16 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 42
INTERNATIONALFORMER U.S. PRESIDENT CARTER RECEIVES NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.S. and international wire services reported on 11 October. The choice was intended as a message to the current U.S. administration to give negotiations a chance in its showdown with Iraq (see "U.S.: Carter Wins Peace Prize in Selection Designed as Criticism of Washington's Policy Toward Iraq," rferl.org, 11 October 2002). Carter himself used the opportunity to emphasize economic rights in a statement on his website: "My concept of human rights has grown to include not only the rights to live in peace, but also to adequate health care, shelter, food, and to economic opportunity. I hope this award reflects a universal acceptance and even embrace of this broad-based concept of human rights.'' Carter was known in the Soviet era for answering a letter from physicist and human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov, himself a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and for receiving Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky in the White House, although he continued to negotiate arms treaties with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. CAF
AZERBAIJANDIRECTOR OF MILITARY ACADEMY FIRED. Tofik Gasymov has been dismissed from the post of director of the Baku Higher Military College, the majority of whose students staged a walkout five week ago to protest ill treatment by teaching staff, Turan and Interfax reported on 12 October. Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev introduced the academy's new head, Colonel Heidar Piriev, to the staff on 11 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
MORE CADETS SENT TO SERVE ON FRONT LINE. A total of 62 cadets were recently expelled from the Higher Military College in Baku and sent to serve at the front, Turan reported on 10 October. Parents of the young men protested that decision as insulting and staged a demonstration on 10 October outside the presidential administration building in Baku to demand a meeting with President Heidar Aliev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
BELARUSDISBARRED LAWYER TRIED FOR SLANDERING PROSECUTOR-GENERAL. Ihar Aksyonchyk began his closed-door trial at a district court in Minsk on 8 October on charges of slandering Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman, Belapan reported. Aksyonchyk, a now-disbarred lawyer, had represented the family of missing ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski in a trial of elite police officers charged with kidnapping him. In a statement issued to the media on 13 February, Aksyonchyk linked the Zavadski case to the disappearances in 1999 of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar and businessman Anatol Krasouski. Aksyonchyk accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of "illegal interference" with the investigation into the disappearances. He also cited testimony from former investigators saying that the abductions and subsequent murders of Zavadski, Zakharanka, Hanchar, and Krasouski were ordered by Lukashenka's top aide, Viktar Sheyman, who is now Belarus's prosecutor-general. On 11 October Aksyonchyk was sentenced to a 1 1/2 year prison term suspended for two years for slandering Sheyman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 15 October)
OSCE MISSION IN MINSK TO EXIST EVEN WITHOUT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE SPOT? A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 9 October that "it is simply too early for the OSCE to say anything new" about the fate of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) in Minsk. Keith Jinks' pronouncement appears to be the OSCE's response to the Belapan report of 7 October, in which the agency quoted Alina Josan, the group's last remaining international representative in Minsk, as saying that the AMG will cease to exist if the Belarusian authorities fail to prolong her diplomatic accreditation beyond 29 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002). "The situation would not change on 30 October because of that. The AMG would remain legally in existence; it has been budgeted until the end of this year and it remains in the budget proposal for next year. It would be for Belarus itself to say if they are closing the OSCE mission, since they are the host country," Jinks explained. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
PRESSURE MOUNTS ON PRESIDENT TO VETO REPRESSIVE RELIGION LAW. President Lukashenka is expected to sign the highly restrictive new religion law adopted by parliament on 2 October, Keston News Service (KNS) reported, but domestic and international pressure is mounting on him to veto it. It has been compared to Stalin's 1929 decree on religious associations, which imposed severe restrictions on religious activity for almost the entire Soviet period. There is strong support for the new law from the Moscow Patriarchate, but many others oppose the law, believing that it will spark an exodus from Belarus to escape the law and that it will, in one protests' words, strengthen "the total state control over the religious life of the society (not only of the religious organization, but of every believer, too)." An official has told KNS that religious meetings held by registered communities in private homes are banned under a law issued by the Minsk city executive committee last year. A campaign against services by registered religious communities in private homes was launched last month in the capital. A True Orthodox parish in Minsk has lodged a formal complaint over official failure to respond to its registration application within the prescribed three-month period. Belarus has repeatedly refused to register any Orthodox parishes outside the Moscow Patriarchate -- whether of the True Orthodox Church, the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, or other jurisdictions. (KNS, 11 October)
CROATIAHAGUE PROSECUTOR TO SEEK GENERAL BOBETKO'S EXTRADITION FROM CROATIA. Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, will visit Croatia soon in an attempt to persuade the government to extradite retired General Janko Bobetko, dpa reported on 14 October. On 11 October, EU diplomats delivered a formal demarche to the Croatian government, calling on it to cooperate with The Hague, Reuters reported. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Bobetko the next day, Hina reported. The tribunal is considering an appeal by Prime Minister Ivica Racan to reconsider its indictment of Bobetko. Racan does not want to risk international isolation, but he knows that many Croats would regard the extradition of the general as an insult to the memory of their 1991-95 war of independence. Racan met with Bobetko on 14 October and told reporters afterward, "I am optimistic that we have a chance to avoid a conflict with the tribunal and international sanctions," Reuters reported. He did not elaborate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
CZECH REPUBLICBRITISH CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP LOSES COURT BATTLE ON BEHALF OF DEPORTED CZECHS. A lawsuit launched by the British Liberty civil rights organization on behalf of the European Roma Rights Center was rejected by a British court on 10 October, AP reported. The judge ruled that under the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, the U.K. is under no obligation to refrain from "taking steps to prevent a would-be or a potential refugee from approaching its border in order to be in a position to claim asylum." The lawsuit argued that checks first introduced in July 2001 on passengers flying to destinations in the U.K. from Prague's international airport in an effort to cut the flow of Romany refugees from the Czech Republic are in breach of international law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
GEORGIADISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION. At a conference in Tbilisi on 14 October convened by parliament deputy and former Soviet-era dissident Boris Kakubava, some 3,000 Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia demanded Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation on the grounds that he has not succeeded in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. They also called for the dissolution of both the Georgian parliament and the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile. At the same time, they expressed support for Adjar State Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze's proposals for resolving the conflict, which entail a resumption of rail and road communication and economic cooperation between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 11 October 2002). On 11 October, Kakubava delayed Shevardnadze's state-of-the-nation address in the legislature by entering the parliament building armed with a pistol, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
KURDS STAGE PROTEST. Some 50 members of Georgia's estimated 25,000-strong Kurdish minority staged a demonstration in Tbilisi on 8 October to demand that the Georgian government abandon its ongoing military cooperation with Turkey and its plans to seek NATO membership, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. They explained that the fear that if Georgia joins NATO, Turkey will establish military bases in Georgia, which will lead to reprisals against Georgia's Kurds. They threatened mass protests if the Georgian leadership fails to met their demand within two weeks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
KAZAKHSTANEXILED OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR NEW CONSTITUTION. While turning down a request to chair a leading opposition party inside the country, former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin said in an open letter dated 4 October and posted on forumkz.org on 9 October, that he also stressed the importance of embarking immediately on drafting a new constitution that would preclude a reversion to dictatorship and unite the people of Kazakhstan. He said international organizations (which he did not name) have offered assistance in preparing that document. Also needed, Kazhegeldin said, are proposals for reforming the judicial system and the secret services. He further advocated preparing for an opposition congress to be held as soon as possible that would draft both proposals for defying the new restrictive laws on the registration of political parties and a broader program of measures to achieve the opposition's proclaimed objective of "Kazakhstan without [President Nursultan] Nazarbaev." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
KYRGYZSTANFORMER VICE PRESIDENT'S APPEAL REJECTED. The Bishkek City Court on 11 October upheld the guilty verdict it handed down in May to former Vice President Feliks Kulov, but reduced his 10-year sentence by one-third, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and akipress.org reported. Police frog-marched Kulov out of the courtroom as his supporters outside threw stones at the building. Some 150 supporters temporarily blocked traffic at a crossroads in the city center to protest the court ruling. On 12 October, Kulov's Ar-Namys Party and the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan issued separate statements condemning the court ruling and claiming that the embezzlement charges brought against Kulov were fabricated. The Committee for Kulov's Defense issued a similar statement on 14 October saying the court ruling proves that the judiciary is wholly controlled by President Askar Akaev and the Kyrgyz government. It called on opposition politicians to quit the Constitutional Council established by Akaev for drafting amendments to the constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
PROTESTS CONTINUE OVER AKSY TRIAL. Some 150 relatives and friends of six Kyrgyz officials facing trial in connection with the police violence against demonstrators in Aksy in March staged a further picket of the government building in Bishkek on 11 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They are demanding that several senior officials including the former head of the presidential staff, Amanbek Karypkulov, and former Interior Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev be brought to trial for their alleged instructions to local police to open fire on the Aksy protest march. On 14 October, police dispersed a similar protest picket in Bishkek, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a separate group of relatives and supporters of the six accused men began a protest march to Bishkek from Osh Oblast, akipress.org reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
ANOTHER PROTEST HELD AGAINST AKSY-SHOOTINGS TRIAL. Between 200 and 500 people attended a protest demonstration on 8 October in Djalalabad Oblast to protest the suspended trial of six local officials charged in connection with the shootings in Aksy Raion, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The demonstrators argue, as did participants in earlier similar protests, that the six men are being made scapegoats for senior officials who gave orders to local police to open fire on the demonstrators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
NGOS UNHAPPY WITH EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION MEETING. A two-hour meeting of the European Parliament's Commission on Mongolia and Central Asia in Bishkek on 11 October left opposition parliamentarians and human rights groups unhappy with what they felt was the Europeans' own annoyance at them for too-severe criticism of President Akaev, reported the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) in a bulletin circulated by e-mail on 8 October. Commission Chairman Antonio de Pietro said he and his colleagues had come to Bishkek to hear both the official viewpoint and civil society's take on current events, but cautioned that the commission would not take either side. Topchubek Turgunaliev, chairman of the Institute on Human Rights and Freedom, called the authorities "the No.1 terrorists" and scored the commission for its inaction in the face of falsification of the 2000 presidential elections, KCHR quoted him as saying. Natalya Ablova, director of the Kyrgyz Bureau for Human Rights, asked if the commission could monitor loans made to Kyrgyzstan by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and whether the European Parliament could send observers to the next presidential elections. Parliamentarian Adahan Madumarov described the opposition's campaign for Akaev's resignation, claiming there could not be any reforms under his leadership. Bermet Bukashev, editor in chief of the newspaper "Litsa," expressed the disappointment of many with a comment to the effect that the Kyrgyz had expected Europeans to serve as "advocates of democracy" but instead seemed to be serving as "advocates of the government." CAF
DONORS PLEDGE $700 MILLION. The third international donors' conference in Bishkek has resulted in pledges of loans and grants worth $700 million for the period 2003-05, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and akipress.org reported. Approximately half that sum is earmarked for Kyrgyzstan's poverty-reduction program. Expressing his appreciation, President Akaev said that sum "surpasses all expectations." He predicted that the financial assistance will enable his country to achieve annual GDP growth of 7 percent over the next three years, rather than 5 percent as originally planned. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
MACEDONIASPECIAL POLICE UNIT TO BE REORGANIZED? The Interior Ministry announced on 10 October that plans are under consideration to reorganize the elite police unit known as the Lions, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. According to the plans, one part of the Lions will become part of the border police while another part will be retrained as an antiterrorism unit. The announcement came in response to a statement by U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, who had called for the Lions to be dissolved because they do not contribute to the democratic process. The Lions are widely regarded as an armed branch of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of outgoing Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and his hard-line interior minister, Ljube Boskovski. Dpa reported from Skopje, however, that the Lions have no intention of disappearing from the scene completely. A spokesman said, "It is hard to believe that patriots who successfully defended the country last year present a larger threat to democracy in Macedonia than former rebel commanders, who have been allowed to take seats in the parliament." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
NATIONWIDE STUDENT PROTESTS. Several thousand high-school students, teachers, and parents staged street protests in Skopje and other Macedonian towns on 9 October, "Nova Makedonija" reported. The mostly ethnic Macedonian demonstrators were protesting an incident in the village of Semsevo near Tetovo, where Albanian activists renamed the local high school after Jomnuz Jonuzi, a World War II ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighter. The protesters also demanded an end to what they called "attempts to ethnically cleanse" that village of Macedonians. Harald Schenker, who is the minority affairs officer of the OSCE mission to Skopje, told a press conference the same day that schools can only be renamed in accordance with existing laws, Makfax news agency reported. Schenker added that the renaming was a clear breach of the spirit of the Ohrid peace agreement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)
MOLDOVABRAGHIS ALLIANCE ACCUSES COMMUNISTS OF PROCRASTINATING ON REFERENDUM DRIVE. The Braghis Alliance on 10 October accused the Communist majority in the parliament of procrastination on voting on the referendum initiative to change the country's electoral system, Infotag reported. The party's leader, former Premier Dumitru Braghis, said more than two months have passed since the alliance submitted to the Central Election Commission a petition signed by over 200,000 citizens in support of the initiative, which calls for a referendum to decide on the issue. In line with current legislation, the parliament must decide whether to hold the plebiscite. The Party of Moldovan Communists majority rejected the accusation, saying that under current legislation, the debate in the parliament must take place within six months after the petition has been submitted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO EXAMINE ILASCU CASE. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is to send four judges to Moldova to examine the legitimacy of Ilie Ilascu's conviction by a Tiraspol court, Mediafax reported on 11 October, citing AFP. Now a Romanian citizen and senator, Ilascu was sentenced to death in 1993 by Transdniester authorities on charges of terrorism. He was released in May 2001. Three members of Ilascu's group -- each sentenced to 12-15 years in prison -- are still being detained in Tiraspol. The four filed a complaint in 1999 with the ECHR against illegal detention and inhuman treatment, and argued they did not receive a fair trial. 15
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES IMPLEMENTATION OF DEMOCRATIC REFORMS. Visiting Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Chisinau on 14 October that "there is a kind of emergency for the implementation of democratic reforms," BASA-Press reported. He argued that taking over the council's Committee of Ministers next May "will bring more responsibility for the Moldovan government." He added that Moldova must fully meet the 24 April Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's resolutions before it takes over the chairmanship. Meeting with representatives of political parties participating in the permanent roundtable, Schwimmer said that "Moldova must reach a consensus that would make the political majority listen to the minority, and vice versa." Schwimmer announced the appointment of Jorgen Grunnet as his representative in Chisinau. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
ROMANIAPOLLS SHOW PSD, NASTASE LEADING... Two public-opinion polls released on 10 October showed the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase are the front-runners in the parliamentary and presidential elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. According to the poll conducted by the INSOMAR institute, the PSD would garner 47.2 percent of the vote if elections were held next week, followed at a distance by the Greater Romania Party (PRM), with 18.7 percent; the National Liberal Party (PNL), 12.2 percent; the Democratic Party, 10.4 percent; and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), 6.8 percent. Asked whom they believe will be Romania's next president, 48.5 percent named Nastase, 17.2 percent PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, 12.2 percent Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu, and 9.3 percent PNL Chairman Theodor Stolojan. A poll released the same day by CURS produced similar findings: 46 percent for the PSD, 16 percent for the PRM, 14 percent for the PNL, 10 percent for the Democratic Party, and 7 percent for the UDMR. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
...BUT ONE POLL INDICATES PRESIDENTIAL RACE IS NOT DECIDED. According to the CURS poll, a Stolojan-Basescu team running in tandem as candidates for president and premier, respectively, would score 35 percent of the vote and thus "pose problems" for any PSD candidate for the post. If the tandem were to be reversed, it would score 25 percent of the vote, the dailies "National," "Adevarul," and "Curentul" reported on 11 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
CNSAS MEMBERS DEMAND THAT CHAIRMAN STEP DOWN. Three members of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) demanded on 10 October that CNSAS Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru resign and that PSD-nominated CNSAS member Mihai Gheorghe be dismissed from the council, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Horia Roman Patapievici, Andrei Plesu, and Mircea Dinescu accused Onisoru of not defending the CNSAS resolutely enough against attempts by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) to manipulate data on those who served the "former political police" and to procrastinate on delivering that data to the CNSAS. They also said Gheorghe's position that those Securitate members who acted on orders are not guilty of "serving as political police" nullifies any reason for the CNSAS's existence. The three said that the SRI has delivered data on only 10 of the 104 members of the former Securitate suspected of having served as "political police." Of these, six had retired before the 1989 overthrow of regime, one had done so in 1990, and the other three were said to be "unknown," although they had been "notorious torturers" serving as heads of section in the communist Interior Ministry, they claimed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
SWITZERLAND, SPAIN TO DEPORT MORE THAN 300 ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TO ROMANIA. In the first half of October, Switzerland and Spain plan to deport to Romania more than 300 illegal immigrants, Mediafax reported. They will be returned in line with the current "readmission" agreements Romania made with the two countries. Meanwhile, in Bucharest on 8 October, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana received Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles, ahead of a report regarding Romania's respect for human rights that Gil-Robles is soon to present to the council. Gil-Robles also met with Interior Minister State Secretary Pavel Abraham to discuss, among other things, the problems of refugees coming to and from Romania, human trafficking, and the use and abuse of firearms by Romanian police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
ANTI-SEMITIC VANDALISM CAUSES OUTCRY IN BUCHAREST. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania on 14 October criticized the police for not having taken sufficient measures to prevent "anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and racist" incidents after the Bucharest Jewish Theater was defaced with Nazi symbols and slogans, Mediafax reported. The vandalism, which included swastikas and the "Arbeit macht Frei" slogan, was discovered on the morning of 12 October. Israeli Ambassador to Bucharest Sandu Mazor has requested that the theater be guarded by a specialized company. Romanian Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu called the incident "a serious provocation" and asked the police to immediately "do their job." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
RUSSIADUMA TO DISCUSS HARSH RESTRICTIONS ON ENTRANCE VISAS. The State Duma's Committee for State Issues will offer a bill that would forbid the Foreign Ministry to issue entrance visas to foreigners in a number of circumstances, including those entering Russia for the purpose of adopting Russian children, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 October. Under the bill, the authorities could also deny visas to anyone who violates customs regulations, provides false information, or uses forged documents. Drug addicts, people with infectious diseases, people with criminal records in their home countries, and anyone on a Russian government list of "unwelcome foreigners" could also be denied entrance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
NATIONAL CENSUS CONTINUES... The State Statistics Committee has acknowledged that about 30 percent of those hired to work as census takers nationally have quit their posts, citing low pay and fears for their safety, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 October. The daily also reported that committee has insured each census taker for 5,000 rubles ($161) in the event that they are killed while on duty. RIA-Novosti reported on 11 October that the census questionnaires completed that day by the three Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station will return to Earth aboard the U.S. space shuttle "Atlantis" on 18 or 19 October. After census officials have processed them, they will be displayed at the State Statistics Committee museum. Meanwhile, in Stavropol and at least five other towns in Stavropol Krai, ungrammatical, homemade leaflets appeared on city streets urging locals to boycott the census, ntvru.com reported. The anonymous leaflets assert that the census is being conducted on the orders of "the world government" based in Brussels. According to ITAR-TASS, authorities suspect the leaflets were distributed by an unspecified extremist sect. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October).
...AS ORDER ALLEGEDLY ISSUED TO FALSIFY CENSUS RESULTS... Census workers in Bashkortostan have allegedly been ordered to increase the number of Bashkirs in the republic to up to 30 percent of the population, ntvru.com reported, citing information from the Tatar Public Center. According to the site, census workers in the town of Sterlitamak told ethnic Tatars that they would be reported as Bashkirs because it is necessary to boost the number of Bashkirs to preserve the republic's sovereignty. Historically, the Bashkirs have numbered about 900,000 of the republic's total population, compared to 2 million Russians and 1.2 million Tatars. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
...AND DEPUTY CHARGES PRESIDENT WAS DECEIVED. Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin (Russian Regions), having seen President Vladimir Putin complete his census questionnaire on RTR television, charged that the president's questionnaire was not genuine, ntvru.com reported on 11 October. Safiullin, who represents a district in Tatarstan, noted that Putin and his wife were asked about their native language, a question that does not appear on other census questionnaires. Moreover, he added that when Putin spoke about the census in Kazan in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2002), he specifically complained that the question about one's native language had not been included on the questionnaire, leading Safiullin to suspect that census officials might have tried to trick the president into believing that the question had been added. Safiullin asked the Duma to summon State Statistics Committee Chairman Vladimir Sokolin to the chamber to answer questions about the matter, but deputies voted down the motion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
CENSUS TAKERS DISCOVER ELVES, HOBBITS, AND SCYTHIANS... A group of adolescents in Perm Oblast have identified themselves as hobbits and elves, regions.ru reported on 14 October. In Rostov-na-Donu, some 30 people have identified themselves as Scythians. Fedor Mikushkin, chairman of the Rostov branch of the Scythian National Congress, said that this is the first census in 100 years that allowed such a designation. According to ntvru.com, Vladimir Zorin, minister without portfolio for nationalities issues, has stated that the question of which nationality one belongs to is "a matter of choice and is an independent decision of each citizen." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...AS ARMENIANS PREDICTED TO BE ONE OF LARGEST ETHNIC GROUPS... In an interview with "Trud" on 12 October, Zorin said that the census provides a unique opportunity to study Russia's ethnic composition and a basis for "improving migration laws." According to Zorin, Armenians have become one of Russia's 10 largest ethnic groups over the past decade. At the same time, he predicted there will be fewer ethnic Germans and Jews. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...AND HOMELESS LIKELY TO BE UNDERCOUNTED. Ivan Klemenkov, a senior Interior Ministry official, told journalists in Moscow that according to the best data available, there are about 4 million homeless people in Russia, polit.ru reported on 15 October. The figures are difficult to check since the Interior Ministry is the only agency charged with counting the homeless, the website noted. Only a fraction of the country's homeless are expected to participate in the current national census, and the Interior Ministry is responsible for counting them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
COMMUNISTS HOLD ANTIGOVERNMENT RALLY. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) organized an authorized antigovernment protest near the Kremlin on 11 October, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported. Party officials estimated that as many as 50,000 people participated, but independent sources put the figure at between 5,000-10,000. Smaller rallies were organized in other Russian cities. Demonstrators protesting the sale of agricultural land and reforms to communal services and the electricity sector called for a national referendum on these issues. Many carried placards with slogans such as "Putin go away," "Down with the corrupt Duma," and "Anti-people government resign!" Police reported no incidents, RTR noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
CATHOLIC CHURCH INCENSED OVER BROTHEL SCANDAL. The Roman Catholic Church has protested Russian media reports alleging that part of a Catholic monastery in Moscow had been used as a brothel, AP reported on 14 October. The Vatican charged that the reports are part of a coordinated "despicable campaign" against the church in Russia. The Vatican said that an apartment had been rented from the Franciscan Order and used as a house of prostitution. The story made the front page of the 7 October issue of "Komsomolskaya pravda." A Vatican spokesman linked the story to the denial of Russian visas to five Catholic priests and the fact that the church has been repeatedly refused permission to build new churches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
NATIONAL POLICYMAKERS WANT ISLAMIC CLERICS TRAINED AT HOME. At a conference in Moscow on cooperation between government and religious organizations on 10 October, Viktor Zorkaltsev, chairman of the State Duma's Committee on Public and Religious Organizations, called for creating a center in Russia for the training of Islamic clerics in order to provide Russia with greater "spiritual security" and to limit the training of Russian citizens in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries, RIA-Novosti reported. Zorkaltsev said that Russia's concept of national security includes defending the country's spiritual and moral heritage and its historical traditions. Speaking at the same conference, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Kirienko called for providing basic scholarly training in Islam within the borders of the Russian Federation, the website religio.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
NORTHERN CAPITAL EXPERIENCING RISE IN EXTREMISM OR HOOLIGANISM? The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office has filed a report that sharply criticizes the city administration for its failure to combat growing racially motivated and extremist crime, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 7 October. The report, submitted at the end of September, warns that city youth are becoming increasingly violent and blames that development on "unsatisfactory youth policies on the part of government organs and administrative bodies, insufficient attention paid to the problem of youth crime by law enforcement organs, and the increasing shortage of education work and general preventative measures against youth and teenage crime." It charges that the authorities have done nothing to learn about informal youth groups and their leaders. Shortly before the report was filed, a group of St. Petersburg skinheads allegedly murdered an Azeri watermelon vendor and videotaped the crime. An administration spokesman denied that there is a problem. "There has been a lot of talk about a few extremist slogans here and there. For me, this doesn't indicate a rise in extremism. It is simple hooliganism," said Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's spokesman Aleksandr Afanasiev. The prosecutor's report urged the administration to adopt measures to combat extremism and to hold responsible officials accountable for shortcomings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
ANOTHER RNE BRANCH LIQUIDATED. An Omsk Oblast court on 10 October ruled in favor of a suit by the oblast's prosecutor seeking the annulment of the registration of the oblast chapter of the ultranationalist movement Russian National Unity (RNE), RIA-Novosti reported. The court also found that the activities of the organization violated three federal laws, including the law on preventing extremist activities. It was shown during the hearing that the group distributes materials using stylized Nazi symbols and disseminates leaflets inciting racial conflict. Last June, prosecutors in Tomsk sought to ban another RNE branch, and in July prosecutors in Khabarovsk succeeded in banning the local RNE chapter there, polit.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
SLOVAKIAPOLICE CHARGED OVER ROM'S TORTURE, DEATH WHILE IN CUSTODY. The Banska Bystrica regional prosecution on 8 October charged seven police officers and the former mayor of the village of Magnetizovce with complicity in the death of Rom Karol Sendrei in 2001, TASR reported. They are accused of torturing Sendrei while he was in custody, including beating him after they tied him to a heater on 5 July 2001 following a violent incident in the mayor's courtyard in which Sendrei and two of his sons were involved. One of the seven policemen is also charged with abuse of authority and with having caused bodily harm to Sendrei's widow. Charges were also filed against three of Sendrei's sons in connection with a clash with a group of Magnetizovce villagers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)
UKRAINEOPPOSITION SENTENCES PRESIDENT TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION'... Some 20,000 demonstrators took part in a "people's tribunal" on President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 12 October, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The unauthorized antipresidential rally on Kyiv's European Square was organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Participants in the rally "sentenced" President Kuchma in a mock trial to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation" for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption, abuse of office, money laundering, issuance of threats to journalists and politicians, and harmful economic policies that purportedly led to "genocide" in Ukraine. Following the rally, opposition representatives passed to the Prosecutor-General's Office their demand to bring Kuchma to court trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...AS JUDGE OPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST KUCHMA. Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal case against President Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 15 October. Vasylenko said he made his decision on the basis of an appeal by lawmakers, documents from the ad hoc parliamentary commission set up to investigate the murder of Gongadze, and evidence included in the secret audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
YUGOSLAVIAARMED KOSOVARS ATTACK RETURNING SERBS. About 600 ethnic Albanians clashed with Spanish and Argentinian UN police as well as Italian KFOR troops in Peja on 10 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Albanians used stones and Molotov cocktails to protest the arrival of a busload of about 50 mainly elderly Serbs, who are in the process of returning to the nearby village of Osojane and had come to Peja to open bank accounts. The police fought the Albanians for two hours with tear gas while the Serbs took shelter in the bank. The Serbs subsequently returned to the bus and their homes. At least two police were injured in the clash. Members of the international community have repeatedly told the Kosovars that they must treat the Serbian minority according to European standards if Kosova is to have any possibility of attaining independence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)
KOSTUNICA VOWS TO BRING DOWN THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT... The second round of Serbian presidential voting on 13 October was invalid because only 45.5 percent of registered voters -- less than the 50 percent minimum -- took part, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica won with 66.4 percent of the votes, an increase of 800,000 votes over his showing in the first round two weeks before. He placed first in Vojvodina, where he finished third in the first round, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. His challenger, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, attracted even fewer votes than he did on 29 September. Kostunica blamed his arch-rival, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, for the low turnout, AP reported. Kostunica accused Djindjic of leading a "silent boycott" of a poll that he knew that his ally, Labus, could not win. Kostunica said: "I want to see the end of Djindjic's regime. The political crisis has deepened." For its part, Djindjic's Democratic Party (DP) called on Kostunica to recognize that he cannot win a majority of the electorate and resign as Yugoslav president. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...AND CHALLENGES THE ELECTION COMMISSION... Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said it will challenge the decision of the Serbian Election Commission that the election was invalid because fewer than half of registered voters cast their ballots, AP reported from Belgrade on 14 October. The DSS maintains that the electoral rolls are padded with the names of 630,000 dead or nonexistent people, and that more than 50 percent of the actual voters did indeed cast a ballot. DSS leader Nebojsa Bakarac argued, "We have proof that the elections actually succeeded." It is not clear why the DSS did not raise the matter of the 630,000 "dead souls" before the election. Elsewhere, Hrair Balian, a spokesman for the OSCE monitors, criticized the nationalist-led boycott of the vote and called on authorities to drop the 50 percent requirement in time for the next ballot. He stressed that "uncertainty is the last thing Serbia needs. Serbia needs certainty, reforms, and development." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...AS SERBIA ENTERS A POLITICAL 'TWILIGHT ZONE'... The Serbian presidential election must be repeated from the start by 5 December, international and regional media reported on 14 October. If no president is elected by 5 January, when the term of incumbent Milan Milutinovic expires, the duties of the president will be carried out by Natasa Micic, the president of parliament. She belongs to the Civic Alliance of Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, who is a close ally of Djindjic. One observer called this nebulous legal state of affairs a "twilight zone" for Serbian politics. Several observers have suggested that political uncertainty in Serbia will do nothing to help that country attract foreign investment or promote its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...WHERE THERE ARE MORE QUESTIONS... The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 11 October that an invalid presidential vote might play into the hands of Djindjic, who wants to get Kostunica out of power and delay parliamentary elections, which Kostunica wants. Other observers suggested that Labus will not run in new elections and might even strike a deal with Kostunica. This would place Labus and some of his supporters on the apparently winning bandwagon and provide Kostunica's camp with the economic expertise it lacks. Such a political realignment would be detrimental to Djindjic, who has seen several of his key allies endorse Kostunica in recent weeks. In any event, Djindjic and his allies will most likely have to find a new candidate to run against Kostunica. Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, who came in third in the first round, hailed the outcome of the second round as a victory for himself, RFE/RL reported on 14 October. Seselj had called for a boycott of the second round in order to force new elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
...THAN ANSWERS. Svilanovic suggested after the second round that it now might be best to change the electoral law to remove the 50 percent requirement, as Kostunica has urged, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade on 14 October. Svilanovic also suggested that it might be wise to draft a new constitution before holding a presidential vote, although that would take several months. It is not clear how any legal or constitutional changes would affect the key problem in the Serbian -- and recent Bosnian -- elections, namely voter apathy as a result of disappointment with continuing poverty and feuding politicians. A further problem in Serbia is that the voter-registration lists include Kosovar Albanians, who want nothing to do with Serbia and have no intention of voting in its elections, making it that much harder for any ballot to meet the 50 percent requirement. Most Serbian politicians would prefer to drop the 50 percent clause rather than eliminate the Albanians from the rolls, since that would appear tantamount to renouncing Serbian sovereignty over Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
REGIONALRUSSIA, GEORGIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER DELAY IN EXTRADITING CHECHEN. Russia has lodged formal protest with the European Court of Human Rights over that body's recommendation that Georgia suspend the extradition to Russia of eight suspected Chechen militants, Russia's representative to the court, Pavel Laptev, told journalists in Moscow on 11 October, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 11 October, a representative of Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office rejected as untrue media reports that one of the five Chechens due to be extradited from Georgia to Russia on 3 October died of injuries received during a fight with guards at a Tbilisi detention center, Interfax reported. In his weekly radio broadcast, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 14 October that the eight Chechens will be sent back to Russia "if their participation in grave crimes" in that country is proven, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
NETHERLANDS LOOKS AHEAD TO OSCE CHAIRMANSHIP, FOCUSING ON CENTRAL ASIA. In a 14 October address, made available to "RFE/RL Newsline," to a conference in Dushanbe on the threat posed by AIDS, Dutch Foreign Ministry official Robbert van Lanschot outlined his country's approach to the chairmanship of the OSCE that it will occupy in 2003, and to the potential role of the OSCE in Central Asia in particular. He pointed out that the OSCE is uniquely qualified to assume an "umbrella" role among its 55 members, especially in securing regional stability and security. He noted among the existing problems bedeviling Central Asia unresolved conflicts, the lack of good governance and independent judiciaries, poverty and unemployment, and minimal investment. But the region also faces new problems, van Lanschot argued, in the form of international terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime, endemic corruption, and the stark economic imbalance between OSCE member states. He argued that the OSCE could play a major role as a facilitator, by encouraging "those countries that are lagging behind," especially the states of Central Asia, to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law in order to become "suitable partners" for bilateral and international donors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)
END NOTEHONORING A SAMIZDAT PIONEER
By Marjorie Farquharson
The death on 21 September this year of Tatyana Velikanova, the editor of "Khronika tekushchykh sobytii" ("A Chronicle of Current Events"), draws a line under the most remarkable publishing venture of the Soviet era. Although it concentrated on reporting the here-and-now, "Khronika" actually reached far into the future. Some of the issues it highlighted have not been resolved even today.
"Khronika" gave an uncensored account of what was going on in the Soviet Union, and thus prefigured the events of the late 1980s that so surprised the world in a way that "Izvestiya" never could. Before then-Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev launched his policy of "glasnost" in the late 1980s, you could scour the official press in vain for indications of nationalism in Georgia or Ukraine. By contrast, the pages of "Khronika" traced the lives of some individuals who later became the first to head their republics as independent states, and others who became Nobel laureates or members of the new Russian government.
"Khronika" was the only samizdat journal devoted to human rights issues (Article 19 of the UN civil rights covenant was its masthead) throughout the Soviet Union and it ran for 14 years -- longer than almost any other. It began as a brief record of what happened to the seven people who demonstrated in Red Square against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, among them Velikanova's husband Konstantin Babitskii. By the time the authorities finally suppressed the publication in 1983, it had regular rubrics on emigration, religion, nationalities, psychiatry, prisoners, and the media.
Compared with the websites available now, the legal fragments in "Khronika" look like shards of ancient pottery. In the chronicle's day though, Soviet readers had no right to see the laws that governed them, and what was not expressly permitted was wisest assumed forbidden. "Khronika" published whatever secret decrees came its way, some with enormous implications for human rights -- such as instructions on forcible psychiatric confinement from 1972, residency restrictions on ex-offenders, and rules on prison punishments. It was not until the USSR had collapsed that the new 1991 Russian Constitution included the idea that laws must be accessible to the public if they are to be legal.
Journalists in democracies have a duty to impart information, not merely the right to do so, according to international standards accepted by Russia in 1998 and by those other ex-Soviet republics that have been accepted into the Council of Europe. "Khronika" chose to write in that same spirit 34 years ago, but under the constraints of Soviet censorship. An early issue advises: "Our journal is by no means illegal, but the peculiar notion of freedom of information that has been bred over many years in Soviet institutions prevents us from putting a return address on the back page. If you want the public to know what is going on in the country, give your information to the person who gave you 'Khronika,' and they will pass it on to the person who gave it to them. Only don't try to follow the trail to the end or people will take you for an informer."
In 1979 that trail led to Velikanova and her arrest, but by then it had evidently become a long and intricate one. (Soon afterward a Pentecostalist living 11 time zones away in the Pacific town of Nakhodka was questioned about Velikanova's case.) Well-versed in political trials, Velikanova took no part in the investigation of her own case, refused a defense lawyer, and did not appeal against her nine-year sentence in 1980 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" -- her only response to the verdict being "The farce is over." She served four years in a Mordovian labor camp, then was exiled to a camel station in Kazakhstan where she worked as a bookkeeper. The first information about women political prisoners and their conditions emerged when she was in Mordovia.
"Khronika" did not anticipate the explosion in information technology that has ripped through the world since 1990, carrying the Russian Federation with it. The chroniclers were caught in an era when Soviet typewriters were identifiable by their registration numbers, photocopiers did not exist, and no one had dreamt of a fax or electronic mail. Velikanova took enormous risks as editor of "Khronika." Apart from the constant danger of arrest, there were the problems of protecting sources, distributing material to trusted people and guarding against fake information supplied by the KGB to discredit the journal. Contributors too took risks. How did they know the journal would represent them fairly? And protect their identity when needed? The continual growth in the chronicle's depth and scope is a counterpoint to Velikanova's own integrity and skill. From the first issue to the last, the same neutral and unassuming voice speaks through its pages -- a voice that must have been very close to her own.
"Khronika" foreshadowed many changes, but two causes it espoused have not been resolved. The Meskhetians and the Crimean Tatars, who were expelled from their homes by Stalin during World War II still struggle for full civil rights. The Tatars feature in the chronicle's earliest issues. Their leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, was a member of the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights set up by Velikanova and her fellow "Khronika" founders Sergei Kovalev and Tatyana Khodorovich in 1969.
Until she was sacked from the Academy of Sciences in 1977 and began work as a cleaner in a children's hospital, Velikanova engaged in mathematical research. After her release in 1987, she united her two great loves and became a mathematics teacher in a Moscow school, where she still worked at the time of her death at 71. She was shy in public, and in the1990s never became known as a magnet for the foreign media and financiers. A complete set of her edited works survives her, however. "A Chronicle of Current Events" is available in Russian on the website of the human rights group Memorial (http://www.memo.ru) and in English from Amnesty International.
Marjorie Farquharson writes on human rights issues.