13 November 2002, Volume
RULING PARTY REJECTS PROPOSED ELECTION-LAW AMENDMENTS.
Leading members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on 6 November categorically rejected proposed amendments to the election law drafted by a group of 16 opposition deputies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported Leading HHK member Tigran Torosian argued that as all opposition parties are already represented on election commissions at all levels, the proposal to grant broader powers to candidates' proxies to supervise the voting and vote count is superfluous. The pro-government Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun similarly indicated it is unlikely to support the amendments, but Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State), which also supports President Robert Kocharian, said it might do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)
OPPOSITION APPEALS TO OSCE OVER NEW ELECTION LAW.
Four prominent Azerbaijani opposition parties -- Musavat, the Democratic Party, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, and the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party -- have appealed to a visiting Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly delegation to ask that organization to pressure the Azerbaijani authorities to make public a new draft election law, Turan reported on 8 November. The four parties also asked the OSCE to mediate an agreement between the opposition and the authorities that would ensure the new legislation is adopted no later than 1 February 2003 and that no further changes are made to it between that time and the presidential election next fall. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO OSCE ASSAILS MINSK FOR DISREGARDING COMMITMENTS.
The deputy chief of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE on 9 November called for a resolution to the crisis that has beset the organization's work in Belarus, adding that there is "no need to hear any more pronouncements of goodwill," according to Belapan. "We have all heard positive sounds from Belarus before, even as it expelled members to the OSCE mission there and abused OSCE commitments," Belapan quoted Douglas Davidson as saying at an OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna. "What we need to see now is a resolution of this crisis." In his speech, Davidson referred to the persecution of opposition politicians in Belarus, citing the example of Anatol Lyabedzka. "The Lukashenka regime's blatant attempt to intimidate the political opposition into not meeting with the international community constitutes only the latest evidence of its disregard for the kind of freedom of contact and movement normally afforded to political representatives in a democratic society," Davidson added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
OPPOSITION POLITICIAN DEMANDS THAT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S IMMUNITY BE LIFTED.
Edvin Sugarev, a prominent member of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, told a press conference on 5 November that he has sent an open letter to the president, the prime minister, and to the leaders of all parliamentary factions demanding that Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev's immunity from prosecution be lifted, "Dnevnik" reported. In the letter, Sugarev accused Filchev of using his office to exert pressure on those who do not share his views. Justice Minister Anton Stankov announced the same day that Sugarev's letter will be discussed in the Supreme Judicial Council. While Filchev refused to comment on the letter, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office claimed that Sugarev is being used by criminal circles to discredit Filchev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
PRESIDENT: WE WILL CARRY OUT OUR OBLIGATIONS TO THE HAGUE.
President Stipe Mesic told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 12 November that he is convinced Croatian authorities will cooperate fully with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague in the case of General Janko Bobetko (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 7 November 2002). Mesic stressed that the government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan will act "without any [further] discussion" once its appeal to the tribunal has run its course. The president said those politicians who say they will defy the tribunal -- even if their stance means international sanctions against Croatia -- are just trying to "score cheap political points." Mesic said he believes the opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) would cooperate with the tribunal if the HDZ were in power. He argued that the Bobetko case is really about efforts by people who acquired privileges during the 1991-95 war of independence to keep them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)ANTIFASCIST DEMONSTRATION IN ZAGREB.
Several hundred protesters demonstrated in Zagreb on 9 November to mark the International Day of the Fight Against Fascism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In other political news, representatives of the three parties representing the regional interests of Istria, Slavonia, and Primorje, respectively, met in Bizovac to demand better efforts to develop the economies and resources of Croatia's regions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)EU GIVES CROATIA THE BRUSH-OFF.
Jacques Wunnenburger, who heads the European Commission's mission to Croatia, said in Zagreb on 5 November, "Although the [Croatian] government intends to apply for the full membership next year, our advice is that Croatia should be cautious, because the EU is not ready for new rounds of enlargement," dpa reported. He stressed that a major stumbling block is the government's reluctance to extradite former General Bobetko to The Hague, where he is wanted for war crimes: "Croatia says that it cooperates [with the tribunal], but the impression is that it's doing it only because of the international pressure, which means that the country has not adopted European standards." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)HAGUE TRIBUNAL WANTS TO INTERVIEW THREE MORE CROATS.
Prime Minister Racan discussed the Bobetko case with opposition-party leaders in Zagreb on 5 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He noted that the case has already caused unspecified damage to the Croatian economy. Racan added that the government has received a request from the tribunal to make three individuals available for interviews regarding their possible involvement in war crimes. Two names are secret, but the third is former Admiral Davor Domazet, who headed the military's intelligence service from 1991 to 1997. Domazet told reporters he is surprised by the request because foreign intelligence chiefs are "by law not allowed to testify before the court in The Hague," dpa reported. He added that he will nonetheless "respond" to the call for an interview. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
BRITAIN RETURNS MORE ASYLUM SEEKERS.
Another group of 53 unsuccessful applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom was returned to the Czech Republic on 5 November, CTK reported. The group was sent back on a specially chartered airplane. This was the sixth deportation of (mostly Romany) asylum seekers to the Czech Republic from the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 174. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIAL CHARGED.
A former high-ranking communist official, Karel Hoffmann, was charged on 1 November with treason for his alleged role in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, AP and CTK reported. Prosecutor Dagmar Machova said Hoffmann is accused of having ordered Czechoslovak state radio and television to stop broadcasting during the invasion, thus preventing statements by the country's leaders condemning the invasion from reaching the public. Hoffmann was in charge of communications at the time the pact's troops invaded Czechoslovakia. Machova said Hoffmann, 78, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. In September, two other former communist officials, one-time Communist Party chief Miklos Jakes and former Premier Jozef Lenart, were acquitted of treason charges also stemming from their role in the 1968 invasion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
AZERBAIJANI MINORITY PROTESTS REPEATED VIOLENT ATTACKS...
Representatives of the overwhelmingly Azerbaijani population of Georgia's Gardabani Raion southeast of Tbilisi staged a protest on 11 November outside the local government building to protest recent armed assaults, Caucasus Press and zerkalo.az reported on 12 November. On 11 November, a group of armed masked men, some of them wearing paramilitary uniforms, halted a car carrying three Azerbaijanis and opened fire on them when they tried to resist. Alibaly Askerov, who heads the Georgia-Azerbaijan Friendship Society, said he does not believe that and earlier violent attacks on Azerbaijanis were ethnically motivated. He attributed them to numerous illegal groups engaged in extortion and racketeering. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)...WHILE GEORGIAN KURDS SAY THEY WERE BETTER OFF IN THE USSR.
Speaking in Tbilisi on 8 November, Kerim Ankhos, who represents Georgia's Yezidi minority, complained that Georgia's Kurds have lost the cultural autonomy they enjoyed under the USSR, Caucasus Press reported. He noted that Kurds used to have a theater in Tbilisi and radio broadcasts in their own language, and they were represented in local government. Having been deprived of those opportunities, he said, the Kurdish minority in Georgia has abandoned any hope of preserving its language and customs. Ankhos pointed out that the Kurds are worse off than many other national minorities as they do not have a historic motherland that could defend their rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
FORMER PREMIER REJECTS ANTI-SEMITISM CHARGE...
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 8 November said attacks on the previous government, particularly the charge of anti-Semitism, damage Hungary's international reputation, Budapest dailies reported. He added that such serious charges have never been leveled against a freely elected government anywhere in the world. In addition, Orban said, it is absurd that cabinet ministers are "canvassing throughout the world" and claiming that the former government was anti-Semitic. Orban, prime minister from 1998 to 2002, was speaking after a meeting with his former ministers that he convened in response to the verbal attacks on his government. Orban encouraged his former ministers to seek justice through the courts if they are accused unjustly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)...AND EXPLAINS DECISION TO RENOUNCE U.S. TRIP.
Orban on 11 November said he will not travel to Washington, D.C., to collect the Truman-Reagan Freedom Prize that the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation awarded him for promoting democracy and freedom, "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. Orban said that, if asked, he could not answer questions related to the communist past of either Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy or the country's chief of police without harming improving Hungarian-U.S. relations. According to the daily, U.S. sources were informed that Orban canceled the visit because of a "smear campaign" being conducted against him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
PRESIDENT REJECTS CRITICISM OF POLITICAL SITUATION.
Meeting with foreign diplomats on 6 November, Nursultan Nazarbaev rejected as misplaced Western criticism of recent moves and legislation perceived as undemocratic, including the law imposing stricter criteria for the registration of political parties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He argued the process of democratization should not be artificially accelerated. At a 9 November congress of the Otan party, which was formed in 1999 to support him, Nazarbaev called for the close monitoring of domestic political processes in order to preclude an upsurge of extremism, Interfax reported. He also suggested creating a permanent consultative body, on which political parties would be represented and which would develop proposals on strengthening civil society. Nazarbaev also argued that Otan should assume the role of the ruling party that would make -- and take responsibility for implementing -- key decisions affecting the lives of the population. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL MEETS WITH IMPRISONED OPPOSITION LEADER.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Cramer met on 6 November in Bishkek with former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys Party Chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 11 November. Their talks focused on ways to end the ongoing domestic political crisis in Kyrgyzstan; the possibility of Kulov's pre-term release was not discussed. Kulov is serving a 10-year prison term on charges, which he has denied, of embezzlement and abuse of office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)OPPOSITIONIST REJECTS OFFICIAL CRITICISM...
Opposition parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov on 9 November denied that the opposition has violated the terms of an agreement signed with the government two months ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Under the so-called Karakul agreement, participants in a protest march in southern Kyrgyzstan agreed to drop their demand for the resignation of President Askar Akaev and the annulment of a recent agreement ceding territory to China. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov recently accused Beknazarov of reneging on that agreement and participants in a protest march in support of former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov of engaging in "dirty tricks" to win electoral support. On 10 November, Beknazarov made public the entire text of the four-point protocol, under which the government undertook to make public by 15 November the results of its inquiry into who issued orders to police to open fire on demonstrators in the southern district of Aksy on 17-18 March. At least five people died in clashes between police and protesters during that incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)...AS ACCUSED IN AKSY SHOOTINGS EXONERATED.
Beknazarov also warned on 9 November that the protesters will resume their march if the government fails to comply with its self-imposed deadline of 15 November and make public the findings of the Aksy shootings investigation, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Speaking at a briefing in Bishkek three days earlier, National Security Committee head Kalyk Imankulov said his committee has not discovered any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of six regional officials charged with exceeding their authority in connection with the shootings, akipress.org reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)PROTEST MARCH SUSPENDED.
Supporters of Sydykov staged a protest march on 5 November to demand that he be allowed to contest a runoff by-election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The 300 marchers reached the town of Tash-Komur. Also on 5 November, President Akaev dismissed two regional administrators from Osh Oblast, Rustam Anabotoev and Akasbek Abdurashitov, both of whom participated in the early stages of the march. Organizers decided on 8 November to suspend their march after talks with a special parliamentary commission created to investigate the events that led to the protest, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Sydykov polled 46 percent of the vote in a by-election in Kara-Kuldja on 20 October, but an Osh court barred him from contesting the runoff on the grounds of alleged irregularities. Sydykov told RFE/RL on 8 November the accusations against him are politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 11 November)
PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT.
By a vote of 55 to 43 with one abstention, parliament on 7 November approved the center-right coalition government headed by New Era Chairman Einars Repse, LETA reported. New Era-backed candidates will head six ministries -- Culture (Inguna Ribena), Education and Research (Karlis Sadurskis), Finance (Valdis Dombrovskis), Foreign Affairs (Sandra Kalniete), Interior (Maris Gulbis), and Justice (Aivars Aksenoks) -- and two special-task portfolios that will later be transformed into ministries: Health Care (Aris Auders) and Regional Development (Ivars Gaters). Latvia's First Party will hold a deputy prime minister's post (Ainars Slesers) along with the Economy Ministry (Juris Lujans) and two special-task ministers: Children's and Family Affairs and Social Integration. (Ainars Bastiks will temporarily hold both the positions until a social integration minister is chosen.) Union of Greens and Farmers nominees will lead three ministries: Agriculture (Martins Roze), Environment (Raimonds Vejonis), and Welfare (not yet selected). For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK will control two ministries: Defense (Girts Valdis Kristovskis) and Transportation (Roberts Zile). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)
FOREIGN MINISTRY PLEDGES COMMITMENT TO SCHENGEN RIGHTS.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement on 8 November stating that further negotiations on transit through Lithuanian territory to and from Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast will be guided by respect for Lithuanian sovereignty, effective border control, and parity with the travels of Lithuanian nationals to Russia and Kaliningrad, ELTA reported. The statement was made in reaction to reports that EU and Russian officials have agreed to transit rules that are favorable to Moscow. According to the reports, Russians would not have to visit Lithuanian consulates to obtain transit visas, as booking offices in Russian railway stations would mediate in issuing simplified Lithuanian transit documents to passengers. Information regarding the passengers would be sent to Lithuania to either accept or reject an application within an established period of time. Lithuania is primarily concerned that such rules might hinder its efforts for full integration within the Schengen zone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF CHECHEN MISSION.
Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov told Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis on 5 November that the Chechen Information and Culture Center in Vilnius should be closed, BNS reported. The previous day, Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas said he received inquiries from the Russian government about the Chechen mission working in Vilnius but heard no demands for its closure. After the end of the hostage drama in Moscow, Zubakov said in interviews to Lithuanian television stations that he could not understand the presence in Vilnius of representatives of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whose leadership is not acknowledged by Moscow. Valionis replied that the center was a public institution, founded in accordance with Lithuanian laws, and headed by a Lithuanian citizen engaged in "mainly humanitarian" activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
TWO GET SUSPENDED SENTENCES FOR BURNING U.S. FLAG.
A court gave two unnamed Macedonians suspended jail sentences on 12 November for burning the U.S. flag during a 1999 protest against the NATO-led intervention in Kosova, Reuters reported from Skopje. These were the first convictions for burning the U.S. flag in Macedonia, which receives extensive U.S. political, economic, and military support. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
PPCD THREATENS TO RESUME PROTESTS.
The Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) announced on 5 November that it is prepared to resume the street protests that were conducted earlier this year if the authorities continue to distribute "History of Moldova" textbooks at schools, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. PPCD Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu said the distribution of the textbook infringes on the moratorium stipulated in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's April recommendations. He also said the PPCD will appeal to the Council of Europe's two rapporteurs for Moldova if distribution is not stopped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
SLD-UP EMERGES AS VICTOR OF FIRST ROUND.
On 7 November, the State Election Commission, plagued for nearly two weeks by a failure of the computer system handling the vote count, announced official results of the 27 October first round of voting to communal, district, and provincial councils. The ruling Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) bloc won the polls at all three levels, obtaining 4,816 seats on communal councils, 1,639 seats on district councils, and 189 seats on provincial councils. Turnout in the first round was 44.23 percent. Poles on 10 November voted in the second round of local elections to choose some 1,200 communal heads (wojt) and town and city mayors, Polish media reported. Approximately the same number of local administrators were elected in first-round voting on 27 October. According to preliminary second-round results, Lech Kaczynski (Law and Justice) was elected mayor of Warsaw (70 percent), Jerzy Kropiwnicki won the mayor's seat in Lodz (53 percent), and Marian Jurczyk will become mayor of Szczecin (53 percent). While the victory of Kaczynski over Democratic Left Alliance candidate Marek Balicki in Warsaw was widely expected, the triumph of the right-wing Kropiwnicki in Lodz, a traditional left-wing stronghold, came as a big surprise. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)PRESIDENT WARNS OF PUBLIC APATHY.
"We must all learn how to be active, how to organize ourselves, how to find trust in others -- in the community and democracy -- and how to awaken our faith in the idea of participation," President Aleksander Kwasniewski said in a speech to mark Polish Independence Day on 11 November, PAP reported. Speaking at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Kwasniewski also made a reference to the local elections that took place in Poland on 27 October and 10 November. "For the first time, [local elections] gave Poles a direct say in who is to become a village elder, a town or city mayor," Kwasniewski said. "The fact that more than 50 percent of Poles did not take advantage of that opportunity is not good news." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)ANTIRACISM CAMPAIGNERS COLLECT SIGNATURES IN STADIUM.
The "Never Again" Association and Polish Humanitarian Action announced they had collected 27,552 signatures to an antiracism petition in Polish stadiums, the European antidiscrimination website icare.to reported this week, citing the Polish website free.ngo.pl/nw on 8 November. The signatures were presented to Michal Listkiewicz, president of the Polish Football Association, who pledged to cooperate with Never Again in order to remove racist symbols from soccer stadiums. The antiracism campaigners gathered names to their petition at stadiums and schools throughout the country, and focused in particular on Przystanek Woodstock, the largest European music festival organized annually in Zary, Poland. The presentation of the petition to soccer officials was part of the Action Week of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), an international network co-founded by Never Again. The petition lists anti-Semitic abuse, neo-fascist symbols, and frequent hostility to black players as reasons for concern in Polish stadiums. In addition, as part of the FARE Action Week, meetings, concerts, and soccer games were organized in several Polish cities. CAFFOREIGN MINISTRY CHECKS CHECHEN CENTERS FOR TERRORIST LINKS.
The Polish Foreign Ministry has ordered inspections of all Chechen information and refugee centers in the country following a request from Russian authorities that such centers be shut down, Polish Television reported on 10 November. Russian officials view Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as a terrorist and have pushed for the closures in the wake of the 23-26 October Moscow hostage tragedy. Poland's Internal Security Agency (ABW) has concluded that Chechen information centers in Poland have nothing to do with terrorism. "The so-called Chechen information centers...in Poland do not further the development of relations between Russia and Poland," a spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Warsaw said on Polish Television on 10 November. "It is clear that the Russian side demands the closure of the centers in Warsaw and in Krakow." There are some 1,700 Chechens legally housed at refugee centers in Poland, while another 1,700 have applied for permanent residence, according to Polish Television. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
PARLIAMENT CRITICIZED FOR DECISION TO FORM SUBCOMMISSION OVER ARCHIVES ROW.
Mircea Dinescu, a member of the dissenting group in the leadership of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), has criticized a 7 November decision by the Chamber of Deputies' and the Senate's judicial commissions to set up a joint subcommission to study the recent conflict in the CNSAS, saying it only serves to delay a solution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The subcommission is to issue a report to the two commissions, which, in turn, are to report to a joint session of the bicameral parliament. The subcommission, comprising three senators and four deputies, will interview each member of the CNSAS's 11-member leadership college. In related news, the National Liberal Party on 10 November demanded that Social Democratic Party (PSD) deputy Ristea Priboi resign from parliament, Mediafax reported. The demand comes after a Brasov worker who participated in the 1981 revolt in Brasov said he was tortured by Priboi, who was a member of the Securitate at the time. Priboi has denied the allegation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)COMMISSION CALLS ON FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE TO ELUCIDATE PRIBOI CASE.
The parliamentary commission supervising the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) on 11 November asked the service to provide information on PSD deputy Priboi's past, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The request comes in the wake of allegations in the media that Priboi, a former Securitate officer, personally tortured one of the workers arrested after the 15 November 1987 demonstrations in Brasov against the former regime. Priboi, a former adviser to Premier Adrian Nastase, is a member of the commission. He chaired it until April 2001, when he was forced to step down after revelations in the media that he had been in charge of supervising Securitate activities against RFE/RL. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)RULING PARTY CHANGES POSITION ON AMENDMENT TO PARTIES LAW.
Following President Ion Iliescu's criticism, the PSD Permanent Delegation on 11 November backed down from its position regarding an amendment to the Parties Law that has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 6 November, Iliescu expressed his opposition to the amendment, which would have changed the number of members needed for political-party registration from the current 10,000 to 50,000. Following Iliescu's statement (as well as earlier criticism from nongovernmental organizations), the PSD decided on 11 November to back an amendment that would change the minimum number of members needed for political-party registration to 25,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
READY FOR A REVOLUTION?
A majority of Russians would not oppose a Bolshevik revolution if one happened today, Russian news agencies reported on 5 November, citing a new poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). On the eve of the anniversary of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which is now celebrated in Russia as the Days of Reconciliation and Accord on 7-8 November, VTsIOM found that 23 percent of respondents would "actively support" the Bolsheviks if the revolution happened today. Twenty percent said they would give "some support," and 28 percent said they would "wait and see." Eighteen percent of respondents said they would emigrate and just 8 percent said they would resist the Bolsheviks. In addition, 26 percent of those surveyed said that if the October Revolution had not happened, some other extremist group would have seized power and would likely have done even more harm than the Bolsheviks did. Twenty-two percent said it would have been good if the tsar had remained in power, and another 22 percent said it would have been best if Russia had developed a Western-style democracy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)KREMLIN AGREES ON KALININGRAD COMPROMISE.
On the eve of the Russia-EU summit in Brussels on 11 November, the two sides reached a compromise on the Kaliningrad problem, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 November. Nikolai Tulaev, a Federation Council member representing Kaliningrad, said Russia has dropped its demand for visa-free transit for its citizens through Lithuania after that country joins the organization. He added that Moscow has agreed to an EU proposal for simplified and expedited visas. Travel documents will be issued free at the border to Russian citizens holding valid passports and tickets. The new procedure will come into force beginning on 1 July 2003. At the end of 2003, when Lithuania is expected to join the Schengen agreement, the two sides will sign an additional accord. Russia and Lithuania continue to talk about the possibility of high-speed trains that would pass through Lithuania without stopping and on which Russian citizens could travel without visas or customs inspections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)MOSCOW TO EXPEL ILLEGAL TAJIK IMMIGRANTS.
More than 70 Tajik citizens found to be living illegally in Moscow will be forcibly repatriated on 15 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)PRESIDENT PUSHES POLITICAL PROCESS IN CHECHNYA.
Speaking to journalists on 10 November following a Kremlin meeting with 19 pro-Moscow Chechen leaders headed by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, President Vladimir Putin said he had approved an initiative to "accelerate a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution" for the republic, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported. Until two months ago, Russian and Chechen officials had advocated holding the referendum before the end of 2002 or in early 2003, but Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii recently suggested it be held simultaneously with State Duma elections in December 2003. Andrei Babushkin, chairman of the Moscow-based Civil Rights Committee, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that it is impossible to conduct any referendum in Chechnya during the military operation there. He also pointed out that about half of the republic's population is currently living outside of Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY FOR CHECHNYA CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PEACE CONFERENCE.
In a written statement released in Moscow on 5 November, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, who is the Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, called for the postponement of an international conference on Chechnya whose organizers advocate peace talks between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev, Memorial head Oleg Orlov, and Lev Ponomarev, who heads the For Human Rights movement, announced the conference, scheduled for 9-10 November, in Moscow on 4 November. Sultygov argued the conference was aimed, whether deliberately or unintentionally, at whitewashing terrorism, and that it discredits plans to hold a referendum and elections in Chechnya to enable the republic's population to determine their fate without violence or intimidation for the first time in history. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)LIBERALS DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM CHECHEN PRESIDENT.
Speaking at the Moscow conference on political solutions to the Chechnya conflict on 9-10 November, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said he does not see anyone in authority in Chechnya with whom Moscow can negotiate, polit.ru reported. Yavlinskii said the idea of peace talks is premature. He also harshly criticized President Maskhadov for "failing to condemn" the 23-26 October Moscow hostage taking. Oleg Orlov, head of the human rights organization Memorial and an organizer of the conference, said that Union of Rightist Forces co-Chairman Boris Nemtsov did not show up for his planned speech to the conference and had withdrawn his signature from an open letter in defense of Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev, who was arrested in Denmark on 30 October and who now faces possible extradition to Russia. Orlov added that a majority of conference participants called for a political solution in Chechnya and for peace talks with Maskhadov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CONDEMN HANDLING OF HOSTAGE CRISIS AS PUTIN PRAISES SPECIAL FORCES.
Prominent human rights leaders including Gleb Yakunin, Lev Levinson, and Sergei Kovalev, released a statement at a news conference condemning the handling of hostages held in a Moscow theater, polit.ru reported on 6 November. Terming the storming of the building and the subsequent gassing of hostages and terrorists "mass murder," the activists deemed the hostage taking itself "the natural consequence of the criminal policy conducted by the Russian authorities in Chechnya." Although the terrorists' action could never be justified, say the activists, blame for the hostages' deaths must be laid squarely on the authorities who "misled public opinion by not revealing the true demands of the hostage takers." The human rights activists called for an international commission to be established to examine the actions of the special forces during the crisis, and to begin peace talks with Chechen separatist leaders. Meanwhile, at a meeting with the cast of "Nord-Ost," the musical that was playing in the theater when the hostages were taken, President Putin praised the actions of the special forces and said they faced a complicated situation unlike any similar terrorist act anywhere in the world, polit.ru reported on 6 November. "We came out of this situation at the price of a terrible tragedy, with huge losses, but the consequences could have been far worse," said the president, adding that the special forces "had only thought about the people for whom they were risking themselves." CAFPUTIN WARNS AGAINST INDISCRIMINATE VIOLENCE IN CHECHNYA.
Visiting Maikop on 5 November, President Putin instructed the Federal Security Service (FSB) to devise new approaches to the problem of combating terrorism, warning that large-scale indiscriminate military operations in Chechnya are unnecessary and could prove counterproductive, Reuters and Russian news agencies reported. Such operations should be "well-directed and targeted," Putin said. Putin met separately in Maikop with Grozny administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, whom he thanked for his support during last month's hostage taking in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov was in Moscow at that time but rejected the hostage takers' proposal to free 50 hostages if he agreed to take their place. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)ANTI-CHECHEN INCIDENTS ON RISE IN MOSCOW.
Anti-Chechen stickers were found at a Moscow metro station on 5 November, newsru.com reported. The stickers -- which read: "There are 380,000 Chechens in Moscow. Do you want to be the next hostage?" -- were placed on escalators at the Novokuznetskaya station by unknown people some time during the day. Analysts noted that the text of the message seems to have been specially written to avoid conflicting with the letter of the law on extremism, which forbids directly "inciting ethnic conflict." Meanwhile, human rights activists in Moscow on 5 November held a news conference at which they outlined incidents of anti-Chechen persecution by police since the 23-26 October hostage crisis, Interfax reported. Activists described illegal searches and detentions, saying that police in many cases illegally photographed and fingerprinted detainees. The activists also described harassment of Chechen children in schools. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)FEDERAL FORCES DESTROY APARTMENT BUILDINGS IN GROZNY.
Russian troops evicted residents from two apartment buildings in the vicinity of the Russian military base at Khankala on the outskirts of Grozny on 5 November and blew up both buildings, Interfax reported. Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for the combined federal forces in Chechnya, explained that Chechen fighters regularly used the buildings, from which they could have targeted aircraft landing at Khankala. Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax the Russian military did not inform the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities before destroying the buildings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)NEARLY 1,500 FALL ILL IN FOOD-POISONING INCIDENT.
A total of 1,492 people, including 1,014 children, were hospitalized with acute dysentery in the Southern Federal District following an outbreak of food poisoning on 6 November, newsru.com and other Russian news agencies reported on 11 November. The overwhelming majority of the victims were in Krasnodar Krai. According to experts on the scene, the outbreak was caused by contaminated dairy products produced by the Kropotkin Dairy Plant. The plant, which was closed down by health inspectors on 6 November, is expected to resume production soon, Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev said following a meeting with State Health Inspectorate Chairman Gennadii Onishchenko. Local prosecutors are investigating the incident. Interfax reported on 9 November that other local dairy plants have stepped up security in case the outbreak was the result of a terrorist act, although prosecutors have ruled out that possibility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)TEENS ATTACK GHANAIAN AMBASSADOR...
The Foreign Ministry on 9 November expressed regret over a 7 November incident in which a group of Russian teens attacked and beat Ghana's Ambassador to Russia Francis Yahaya Mahamma, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry expressed the hope that the incident will not harm the traditionally good relations between the two countries and said police have taken vigorous action to investigate the beating. According to AP on 8 November, Mahamma and his driver, Donladi Emor, were attacked by about six teens and were treated by an embassy doctor for facial bruises. Emor told NTV on 8 November that police failed to respond to calls for assistance during the attack and that the ambassador had to go to a police station to file a report on the incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)...IN LATEST OF STRING OF XENOPHOBIC INCIDENTS.
The beating of Ghana's ambassador by a group of young people was the latest in a series of attacks on foreigners, mainly by recognizable skinheads -- but not always skinheads, reported monitors of the Union of Councils of Soviet Jewry (UCSJ), citing "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 November. According to police reports, the attackers of the Ghanaian diplomat did not have shaved heads and were not wearing any Nazi insignia or uniforms. In the last few months in Moscow, about a dozen staff members of foreign diplomatic missions have suffered attacks, says "Nezavisimaya gazeta." These include 40-year-old Husayn Mubarak, attache at the Syrian Embassy in Moscow; Yamada Yoshi Yuki, the second secretary at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow; and the son of a staff member of the Cameroon Embassy (after this incident the Cameroon diplomatic mission sent an official note to the Russian Foreign Ministry). In most cases, the attackers were visibly recognized as skinheads, but not identified or traced, and therefore no one was charged in the incidents, or else they were juveniles who were not charged with any offense. CAFSARATOV RABBI SAYS JEWS LIVE IN FEAR.
In an October press conference, Mikhoel Frumin, the chief rabbi of Saratov, criticized local law enforcement officials for doing little to protect the Jewish community against a series of anti-Semitic attacks, according to a local monitor of the UCSJ. Rabbi Frumin criticized a decision by the city prosecutor's office not to open a criminal investigation of recent vandalism against the synagogue. In a letter dated 20 September, an investigator for the prosecutor's office informed Rabbi Frumin of his office's refusal to begin an investigation under Article 282 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits hate crimes and hate speech. The investigator listed the reasons Rabbi Frumin had originally brought the complaint: graffiti reading "Yids out" and "death to the Yids" was painted on the synagogue's fence over the course of two days in September. In addition, during the same period, a small explosive device was thrown at the synagogue during services. Nevertheless, the prosecutor's office claimed not to have found any evidence of a crime that could be prosecuted under Article 282. Rabbi Frumin argued that these incidents, as well as an April firebombing of the synagogue, could occur because of the weak response from the police. As a result, many local Jews live in fear. Recently, neo-Nazi youths disrupted a Jewish children's dance performance by shouting anti-Semitic slogans, and Jews in other cities in Saratov Oblast also complained of hate incidents. CAFSIX DETAINED IN CONNECTION WITH STAROVOITOVA MURDER.
Operatives of the St. Petersburg branch of the FSB have detained six suspects and filed charges against four of them in connection with the November 1998 murder of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, Russian news agencies reported on 6 November. However, the authorities have not released the suspects' names, so it is not clear whether those in custody include any of the men named earlier this year as suspects in the case. Starovoitova was fatally shot in her apartment building in an apparent contract killing on 20 November 1998. After meeting with FSB officers in St. Petersburg on 6 November, Starovoitova's sister, Olga Starovoitova, told TVS that investigators still lack proof about who ordered the murder. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)EDUCATION MINISTRY DECLARES WAR ON BARBIE.
The Education Ministry has drafted a bill that bans the import of children's toys and computer games that are violent, sexually suggestive, or promote "fear," gzt.ru reported on 5 November. The ministry will ask the government to create a special commission that, "with the help of a specially developed methodology," will evaluate toys and impose restrictions. Reportedly, among the first toys to be blacklisted is the perennial favorite Barbie, which ministry specialists believe is capable of producing negative psychological effects on girls and provoking "premature sexual manifestations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
FIRST POSTELECTION POLL PUTS OPPOSITION ON TOP.
The first public-opinion poll released in Slovakia since the September elections shows the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and Smer (Direction) leading the field in party preference, with 18.3 percent support each among respondents. The poll, conducted by the MVK polling institute between 29 October and 5 November, indicates the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) is backed by 14 percent and its coalition allies -- the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and the Alliance for New Citizens (ANO) -- are backed by 11.7 percent, 9.3 percent, and 9 percent, respectively, TASR reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
EMBATTLED OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS TO PRESIDENT.
The Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) has addressed an open letter to President Imomali Rakhmonov complaining that the Justice Ministry has repeatedly refused its registration, claiming the SDPT has violated national legislation on political parties, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 November. The SDPT, which describes itself as supporting democracy and the rule of law and operating within the framework of the Tajik Constitution, first applied for registration in March 1998, but was not registered until almost a year later. That registration was then revoked after six months. The SDPT appealed to Rakhmonov as the guarantor of the constitution and basic rights and freedoms to facilitate the party's registration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)
U.S. WARNS GOVERNMENT OVER HUMAN RIGHTS.
Following talks in Tashkent on 7-8 November with Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, and other government officials and with Uzbek human rights activists and NGOs, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Cramer told journalists that the further expansion of bilateral relations is contingent on improvements in Uzbekistan's human rights record, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tashkent reported. Cramer characterized as unsatisfactory the Uzbek government's reaction to three recent deaths in custody and noted complaints of persecution from Christian groups. Cramer also said he believes that Uzbek authorities should "open up the system of religious education," rather than systematically imprisoning members of the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. AP quoted First Deputy Foreign Minister Sadyk Safaev as saying on 6 November that Uzbekistan wants Western governments to brand Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization. Its members seek to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia by exclusively peaceful means. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)
IMPORTANT TRIAL BEGINS IN KOSOVA.
The trial opened in Prishtina on 8 November of five ethnic Albanians accused of abducting and beating four ethnic Albanian political rivals who subsequently disappeared and are presumed to have been murdered, Reuters reported. The incident allegedly took place in western Kosova in June 1999, shortly after the arrival of NATO forces. One of the defendants is Daut Haradinaj, the brother of prominent Kosovar politician and former guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Prosecutors say the case is open-and-shut, while the defendants claim it is an attempt to discredit the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and them personally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)PROMINENT KOSOVAR LAWYER KILLED.
An unidentified gunman ambushed and killed human rights lawyer Ibish Hoti as he was walking home in Peja on 4 November, AP reported. He was an associate at a Belgrade-based human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Center led by Natasa Kandic. Kandic told the news agency, "Initial police reports have indicated Hoti's death was not politically motivated but a criminal murder." Police have declined to provide any details on the case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)WILL THE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL APPOINT A LAWYER FOR ITS MOST FAMOUS INDICTEE?
Slobodan Milosevic did not appear at his trial for war crimes on 12 November because he is suffering from "exhaustion and high blood pressure," AP reported from The Hague. Presiding judge Richard May ordered a medical report to determine when Milosevic can again stand trial and provide "a prognosis of his future fitness." The trial resumed on 11 November after a 10-day break, which was prompted by concern for Milosevic's allegedly poor health. Also on 11 November, Milosevic refused the tribunal's offer to appoint a defense lawyer in order to speed up the trial and place less strain on him. Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said the tribunal should appoint a defense attorney whether Milosevic wants one or not, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS -- WHY THE POSTCOMMUNIST WORLD IS DIVIDING
By Taras Kuzio
In the Summer 1993 edition of "Foreign Affairs," Harvard University Professor Samuel Huntington outlined his "clash of civilizations" theory which would appear three years later as a book of the same title. Huntington's thesis was severely criticized by many of his fellow academics because it sought to define a new "other" against which the U.S. could establish a new moral crusade.
Huntington's thesis was also, understandably, not readily accepted by 12 of the Soviet successor states who belong to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Huntington defined as one of his civilization fault lines the "Slavic Orthodox" world whose border is roughly equivalent to that of the CIS. Belarus and Ukraine are two CIS exceptions with the fault line allegedly dividing the "more Catholic western Ukraine from Orthodox eastern Ukraine" and presumably western parts of Belarus bordering Poland from the other parts of Belarus bordering Russia and Ukraine.
Huntington's thesis is not always applicable. Western Belarus, for example, has never played the same "Westernizing" role as western Ukraine because of its long period under tsarist rule. Western Ukraine is composed of seven oblasts and is usually described, as in Huntington's thesis, as "Catholic." Yet, only the three Galician oblasts of the seven western Ukrainian oblasts have Catholic majorities while four of them (including Transcarpathia) have Orthodox majorities. Huntington's thesis also does not explain why Orthodox states such as Greece is a member or Bulgaria and Romania are set to join NATO this month and the EU in 2007.
Huntington believes that civilization identities are primordial and therefore fixed in stone. Again, this is questionable. National identities are always in a state of flux and open to competing interpretations and competition from other identities, such as gender, sexual orientation, and class.
Despite these caveats Huntington's thesis does provide us with some analytical tools with which to understand two factors that are dividing the 27 postcommunist states. Interestingly, the EU excludes the Slavic Orthodox CIS in the same manner as it has excluded Muslim Turkey. It is striking that no CIS state or Turkey will be among the 10 postcommunist and two Mediterranean states set to join the EU between 2004-07. The EU signed Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with CIS states, not Association Agreements, which it signed with the Central-East European and Baltic states.
Ukraine has long complained that the EU treats Ukraine as intricately linked to Russia. Some EU officials rule out Ukraine's membership in the EU for now because of their fear that this would isolate Russia (the same argument was used to bring Ukraine into the Council of Europe at the same time as Russia even though Russia was then in the midst of a violent conflict in Chechnya). Other high-ranking EU officials have rejected out of hand Ukraine's membership in the EU, as some have of Turkey.
If "Europe" is defined as the geographic scope of the EU, then Ukraine and the CIS are not considered by Brussels as belonging to "Europe." This situation is made more confusing by public attitudes in European CIS states such as Ukraine. The noncommunist elites are either unreservedly, or at least in terms of rhetoric, pro-European, whereas the same cannot be said about a large proportion of the population.
Since the late 1990s, there has been progress in the first group, the Central-East European and Baltic states, in the three key areas of democratization, the rule of law, and battling corruption. The role of the West in assisting democratization has proven crucial in Europe as it was in Latin America. The possibility of EU membership pulling reformers ahead has influenced former laggards, such as Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. By contrast in the CIS, the unavailability of EU membership reduces the potential influence of the West in encouraging democratization. In the second group of states in the CIS, there has been regression in all the three critical areas of democratization, the rule of law, and combating corruption.
Until the late 1990s, some CIS states such as Russia and Ukraine were grouped within a middle group of states, together with the laggards in Central Europe, such as Slovakia and Bulgaria. Since the late 1990s, this middle group of postcommunist states has gradually divided into two. The Central European states have progressed in democratic and economic reforms. Meanwhile, CIS states in the middle group have regressed towards a third group of states composed of Central Asia and Caucasian states as their ratings have worsened. According to Freedom House's annual "Nations in Transit" survey of the 27 postcommunist states, Bulgaria is a "consolidated democracy" and has a market economy. Freedom House classifies Romania together with Ukraine as "transitional" democracies and market economies. In the 1998-2002 period, Bulgaria improved its ratings on democratization, the rule of law, and economic reform. Romania improved its democratization rating, but then worsened regarding rule of law and economic reform.
In the last two years, according to Freedom House, Ukraine has worsened its democratization and rule of law ratings but marginally improved its economic-reform score. This improvement in its economic-reform rating was entirely due to the Viktor Yushchenko government of December 1999-April 2001. Democratization in Bulgaria and Romania therefore progressed during 1998-2002 during the same period it stagnated in Ukraine.
Thus, countries once similar to Central Europe's laggards such as Ukraine, have regressed further since the late 1990s. Authoritarianism has retrenched throughout the CIS. In some cases, such as in Russia and Ukraine, political authoritarianism has been combined with economic liberalism. Super-presidentialism is the norm in the CIS (except in Ukraine and Moldova) whereas regimes with strong parliaments are the norm in Central-Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
Why, then, are the 27 postcommunist states dividing into two groups, one progressing and set to join NATO and the EU, the other sliding backward to a Soviet past?. There is no question but that democratization is under threat and EU membership and therefore "rejoining Europe" is not entertained by Brussels as a future option for the CIS.
Huntington believes the reasons for this divide lies in civilization identities which have different perspectives on relations between the individual citizen and the state, "as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy," as he writes. Explanations proffered by other Western scholars include the role of the Orthodox Church in preaching passivity and submission to the worldly government which contributed to a political culture of atomization and cynicism. Unlike the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe, the Orthodox Church in Russia and the CIS therefore never became a counterweight to an oppressive state.
Another explanation put forward is precommunist history and the length of time spent under communism. These factors, in turn, influenced the manner in which a communist regime would collapse. No significant break with communism took place in the CIS (except in western Ukraine). In Russia, 43 percent of those polled would actively cooperate or support the Bolsheviks (see above), and the number of Stalin's supporters has risen to 22 percent. Likewise in Ukraine, nearly half of the population see the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November in a positive light, with only 7.3 percent seeing it in negative terms.
Outside the CIS, the collapse of communism was often the result of "collective, nonviolent civic action," Freedom House's "Nations in Transit" study concluded. A major factor that spurred this activity was "strength of the national idea." In the CIS, both of these factors only operated in western Ukraine.
In Ukraine a political crisis has been brought on by a stalemate between two different visions which is only partially explained by Huntington's "clash of civilizations." Ukraine is home to the only large, pro-Western reform movement in the CIS which seeks to implement domestic policies that would decisively break with the Soviet past and facilitate Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration. This vision competes with former Soviet Ukrainian elites, turned oligarchic centrists, who espouse the rhetoric of Euro-Atlantic integration while continuing to pursue traditional CIS-style authoritarian and corrupt policies.
Belarus would seem to confirm Huntington's thesis that the Slavic Orthodox civilization is separate from North American and European civilization. It is the only CIS state whose leader wishes to terminate his country's independence through union with Russia. The lack of a dissident movement in the Soviet era to provide counter-elites, plus a long period under tsarist and Soviet rule coupled with a weak national identity have all served to undermine the country's democratic transition.
Transition in the CIS is undoubtedly more complicated than in the rest of the postcommunist world. Prior to the "Third Wave" of democratization, the Latin countries of Southwestern Europe and Latin America were also assumed to be unable to build "Anglo-Saxon" liberal democracies and market economies. This thesis has proved to be false. Similarly, as with the Latin world prior to the 1990s, it would be therefore premature to write the region off as unfit for liberal democracy, as Huntington's thesis would do.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.