14 March 2001, Volume
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR NOT-FOR-PROFIT LAW.
Based in Washington D.C., the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) facilitates and supports development of civil society and freedom of association on a global basis. ICNL, in cooperation with international, national, and local organizations, provides technical assistance for the creation and improvement of laws and regulatory systems supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries around the world. ICNL maintains a documentation center, provides training and education, and conducts research on the NGO legal framework. For more information, email: email@example.com.NETWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL NGOS.
EMonument is a not-for-profit organization the purpose of which is to help establish networking infrastructures throughout the NIS/CEEC countries pertaining to environmental issues. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and websites at http://www.environmonument.com and http://www.alert-pest.net. (Center for Civil Society International, 6 March)
NGO PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM.
Initiative for Social Action and Renewal in Eurasia (ISAR) launched a new program to provide cooperative grant funding for up to $20,000 to Azerbaijani and U.S. NGOs. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, ISAR's U.S.-Azerbaijan NGO Partnership Program focuses on women's issues and/or the environment. The project must take place during one year. Deadline is 18 May 2001. For application, http://www.isar.org/isar/usazpartners.html (Center for Civil Society International, 6 March)
U.S. REJECTS CHARGE IT FANS INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT...
Controversy has surrounded claims on 28 February by a commentator on national state-run television that American spies are deliberately fanning inter-religious conflict in Belarus. Contacted by Keston News Service on 6 March, Belarusian government officials declined to discuss the claims; the deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, however, vigorously rejected the charge as "a grotesque lie." (Keston News Service, 7 March)...WHILE STATE TV ALLEGES U.S. SPY NETWORK.
TV commentator Aleksandr Zimovsky alleged on a special edition of his weekly national news show on 28 February that "Over the past eight years, about 430 agents of various U.S. special services have visited Belarus through the U.S. Embassy in Belarus alone." Zimovsky claimed one of three alleged CIA "focuses" is "financial assistance to Belarusian opposition groups and their leaders, artificially forcing separatist moods and religious conflicts." (Keston News Service, 7 March)
PRAGUE CALLS FOR BETTER TREATMENT OF RUSSIA'S CZECHS.
The Czech Republic's ambassador in Moscow, Jaroslav Basta, told CTK on 9 March that the 1,500 to 2,000 ethnic Czechs in the Russian Federation had "only dared last year to contact" the Czech Embassy. He said that prior to 1929, the Czech community in Novorossiisk had shops, a school, and a Catholic church, but that under Soviet conditions, they suffered reprisals because of their origin. Basta said that many were sent to the Gulag, and others kept their ethnic identity secret. In August 2000, Basta said, the Czechs of Russia formed the Nazdar Association, prompted to that action by the influx of displaced persons from Chechnya into their area. They now seek to expand ties with Prague. According to Basta, "these Czechs differ from other Czech communities in the former USSR in their refusal to move from the region they inhabit." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)CZECHS DEPORTED TO SOVIET UNION TO BE COMPENSATED?
The opposition Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Union on 7 March submitted to the Chamber of Deputies a draft law providing for compensation for citizens of former Czechoslovakia who were sent to forced labor camps or detention camps in the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1953, CTK reported. Under the bill, the deportees are to receive 12,000 crowns ($319) for each month spent in the USSR and relatives of those who are no longer alive would receive a one-time 120,000-crown compensation. About 1,000 Czechoslovak citizens were deported, of whom only 150 returned. Most of them were Russian emigrants who had gained Czechoslovak citizenship after 1918 and were deported for alleged activity against Soviet interests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March)
TWO ROMA FAMILIES RECEIVE ASYLUM IN FRANCE.
The French refugee office in Strasbourg on 7 March notified two Roma families from the Hungarian village of Zamoly that they have been granted political asylum, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The families include eight persons, among them Andras Krasznai, the son of the Roma group's spokesman, Jozsef Krasznai. Krasznai said the other members of the group will probably be granted asylum as well. Currently there are 39 Romany from Zamoly seeking asylum in France. They left Hungary in July 2000, claiming they were persecuted and discriminated against by Hungarian authorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March)
'UNREGISTERED [RELIGIOUS] GROUPS BY DEFINITION HAVE NO FOLLOWERS.'
The head of the department for relations with religious associations in Almaty has said that he cannot do anything without the blessing of the Moscow Patriarchate's senior hierarch in Kazakhastan. He was referring to the Kazakh authorities denial of registration to Orthodox parishes who wish to operate outside the Moscow Patriarchate and went on to state that "Unregistered groups by definition have no followers." (Keston News Service, 9 March)AUTHORITIES PLANNING FURTHER REPRISALS AGAINST CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER?
Municipal authorities in the southern city of Shymkent are preparing to close a private market owned by Temirtas Tleulesov, independent Kazakh journalist Nuri Muftah told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 8 March. Tleulesov is the author of two books detailing corruption among local officials in Shymkent city and Oblast. He was sentenced last month in absentia to two years' imprisonment on charges of hooliganism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)
MILITARY COURT UPHOLDS KULOV RULING.
The Board of the Military Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld on 9 March the ruling against former Vice President of Kyrgyzstan Feliks Kulov. He was sentenced by the Bishkek military court on 22 January to seven years of jail for abuse of power as minister on national security in 1997-1998. A city court acquitted Kulov of these charges on 7 August 2000; on 11 September the board of the country's Military Court demanded the case be reconsidered. Kulov's lawyers told RFE/RL on 9 March that they would appeal to the Supreme Court against today's ruling and then to international courts if the Supreme Court upholds the conviction. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 9 March)LAST YEAR'S PICKETERS JAILED.
Human rights activist from Talas Province Ryskeldi Mombekov told RFE/RL in Bishkek on 9 March, that at least two participants of last year's protest pickets have been tried and jailed. Sultan Izabekov was detained by police during last summer's picket and was sentenced by the Chu Province court to six years of imprisonment. Another picketer, Esenbek Osmonov, was sentenced by the Kara-Buura district court last February to a two-and-a-half-year term. A third participant in last year's Kulov-support picket, Torobek Abdrakmanov, is standing trial in Talas; public prosecutors are asking for an eight-year jail term. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 9 March)NGO COALITION ON PRIORITIES FOR 2001.
The newly elected Council of Directors of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations held its first meeting on 10-11 March. The president of the Coalition reported on the organization's plans for 2001: to monitor local elections and assist in introducing the post of ombudsman. The Coalition unites about 170 non-governmental organizations. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 12 March)INTERBILIM ORGANIZES A SEMINAR FOR NGOS.
The International Interbilim Center together with the Counterpart Consortium plan to hold in Bishkek a seminar for non-governmental organizations on 15-16 March to discuss the role of NGOs in contemporary society. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 12 March)
GOVERNMENT RAISES MINIMUM WAGE.
The Cabinet of Ministers passed on 6 March regulations raising the minimum monthly wage by 20 percent from the current 50 lats ($81) to 60 lats as of 1 July, LETA reported. The minimum hourly wage will also be raised to 0.35 lats. However, the minimum rate for youths aged 16 to 18, working 35 hours per week, will be 0.405 lats per hour. Finance Minister Guntis Berzins noted that the higher wages would increase government expenditures by 58 million lats, but that this will not cause problems as the sum had already been calculated in this year's national budget. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)
BISHOP SAYS PUBLICITY ON JEWISH POGROM IS 'PROVOCATION.'
During a holy mass celebrated on 11 March in Jedwabne, Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek acknowledged that "our brothers of Jewish nationality" were burnt alive in Jedwabne in 1941, Polish Radio reported. He added, however, that today no one would dare to accuse all the inhabitants of Berlin or Moscow of the evils perpetrated by the communist and fascist systems. According to Stefanek, "biased publicity surrounding the Jewish pogrom at Jedwabne is a well-prepared provocation." He added: "Jedwabne is at the center of a tornado, which according to its organizers' intentions, is to whip up a new spiral of hatred." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)PREMIER SAYS NATION MUST FACE ROLE IN POGROMS.
"As a nation we can live only in truth. The participation of Poles in the crime at Jedwabne is unquestionable -- no historian denies it," Jerzy Buzek said on 6 March. Buzek was referring to the 1941 killing of some 1,600 Jews at Jedwabne, northeastern Poland. Buzek said the murder at Jedwabne was not committed in the name of Poles or of the Polish state, because Poland was under occupation at that time. "However, if as a nation we are proud of those Poles who risked or even lost their lives to rescue Jews, we must also recognize the guilt of those who participated in murdering them," Buzek said. Buzek added, however, that "we object to the use of the Jedwabne case for propagating false theses about a shared Polish responsibility for the Holocaust and an innate Polish anti-Semitism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)
PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON STATE SECRETS...
The two chambers of the parliament, meeting in joint session, on 7 March approved a law on protection of state secrets, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the law is in line with the NATO requirement that member states pass legislation to safeguard NATO secrets, but critics say the provisions are open to controversial interpretation and that the law could negatively impact freedom of information and of expression. Under the bill, anyone found guilty of publishing state secrets can face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and those trying to procure state secrets can be sentenced to up to seven years. The law makes the guarding of state secrets the "civic duty" of all citizens and an expression of their "national fidelity." The Romanian Intelligence Service is entrusted with overseeing respect of the law. Only one day after approval of the bill, Prime Minster Adrian Nastase on 9 March said President Ion Iliescu should consider sending the bill back to parliament, Mediafax reported. Nastase said there are some "ambiguities" in the bill and the cabinet "by no means intends for journalists to be damaged" as a result of provisions in the legislation. Nastase also said parliament should pass a bill on free access to public-interest information in the near future. The Romanian Press Club on 12 March released a declaration protesting the recently approved law on state secrets, labeling it "an attack on the liberty of the press," Romanian media reported. The declaration argues that the law, instead of protecting secrets, actually protects "abuses, frauds, and theft," and infringes on citizens' rights to information. In related news, President Iliescu on 9 March said authorities do not intend to limit the access to information. He added that he will analyze the text of the law and, if changes are needed, will send it back to parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, 12 March)
DUMA APPROVES NEW-OLD ANTHEM.
By a vote of 345 to 19 with one abstention, the Duma on 7 March approved the Kremlin-backed version of the words prepared by Sergei Mikhalkov for the new-old Russian anthem, Interfax reported. Three alternative versions received little support, with only 27, 23, and 63 deputies voting for them, far less than the 226 needed. The refrain of the new-old anthem begins: "Glory to our free fatherland, age-old union of fraternal peoples, common wisdom given by our forebears, glory to the country! We take pride in you!" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March)MORE CHARGES AGAINST TOBIN POSSIBLE.
Andrei Makarov, the senior investigator in the case of American graduate student John Tobin, who was arrested in Voronezh on 1 March, told Interfax on 11 March that the Russian authorities may bring more than drug charges against the American. In any case, Makarov said, he has no plans to release Tobin on bail. But the regional office of the FSB said its officers see no reason to charge Tobin with espionage, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)MOSCOW POLICE FORESTALL TERRORIST ACT BY LEFTIST YOUTH.
Police arrested Aleksandr Danilov, 18, in Moscow on suspicion of preparing a terrorist act when they found bomb-making materials in his residence, "Segodnya" reported on 6 March. Danilov identified himself as part of the Communist youth movement "The Vanguard of Red Youth" (AKM), but leaders of that organization said that they had no knowledge of his actions -- although they pointed out that there are many disgruntled young people who share that organization's views. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)PUTIN CONVENES SESSION ON PENSION REFORM.
Late on 7 March, President Putin met with Prime Minister Kasyanov, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, and other ministers to discuss preparations for a meeting of the National Council on Pension Reform, Interfax reported on 8 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)COMMUNISTS DEMAND MORE SOCIAL SPENDING...
Representatives of two rival communist groups staged rallies in Moscow to demand that women be given more opportunities in the workplace and that the authorities spend more on their health needs, AP reported. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that Labor and Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok has promised to improve the lives of women with young children, but the agency said he gave no details as to how this might be accomplished. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)WOMEN'S PROBLEMS SEEN AGGRAVATING DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS.
The Russian Academy of Sciences marked International Women's Day on 8 March by releasing a report saying that increasing drug use, prostitution, and declining health among women of childbearing age is exacerbating the country's demographic decline, ITAR-TASS reported. The report said the number of deaths nationwide among young women aged 15 to 19 has grown from 406 in 1997 to 4,634 in 1999, and it said that such losses are contributing to the continuing decline of the country's birthrate, which now stands at 1.3 children per woman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)POLLSTERS REPORT FINDINGS ON WOMEN'S ISSUES.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 8 March, 45 percent of Russians believe that men have more opportunities than women, 35 percent consider that men and women have equal chances, and 14 percent are convinced that women have greater opportunities. The poll also found that 56 percent of Russians believe that women should be more actively involved in politics, while 35 percent of those sampled said that "politics is not a woman's business." According to a second poll taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, 53 percent of men and 53 percent of women consider the ability to run a household to be an essential quality in a woman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)FEMALE PRISONERS KEPT IN POOR CONDITIONS.
The 50,000 women now in Russian prisons -- 5 percent of the total prison population-- are not given adequate support for their female needs and are thus rendered unable to function in society upon their release, Valerii Abramkin, the director of the Center for the Reform of the Criminal Justice System, said in Moscow on 6 March, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)YAKOVLEV WANTS SOVIET VICTIMS ENUMERATED.
Former Soviet official Aleksandr Yakovlev was quoted by Toronto's "Globe and Mail" on 9 March as saying that he wants to compile a formal count of all the victims of Soviet repression. Yakovlev says that he believes that there may have been as many as 35 million victims shot or killed as the direct result of Soviet decisions. In his new book, "Maelstrom of Memory," Yakovlev writes that "Russia is covered up to its horizons with bones and nameless graves. It's high time for us to think about it, to repent, to apologize to those who survived, to kneel before the millions who were shot, to wake up our sleeping consciences and to understand that it was us who helped the regime to enslave us." He adds that "I am personally ashamed that we, the older generation, allowed those monsters Lenin and Stalin to kill us. We informed on our neighbors, applauded our 'leaders,' and shot our own countrymen. We were people without dignity." According to Yakovlev's findings, more than 41 million Soviet citizens were imprisoned between 1923 and 1953, there were more than 884,000 children in internal exile in 1954, and more than 85,000 Orthodox priests were shot in 1937 alone. Yakovlev is now seeking Kremlin backing for a study to verify his estimates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)MOSCOW'S MUSLIMS PLAN NEW MOSQUES.
Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said in Moscow on 6 March that the Muslims of the Russian capital plan to construct a series of new mosques in addition to the six they already have there, Interfax reported. In other comments, Gainutdin said that the number of mosques in Russia as a whole has risen from 98 in 1989 to almost 6,600 now. He said that many people, including "50,000 ethnic Christians," have converted to Islam and noted that there are now as many Muslims in Russia as there are in Saudi Arabia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)PATRIARCH PROMISES TO PROTECT RUSSIANS ABROAD.
Aleksii II told a group of Russians from the former Soviet republics that "you are flesh of flesh and blood of blood of our people," adding that "we see it as our duty to take part in all actions aimed at consolidating the unity of our compatriots living abroad," Interfax reported. The patriarch also condemned efforts to separate from the Russian Orthodox Church orthodox congregations in Estonia and Ukraine and said that it is not yet time for Pope John Paul II to visit Ukraine, the news agency reported. Meanwhile, Russian media gave prominent play to the closure of the only Russian- language daily in Lithuania, noting that its editors had informed President Putin that the paper will cease publication, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 March. A committee headed by Duma speaker Seleznev announced the same day that a Slavic Congress of the Peoples of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine will take place in Moscow 1-2 June, Interfax said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)THIRD VISA REFUSAL FOR SENIOR CATHOLIC PRIEST.
Father Stanislaw Opiela, a Polish Jesuit who is secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Russia -- active in rebuilding Catholic institutions in Russia for the past decade -- as well as rector of the St Thomas Aquinas College of Catholic Theology in Moscow, was refused a Russian entry visa, for the third time in a row, on 27 February. No explanation has been given by Russian Foreign Ministry officials either to Catholic leaders or to Keston News Service. (Keston News Service, 5 March)UN SAYS 300,000 RUSSIANS HIV INFECTED.
Russia's State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service Center in St. Petersburg told ITAR-TASS on 10 March that United Nations surveys suggest that there are "at least" 300,000 HIV-infected people in the Russian Federation. The center said that 93 percent of those infected used drugs intravenously. It added that the rate of new infections is increasing rather than falling, something it said was not "hope-inspiring." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
U.S. WARNING TO BELGRADE?
The "New York Times" reported on 10 March that "the United States has told the...government in Belgrade [in a three-page letter] that if it expects American aid to continue, it should arrest and imprison former President Slobodan Milosevic by the end of March, and at the same time should assist in transferring to The Hague at least one person indicted on war crimes charges, senior Western officials said today." The report added that "Washington is not insisting that Mr. Milosevic be transferred immediately to The Hague, where he is under indictment for war crimes for Serbian actions before and during the 1999 Kosovo war. But its official policy remains that Mr. Milosevic face charges in The Hague." The daily noted that "for American aid to continue, President [George W.] Bush must certify to Congress by 31 March that the Belgrade government is cooperating with the Dayton agreement, furthering human rights, and cooperating with The Hague tribunal. Otherwise, nonrelief American aid of $100 million this fiscal year will be cut off; about half of it is not yet disbursed." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL SETS UP CHAPTER.
Transparency International, which is a German-based NGO specializing in combating corruption, said in a press release on 12 March that it has launched a Serbian branch. Miklos Marschall, who is the NGO's director, said that he hopes that the new office will help contribute to bringing Serbian practices into line with European norms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' DEMONSTRATORS CLASH WITH POLICE.
According to international media, from 5,000 to 10,000 people demonstrated against President Leonid Kuchma at the presidential administration building in Kyiv on 9 March, staging the largest anti-presidential rally in the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" series. An official police report said 4,000 people participated in the rally. The protest escalated into serious violence, with people hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers. Police accused the radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense of provoking clashes, while the organization said the clashes were caused by the authorities, who allegedly planted provocateurs with Molotov cocktails into the crowd. Police detained 217 participants in the rally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)KUCHMA COMPARES ANTI-PRESIDENTIAL OPPONENTS TO 'BROWN PLAGUE.'
Kuchma on 10 March said tolerating the activities of radical nationalists within the ranks of his opponents is similar to the 1938 Munich agreement accepting Hitler's expansionist policies before the outbreak of World War II, Reuters reported. "Let people see with their own eyes the signs of just such a brown plague that could just develop in Ukraine given a situation of this sort. We should be careful, as things start from small beginnings," he noted. And in last week's interview with the German magazine "Focus," the Ukrainian president said people take to the streets in Ukraine for money. "Just look at this circus with the demonstrations. People have been paid to take part. For many students it's a real business," AP quoted him as saying in the interview. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)NEW ANTI-KUCHMA COMMITTEE EMERGES.
An All-Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee "For the Truth!" was founded in Kyiv on 9 March. Interfax reported that the initiators of the committee included leaders of the student hunger strikes on Kyiv's Independence Square in 1990. "[Our main goal] is not simply to replace one president with another, but to fully reconstruct the entire system of political, economic, and social relations in Ukraine," the agency quoted Volodymyr Chemerys from the committee's leadership as saying. Chemerys was hospitalized on 11 March with a diagnosis of a brain concussion suffered in the 9 March clashes at the presidential administration building. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
MORE PRESSURE ON HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY.
While her family was asleep, the apartment of Elena Urlaeva, a consultant of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, was set on fire on 9 March. Gasoline was poured on the apartment's doors; neighbors said they smelled gas between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. Fortunately, no one was injured. In the opinion of the Uzbekistan Human Rights Society, the incident was in revenge for Elena Urlaeva's participation in its picket near the parliament building on 7 March 2001. (Uzbekistan Human Rights Society, 9 March)
NEW REPORT ON ANTI-SEMITISM IN RUSSIA.
Jews continue to face in Russia an infrastructure of anti-Semitism -- grassroots and official -- which has solidified in several regions where local officials have allied themselves with communist, neo-Nazi, Cossack, Russian Orthodox, and other potentially ant-Semitic elements, says a newly published report from a leading international human rights organization. The 180-page report covering anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and religious persecution in 73 of Russia's 89 regions, documents evidence of grassroots anti-Semitic hate crimes, the complicity of local authorities, and the total failure of the Russian justice system to respond to violence against Jews. The report takes aim not only at Russian anti-Semitism and U.S. policy, but also at statements by the Israeli government and Jewish leaders who, for political purposes, are downplaying threats to Jews in Russia. Copies of the report are available online at http://www.fsumonitor.com (Union of Councils on Soviet Jewry Press Release, 9 March)NGO TRAINER ASSOCIATION PROJECT.
Counterpart Creative Center (CCC), Kyiv, Ukraine, a Ukrainian non-profit organization and an official affiliate of Counterpart International, is working on a two-year "Ukrainian NGO Trainer Association and Evaluation Project", supported by Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The CCC has gathered information on existing Trainers' Associations in different countries, but more information is needed. Results of the study will be disseminated via the bulletin of the Ukrainian NGO Trainer Association. Contact persons: Lyuba Palyvoda, Yulia Tykhomyrova, Lyudmyla Yelcheva at email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; and email@example.com (Center for Civil Society International, 6 March)NEW THIRD SECTOR PORTAL.
Visit new Internet-portal "The Third Sector: Ukraine" at http://www.ngoukraine.kiev.ua Also visit the administrator's website: http://www.idc.org.ua. (Center for Civil Society International, 4 March)NEW RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT.
The Norwegian group Forum 18, with the Norwegian Mission to the East (NM�), have launched a report on "Freedom of Religion: A report with special emphasis on the right to choose religion and registration systems." Compiled with Keston Institute and other organizations, the report studies eight countries in detail including Turkmenistan. It is downloadable in Adobe Acrobat in English from the NM� website at: http://www.normis.no (Keston News Service, 9 March)WORLD BANK APPROVES CHILD WELFARE LOAN.
The World Bank has approved an $8 million loan aimed at improving child welfare in Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 7 March. The loan will be used for activities promoting community-based welfare, such as placing abandoned children in homes instead of institutions. The loan matures in 20 years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)PARLIAMENT TOUGHENS NATURALIZATION LAWS.
"Monitor" reported on 7 March that the parliament passed on first reading legislation toughening rules on acquiring Bulgarian citizenship by naturalization. Under the new law, acquiring Bulgarian citizenship will be conditioned on renouncing one's previous citizenship. Foreign citizens of Bulgarian origin who wish to restore their citizenship will be exempt from this provision. The new legislation also toughens requirements for refugees to acquire Bulgarian citizenship. The changes are aimed at bringing legislation in line with that of the EU. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March)
YOUTHS MOCK TV SPYMANIA.
The Youth Front, an organization associated with the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, staged a happening at the offices of Belarusian Television on 6 March to mock TV propaganda programs and documentaries, Belapan reported. Four activists dressed in black and wearing "spy" sunglasses delivered a document confirming the transfer of 288 Belarusian rubles ($0.23) to television for advertising the organization. Last week, Belarusian Television said the CIA helps the Youth Front organize subversive operations in Belarus to topple Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "We decided to pay Belarusian Television [for advertising our] goals -- we [really] want to lead young people to the presidential election this year in order to topple the regime," Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets said, adding that his organization got the money from "our American masters." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)TELEVISION AIRS MORE ANTI-U.S. PROPAGANDA.
Belarusian Television on 7 March aired a program in which Syarhey Navoyeu, a former journalist of the independent daily "Narodnaya volya," accused the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of taking money from the U.S. Embassy. "Unfortunately, the U.S. Embassy gives us no money.... Appropriate services, following reports, have checked [Navoyeu's allegations] more than once and found nothing," Independent Trade Union leader Viktar Babayed told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. Alyaksey Karol from the opposition Social Democratic Party commented on Belarusian TV's recent anti-U.S. programs: "The general trait of all dictatorships is to create an enemy image. In accordance with Soviet tradition, the enemy is the Americans. And we have [this stereotype] once again before the elections... The U.S. is the enemy, [with agents.] A democratic [presidential] candidate will be branded as a spy, agent, or imperialist." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)