 October, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The average pension will rise from 5,400 to 6,100 drams ($11), which, however, is still far below the unofficial subsistence level of $40. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
OPPOSITION STAGES MASS DEMONSTRATION.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 people attended an opposition march in Baku on 14 September to protest the falsification of the outcome of the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments and to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliev, whom they accused of unconstitutional acts, Turan and Western news agencies reported. Other demands included a reduction in unemployment, the formation of a national government capable of resolving the Karabakh conflict, and the release of persons detained after clashes between police and residents of the village of Nardaran in early June. The Baku city administration gave permission for the demonstration. No clashes with police were reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)VILLAGERS STAGE NEW PROTEST.
Most of the 8,000 residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku attended a meeting on 16 September at which they discussed Azerbaijani authorities' failure to address their grievances, zerkalo.az reported on 17 September. They adopted a resolution calling on authorities to release all of those detained following clashes between police and villagers in June, to establish an independent group composed of parliament deputies to determine who was responsible for giving the order to police to open fire during that standoff, and to deliver on promises made earlier to improve socioeconomic conditions in the village and create new jobs. Addressing the meeting, one village elder disclosed that during talks in August, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov admitted that he pressured Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov not to make good on his pledge to meet the villagers' demands because, had he done so, other villages might have raised similar demands. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS SAY POLICE SHOT DEMONSTRATORS.
A group of Azerbaijani human rights organizations and legal experts released a provisional report on 29 August, summarized in English by the Human Rights Center in Baku and released on 8 September, documenting recent events in the village of Nardaran, 35 kilometers outside Baku. The Azerbaijan Federation of Human Rights Organizations performed an independent investigation into violent incidents and continuing unrest that began in December 1999, when government authorities prevented local residents from nominating their own candidates to the local municipality, leading to a boycott. Demands were mainly economic, regarding jobs and the need for gas and electricity. But they became more politicized when efforts to resolve the conflict through a Council of Elders failed. When talks broke down in June, eight of the negotiators were detained and apartments searched. Townspeople convened on the main square to protest the detentions, but as their leaders began to disperse them, police began beating a small group of elders. This prompted some people to start throwing stones at police, who first fired rockets in the air, then began firing live ammunition at the crowd. One demonstrator was shot in the head and killed. The independent investigators report that eyewitnesses saw police shoot the man, the bullet trajectory came from the direction of the police, and no one in the crowd fired on police. Four other demonstrators sustained frontal bullet wounds; a total of 34 were wounded. The human rights investigators also disclaimed allegations that the administration building was destroyed by demonstrators and denied that a bus in which police were riding was riddled with bullet holes. The group is continuing to gather and analyze evidence. CAFPRESIDENT BLAMES DEFENSE MINISTRY FOR MILITARY CADETS' PROTEST.
Addressing servicemen at a military base in Gyandja on 12 September, President Aliyev blamed a walkout by up to 2,000 cadets at Baku's Higher Military School on serious shortcomings within the Defense Ministry leadership, Turan reported He also admitted that some military officers still engage in extortion and hazing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)PRESIDENT HECKLED IN GYANDJA.
President Aliev, accompanied by his son Ilham, traveled on 12 September to Gyandja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city, which is plagued by an almost total breakdown of its infrastructure and by massive unemployment, to open a new Olympic complex there, Turan reported. Alluding to those problems in his address, Aliyev claimed that much has been done to improve gas and electricity supplies to the city. A group of protesters forced their way through the security cordon and interrupted his address. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATOR JAILED FOR 15 DAYS.
A court in Minsk on 11 September imposed a 15-day jail sentence on Zmitser Dashkevich, an activist in the Youth Front organization, for his part in an unauthorized demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Minsk on 8 September, Belapan reported. Dashkevich and 10 other Youth Front activists protested Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to incorporate Belarus into the Russian Federation. Dashkevich argued in the court that during the demonstration he was acting in line with the Belarusian Constitution, which obliges Belarusian citizens to defend their country's sovereignty. Judge Tatsyana Paulyuchuk, however, did not heed that argument. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)TRADERS STRIKE, DEMAND BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S OUSTER.
Valery Levaneuski, the chairman of the strike committee of Belarusian outdoor-market traders, told Belapan on 12 September that some 110,000 vendors throughout Belarus took part in a strike the previous day. The protesters, apart from demands to reduce the administrative and financial pressure on small businesses, also demanded that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka resign. "For the last eight years, Alyaksandr Ryhoravich [Lukashenka] has engaged us in idle talks. He promises to meet traders halfway, but in actual fact he stifles them. What do we need such a president for?" Levaneuski told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEAD URGES REFORM.
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer on 13 September called on Belarus to "implement the necessary political reforms," saying that without them the country's membership in the Council of Europe cannot be considered, Belapan reported. "Belarus...must show solidarity with the primary political values of the Council of Europe -- democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Only by taking these steps toward genuine political reform can Belarus hope to re-join the European family of nations," Schwimmer said. The special-guest status of Belarus's legislature in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was suspended in 1997. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September
SERBIAN PATRIARCH REDEDICATES CATHEDRAL.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle officiated at the rededication of the Sarajevo Cathedral on 14 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. It was his first such reading of the liturgy there since the end of the Bosnian conflict in 1995. Top officials of Republika Srpska and Serbian members of the Bosnian government attended. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
FORMER COMMUNIST LEADERS' TRIAL OPENS IN PRAGUE.
Former Czechoslovak Communist Party chief Milos Jakes and former Czechoslovak Premier Jozef Lenart went on trial in Prague on 17 September on treason charges for their alleged role in the 1968 Soviet-led invasion by the Warsaw Pact that crushed the so-called "Prague Spring," CTK and international agencies reported. If convicted, they face prison terms of between 12 and 15 years. Testifying in court on the same day, Lenart rejected the charges. Former Communist Premier Lubomir Strougal testified on behalf of the two defendants, also denying the charges against them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
MORE THAN 15,000 CANDIDATES REGISTER FOR LOCAL-COUNCIL ELECTIONS.
The National Election Commission announced on 11 September that a total of 15,176 candidates have been registered for the local-council elections on 20 October, BNS reported. The local election commissions are required to register candidates until 15 September and finalize lists by 18 September. There are a total of 3,273 seats in 241 town and local-government councils in the country. More than 70 percent of the candidates (11,046) are running on party tickets, 4,012 as members of 249 electoral alliances and 118 as independents. There are 1,292 candidates from 10 political parties and one election alliance, as well as six independents competing for the 63 seats on the Tallinn City Council. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY FOR PROTECTION.
Deputies on 12 September approved unanimously an appeal to the United Nations, the OSCE, the European Union, the Council of Europe, and NATO for protection from anticipated "Russian military aggression," Caucasus Press reported. The appeal characterizes Putin's threat of unilateral military intervention as a preliminary to military aggression that would destabilize the entire Caucasus region, and blames Russia for earlier conflicts in Georgia that resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being displaced from their homes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)ARMENIANS PROTEST ANTICIPATED CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN BASE.
Some 5,000 Armenian residents of the Georgian district of Djavakheti that borders on Armenia attended a demonstration on 12 September in Akhalkalaki to protest the anticipated closure of the Russian military base located there, which is the region's largest single employer, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. The previous day, the Georgian government had approved a three-year program aimed at improving social conditions and infrastructure in Djavakheti and reviving local enterprises that could provide alternative employment, Caucasus Press reported. The program includes construction of a highway linking Tbilisi with Tsalka, Ninotsminda, and Akhalkalaki, the repair of the main power line to the region, and the provision of mains gas. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
CONTROVERSY OVER 'SEGREGATIONIST' SCHOOL CREATES TENSION.
Parents protesting a decision by regional authorities to close down a private school in Jaszladany, central Hungary, on 13 September blocked a road leading to the town, Hungarian media and AP reported. It was the second protest within a week against the school's closure. Authorities say the school, which charges a monthly fee of 3,000 forints ($12), has not obtained all necessary permits. The intention to open the school was protested by the town's Romany community, which regards its launch as an attempt at segregation because most Romany parents are said to be unable to afford the fees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)OPPOSITION CRITICIZES VETTING BILLS.
Justice Minister Peter Barandy on 11 September outlined in parliament the government's two vetting bills, saying the aim of the bill on making public the state-security past of people who hold public posts is to promote transparency in public life and close this chapter of the past, Hungarian media reported. Accordingly, the bill is designed to reveal whether public political figures worked for the secret services at the Interior Ministry between December 1944 and February 1990, Barandy explained. He said the rights of persons figuring in state-security documents must be balanced with the need for transparency and the demands of past and present national security. A second bill stipulates the establishment of a State Security Services Historical Archive, Barandy said. The opposition slammed both bills as unacceptable. FIDESZ Deputy Ervin Demeter complained that those who pursued law-enforcement activity in 1956-57 are meant to be removed from the bill, "as that would affect former Prime Minister Gyula Horn." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS DRAFT MORATORIUM ON PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS.
Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev has recalled a draft bill presented to parliament on 9 September that would have imposed a three-month moratorium on public protests, meetings, and demonstrations, akipress.org and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16 September. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov explained that following the 12 September decision by protesters to abandon their march on Bishkek to demand President Akaev's resignation, such a law is no longer needed. But Osmonov rejected a demand by deputies to annul the 7 September government decree September on urgent measures to prevent the destabilization of the situation in Kyrgyzstan, arguing that the increased activities of the banned Islam organization Hizb ut-Tahrir still pose a threat to political stability, akipress.org reported. Osmonov agreed only to remove from that decree the paragraph imposing a moratorium on political meetings and demonstrations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)PRESIDENT BLAMES OPPOSITION FOR ATTACK ON SENIOR OFFICIAL.
A statement released on 12 September by President Akaev's press service characterizes the 6 September grenade attack on presidential administration head Misir Ashyrkulov as a politically motivated terrorist act resulting from the "domestic political confrontation" fueled by the opposition, akipress.org reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). The statement says the authorities have nonetheless no intention of "tightening the screws" or engaging in a "witch-hunt" against the opposition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)KYRGYZ PROTEST MARCHERS REACH COMPROMISE.
Government and opposition representatives reached agreement late on 12 September in the town of Toktogul that the approximately 800 protesters who began a march on Bishkek to demand the president's resignation will abandon that undertaking and drop their demand for the revision of the Sino-Kyrgyz border agreement signed in May, in return for the release of 12 protesters arrested in the town of Tash-Komur in June and in Djalalabad earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But as of 14 September none of the 12 detainees had been released, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, quoting an aide to parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov. In addition, the government pledged that by 15 November President Akaev will punish three top officials for their roles in the shooting deaths of five demonstrators in Aksy in March. Meeting the following day with relatives of those killed, Akaev again promised that those responsible will be brought to justice. Tursunbek Akunov, chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, said in Bishkek on 16 September that the Toktogul agreement was unlawful, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, saying Aksy residents had not authorized parliamentarians to make an agreement on their behalf. In Kara-Kul, Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbai Mambetov and Djalalabad Oblast Governor Jusupbek Sharipov met with another 800 marchers. According to akipress.org, the marchers agreed to drop their demand for Akaev's resignation and for the annulment of the Sino-Kyrgyz border agreement under which Kyrgyzstan cedes territory to China but continued to insist on the resignation of senior officials, including former presidential administration head Amanbek Karypkulov, whom they hold responsible for the deaths of five protesters in Aksy in March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 September)
PRE-ELECTION ROWDINESS IN MACEDONIA.
In the run-up to the 15 September parliamentary elections, armed persons fired machine guns into the air and threw stones at a rally of the opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) in Prilep on 8 September, Macedonian media reported. Nobody was injured. The SDSM leadership later said the rowdies were followers of the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). The small Democratic Alternative of former Foreign Minister Vasil Tupurkovski subsequently called off a rally in Prilep slated for 9 September. The governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) postponed a party rally in the village of Aracinovo outside Skopje on 9 September after unknown persons prevented the party leadership from entering the settlement, "Dnevnik" reported. PDSH Deputy Chairman Menduh Thaci later accused "gangs [loyal to SDSM Chairman Branko] Crvenkovski" of being responsible for the incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)A VOTE FOR CHANGE...
Some 70 percent of 1.6 million eligible voters went to the polls on 15 September to elect a 120-seat parliament, international and domestic media reported. More than 3,300 candidates from 30 parties and eight coalitions competed in the fourth general election since independence in 1991 and the first since the ethnic unrest in 2001. A record 900 OSCE monitors were present, as were 3,500 specially trained police. Minor, isolated incidents were reported in Kumanovo, Lesok, and elsewhere. State Election Commission Chairwoman Mirjana Lazarova-Trajkovska said in a first statement that, "The people of the Republic of Macedonian have shown that it is possible to hold fair and democratic elections in this country." She called on the candidates to "wait for the State Election Commission's official announcement of the result in a dignified and peaceful way." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)...BY TOSSING OUT GEORGIEVSKI, ELECTING CRVENKOVSKI AND AHMETI.
While final results will not be ready until midweek, soon after polls closed it became clear that the opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) swept the ethnic Macedonian vote, international and Macedonian domestic media reported on 16 September. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE admitted defeat, saying, "These elections were the fairest and most democratic ones [Macedonia has had]." SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski said in his victory statement in Skopje on 16 September that the election proved that the voters are "wise people who knew to choose who should rule the country from now on," AP reported. Most observers noted that he will have his work cut out for him in a country with about 40 percent unemployment, a reputation for corruption even by Balkan standards, and high expectations by the electorate that the country can now put the recent ethnic strife behind it. Crvenkovski has already formed a coalition with parties representing some of the smaller minorities. The clear winner of the ethnic Albanian vote is former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti, who heads the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI). Ahmeti enjoys the reputation among many Albanians of having obtained more rights for them after a few months of fighting and the August 2001 Ohrid agreement than the established parties won in a decade of participating in the parliament and government. He also has the big advantage over all other major politicians in Macedonia of being untainted by corruption. Ahmeti, who took a conciliatory and moderate stance in most of his pre-election speeches, said that his victory reflects "a big desire [by the voters] to install a real democracy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)POLICE OFFICER KILLED IN MACEDONIA.
An ethnic Albanian policeman was shot dead in the village of Bogovinje near Tetovo on 12 September, Macedonian media reported. He died in an attack on a police station launched by a group of about 10 armed civilians, who fired a heavy machine gun at the building. Macedonian police detained two suspects. The victim was the grandson of Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi. The international community condemned the incident, calling for restraint. Ambassador Craig Jenness, the head of the OSCE mission to Skopje, said: "We hope that the authorities, political leaders, local communities, and citizens will manifest wisdom and restraint and will act in such a way that the situation remains calm, and the electoral campaign [for the 15 September parliamentary elections] continues peacefully." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
BESSARABIAN METROPOLITAN CHURCH COMPLAINS TO PACE RAPPORTEURS.
In a letter addressed to the PACE rapporteurs on Moldova, Josette Durrieu and Lauri Vahtre, the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church on 13 September said the government is violating worshipers' property rights, Infotag reported. Bessarabian Church representatives said that although the church has been registered with the authorities, the properties of the church are not being returned to it. They drew attention to the fact that a resolution approved by the government on 26 September 2001 stipulates that the rival Metropolitan Church of Moldova is the lawful successor and inheritor of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia which functioned in Moldova until 1940. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)COUNCIL OF EUROPE RAPPORTEURS HEARS DIFFERENT EVALUATIONS.
Council of Europe rapporteurs for Moldova Josette Durrieu and Laurie Vahtre met on 12 September with the leaderships of the opposition and the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) to evaluate the implementation of PACE's April recommendations on Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. While Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca told the rapporteurs that no recommendation has been implemented except for the registration of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, PCM deputy parliamentary group leader Vadim Mishin said Moldova is in the process of implementing the recommendations. Braghis Alliance leader Dumitru Braghis drew the rapporteurs' attention to the fact that the resolution's recommendations on Teleradio Moldova have been ignored. Durrieu said after the talks that she could sense "some progress," but that Moldova must fully implement the obligations its government has assumed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
PARLIAMENT AMENDS LUSTRATION LAW.
The Sejm on 13 September voted by 226 to 196, with six abstentions, to exclude officers of the intelligence and counterintelligence services and the Border Guards from the lustration procedure, which obligates state officials to provide written statements as to whether they collaborated with the communist-era secret services. The amendment was proposed by senators of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
SENATE APPROVES NEW LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
The Senate on 12 September approved a new law on political parties, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The number of members in a political formation necessary for a party's registration has been raised from 10,000 to 50,000, and all currently functioning political parties must reregister with the Bucharest Tribunal by 31 December. The law also stipulates that in order to qualify for registration, a party must be endorsed by at least 1,000 residents in 21 counties (out of Romania's 41 counties). Political formations that fail to garner at least 50,000 votes countrywide in two consecutive elections will automatically be struck from the list of authorized parties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
RACISTS ALLEGEDLY VIDEOTAPED MURDER.
Skinheads in St. Petersburg who allegedly beat to death an Azerbaijani watermelon trader on 13 September reportedly videotaped the murder, lenta.ru reported on 16 September, citing police sources. Magomed Magomedov, 55, was reportedly beaten to death by five young men armed with metal bars, who are allegedly members of an extremist nationalist group. Police said they recovered the videotape at the home of one of the suspects. On 14 September, another Azerbaijani citizen was beaten by several young men dressed in army fatigues, lenta.ru reported. Police do not believe the incidents are related and do not consider them race-related incidents, RosBalt reported on 16 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)BOMB ROCKS WALKING TOGETHER HEADQUARTERS.
A previously unknown group called the Red Partisans on 11 September claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded earlier that day outside the Moscow headquarters of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, lenta.ru and ntvru.com reported. The bomb -- equivalent to about 400 grams of TNT -- exploded just after 1 a.m. local time, breaking windows and damaging the office door. No one was injured in the incident. According to a statement sent by the Red Partisans to the online newspaper gazeta.ru, Walking Together was targeted because it supports "the policies of [President] Putin, which are fatal for Russia and shameful to the youth of the country." "As a pro-presidential organization, you share the responsibility for all the crimes of the authorities against our people. Therefore, we declare war on you. Mark well, our struggle against you and the Putin regime will continue until total victory," the statement read. Walking Together leader Vasilii Yakimenko said that he does not believe the explosion was organized by supporters of writer Vladimir Sorokin, who faces charges of disseminating pornography on the basis of Walking Together's complaints. "Sorokin is not the kind of writer for whom anyone would commit a terrorist act. This explosion was mindless hooliganism and stupidity," Yakimenko was quoted by lenta.ru as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)POLICE CLASH WITH LEFTIST DEMONSTRATORS.
Moscow police on 15 September detained 92 leftist, antiglobalization protestors, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 September. Approximately 500 protestors attended the Anticapitalism-2002 rally, which was organized by the left-wing party Working Russia. Most of those arrested were members of the Union of Communist Youth, the National Bolshevik Party, and the Avant-garde Communist Youth. The protestors attempted to block traffic on Tverskaya Ulitsa and clashed with police who tried to prevent them doing so. According to lenta.ru, one young woman was hospitalized in the altercation, and several of the detained protestors were allegedly found to have Molotov cocktails in their possession. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)MOSCOW MAYOR CONFIRMS WISH TO RESTORE DZERZHINSKII STATUE...
Soon after the 125th anniversary of the birthdate of Felix Dzerzhinskii, founder of the Soviet secret police, on 11 September, Yurii Luzhkov told journalists on 15 September that his controversial proposal to restore the downtown Moscow monument to Dzerzhinskii was a "well thought-out and considered" statement, Russian news agencies reported on 17 September. The previous day Luzhkov had selectively recalled Dzerzhinskii's accomplishments, saying, "We should remember that he solved the problem of homeless children and that he bailed out the railroads in a period of devastation," downplaying Dzerzhinskii's role in the "excesses" of the Red Terror. In calling for the restoration of the monument on Lubyanka Square in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Luzhkov described Dzerzhinskii in almost angelic terms, pravda.ru commented. Luzhkov's statement was widely perceived as a strange turnabout for a man who was within the leadership of the Moscow City Council when it decided on 22 August 1999 to dismantle the statue, an event that Luzhkov describes in his memoirs. In addition, Luzhkov energetically resisted Communist Party proposals in 1999 to restore the statue. Arsenii Roginskii, chairman of the human rights organization Memorial, told polit.ru on 17 September that Luzhkov's change of heart can be explained by his desire to fawn on President Vladimir Putin and the other chekists who have come to power in recent years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)...AS DZERZHINSKII DEBATE HEATS UP...
The restoration of the Dzerzhinskii monument would mean "the complete revision of 12 years of the new Russia," Yelena Bonner, widow of Nobel Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 17 September. Valerii Abramkin, a former Soviet political prisoner who is now a leading human rights advocate, pointed out that a stone from the Solovetskii Island concentration camp has now been placed on Lubyanka Square to commemorate the millions of victims of Soviet-era terror. "To erect the Dzerzhinskii monument nearby is ridiculous and to put it in place [of the Solovetskii stone] would be blasphemous," Abramkin was quoted by the daily as saying. Aleksei Molyakov, a former KGB colonel general and the former head of the FSB's military counterintelligence, said that as a person who was educated in the chekist tradition he was pained by the demolition of the monument in 1991. "But I am not sure that today we should return to the past," Molyakov told "Komsomolskaya pravda," quoting the Greek philosopher Heraclitus's observation that "One cannot step twice into the same river." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)...AND LIBERALS VOW TO OPPOSE THE MOVE, SUBSTITUTE ALEKSANDR II STATUE.
Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader and Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov said that the proposal to restore the Dzerzhinskii monument is part of a clear trend toward increasing authoritarianism, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 September. He said the SPS will attempt to gather 1 million signatures in protest against Luzhkov's proposal. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party also came out against the restoration, RosBalt reported on 16 September. "The personality of Dzerzhinskii is inseparably linked to the creation of the system of concentration camps and the destruction of millions of people, including the best representatives of the intelligentsia, the clergy, the Cossack community, the working class, and the peasantry during the period of the Red Terror," a Yabloko statement asserted. The party once again urged the city to place a monument to the victims of political repression on the spot where the Dzerzhinskii monument stood. Nemtsov also said that the presidential administration approved on 13 September a site on the territory of the Kremlin for a monument to Tsar Aleksandr II, who carried out a series of liberal reforms in the middle of the 19th century, including the liberation of the serfs. Nemtsov noted that this news reached him just hours after he heard of Luzhkov's proposal. "Perhaps this is the essence of Russian centrism," he quipped. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)SOVIET-ERA DISSIDENT AND WRITER DIES.
Feliks Svetov, a dissident expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union in 1982, a Russian Orthodox scholar and former political prisoner known for his samizdat writings, died of a heart attack in Moscow on 2 September at the age of 74, reported Prima News Agency and Time Asia. Svetov was known for his books "Russian Fortunes," "Open the Doors to Me," and "Prison." Svetov was arrested, tried, and sentenced to five years of exile in 1985. When political prisoners began to be released in 1987, Svetov refused to sign any requests for a pardon. In recent years he was outspoken about the war in Chechnya and also served as a member of the presidential Clemency Commission. CAFCITIZENS UNHAPPY WITH THEIR MILITARY...
A survey of Russian citizens performed by two American scholars has uncovered deep distress and apprehension about the state of the Russian military, in notorious decline since its glory days in the Soviet era, with barely half of respondents retaining confidence in the armed forces. In an article published in the "Financial Times" on 11 September, Theodore Gerber, associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, and Sarah Mendelson, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Russia and Eurasia Program, described the findings from their focus groups. "They [Russians] expressed fears that their armed forces could not protect them from foreign attack, as well as shame that the Russian military could no longer compare to that of the U.S. Those with loved ones currently serving or soon to be of draft age feared for their well being." The scholars' poll data show that the majority of Russians -- and 65 percent of those under 50 -- support a contract-based military. In addition to low and unpaid wages, hazing, corruption, drugs, crime, brutality, and the lack of equipment, training, discipline, and professionalism, respondents said poor conditions in the army contributed to another Russian problem -- police brutality -- by providing demobilized soldiers with the opportunity to use "the only training they received in the military: how to apply brute force and intimidation to extract gain." In related news, Sergei Ivanov, addressing a closed session of the Duma on 11 September, complained that the armed forces are facing an acute shortage as only 11 percent of draftees have been secured, "RFE/RL Newsline" reported, citing "Kommersant-Daily" on 12 September. CAF...AS ARE SOME SOLDIERS.
Fifty-four soldiers left their unit near Volgograd without permission on 8 September to draw attention to the systematic and severe beatings that they endured, polit.ru reported on 11 September, citing a written statement that the men left with the nongovernmental organization Mothers' Rights. Tatyana Zozulenko, a spokeswoman for the organization, said that about 1,000 soldiers have left their units in Volgograd Oblast alone in recent years in order to seek Mothers' Rights' assistance. Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov said that two commanders of the soldiers' unit, identified only as Lieutenant Colonel Kolesnikov and Major Shimov, have been suspended under suspicion that they personally took part in the alleged beatings, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)MORE CHECHEN CIVILIANS KILLED BY RUSSIAN ARTILLERY ATTACK.
Two Chechen sisters were killed on 12 September by a mortar attack on the village of Dyshne-Vedeno, southeast of Grozny, Interfax reported. A woman wounded in the attack died two days later. Some 5,000 village residents blocked the main Vedeno-Grozny highway on 13 September to protest the attack and demand that those responsible be punished. Movsur Khamidov, who is deputy prime minister in charge of law enforcement, told Interfax on 14 September that an investigation established that a Russian military unit fired the shell in response to repeated attacks by Chechen militants. The previous day, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is a spokesman for the joint federal forces in Chechnya, claimed that it had been fired by Chechen militants. Three people died and several were injured in a similar attack in Shali last month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
HUMAN RIGHTS, OPPOSITION CALL FOR MORE PRESSURE.
The International Helsinki Federation released a 32-page report on a meeting convened in Vienna in June with Western human rights organizations, OSCE officials, and exiled members of Turkmenistan's opposition (see http://www.ihf-hr.org). The participants outlined a wide variety of human rights problems in Turkmenistan, from political prisoners' cases to discrimination against ethnic minorities, and also noted that the closed nature of the society, the cult of personality of President Saparmurat Niyazov threatened security in the region rather than enhanced stability for business with Western oil and gas companies in the resource-rich nation. Since 11 September 2001, Western governments have tended to leave human rights interventions to OSCE meetings rather than bilateral contacts, complained one participant. The conference-goers stopped short of calling for Turkmenistan to be ousted from OSCE or for a boycott, but urged that civil society actors be consulted more closely in designing investment projects and that meetings with Turkmenistan officials include pressure on human rights cases and issues. CAF
ACTIVISTS SENTENCED AFTER COMPLAINING ABOUT CORRUPTION.
On 16 September, the Nishansky district court in Kashka-Darya region sentenced Dzhura Muradov, 37, head of the district chapter of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan and disabled, to six years in prison, PRIMA reported 17 September. Two other human rights activists, Musulionkul Khamraev, 26, and Norpulat Radzhapov, 26, were sentenced respectively to five and a half years and five years in prison. The Human Rights Society opened on 4 May of this year in Nishansky district and began monitoring abuses of the law by local authorities and police. They called for the resignation of a local collective farm head they claimed had stolen this year's crop from local farmers. They also made allegations against local law-enforcers and government officials and wound up being charged themselves with "hooliganism," "theft," "deliberate property damage," and "organized violence." Local human rights activists believe the charges to be fabricated. Last week Human Rights Watch reported that Jakhangir Shosalimov, a member of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, the only registered human rights group in Uzbekistan, and Tursunbai Utamuratov, head of the Karakalpakstan section of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, were detained in separate incidents. Shoshalimov was helping a journalist to interview a journalist to interview victims of police violence in the Chorsu market in Tashkent, said HRW. Utamuratov is accused of tax evasion, and authorities have not granted access to him by his lawyer or his family. CAF
UKRAINE RETURNS TO SOVIET-ERA TACTICS TO SUBDUE OPPOSITION
By Taras Kuzio
In January 1972, a purge and arrest of dissidents later dubbed the "General Pogrom" by the samizdat journal "Ukrainian Herald," began in Ukraine. The journal's editor, writing under the pseudonym Maksym Sahaydak, was believed to be Stepan Khmara, who later suffered persecution himself and who this week attended mass demonstrations in Kyiv as a member of Yuliya Tymoshenko's radical Fatherland Party.
During the "General Pogrom," which lasted through 1979, 70 Ukrainian dissidents were arrested and tried. But the real figure of those dismissed from work, forced to recant, or harassed in other ways was closer to 200 people, many of whom were involved in education and culture. Today, the detention of 1,000 oppositionists throughout Ukraine in the days preceding the 16 September protests is even higher than the Soviet-era figure and represents the largest crackdown since the Stalin years in the former Soviet region. The size of the opposition crowds, estimated by the Kyiv State Administration at 50,000, is also higher than the 20,000 during the "Kuchmagate" crisis of March 2001. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated throughout Ukraine.
The authorities are no more interested in dialogue with the opposition than they were in the 1970s. Viktor Yushchenko, head of Our Ukraine, Ukraine's largest parliamentary faction, has differentiated himself from the three radical opposition groups (Tymoshenko, Socialists, and Communists) by continuing to support a "dialogue" with the authorities in the form of a roundtable modeled on the Polish process of 1988. Yet there is no sign that Kuchma is meeting them halfway. As in the 1970s, this refusal to agree to any "dialogue" is pushing moderates into the radical camp; Our Ukraine now wants to launch even bigger protests on 29 September.
The mass detentions and dirty tricks against the opposition are two-pronged -- repressive and preventative. Every effort was made by authorities to downplay reports of the size of the protests to the lowest figures possible. Senior Justice Ministry and city officials argued that there would be no room for them all in central Kyiv (Tymoshenko claimed she expected 100,000-200,000 to attend the protests). Meanwhile, the Traffic Militia (DAI) barred buses and cars without Kyiv license plates from entering the capital, claiming they had to prevent chaos if the roads were blocked by demonstrators. Bus drivers trying to take protestors to Kyiv were stripped of their licenses. Seemingly to facilitate later court action against protestors, DAI handed out prepared complaint forms for drivers to sign.
Tymoshenko was blocked from flying to Mykolaiv after airport authorities claimed (falsely) that the airport was closed for safety checks. Fake copies of the Tymoshenko newspaper "Vechirni visti" were circulated, calling on Kyivites not to join the protests.
Students, many of whom would be expected to take part in the demonstration, were threatened with expulsion from their universities (a civic group called Ukraine Without Kuchma, mainly made up of young people, was among key participants). Education Minister and Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united member Vasyl Kremen said he would not allow students to disrupt their studies. The weekend prior to the demonstration was designated as "sanitary day" for student dormitories and students could not host guests. In Kharkiv, the authorities took over the central square where a demonstration was planned and substituted a carnival in its place. Other city centers were suddenly put under "renovation" during the protests.
To scare the public away from the protests, television ran regular reports by the Interior Ministry (MVS) about hospitals stocking up on medical and emergency supplies. The MVS advised parents to keep children at home and issued a special leaflet outlining many different articles of the Criminal Code that could be used against protestors. Oppositionists accused the MVS and Security Service (SBU) of placing them under surveillance, which those authorities denied. The MVS claimed it had information that "criminal elements and mentally unstable people," unemployed persons, hooligans, drunks, "those with aggressive intentions," and the homeless would join the protests and cause disturbances, thereby denigrating the protestors.
The Luhansk Oblast council demanded a referendum on the Belarus-Russia union and on the issue of Russian as a second state language, and said the protests would damage relations with Russia. The Dnipropetrovsk Oblast state administration threatened to deal with "revolutionaries" and refused to allow oppositionists the use of any premises. In Kyiv, as in the Soviet era, those on state salaries were strongly encouraged to turn out in "support of Kuchma."
Court action was undertaken to ban the demonstration in central Kyiv. Opposition leaders were threatened with prosecution for blocking traffic and calling for Kuchma's removal from power. Some 1,000 activists, many pensioners and middle-aged people, were rounded up throughout Ukraine from the Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialists, and the Communists just prior to the planned protests on charges of applying "psychological pressure on the authorities and, most importantly, on the Ukrainian president," according to Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the presidential administration. The would-be demonstrators were asked to sign statements saying they would not join the protests, threatened with charges if they did, and asked to provide intelligence on how they were being organized and financed, according to Interfax on 14 September. Opposition party offices were raided and materials confiscated.
Parallel to the massive roundup, authorities worked hard to downplay the significance of the planned rallies and tried to reduce their visibility. The opposition was blackened on state media as "extremists." A crashed car was found near Kyiv with Tymoshenko literature suspiciously next to a box of Molotov cocktails. At least one opposition leader, Socialist Oleksandr Moroz, suggested he believed authorities planted hunting rifles and grenades in tents erected during the 16 September demonstrations. Kuchma and other senior figures accused the protestors of being paid to come to the protests. The State Tax Administration arrested a Tymoshenko employee allegedly with "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Two hundred young athletes were bused from Kyiv to Western Ukraine ostensibly in "support of Our Ukraine" and "Tymoshenko." Rather than joining the authentic peaceful protests, they instigated fights with local people and threw paint on Soviet monuments, acts that were then replayed on Ukrainian television as the antics of the "opposition." A similar provocation had been organized during riots on 9 March 2001 in Kyiv when the extreme-right pro-Kuchma "Tryzub" paramilitary group attacked the police on behalf of the SBU. (Twelve members of the anti-Kuchma extreme-right anti-Kuchma National Assembly are still in jail accused of instigating this violence.) In 2001, the tactic worked, as public support for the opposition collapsed after the riots. During this week's protests, the only violence in Kyiv came from MVS special forces who demolished 126 tents and arrested 54 protestors who are now charged with "blocking traffic."
While attempting to prevent Ukrainians from exercising their right to hold demonstrations, the authorities simultaneously closed all opposition access to the media. Starting this past summer, the presidential administration sent instructions to television channels instructing them on how to cover or ignore events. Material on different television channels on the opposition was synchronized, according to the "Telekrytyka" website. On the morning of the protests, all television stations went off the air at once, something unprecedented in Ukraine, where maintenance is usually undertaken one station at a time. At the same time, pro-Kuchma "political scientists" and sociologists, such as presidential adviser Mykhailo Pogrebynsky, downplayed public support for the protests, which in fact appears to be growing from all accounts.
These Soviet-era tactics were undertaken on the same day that President Kuchma requested at the World Economic Forum in Salzburg that the EU consider Ukraine for future membership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EU turned Kyiv down.
(Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and adjunct staff at the department of political science, University of Toronto.)