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(Un)Civil Societies Report: February 21, 2001

21 February 2001, Volume 2, Number 8
FORCED MIGRATION SURVEY. The Refugee Studies Center in Oxford, England is circulating a survey as part of its new Forced Migration Portal project. The survey, available in Russian and English, was circulated by MINELRS on 15 February. Contact for more information. More details on the project and its partners can be found at: which can also provide news on a related project (Hybrid Information Delivery for Academics and Practitioners in the Field of Forced Migration in Central and Eastern Europe) this year by the Czech Helsinki Committee, RSC, Kings College and Human Rights Education Center of Charles University: (MINELRES, 15 February)

OSCE HUMAN DIMENSION MEETINGS IN 2001. The OSCE Chairmanship will hold three Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings in 2001 in Vienna in the six working languages of the OSCE. Each meeting will have three consecutive working sessions. The agenda for each meeting will be made available at least 30 days in advance and can be downloaded from NGOs whose activities directly relate to the topic of the Meeting and wish to attend are requested to register for this event and return a completed NGO registration form: Freedom of expression: new and existing challenges (12-13 March); Promoting tolerance and non-discrimination (18-19 June) Human rights: Advocacy and Defenders (24-25 September). The OSCE Human Dimension Seminar will be held in Warsaw, Poland 29-31 May and focus on "Election Processes." (MINELRES, 16 February)

FIRST EXECUTION LIKELY. An Armenian soldier sentenced to death for shooting five comrades has refused to appeal for clemency -- despite evidence that he could be innocent. Even the relatives of two of those killed seem to doubt the soldier's guilt. Artur Mkrtchian, 24, has been on death row at Nurbarashensky Prison since 1996 after his murder conviction. If the sentence is carried out, Mkrtchian will be the first convict to be executed in Armenia since independence. But supporters claim that Mkrtchian, who was 19 at the time, is actually the victim of a cover-up by military police officers seeking to protect the real culprits. (Institute for World and Peace Reporting, 9 February)

COMMISSION ON WAR INVALIDS CREATED. The Azerbaijani authorities created a special commission on 16 February to address the problems faced by war invalids, Turan reported. But no members of the Society of Invalids of the Karabakh War were included in the commission. Some 19 invalids are continuing a renewed hunger strike that they began on 15 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

WAR INVALIDS RESUME HUNGER STRIKE. Baku police on 15 February surrounded the headquarters of the Society of Invalids of the Karabakh War and of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party in an attempt to prevent war invalids convening at either venue, Turan reported. Electricity to the Society's headquarters was also cut off. Despite police intervention, several dozen invalids gathered at the Society's headquarters. Some 20 of them embarked on a new hunger strike to demand the annulment of what they termed the Ministry of Justice's "illegal" decisions to revoke the Society's registration and to register a government-sponsored organization representing the interests of war veterans, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

SUPPORTERS DENY FORMER POPULAR FRONT LEADER IMPLICATED IN FINANCIAL SCANDAL. Fazil Gazanfaroglu, who is a leading member of the conservative wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), on 16 February dismissed as untrue media reports that the Front's deceased chairman, Abulfaz Elchibey, was involved in the illegal transfer of funds to secret bank accounts belonging to Turkish National Movement Party leader Alparslan Turkesh, Turan reported. Gazanfaroglu said the media reports constitute a smear campaign by the Azerbaijani authorities and the rival, reformist wing of the AHCP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

AMNESTIED PRISONER DATA. Under the terms of the 1 February amnesty, as of 14 February 2041 of the total 9000 prisoners have been released, "Zerkalo" reported on 15 February.

TRADE UNIONISTS PROTEST OVER WAGES. Several thousand workers took part in a protest rally organized by the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions in Minsk on 14 February, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The rally demanded that the government raise wages to catch up with price hikes. Federation leader Uladzimir Hancharyk told journalists that, given "the unprecedented pressure of the authorities on the trade unions," he is "generally satisfied" with the protest action. Belarusian commentators note, however, that the Federation expected the protest would gather some 30,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

YOUTH MARK VALENTINE'S DAY BETWEEN POLICE CORDONS. Some 1,000 young people took part in a march to mark Valentine's Day in downtown Minsk, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 14 February. Participants in the march, which was organized by the opposition Youth Front, gave passing pedestrians Valentine cards, chanted anti-government slogans, and demanded democratic changes in the country. Police officers repeatedly reminded the participants that the city authorities had given permission to stage the demonstration at a different venue. "[Police] colonels in fur hats and with mobile phones were running like ordinary sergeants to keep pace with adolescent demonstrators. Gosh, they were gasping for breath!" an RFE/RL Minsk correspondent reported, expressing her shock at the heavy attendance of uniformed policemen and plainclothes at the march. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

BISHOP CALLS FOR MOVES AGAINST ETHNIC CLEANSING. Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told "Oslobodjenje" of 15 February that the international community has not done enough to enable non-Serbs to go back to their pre-war homes in the Republika Srpska. He charged that the foreigners have the knowledge and ability to change things, but that their inaction "is as if they wanted an ethnically pure Republika Srpska." He noted that only 10 percent of Roman Catholic refugees and displaced persons have returned home since the end of the conflict at the close of 1995. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

PARLIAMENT PLEDGES PROSECUTION OF WAR CRIMINALS. The legislature passed a resolution on 16 February reaffirming the government's commitment to prosecuting war criminals despite the opposition of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and some veterans' groups, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

PROTEST RALLY FIZZLES. Fugitive General Mirko Norac did not call on President Stipe Mesic on 14 February, as Mesic had suggested he might. It is not clear what the general's plans are. His approach to Mesic and his expression of willingness to face trial have split the ranks of his backers. Only 5,000 people turned out for a 15 February demonstration in his support in Zagreb, Reuters reported. Veterans' leader Marinko Liovic charged that Norac betrayed his supporters by contacting the government, AP reported. Liovic added that the government is "manipulating the people" by its handling of the case, "Jutarnji list" reported. Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic told the daily that the government should not yield to any of the veterans' demands on war crimes lest it risk international isolation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

PREMIER ACCUSES HAVEL OF ANTAGONIZING SOCIETY. In his report to the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) National Conference in April, Milos Zeman writes that Havel has been trying to "create fifth columns" in the Czech political parties and to "win over agents" for himself in these formations, the daily "Pravo" reported on 19 February. Zeman says Havel does not fulfill the role of a link between parties and civil society, and "antagonizes civil society as a whole rather than unifying it." He also says the CSSD must strive to elect as president one of its members when Havel's mandate ends in January 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION BEGIN ROUNDTABLE TALKS. The planned round-table discussion between representatives of the Kyrgyz authorities, political parties, media, and NGOs began at the presidential residence in Bishkek on 17 February in the presence of President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Reviewing the implementation of resolutions adopted at the first such roundtable in June 2000, State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov said Kyrgyzstan needs political stability following last year's controversial parliamentary and presidential elections. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev called for consolidation to overcome "social tensions." Kyrgyz Human Rights Movement Chairman Tursunbek Akunov appealed to the Kyrgyz government to release jailed opposition leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, while Emil Aliyev of the opposition Ar-Namys Party asked Akaev to ensure that the jail sentence handed down last month on the party's leader, Feliks Kulov, is fairly reviewed. Police dispersed some 20 Kulov supporters who attempted to picket the presidential residence shortly before the roundtable began. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

PAPER PRINTS INTERVIEW WITH JAILED OPPOSITION LEADER. The independent daily "Asaba" published an interview with Kulov on 16 February in which he said that the rationale behind the new criminal cases filed against him was that the international community has cast doubt on the legality of the seven-year sentence he received on charges of abuse of his official position, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov accused President Akaev of having a personal interest in "finishing him off," adding that he had learned from "a reliable source" that the Kyrgyz authorities are hoping that his health will deteriorate and he will die before completing his sentence. Kulov also criticized as illegal the sentence handed down last September on TurgunAliyev for allegedly plotting to assassinate Akaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

TRIAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AGAIN POSTPONED. The trial of human rights activist Ravshan Gapirov was postponed in Osh until 25 February. Gapirov, director of the Kara-Su Human Rights Center in Osh district, was arrested last September and accused of hooliganism and fraud. According to the local human right activists, they planned to hold a meeting on the issue of terrorism in Kara-Su on 18 September, but police closed the meeting hall. Several activists were taken to a local police department. When Gapirov tried to defend them, policemen took him inside and beat him. Gapirov was later accused of hooliganism. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 19 February)

COURT FINDS GIMZAUSKAS GUILTY OF GENOCIDE. The Vilnius District Court on 14 February found Kazys Gimzauskas guilty of genocide against Jews during the Nazi occupation; but taking into account that the 93-year-old terminally ill defendant suffers from incurable mental disorders, the court released him into the care of family and medics, BNS reported. Gimzauskas, who had served as the deputy director of the Security Police in Vilnius, had been charged with collaboration with Nazis in executing five Jews, but the court found him guilty of signing orders to hand over three of them to the Nazi security police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

VILNIUS POLISH CENTER OPENED. The chair of the Polish Senate, Alicija Grzeszkowiak, presided at the opening ceremony on 18 February. The association Wspolnota Polska, which supports diaspora Poles, initiated construction of the center. The charity organization Polish Cultural Center in Vilnius, established by Wspolnota Polska, will jointly administer the center with the Polish Union of Lithuania. Director Marek Pakula said in a press release the function of the center is to popularize Polish culture in Lithuania, to expand cultural cooperation, and to serve as a multi-ethnic meeting place. (MINELRES, 15 February)

PRESIDENT CALLS BELGRADE LEADERS 'NATIONALISTS.' President Milo Djukanovic told Reuters in Podgorica on 14 February that his government intends to seek independence despite sharp warnings from the EU and U.S. that it should remain in a joint state with Serbia. He said that the Belgrade authorities are "nationalists who want to dominate Montenegro." Djukanovic added that "the international community has had such a bad experience with the Balkans over the past decade [that] it cannot believe that an initiative like ours could have a democratic and non-violent outcome. I...don't want to be held hostage [to that] Balkan heritage." He denied any link between Montenegrin constitutional issues and those affecting Kosova. "What is the necessary condition for resolving the Kosovo problem? A sincere and constructive political initiative between Belgrade and Prishtina, now with the inevitable arbitration of the international community. It's in that triangle that the formula for resolving the Kosovo problem must be found," Djukanovic argued. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

HAGUE COURT PROSECUTOR PRAISES COOPERATION. Carla Del Ponte said in Podgorica on 15 February that she "would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Djukanovic, Prime Minister [Filip] Vujanovic, and Interior Minister [Vukasin] Maras for their full and principled support of cooperation with the tribunal, not only today, when it is much easier and safer, but also through the years of Milosevic's rule," RFE/RL reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

PARLIAMENT MULLS TOUGHENING PENAL CODE. Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski on 14 February told the parliament that criminality in Poland has taken on "dangerous dimensions." Kaczynski proposed to the Sejm introducing some 400 changes in the Penal Code in order to toughen punishments and lengthen prison sentences. Proposed amendments increase the minimum term for aggravated murder to 25 years instead of the current 12 years. They also increase terms for repeat offenders and rapists and toughen rules that allow some convicts temporary leave from prison to visit families. According to police statistics, the annual rate of serious crimes in Poland is some 2,500 per 100,000 citizens -- the eighth highest in Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

POLICE REMOVE PROTESTING FARMERS FROM MINISTRY. Police used force on 16 February to remove farmers occupying the office of the treasury minister in a protest against the sale of Polish sugar plants to foreign investors, PAP reported. Lawmaker Gabriel Janowski, who participated in unsuccessful talks between the protesting farmers and Treasury Minister Andrzej Chronowski, has remained in the ministry, saying he will not leave the building until decisions favorable for the farmers are made. Owing to his parliamentary immunity, Janowski cannot be removed by force.

GOVERNMENT OPPOSES HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY. Nastase said in Arad that "the government does not support the setting up of a Hungarian-language university." He said the existing university structure is capable of meeting the requirements for study in their mother tongue of the Hungarian, as well as of other national minorities. The premier noted that his PDSR had already said during the electoral campaign that it is ready to improve the financing of the Hungarian sections of the Cluj-based Babes-Bolyai University and is also in favor of improving Hungarian professorial representation on that university's decision-making senate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

NATIONALISTS RALLY AGAINST NEW LAW. Some 10,000 people attended a rally in Cluj on 16 February organized by the Greater Romania Party (PRM) against the new Law on Local Public Administration, a local RFE/RL local correspondent reported. Cluj Mayor and PRM General Secretary Gheorghe Funar read a "proclamation" which protests against the law, demands that the PDSR make public "all secret agreements" allegedly signed with the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) and calls on the government to issue an ordinance for "collecting within 48 hours all arms and munitions illegally introduced in Romania with the direct support of the Hungarian government." PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said the UDMR has "obtained from the PDSR in four weeks what it was unable to obtain in four years" as a member of the 1996-2000 ruling coalition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

MOTHERS WHO LOST SONS IN CHECHNYA GIVEN $22 EACH. The mothers of 869 families who lost a son in the Chechen conflict were given 638.04 rubles ($22) each by the Mother's Rights Foundation, "Segodnya" reported on 16 February. The presentation was made by two members of the Duma who were challenged to explain what they had done to make peace in Chechnya. But despite what the paper called "their aggressiveness" toward these officials, the mothers told the paper that they were glad to get at least this much attention, having failed on many occasions to receive any from other government bodies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

PRESS SPECULATES ON IDENTITY OF GLUCK'S ABDUCTORS. The Russian government promptly announced that Gluck had been freed on February 4 due to a carefully planned FSB operation. Gluck himself, however, has expressed doubts about these claims while two newspapers, "Kommersant Daily" and "Novye Izvestia" have made alleged that Gluck was actually abducted by the federal security services (FSB). "The Moscow Times" -- the English-language flagship of Independent Media -- joined the media speculation, noting that Gluck was kidnapped less than two weeks before the January session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) which was to decide where Russia's voting rights should be restored. (Institute for World and Peace Reporting, 9 February)

DEATHS IN CHECHNYA WAR. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said on 13 February that only a "few" civilians had been killed during the 17-month-old war in Chechnya and called the civilian deaths "isolated cases." But Ruslan Khasbulatov, a pro-Russian Chechen politician, told RFE/RL in early February that according to data he collected directly from villagers, some 100,000 people have died in Chechnya from war-related causes. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman for Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, had earlier set the number of civilian deaths at 700. RFE/RL sought to clarify this discrepancy with Yastrzhembsky this week, but the spokesman did not respond to our calls. The fate of many Russian soldiers in the republic is hardly better than that of local inhabitants. According to official figures, of the estimated 150,000 troops who have served in the region, about 2,500 have so far been killed. But the non-governmental Mothers of Soldiers Committee says that its grassroots monitoring adds up to almost 7,000 dead. ("RFE/RL Weekday Magazine," 15 February)

CHECHEN LEADER WANTS STRICTER CONTROL OVER HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS. Meeting in Grozny on 14 February with Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov, Ahmed-hadji Kadyrov said that in future humanitarian organizations will not be permitted to operate in Chechnya without supervision, Interfax reported. He claimed that some such organizations are "speculating" on peoples' suffering. Kadyrov also criticized the practice of unloading aid shipments in the neighboring republics of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, and Daghestan, implying that much is stolen during that procedure. Also on 14 February, Kadyrov again said that he is in contact with moderate field commander Ruslan Gelaev who, according to Kadyrov, has given up fighting and left Chechnya. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports in recent months that Gelaev is in Georgia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

MOST SAY AFGHAN INTERVENTION WAS A MISTAKE. On the 12th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, a poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion found that 54 percent of all Russians consider that the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan was a political adventure on the part of Soviet leaders, Interfax reported. But 24 percent said the dispatch of Soviet troops there was necessary to defend the geopolitical interests of the USSR and 16 percent said that the Soviet forces had been sent to help the Afghan people struggle for the establishment of a popular government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

SECURITY SERVICES DENY ANONYMOUS DENUNCIATIONS ARE SIMILAR TO THOSE IN STALIN ERA. An FSB spokesman on 16 February said that Russian security agencies do use anonymous denunciations, but they denied that such use resembled in any way the pattern of the 1930s, Interfax reported. The spokesman said that the security services do everything they can to identify those making such charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

KGB SEEN BEING RESTORED. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Union of Rightist Forces Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, and former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin were all quoted by "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 15 February as expressing the belief that a new super security service comparable to the Soviet-era KGB is likely to be set up in the near future. Zhirinovsky said that "a restored KGB is not the worst thing that could happen. Separatism and disintegration of the state are much worse." Kovalev said that such an organ would be part of what he called "controllable democracy" in Russia, while Kalugin suggested that "Putin is [former KGB chairman and CPSU General Secretary Yurii] Andropov's pupil and admirer." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY OK TO ELECTION LAW. After turning back a proposed amendment that would have allowed for the presidential appointment of governors -- only 32 deputies voted for it -- the Duma approved in the first reading by a vote of 305 to 78 with one abstention a draft bill regulating elections in the federation subjects, Interfax reported. Among other things, the bill requires a second round of voting when no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the votes cast. Meanwhile, Central Election Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov told a meeting of regional electoral commissions that the CEC will set up special groups to prevent violations of election laws. Presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin told the same group that there must be the strictest possible control over the use of government funds by candidates, Interfax said. Voloshin added that the new parties law will help to create "a mature political system" in Russia. But Duma state organization committee chairman (Communist) Anatoly Lukyanov said that the country's elected bodies do not reflect the people at large but rather the capitalists, generals, and former senior officials, the Russian agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

A BUSY DAY IN COURTROOMS. A court in Makhachkala refused to hear a suit for damages against the Soviet government for its actions 20 years ago against human rights activist Vzig Meylanov, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 February. Also in Makhachkala, prosecutors asked for the forced confinement in a psychiatric institution of Akhmed Amirkhanov, who hijacked a Russian airplane to Israel in November 2000, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a Moscow court declared for the second time that the extension of the investigation into the so-called Aeroflot case is legal, the Russian agency said. And a court in Krasnoyarsk banned a 16-year-old girl from going to discotheques for a year after she filed a false fire report, "Segodnya" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

KALININGRAD PORT DIRECTOR ILLEGALLY DISMISSED. A Kaliningrad court ruled on 14 February that the dismissal of the port director there to make room for former Governor Leonid Gorbenko was illegal, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

LOCAL COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF NEO-NAZI. An oblast court in Orel overturned the decision of a raion court sentencing the head of local neo-Nazi group, "Russia Party," Igor Semenov, to three and a half years in prison for the illegal possession of firearms, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 February. According to the daily, when Orlov established the Orel branch of the party in 1991 he called for the physical extermination of Jews and people from the Caucasus. Seven of his followers have already been convicted of murder. According to the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, Semenov has close ties to the oblast administration, and the oblast's official newspaper, "Orlovskaya pravda," "has been campaigning on his behalf." The oblast court is now reviewing Semenov's case and may reduce his sentence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

DUMA CONSIDERS NATIONALITY POLICY... On 16 February, the Duma began consideration of a draft state nationality policy law prepared by the Duma nationalities committee headed by Anatolii Nikitin (Agrarian-Industrial Group), Interfax reported. Deputies focused primarily on two issues: paragraph 18 -- which defines the status of the Russian people -- and paragraphs having to do with the right of nationalities to national/cultural self-determination. Paragraph 18 says that "The Russian people, one of the native peoples of the Russian Federation [RF], is the mainstay of Russian statehood and bears responsibility for the development of the Russian state. The state of international relations in the RF to a large degree is defined by the national feelings of the Russian people. The Russian people cannot be considered as a national minority on the territory of any of the subjects of the RF." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

...WHICH IS CAUSING PROBLEMS. "Segodnya" reported the same day that this provision has already sparked controversy and that officials at the Federation and Nationalities Ministry already have had to deny that this provision, developed by them, puts the Russians in a special position. The other issue sparking discussion concerns the draft laws guarantee of national/cultural self-determination for all ethnic communities living in the federation. The draft explicitly says that the creation of such non-territorial autonomies "is not the basis for changing the status of national republics, autonomous oblasts, and autonomous okrugs as enshrined in the constitution of the RF." Some deputies are disputing one or another part of the draft, but Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights ombudsman, argues that no single nationality policy is either desirable or even possible, "Segodnya" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

SIBERIAN REGION ALTERS ETHNIC REQUIREMENT. In the Altai Republic, local legislators approved a series of amendments to the republican constitution on 14 February which will make it conform to federal law, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, deputies removed an article from the constitution which forbids two persons of the same nationality to occupy the posts of prime minister and parliament speaker at the same time. The legislature also changed the wording of the constitution's first article which had stated that the republic is a democratic state that is part of Russia. It now will state that the republic is an equal subject but inseparable part of the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

PASSPORT CHANGES SEEN EXACERBATING ETHNIC TENSIONS. Rashid Vagizov, the human rights ombudsman in Tatarstan, was quoted by "Izvestiya" on 15 February as saying that changing internal and external passports could exacerbate ethnic tensions within the Russian Federation. Specifically, he said that "the national republics can lose their symbols, people will not have the chance to declare their nationality and citizenship. A leveling of the peoples who live in Russia will take place." Meanwhile, the government information department told ITAR- TASS the same day that internal migration within Russia has contributed to ethnic "polarization," with the titular nationalities becoming ever more dominant in their own republics. And "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted Aleksandr Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs, nationalities and migration policy, as saying that Moscow has a nationalities policy but has not funded it: "Our actions are proportional to funding," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

PUTIN MAKES MOST OF PHOTO OPS IN SIBERIA. At one point in Tomsk, Putin appeared to spontaneously accept -- in front of television cameras -- an offer to visit the home of one old woman in the crowd; however, Reuters reported that provincial authorities had informed reporters in advance that it was a pre-arranged invitation and visit. Putin enjoyed thick slices of fruit pie in the kitchen of Maria Korenkova and later bought 100 grams of pork brisket at a local shop. In Omsk on 17 February, Putin told reporters that he sought to meet ordinary people during his numerous trips within Russia for two reasons. One, he said, "talking to citizens" helps me "compare the results of our work with the way it is received by rank-and-file citizens. And now, let me be completely honest," he continued, "I must confess to you that I like it. People give me a very warm reception, and I respond in kind." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

NO NEED SEEN FOR 'IRON CURTAIN' AGAINST CHINA. Russian experts and officials see no need for the erection of a new "iron curtain" to prevent Chinese from coming into Russia in unauthorized ways, "Argumenty i Fakty" reported on 14 February. Meanwhile, the Russian government has approved a new conception for cross-border ties and new support for Russian border guards, Interfax reported on 13 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

80 PERCENT OF IMMIGRANTS SAID TO BE ILLEGAL. Illegal immigrants now form as much as 80 percent of the total number of migrants into Russia, "Segodnya" reported on 16 February. Moreover, officials told the paper, the situation may get worse as employers seek to avoid the law and those who would enter legally from CIS countries must obtain a visa (a requirement added in October). Many of the illegals from Asia come via Kazakhstan, "Izvestiya" reported the same day, but many come through Ukraine as well. And the Interior Ministry estimates that the number of illegal Chinese immigrants in the Russian Far East is from 400,000 to 700,000, two to three times the number of Chinese living there legally. In its informal daily poll, "Segodnya" reported that 1,148 respondents would like to see the country's demographic crisis overcome through a stimulation of the birthrate, while only 235 want to attract more in-migration, as the government has suggested. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

KHABAROVSK POLICE LAUNCH SWEEP AGAINST ILLEGAL FOREIGN RESIDENTS. Khabarovsk Krai police on 15 February announced the launch of Operation Regime to identify foreign citizens, mostly Chinese, who are illegally living there, Interfax-Eurasia reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

95 PERCENT OF CHILDREN IN ORPHANAGES ABANDONED BY PARENTS. Vera Lekareva, the deputy chairman of the Duma Family and Youth Affairs Committee, said on 14 February that 95 percent of the children in Russia's orphanages were left there by their parents rather than being genuine orphans with no living parents, Interfax-Moscow reported. She said she is also worried about the fate of the 25,000 young Russians adopted by foreigners over the last decade and by the status of 17,000 young people in detention centers. She called for the establishment of a special plenipotentiary official for the affairs of the child to look into these matters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

ARE INTERNAL PASSPORTS TO GO PLASTIC? According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 February, the Russian government is considering replacing internal passports with plastic cards. Moreover, the Duma may reduce the amount of information included in such documentation, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

PATRIARCH OUTLINES CONDITIONS FOR PAPAL VISIT. In an interview published in "Segodnya" on 15 February, Patriarch Aleksii II said that Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II could visit Russia eventually if the leaders of the two denominations could agree on the division of church property and a ban on Catholic missionary activities in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR COUNTRYWIDE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BAN. At court hearings in Moscow over whether the Jehovah's Witnesses should be allowed to function, the prosecutor called for the closure of the group in the Russian capital and a countrywide ban on its activity. One of the Jehovah's Witnesses' lawyers attacked this as a blatant example of infringement of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Russian citizens` and warned of the danger of giving the courts authority over religious belief. (Keston News Service, 16 February)

SOLDIERS ARRESTED FOR THEFT OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS. An officer and two soldiers were arrested at a base in Kamchatka for stealing helicopter devices containing strontium-90, NTV reported on 16 February. Officials said that the materials are extremely dangerous and have been used by assassins. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

GERM WARFARE SUPPLIES STILL STOCKED. Experts at a 17 February meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) warned that "deadly strains of plague, anthrax, and smallpox could be traded by unscrupulous Russian officials with access to the huge biowarfare infrastructure" of the former USSR, said Dr. Kathleen Vogel, a biological weapons analyst at Cornell University in New York, reported the "Independent." The international community is denied access by the Russian military to four possible biowarfare facilities. Dr Vogel, a research chemist, told the AAAS that "lax security and bribery are allowing dangerous microbes to be stolen from laboratories" and with poor economic conditions for Russian scientists, "you can't rule out people engaging in proliferation through temptation or corruption." (The Independent" (UK), 18 February)

HAGUE'S DEL PONTE: NO COOPERATION FROM YUGOSLAVIA. Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told the Athens daily "To Vima" of 18 February that the new Yugoslav government "has not done anything" in terms of cooperating with the court, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She contrasted Belgrade's behavior unfavorably with that of the governments of other former Yugoslav republics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

PRIME MINISTER: LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MILOSEVIC A 'MATTER OF DAYS.' Zoran Djindjic told reporters on 15 February in Belgrade that the new government has made good progress in investigating one of those unexplained murders, namely that of journalist and publisher Slavko Curuvija, "Vesti" reported. Djindjic added, however, that little progress has been made finding out the truth about the disappearance in 2000 of former Serbian leader Ivan Stambolic, the one-time mentor of Milosevic. Djindjic told "Vesti" that he expects the launching of legal proceedings against Milosevic on unspecified charges to begin "in a matter of days." The prime minister promised to extradite all non-Yugoslav citizens on Yugoslav territory who have been indicted by The Hague. He also pledged that parliament will soon pass a law regarding unspecified cooperation with the tribunal. He added that these measures are "a package of actions that should satisfy -- at least by 31 March -- all well-meaning parties in the international community," AP reported. U.S. President George W. Bush will decide by that date whether to extend a $100 million aid package to Belgrade. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

YUGOSLAV MINISTER: 'FINANCIAL COLLAPSE' IN THE OFFING. Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said in Belgrade on 15 February that the government faces "financial collapse" soon if it does not launch cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that Belgrade spends $30,000 daily on its security forces in southwestern Serbia, and that it will need just over $100 million for the economic revitalization of the three troubled communities there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

BELGRADE AUTHORITIES MARK 100 DAYS ANNIVERSARY WITH MIXED RECORD. The Serbian legislature took the first steps on 14 February to dismantle the legal system of the Milosevic regime and oust numerous judges and other personnel widely seen as political appointees, the "Daily Telegraph" reported. Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic said elsewhere that it is "in the national interest" to cooperate with The Hague, adding, however, that cooperation does not mean accepting all of the tribunal's demands, "Danas" reported. Federal Information Secretary Slobodan Orlic told "Glas Javnosti" that the private B92 radio "is [still] working under the same conditions as under [Milosevic's] rule, the only difference being that journalists' lives are no longer in danger." In London, the "Independent" noted that "a hundred days after Vojislav Kostunica's velvet revolution, the Serbian capital remains a place of refuge for indicted war criminals." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

TAJIK NGOS APPEAL ON BEHALF OF AFGHAN FUGITIVES. An unspecified number of Tajik NGOs have appealed to the international community to provide urgent medical assistance for the more than 13,000 Afghans who fled to the Afghan-Tajik border to escape ongoing hostilities between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 February. At least 40 of the displaced persons have died since October of disease or wounds. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS HE'LL LEAVE OFFICE -- IN 2010. Saparmurat Niyazov, whose presidential term was extended for an indefinite period in December 1999, told the annual session of the Turkmen legislature on 18 February that he will leave office no later than 2010, when he will turn 70, Reuters and Interfax reported. He said open elections should then be held in which several younger candidates would contest the presidency, but that only persons who have held public office for 5-10 years and whose candidacy is approved by parliament will be eligible, according to Interfax. In addition, candidates must have lived in Turkmenistan for 10 years prior to the presidential ballot, a restriction that rules out former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev, who currently lives abroad. The parliament duly approved a law on holding presidential elections in 2010. Niyazov had told foreign ambassadors on 16 February that legislation on the election of regional administrators and the president will be passed in 2008. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

PICKETERS DEMAND OUSTER OF POTEBENKO, RELEASE OF TYMOSHENKO. Some 1,000 people picketed the Prosecutor-General's Office in Kyiv on 16 February, demanding the dismissal of Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko and the release of former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko from jail, Interfax reported. The protesters accused Potebenko of delaying the investigation of the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, and of ordering Tymoshenko's arrest because of political motives. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)

ANTI-PRESIDENTIAL OPPOSITION DEMANDS TYMOSHENKO'S RELEASE. The National Salvation Forum, an anti-presidential group formed from lawmakers and politicians last week, demanded on 14 February that the authorities release former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was arrested the previous day. The Forum said in a statement that the authorities, instead of arresting "criminals from the entourage of President Leonid Kuchma," have applied "the full power of their punitive-repressive system against a woman." The Forum noted that Tymoshenko was arrested to punish her for her opposition activities and for reforms in the energy and coal sectors. "The arrest of a sick woman who was not hiding from investigators...perfectly demonstrates that the people holding power in Ukraine are immoral and cynical, devoid of universal human values," the Forum said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)

PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY INCREASES. Elena Urlaeva, consultant of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), was arrested on 19 February in Tashkent by four militiamen as she approached the local OSCE office. Human rights documents in her possession -- including individual letters to the Red Cross and the UN Human Rights Committee -- were immediately confiscated. They were noted as anti-constitutional, so as to set the basis for bringing a criminal case against Urlaeva with a possible 15-year prison term. (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 19 February)

RUSSIA INTRODUCES VIAS FOR BALTIC RUSSIANS. Several hundred thousand ethnic Russians still live in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and some 150,000 in Estonia and 300,000 in Latvia are without citizenship, according to the AFP. With little advance notice and just before the New Year holidays, the Russian government imposed a visa requirement -- with new bureaucratic hurdles and doubled entry fees -- for Russians living in the Baltic countries, reports AFP. "During the past ten years of the Yeltsin era they didn't treat their compatriots thus -- at home or abroad, " the Russian-language Riga daily "Respublika" fumed. (AFP, 18 February)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE INQUIRY INTO ALLEGED POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN. Walter Schwimmer, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, confirmed on 15 February the appointment of three independent experts to inquire into cases of alleged political prisoners in Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the context of post-accession monitoring for the two countries, members of the organization since 25 January 2001. The three human rights specialists are from Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria. They will examine the cases and see whether they fall under the relevant Council of Europe criteria and submit a report by 30 June 2001. (Council of Europe Press Release, 15 February)

REPRESSION SPREADS IN CENTRAL ASIA. Speaking at RFE/RL's Washington office on 14 February, Cassandra Cavanaugh, who tracks human rights conditions in post-Soviet Central Asia for Human Rights Watch, said that governmental crackdowns against opponents over the last year have become a far greater threat to the stability and security of these countries than the one posed by the Islamist Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Focusing on Uzbekistan, which she has visited frequently, Cavanaugh said that the "escalation of repression" involved the forced displacement of people from their home villages, the indiscriminate use of mines along borders, the organization of "hate rallies" against "enemies of the people," and widespread torture of political prisoners. The campaign against "enemies of the people," she said, was especially disturbing because it recalls the worst years of Stalin's repressions in the 1930s. She said that it was "rare" to find a state in the modern world as committed to the use of terror in its attempts to intimidate its population as Uzbekistan now does. But, Cavanaugh continued, this government campaign may now be backfiring on its authors. It is alienating many in the population, leading them to think about leaving or joining the opposition. It has also caused many of the victims of torture to be willing to speak about what has happened to them, something she described as a mark of desperation. Cavanaugh said that Uzbekistan's approach has had a broader impact in the region. Uzbek government actions have forced people to flee to the neighboring countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and Uzbek officials have often crossed these countries' borders in pursuit. Tashkent's apparent ability to engage in such actions with relative impunity internationally, she said, has only encouraged other governments in the region to try the same approach. Cavanaugh said that the frequent failure of Western governments to speak out against these abuses is simultaneously leading some officials in Central Asia to think they can get away with such actions and causing many of the ordinary citizens in the region to think that the West is against them just as Islamist ideologues argue. If that opinion becomes widespread, she said, it could presage greater hostility between that region and the West in the future. (RFE/RL Press Release, 14 February)

HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY OF UZBEKISTAN WEBSITE. The Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan now has a website which can be found at: (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Press Release, 13 February)

UPDATED WEBSITE: AZERBAIJAN NATIONAL DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION. The Azerbaijan National Democracy Foundation [ANDF] has updated its website and changed its address to The new website is in three languages: Azeri, English, and Russian; information about ANDF, weekly bulletins, monthly monitors, archives and ANDF publications. There is also information on NGO activity in Azerbaijan and contact information.


By Catherine Cosman

The successor to the KGB, the Federal Security Service (FSB), has let it be known that it will once again turn to anonymous accusations of Russian citizens as the basis for possible investigations of criminal activities. The 59-point decision was published in early February in the official Russian government newspaper, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and then excerpted in "Segodnya."

Twelve years ago, on 2 February 1988, the USSR Supreme Soviet banned security agencies from initiating investigations on the basis of anonymous accusations. This move helped lift the heavy -- and arbitrary -- hand of the state from citizens' lives. As "Segodnya" points out, the Duma still has not lifted this 1988 ban -- calling into question the legal status of the new FSB decision to revive a blatantly arbitrary practice.

Known as "anonimki," citizen denunciations to the security services have a long and sinister Soviet history. They hit their lethal heyday during Stalin's state-directed terror campaign of the 1930s. At that time, the Kremlin told Russian citizens that nameless denunciations could unmask lurking "enemies of the state." Untold numbers of innocent people died in forced labor camps or were mowed down by firing squads as a result of such anonymous denunciations.

But "anonimki" not only served unchecked Party State power. They also could serve as vehicles for individuals. All too often, housing problems were "solved" by "anonimki." If someone took a fancy to someone else's apartment, he or she could send off an anonymous denunciation to the state authorities. The hapless inhabitant of the wished-for apartment might then be hauled off by the security apparat and the denouncer rewarded -- again by the state. Private feuds or romantic rivalries were also sometimes "settled" by resorting to sending anonymous messages to the state...The "Segodnya" article speculates that today "anonimki" may become useful tools for unscrupulous business deals.

Actually, "anonimki" continue to be a key link between state and society. "Segodnya" reports that in 1999, the FSB received a total of 65,000 anonymous tips; last year, that number increased by 1,000. According to the FSB directive, its staff will track the subject matter and addressees of these denunciations and will include them in their official quarterly reports to the government.

Such official reliance on "anonimki" may certainly promote both the recentralization and increasing authoritarianism of state power by inducing fear and isolation. At the very least, such official sponsorship of a new "anonimki" campaign will corrode the foundations of civil society.

The new FSB decision puts a chilling spin on President Putin's promised "dictatorship of the law." It feeds suspicions that Putin sees the security services as the real Russian "state-within-the-state." If this view is correct -- and evidence is steadily mounting that it is -- then civil society will be pushed to the edges of the Russia that Putin seeks to build.