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(Un)Civil Societies Report: July 11, 2001

11 July 2001, Volume 2, Number 27
LAWYERS TO CHALLENGE RELEASE OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL DEFENDANTS. Lawyers representing the families of victims of the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings said in Yerevan on 27 June they will appeal the parliament's decision last week to amnesty six men on trial for their role in the killings, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The lawyers claim the decision to release the six men, who include three police officers who were on duty at the parliament building on the day of the shootings, was made at the behest of the Armenian leadership in an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

WIFE OF LUKASHENKA'S FORMER AIDE MAKES APPEAL OVER ALLEGED THREAT TO HER FAMILY. Halina Tsitsyankova, the wife of former Presidential Administrative Department head Ivan Tsitsyankou, has sent an open letter to "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," alleging that President Lukashenka ordered Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman to take revenge on Tsitsyankou by persecuting his family, the Charter-97 website reported. Tsitsyankou, who was fired at the end of 1999, recently gave an interview criticizing Lukashenka. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)

FORMER PREMIER TURNS DOWN LUKASHENKA'S INVITATION TO WATCH MILITARY PARADE. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir has rejected President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's invitation to jointly watch an Independence Day military parade in Minsk on 3 July, Belapan reported on 2 July. In what was widely believed to be a retaliatory move by Lukashenka against his former aide, Chyhir was arrested in 1999 and spent eight months in jail, his wife received a two-year suspended sentence, and his son was arrested earlier this year on charges of stealing cars and spare parts for them. "I think it is inadmissible to waste more than $1 million on a show while the country is in a deep economic crisis," Chyhir commented on the parade. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH JOINS LUKASHENKA IN APPEAL FOR TRILATERAL SLAVIC UNITY... In a village where the borders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine converge, Russian Patriarch Aleksii II and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 27 June called for the unity of the three Slavic and predominantly Orthodox nations, AP reported. Aleksii II's five-day journey through Belarus was seen by many commentators as a thinly veiled challenge to and protest against Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Ukraine. Polish media reported that Aleksii II and Lukashenka failed to gather impressive crowds, adding that the number of presidential bodyguards usually surpassed that of believers willing to see and listen to the Russian patriarch. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

...AND DECORATES KGB OFFICERS. During his visit to Belarus, Russian Patriarch Aleksii II also decorated several Belarusian KGB officers, including KGB Chairman Leanid Yeryn, with Russian Orthodox Church orders, Belapan reported on 27 June. According to an official announcement, the KGB officers obtained their decorations for their contributions to "spiritual revival, the preservation of interdenominational peace and harmony, and the strengthening of the spiritual foundations of society" in Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ONE-THIRD HAVE RETURNED. Kresimir Zubak, Bosnia's minister for human rights and refugee affairs, said in Sarajevo on 26 June that some 714,000 persons out of 2,200,000 who fled abroad during the 1992-1995 war have gone back to Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Of those remaining abroad, the largest group -- some 223,000 -- are in Serbia and Montenegro, while an additional 83,000 are in Croatia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)

MASS GRAVE FOUND OF SREBRENICA VICTIMS. Murat Hurtic, who heads a government exhumation team, told Reuters on 8 July that his workers have uncovered a mass grave of some 200 persons who fled the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre but were apparently later found and killed by Serbian forces. The grave is in Liplje, near Zvornik, in eastern Bosnia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

TWO TO BE EXTRADITED TO HAGUE. The government voted on 7 July to extradite two unnamed military officers to The Hague in accord with a request by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on a recent visit to Zagreb, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that the government is aware of its international obligation to cooperate with the tribunal. He also stressed that Croatia wants to leave what he called the "Balkan abyss" behind. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

FAR-RIGHT PARTY PROTESTS 'PERSECUTION.' Jan Kopal, chairman of the far-right National Social Bloc (NSB), on 30 June told CTK that he has asked Interior Minister Stanisav Gross to punish those ministry officials who refused to register his party, and has launched a complaint with the Supreme Court. Kopal said that in a democratic society "the law must protect the free competition of political forces." The NSB is also complaining about police action in Liberec, northern Bohemia, on 16 June, when five NSB members were detained after burning a portrait of President Havel. "This was no different from lighting a cigarette in public," Kopal said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

ROMA ATTACKED. A group of several young people aged between 15 and 17 attacked a Romany family in Uhersky Ostroh, southern Moravia, on 1 July and threatened to kill them, CTK reported. A spokesman for local police told the agency that although the youngsters broke into the Roma's house "no one has been physically assaulted." He added that "the investigation has not revealed any racial motive" behind the attack. He said the reason for the attack was "a quarrel" between a Rom and one of the attackers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

PRESIDENT REJECTS LAW ON CHURCHES. Lennart Meri refused to promulgate the recently adopted Churches and Congregations Act on 29 June, BNS reported. Before making the decision, Meri consulted with Justice Chancellor Allar Joks, while his advisers talked on freedom of religion with an expert from Tartu University. Meri noted that the Estonian Council of Churches opposed the law because it could prevent registration of traditional churches such as the Estonian Union of Seventh-Day Adventists. Meri did not mention the more important complaints against the law by the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. Leonti Morozlon, a representative of that church, praised the president's decision, but expressed regret that it is still not clear when the church will be able to be registered officially. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

ARMENIAN MINORITY DEMAND LOCAL OFFICIAL'S DISMISSAL. An unspecified number of Armenian residents of the southern Georgian region of Samtskhe-Djavakheti staged demonstrations on 30 June in the towns of Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe, Aspindza, Borjomi, and Ninotsminda and are collecting signatures on a petition addressed to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, demanding the dismissal of the region's governor, Gigla Baramidze, the daily "Akhali taoba" reported on 2 July. They accuse Baramidze of failing to take measures to improve the socioeconomic situation in the region. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

POLL SHOWS ONLY 6 PERCENT SUPPORT CURRENT POLICIES. A poll of 1,000 Georgian citizens in both urban and rural areas, conducted between 25 June and 2 July, shows that only 6 percent consider that the situation in the country is developing satisfactorily, Caucasus Press reported. Those 6 percent are mostly aged between 35-40 and have a higher than average income. Respondents listed as the most pressing problems facing the country corruption, poverty, unemployment, and political instability. Forty-six percent said Georgia should orient its policies towards Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

REBELS CAPTURE MORE VILLAGES. Heavy fighting erupted around the town of Tetovo on 1 July after UCK forces moved into the four nearby villages of Otunje, Varvara, Setloe, and Breznoe, forcing most villagers to leave, AP reported. Several ethnic Macedonians reportedly lived in the villages and were also forced out, some at gunpoint. One Macedonian soldier was killed when mortar shells hit a Macedonian position overlooking Tetovo. Fighting was also reported in some villages near the northwestern town of Kumanovo. Army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski said the Tetovo region had returned to "relative calm" by the morning of 2 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

ARE POLICE BEHIND 'DISAPPEARANCES'? The "International Herald Tribune" wrote on 28 June that Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and his police may be behind the recent unexplained disappearances of several ethnic Albanian community leaders. Interior Ministry officials said that they are investigating the cases in question. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

TEACHERS PROTEST HISTORY MANIPULATION INTENTION. Some 500 teachers demonstrated in Chisinau on 1 July to protest the authorities' intention to replace in schools and university curricula the teaching of the History of Romanians with "The History of Moldova," Romanian radio reported. According to the planned obligatory textbooks, the peoples of the two countries are historically different, as are the Romanian and Moldovan languages. This is precisely what Soviet-time "historiography" used to claim. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

COURT CONVICTS FORMER NAZI CAMP INMATE OF GENOCIDE. The regional court in Konin, western Poland, convicted 78-year-old Henryk Mania, a former inmate of the Nazi concentration camp at Chelmno, to eight years in prison for helping the Nazis to exterminate mainly Jewish prisoners at the camp in 1941-43, Polish media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

ATTACKS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW CONTINUE. President Ion Iliescu told journalists in Salzburg, Austria, where he is attending an international forum on Eastern Europe, that the Hungarian Status Law is "a diversionist, provocative, anti-democratic, and discriminatory document," Romanian television reported on 2 July. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana was quoted by MTI as saying that Romania "would have preferred to receive the recent letter from Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi before the Hungarian parliament approved the law, rather than after it." Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko told a UDMR leadership meeting in Targu Mures that "the crisis situation" triggered by the dispute "is over." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

PRESIDENT ATTACKS 'STALINIST THEORY' ON MOLDOVAN LANGUAGE, PEOPLE. Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 7 July said the theory claiming that "Moldovan" is a language different from Romanian and the two countries' peoples are different peoples is "a Stalinist theory" and "an artificial invention of those who serve the interests of the former Soviet Union," Romanian television reported. He said the theory is aimed at the "de-nationalizing Romanians." Iliescu said Moldova is "a second Romanian state" because 65 percent of its population is "of Romanian origin." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

POLL REVEALS 'CIVIC' GRASP OF NATIONHOOD. Two in three Romanians (66 percent) believe that the "Romanian nation is made up by all Romanian citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin," according to the CURS poll. Eleven percent are of the opinion that the "nation" is made up by those "born from Romanian parents and speaking the Romanian language," while 17 percent say that to belong to the Romanian nation one must be born of Romanian parents and also live in Romania proper. The "civic" grasp of nationhood is however somewhat in contradiction with answers to another question included in the survey: no less than 86 percent said political parties "must defend national identity." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

ORTHODOX CHURCH EXPLAINS POSITION ON SECURITATE FILES. The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church on 5 July said that its opposition to including priests among officials whose collaboration with the former communist secret police must be made public reflects "the defense of the Holy Mystery of Confession," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Synod said it does not rule out that "some individual priests" may have collaborated with the Securitate but rules out the idea that collaboration extended to revealing confessions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

1991 COUP LEADERS SAY PUTIN WORKS FOR THEIR ENDS. The organizers of the failed August 1991 coup gathered at the offices of the hard-line Russian nationalist newspaper "Patriot" on 4 July and said that President Vladimir Putin is working to achieve many of the goals they espoused, AP reported. Former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov said that "the last 10 years can be summed up in one word -- collapse," but that now Putin and his entourage "have begun to understand it." Former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov said Putin is "the most constructive leader of recent years." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

YAVLINSKY SAYS RUSSIA A 'DEFECTIVE' DEMOCRACY. In an article published in "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 26, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky argued that Russia now has a "defective" and "unstable" democracy which "is not supported by the majority of Russians." He further suggested that the Kremlin is trying to bring not only the media but all non-government organizations into a government-dominated "corporate" state. In such a situation, many Soviet-era phenomena are being restored, Yavlinsky said, including "the Soviet version of community" in place of civil society and "doublethink" among politicians and the population. He called for the promotion of both greater economic equality and democratic values. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

PUBLIC TRUST IN GOVERNMENT DECLINING. According to a ROMIR poll reported by on 30 June, the percentage of Russians saying that they trust their government has declined from 46.1 percent in March 2001 to 39.7 percent in June. Meanwhile, the percentage saying they have no confidence in the government has increased from 43.2 percent to 50.9 percent over the same period. At the same time, according to all polls, public trust in Putin remains close to 70 percent, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

IS THE STATE BUREAUCRACY GROWING OR SHRINKING? Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the Duma on 27 June that the number of state apparatus employees declined by 13-15 percent last year to 333,000, ITAR-TASS reported. But deputy Yegor Ligachev (Communist) said that his data shows a different trend: the number of government employees grew by 10,000 in the last year alone and that expenses for the apparatus have increased 900 percent since 1995. Meanwhile, Duma deputies proposed creating an Agency for Federal State Service that would oversee personnel issues of federal employees, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ONLY 5 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS. According to a poll taken by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 July, only 5 percent of Russians at present participate in the work of public organizations. Seventy-three percent said they have no interest in ever participating, the poll suggested. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

RUSSIA REMAINS AMONG MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES. "Izvestiya" reported on 28 June that the Russian bureaucracy remains so corrupt that some people are prepared to pay up to $2 million for positions in which they can make far more. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

PUTIN URGES ENVOYS TO ASSIST IN CREATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY. Following a 27 June meeting between President Putin, and presidential envoys Petr Latyshev (Urals federal district) and Leonid Drachevskii (Siberian federal district), the presidential press service reported that the officials discussed the envoys' task for the second half of 2001, according to the website on 28 June. Special attention was paid to the theme of defining the responsibilities of the center and regions and organs of self-rule. Putin also discussed with the envoys "their work on developing structures of a civil society in Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO LAW ON JUDGES. By a vote of 289 to eight, with one abstention, the Duma on 28 June approved on first reading a bill that will make it easier to discipline or remove judges and set retirement ages for most of them, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure remains controversial, with many members of the judicial establishment saying it will open the door to even greater official pressure on judges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

GOVERNMENT SEEKS MORE LIBERAL VISA REGIME. The government on 28 June approved a draft federal law that would allow Moscow to reciprocate with a non-visa regime whenever another country allows Russians to visit it without visas, Interfax reported. The measure would also allow Moscow to provide visa-free travel to Russia for humanitarian reasons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

FEDERATION COUNCIL PROVIDES PUTIN COVER ON NUCLEAR WASTES... The Federation Council on 29 June approved by a vote of 92 to 17 one of three bills governing the importation of spent nuclear fuel even though it did not have to take up any of them prior to their going to Putin for signature, Russian and Western agencies reported. But Council speaker Yegor Stroev said that Putin wanted the upper house of parliament to express its views on at least the one document, RIA-Novosti reported. The decision to bypass the Federation Council on an issue which polls suggest most Russians oppose triggered both political and popular outrage last week. By having the upper house go on record in support of the measure, Putin defuses what appeared to be an increasingly serious political problem for his administration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

...PASSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES. The Federation Council on 29 June voted 110 to three with 10 abstentions to approve the Kremlin-sponsored bill on political parties, Russian and Western agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

BUSINESS RUSSIA TO REGISTER AS PARTY... The Business Russia social organization has begun the procedure to register as a political party and will hold a founding congress in September 2001, deputy Igor Lisinenko told Interfax on 30 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

...AS WILL SPS. The SPS is slated to receive official registration as a political party on 3 July, Interfax reported on 2 July. The party's leaders said that they expect to have 80 local groups by the middle of July and some 30,000 members by the end of 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

ANPILOV SAYS LABOR RUSSIA WILL BECOME A PARTY. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 June, Viktor Anpilov, the leader of Labor Russia, said his group will be in a position to register as a political party under the terms of the new Political Parties Law. But he said that Putin may prevent his group's registration because of its opposition to him. "Yeltsin said that Volodya [Putin] is good. And everything that is good for Yeltsin is bad for Labor Russia," Anpilov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

TRADE UNION HEAD CALLS FOR WORKERS' POLICE TO FIGHT FOR BACK WAGES. Mikhail Shmakov, the chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, on 27 June proposed the creation of workers' police to put pressure on businessmen who fail to pay wages on time, ITAR-TASS reported. He also called for the use of strikes, marches, and "even the blocking of roads" to get the attention of business and the state. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

CLAIMS ABOUT TOBIN SAID BASELESS. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said on 27 June that American exchange student John Tobin, who is in a Russian prison after his conviction on drug charges, was never an agent of the bureau, as a Russian biologist has claimed, AP reported on 27 June. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Department of Corrections, where Tobin was said to have met with the imprisoned Russian scientist in 1997-98, said that Tobin had never been there, adding that a certain Dmitrii Kuznetsov had been incarcerated there at that time for a larceny conviction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

SPY MANIA MAY HAVE A DOWNSIDE. The spy mania in Russian society today has allowed the security services to act in ways they have not been able to since before the demise of the USSR, "Vremya novostei" reported on 27 June. That is because they are easily able to convince the public that any charges they bring are true. But they may be losing one important supporter, namely the president. The paper cited Putin's recent observation that "both the Russian and U.S. secret services are performing badly. They are not doing anything interesting. They are only interfering. Their main activity is to inform the political authorities, but I believe that they are doing very little to neutralize real threats. The Western security services call this 'making waves.' This expression can be applied to our secret services as well." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

PUTIN'S CLOSEST FRIENDS ARE LONGTIME FSB EMPLOYEES. According to an article in "Novaya gazeta" on 2 July, three Soviet intelligence service veterans -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, and FSB Deputy Director Yuri Zaostrovtsev -- are Putin's closest and most loyal confidants. But if Ivanov and Patrushev are well-known figures, Zaostrovtsev is not. He remains in the shadow, the paper said, but performs some key functions for the president. Zaostrovtsev is in charge of economic security and counterintelligence and coordinated all law enforcement actions against Media-MOST. He is also in charge of battling capital flight, particularly via Gazprom. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

RUSSIANS NEED 'PRAIVESI.' Boris Gruzd, a member of the Russian Lawyers' Committee in Defense of Human Rights, responded to a letter in "Izvestiya" on 30 June by observing that Russian democracy needs "privacy," a concept for which there is no single Russian word. At the same time, he said every individual's rights to privacy must take into account the rights of society and other individuals to information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

MIRONOV WANTS HUMAN RIGHTS COURSES IN ARMY... Human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov has asked Prime Minister Kasyanov to help develop a program to provide training in human rights law for soldiers, Interfax reported on 3 July. Mironov said that many of the violations of human rights in Chechnya reflect soldiers' inadequate understanding of human rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

...AND OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN CHECHNYA. Oleg Mironov, the Russian human rights ombudsman, on 28 June confirmed his willingness to serve as an intermediary in possible talks between Moscow and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Kremlin officials have repeatedly said Maskhadov is not an acceptable negotiating partner. At the same time, Mironov said that it is essential that federal forces do not violate the constitutional and human rights of residents of Chechnya, regardless of their place of residence or nationality, the news service added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS MISSPENDING IN CHECHNYA. The Audit Chamber has identified 155 million rubles ($5 million) in misspending by the Russian military in Chechnya, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 June. That is approximately one percent of the total amount of money allocated to the North Caucasus Military District. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

A MEASURE OF THE IMPACT OF THE CHECHEN CONFLICT. Aleksandr Iskorotsinskii, the military commissar for the city of Noginsk in Moscow Oblast, said on 2 July that approximately 230 unidentified soldiers who died in operations in Chechnya are buried in his district alone, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

MOSCOW REJECTS OSCE CALL FOR TALKS WITH CHECHEN LEADERS. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 6 July that a proposal by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a political dialogue between Moscow and Chechen leaders is unacceptable. He said that "there is no other way but for the militants to surrender arms, give themselves up to the court, repent for what they have done, and then await judgment." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

A FLURRY OF POLL RESULTS. Eighty percent of Russians believe that the death penalty is appropriate for some crimes, according to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 5 July. The same agency also found that 77 percent of Russians do not condemn those of their compatriots who have left to live in other countries. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by and reported by Interfax on 4 July, only 20 percent of Russians said that they would prefer to return to Soviet socialism, with 48 percent saying they back more reforms. That polling agency also found that 82 percent of Russians would like to have advertising limited on television and in the mass media. A VTsIOM poll found that 69 percent of Russians believe that state funds should be spent in the first instance on health rather than defense or culture, Interfax reported on 3 July. That agency also found that 62 percent of Russians back the idea of money bounties to be paid to those who capture or kill Chechen militants, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

PARDON COMMISSION SET TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS. Anatolii Pristavkin, the chairman of the Presidential Pardons Commission, said on 27 June that his organization has suspended operation and is likely to be disbanded because many law-enforcement officials oppose the commission's work, and because Putin has granted so few pardons since becoming president, Interfax reported on 27 June. Meanwhile, Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Western reporters that she has information that the Justice Ministry wants Putin to replace the public figures on the commission with more pliable state officials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

PUTIN'S END TO PARDONS DENOUNCED. The "For Human Rights" movement on 2 July released a statement denouncing Putin's nearly complete suspension of pardons and saying that he is attempting to suppress post-Soviet democratic institutions, AP reported. The statement added that "the style of rule of President Putin has again made itself quite obvious: unabashed harshness, favoring the base instincts of the masses and consistent replacement of the existing institutions of civil society with bureaucratic ones." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

PUTIN SAYS STATE MUST HELP YOUTH 'EXPRESS THEMSELVES'... In a message on Youth Day on 27 June, President Putin said that the successes, victories, and achievements of young people "will become Russia's success and strengthen its national dignity and authority," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "the most important task of the state" is to "let young people fully express themselves, find their place in life and their vocations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

...EXPANDS ASSISTANCE TO HANDICAPPED. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said on 27 June that Putin has issued a decree increasing by 100 to 120 rubles a month support payments to handicapped children, handicapped adults, and those who care for them, ITAR-TASS reported. Matvienko acknowledged that the increases are small, but said that "it is impossible to do everything at once." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

47 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS OPPOSE BUYING AND SELLING OF LAND. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 28 June, 47 percent of Russians are against the buying and selling of land, 41 percent are prepared to allow it with certain restrictions, and only 7 percent are in favor of allowing the free purchase and sale of real estate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

RUSSIAN RIVERS HAZARDOUS TO HEALTH. Oil and chemical spills, the dumping of untreated human waste, and aging sewage-treatment facilities have made many Russian rivers, including the Severnaya Dvina and the Don, dangerous to the health of people living nearby, according to an article in "Izvestiya" on 28 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

HIV INFECTIONS UP 40,000 IN 2000. Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko told the United Nations meeting on AIDS that Russia now has 115,000 registered HIV cases, 40,000 more than a year ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June. He said that new infections are especially frequent among the young and that "today Russia is losing a generation" of young people as a result. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

REGIONAL JUSTICE DEPARTMENTS LARGELY FOLLOW MILD REREGISTRATION POLICY. Keston News Service visited three Russian provinces with varying climates for religious liberty -- conservative Belgorod, tolerant Karelia and relatively liberal Kursk -- to assess the results of the Ministry of Justice's policy on reregistration of religious organizations. With a few exceptions, it seems that most organizations which submitted documents have been reregistered. Liquidation proceedings against functioning organizations which prefer to retain their status as legal persons, such as Victory of Faith Full Gospel Church in Khabarovsky Krai and the Salvation Army in Moscow City, appear to be a rarity. In the Moscow city department of justice, only 10 percent of the 198 organizations which failed to reregister in the capital submitted applications and a further 449 were reregistered. According to figures in the religious affairs newspaper "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii" on 11 April, the department issued 248 formal refusals. The assistant head of the department for registration of religious organizations in the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice pointed out on 21 June that 92 percent of Catholic, 90 percent of Muslim, 97 percent of Jewish, and 87 percent of Protestant organizations have been reregistered, and claimed that most of those now facing liquidation have either been unable to produce appropriate documentation or are defunct. (Keston News Service, 5 July)

MOSCOW SAID TO WANT SINGLE MUSLIM ORGANIZATION. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 12, the Kremlin wants to establish a single Muslim administrative body to supervise all Muslim communities in Russia, and Putin went to Ufa on 10 June at least in part to "interview" Talgat Tadzhuddin, who heads one of the Muslim boards as a possible candidate to head such a body. But the supplement suggested that Tadzhuddin has too many opponents within the Muslim community to become a credible leader of all Russian Muslims. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

TOP MUSLIM LEADERS PROFILED. The "Nezavisimaya gazeta" supplement "Figury i litsa," No. 12, published extensive profiles of Talgat Tadzhuddin, the chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims, and Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Central and European Region of Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

ISLAMIC EXTREMISM SAID THREATENING RUSSIAN ISLAM. Participants at an international conference in Moscow last week on "The Islamic Threat and the Threat to Islam" said that extremist tendencies such as Wahhabism threaten Russian Islam, and that most mullahs lack the understanding necessary to combat them, "Vremya MN" reported on 29 June. Most of the participants, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day, argued that Wahhabism is "an instrument of the United States in its struggle with Islam." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

PATRIARCHATE WELCOMES ESTONIAN PRESIDENT'S DECISION. The Moscow patriarchate said it is pleased by the decision of Estonian President Lennart Meri not to promulgate a bill adopted by his country's parliament that would have prevented the Russian Orthodox Church from registering in Estonia, Interfax reported on 2 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

ORTHODOX CHURCH TO BE BUILT AT PACIFIC FLEET HQ. The commander of Russia's Pacific Fleet has agreed to the construction of an Orthodox church next to the fleet's headquarters, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 2 July. Bishop Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primore thanked the navy for this decision and said it will help remind everyone of Russian traditions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

13,000 ORTHODOX CHURCHES BUILT, REBUILT IN LAST DECADE. Patriarch Aleksii II said on 29 June that more than 13,000 Orthodox churches have been built, rebuilt or restored over the last decade, Interfax reported. Aleksii said that this dramatic recovery from the Soviet period reflects an upsurge in popular belief rather than the work of the church hierarchy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

YAROSLAVL RESIDENTS PROTEST CONSTRUCTION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESS TEMPLE. Residents of Tutaeva in Yaroslavl Oblast on 4 July demonstrated against the provision of land for the construction of a Jehovah's Witness temple, Interfax-Northwest reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES ESTONIA, LATVIA ON MINORITIES. In his interview published in "Pravda" on 29 June, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that what he called the acute humanitarian situation in Estonia and Latvia is "constantly in the focus of our attention," ITAR-TASS reported. "One cannot regard as normal a situation when one-third of a country's population has no citizenship, is limited to the right of education in its mother tongue, and is being dislodged to the sidelines of social and political life," Ivanov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

DEPUTIES DIVIDED ON MEANING OF NATIONAL CULTURAL AUTONOMY. The Duma on 27 June overwhelmingly approved on first reading a measure to allow a particular ethnic community to establish only one national-cultural autonomy in any given region, Interfax reported. Deputies differed widely in their interpretations. Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the measure represents a "hidden attempt" to expand the size of the national republics. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputy Yulii Rybakov, in contrast, said that national cultural autonomy arrangements are directed at "liquidating" the national republics within the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ANTI-CHECHEN PREJUDICES BEHIND POLICE ACTION IN TVER. An article in "Izvestiya" on 27 June reports that police in Tver Oblast sent 150 people to investigate a man just because he was from the North Caucasus. The police burst into his house, held the man and his family at gunpoint, but found no weapons. Nonetheless, a senior police official told the man: "We killed you in Chechnya, and we will kill you here." The man against whom all these actions were launched moved to Tver in 1983. Prosecutors justified the action by saying that some Chechen truck drivers have resisted police in the past. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

RUSSIAN NATIONALISTS DENIED MOSCOW DEMO PERMIT. Officials in Moscow's central administrative district refused to permit leaders of the organization "The Russian Project for 'Great Russia'" to hold a meeting and march on 27 June, Interfax reported. But some in the group, which calls for promoting the interests of the Russian people above all others, assembled anyway, the news service said; they dispersed at police request. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

MOSCOW SEEKS TO CONTROL ILLEGAL RESIDENTS. Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev said that there are an estimated 600,000-800,000 illegal residents in the Russian capital and that the authorities are trying to reduce that number by cooperating with federal authorities and setting up an experimental migration control point, Interfax reported on 28 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

SCIENTOLOGY LEADER IN KHABAROVSK SENTENCED TO PRISON. Olga Ukhova, director of the Dianetics scientology center in Khabarovsk, was sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering and illegal business activities, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. The case lasted over a year, and prosecutors suggested, in the words of the news agency, that "the scientology center did not limit itself to 'enlightenment,' but also impaired people morally, materially, and physically." Moscow's scientology center was closed in 1998 by court order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ANNULS 2000 AMNESTY. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Duma exceeded its authority in declaring and then rescinding an amnesty in connection with the 55th anniversary of the victory in World War II, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 July. The court added that the amnesty and then its revocation by the Duma violated the equal protection provisions of the Russian Constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

CRIME UP 5 PERCENT IN LAST YEAR. Officials of the Interior Ministry told Interfax on 28 June that some 1.3 million crimes were registered during the first half of 2001, some 5 percent more than during the same period in 2000. The officials said that some 72 percent of these crimes have been solved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

HALF OF ALL CRIMES IN RUSSIA REMAIN UNREGISTERED. In an article published in "Vremya MN" on 6 July, Lev Ivanov, an advisor to one of the members of the Constitutional Court, said that efforts by the police to make themselves look effective have created a situation in which the police register only half of all crimes committed. Ivanov said that there were approximately 22 million crimes committed in Russia in 2000, but only 11 million were included in police reports. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

PRISTAVKIN CALLS FOR OVERCOMING 'GULAG TRADITIONS.' Anatolii Pristavkin, the chairman of the Presidential Pardons Commission, said that he hopes that reform of the judicial system will allow major cuts in the number of people now incarcerated in Russia. He noted that in pre-1917 Russia, which had roughly the same population and the same crime rate as Russia does now, there were only 140,000 people in prison, compared to the more than 1 million in Russian prisons and detention facilities today. He said Russians must overcome the "gulag traditions" of incarcerating everyone found guilty of a crime. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

JUSTICE MINISTER DEFENDS KEEPING CRIMINALS IN PRISON. In an interview published in "Trud" on 29 June, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said that the number of people incarcerated in Russia is declining, but that cutting that number by pardons is likely to lead to mistakes. He said that many of those who have been released in recent years have gone back to a life of crime. Consequently, society has an interest in keeping them locked up. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

30,000 DRAFTEES REFUSE TO SERVE. Major General Yuri Smetana, the deputy chief of staff of the Moscow military district, said on 2 July that 30,000 young men refused to serve when they were called up this spring. Interfax reported. That represented approximately 1.4 percent of the age cohort, he said. But one group that now can serve for the first time, "Itogi" reported on 26 June, are holders of kandidat degrees; they had been prohibited from serving. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS DRAFT QUOTA MET. General Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chief of staff in charge of manpower, told RTR television on 30 June that the army met its draft quota this spring, inducting some 187,995 new soldiers, Reuters reported. He said that draft quotas will fall as the army moves toward becoming an all-professional force. Putilin also said that none of those drafted will be sent to Chechnya or other "hot spots" until they have received at least six months of training. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

SCHOOL ENROLLMENTS SEEN FALLING 30 PERCENT BY 2010. According to a working commission of the State Council, total enrollment in Russian schools in 2008-2010 will be 30 percent lower than it was in 1999, Interfax reported on 3 July. The commission said this reflects the country's demographic difficulties. The commission also noted that half of all Russian schools lack basic services, including central heating and lunchrooms, and that there is only one computer for every 500 students in Russian schools and less than one school in 50 is connected to the Internet. The commission has decided that the federal government is to assume full responsibility for financing the educational system, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. On 5 July, Prime Minister Kasyanov announced that the federal program "Electronic Russia" will seek to dramatically expand computer use by Russians over the next five year, Russian news agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

DOZENS OF BODIES FOUND IN MASS GRAVES. Serbian district judge Milorad Momcilovic said on 29 June that the bodies of 74 men believed to be Kosovar Albanians have been discovered in two mass graves in Petrovo Selo in eastern Serbia, and more bodies may still be found, AFP reported. The judge said many of the corpses had bullet wounds. Officials from the UN war crimes tribunal are supervising the site, which was discovered at the beginning of June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

THREE MORE INDICTED SERBS SENT TO HAGUE? Peacekeepers arrested two leaders of the former Croatian Serb para-state and sent them to The Hague for trial for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Banja Luka on 28 June, quoting Beta. Milan Martic, a former civilian leader of the Republika Srpska Krajina, and military commander Mile Mrksic arrived in The Hague from Tuzla. They were joined by fellow indictee Dusan Knezevic from Prijedor. Hina later quoted Florence Hartmann, a spokeswoman for Del Ponte, as saying that the men have not arrived in The Hague. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

ROMANY SPOKESMAN WELCOMES HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW. Alexander Patkolo, chairman of the Romany Intelligentsia of Slovakia organization, on 29 June told the daily "Novy den" that most Slovak Roma welcome the approval by the Hungarian parliament on 19 June of the Status Law that grants ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries privileges in Hungary. He said that in anticipation that the law would be passed, many Roma declared their nationality as Hungarian in the May census, hoping the Status Bill will help them in face of extreme poverty, TASR reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

CONSULTATIONS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW INITIATED. The cabinet on 3 July empowered Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo to initiate consultations with his Hungarian counterpart Zsolt Nemeth over the Status Law approved by the Hungarian government last month, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. Mediafax cited Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Horvath Gabor as telling daily "Magyar Hirlap" that Budapest "welcomes Bratislava's gesture" and that Slovakia "is not sending messages via the media, but has properly asked for consultations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

POPE BEATIFIES SOVIET-ERA MARTYRS BEFORE OVER 1 MILLION FAITHFUL... Pope John Paul II on 26 June beatified 27 Ukrainian Greek Catholics (Uniates), most of whom were killed by Soviet secret police, world agencies reported. The beatification took place at a hippodrome near Lviv before a crowd of over 1 million people. In his homily during an Eastern-rite Mass, the pope called for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. "During the last centuries, too many stereotypic ways of thinking, too much mutual resentment, and too much intolerance have accumulated. The only way to clear the path is to forget the past, ask forgiveness of one another, and forgive one another for the wounds inflicted and received," AP quoted the pontiff as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)

...URGES YOUNG UKRAINIANS TO BUILD PROSPEROUS NATION... The previous day, speaking to some 300,000 young people in Lviv, the pope urged them not to "go from the slavery of the communist regime to the slavery of consumerism." He also touched upon the issue of emigration, stressing that young people must not be attracted by illusions of an "easy life" abroad. "You are needed here, ready to make your contribution to improving the social, cultural, economic, and political situation of your own country," Reuters quoted the pope as saying. The meeting took place under a torrential rain, and the pope interrupted his address by singing a Polish folk song "Rain, rain, go away" and joking, "It's raining, so children will grow." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)

...AND ENDS VISIT. "My hope is that Ukraine will be able fully to become a part of the Europe which will take in the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Urals," Pope John Paul II said in his farewell speech on 27 June. "Your Holiness' visit to Ukraine obviously proved to the world that Ukraine is an integral and natural part of European society," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said to the pontiff during a farewell ceremony at the Lviv airport. "To you, land of Ukraine, I renew my wish for prosperity and peace. Goodbye Ukraine," AP quoted the pope upon his departure to Rome. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ORTHODOX BROTHERHOOD DENIED REGISTRATION. Since 1997, the Orthodox Brotherhood of All Saints in Donetsk has battled unsuccessfully to register. Its leader told Keston News Service that the authorities have never given any sound explanation for the refusals. The head of Donetsk's Department for Religious Affairs told Keston that its 26-year-old leader is 'too young' to lead this group and that the group cannot be registered independently of any of the three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. Ilyin took his case in August 1998 to the European Commission of Human Rights, but the complaint was rejected on procedural grounds. Ukrainian laws consider the activity of any unregistered organization, such as preaching and distributing literature, to be violations of the law. Organizers are subject to fines. (Keston News Service, 9 July)

PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMNESTY FOR 35,000 CONVICTS. The parliament on 5 July passed an amnesty bill providing for the release of some 35,000 convicts from prison, Interfax reported. The bill, which applies mainly to women and those convicted of non-violent crimes, was adopted ahead of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's declaration of independence on 24 August. According to official data, there are some 227,000 prisoners in Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DIES IN DETENTION. The family of human rights activist and former parliament deputy Shovriq Ruzimorodov was informed on 7 July of his death in detention. He is believed to have been tortured. Ruzimorodov was detained by police on 15 June at his home in Kashkadarya Oblast. Police claimed to have found ammunition and leaflets propagating the banned Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party during a subsequent search of his home. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

HOW MANY PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE? The Uzbek human rights community assesses that there about 7,000 possible political prisoners in Uzbekistan, most are Muslims, suspected by the government of being alleged or potential members of the independent Islamic movement. Human rights monitors have documented 1,400 such cases. During the past three years, reportedly over 40 political prisoners were tortured to death. (Central Asian Human Rights Information Network, 7 July)

PRESIDENT DECREES INCREASE IN PENSIONS, MINIMUM WAGE. Islam Karimov has issued a decree raising pensions and budget sector wages by an average of 40 percent beginning on 1 August, Interfax reported on 2 July. The minimum monthly wage will rise to 3,450 soms ($9.1) and pensions to 6,780 soms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL CORRUPTION PERCEPTION INDEX. Transparency International on 27 June issued its 2001 index on the level of corruption in 91 countries. Finland, with a rating of 9.9, was deemed the least corrupt, followed by Denmark and New Zealand. Bangladesh, with a rating of 0.4, was the most corrupt. Estonia was still deemed the least corrupt state in Central and Eastern Europe with a rating of 5.6 even though it slipped from 27th place in 2000 to 28th place overall this year. Lithuania, with a rating of 4.8, rose from 43-47th place to 38th. Meanwhile, Latvia fell from 57th to 59th place with a rating of 3.4. The ratings of other former communist countries were Hungary (5.3), Slovenia (5.2), Poland (4.1), and Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Czech Republic (all with 3.9), the Slovak Republic (3.7), Moldova (3.1), Romania (2.8), Kazakhstan (2.7), Uzbekistan (2.7), Russia (2.3), Ukraine (2.1), and Azerbaijan (2.0). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)