20 November 2002, Volume
ANOTHER OPPOSITION PARTY NOMINATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The opposition National Democratic Union (AZhM) formally nominated its leader, Vazgen Manukian, as its candidate for the February presidential elections during its annual party congress on 14 November, according to "Azg" and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Accepting the nomination, Manukian asserted his pro-Western stand by promising to lead the country "into Europe and not follow in Russia's footsteps." With experience as both prime minister and defense minister, Manukian was also the main opposition candidate in the September 1996 presidential election, but he lost to then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian. Manukian never accepted that defeat, maintaining that the 1996 election was -- as international observers certified at the time -- "neither free nor fair." The announcement is the latest nomination of an opposition candidate, seriously undermining the declared unity of the 16 opposition political parties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
VILLAGERS RENEW DEMONSTRATIONS OVER POOR LIVING CONDITIONS.
Residents of Azerbaijan's Nardaran village on 14 November renewed demonstrations protesting the government's failure to address the severe socioeconomic conditions of the region, ANS reported. The situation in Nardaran remains tense despite several meetings with government officials in the wake of a clash between villagers and police in early June. Village elders condemned the authorities for not fulfilling their promises of economic aid and energy supplies and called for the release of all villagers detained after the 3 June clash. The situation in Nardaran has been simmering for many months, as villagers launched a series of protests and demonstrations against poor socioeconomic conditions in early 2002 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 28 February 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)DEMONSTRATORS PICKET AMERICAN, RUSSIAN EMBASSIES.
A small group of demonstrators of the "Karabakh Liberation Organization" staged pickets in front of the U.S. and Russian embassies in Baku on 13 November, ANS reported. The demonstrators demanded the Russian government close the unofficial Moscow office of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The leader of the Karabakh Liberation Organization, Akif Nagiev, also criticized Russia for failing to crack down on the growing campaign of discrimination and assaults on Azerbaijanis in cities throughout the Russian Federation. Later the same day, a picket was held in front of the U.S. Embassy, with demonstrators calling on Washington to end its "pro-Armenian" stance on the Karabakh conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)
INDEPENDENCE RALLY IN MINSK.
Some 1,500 people participated in an authorized pro-independence demonstration organized by the Belarusian opposition in downtown Minsk on 17 November, Belapan and AP reported. Speakers at the rally, who included the leaders of major opposition parties, called on opposition parties to unite in their struggle against the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Demonstrators left a petition at the Russian Embassy, saying, "In the event of the continuation of the annexing policy by Russia in Belarus, there will be enough people to defend [Belarus's] independence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)UPPER-HOUSE HEAD OPPOSES PRESIDENTIAL CONTROL OVER ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.
Council of the Republic speaker Alyaksandr Vaytovich said on 14 November that he opposes tightening presidential control over Belarus's Academy of Sciences, Belapan reported on 15 November. Vaytovich was speaking in the Council of the Republic prior to a vote in which lawmakers approved President Lukashenka's decree of 17 October 2001 giving the president the right to appoint and dismiss the president of the Academy of Sciences as well as to approve members of the Academy of Sciences' Presidium. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)
CONTROVERSIAL GENERAL HOSPITALIZED.
Former General Janko Bobetko entered Dubrava hospital in Zagreb on 14 November, AP reported. He reportedly suffers from heart problems following several heart attacks, and his overall medical condition is said to have deteriorated following his indictment for war crimes by the tribunal in The Hague in September. The government hopes to avoid having to extradite the 83-year-old Bobetko on the grounds that he is too frail, but the tribunal has said that only its doctors can rule on the matter. Bobetko has said repeatedly that he will not allow anyone to extradite him alive and previously refused medical treatment outside his home. Hina reported on 14 November that Bobetko agreed to hospitalization only after receiving assurances from the government that he will not be sent to The Hague during his treatment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)
LEADERS MARK FALL OF COMMUNIST REGIME.
President Vaclav Havel on 17 November laid a wreath at a memorial in Prague marking the site where the 17 November 1989 demonstrations against the communist regime began, CTK reported. Those demonstrations, now commemorated as Freedom and Democracy Day, led to the regime's collapse. Havel told journalists the new Czech generation, which grew up under different circumstances than those against which the 1989 protesters had stood up, "might not be much interested in what we experienced or in the Velvet Revolution," but it has internalized "many of the [democratic] values that were at stake then." Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said he is convinced "the struggle for freedom and a humane society...has not yet ended." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)
NO AGREEMENT IN SIGHT BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ON EU ACCESSION.
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 13 November said during a parliamentary debate on EU accession initiated by FIDESZ that EU accession is "an opportunity for society and a responsibility for politicians," Budapest dailies reported. For his part, FIDESZ deputy Jozsef Szajer called for the effective assertion of Hungary's interests in EU negotiations, while former Finance Minister Mihaly Varga argued that the 2003 budget does not promote accession. Opposition deputies also objected to the "safeguard clauses" -- or as they put it, "punitive clauses" -- appended to the individual accession chapters, which envisage sanctions if new members are unable to fulfill obligations undertaken before accession. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs quipped that there is no reason to assume that Hungary will be "the only unfortunate country" whose position worsens after accession. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)NOBEL PRIZE WINNER CRITICIZED BY RIGHT-WINGERS.
Imre Kertesz, a Holocaust survivor who won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, on 14 November came under fire from the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) after the Budapest City Council voted overwhelmingly to make Kertesz an honorary citizen of the city, AP reported. Laszlo Zsinka, leader of the MIEP faction on the City Council, told the news agency that Kertesz could not say a good word about the Hungarian capital and did not deserve the award. Kertesz has consistently criticized his native Hungary for failing to confront its role in the Holocaust. Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to concentration camps and murdered in the last few months of World War II. "Whenever he makes a statement, he only does damage to Budapest's reputation," Zsinka said. "He says he does not belong to the Hungarian nation and that this nation and Budapest mean nothing to him, so why should we give him an award?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
HUNGER STRIKER IS TURNED AWAY FROM HOSPITAL, ENDS PROTEST.
Nurbolat Masanov, one of three leaders of the Committee for the Release of Sergei Duvanov who began a hunger strike in Almaty on 6 November to protest the independent journalist's arrest, was forced to discontinue his hunger strike on 13 November on doctors' orders, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. An ambulance rushed him to a state hospital, but officials refused to admit or treat Masanov, who instead was taken to his home to recover. Another opposition activist, Marat Uatkhan, immediately began a hunger strike to replace Masanov. The other two strikers have been advised by doctors to quit but have refused to do so, Interfax-Kazakhstan said on 13 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)AUTHORITIES REJECT CHECHEN PLEA...
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry's press service initially refused to comment on an open letter addressed to President Nursultan Nazarbaev by some 300 Chechen families in Ingushetia appealing for temporary refuge in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 13 November. The Chechens, who are currently facing expulsion from Ingushetia, explain in the letter that they consider Kazakhstan a "second homeland" because their forebears were deported there by Stalin in 1944. They further say the Chechen people are threatened by "persecution, illegal arrests, and ethnic pogroms" and turn to Nazarbaev "as our last hope" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). At the opening of the Assembly of Peoples, the president implicitly rejected the refugees' claims, stating the appeal, circulated on news wires, was not filed with the Kazakh leadership and that any such sudden influx of refuges would be made "only in consultation with Russia," the Institute for War and Peace Reporting quoted Nazarbaev as saying on 19 November. A Foreign Ministry official said if any applications were made for entry, they would likely be refused, commenting that "Chechnya is Russia's internal affair," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. He added that even ethnic Kazakhs seeking to return are denied entry because the country cannot afford immigrants. CAF...BUT REVISITS QUESTION OF CHECHENS ALREADY IN KAZAKHSTAN.
On 14 November, Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told parliamentary deputies in Astana that there are already 12,000 Chechens in the country "who are essentially refugees" although they do not have that legal status, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Toqaev complained that the Justice Ministry has not still approved a protocol setting out Kazakhstan's relations to Chechens who have fled from Russia since 1999 and asked Justice Minister Georgii Kim to speed up the process. Toqaev said these people should be given rights and opportunities, although they will not receive the full state benefits they would be entitled to as bona-fide refugees because Kazakhstan has not yet ratified the International Convention on Refugees, according to Toqaev. Kazakhstan joined the convention in January 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
DOZENS OF PROTESTERS ARRESTED.
Kyrgyz police arrested 63 protesters in Bishkek on 18 November as they tried to stage an unauthorized demonstration, AFP reported. Interior Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Pashenko said the protesters were calling for the resignation of President Askar Akaev and attempting to block city streets. The incident was the latest in a series of protests against the Kyrgyz government, many of them in response to the treatment of opposition figures. The protest followed failed talks on 14 November when the mayor of Bishkek and other government officials met with opposition lawmaker Azimbek Beknazarov, Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Movement Chairman Tursunbek Akunov, and former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Kyrgyz Radio reported. Nearly 130 protesters were detained on16-17 November at an authorized rally in support of Sydykov, who was barred from a local election run-off, but most were later released. As of 19 November, some 1,500 people were demonstrating in the center of Aksy Raion, demanding that the government fulfill its responsibility to punish those responsible for the deaths of five protesters in Aksy in March. Sydykov, who was among those arrested, was fined approximately $45, and Akunov was sentenced to 10 days in prison on charges of organizing an unauthorized meeting. Meanwhile, some 6,000 government supporters rallied in Bishkek to denounce the recent opposition protests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 November; "Kyrgyzstan: Dozens of Protesters Arrested in Bishkek," rferl.org, 19 November)LEADERSHIP ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF PLANNING COUP.
Presidential adviser Bolot Djanuzakov, First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov, National Security Service chief Kalyk Imanaliev, and Central Election Commission Chairman Suleiman Imanbaev convened a press conference on 15 November at which Djanuzakov branded the protest marchers "political extremists" who want power at any price, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 16 November, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told journalists the opposition is driving the population toward "the abyss of civic dissent" and is intent on destroying the progress Kyrgyzstan has made toward democracy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Djanuzakov named as organizers of the protests Asaba party Chairman Azimbek Beknazarov, Sydykov, Erkindik party Chairman Topchubek Turgunaliev, Communist Party leaders Absamat MasAliyev and Klara Adjybekova, and Akunov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)
PARLIAMENT PASSES FIRST READING OF AMENDMENT ON PARTY-REGISTRATION LAW.
On 15 November, parliament approved the first reading of legislation that would raise from 5,000 to 15,000 the minimum number of members needed to register a political formation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The bill was presented by Popular Party Christian Democratic leader Iurie Rosca and supported by deputies representing the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists, in what is a very rare instance of agreement between them. The Braghis Alliance and two independent deputies oppose the draft, saying it would infringe on the freedom of association. If approved in a final reading, the currently registered 33 Moldovan parties will have to re-register within three months, Infotag reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)PRESIDENT SENDS DRAFT LAW ON COMBATING EXTREMISM TO PARLIAMENT.
President Vladimir Voronin 15 on November submitted to the legislature a draft law on combating extremism, Flux reported. The draft law defines "extremist materials" as documents, whether signed or anonymous, that incite or justify actions related to war crimes or the full or partial elimination of an ethnic, social, racial, national, or religious group. It defines extremist organizations as those associations, parties, or media outlets that have been forbidden through a final court verdict from functioning due to their involvement in extremist activities. Before being charged with extremist activities, such organizations would be warned by the authorities and would have to take corrective measures within one month. The warning would be subject to appeal. If it is determined that such entities are engaging in extremist activities within one year of the initial warning they could either be forbidden or suspended from operation. Public officials and state employees engaging in such activities would face a ban on their activities for up to five years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)
FARMERS PROTEST TERMS OF EU ENTRY.
Hundreds of Polish farmers demonstrated on 14 November in front of the European Union's mission in Warsaw, protesting the proposed terms of Poland's admission to the EU as unfair and ruinous for the country's 6 million farmers, AP reported. In the first year of membership, the EU is offering just one-quarter of the subsidies available to current member states' farmers, with the figure gradually increasing to parity in 2013. "I know that nobody is going to give us money for nothing, but there must be some balance, some justice," AP quoted 37-year-old farmer Tomasz Jaron as saying. Polish farmers are demanding subsidies equal to those offered to the 8 million farmers in current EU states. EU Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said on 14 November in Warsaw that full subsidies would kill farmers' initiative to adjust to new circumstances and create a feeling of injustice within other professions, according to AP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)CENTER-RIGHT CANDIDATES MAINTAIN TOEHOLD IN BIG CITIES FOLLOWING ELECTORAL RUNOFF.
The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) won the greatest number of communal leadership (wojt) posts while the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) coalition won the greatest number of town and city mayorships, Polish radio reported on 11 November. But that pattern does not extend to big cities, the broadcaster stressed. Rafal Dutkiewicz (63 percent), a joint candidate of the Civic Platform and Law and Justice (PiS), won in Wroclaw. Pawel Adamowicz (72 percent) is to become mayor of Gdansk, and Ryszard Grobelny (65 percent) will lead Poznan -- both are Civic Platform candidates. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 12 November said he is "pleased" with the election results. "Rightist parties will undoubtedly assume some responsibility for cities and the state now," PAP quoted Kwasniewski as saying. "Each of the major parties, for democracy's sake, should bear a part of this responsibility." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)
ILIESCU SAYS 1987 BRASOV REVOLT SHOULD BE THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED.
Speaking on Romanian Television on 14 November, President Ion Iliescu said that the 1987 Brasov workers' uprising against the communist regime should be thoroughly investigated to "give satisfaction to those who suffered" as a result of the regime's harsh response, Mediafax reported. Asked to comment on the recent dispute concerning Social Democratic Party (PSD) deputy Ristea Priboi's alleged participation in quashing the revolt as a Securitate member, Iliescu said: "It should not be complicated to elucidate it. Only 15 years have passed since then. Everything can still be verified on a concrete, factual basis." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION CLEARS PRIBOI, AS PNL PRODUCES CONTRARY EVIDENCE.
The parliamentary commission supervising the Foreign Intelligence Service's activities ruled on 13 November that there is no evidence that commission member Ristea Priboi participated in the 1987 quashing of the Brasov workers' riots as a member of the Securitate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The commission said the evidence it has examined shows that Priboi never worked for the Securitate branch that dealt with internal matters and was "exclusively" engaged in gathering foreign intelligence. The same day, Romanian Television reported that two historians, Adrian Cioroianu and Marius Oprea, separately produced evidence to the contrary. A recent book published by Oprea and Stejerel Olaru under the title "The Unforgettable Day" demonstrates Priboi's involvement in quashing the Brasov uprising, while Cioroianu shows that Priboi was also involved in the 1982 Securitate action against a group of intellectuals suspected of having participated in the so-called "Transcendental Meditation" activities. Priboi announced he will sue both Oprea and Cioroianu. On 17 November, the National Liberal Party (PNL) told journalists that it has further evidence demonstrating that Priboi participated in quashing the Brasov uprising, Mediafax reported. The PNL said another Brasov worker has identified Priboi as one of those who interrogated him and supervised his torture after he was detained. Interviews with the worker, Gheorghe Duduc, were published on 18 November in the dailies "Romania libera" and "Evenimentul zilei." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 November)
PUBLIC THINKS STATE IS HIDING SOMETHING...
Only 9 percent of respondents to a recent survey believe that the government is telling the complete truth about the casualties of the 26 October storming of a Moscow theater where Chechen fighters were holding more than 800 hostages, newsru.com reported on 14 November. The survey of 1,600 respondents in 28 subjects of the federation was conducted by the Agency for Regional and Political Research (ARPI). Thirty-three percent of respondents agreed that "most of the information" about the number of people killed and injured has been made public, while 22 percent said the state has revealed "less than half" the information and 5 percent said officials have revealed "almost no" information. Newru.com also posted the names of 77 individuals who it claims have been missing since the hostage crisis. The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has said that no one is missing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)...BUT SUPPORTS THEATER STORMING.
Two-thirds of respondents in another survey by the Public Opinion Foundation said they believe the government acted correctly to end the October hostage crisis, strana.ru reported on 14 November. Nineteen percent said the government acted ineffectively. The survey of 1,500 adults was conducted on 9 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)FOURTEEN FORMER HOSTAGES STILL HOSPITALIZED.
Fourteen victims of last month's hostage-taking crisis in a Moscow theater are still hospitalized, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 November, citing Moscow's health committee. A total of 664 hostages were treated in hospitals, with four remaining in serious condition, health officials said. The former hostages were injured when special forces used gas in the storming of the theater. CAF'NORD-OST' CAST FACES LAY-OFFS.
Actors, musicians, and stagehands for "Nord-Ost," the musical playing in the theater taken hostage by Chechen rebels last month, have been served notice of imminent dismissal due to lack of funds, izvestia.ru reported 13 November. Unless directors come up with one-half to a million dollars in support before the end of the year, some 300 theater people will be dismissed, Dmitrii Bogachev, commercial manager of the musical, who also received notice, told "Izvestiya": "What can be done? The funds we managed to raise are not enough," izvestia.ru quoted him as saying, adding that support promised in the wake of the October hostage crisis failed to materialize. CAFDUMA APPROVES CYRILLIC-ONLY BILL.
The Duma on 15 November passed in its second and third readings an amendment to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, newsru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. The amendment would mandate that the Cyrillic alphabet serve as the basis for the written languages of all peoples of the federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 6 June 2002). The use of any other alphabet would have to be approved by a special federal law in each case, Interfax reported. Deputy Fandes Safiullin (Russian Regions), who represents a district in Tatarstan, spoke out against the bill, saying that "national alphabets cannot by made uniform" and "there is no precedent [for such a bill] in the world." Last year, Tatarstan officially adopted an alphabet based on Latin script. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)DUMA REJECTS EARLY MARRIAGES, AS SELEZNEV VOWS TO OVERTURN DECISION.
Senators on 13 November overwhelmingly rejected amendments to the Family Code that would have legalized marriages for people as young as 14 years old "in extraordinary circumstances" with the permission of local executive-branch officials, Russian news agencies reported. The amendments were unanimously passed by the Duma on 30 October but just four senators voted for them while 134 opposed them and four abstained, according to RIA-Novosti. During discussion of the amendments, senators spoke out harshly against the legislation, and the council also voted not to form a conciliation committee to discuss the matter with the Duma. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 14 November that the Duma will attempt to override the Federation Council's rejection of the amendments to the Family Code, newsru.com reported. During the Federation Council debate, senators said that adopting the amendments would force the legislature also to modify other laws, including those against statutory rape, the drinking age, the voting age, and others. Seleznev said the amendments had also been endorsed by the government's representatives to the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov and Andrei Loginov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 November)CENSUS TURNS UP 2 MILLION MORE RUSSIANS THAN EXPECTED.
According to preliminary results of the national census conducted in October, the population of the Russian Federation is more than 145 million, about 2 million more people than demographers had predicted, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 November. According to Vladimir Zorin, the government minister overseeing nationalities policies, the greatest growth was registered in the Central Federal District and the Southern Federal District, as well as in the city of Moscow, gazeta.ru reported on 16 November. Moscow's population now exceeds 10.4 million permanent residents and 3 million nonresidents. Zorin said the census results are now being tabulated and verified and will be released in full by March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)EDUCATION MINISTRY FLOATS PLAN FOR ORTHODOX COURSES.
The Education Ministry has released a 30-page outline description of a course on Orthodox culture that is being considered for use in the public school system, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 November. Education Minister Vladimir Filippov was quoted by Interfax as telling journalists in Novosibirsk that there is "an objective need" to study Orthodoxy in the schools. According to "Izvestiya," presidential envoys Sergei Kirienko and Georgii Poltavchenko are among the state officials who have called for including the study of Orthodoxy in the curriculum of public schools. However, other officials have spoken against the idea. "This document smacks of the Middle Ages and obscurantism. If the Education Ministry considers it necessary to introduce religious studies, the course should include the basics of all religious world views and the history of atheism," government spokesman Aleksei Volin was quoted by "Gazeta" as saying on 15 November. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" warned that efforts to compel religious education might backfire. "In pre-revolutionary schools, where Church law was a required subject and lessons opened with prayers, a generation of people was produced that was indifferent to religion and aggressive toward the [Russian Orthodox] Church," the paper commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)STUDY FINDS 7 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS BELONG TO MIDDLE CLASS.
Seven percent of the Russian population can be considered "middle class," and an additional 12 percent have some middle-class characteristics, according to economist Yelena Avraamova, who participated in a nationwide study financed by the Carnegie Foundation. In an interview published in "Novye izvestiya" on 14 November, Avraamova explained that she and her colleagues based their analysis not on the self-reported incomes of survey respondents (members of some 5,000 families), but on a combination of three factors: education level and profession, material wealth, and self-identification. The ratio of men to women in the middle class is approximately 60:40. The survey found that husbands and wives often work in the same business and as a rule have no more than two children. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)U.S. OFFICIALS STUDY PLIGHT OF MESKHETIAN TURKS.
A delegation of six U.S. officials responsible for refugee and population issues and a representative from the Russian office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) traveled to Krasnodar Krai in October to investigate the situation of the Meskhetian Turks, the Novorossiisk Human Rights Committee reported in a press release on 11 November. The Meskhetians, a Turkic Muslim minority people once relocated from Uzbekistan and other parts of the former USSR, are suffering persecution at the hands of a local governor who continues to refuse them citizenship and other basic civil rights in defiance of the Russian Constitution, human rights monitors say. Vadim Karastelyev, head of the local Novorossiisk Human Rights Committee, says some 13,000 Meskhetians have been forced off their land and denied social services due to lack of official documentation, and face deportation. Russian media reports claiming an agreement was already reached to grant the Meskhetians refugee status and transport them to America are exaggerated, Karastelyev told "(Un)Civil Societies," saying the U.S. delegation was merely studying various options to handle the population in crisis. CAFTWO RED CROSS EMPLOYEES RELEASED, BUT TWO OTHER AID WORKERS STILL MISSING.
Two employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who had been abducted last week were released unharmed in a police operation on 17 November, Interfax reported on 18 November, citing the Grozny Interior Ministry. Unidentified, masked, and armed men kidnapped the workers near Grozny, letting two other staff go free, reported reliefweb.int on 14 November, citing an ICRC press release that day. Alexander Panov and Moussa Satushiev, truck drivers based in Nalchik, were travelling in a convoy of three of the organization's vehicles heading back to Ingushetia after delivering humanitarian aid in the Chechen capital. An official from the Chechen Military Prosecutor's Office said on 15 November that militants loyal to field commander Ali Paizullaev were believed to have carried out the kidnapping (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). In a statement on 15 November, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemned the kidnapping of the Red Cross workers as well as the abduction three months ago of Nina Davidovich, head of the Russian nongovernmental organization Druzhba, and MSF's own head of mission for Daghestan, Arjan Erkel. The People in Need Foundation, another humanitarian operation in the North Caucasus, reports in their October 2002 bulletin that a driver for the Danish Refugee Council was killed in the evening of 18 October, when returning to his base in Nazran. His truck was shot at from a federal armored vehicle, say local observers. CAFEU CHIDES RUSSIA ON FORCED RETURN OF REFUGEES.
Russia should stop forcing Chechens back to their shattered homeland by closing down refugee camps in neighboring regions, EU Development Commissioner Poul Nielson was quoted as saying by Reuters on 14 November. Security should also be improved for aid workers who risk their lives daily to help victims of the conflict between Russian forces and separatist rebels, Nielson said . "The reality in our view is that people are being coerced into going back [into Chechnya] and this is definitely not what they want," Nielson told Reuters in an interview, days after an EU-Russia summit again exposed divisions on Chechnya. An estimated 120,000 Chechens are living as refugees in neighboring Ingushetia. Nielson said plans by the Russian authorities to close down the Akiyurt refugee camp was an example of how refugees were being forced to go home against their will. Nielson said the living conditions inside Chechnya for the 140,000 people made homeless by the conflict were "nothing less than appalling". CAFBUDANOV TRIAL POSTPONED INDEFINITELY.
The trial of Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov, which was scheduled to resume in Rostov-na-Donu on 19 November, has been postponed indefinitely after the Health Ministry recalled the findings of a second psychiatric examination performed on him, Interfax reported on 11 November. Budanov is charged with the rape and murder of a young Chechen woman in March 2000. He has pleaded temporary insanity. Budanov's lawyer Anatolii Mukhin told Interfax he suspects the "unprecedented" recall of the findings of the examination, which was conducted by experts from Moscow's Serbskii Institute, was politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)
TRADE UNIONS PICKET GOVERNMENT OFFICE.
Some 3,000 members of the Trade Unions Confederation (KOZ) on 13 November picketed the government office in Bratislava, protesting the cabinet's proposed budget cuts, TASR reported. Demonstrators said the cuts would increase the number of Slovaks living below the poverty line to almost 1.5 million, or 30 percent of the population. The KOZ accused the government of arrogance and of avoiding a dialogue with unions. Recently proposed cuts in the budget envisage raising the regulated prices of food, gas, electricity, heating, water, transportation, and rents. The government also announced that it intends to reduce social benefits. In related news, a public-opinion poll released the same day indicates that 81 percent of Slovaks back the government's intention to oblige the unemployed receiving benefits from the state to do community work. The poll was conducted by the Polis agency on behalf of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also agree with the intention to cut social benefits from those who refuse to accept employment offers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)NATIONALIST LEADERS CHARGED WITH INCITING ETHNIC HATRED.
Anna Malinkova, chairwoman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), and Jan Slota, chairman of the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), were charged on 13 November with incitement to racial hatred, TASR and CTK reported. They were accused of disseminating broadcast material suggesting that a Magyarization of southern Slovakia is under way during the electoral campaign that preceded the September elections. Both leaders rejected the charges. If convicted, each faces up to one year in jail. Neither the SNS nor he PSNS won any seats in the new Slovak parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)PLAN TO REDUCE ROMANY POPULATION?
The Slovak government has passed bills limiting family allowances to 10,500 crowns ($254) a month allegedly with the intention to decrease the population growth of Roma living on child benefits, CTK reported 31 October, citing the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny." The new right-wing cabinet of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), the Hungarian Coalition Party, the Christian Democratic Movement, and the Alliance of a New Citizen is implementing a plan to cut the number of Slovak Roma proposed by the opposition left-wing Smer (Direction) Party of Robert Fico, the daily writes. "The Roma found out that it was profitable to have children due to family allowances. We cannot turn a blind eye to this. I would pay allowances only for up to three children. If we let it be as it is now, I can guarantee that in 10 years we will have 1 million Roma here," CTK quoted Fico as saying. While Fico has been accused of racism, the cabinet of Mikulas Dzurinda (SDKU), ostensibly supporting development of the Roma, included this package of money-saving measures into the state budget, CTK reported, citing the Czech daily. CAF
JUDGE OPENS NEW CASE AGAINST PRESIDENT.
Kyiv Appeals Court Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal investigation against President Leonid Kuchma over the latter's failure to sign into law within a prescribed period two bills passed by the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax and AP reported on 13 November. One of the bills in question deals with the activities of the cabinet and the other with the creation of ad hoc parliamentary commissions of inquiry. Vasylenko's move followed accusations by opposition lawmakers that Kuchma deliberately failed to perform his official duties and enact the bills in order to prevent the legislature from extending control over the executive branch. Last month, Vasylenko opened a case against Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including through his alleged involvement in the sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)
PRISONERS PUNISHED FOR OBSERVING RAMADAN.
Imprisoned Muslims have been punished for trying to observe the month-long Ramadan fast which began on 6 November, a Muslim source has said. It is said that 150 inmates at prison No. 6461 near the southern town of Karshi have been transferred to punishment cells simply for observing the fast. Muslim sources have also claimed that prisoners sentenced on political or religious charges are now being told to sign a declaration that after their release from prison they will not observe religious rituals at home. They are threatened that if they refuse to sign this declaration, they will be transferred to the notorious prison in the village of Jaslyk on the Ustyurt plateau in Uzbekistan's autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan. The Uzbek government's most senior religious-affairs official has said that he has heard nothing about such reports. (Keston News Service, 19 November)
PRESIDENT SLAMS RIVALS, RATHER THAN NATIONALIST OPPONENTS, AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL VOTE.
Registration for the 8 December Serbian presidential elections closed on 17 November, AP reported from Belgrade. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of the Democratic Party of Serbia will face far-right Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and Borislav Pelevic of the Party of Serbian Unity, which was founded by the late Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan. Making a clear reference to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica said on 15 November that some individuals want the elections to fail. Kostunica stressed that recently revised electoral legislation should have included a provision that a simple majority of votes cast -- and not of all registered voters -- is enough to elect a president on the first ballot and not just on the second one. It is not clear why Kostunica has raised the matter only now, rather than when he and Djindjic struck their bargain that permitted the revision of electoral laws in the first place. Djindjic's Democratic Opposition coalition has not endorsed any candidate for the presidency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)UN ADMINISTRATOR SAYS KOSOVA IS SHORT ON TIME.
Speaking in Berlin on 12 November, Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said the international community will not remain in Kosova indefinitely, dpa reported. He stressed that the international community has rethought the nature and duration of its mission in the province following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Steiner argued, "The idea in [world] capitals before 11 September last year that [the reconstruction of Kosova] could take generations or an eternity is outdated." He did not set a new timetable for reconstruction or for deciding on the political status of the province. Steiner added, however, that there can be no partition of Kosova or return to its status before NATO intervened in 1999, when the province was totally subordinate to Belgrade. He stressed that KFOR troops are essential for the security of the 11,000 UNMIK personnel. He noted that infrastructure and the overall security situation are better than in 1999, but said unemployment remains the most important problem. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO REPAIR SERBIAN CHURCHES.
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in Prishtina that two Serbian Orthodox churches in the Istog district will be repaired following explosions that shook them on the night of 16-17 November, AP reported. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije argued the international community has not done enough to protect the Serbian population or its churches. UNMIK head Steiner said the attacks are "an act of religious vandalism which does not fit the Kosovo of 2002." Steiner and Rexhepi visited the sites of the destruction together, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)
NEW JOINT AZERBAIJANI-ARMENIAN EFFORT TO PROMOTE DIALOGUE LAUNCHED.
An unprecedented new Internet-based effort to "promote dialogue" between Azerbaijanis and Armenians was unveiled in Baku and Yerevan on 14 November, Mediamax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A group of Azerbaijani and Armenian analysts established two linked websites (http://www.dialogueazarm.com and http://www.dialoguearmaz.nt.am), one in each country, featuring joint research and analysis aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Materials are available in Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Russian. The innovative effort, according to Armenian organizer Harutiun Khachatrian and Azerbaijani academic Ali Abbasov, "is an attempt to resist the harmful tendency of growing hostility" in the two countries and will "promote public opinion favoring reconciliation and mutual concessions." The effort also holds that "economic cooperation is possible and might facilitate the conflict's settlement." The project was financed by the British government and coordinated through the British embassies in both countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)CZECHS REJECT VISA FOR BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT...
The Czech Republic on 15 November denied a visa request by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, CTK reported the same day, seemingly dashing the Belarusian leader's hopes of turning up uninvited at the 21-22 November NATO summit and virtually ensuring a diplomatic rift with Minsk in the process. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda was quoted as saying the visa was denied due to Belarus's lack of respect for human rights, the news agency reported. Svoboda said Czech officials do not wish to allow Lukashenka to use such a visit to "legitimize his position" in Belarus, and added that Minsk requested special protection the host country could not afford. Svoboda said there will be "a price to pay" for the decision, CTK reported on 15 November, "but all those who value the basic human rights and liberties must be ready to face some repercussion." Czech officials acted without any pressure from either NATO or the European Union, he said. "This is our decision. But any support in this matter is welcome, as there are values that are worth protecting." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)...AS HE ACCUSES POLAND OF 'PROVOCATIVE' BORDER ENFORCEMENT.
President Lukashenka on 13 November accused neighboring Poland of ethnic discrimination in its application of immigration laws, according to Interfax. Between 25 October and 12 November, Polish authorities denied entry to 227 people -- most of them Chechens traveling from Russia to Poland and including 42 minors, according to Belapan news agency. "It's not right because these people are not terrorists," Interfax quoted Lukashenka as saying in Luninets, in the region of Brest. "It appears that they were refused entry due to their ethnicity." Belarus was forced to intervene because "these people are on our territory and are citizens of a country that is a member of the [Russia-Belarus] Union", Lukashenka said. The president also said he intends to "raise this issue with the Russian administration.... You can't treat your citizens like this." There are an estimated 150,000 illegal immigrants in Belarus who would like to get from Belarus into Poland. "We are keeping them from doing so. This is the kind of illegal immigration that you need to fight, and the Poles are not doing it and are staging more and more provocations on our border," Lukashenka added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)SLOVAK POLITICIAN BOYCOTTS CONSULTATIONS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...
Miklos Duray, executive chairman of the governing coalition's Hungarian Slovak Coalition (SMK), on 16 November announced he would not participate in talks in Budapest on Hungary's amendment of its controversial Status Law. The consultations were held under the Hungarian Standing Conference (MAERT) on 17 November. Duray is widely viewed as a supporter of former Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, whose government passed the law in 2001. Duray said any amendment to the Status Law would be detrimental to the legislation and added that he is not ready to participate in talks whose outcome he cannot influence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)...BUT HUNGARIAN CONFERENCE AGREES ON AMENDMENT ANYWAY.
The MAERT -- comprising government ministers and representatives of parliamentary parties and ethnic Hungarians abroad -- reached consensus on the Hungarian government's proposed amendments to the Status Law and the possible consequences of Hungary's EU accession for ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian radio reported. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told the gathering that Hungary is striving to play a stabilizing role in the region. The closing document included a proposal to eliminate preferential treatment of ethnic Hungarians in granting work permits. Participants also decided that ethnic Hungarian pupils abroad who attend Hungarian-language schools will receive a 20,000-forint ($85) annual subsidy. Opposition FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Zsolt Nemeth proposed that 0.5 percent of the nation's budget be set aside for subsidizing ethnic Hungarians. He complained that the 1.2 billion forints ($5 million) provided in next year's budget to implement the goals laid down in the law will not even cover educational benefits. ("RFE/R Newsline," 18 November)CORRECTION:
The spelling of the name of the author of the book "The Clash of Civilizations" is Samuel Huntington. We apologize for the error. CAF
ANTI-NATO DISSENT: A MIXTURE OF RADICAL DISSENTERS AND UNEASY PATRIOTS
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As NATO's leaders gather for a summit in Prague this week to accept seven new members into the Euro-Atlantic treaty body, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson has said it is a time for rejoicing, not demonstrating. Yet mindful that any international meeting can attract peaceful as well as violent protest and even terrorism, some 12,000 Czech uniformed men will be guarding 2,000 delegates and 3,000 journalists, the center of town will be closed to local residents, and U.S. Air Force jets have been granted special permission to sweep the skies during the meeting (see "NATO: Summit to Focus on Expansion, Alliance's Changing Role," rferl.org, 18 November 2002). Despite the high ratio of security forces to civilians, hundreds of foreign antiglobalization activists and self-styled local anarchists are converging on Prague, claiming their protest is largely planned to be peaceful, even as some justify the use of violence against property in opposing states' military actions (see "NATO: Despite Security Checks, Protesters Flow Into Prague," rferl.org, 19 November 2002).
For weeks, anti-NATO protesters have been organizing through websites like international.antinato.cz, exchanging advice on mobile kitchens, first-aid, warm gear, and techniques to foil tear gas, such as wrapping bandanas soaked in vinegar around faces. Travelers facing border hurdles are urged to pretend they are going to a Polish film festival and then travel overland to the Czech Republic. There, security officials say they are already expecting not only anarchists but fascists from Russia and Serbia. A few hundred people picketed earlier this week with anticapitalism and antiwar signs in Prague and other cities without incident. Czech police have arrested five people accused of plotting to cut power during the summit, and deported or cancelled residence permits of several dozen more during a pre-summit security dragnet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 November 2002).
Seven or 10 years ago, before there was much of an antiglobalization movement, criticism of NATO expansion could be heard more loudly from prominent American Sovietologists and former U.S. Foreign Service officers than from East European anarchists. Only a few East European opposition leaders worried that Russian backlash to NATO's growth, especially with the Baltic states' inclusion, would foreclose democratic possibilities in Belarus and other border states. Both civil society activists and governments used to make much more of a connection between increasingly militarized blocs and relative internal levels of freedom. In the 1980s, socialist labor historian E.P. Thompson, leader of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, would often comment at rallies that "every time a Pershing missile is deployed in Europe, a jail door slams in Moscow."
Conversely, American diplomats of that era admitted that the exiling of Soviet dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov to Gorky and other gross human rights violations helped them persuade reluctant European allies to deploy missiles on their continent to counter the Soviets' SS20s. With the latest round of expansion, the connection is once again being invoked. When the Czech government turned down authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's visa application to attend the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meetings this week, they did not cite military issues such as the allegations of Belarus's sales of arms or the transfer of military expertise to Iraq, instead, they invoked human rights.
Asked in an interview with "(Un)Civil Societies" if newly demarcated Cold War-style blocs might be re-established after NATO expansion and adversely impact democracies in transition, Ambassador Hans-Georg Wieck, a veteran German diplomat, regional expert, and former chief of the expelled OSCE Mission in Minsk, said there were "no longer notions of prevailing regions of interest," but more importantly, "the stability that goes with [NATO] membership is an element of internal stability, in particular of military forces." Wieck acknowledged that in the last year since the terrorist attacks on the U.S., NATO appeared to lose importance, even as Eastern Europe itself was overshadowed by the war on terrorism in Central Asia and the Middle East. "Prague refocuses the trans-Atlantic initiative on the impact NATO has on stability in Europe and beyond its boundaries." Wieck believes that for publics contemplating their attitude toward NATO, the Russian threat is really no longer an issue; the most significant danger for NATO and the Russian Federation is terrorism, which has "highlighted the requirement for solidarity," said Wieck.
Among East European nightmares, said Wieck, are the old KGB-style security forces that must be dissolved, and the fear in the last decade that countries would only change the heads of security departments and not reform them at the core. An important task in NATO expansion was not only to dismantle Soviet-style security structures but to "educate the parliaments to be trustworthy controllers" of security and military forces, said the German diplomat. Regarding the Czechs' visa denial for Lukashenka, Wieck agreed that the Belarusian leader was "undesirable" because he is "not qualified to speak for his country" -- a democracy issue with implications for civilian control over armed forces.
Beyond street demonstrators and "not-in-my-backyard" environmental concerns about nuclear weapons and the high financial or even human cost of reforming armies and dismantling missiles (like the Scuds in Bulgaria, where four workers were killed in an explosion as they attempted destruction of the weapons), most troubling for some reluctant publics in Central and Eastern Europe is the post-11 September emphasis on Article 5 (an attack on one member shall be considered an attack on all) and the implication for these countries of NATO's projection of force outside the region. In part, says a RAND study, this wariness is due to a deficit of local democratic participation and transparency in the process of determining just how small East European nations will play a role in military action taken by the U.S. and the EU (see http://www.rand.org/natsec_area/products/czechnato.html) While a majority of Czechs support NATO membership, many criticized NATO's strikes against Yugoslavia as an aggressive attack by a military alliance on a sovereign state and are ambivalent about a war on Iraq.
The newest likely NATO member with the greatest internal dissent against the alliance is Slovenia, as 39.4 percent of the population polled opposed membership in NATO in September, according to a Politbarometer survey, reported the Slovene Press Agency on 29 October. That figure dropped to 32.5 percent in October, with 49 percent voting in favor out of 1,022 respondents (up from 38.5 in September). (The original poll report for October in Slovenian can be found at http://www.uvi.si/slo/aktualno/javnomnenjske-raziskave/pdf/aktualno.pdf). To the query, "Would Slovenia benefit from joining NATO," 47.4 responded "yes" in October, with 31.6 replying "no," and 21.1 saying they were still undecided. When asked, "How would you vote in the case of a referendum on NATO membership?" the results were 49 percent in favor, 32.5 percent opposed, and 18.6 undecided.
"The September poll shows NATO supporters trailing by 0.9 percent, but in October they're suddenly leading by 15.8 -- a change of 16.7 percentage points in a single month," a Slovenian political commentator, Miso Alkalaj, who opposes Slovenia's inclusion in NATO, commented to "(Un)Civil Societies." Alkalaj noted that no other Politbarometer polls of any type show such a change within a month, and speculated that while no crude manipulations were likely made, under pressure to obtain better numbers, samples may have been shifted from rural to urban or across classes or education levels. An outspoken anti-NATO professor who led the opinion survey is no longer on the project, he said. Government officials attribute the pro-NATO surge to the fact that all presidential candidates stressed membership in the alliance in their campaigns. Some protestors said that a mass-mailing of a brochure titled in Slovenian "Natopis," and sent to every household was a factor, although others said superficial promotion of this type was counterproductive because it was viewed as "propagandistic" and a waste of the taxpayers' money.
There is indeed a drive to gain public appreciation of NATO. "We want to see public support of well over 50 percent," one senior NATO official was quoted as saying by Slovenian writer Nicholas Kralev in "The Washington Times" on 22 October. "As a member, a country incurs serious common-defense responsibilities under Article 5, and the government should have the full backing of its people."
The bare majority obtained in Slovenia does not necessarily spell solid support for policies of the U.S., the dominant force in NATO, says Jean McCollister, an American antiwar activist who lived in Slovenia for many years, in Slovenia's "Delo" newspaper supplement of 31 August-7 September 2002. She notes that "even the most zealous pro-NATO advocates go to enormous lengths to distance themselves from U.S. policies, which they euphemistically term 'independent' (as opposed to unilateralist, imperialist, or barbaric)" -- a reference to controversies like the death penalty or the International Criminal Court.
In Eastern Europe, the U.S. has more compliant partners than in Western Europe, says McCollister. U.S. military officers supervising a training exercise in Kekcskemet, Hungary, earlier this year, for example, enthused about the access and freedom given their troops during a mock assault, and Hungary's granting to NATO of unrestricted use of its air corridors and permitting live-fire exercises. "This kind of access is denied to the Americans at Italian and German bases because of environmental and social restrictions, so the Pentagon has been looking elsewhere," said McCollister.