9 October 2002, Volume
KULOV SUPPORTERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE.
Seven supporters of jailed Kyrgyz opposition leader Feliks Kulov started a hunger strike on 8 October, demanding Kulov be released from jail and all charges against him be dropped, RFE/RL reported the same day.
Tursunbek Akunov, chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, was one of those participating in the hunger strike. Akunov said the group was convinced of Kulov's innocence and demanded his complete acquittal.
The hunger strike follows a week of protests on Kulov's behalf. Members of Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Assembly, which wrapped up its work on 2 October, sent a signed appeal to President Askar Akaev the following day, asking for the release former Vice President Kulov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Akaev said the issue is beyond his competence and the appeal should be redirected to Supreme Court Chairwoman Nelly Beishenavlieva. Representatives for the political party Moya Strana duly submitted the appeal to her.
The Ar-Namys party has also addressed an appeal to Beishenavlieva, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 7 October.
On 3 October, about 600 demonstrators picketed the municipal court where the appeal is being heard.
Kulov has been in jail since January 2001 after being found guilty of abuse of power while he served as minister of national security and earlier as governor of Kyrgyzstan's northern Chui Oblast. Kulov has always maintained the charges against him were politically motivated and that investigations into his actions began only after he publicly announced his opposition to President Akaev. Local and international human rights activists hoped that Akaev would make a gesture of conciliation in response both to domestic unrest and to expressions of human rights concerns by the U.S. government, but they fear the case was not discussed since Kulov has still not been released following a U.S.-Kyrgyz summit on 23 September (see "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies," 28 August 2002).
The Bishkek court where the hunger strikers are staging their action is in the process of hearing Kulov's appeal. Meanwhile, in the southern Djalalabad Oblast, an unsanctioned rally was held on 8 October in support of the former head of Aksy Raion. Shermamat Osmonov is charged with ordering police to fire on demonstrators in Aksy on 17-18 March. At least five people were killed. Several hundred demonstrators were today demanding that charges against Osmonov be dropped, saying that Osmonov only acted on orders he received from people higher up in the government.
Southern Kyrgyzstan has been tense since the events of March, and Tuesday's protest was only the most recent of many demonstrations held since then. The Kyrgyz government has alternated between saying the demonstrators are leading the country into civil war and promising that their grievances would be properly addressed (see "Kyrgyzstan: Kulov Supporters Begin Hunger Strike," rferl.org, 8 October 2002). CAF
OFFICIALS SEEK TO REASSURE COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVER DEATH PENALTY.
During talks in Yerevan on 3 October, Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian assured Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles that Armenia will indeed abolish capital punishment completely and unconditionally by the June 2003 deadline set by the council, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 4 October 2002). Parliamentary deputies, including deputy speaker Togran Torosian, who also met with Gil-Robles, object to scrapping a legal loophole that would provide for handing down the death penalty to the five gunmen currently on trial for shooting eight senior officials in the parliamentary chamber in October 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)STUDENTS PROTEST APPOINTMENT OF NEW RECTOR.
Several hundred students staged a demonstration on 2 October outside the State Pedagogical University in Yerevan to protest the appointment as rector of Artyusha Ghukasian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The students pointed out that Ghukasian has never worked at the university and suggested that he owes the appointment to his friendship with Deputy Education Minister Ara Avetisian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
MARCHERS CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION.
Participants at a march in Baku on 5 October called for the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev and the annulment of the results of the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments, Turan and Reuters reported. They condemned Aliev's administration as corrupt and powerless to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Estimates of the number of participants ranged from 4,000-10,000. Earlier representatives of eight opposition parties adopted a statement on 2 October demanding the release of two members of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan and six Musavat party activists arrested the previous day, Turan reported. Press commentaries attributed the arrests to the authorities' fear of mass attendance at the opposition demonstration planned for 5 October, for which the Baku municipal authorities had initially not granted permission. Also on 2 October, the Gyandja city authorities rejected a formal application by opposition parties to stage a parallel demonstration in Gyandja on 5 October, Turan reported. Although the city authorities finally granted permission on 4 October to hold the march in Baku, students at the state and some private universities in Baku were warned not to attend, according to Turan. No clashes were reported between demonstrators and police who watched the march. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 October)EMBATTLED VILLAGERS PICKET INTERIOR MINISTRY.
Representatives of the Union of Baku and Baku Villages on 2 October picketed the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office to protest the arrest and sentencing to three months' imprisonment of union Chairman Hadji Djebrail Alizade, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Also on 2 October, Alizade was transferred from an Interior Ministry facility to the high-security Bayil Prison, and a Baku district court extended for a further two months the pretrial detention of five Nardaran village elders, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
NGOS HOLD CONGRESS.
A congress of the Assembly of Democratic Nongovernmental Organizations in Minsk on 5-6 October elected 26 NGO leaders and activists to the assembly's "working group," Belapan reported. This group will reportedly be expanded with representatives of those NGOs that were unable to take part in the congress. The congress ended with the adoption of a resolution on human rights and civil society in Belarus and of a statement in defense of the country's independence. Some raised objections to the validity of resolutions adopted during the congress, arguing that 190 delegates attended the forum on its first day and only 64 on the second. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAZh) called on NGOs at the congress to participate in the collection of signatures for a BAZh petition to annul the Criminal Code's articles that penalize the defaming and insulting of the president and other government officials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)BELARUSIAN VENDORS CONTINUE STRIKE...
Some 120,000 small traders on 3 September continued their strike over what they say is the government's financial and administrative pressure to destroy small business in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002), Belapan reported, quoting United Council of Entrepreneurs Chairman Anatol Shumchanka. Shumchanka said his council is planning to hold a convention within a month and to invite President Alyaksandr Lukashenka so vendors can present their problems and demands directly. Shumchanka insists Lukashenka is being deliberately misinformed about the situation in the small-business sector by his ministers and local authorities. Meanwhile, outdoor-market traders from a strike committee headed by Valery Levaneuski are demanding Lukashenka's ouster, blaming him personally for the suppression of small business in the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)...WHILE LUKASHENKA VILIFIES THEM ON TV.
During a visit to the Khimvalakno chemical-fiber plant in Svetlahorsk (Homel Oblast) on 3 October, Lukashenka explained to workers that he is forced to increase financial pressure on small traders in order to protect domestic producers. "Have you seen how these so-called 'poor entrepreneurs' are striking?" Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "Who is tormenting you? They go to Istanbul, to friendly China, or to some other place, buy goods there and bring them into Belarus without customs duties. They pay virtually no taxes here, that is, their goods are cheaper than those produced [in Belarus]. In this way, they ship out hard currency [abroad], feed foreign producers and importers, while [simultaneously] killing our production," Lukashenka said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)BELARUS SLAMS LITHUANIA OVER ANNOUNCED END OF VISA-FREE TRAVEL.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka told journalists on 3 October that Lithuania's intention to introduce full-scale visa requirements for all Belarusian citizens is an unfriendly step, Belapan reported. Last month, Vilnius announced that as of 1 January it will cancel the temporary agreement it concluded with Minsk in 1994 on visa-free entry into Lithuania for Belarusian pensioners, residents of border areas, and truckers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). "[This measure] runs counter to the principles of good-neighborliness and contradicts the nature and provisions of fundamental OSCE agreements, in particular, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975...under which OSCE member states made commitments gradually to simplify and apply flexible border-crossing procedures and facilitate travel on their territory," Herasimenka noted. He added that Lithuania is being too hasty in introducing visa requirements for Belarusians, since accession to the European Union does not automatically imply accession to the Schengen Treaty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)UPPER HOUSE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL BILL ON RELIGIONS...
The Council of the Republic on 2 October voted by 46 to two with four abstentions to approve a bill on religions that would considerably curb the activities of smaller denominations and bolster the Russian Orthodox Church's dominant position in Belarus, Belapan and international news agencies reported. The bill bans organized prayer by religious communities of fewer than 20 citizens and prohibits religions that have been in Belarus for less than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions. The Keston Institute, which monitors religious freedom in former communist countries, called it "the most repressive religion law in Europe," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)...AS GOVERNMENT SAYS BILL STRENGTHENS 'TRADITIONAL' BELIEFS.
Stanislau Buko, the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers' Committee on Religious and National Affairs, said during the debate that the bill would erect a barrier to the expansion of "untraditional" religions. Buko stressed that Orthodox believers, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Evangelists, and Lutherans in Belarus have supported the bill. "These are our traditional religions," he added. However, some Protestant denominations -- including the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists, the Union of Evangelical Faith Christians, the Association of Communities of Full Gospel Christians, and the Conference of Christian Adventists -- condemned the bill, saying it would favor some religious organizations and limit opportunities for worship. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
NATIONALISTS CONSOLIDATE GAINS IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS...
With more than 93 percent of the votes in the 5 October Bosnian general elections counted, the three main nationalist parties are the clear winners, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 October. In votes cast for the joint House of Representatives, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won 31.98 percent, while the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) took 16.64 percent of the votes cast in the Muslim-Croat federation. The Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) each garnered about 15 percent. In Republika Srpska, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) won 37 percent in the race for the joint House of Representatives. The Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) received 24.77 percent, and the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) took 11.35 percent. In the contest for the federation's House of Representatives, the SDA won 32.27 percent of the votes cast, while the HDZ got 16.70 percent, the SBiH 16 percent, and the SDP 15.3 percent. In the race for the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska, the SDS took 33.7 percent of the votes cast, while the SNSD won 24.2 percent and the PDP 11.89 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)...AS PUNDITS FIGURE OUT WHAT IT MEANS.
Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said soon after the vote that voters sought to punish the SDP-led government for not fulfilling its promises and did not embrace traditional nationalism, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). That same station noted in a commentary that the nationalists' room to maneuver will be limited, since the international community has already laid down the law in certain key areas such as refugee returns. The nationalists will also be hard-pressed by their voters to attract foreign investment that helps create jobs. Vienna's "Die Presse" wrote on 8 October, however, that the voters showed that they remain true to nationalist values and do not want foreigners telling them they must live together with people of other ethnic groups. The commentary added that the vote was a clear rebuke to the efforts of the international community, which should now rethink its strategy in Bosnia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)
SIGNIFICANT RISE IN NUMBER OF SLOVAK ASYLUM SEEKERS.
The Czech Interior Ministry on 7 October reported that the number of Slovaks seeking asylum in the country has grown significantly over the last three months, TASR reported. Ninety-nine Slovak citizens applied for asylum in July, 111 in August, and 135 in September, bringing the total number of applications by Slovaks in 2002 to 472. The Czech Interior Ministry does not provide data on the ethnicity of applicants for asylum, but TASR said that among Slovak applicants ethnic Roma represent the overwhelming majority. No Slovak citizen has ever been granted asylum in the Czech Republic. The overall number of asylum seekers in the country is, however, dropping, according to the Czech Interior Ministry. There were 6,395 applications in the first nine months of the year, compared to 18,084 for all of 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)
ARMENIAN GROUPS CONCERNED OVER ARREST OF ARMENIAN COMMUNITY LEADER IN DJAVAKHETI.
Several Armenian nongovernmental organizations and some political parties have expressed concern over the recent arrest of Fedya Torosyan, a founding member of the ethnic Armenian Djavakhk movement in the southern Georgian Djavakheti region, according to "Yerkir" on 2 October. Torosyan, also a leading member of the Virk political party in Djavakheti, was arrested on vague charges of "financial negligence" during his tenure as head of the regional power-distribution company. The situation in the Armenian-populated Djavakheti region has been tense in recent years due to a serious socioeconomic crisis and mounting calls for autonomy for the Armenian region by the Javakhk and Virk groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)
RIGHT-WING GROUPS PROTEST RESTORATION OF SOVIET MONUMENT.
Some 200 right-wing demonstrators on 7 October protested the return of the Soviet heroes' monument in downtown Budapest, chanting that it should be torn down, "Magyar Nemzet" reported the following day. Gyorgy Budahazy, leader of the Hungarian Revision Movement, said the group will send a letter to the government, parliament, and the Budapest and district councils asking them not to return "the monument of the occupying Soviet Army." The Soviet military monument was temporarily removed with the consent of the Russian government, to be returned upon the completion of an underground garage. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS YOUNG HUNGARIANS' PREJUDICES.
According to a survey conducted during the 2000-01 school year, strong prejudices against Roma prevail among 32 percent of the 1,500 high-school students interviewed, Budapest dailies reported on 4 October. Some 75 percent of those surveyed are prejudiced to some extent and "would not have a Roma for a friend." Only 8 percent of 17-year-olds can be said not to harbor any prejudice against Roma, according to the poll. Another 2.1 percent of respondents are strongly prejudiced against disabled young people, while 42.3 percent are tolerant toward them. The survey was conducted by the Kurt Lewin Foundation at the request of the ombudsman for educational rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)
GOVERNMENT REJECTS DEMAND TO EXTRADITE TURKMEN DISSIDENT.
The Kazakh authorities have finally rejected a request from Ashgabat to extradite dissident Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, who was sent back from Moscow to Kazakhstan after entering the Russian Federation in late August with invalid travel documents, AP reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 September 2002). On 4 October, Annaniyazov flew from Almaty to Norway, where he has been granted political asylum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)ABLIYAZOV'S PRISON WOES.
Gulam Mazanov, a defense attorney for former Kazakh Trade and Industry Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, who was sentenced to six years' imprisonment in July, told journalists in Almaty on 3 October that his client is being subjected to daily humiliations and rights abuses in one of the worst labor camps in the country, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Abliyazov is being held near Kokshetau in central Aqmola Oblast in a prison with "no sewage system," Mazanov said. He complained that prison authorities have prevented Abliyazov from communicating with his lawyers and have maliciously harassed him. He added that his client might soon be transferred to another labor camp in Oskemen in the east of the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)
DEMONSTRATORS PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR ARRESTED OFFICIALS.
Between 350 and 600 people took part in two demonstrations in Djalalabad Oblast on 4 October to demand that charges against local officials for their alleged role in the shooting of five demonstrators during protests in Aksy on 17-18 March be dropped, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. In a missive addressed to President Akaev and Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, the protesters warned that they will launch a protest march to Bishkek unless the men are released by 10 October. The trial, scheduled for 30 September, of six men accused in connection with the Aksy deaths, has been postponed. The protesters claim those officials are being made scapegoats for a decision made at a higher level. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 October)EU GROUP IN KYRGYZSTAN.
On 3 October in Bishkek, President Akaev and Prime Minister Tanaev received a European Parliament delegation to discuss human rights, media freedom, and the war on terrorism, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Delegation leader Antonio Di Pietro said that democratic reforms require financial support and, consequently, the European Union has decided to double its aid to the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)
POLITICAL RIGHT EMERGES STRONG FROM ELECTIONS.
More than 72 percent of eligible voters, or about 990,000 people, turned out for elections to the Latvian parliament on 5 October and cast their ballots for 20 tickets and 1,019 candidates, LETA reported the same day. According to preliminary results from LETA on 6 and 7 October, six parties cleared the 5 percent threshold for seats in the 100-member parliament. They include: New Era with 26 seats; For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL), 24; People's Party, 21; the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS), 12; Latvia's First Party, 10; and For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, seven seats. All are right-of-center parties except the leftist PCTVL, which also enjoys strong support within the Russian minority. Voters cast 16.07 percent of the ballots for parties that did not gain seats, the news agency reported, including two that were represented in the previous parliament: the right-of-center Latvia's Way (4.88 percent) and the leftist Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party (4.02 percent). New Era Chairman Einars Repse is expected to be asked to form the next government, but it is still unclear who might participate in the ruling coalition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)
NEW PARLIAMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION.
In what was described as a "tense atmosphere," the new legislature elected on 15 September held its first session on 3 October, Macedonian media reported. After the verification of 119 out of a total of 120 mandates, the parliament elected Nikola Popovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) as new parliamentary speaker (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Three leading members of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) -- BDI Chairman Ali Ahmeti, former UCK commander Gezim Ostreni, and Fazli Veliu -- did not attend the first session because of "other engagements." The two deputies of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the only deputy of the National Democratic Party (PDK) did not appear for unspecified reasons. The parliamentary group of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) boycotted the first session. Dpa reported that, "according to the sources within SDSM and BDI, the SDSM-led coalition will take 11 ministries, and three mandates will be given to the former rebels" in the BDI. Meanwhile, the government of outgoing Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is continuing in office in a caretaker capacity until the new cabinet is formed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)
MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS WANT RESTORATION OF DEATH PENALTY.
According to a poll conducted by OBOP in August among 1,017 Poles over the age of 15, 69 percent of respondents said they support the reintroduction of capital punishment, PAP reported on 3 October. Seventy-seven percent said they want to see harsher sentences for crimes, but only 31 percent declared their readiness to pay higher taxes to cover the cost of longer prison terms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)FORMER SOLIDARITY LEADER CLEARED OF VIOLATING LUSTRATION LAW.
The Polish Supreme Court on 2 October annulled a lower-court ruling that Marian Jurczyk, the leader of Solidarity protests in Szczecin in 1980, was an agent of the communist-era secret services, Polish media reported. The lower court found that Jurczyk was forced to work with the security service in the 1970s out of fear for his life and that he broke the 1997 lustration law by not disclosing that fact when he ran for the Senate. That ruling cost Jurczyk his Senate seat. "This is the most beautiful day of my life," Jurczyk told journalists after the Supreme Court verdict. In overturning the lower-court ruling, Judge Piotr Hofmanski, did not find that Jurczyk was never an agent. However, he noted that the law requires the court to look not only at whether someone voluntarily cooperated but whether the information they provided was useful. Hofmanski ruled that information passed along by Jurczyk "did not have any effect." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
BEREZOVSKII SAYS COMMUNIST OPPOSITION IS BETTER THAN NONE...
An interview with Boris Berezovskii was published in "Zavtra," No. 40, in which the self-exiled media magnate and oligarch expresses his desire to support the left and the antipresidential opposition, including the Communist Party. Aleksandr Prokhanov, the publisher of the anti-Western and pro-imperial weekly, conducted the interview. Berezovskii touted the role that he played in defeating the Communists in the 1996 presidential elections and his self-described part in selecting Vladimir Putin as former President Boris Yeltsin's successor in 1999. Berezovskii said he believes he made a mistake as far as Putin is concerned, because Putin's victory was "not a victory of an ideology or a variant of [national] development, but a victory of the special services, and a victory of the special services is a tragedy for any nation." Berezovskii said that all opposition is suppressed under Putin, leading him to the conclusion that the Communist Party is not the greatest danger to Russia and that it is better to have Communist opposition in the country than none at all. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)...DECIDES TO BANKROLL ANOTHER PROJECT...
In an interview with "Gazeta" on 9 October, Berezovskii said that he plans to offer financial support to the Communist Party and "to all those who will try to reform Russia" and build an effective democratic government. In that context, he noted that the Communist Party recently voted against a ban on holding national referenda 12 months before federal elections, while the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko voted in favor. However, the previous day, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov vigorously denied any possible alliance with Berezovskii. Asked about Zyuganov's protests, Berezovskii replied that he "doesn't know of an instance when someone turned down money," noting that he funds the Moscow-based Sakharov Center despite the protestations of some liberal activists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)...AS NATIONALIST HAILS RETURN OF THE PEOPLE'S MONEY...
"Zavtra" Editor in Chief Prokhanov told NTV on 8 October that he met with Berezovskii in London recently and that "it is too early to talk about marrying Berezovskii and the Communist Party." He said that the union they are talking about will probably be "tactical." Prokhanov said that he has no problem taking Berezovskii's money, which he considers to have been expropriated from the Russian people. "Berezovskii's money is not his. It is your money," Prokhanov said. "You should thank us that the money is once again being used for your needs and those of our movement. We are only expropriating this money through a complex political intrigue." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)...AND LIBERAL RUSSIA KICKS THE OLIGARCH OUT.
The political council of Liberal Russia, of which Berezovskii was a founding member and major funder, voted on 8 October to expel the oligarch for his links to the Communists, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. According to party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, all 22 members of the council other than Berezovskii voted in favor of the expulsion. AP, however, cited Aleksandr Lebedev, head of the party's Moscow chapter, as saying the vote was 19 to four. "Berezovskii's activities discredit Liberal Russia, but we are grateful for the support he has provided," Yushenkov was quoted as saying. Yushenkov added that Berezovskii has the right to appeal the decision at the next party congress and said that the oligarch had provided nearly $1 million in funding since the party was founded in 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION DECLARES WINNER IN KRASNOYARSK RACE...
The Central Election Commission (TsIK) decided unanimously on 4 October to cancel an earlier decision of the Krasnoyarsk Krai election commission to annul the results of the krai's 22 September gubernatorial elections, Russian news agencies reported. However, the TsIK stopped short of disbanding its regional counterpart. TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said the central commission is preparing an appeal to dismiss the krai commission that will be sent to a Krasnoyarsk court, according to Interfax. The TsIK also confirmed Aleksandr Khloponin's election as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Khloponin was named acting governor by President Putin on 3 October. Georgii Kostrykin, head of the krai's commission, told reporters in Krasnoyarsk that his Moscow counterparts have exceeded their legal authority with their recent ruling, ITAR-TASS reported, noting he plans to appeal the decision. In addition, he said there is no legal basis for the TsIK to seek to disband the krai's commission, which Veshnyakov has pledged to do. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October)...AS PUTIN'S INTERVENTION IS LABELED 'STRATEGIC MISTAKE.'
Meanwhile, a number of Moscow-based analysts and policymakers told Yenisei-Inform that they consider Putin's decision to intervene personally in the conflict a mistake, regions.ru reported on 4 October. Oleg Sysuev, first deputy chairman of the board of directors of Alfa-Bank and former first deputy presidential administration head, said Putin made a "big strategic mistake." According to Sysuev, the Kremlin has tried to explain its actions by saying, "'We didn't interfere [initially], and look how illegally everything happened.'" But, Sysuev continued, Russia is in the process of trying to build a civil society, which entails trusting the electorate, and the Kremlin's intervention and rationale undermine this process. Aleksandr Gerasimov, director of the analytical publication "24," commented that, "Putin intervened to show that he is master of the house. There is no other explanation -- there was no necessity to intervene." Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin concurred, noting that Putin acted in order to "show that he controls everything in Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)OPPOSITION CONTINUES TO COMPLAIN ABOUT RACE IN KALMYKIA.
One of 11 presidential candidates in the 20 October presidential election in Kalmykia, Nikolai Ochirov, who is the general director of Nikoil-Kalmykia, told reporters in Moscow on 4 October that "unprecedented violations of election law" are taking place in the republic, and he called on central authorities to exert tighter control over the proceedings, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Ochirov, local television and newspapers "show only one face," that of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the incumbent president who is seeking re-election, polit.ru reported. According to Ochirov, only three of the 11 candidates are actually opposition candidates to Ilyumzhinov, while the remainder "have conducted open or secret negotiations with the authorities." Meanwhile, in an interview with Radio Mayak the next day, Veshnyakov commented that "everyone understands that there is a lack of democratic tradition in Kalmykia." He added that the commission has had "to cancel decisions of the Kalmykian election commission twice to bring them into line with federal law" and that now the commission's representatives "have to stay there all the time to avoid another silly mistake, causing enmity to be stirred up." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)ELECTION SHENANIGANS CALLED THREAT TO DEMOCRACY.
An article in "Vremya novostei" on 1 October charged that the election scandals in Krasnoyarsk Krai and Nizhnii Novgorod represent the latest attempts to discredit the election process. According to the daily, the two races show that it is not important how people vote but rather what kind of arguments one finds to persuade judges and election-commission members. Articles in "Novye izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day made similar arguments. According to the latter daily, "the latest events in Russian politics might logically be followed by the abolition of democratic ways of expressing the people's will." Also on 1 October, the General Council of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party called for immediate changes to election legislation so that "a single criterion for conducting elections at all levels is established," Interfax reported. According to the party's council, heads of cities and regions should be elected by at least 50 percent plus one of registered voters, and if this does not happen, then they would be appointed by the president. The party made similar suggestions in the form of a draft bill discussed earlier this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)MINISTRY TO EXAMINE NATIONAL POWER PARTY.
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said that his agency intends to investigate the National Power Party of Russia (NDPR), which the ministry legally registered on 16 September, polit.ru reported on 2 October. Two of the party's three co-chairmen, former Press Minister Boris Mironov and nationalist newspaper Editor Aleksandr Sevasyanov, have long-standing reputations as anti-Semites, and the party's registration created a minor stir in the Russian press. The third co-chairman, Stanislav Terekhov, is best-remembered for his active role in the October 1993 attempt to remove then-President Boris Yeltsin. According to "The Moscow Times" on 27 September, the party's website contains numerous openly anti-Semitic documents, including a statement by Mironov that, "We must unite all indigenous peoples in the struggle against yids." Chaika said that the Justice Ministry's probe of the party was initiated following media reports of the co-chairmen's alleged anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements. "The Moscow Times" cited a party official as saying that NDPR has 11,000 members and offices in 70 subjects of the federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)ATTITUDES TOWARD OCTOBER 1993 CHANGING.
On the eve of the ninth anniversary of a bloody confrontation in downtown Moscow on 3-4 October 1993 between then-President Boris Yeltsin and supporters of the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet led by then-Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and then-Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, Russians appear to be rethinking their view of those events, polit.ru reported on 3 October. The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) asked 1,600 respondents from 33 regions about the causes of the confrontation. In a similar survey shortly after the events, 46 percent said the conflict was caused by the desire of Khasbulatov and Rutskoi to hold on to power by any means, 32 percent said it was sparked by the general disorder in the country initiated by the reforms of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and 28 percent blamed Yeltsin and his entourage. In the latest survey, however, just 22 percent blame Khasbulatov and Rutskoi, while 36 percent blame Gorbachev and 31 percent blame Yeltsin. In 1993, 51 percent of respondents said that Yeltsin's use of military force to suppress the uprising was justified, while 30 percent said it was not. Now, only 22 percent say that Yeltsin's decision was justified, and 59 percent say that it was not. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)SUTYAGIN TO REMAIN IN PRISON.
The Moscow City Court ruled on 4 October to extend the imprisonment of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the Moscow-based Institute of the USA and Canada, beyond 8 October, despite a 2 October Supreme Court ruling that his detention is illegal. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 on suspicion of treason. According to the website http://www.case52.org, the city court's decision to consider Sutyagin's case so quickly after the Supreme Court's ruling was unexpected; however, the FSB, which leveled the original accusations, was fully prepared for the hearing and argued in court that Sutyagin has "an open visa to Italy" that he could possibly use to flee the country. Sutyagin's lawyers plan to appeal the city court's ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)LOCAL PROTESTS COULD AFFECT THE CENSUS.
On the eve of the official beginning of Russia's 9-16 October national census, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin said he is satisfied with work on the project so far, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 October. Sokolin noted, however, that a large number of census takers have quit, complaining of onerous working conditions. He also said that many citizens are confusing the census with elections and are making demands of census takers for everything from more heat to apartment repairs in exchange for their participation. Gazeta.ru reported on 8 October that a significant percentage of citizens will refuse to participate as a form of social protest in order to attract attention to their problems. Local groups in the Far East, Perm, Ulyanovsk Oblast, and other locations are calling on citizens to boycott the census for various reasons. "As cynical as it sounds, these people are only making things worse for themselves and their loved ones," said Irina Zbarskaya, head of the State Statistics Committee's census department. The website cited VTsIOM as reporting that 15 percent of Muscovites intend not to participate in the census. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)MORE DEMOGRAPHIC BAD NEWS.
Russia's demographic crisis got worse in the first half of 2002, according to the government's Center for Economic Reforms, mednovosti.ru reported on 2 October. During this period, the country's population decreased by 385,600 to 143.3 million. In the same period, the death rate increased by 5.3 percent to 49,900, including 35,600 deaths from heart and circulatory-system diseases, 4,400 from respiratory ailments, 2,700 from digestive-system illnesses, and 1,300 from alcoholism. The marriage rate during the period fell 4.1 percent, and divorces were up 20.3 percent. The statistics showed that small increases in the birthrate and in migration are not significantly affecting the general demographic decline. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)QUOTAS ON FOREIGN WORKERS TO COME IN 2003.
Russia will introduce quotas for foreign workers, polit.ru and RosBalt reported on 2 October, citing Minister Vladimir Zorin, who oversees the government's nationalities policies. Zorin said that an overall quota of 500,000-700,000 workers will be introduced next year, with the exact number and timing to be determined at a meeting of the government's migration-policy commission on 7 October. Zorin said the commission will create a working group to set sub-quotas for particular regions in cooperation with local authorities. He added that there are an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants currently in Russia, while about 350,000 ethnic Russians legally migrate to the country each year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)MEMORIAL TO STALIN'S VICTIMS VANDALIZED.
For the second time in less than a week, unidentified vandals defaced the stone marking the site of a future monument to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg on 3 October by smearing black paint all over its inscriptions, Interfax-Northwest reported. The vandals also drew a Star of David on the stone. The stone was defaced just three days earlier with black paint. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)TATAR NATIONALISTS ATTACK ORTHODOX CHURCH CONSTRUCTION.
Members of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center (TIU), most of them elderly, reportedly attacked the chapel of the St. Tatyana Russian Orthodox Church being built in Victory Park in Chally on 2 October and damaged its foundation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing tatnews.ru. According to Interfax, it took 30 people 90 minutes to destroy a wall that was 7 meters long and 1 meter high. The head of the chapel, Father Oleg Bogdanov, said the damage totaled 40,000 rubles ($1,290). The center's activists have protested the building of the chapel for more than a year, suggesting instead that a Tatar puppet theater be built on the same location despite the fact that such a theater already exists in the city and that the chapel construction was authorized by the city administration. One of the TIU members involved in the attack, who did not identify herself, said that as a result of building a Russian Orthodox chapel in the vicinity, the park itself would "become Orthodox," thus "leaving no room for Muslims." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)KARELIAN LEADER CALLS FOR ETHNIC QUOTAS.
In a 2 October meeting with Helle Degn, commissioner for democratic development of the Council of Baltic Sea States, Karelian Congress head Anatolii Grigoriev said he believes it is necessary to introduce quotas for ethnic minorities in the Karelian Republic's legislature and to give the Karelian language the status of a state language in Karelia along with Russian, ITAR-TASS reported. Grigoriev said that indigenous Finno-Ugric people of the republic, the Karelians and Veps, are practically unrepresented in government bodies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD BLAMES RUSSIA FOR PROLONGING HOSTILITIES.
Speaking in Grozny on 1 October, the third anniversary of the beginning of the second Chechen war, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov argued that hostilities would already have ended had the Russian military not fueled the ranks of the Chechen resistance by their brutal behavior toward the civilian population during sweep operations, Interfax reported. The previous day, he had announced a halt to house-to-house searches during such sweeps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). But in an indication that even if sweeps are ended the war will not end soon, Kadyrov also said on 1 October that the referendum on Chechnya's new draft constitution originally planned for November-December should not take place before spring 2003, Russian agencies reported. He said it would be ethically wrong to conduct the referendum while people are still being killed. Kadyrov added that it might not be possible to hold elections for a new Chechen leader until two or three years after the referendum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
CENTER-RIGHT PARTIES AGREE ON COALITION PACT.
A beaming Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 4 October announced to journalists in Bratislava that "from this moment on, Slovakia has a new government." In talks the same day with leaders of the center-right parties that are to form the next government, he said, "We agreed on everything that was necessary to agree on in order for a new coalition government to emerge," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The new cabinet comprises Dzurinda's own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and media magnate Pavol Rusko's Alliance for New Citizens (ANO). Dzurinda also said that KDH Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky is to become the next speaker of parliament. Hrusovsky said he wants to restore public confidence in the legislature through "improved behavior" by its members and better communication among political parties, TASR reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)EX-PREMIER'S PARTY BRANCHES DEBATE EXTRAORDINARY CONFERENCE.
Meeting in the presence of embattled party Chairman Vladimir Meciar, the Kosice regional board of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 7 October narrowly defeated a motion to call an extraordinary HZDS conference that would decide whether Meciar should remain in his post, CTK reported. Twelve of the 23 board members present voted against the proposal, which CTK said reflects discontent within the second echelon of HZDS leadership with the September electoral outcome. The proposal will also be discussed by the HZDS Presov and Banska Bystrica branches, and has already been approved by the Bratislava and Trnava branches. It takes a request from three regional branches to convoke such a conference. Meciar refused to talks to journalists after the Kosice board meeting, saying, "There is nothing to comment on." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)EU REPORT SAYS SLOVAKIA FULFILLS MEMBERSHIP CRITERIA.
TASR reported on 7 October that the draft of the European Commission's evaluation report of candidate countries' performance (the report itself was released on 9 October), says Slovakia fulfills all political criteria for membership and one of two economic criteria. The draft says Slovakia respects human rights and freedoms and has made significant progress in protecting minority rights. TASR noted that last-minute changes to the draft cannot be ruled out. Slovakia's outgoing chief negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, said on 7 October that he believes the referendum on Slovak accession to the EU could be held in May 2003 and that Slovakia could become an EU member on 16 April 2004, CTK and TASR reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October)
OPPOSITION PARTY TO BOYCOTT TAJIK BY-ELECTION.
The board of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan has announced that it will not field a candidate in the 27 October by-election in Sughd Oblast, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 September. The chairman of the party's Sughd Oblast committee said that, although the Tajik Constitution stipulates that elections at all levels should be free and democratic, in practice, local election committees frequently violate the law and refuse to register any candidates other than those of the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT, the former Communist Party). On 1 October, a Central Commission for Elections and Referenda official told Asia Plus-Blitz that two candidates have been registered to contest the Sughd ballot, one from the PDPT and the other from the Islamic Renaissance Party. He added that a DPT member who wished to register as an independent candidate was refused registration under the pretext that the documents he submitted were not in order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
POLISH PREMIER PROPOSES TALKS IN WARSAW BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION.
Polish Premier Leszek Miller proposed in Lviv on 4 October that Ukraine's ruling and opposition circles meet in Warsaw on 15-16 October at an international conference devoted to Ukrainian prospects amid NATO and EU enlargement, Polish and Ukrainian media reported. Miller, who attended an economic forum in Lviv, met with Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, as well as with opposition Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz and Our Ukraine activists Viktor Pynzenyk and Borys Tarasyuk. "We will take part in this conference [in Warsaw] and are ready for discussion," UNIAN quoted Kinakh as saying. Our Ukraine reportedly said it is also ready to conduct a dialogue with the authorities outside Ukraine with the mediation of European leaders. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October)OUR UKRAINE READY FOR 'RADICAL' STEPS TO ENFORCE POLITICAL DIALOGUE.
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said on NBM television on 2 October that his bloc will resort to actions of a "radical character" if the authorities fail to launch a dialogue over how to overcome the current political crisis, Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, following such a dialogue, the power in the country should be transferred to the forces that obtained most support in this year's parliamentary election. "If our initiatives continue to be fended off, we will do everything possible, including the organization of, and participation in, actions of a radical character, to make the Ukrainian authorities sit down at a negotiating table or hold early elections in the country," Yushchenko said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)NGO CLAIMS ITS LEADER KILLED FOR HIS POLITICAL ACTIVITIES.
The Public Control organization on 3 October claimed that its head, Ruslan Synyavskyy, was killed because of his political activities, AP reported. Police reported that an unidentified gunman shot and killed Synyavskyy, 44, late on 30 September near the entrance to his apartment building in downtown Kyiv. Interfax reported that the assailant shot several times in an attempt to rob Synyavskyy. "It's very doubtful that an ordinary thief carries a gun. We [think] this [killing] was linked to his activity in the organization," Oleh Sadanets from Public Control told AP. Public Control helps citizens defend their rights if they believe state officials abused their power or violated laws. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)
SERBIA MUST ARREST MLADIC.
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said in Brussels on 3 October that the tribunal knows that indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic is living in Serbia, apparently under the protection of the army, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She stressed that what is lacking is the political will to arrest him. Del Ponte added that the situation of wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who is also one of the most-wanted indicted war criminals, is quite different. Karadzic is living in Republika Srpska, where everyone regards him as a hero and protects him, including the authorities, army, police, politicians, and ordinary people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER REQUESTS FUNDS TO END TEACHERS' STRIKE.
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi has appealed to the IMF, World Bank, and the United Nations civilian administration in Kosova for funds to help end a strike by elementary and high-school teachers, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 4 October. The teachers began an open-ended strike on 1 October over pay, which is currently about $125 per month. The Kosovar parliament has expressed support for them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October)MONTENEGRINS ORGANIZE A 'FORGIVE US FOR DUBROVNIK' CAMPAIGN.
The Montenegrin Social Democratic Party (SDP) and several NGOs marked the 11th anniversary of Montenegrin participation in the Yugoslav Army's attack on Dubrovnik by launching a campaign aimed at asking the people of Dubrovnik, Montenegro, and Europe for forgiveness, Hina reported from Podgorica on 2 October. The campaign will consist of staging peaceful walks in Montenegro and collecting signatures throughout that republic. The action will begin in Herceg Novi, Tivat, Kotor, Budva, and Cetinje. The sponsors hope to remind Montenegrins of their role in the attack on Dubrovnik and provide a foundation for reconciliation between Montenegro and Croatia. President Milo Djukanovic has previously apologized to Croatian leaders for the attacks, which included the ransacking of residences, luxury hotels, and Dubrovnik airport by drunken troops. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
U.S. REPORT ON GLOBAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SEES TROUBLING TRENDS
By Frank T. Csongos
The United States has issued its annual report on religious freedom around the world. The State Department study singled out Afghanistan, whose Taliban government was ousted by U.S.-led forces, as virtually the only country achieving significant improvements in religious freedom last year. The report says millions of people around the world are still deprived of the rights to practice their faith openly. The State Department report issued yesterday faults Iran, Iraq, China, and North Korea as being particularly hostile to certain religions.
The only country that achieved a significant improvement in religious freedom last year is Afghanistan, according to the study. U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government, which practiced a fundamentalist branch of Islam. In its place, an interim governing body now administers a far more tolerant regime, the report says.
The report says U.S. religious-freedom policy is a means of fighting the war on terrorism and that the 11 September 2001 attacks have had significant implications. "The attacks by Al-Qaeda highlighted the reality that people can and do exploit religion for terrible purposes, in some cases manipulating and destroying other human beings as mere instruments in the process," the report said. "This is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon in human affairs. In the post-Cold War world, some scholars are predicting that religious differences are likely to be a cause of major conflicts between civilizations."
In issuing the report, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that freedom of religion is a cornerstone of U.S. democracy. "Our commitment to religious liberty lies at the heart of our national experience as Americans. Many of our ancestors fled religious persecution, coming to these shores seeking the freedom to practice their faith. They laid the foundation for a society in which every person could worship free of fear, free of discrimination, and free of coercion. Americans now live in a country in which faith and freedom thrive," Powell said.
Powell said inexcusable assaults on individual liberty and personal dignity cannot be justified in the name of any religion or culture. He said the United States rejects the notion that the security or stability of any country requires the repression of members of any faith or precludes the promotion of religious tolerance. "Religious freedom, we believe strongly, is an inalienable right of every human being. The existence of this right is beyond dispute. It is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a host of other international instruments," Powell said.
The following is a partial list of countries and their religious records, according to the report.
The United States is highly concerned about the country's commitment to religious freedom. The report cites what it calls media campaigns against minority religions.
The official policy continues to favor the Russian Orthodox Church, the country's majority religion. The authorities increased harassment of other denominations and religions. The regime denied registration to some religious groups on the grounds that they were "nontraditional" and also to all religious groups considered to be "sects."
The status of religious freedom deteriorated during 2001. Local police and security officials harass nontraditional religious minority groups. Police failed to respond to continued attacks by Orthodox extremists.
Certain religious groups cannot get official recognition. A number of minority religious groups in the separatist region of Transdniestr also continued to be denied registration and are subjected to official harassment.
The government continues to use legislation to restrict religious freedom, in particular the provision allowing the state to ban religious organizations. A number of clergy and religious workers, especially Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians, have been denied visas. The declaration of one of only four Roman Catholic bishops in Russia as persona non grata placed serious restrictions on the ability of Russian Catholics to practice their religion. Anti-Semitic leaflets, graffiti, and articles continued to appear in some regions, such as St. Petersburg and other towns and cities.
The U.S. Embassy is supporting programs designed to create a better understanding of how democracies address the issue of secularism and religious freedom. Several participants say they have attained a better understanding of how to create a more open society.
The government continues to place restrictions on religious expression. The only religions that have successfully registered under the law are Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity, which are controlled by the government.
The government continues its harsh campaign against unauthorized Islamic groups is suspected of antistate sentiments or activities. Christian churches generally are tolerated as long as they do not attempt to win converts among ethnic Uzbeks.
For a list of all countries covered by the report, please go to the following website: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/c7599.htm.