23 October 2002, Volume
PREMIER'S PARTY SCORES VICTORY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
As widely predicted, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has won a landslide victory in elections in Armenia's 930 local communities on 20 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the following day. Candidates who were either HHK members or were supported by the HHK won the posts of mayor in 30 of Armenia's 37 towns and cities. The pro-presidential Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) won in four towns and 48 villages, while the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun fielded three mayoral candidates in towns -- all of whom were defeated -- but won in dozens of smaller communities. Voter participation was estimated at 46 percent, according to RFE/RL. The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, the National Democratic Union, and the Communist Party all alleged numerous violations, including attempts to buy votes in a small town north of Yerevan. Numerous instances were also reported in which voters' names were omitted from voter lists, one prominent omission being Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, according to ITAR-TASS on 21 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
PARENTS OF EXPELLED MILITARY CADETS MEET WITH PRESIDENTIAL-ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL.
Parents of some of the 62 military cadets expelled earlier this month from Baku's Higher Military College in the wake of the mass walkout by students in early September picketed the presidential administration on 16 October, Turan reported. Vakhid Aliev, who is assistant for military issues to President Heidar Aliev, met with eight of the picketers the same day and agreed to inform the president of their grievances. The former cadets have been sent to serve on the front line. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)FINDINGS OF INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO VILLAGE SHOOTINGS UNVEILED.
An investigation launched by Azerbaijani NGOs and human rights activists has confirmed that police opened fire on protesters in the village of Nardaran near Baku on 3 June, killing one person and injuring several others, Turan reported on 17 October. Fifteen villagers detained by police for their role in the standoff have still not been released. Azerbaijan Human Rights Center Director Eldar Zeynalov said a report summarizing the investigation's conclusions will be translated into English and forwarded to international organizations and foreign embassies in Baku. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
MINSK TO DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR BRAIN DRAIN?
Mikhail Myasnikovich, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, told journalists on 16 October that Belarus might raise with international organizations the issue of receiving compensation for brain drain, Belapan reported on 17 October. Myasnikovich stressed that Western countries should compensate Belarus's government and education establishments for Belarusian scientists lured away. Professor Yury Khadyka, a member of the Academy of Sciences, commented that Myasnikovich's suggestion is groundless. According to Khadyka, the current exodus of scientists from Belarus testifies only to "unfavorable conditions for pursuing scientific activities in the country." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)LOWER HOUSE TO QUESTION PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ABOUT DISAPPEARANCES.
The Chamber of Representatives has endorsed a motion by deputy Valery Fralou to question Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman about investigations into the disappearances of some of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's major political opponents in 1999-2000, Belapan reported on 16 October. In particular, Fralou wants to know who gave the orders to arrest and subsequently release Dzmitry Paulichenka, the commander of an elite police unit, who was alleged to be in charge of a death squad involved in the abduction and murder of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. Fralou also wants Sheyman to explain why the whereabouts of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski are still unknown despite the arrest and conviction of his alleged kidnappers this past March. Fralou is expected to raise the issue of disappearances at a parliamentary hearing on 23 October. Sheyman is among the officials invited to speak at the hearing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
NATIONALIST PARTIES CRY FOUL.
Representatives of the three nationalist parties that won the most votes in the recent general elections said the Bosnian Election Commission is trying to deprive them of their victories in applying complex electoral legislation for assigning legislative seats, AP reported from Sarajevo on 16 October. The legislation assigns most seats on the basis of proportional representation while reserving about 25 to 29 percent of the mandates as "compensation" for all parties that participated in the vote. Dusan Stojcic of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) said the commission is ignoring the will of the people in granting seats to smaller parties. Veso Vegar of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) argued that Bosnia needs stable parliamentary majorities to carry out reforms. Sefik Dzaferovic of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) charged that the commission is not strictly enforcing the laws. Zeljo Bosnjak of the election commission replied: "This is not elections engineering. This is simply what the law says. Maybe some parties were too fast [in declaring] election victories." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)ASHDOWN ISSUES NEW RULES IN WAKE OF NATIONALIST VICTORY.
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, also issued a series of decrees in Sarajevo on 21 October aimed at improving the business climate but also at strengthening his own powers following the victory of nationalist parties in the recent general elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His approval will now be required for the appointment of joint ministers dealing with refugees as well as with the treasury and foreign trade and economic relations. He will also have to approve the ministers in charge of finance in each of the two entities and education ministers in the two entities and all cantons. Furthermore, Ashdown issued decrees on the formation of governments in keeping with recent constitutional changes. In the Muslim-Croat federation, there will be one prime minister and two deputy prime ministers as well as 16 ministers. There will be eight Muslims, five Croats, and three Serbs in the cabinet. Ashdown abolished the position of deputy minister in both entities and in the cantonal governments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
PARLIAMENT APPROVES LABOR-LEGISLATION, AMENDMENTS, PROMPTS PROTESTS.
On 17 October, parliament adopted on first reading a number of amendments to labor legislation that are aimed at reducing the influence of trade unions, bnn news agency reported. According to the amendments, the government would be allowed to act on more social and labor issues without consulting trade unions. Trade unions currently must be consulted on all issues related to workers' living standards. "We are being deprived of our right to publicly express our opinion about issues related to living standards," said Confederation of Independent Trade Unions leader Chavdar Hristov. The Labor Confederation Podkrepa announced it will withdraw from a partnership pact with the government should the legislators adopt the amendments. Protests also came also from employers. "The more the state gets involved with the problems of living standards, the worse [things are]," said Employers Union President Vasil Vasilev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)ROMANY COMMUNITY PROTESTS ELECTRICITY CUT-OFF.
Hundreds of Roma gathered in the northern Bulgarian town of Lom on 21 October to protest the local electricity provider's decision to cut electricity supplies to their neighborhood because of unpaid bills, bnn news agency reported. The neighborhood is home to approximately 3,000 Romany families and owes some $120,000 to the company. Similar protests took place earlier this year in Plovdiv (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October)FOUR WORKERS INJURED IN MISSILE-DESTRUCTION INCIDENT.
Four workers were injured in a blast that occurred during the destruction of Scud missiles at an ordnance factory in Veliko Tarnovo in north-central Bulgaria on 16 October, bnn news agency reported. The injured workers were hospitalized and the Defense Ministry has announced that they are in stable condition. In related news, some 100 people blocked a key highway in the vicinity of Veliko Tarnovo to protest the destruction of missile warheads at an army training ground in the area. ("RFE/RL Newsline, " 17 October)
MESIC WARNS EU AID AT STAKE OVER BOBETKO.
President Stipe Mesic has warned that his country risks losing EU aid because of its refusal to hand over former army chief General Janko Bobetko to the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, dpa and AFP reported on 22 October. The EU launched a $23 million program the same day to help Croatia cope with the return of refugees who fled during the 1991-95 war. But Mesic says that program and other EU aid could be put in question if "we finally, seriously and responsibly, do not understand what Europe is telling us." The Hague tribunal has indicted Bobetko for his alleged involvement in war crimes that were committed during a wartime operation in Croatia's Medak region. Croatian authorities have cited Bobetko's poor health and what they term his patriotic defense of the country as reasons for refusing to hand him over so far. The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, is due in Zagreb on 23 October to seek Bobetko's extradition. ("Croatia: Mesic Warns EU Aid At Stake Over Bobetko," rferl.org, 22 October)WILL ZAGREB ASK THE HAGUE TO TRY SMALLER FRY INSTEAD OF BOBETKO?
The Croatian government has identified people directly responsible for the killings of ethnic Serb civilians in the Medak Pocket in 1993, dpa reported from Zagreb on 18 October, citing "Vecernji list." According to the daily, the government hopes the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague will agree to prosecute those directly responsible for the atrocities rather than their commanding officer, General Bobetko. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
VOTERS WANT DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
An overwhelming majority of Czechs voters favor direct presidential elections according to a poll by the STEM agency released on 17 October, Czech media reported the same day. Some 85 percent of respondents said they support replacing the current system, in which both chambers of parliament elect the president, with a direct popular vote. Recent polls have varied widely, but the STEM poll concluded that the most popular candidate is Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, who received 27 percent support. Senate President Petr Pithart was second at 19 percent, and outgoing Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus was third with 15 percent. President Vaclav Havel's second and final term as Czech president ends in early 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)MAJORITY OF CZECHS SAY THEY ARE UNHAPPY WITH POLITICAL SCENE...
A recent poll by the Center for Public Opinion Research (CVVM) suggests a majority of Czech citizens are unhappy with the current political situation in the country, Czech media reported on 21 October. Some 58 percent of Czechs said they are dissatisfied with the political situation, while 37 percent said they are happy. The figures signal a slight increase in political dissatisfaction over the summer, but the number of those unhappy is well below the record high of 80 percent recorded in 1990. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)...AS PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY SINKS TO AN ALL-TIME LOW.
According to other recent polls, Vaclav Havel's popularity is at the lowest level of his 13-year presidency, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 21 October. According to the daily, just 45 percent of Czechs trust Havel. Public trust in Havel has declined to 40 percent from 47 percent in April, according to a CVVM poll released on 17 October and cited by CTK. The president's popularity dropped sharply in the wake of August flooding due to his failure to return immediately from a vacation in Portugal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR PROMISES IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH ESTONIA.
During a lecture at Concordia University in Viimsi on 17 October, Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov promised that Russia will sign the proposed border agreement with Estonia, abolish double tariffs on Estonian goods, and sign a most-favored-nation trade agreement in the first half of 2003, ETA reported the next day. He said these agreements will not be affected by Estonia's likely membership in the European Union and NATO. Provalov noted that Estonia has passed various measures to improve the situation of its Russian-speaking population but that some important issues, such as ending state-financed high-school education in the Russian language beginning in 2007, continue to be a matter of concern. However, Provalov added, "If you live in Estonia, you must be able to speak Estonian," BNS reported on 17 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
NOBEL LAUREATE BECOMES HONORARY BUDAPEST CITIZEN, WARNS OF OLD AND NEW DIVISIONS.
Mayor Gabor Demszky on 17 October awarded honorary Budapest citizenship to Hungary's first-ever Nobel Prize winner for literature Imre Kertesz, Hungarian media reported. "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 16 October the government will partly cover the production costs of a feature film based on Kertesz's best-known novel, "Sorstalansag" (Fateless), which relates his experiences as a teenager in the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. In an interview with "Die Zeit" quoted by "Nepszabadsag" on 18 October, Kertesz said he feels it is his duty to help bring about peace in a divided Hungary, where "liberals and nationalists are facing each other implacably." He warned that open anti-Semitism prevails in Hungary, as "overt Nazis and aggressive nationalists are shown in the media." "It is almost as disgusting as it was in the late 1930s," Kertesz concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)SOCIALISTS CELEBRATE VICTORY OF THE 'CIVIC LEFT.'
Socialist (MSZP) Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 21 October told reporters in Budapest that the "civic left wing" won the 20 October municipal elections, adding that voters "gave an affirmative answer to the union of Socialist and Free Democrat forces," Hungarian media reported. Kovacs asserted that left-wing candidates attracted three times as many votes as FIDESZ representatives, as approximately 2,700,000 people backed the MSZP and only 900,000 voted for FIDESZ. Kovacs said there is no question of "punishing opposition-run towns," adding that "peace and calm will prevail in the country." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)PREMIER MEETS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF 1956 UPRISING.
After holding consultations with leaders of organizations that formed to mark Hungary's 1956 Uprising, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 15 October told reporters that the government will establish a monument to that anti-Soviet effort and increase payments to one-time freedom fighters and victims of political persecution. Medgyessy told "Magyar Hirlap" that representatives of related groups will be invited to a 23 October parliamentary session commemorating the 1956 Uprising. "Nepszabadsag" reported, however, that Vilmos Vasvari, president of the Organization of Political Prisoners, and Gyula Sinkovics, president of the 1956 Federation, said they will attend the session only if opposition Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David reads a statement that they prepare. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
MORE ISLAMIST ACTIVISTS ARRESTED.
Two Kazakh students have been arrested for distributing leaflets propagating the banned Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir party, Interfax reported on 15 October. One was studying in Almaty and the second in Shymkent. Also on 15 October, akipress.org quoted unnamed analysts in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast as saying that the number of women sympathizers of Hizb ut-Tahrir is increasing, that that women now account for some 10 percent of the organization's members. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
PRESIDENT PROPOSES SYSTEMIC CHANGES...
In his two-hour annual State of the Nation Address to both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 17 October, President Askar Akaev argued that Kyrgyzstan should become a parliamentary-presidential republic in which "presidential power will be enhanced by means of constitutional reforms and the strengthening of the parliament's and government's authority," Interfax reported. He said the proposed constitutional reforms that would redistribute prerogatives among the president, the parliament, and the government will be published for national discussion between 18 October and 18 November, after which they will be put to a referendum. Akaev observed that most of the country's more than 30 opposition parties do not reflect dominant political sentiments, akipress.org reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)...AND PLEDGES TO REDUCE POVERTY BY 30 PERCENT.
Akaev further pledged during his address to reduce the poverty rate by 15-17 percent annually over the next three years so that by 2005 no more than 30 percent of the population falls into that category, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said the $700 million allocated by an international donors conference last week will contribute to achieving that objective. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SACKED.
President Akaev dismissed Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev on 16 October and named Myktybek Abdyldaev, deputy head of the Defense and Security Department within the presidential administration, to succeed him, akipress.org reported. That agency said Akaev's decree did not specify the grounds for Abyshkaev's dismissal. But ITAR-TASS and Interfax both claimed he was fired for failing to comply with orders issued at a Security Council session in May calling for a thorough investigation of the clashes between police and protest marchers in Aksy Raion in March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)SUPPORTERS OF JAILED FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DETAINED, RELEASED.
Four supporters of former Vice President Feliks Kulov were briefly detained in Osh on 16 October for participating in an unsanctioned meeting to demand Kulov's release from prison, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Meanwhile, 32 people with the same objective are continuing hunger strikes in towns across the country. On 15 October, three political parties issued a statement denouncing the Bishkek City Court's 11 October ruling to uphold the sentence it handed down on Kulov in May. They argued that the court ruling shows that the regime of President Akaev is becoming more repressive, and called on Akaev to resign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 October)
SOROS FAVORS BILINGUAL EDUCATION.
Influential financier and philanthropist George Soros visited Latvia on 16-17 October to mark the 10th anniversary of Soros Foundation Latvia, LETA and BNS reported. Since its establishment, the foundation has contributed more than 30.5 million lats ($50 million) to projects for developing art and culture, reforming the education system, fighting corruption, and strengthening nongovernmental organizations and human rights. During a discussion at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga on 17 October, Soros said that, after 12 years of Latvian independence, the Latvian language is no longer threatened, and the government should allow the large Russian-speaking population "to retain [its] national identity and become loyal citizens." Soros recommend that bilingual education should remain an option, and students themselves should be allowed to choose their language of instruction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
COALITION GOVERNMENT FORMED.
The Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) announced on 18 October that they have formed a coalition government and divided the 14 ministries between themselves, AP reported from Skopje. BDI leader Agron Buxhaku said his party will control the Justice, Education, Health, and Transport ministries. It will have a deputy premier's post as well as deputy positions in the Interior, Defense, Economics, and Agriculture ministries. The cabinet will be led by SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski and is not likely to include any former guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK), who make up much of the BDI's leadership. The news agency added that unspecified "international officials...talked [the BDI] out" of its demand for the Foreign Ministry. The BDI had previously dropped demands for control of either the Defense Ministry or Interior Ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)TRADE UNIONS TO HAVE A WORD IN COALITION TALKS.
Union of Macedonian Trade Unions (SSM) leader Vanco Muratovski said on 17 October that his organization will have a say in coalition talks, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. According to Muratovski, the SSM has suggested people to head the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Health Ministry. Muratovski said the SSM has the right to a say in selecting these ministers, because it urged its membership to vote for the winning SDSM-led Together for Macedonia coalition. Muratovski also pointed out that the SSM wants amendments to several laws affecting workers, as well as health and social insurance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER FACES DISMISSAL VOTE...
The Sejm went into turmoil on 17 October following the early morning removal by force of deputy Gabriel Janowski from the session hall by Sejm guards, Polish media reported. The removal was ordered by Sejm speaker Marek Borowski after he failed to persuade Janowski to stop his sit-in at the parliament's rostrum in protest against the government's privatization deal with the German concern RWE. The opposition League of Polish Families filed a motion to recall Borowski as speaker, arguing that by ordering the removal he violated Janowski's parliamentary immunity. The motion reportedly will be supported by three other opposition groups: Self-Defense, Law and Justice, and Civic Platform. Whether Borowski remains in office seems to depend on the position of the Peasant Party (PSL), which has so far not declared whether it will vote against the motion along with Borowski's party, the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). The Sejm's debate on 17 October was terminated after a group of Self-Defense lawmakers blocked the rostrum, demanding that the government annul the RWE deal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)...WHILE PRESIDENT, PREMIER SAY PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS THREATENS DEMOCRACY, COALITION.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski said on Polish Radio on 18 October that he does not rule out the possibility of dissolving the present parliament if it continues to squabble and misses the deadline for adopting the 2003 budget. Kwasniewski said he supports Borowski's decision to remove Janowski from the session hall by force. "It is not a question of speaker Borowski at the moment, but the Polish parliament that is the issue here: its quality, the way it is perceived in Poland and abroad. And as a consequence, Polish democracy is at stake," Kwasniewski said. Premier Leszek Miller told PAP the same day that the future of the ruling SLD-PSL coalition depends on whether the PSL supports Borowski. "I do not know what the PSL will do, but first it has to make clear whether it wants to stay in this coalition. This will depend on the outcome of the vote on Borowski's dismissal," Miller said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)SOLIDARITY STAGES VIOLENT DEMONSTRATION IN WARSAW.
On 15 October, some 7,500 Solidarity trade unionists from Silesia (southern Poland) staged a violent protest in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw against the government's socioeconomic policies, Polish media reported. Protesters threw firecrackers and eggs at the building and scuffled with police. Five policemen were reportedly injured and two of them were hospitalized. Demonstrators protested the government's restructuring plans in the mining and metallurgical sectors, health care, and the state railroads. The same day, some 700 shipyard workers in Szczecin blocked the city center for about two hours in protest against what they call the government's reluctance to provide promised support for their troubled company. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)PRESIDENT SIGNS AMENDED LUSTRATION LAW.
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 15 October signed an amended lustration law that excludes from the country's lustration process those who collaborated with the communist-era intelligence and counterintelligence services, PAP reported. Kazimierz Ujazdowski from the opposition Law and Justice said he will soon appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule whether the amendment is constitutional. "It is inadmissible for Polish lawmakers to endorse collaboration with the intelligence and counterintelligence services of the Polish People's Republic as a better form of collaboration [than that] with the [communist-era] security service," Ujazdowski commented. The opposition believes the amendment is primarily intended to shield some prominent activists of the ruling SLD of being accused of lying during the lustration process. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
WITH OLIGARCH OUT, LIBERAL RUSSIA IS IN.
Just days after its political council voted to eject oligarch Boris Berezovskii from its ranks, the Liberal Russia party received news on 17 October that the Justice Ministry has decided to register it, Russian news agencies reported. In July, the ministry rejected the party's application, citing numerous "incorrect" passages from the party's charter. Vladimir Tomarkovskii, head of the ministry's department for public and religious associations, announced that no violations had been found in Liberal Russia's resubmitted documents, polit.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)DUMA NIXES MONUMENT FOR NICHOLAS...
The Duma on 16 October included on its agenda a bill put forward by Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov (independent) calling for the erection of a monument to Tsar Nicholas II on Lubyanka Square on the site where a statue of Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii once stood, RIA-Novosti reported. Fedulov said he hoped his proposal will eventually lead to the removal of the body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from his mausoleum on Red Square and to "a Nuremberg trial against the Communist Party for crimes committed when it was in power." Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii expressed strong opposition to the proposal, calling Nicholas II "the worst tsar in Russian history." He also said he supports the restoration of the Dzerzhinskii monument and praised him for "setting up the most powerful intelligence system in the world." Duma deputies voted on 16 October to reject the bill for the Tsar Nicholas II monument, however, Russian news agencies reported. According to RosBalt, only 12 legislators voted in favor of the bill, while 52 voted against and one abstained. Fedulov was tossed out of the Unity faction last April for proposing a bill to ban the Communist Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 October)...BUT RAISES MINIMUM MONTHLY WAGE INDEX.
Russia's legislature approved on 16 October a bill raising the minimum monthly wage index to 600 rubles ($19) a month. The vote was 405 in favor, with one against and two abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)PERM -- BULWARK OF RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY.
Nikolai Petrov, an expert on regional politics formerly of the Carnegie Moscow Center, presented on 15 October the results of election research he conducted over the past seven years in 88 regions, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 October. Petrov looked at a number of different indicators to measure the level of democracy in Russia, and some of his preliminary conclusions are surprising. For example, the most democratic region in the country appears to be Perm Oblast, and in three of the 10 most democratic regions, the governors in charge are Communists. These regions are Nizhnii Novgorod, Ivanovo, and Kamchatka oblasts. Other regions in the ranks of the top 10 are Novosibirsk, Moscow, Tambov, Leningrad, Kaliningrad, and Sakhalin oblasts. Listed among the least democratic regions are Orel Oblast, the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Tuva, Mordovia, and Kalmykia, and the Agin-Buratskii Autonomous Okrug. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)WOMEN APPEAL TO GOVERNMENT REGARDING POVERTY, CALL FOR GENDER QUOTAS IN PARTY LISTS.
The Union of Women of Russia intends to present the government with a letter protesting the impoverishment of Russian citizens, RosBalt reported on 15 October. According to union Chairwoman Alevtina Fedulova, the group has collected more than 500,000 signatures from women across Russia supporting the initiative. Fedulova said the group is concerned about rising unemployment among women, the "elimination" of women from "prestigious" jobs, the growing wage differential between men and women, and inadequate state subsidies for women supporting children. The protest was timed to coincide with the United Nation's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October. In related news, the Rostov-based women's group Soglasie has called for setting a gender quota of 70 percent on the party lists for regional and national elections, regions.ru reported on 21 October, citing Ekho Rostova. According to the site, group activists say their secret weapon in the struggle for women's rights is that the fact about 53 percent of the Russian electorate is female. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 22 October)STATE OPENS SAFETY VALVE ON SOCIAL PROTEST.
More than 9 million workers took part in nationwide demonstrations on 17 October against delays in wage payments and price increases for communal services, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) head Mikhail Shmakov. The demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Saratov, and about 20 other large Russian cities were organized by the FNPR and the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. According to Shmakov, whose trade unions are considered to be closely controlled by the government, the private sector of the economy accounts for 87 percent of all wage arrears. He said that the FNPR has refused to participate in any joint actions with the Communist Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)CENSUS COUNTS PRISON POPULATION...
Ilya Kolubelov, spokesman for the Interior Ministry's Main Corrections Directorate, has said the census within the prison system was completed ahead of schedule and, according to its results, the country has 919,000 prisoners, including 130,000 in pretrial detention, Russian news agencies reported on 15 October. Kolubelov said the prison census was finished so quickly because inmates did not need to answer many questions, such as those about the size of their housing or their sources of income. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)...AS CENSUS RESULTS SHOW CHECHNYA'S POPULATION LARGER THAN EXPECTED...
According to preliminary census results, Chechnya's present population is 1.088 million, of whom some 205,000 live in Grozny, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov announced on 14 October, Interfax reported the following day. Ilyasov added that this figure is only marginally less than the 1.27 million registered in the 1989 Soviet census as the total population of the combined Checheno-Ingush ASSR. Sultygov said on 15 October, however, that the 1989 figures "were greatly underreported," and at that time Chechens already numbered more than 2 million. He pointed out that population growth alone could not account for the current census figures. The combined death toll in the 1994-96 and the present Chechen war is estimated at 100,000-140,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)...AND ACTIVISTS INTERPRET RESULTS THERE.
As demographers attempt to explain the unexpectedly high census figures from Chechnya, a source from the human rights organization Memorial told RFE/RL's Russian Service on 16 October that this phenomenon can be explained by the harsh policies of the Russian military against the republic's civilian population. Because of the widespread practice of "zachistki" -- rounding up and checking entire local male populations suspected of having ties to separatists -- many Chechens declared themselves residents of several cities or villages in order to avoid endless security checks of nonresidents. In this way, many locals were counted two or even three times, the Memorial source said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER MEETS WITH CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARIANS.
Russia's human rights commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov met for more than three hours on 13 October in Znamenskoe with 14 deputies to the Chechen parliament elected in the summer of 1997, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The discussion focused on human rights violations and a draft agreement on public accord that outlines the principles for a possible political settlement of the Chechen conflict and for Chechnya's development within the parameters of the Russian Constitution, Interfax quoted Sultygov as saying. The two sides agreed to coordinate their positions on working for a settlement of the conflict and for a referendum on Chechnya's new draft constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)EU, UN APPROVE MORE AID FOR CHECHNYA.
An EU commissioner announced in Brussels on 16 October that the EU has allocated some 20.5 million euros ($20.1 million) to supply food, tents, and medications to Chechen displaced persons this winter, Reuters reported. Also on 16 October, a senior UN coordinator for humanitarian issues assured Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Aminat Batyzheva in Grozny that the UN plans to increase humanitarian aid to Chechnya and to redirect most of that aid from Ingushetia to Chechnya. Chechen administration officials claim at least 70,000 displaced persons have returned from camps in Ingushetia to Chechnya in recent months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
PROSECUTOR UNDER POLICE PROTECTION FOLLOWING THREATS.
Prosecutor Michal Serbin has been under police protection since last month because of written threats, "Novy cas" reported on 18 October. Serbin is heading up several high-profile prosecutions, including the case against former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa. Lexa was taken into custody in July after being arrested in South Africa on an international warrant, but he was later freed on procedural grounds. On 30 September, Serbin indicted Lexa on charges of abuse of authority during his tenure as SIS head from 1994-98. He was previously charged with organizing the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son but was amnestied by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)POLITICIANS TARGETED BY REPORT ON COMMUNIST-ERA COLLABORATION.
Nine members of the newly elected Slovak parliament, including two cabinet members, appear on a list of people accused of collaborating with Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret police (StB), the daily "Sme" reported on 21 October. The so-called "Cibulka List," named after Petr Cibulka, the dissident-activist who published the unconfirmed list, purports to identify 180,000 people who collaborated knowingly or unknowingly with the StB. Eight of those mentioned by "Sme" were listed as StB informants and one as an agent. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan is one of those named, and he has already issued a denial. "My past is the way it is. I cannot change it. Everyone knows it. But allegations of collaboration with the StB are untrue," he said, according to the daily. Health Minister Rudolf Zajac was also listed as an informant. Three names from Vladimir Meciar's opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) appear on the list, including former Prime Minister and party Chairman Meciar, party Deputy Chairman Vojtech Tkac, and parliamentary deputy speaker Viliam Veteska. Marian Gula, director of the Slovak Office for Documenting Communist Crimes, told the daily that he considers the list a reliable source of information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
CONFERENCE IN WARSAW SAID TO START POLITICAL DIALOGUE...
The two-day conference "Ukraine in Europe" with the participation of Ukrainian officials and opposition activists concluded in Warsaw on 16 October with what Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski cautiously termed the possible beginning of a "thread of dialogue" between the Ukrainian government and the opposition, Polish media reported. "A success of this conference is in inaugurating the dialogue between the [Ukrainian] authorities and the opposition," Ukrainian presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk told journalists. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko also said the conference has proved that "dialogue is the only way out of Ukraine's crisis, the gravest in the past 11 years." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)...WHILE KUCHMA WARNS OPPOSITION AGAINST PRESENTING 'ULTIMATUMS.'
President Leonid Kuchma came to Warsaw on 16 October, after the conference ended, and met with Kwasniewski and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also participated the Warsaw forum on Ukraine. "I honestly think the course Ukraine is taking now is not getting it closer to the European institutions; it is taking it farther away," Solana said at a joint news conference with Kuchma and Kwasniewski. Kuchma said he supports dialogue between the government and oppositions groups, but ruled out yielding to what he called "ultimatums," apparently referring to opposition demands for his resignation. "I always was and am open to dialogue, and not something else. If the other side wants dialogue and not just sinecures, then we can talk. If the talks are about sinecures and not about Ukraine, then there will be no accord," Polish Television quoted Kuchma as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY MEETS WITH PRESIDENT.
Ukrainian lawmakers from the officially announced 226-strong parliamentary majority met on 21 October with President Kuchma and Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN reported. The meeting took place behind closed doors, and no official news conference was held after it concluded. The gathering was reportedly attended by 211 legislators. "The majority exists only de jure; it does not exist de facto," Social Democratic Party-united caucus member Oleksandr Volkov commented. Answering a question on whether the majority is going to reappoint the heads of parliamentary committees, Volkov said such a move has been postponed in order not to disrupt the dialogue between the majority and Yushchenko's Our Ukraine. Lawmaker Oleh Bespalov from the People's Power faction also confirmed that the continuation of the dialogue with Yushchenko was discussed at the meeting, but he did not elaborate. Our Ukraine's Yuriy Kostenko commented on 22 October that the meeting of the "so-called parliamentary majority" with Kuchma has blocked the process of creating a "democratic parliamentary majority" with the participation of Our Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST PRESIDENT SAID TO BE ILLEGAL.
The administration of President Kuchma believes the criminal case instigated against Kuchma by Judge Yuriy Vasylenko is illegal and anticonstitutional, UNIAN reported on 15 October, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk called the case an example of "legal nihilism." According to the Ukrainian Constitution, the president of Ukraine enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office and may be held accountable before a court of law only after a procedure of impeachment has been initiated against the president. However, there are no laws in Ukraine defining the procedure for impeachment. Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych also said the case against Kuchma is "beneath all criticism from a legal point of view." Lavrynovych admitted, however, that bringing to court persons shielded by immunity from prosecution has not been clearly regulated in Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
STEINER GETS COOL RESPONSE IN APPEAL FOR SERBIAN PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL VOTE.
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has come up empty-handed after a visit to Belgrade to seek support from political and religious leaders in urging Kosova's Serbs to take part in the 26 October local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 17 October. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said the security and human rights situations have not improved for Serbs under the present system. The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church said in a statement that it neither supports nor opposes the vote. The Synod added, however, that it fears Serbian participation in the elections could turn out to be "window-dressing for the benefit of the domestic and international publics...like Serbian participation in the parliament has for the most part shown itself to be." Bishop Amfilohije Radovic was more blunt, saying Serbs would "despise" him if he called on them to vote, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)MONTENEGRIN ELECTIONS LARGELY FOLLOW PREDICTABLE PATTERN...
The results of the 20 October parliamentary elections show that the pro-Belgrade and pro-independence forces generally held on to their traditional strongholds, "Vesti" reported on 22 October. The pro-Belgrade coalition won in the Pljevlja, Pluzine, Zabljak, Savnik, Mojkovac, Kolasin, Andrijevica, and Herceg Novi districts. The coalition led by Djukanovic took the Bijelo Polje, Berane, Rozaje, Plav, Podgorica, Danilovgrad, Cetinje, Niksic, Tivat, Budva, and Bar districts. An ethnic Albanian coalition won in Ulcinj. Djukanovic's coalition won a majority in local elections in Podgorica and took first place but not a majority in Tivat. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)...BUT AN ALBANIAN LEADER IS UNHAPPY WITH THE TURNOUT.
Leading ethnic Albanian politician Fuad Nimani told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 21 October that he is disappointed by the low turnout of ethnic Albanian voters. He noted that the Albanian parties are small and unable to offer their voters any real incentive to vote for them. Nimani nonetheless urged those parties to pay more attention to the voters. Some ethnic Albanian politicians prefer to work in parties without an ethnic basis. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)HAGUE PROSECUTOR BRINGS TWO SREBRENICA INDICTMENTS TO SERBIA.
In Belgrade on 21 October, Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, gave Serbian and Yugoslav officials indictments of three Bosnian Serbs for their role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, a statement from the tribunal said. The three are Drago Nikolic, Vujadin Popovic, and Ljubisa Beara. Each of the three has been indicted on one count of genocide and at least three counts of crimes against humanity. Del Ponte also said she intends to complain again to the UN Security Council that Belgrade authorities are obstructing her work, Reuters reported. She noted Belgrade's failure to arrest war crimes suspects and open its military archives to the tribunal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
CZECH PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST NEW DIVISION OF EUROPE.
Czech President Vaclav Havel said on 16 October that if the European Union does not expand, it could lead Europe to a new Iron Curtain-style division, CTK reported the same day. "If the great, currently planned enlargement were to be postponed by several years, it would start to be very dangerous for all of Europe," Havel told journalists after a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. Havel said a psychological barrier would emerge in Europe between the 15 current EU members and the rest of the continent. "This would be an impulse for a wave of various nationalist and populist movements that would make use of this in one way or another," Havel said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)RUSSIAN DAILY SEES CONFLICT REPORTEDLY ARISING BETWEEN RUSSIAN AND ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 October that a conflict of interest is emerging between the Russian Orthodox and the Romanian Greek Orthodox churches on the territory of Moldova, Romanian Radio reported. The Russian daily argued that by registering the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, Moldovan authorities acceded to resolutions proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in order to leave the door open for future integration with European structures. The article entitled "Bessarabia Vs. Moldova" claimed that Romanian authorities do not recognize Moldova as a separate state, do not recognize Moldovan history and culture, and that they intend to include Moldova in Romania's sphere of influence. It further accused Romania of financing "the rebirth of the church" in the Romanian diaspora and of paying the salaries of the Bessarabian Church's clergy. The article argued that the official recognition of the Bessarabian Church creates a "dangerous precedent for separating the churches." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
FORGOTTEN REFUGEES: ROMA IN THE BALKANS
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
While there are stories of resettlement and recovery in the Balkans, the Roma appear to have become the forgotten refugees there, say international humanitarian workers. They are now facing winter with few resources, scavenging in garbage dumps and dodging attacks from those with a long-standing hatred for their people. In its 2002 World Report, Human Rights Watch said police brutality again Roma was a "common occurrence," citing such incidents as the September 2001 incident where two policemen broke the arm of a 14-year-old boy in Novi Sad after beating him and a group of other Romany children. Such official abuse as well as scapegoating by the society at large have spelled misery for the Roma as they struggle to adapt to postwar conditions.
In a September report based on a July-August mission to the region, Refugees International (RI), a Washington-based nongovernmental organization with relief operations in various conflict areas of the world (see http://www.refintl.org), found the most vulnerable and least-known population in the Balkans to be the Roma. RI says 50 percent of Roma internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are not registered, which means they lack access to assistance. Many live in what are characterized as "illegal collective centers," or informal IDP camps not authorized by either local or international authorities. And in any event, international relief groups are now reducing assistance, in part in the name of avoiding dependency, and in part to focus on longer-term development needs. NGOs, which rely on government contracts to perform their services, say U.S. funding for next year is half of this year's total.
The job is far from finished, however. "It is very easy to displace people; it is 10 times harder to get them back," Michael Stanisich of RI, one of the participants in the Balkan mission, told "(Un)Civil Societies." "It is very costly in terms of human capital -- it is labor-intensive -- and requires lots of funds." As the international community cuts back on relief efforts in the Balkans as the situation is believed to be stabilizing, the gap between relief and longer-term development is starkly visible for Roma in particular.
International NGOs hesitate to make estimates about the current Romany population in the Balkan in part because of the difficulty of accessing the scattered groups in informal camps, but they are believed to number over 10,000. The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported 19,551 Roma from Kosovo registered as IDPs in Serbia, excluding Kosova, at the end of 2000, citing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Roma fear returning to Kosova, where before the war they were once a minority lesser in number than the Serbs but better protected than now. They do not believe they will be safe. As with other refugee situations in the Balkans, matters once centrally decided, albeit poorly, are now divided among a variety of authorities in two countries, two provinces, and the territory of the international presence, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In Montenegro, more Roma live outside the official collective centers than in them, the RI mission discovered. The World Food Program (WFP) has cut food rations and plans to withdraw next year, say NGOs working in the area, and has issued guidelines for reduced aid only to those most needy, i.e. disabled or younger than 6 years or older than 65 years -- evidently a further curtailment from the restricted categories of those eligible for aid last year, which including single parents with one or more children below 15 who are not supported by their immediate family, and all children under the age of 15, as ERRC reported in 2001 (see "Roma Rights," no. 4/2001 at http://www.errc.org). To pick up the slack from WFP, the UNHCR will use up its entire budget for 2003 in the first few months of next year, says RI, sending those concerned about the plight of the Roma scrambling for other solutions.
Lack of personal identification documents has been cited among the greatest reason for the Roma's failure to resettle effectively and gain even temporary access to services. The ERRC reports that the Novi Sad Humanitarian Center, for example, found Roma denied medical aid without updated health cards, And among other obstacles to long-term resettlement is a lack of property rights, in part also hinging on personal identification. If people are to return to their homes, they must demonstrate title to their former property and buildings. In any war-torn area this would pose problems, but for Romany communities, houses and land were often obtained merely on a handshake or established through informal arrangements. The overall housing issue has been complexified by lawsuits against the UN administration in Kosova, for example, where the agency is accused of selling municipal lands, thereby allegedly exceeding its mandate under the Security Council.
A February 2002 report issued jointly by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UNMIK says property rights are "in crisis," and cites a litany of complaints (see http://www.osce.org/kosovo/documents/reports/property/property_report_february_2002.pdf). "Illegal occupation, lack of equal access to mechanisms for the protection of property rights, strategic sales of Kosovo Serb property and arbitrariness in the judicial system and in municipal structures continue," say these international bodies.
Currently, an estimated 10 percent of IDPs are in official collective centers, or camps for IDPs where they are served by relief groups, and about 90 percent are in private homes or informal arrangements intended to be temporary. The Romany preference to live in community settlements has not been recognized by local authorities, and they are also not so easily helped by humanitarian agencies which function by handling individual family cases one at a time. The collective centers are scheduled for shutdown soon. International humanitarian agencies believe they have had more success in repatriating displaced persons who were living in private arrangements, where they evidently had less dependency. Due to local prejudices, Roma face particular difficulties in renting apartments or finding lodging in cheap hotels and have tended to stay with their own communities.
As collective centers are shut down, municipal authorities have resisted accepting Roma into their communities. RI's Stanisich cited one Romany community his team found living on what was described to be prime coastal real estate coveted by developers, fueling the determination of local authorities to displace the Roma once again. Somehow, they have survived, making do in shanty towns made of scraps, but they are extremely concerned about the lack of nutrition and schooling for their children.
To address the problem, a variety of institutions and local actors must cooperate. "A cultural shift will have to take place at all levels of assistance. Deep-seated prejudice exists [toward Roma] and that will have to be changed," Stanisich told "(Un)Civil Societies." Roma have adopted various strategies to attempt to survive under conditions of discrimination, and that has sometimes frustrated those trying to assist them. Much greater dialogue is needed directly with the Romany community and their chosen representatives to resolve their issues, says Stanisich, and it must start with a basic information exchange, where isolated communities are informed that the Yugoslav Army will no longer be protecting them and they will have to adapt to the new realities in the region. To make that message stick, there will have to be a guarantee of security by the international community.
Another proposal is to have U.S. and European agencies monitor more carefully how municipalities allocate assistance to ensure minorities receive equal access to entitlements. NGOs say town authorities and courts dealing with property claims are corrupt and susceptible to bribes, and also readily discriminate against Roma. RI and similar humanitarian groups are calling on donors not only to provide more funding for UNHCR to serve those Roma outside official centers in particular, but asking the European Agency for Reconstruction, for example -- already mandated to supply 10 percent of funds for minority housing reconstruction -- to ensure Roma are included and also to roll over to the following year amounts not used this year. They are calling on U.S. government assistance programs to fund the provision of basic needs packages for Roma IDPs and to concentrate on primary education, in the process reaching the undocumented Romany population.