25 April 2001, Volume 2, Number 17
ARMENIAPARLIAMENT FAILS TO APPROVE TWO LEGAL INITIATIVES. The Armenian parliament on 18 April voted down a Justice Ministry bill setting new rules for the conduct of street demonstrations that some opposition deputies claim violate the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Deputies also voted to reduce from four to three days the maximum period during which detainees may be held without criminal charges being brought against them, and approved amendments tabled by the Orinats Yerkir (Law-based Country) party that require that judges presiding over pretrial investigations grant bail on all charges that could lead to three-years imprisonment or less. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
GEORGIAABKHAZ PARLIAMENT, GOVERNMENT IN EXILE CRITICIZE AUTHORITIES OVER HOSTAGE IMPASSE. The Abkhaz government and parliament in exile, which are composed of Georgian officials who fled Abkhazia in 1993, released a statement in Tbilisi on 20 April in which they criticized the Georgian leadership for failing to act more resolutely to secure the release of three Georgian guerrillas taken hostage in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on 8 April, Caucasus Press reported. Warning of a possible resumption of hostilities in southern Abkhazia, the exile parliament and legislature said that Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia will stage mass protests if the Georgian government fails to take steps to secure the guerrillas' release. Relatives and friends of the three guerrillas similarly staged a protest in Tbilisi on 20 April to demand the release of the three men. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
KAZAKHSTANPRESIDENT ANALYZES POLITICAL SPECTRUM. Speaking in Almaty on 20 April at the third congress of the Otan party created in 1999 to support him, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan lacks a full-fledged system of political parties, given that those parties which do exist are "scattered and separated," Interfax reported. Nazarbaev divided those parties into four categories: those which support the government and are backed by business circles; public organizations that promote the interests of specific social groups such as pensioners or the handicapped; centers to preserve the culture of specific ethnic groups; and opposition political parties financed from abroad. He suggested that the latter category is illegal in the light of legislation prohibiting the use of foreign capital to finance public organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
GOVERNMENT APPROVES 10-YEAR DEVELOPMENT PLAN... The government on 18 April approved the draft strategic plan for economic development over the next decade, Interfax reported. It will now be submitted to President Nazarbaev for his approval. The main aims are to expand the foundations of a market economy and double GDP by 2010 from this year's anticipated level of 2.88 trillion tenges (just under $20 billion). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
...INCREASES SOCIAL SPENDING... Kazakhstan's prime minister, Qasymzhomart Toqaev, told parliament on 17 April that of the 15 billion tenges earmarked in this year's budget as charter capital for the planned new Development Bank, 2 billion could be reallocated for social needs, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Parliament deputies had called for social spending to be increased by 10 billion tenges. Toqaev said that the cabinet will probably ask the legislature in September to raise budget targets for this year a second time. On 18 April, parliament voted in the first reading to increase budget revenues by 25 billion tenges to 437.5 billion tenges and expenditures by 28.4 billion tenges to 496.7 billion tenges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
...AS MOTHERS CONTINUE PICKET. The 40 women who began picketing the parliament building in Astana on 17 April to demand payment of overdue allowances continued their protest on 18 April, but deputies voted against allowing them to enter the building, RFE/RL reported Some of the women abandoned their protest on 19 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
FOUR ALLEGED MEMBERS OF HIZB-UT-TAHRIR PARTY ON TRIAL. Four alleged members of the radical Islamic party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, are on trial in Shymkent. They were arrested last year in Turkistan for distributing leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic Khalifat in Central Asia. It is the first known trial of alleged members of that party in Kazakhstan. The four defendants are Abduvali Ismailov and Mamed-Sapa Abdikarimov from Turkistan; Zhetkergen Zhetpisbayev and Nurghazy Arqabayev from Kentau. Zhetpisbayev is 55, the others are in their 20's. ("RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 17 April)
KYRGYZSTANJAILED OFFICIAL'S RELATIVES LEAVE KYRGYZSTAN. The wife, two daughters and brother of jailed former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov have left Kyrgyzstan for an unspecified destination in Europe, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 20 April, quoting Kulov's lawyer Lyubov Ivanova. Kulov's brother Marsel said in late January that he and other family members hoped to receive political asylum abroad. Feliks Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
MUFTI FAILS TO MEET WITH RADICAL ISLAMISTS. A planned meeting in southern Kyrgyzstan between Mufti Kimsanbai-hadji Abdrakhmanov and members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir party at the invitation of the latter failed to take place, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 21 April. Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists had pasted leaflets in the town of Djalalabad on 17 April inviting Abdrakhmanov and Jolbors Jorobekov, who heads Kyrgyzstan's government Commission on Religious Affairs, to attend a meeting the party planned to convene in the town of Kara-Suu on 20 April. Abdrakhmanov said the Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists failed to show up at the appointed time and place. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
GOVERNMENT ADOPTS A DECREE ON RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. According to the governmental press service, the government adopted on 16 April a special decree on religious affairs. According to it, the governmental Commission on Religious Affairs should work out by 1 June a national concept on religious policy. The commission together with the Ministry of Education and Culture should prepare by 1 September a curriculum on history of religions. In addition to it, the commission should prepare a catalog of religious organizations of the country together with the Interior Ministry. According to the decree, religious education is prohibited in the universities and institutes, in the schools and kindergartens. Only special colleges will be able to offer it. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 20 April)
TAJIK REFUGEES RECEIVE KYRGYZ CITIZENSHIP. Askar Jumagulov, head of the migration service of Chu Province, told an RFE/RL correspondent on 20 April that President Askar Akaev has signed a special decree granting Kyrgyz citizenship to 17 Tajik refugees. All of them are ethnic Kyrgyz who do not want to return to Tajikistan. There are currently 7,700 Tajik refugees in the province.
LATVIANEW HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY. The Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies (LCHRES), a member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, issued its annual report "Human Rights in Latvia in 2000" in English, Latvian, and Russian. According to LCHRES, the basic human rights problems were major backlogs in the court system and long pretrial detention periods, especially for minors. Last year, the country also saw the growth of small groups of Latvian and Russian racist extremists, but law enforcement agencies responded vigorously. The main positive developments in 2000 were in the area of legislation: individuals can now bring suit to Latvia's most progressive, but under-utilized judicial body; the cabinet also adopted implementation regulations to the 1999 State Language Law bringing the country into conformity with its international obligations. For more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (MINELRES, 21 April)
POLANDRETRIAL OF COMMUNIST-ERA MINISTER POSTPONED. The retrial of General Czeslaw Kiszczak, a communist-era interior minister who has been accused of causing the death of nine miners in 1981, has been delayed while the court considers whether the statute of limitations in the case has expired, AP and dpa reported on 18 April. Kiszczak is accused of ordering the use of live ammunition in suppressing a miners' strike over the imposition of martial law. Kiszczak, 75, says he forbade the use of weapons and, according to his attorney, "does not want to seek protection in the statute of limitations.... He counts on an acquittal, which for him, as a former politician, is more important." If convicted, Kiszczak could face up to 10 years in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
ROMANIAFORMER SECURITATE OFFICER RESIGNS POSITION. Deputy Ristea Priboi on 19 April announced that "at his own initiative" he is resigning from the position of chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activities of the Foreign Intelligence Service, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Priboi said the campaign against him was the outcome of an "internal political game" and added that he is resigning because he is aware that "the following months will be extremely important for a favorable decision [concerning Romania's access] at the NATO summit and I do not want to be an obstacle." He again denied having been involved in any way in the attacks directed between 1980 and 1983 against RFE/RL staff in Munich, saying that at that time he was involved in other intelligence activities and that only in 1988-89 did he work in "the group that monitored foreign stations broadcasting in Romanian." President Ion Iliescu called Priboi's decision "wise." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
EUROPEAN COMMUNITY CRITICIZED... President Iliescu said that the "most serious danger to world instability" stems from "the huge discrepancy between the rich and the poor." He said that prior to 1989, the countries that now are signatories to the Schengen Agreement were "harshly criticizing the antidemocratic measures in the countries of the former Soviet space," and were "calling for the freedom of movement in Europe." Nowadays, the very same countries "hinder the freedom of movement themselves." There are no obstacles from the authorities hindering Romanians' free travel, but "the rich world does not want them," he commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
...AND ANTI-ROMANIAN 'CAMPAIGN' OVER ROMA NOTED. Iliescu also said that after the international campaign conducted against Romania because of its homeless children problem, a new campaign is about to be launched, this time focusing on the Romany problem. He said Swedish Ambassador Nils Revelius "taught me a lesson on Roma integration" at their last encounter, and the problem was also raised by the Swedish authorities during Nastase's recent visit to that country. Sweden currently holds the EU chair. Iliescu said the local authorities in the Buzescu village, Teleorman County, should invite the Swedish ambassador to visit and witness that "Gypsies do not live only in hovels, some of them have palaces like in Thailand." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL AGAINST LOCAL ADMINISTRATION LAW. The Constitutional Court unanimously rejected an appeal on 19 April against the constitutionality of the recently passed Local Public Administration Law. The appeal was launched by 73 deputies representing the Greater Romania Party (PRM) and one deputy from the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). The court said the rights granted by the law to national minorities do not affect the status of Romanian as the country's official language. The PRM called the decision "scandalous" and called on President Iliescu to refrain from promulgating the law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
NEW COMMISSION ON PENDING HUNGARIAN BILL. The Romanian authorities have set up an ad hoc commission to examine the possible effects of Hungary's pending bill on the status of Hungarian minorities living outside Hungary. The Hungarian parliament on 19 April began debating the bill and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko, who is attending the debates in Budapest, denied that the law will result in discrimination in Romania itself. Marko said Romania is also helping Romanians abroad preserve their national identity. A Romanian Foreign Ministry delegation will go to Budapest for clarifications on the bill, dubbed by the PRM as "extremely dangerous" and "amounting to interference in the affairs of the states on whose territories live members of the Hungarian minority." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
RUSSIATATAR OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ARRESTED FOR DISSEMINATING 'EXTREMIST' LITERATURE. Fanis Shaikhutdinov, 35, one of the leaders of the Tatar Public Center's branch in Naberezhnie Chelny, has been arrested by the local branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) for disseminating what that agency called "extremist" Muslim and pro-Chechen literature, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 23 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
MOSCOW DENOUNCES UN RESOLUTION ON CHECHNYA. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 21 April condemning as "unobjective and biased" a resolution passed the day before by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva that condemned Moscow for its actions in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said the United States blocked efforts to pass a balanced statement and that Washington received support only from its NATO allies and those East European countries which hope to join the Western alliance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
NEW MASS GRAVE DISCOVERED IN CHECHNYA. Russian border guards discovered a mass grave on 20 April in the Argun gorge in southern Chechnya, close to the border with Georgia, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Initial reports said the grave, which is believed to date from the 1994-1996 war, holds the remains of 18 people; later estimates raised that number to 32. All the victims were shot in the head and then decapitated, according to AP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST INJURED IN CHECHNYA. Viktor Popkov was seriously wounded on 20 April when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car near the village of Alkhankala near Grozny as he was on his way to deliver a consignment of medical supplies to mountain villages, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
NEW APPROACHES TO ENDING CHECHEN CONFLICT DISCUSSED. A recent Russian press commentary suggests that a "third force" may soon emerge in Chechnya that opposes both the federal troops and those supporters of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov who are believed to be motivated primarily by religious zeal. Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 15, April 2001, Bakhtiar Akhmedkhanov predicts that the West may try to persuade Moscow, which he claims is "intensively" seeking to identify and enlist a negotiating partner with sufficient authority to end the conflict, to begin negotiations with that force. (RFE/RL Caucasus Report, 20 April)
MOSCOW PLANS TO INCREASE SPENDING ON CHECHNYA'S RECOVERY. The Russian government plans to increase spending on the recovery of Chechnya to almost 30 billion rubles ($1 billion) in 2002, Russian agencies reported on 19 April. Meanwhile, President Putin held a meeting the same day to discuss providing more prompt payment for Russian soldiers in the republic, Interfax reported. After the meeting, officials said that Moscow will increase the premium such soldiers receive by 50 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
ARE THE COMMUNISTS LIVING ON AID FOR CHECHNYA? According to "Stringer," No. 4, government assistance intended for Chechnya has been channeled through the Rosagropromstroi company and passed on to support the activities of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
51 PERCENT FAVOR BURYING LENIN. In a poll taken in advance of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin's 131st birthday, 51.3 percent of those asked by the ROMIR agency said that they favor taking his body from the mausoleum on Red Square and burying it, Interfax reported on 20 April. Some 41.5 percent opposed taking that step. On Lenin's birthday on 22 April, about 1,000 people -- led by Communist Party Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov -- gathered at the mausoleum to honor him, and the same poll showed that 66.7 percent of Russians continue to have a positive view of the Bolshevik revolutionary, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL IMPORTS... The Duma on 18 April approved in the second of three readings three bills needed to give approval for the importing of spent nuclear fuel rods into Russia for permanent storage, Russian agencies reported. The votes were 230-116, 244-114, and 267-67. Yabloko leaders and ecology groups pledged to continue to fight the measure and said they hope that the Federation Council will ultimately kill it, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
...FIFTY SITES IN MOSCOW ARE RADIOACTIVE... "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 April that some 50 potential sources of radiation have been identified in the city of Moscow alone. The paper said that this situation arose because during the Soviet era, firms using radioactive materials disposed of them on their own, frequently burying them on site. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" pointed out that Moscow is not particularly dangerous in this regard: it ranks 30th among the subjects of the federation in terms of radioactive contamination. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April) Interfax reports that up to 90 tons of radioactive waste are removed every year from Moscow. (Interfax, 18 April)
...WHILE EBRD GIVES LOAN FOR ST. PETERSBURG TOXIC WASTE CLEANUP. The AFP reports that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will lend $5.5 million to the city of St Petersburg to conduct emergency work on its main toxic waste dump, the Interfax news agency reported on 17 April. The project, which would cost a total of $10.2 million, aims to eliminate the threat that the Krasny Bor dump could present to millions living in northwestern Russia and neighboring states, the EBRD statement said. The EBRD has given loans of some $4 billion to Russia since 1990. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency, Finland's Environment Ministry, Sweden's International Development Agency, Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, and the European Union will also donate to the project. (AFP, 18 April)
MARTIAL LAW MEASURE DEEMED CRUCIAL... FSB spokesman Zdanovich said in St. Petersburg on 18 April that the Duma needs to pass a law allowing for the imposition of emergency rule as soon as possible, Russian agencies reported. Today, he said, federal forces in Chechnya have to act in accordance with "laws which exist throughout Russia." Zdanovich said this is often impossible and that the legislature needs to define what special limitations to constitutional regulations are permissible in such circumstances. Meanwhile, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Duma, denounced as unconstitutional a decree by Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who heads the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya, prohibiting mass meetings in the republic, Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
...AND DUMA UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS IT. On 19 April, deputies voted 377 for and zero against on the first reading of martial law legislation proposed by President Putin, Russian agencies reported. The deputies also approved on first reading amendments to election laws in order to prevent regional heads from resigning and then running again. The day before, the parliamentarians approved on second reading modifications of banking legislation that will make it easier for the government to supervise financially troubled banks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
CONTROVERSIES CONTINUE OVER COURT, CRIMINAL CODE REFORM PLANS. An article in "Izvestiya" on 17 April notes that the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office is opposed to the draft court reform being prepared by the Kremlin because it reduces the power of that office. The paper said that others oppose the reforms because of their enormous cost and the government's failure to say where it will get the money to pay for everything. Meanwhile, "Novaya gazeta" in its 16-18 April issue reported that "battles over the new criminal code continue" with some suggesting that it is time to replace the current one, which the paper describes as "a relic of the Stalin era," and others insisting that the planned reforms are not liberal enough. And in a move that straddles both issues, Russian prosecutors announced that they will systematically ensure that all legal rules are obeyed in the country's pretrial detention centers, facilities that have been much criticized for the failures of those supervising them to obey the law, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
STATE MUST NOT VIOLATE CONSTITUTION. According to the results of a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax on 18 April, 59 percent of Russians believe that the president and the government must not under any circumstances violate the country's constitution. But 34 percent of them acknowledged that they are acquainted with the contents of the constitution only in the most general terms. Only 5 percent said they know the provisions of the basic law well. Meanwhile, Russian ombudsman Oleg Mironov has proposed creating positions analogous to his own at the local level to protect citizens' rights, "Vremya MN" reported on 18 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
MIRONOV SAYS RUSSIAN RIGHTS GROUPS HAVE NOT IMPROVED RIGHTS. In his annual report on human rights in Russia, human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov said that human rights groups have become more powerful there over the last year but that the state of human rights has not improved, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 April. He said that Russia must live up to its commitments to the European Union. He also said that the situation in Russian prisons and in the justice system as a whole continues to fall short of world standards. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
SOVIET PASSPORTS TO REMAIN VALID TO 2005. Oleg Kutafin, the chairman of the presidential commission on citizenship, told Interfax on 19 April that Soviet passports will remain valid until 2005. Most Russians (83 percent) still carry them because the government has been unable to afford to print new ones. In the same interview, Kutafin said that since the collapse of the USSR, 2 million people from former Soviet republics have become citizens of Russia and that another 100,000 people from other countries have done the same. He added that Moscow plans to significantly tighten the citizenship process. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
RUSSIANS WARNED OF AMERICANS BEARING GIFTS. On 19 April, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" carried an article entitled "Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts" that asserted that the U.S. government-funded Open World program represents a threat to Russian national values. The paper said that the program is intended to promote the emergence of pro-U.S. leaders in Russia, to reduce anti-Americanism among Russians, and to encourage a brain drain from Russia. In addition, the paper said the program is "supposed to encourage Russians to reject their traditional values and replace them with cosmopolitan Western values instead." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
'ANY PHYSICIST CAN BECOME A SPY.' Twenty colleagues of Valentin Danilov, the Krasnoyarsk physicist who has been charged with attempted spying for China, sent a letter to the Krasnoyarsk Krai prosecutor saying that the lack of substance to this charge shows that from now on, any physicist can be charged with being a spy, "Vremya MN" reported on 19 April. Meanwhile, the authorities announced that Danilov will be tried in a closed courtroom, Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
MOSCOW OFFICIALS WARN OF GROWING SPY THREAT. FSB spokesman General Aleksandr Zdanovich said in St. Petersburg on 18 April that foreign intelligence services have increased their efforts to collect and analyze information about Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" reported the same day that a draft law calling for criminal penalties against anyone divulging confidential government and insider economic information has been introduced in the Duma. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
FSB SAYS IT CAUGHT SIX TURKISH SPIES IN 2000. In an article in "Moskovskii Komsomolets" on 19 April, Federal Security Service (FSB) officials said that in 2000 they detained six Turkish spies working against Russia. Two of the six, the paper said, were involved with efforts to create Islamic and Turkic unions of Kurds, Cherkess, and Meskhetians in the north Caucasus. The article also suggested that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is behind these Turkish efforts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
INGUSHETIAN IDPS HOLD PROTEST RALLY. Between 5,000-10,000 Ingushetians congregated in Nazran on 21 April to protest the Russian leadership's failure to create conditions that would allow them to return to their homes in North Ossetia's Prigorodnii Raion from which they were forcibly expelled during the fighting in October 1992, Russian agencies reported. The participants accused the leadership of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya of deliberately sabotaging all agreements signed since then on facilitating the repatriation of the displaced persons. They called on President Putin to impose direct presidential rule in Prigorodnii Raion to enable them to return there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY MARKED. Yabloko leader Sergei Ivanenko called on his fellow deputies to mark with a minute of silence the memory of the Jewish victims of Nazism, Russian agencies reported on 19 April. Most agreed, but Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LPDR) head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that such a commemoration is "impermissible" and he asked "who will stand in memory of the 30 million Russians who were killed?" Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich criticized Zhirinovsky and other deputies for failing to stand for the minute of silence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
SKINHEADS ATTACK PEOPLE FROM CAUCASUS IN MOSCOW. Some 150 Russian skinheads attacked people from the Caucasus who were working in a Moscow market on 20 April, AP reported the next day. No one was injured sufficiently to require hospitalization, but 53 of the attackers were arrested. The attack took place on Adolf Hitler's birthday. Five of those involved have been charged, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
POST-1953 VICTIMS OF SOVIET TOTALITARIANISM SEEK REHABILITATION. A letter published in "Izvestiya" on 19 April said that most of those who suffered under Stalin have been rehabilitated but that virtually none of those who were repressed under Khrushchev, Brezhnev, or even Gorbachev have received similar treatment. While the latter victims were typically not sent to the camps or shot, they did suffer, and it is time for their suffering to be acknowledged, Sergei Matveev of Arkhangelsk wrote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
STROEV SAYS TERRORISM IN RUSSIA ROOTED IN COLLAPSE OF USSR. Speaking to an international conference in St. Petersburg on 18 April on combating terrorism, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that terrorism in Russia today has its roots in the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported. But he added that "this is history and something you can't change." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
CRIMINAL GROUPS SEEKING TO GAIN POLITICAL POWER. Deputy Interior Minister Yevgenii Solovev said in Moscow on 18 April that organized criminal groups now have effective control of almost 3,000 economic entities and that the leaders of these criminal groups are now seeking to translate economic power into political power. He also noted that the number of economic crimes in Russia rose from 211,000 in 1995 to 376,000 in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
PUTIN CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN AGAINST RACISTS... In the wake of a Moscow attack by skinhead nationalists against people from the Caucasus on 20 April, President Vladimir Putin on 23 April said that the government must combat the increasing number of such incidents, Russian and Western agencies reported. "For Russia, a multiethnic country," Putin said, such "negative, racially motivated acts" are "absolutely unacceptable." In the course of the incident, which Moscow newspapers called a pogrom, one Chechen was killed and many other people from the Caucasus injured. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
...AS FOREIGN STUDENTS TARGETED IN FURTHER ATTACKS IN VORONEZH. More than 100 foreign students convened an unsanctioned meeting on 20 April at the Voronezh Medical Academy to discuss their plans to demand that local authorities defend them against violent attacks, RFE/RL's Voronezh correspondent reported on 21 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
COSSACK COMMANDER DENIES ANTI-ARMENIAN MOOD IN KRASNODAR. Allegations about an anti-Armenian mood in the Russian Federation's Krasnodar Territory are an absolute provocation, Cossack Lieutenant General Gamlet Bagdasaryan, deputy chairman of the Armenian community in Sochi, told reporters in Yerevan on 17 April, "Snark" reported the same day. (MINELRES, 18 April)
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY TOWARD NORTH LAMBASTED. Addressing the fourth congress of the numerically small peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East, State Duma Deputy Chairman (Fatherland-All Russia) Artur Chilingarov declared that the federal program for the economic and social development of the small people has fallen apart, "Vremya MN" reported on 14 April. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 April)
DUGIN CREATES EURASIAN MOVEMENT. Aleksandr Dugin, who has written widely on Eurasianism, on 21 April held a founding congress of the Eurasia Public and Political Movement, ITAR-TASS reported. Dugin said that the Eurasian idea "is in line with the interests of all ethnic groups, of all cultures and peoples of Russia." Mufti Farid Salman, a Muslim leader, said that Eurasianism represents a fitting response to "the supporters of Satanic Wahhabism" who have sought to penetrate Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
MOST REGIONAL RELIGION LAWS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. According to an article in "Inostranets," No. 13, more than 30 of Russia's regions have their own laws on religion and freedom of conscience, and most of these acts violate the Russian Constitution. The paper called for the adoption of a federal law banning any discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
CHRISTIAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IMPRISONED. A 20-year-old Pentecostal Christian, Aleksandr Volkov, from the city of Novocheboksary in the Volga republic of Chuvashia, has been imprisoned for six months for refusing to perform military service, Keston News Service has learned. The Novocheboksary City Court found his Christian convictions "unproven" and sentenced him on 13 March. (Keston News Service, 19 April)
PENTECOSTAL CHURCH LIQUIDATED IN FAR EAST. On 5 April the Amursk town court liquidated the "Victory of Faith" Full Gospel Church, which has some 200 members, Keston News Service has learned. 11 daughter churches elsewhere in Khabarovsky Krai (5,300 miles east of Moscow) are also affected. Liquidation appears to be the culmination of local officials' efforts to restrict the activity of the church, which places a strong emphasis on missionary work. (Keston News Service, 17 April)
RUSSIAN PARENTS TAKE ACTIVE INTEREST IN CHILDREN'S SCHOOLING. More than four Russian parents out of five -- 82.6 percent -- meet with their children's teachers at least twice a year, according to the findings of a ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 20 April. And 58 percent of the parents said they like the schools their children attended, with only 23.7 percent saying that they do not. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
WHERE ARE THE GOOD TIMES? A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 19 April found that only 30 percent of Russians are now able to recall anything positive that has happened to them recently. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
SERBIAYUGOSLAV ARMY ADMITS KOSOVA WAR CRIMES. Belgrade's private B92 radio quoted army spokesman Svetozar Radisic as saying there were 24 cases in which soldiers committed war crimes during the 1998-1999 crackdown in Kosova, Reuters reported on 19 April. He added that the army has tried the individuals concerned and that some have already been punished. He did not elaborate. This is believed to be the first public admission by the army that some of its soldiers are guilty of having committed war crimes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
SLOVAKIAMORE ANTI-HUNGARIAN GRAFFITI IN KOSICE. Anti-Hungarian graffiti was again painted on the walls of a Hungarian school in Kosice, CTK reported on 20 April, citing a spokeswoman for the local police. The inscriptions read "Hungarians back across the Danube" and had a large "H" circled with a slash through it, meaning "no Hungarians." The graffiti was signed by an unknown organization calling itself "National Revival." The organization stated in a flyer that was left behind that it represents those who want to see a "definitive end to Hungarian expansionism" and protect the national interests and the national identity of Slovakia and the Slovaks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
ROMA ASYLUM SEEKERS IN BELGIUM ON THE RISE. Belgium has recorded an increase in the number of Slovak Roma asylum seekers since visa requirements were dropped in early April, the daily "Pravda," cited by CTK, reported on 21 April. It said several dozen Romany families have left for Belgium in the last 10 days. The daily said asylum requests by Slovak Roma also recently increased in Finland, Norway, and Denmark. The EU decided in March to resume visa-free travel permits for all membership candidates, although Romania must yet fulfill some conditions to benefit from the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
SLOVENIAAUSTRIA TO HELP. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told his Slovenian counterpart Janez Drnovsek in Graz that Austria will provide "support and expertise" for Slovenia in its quest to join the EU. Schuessel added, however, that there is still noticeable mistrust on both sides, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 20 April. Vienna's "Die Presse" wrote of "Vienna's arrogance and Slovenia's inferiority complex." Drnovsek stressed that Slovenia wants to join the EU by 2004. He referred in his remarks to "the Slovenian minority in Austria" but did not address his hosts' concerns regarding the deportation without compensation of German-speakers from Slovenia in the wake of World War II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
UKRAINEUKRAINE TO ASK U.S. FOR EXILED BODYGUARD'S EXTRADITION. The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office said on 19 April in Kyiv that it will ask the U.S. to extradite Mykola Melnychenko, a former bodyguard for President Leonid Kuchma who has been granted asylum by Washington, AP reported. Oleksiy Bahanets, the deputy state prosecutor, said "some U.S. officials are preventing the truth in the case from being established." He added that the Prosecutor-General's Office has prepared an appeal to the U.S. Justice Department requesting Melnychenko's extradition. Melnychenko alleges to have taped hours of conversations in Kuchma's office in which the president orders officials to deal with missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Melnychenko has been charged by the Prosecutor-General's Office with fraud and libel. Bahanets also said it is "absurd" to say that Gongadze's wife, who has also been granted asylum by the U.S., is being persecuted in Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
UZBEKISTANWOMEN PROTEST HIZB-UT-TAHRIR ARRESTS. Police in eastern Uzbekistan broke up a demonstration outside the Andijan regional administration's offices on 21 March by a group of women whose relatives had been convicted for distributing leaflets for the Islamic Hizb-ut-Tahrir party, which is banned in Uzbekistan. Protesters told Keston News Service that the police had arrested several demonstrators and taken them away, no one knew where. (Keston News Service, 18 April)
PRIME MINISTER MEETS TRANSYLVANIAN BISHOPS. Viktor Orban met in Budapest with bishops from Transylvania on 18 April and discussed the establishment of a Hungarian-language private university in Romania, Hungarian media reported on 19 April. Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said the establishment of the institution has already begun in the Transylvanian cities of Cluj, Oradea, Tirgu Mures, and Miercurea Ciuc. Some regulations have already been drafted and major investment projects have been implemented, Nemeth added. Orban also confirmed that Hungary fully supports Transylvanian churches' claims against the Romanian state for the return of properties confiscated from them during communist rule in Romania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
STATUS BILL RECEIVES BROAD SUPPORT. During a 19 April parliamentary debate on the so-called "status bill" that would provide benefits to ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries, most parliamentary parties expressed support for the bill, Hungarian media report. Only the opposition Free Democrats opposed the legislation, while the Socialist Party said it will submit amendments. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said the aim of the bill is to stop ethnic Hungarians' emigration to Hungary and to ensure better conditions for them in their homelands. According to Nemeth, some 25 percent of ethnic Hungarians abroad wish to settle in Hungary, and the rate might increase when Hungary becomes an EU member. By adopting the status bill Hungary would honor a "historical obligation," Nemeth concluded. The implementation of the bill will cost 9 billion forints ($30 million). A final vote in the parliament is scheduled for 19 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
OMBUDSMAN SAYS LAWS DO NOT PROTECT ROMA. The emigration of Romany families from Hungary who sought refugee status in France could have been prevented if Hungary had an anti-discrimination law, Ombudsman for National and Ethnic Minorities Jeno Kaltenbach told Reuters on 19 April. The Roma told the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that they left the Hungarian village of Zamoly after local authorities had torn down their homes, Kaltenbach said. "If we had anti-discrimination legislation [Zamoly's] mayor could have been punished," he added. A draft law banning discrimination, prepared by Kaltenbach, was submitted to parliament in October 2000, but according to Kaltenbach, "it soon fell victim of political wrangling among parties, ministries, and committees." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
NO END TO CHERNOBYL FALLOUT... Fifteen years ago, reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine exploded on 26 April, and Soviet officials kept quiet. Rain brought contamination to Belarus -- especially to Mogilev and Gomel -- whose border with Ukraine is 10 kilometers north of the plant. To this day, many in Belarus suffer the aftermath of this nuclear fallout, reports the "Toronto Star," "with what is often called Chernobyl AIDS" and a sharp increase in "stomach and intestinal diseases, heart disease, anemia, endemic goiter, vision problems, and cancer." Children, reports the paper, are at particular risk. "In the 11 years before the blast, there were 1,392 cases of thyroid cancer in the general population. In the 11-year period following, there were 5,449 cases, most of them children." ("Toronto Star," 23 April)
BELARUSYOUTH OPPOSITION LEADER ON TRIAL. Pavel Sevyarynets went on trial on 18 April after being charged with organizing an unauthorized march in Minsk on 25 March, Belapan reported. Sevyarynets, Youth Front leader, said "the regime has realized the danger of politically active youths and responds with draconian measures." He has spent the past 10 days in detention awaiting trial. He could face 15 days in jail if found guilty. Sevyarynets continued: "The words 'Malady Front' alone can put you in jail.... My organization takes it as a high honor." He added that his organization will be active in the run-up to the presidential election set for later this year and hopes to get some 1.5 million young people to vote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
HUNGARYCOURT DELAYS REGISTRATION OF SIMEON II MOVEMENT. The Sofia City Court on 20 April delayed registering the movement founded by former King Simeon II, "Monitor" and Reuters reported. The court accepted the documents for the movement's registration but refused to instantly rule on its legality. Reports say that, if the delay is prolonged, the movement might miss the 2 May deadline for registering with the Central Electoral Commission ahead of the elections scheduled for 17 June. The ruling could take as long as 30 days and will come into force only after its publication in Bulgaria's official "State Gazette," which could take an additional 7 days, in order to complete the process by which the commission can register the new party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
...BUT CLEANUP POTENTIAL IS AT HAND. In the first year after Chernobyl, Belarus spent 20 percent of its annual budget on cleanup, today only 5 percent, reports the "Toronto Star." But Belarus has the clean-up technology. Cesium 135, released into the air by the explosion, has a radioactive half-life of 2 million years, which can be reduced to just 2 days by shooting neutrons into it, according to the paper. "The nuclear research center in Minsk has the largest neutron generator in the world." It would cost about $500 billion for effective decontamination. ("Toronto Star," 23 April)
JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED. Twenty-two headstones in an ancient Jewish cemetery in Jaszkarajeno were knocked down and swastikas were painted on them, the MTI news agency reported on 21 April. Judit Pap, spokeswoman for the Pest County police, said the desecration took place over a long period of time, but was discovered only recently. The perpetrators are two 15-year-old local youths, who were joined by children as young as eight. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
END NOTEWHEN THERE IS NO OPPOSITION
By Paul Goble
Countries without a recognized political opposition are likely to find that the social and political space such groups normally occupy will increasingly be filled by extremists, according to an article in the 25 April "Izvestiya."
Its authors, Aleksandr Arkhangelsiy and Irina Podlesova, argue that even when such radicals appear to be marginal, they are likely to play a role far out of proportion to their numbers and poison the political system that gave them birth.
Entitled "Extremists are occupying the place of the absent opposition," the article notes further that Russia is currently experiencing the rise of extremists on the left and right who are unhappy with the current state of their society but who have no legitimate channels to express their views in the absence of a genuine opposition party.
Arkhangelskiy and Podlesova then discuss the ways in which the Russian government's response to such extremist groups -- employing psychiatric examinations and conducting closed judicial proceedings -- only compound the problem, further isolating people who might otherwise find a place in a genuine political opposition to the current government and its policies.
Among the examples the two authors give are the ongoing psychiatric examination at the Serbskiy Institute of a young man accused of involvement in Moscow explosions two years ago and the closed investigation of writer and National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov in the Lefortovo prison.
Precisely because these investigations are being conducted out of the public eye and because the two men involved, one on the far left and one on the far right, are viewed as marginal or even crazy, many in Russia or elsewhere are relatively unconcerned by this particular application of the state.
But examples of similar actions could be multiplied almost at will, the article implies, not only in Russia but in other post-communist countries as well. And the authors suggest, intolerance of a political opposition appears to be one of the hallmarks of many post-communist regimes.
Throughout history, governments have faced challenges from extremist groups and have used a variety of means to try to limit their influence. But those governments which do not tolerate the emergence and institutionalization of genuine opposition parties have typically faced greater problems than do others.
By equating opposition to particular policies with opposition to the regime or country as such, the historical record suggests, these governments unintentionally incubate extremist groups and alienate ever larger portions of the population.
But in adopting this strategy -- one inevitably justified by its authors in terms of the need to maintain stability or promote changes desired at home and abroad -- these governments unintentionally create problems for themselves both immediately and in the longer term.
Governments which function without a recognized political opposition and without a free media often appear to lose touch with their own people. And they thereby unwittingly help to create a situation in which the ranks of extremists may grow.
Initially, such extremists may appear to both the leaders and the broader society to be little more than unwanted nuisances. But if the regime does not allow the emergence of and more importantly the institutionalization of a genuine political opposition, one that is expected and allowed to challenge the current government and even seek to replace it, such extremists are likely to serve as magnets for others in society who may be disaffected.
And because the movements that form around such people are inevitably going to be colored by their attitudes, such new movements will be even more threatening to the prospects for democracy than anyone might have expected.
That is a lesson, the article suggests, that people in Russia and the other post-Soviet states need to take to heart before they become another example of it.