25 July 2001, Volume
MILITARY PROSECUTOR REJECTS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSES.
At a 19 July meeting with members of the presidential Human Rights Commission, Armenia's chief military prosecutor, Gagik Djahangirian, denied claims by the commission linking him to the brutal mistreatment of servicemen in military police custody, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said delinquent soldiers could only have been beaten in their respective units, but not on premises subordinate to his agency. Djahangirian further denied that military prosecutors demanded a large bribe from a Defense Ministry official in return for shelving a criminal case against him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
OPPOSITION PARTY ORDERED TO VACATE HEADQUARTERS.
The Economic Development Ministry has ordered the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party to vacate within five days the premises it has long occupied on the outskirts of Baku, Turan reported on 17 July. The ministry claims that the lease on that building has expired, and it has offered the party alternative accommodation nearby. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)OPPOSITION CONDEMNS SENTENCES ON WAR INVALIDS.
Opposition parties and human rights groups in Azerbaijan have unanimously denounced as "politically motivated" the jail sentences handed down on 19 July on Karabakh war invalids who clashed with police during a February hunger strike to demand increased pensions and allowances, Turan reported on 19 July. Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yusnusova commented that "it seems to be more important to the government to hold on to power by means of repressions, rather than to fulfill its commitments to the Council of Europe." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)OPPOSITION LEADER PROTESTS IMMINENT EVICTION.
Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov told a press conference in Baku on 19 July that the demand that AMIP vacate its present headquarters is aimed at preventing the party from functioning, Turan reported. He said the alternative premises the party has been offered are unsuitable, but that he would be prepared to move into the present headquarters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party after that organization moves to the former Justice Ministry building. He said AMIP may resort to legal action if official pressure continues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
WIVES OF OPPOSITION FIGURES APPEAL FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT.
The wives of Henadz Karpenka, Andrey Klimau, Anatol Krasouski, and Dzmitry Zavadski on 19 July spoke to Belarusian journalists over a video link from Washington, D.C., in an attempt to rally international support and press President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime to reveal the truth about their husbands' fates, AP and Belapan reported. Karpenka died in a Minsk hospital in April 1999 under unclear circumstances; Klimau has been imprisoned for three years in a case that was widely seen as an act of revenge by Lukashenka on his political opponent; Zavadski went missing in July 2000; Krasouski disappeared in September 1999, together with opposition leader Viktar Hanchar. Lyudmila Karpenka said the four wives are making the appearance together "because in our country nothing can be done alone. We decided that world opinion must pay attention to the political repression that exists in our country." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)U.S. DEPARTMENT FINDS ALLEGATIONS OF DEATH SQUAD 'CREDIBLE'...
U.S. State Department spokesmen Charles Hunter and Philip Reeker have evaluated as "credible" revelations by two former Belarusian investigators, Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak, on the existence of a government-organized death squad in Belarus responsible for the murders of prominent opposition figures. "The two investigators have made detailed and credible revelations about a Lukashenka regime death squad that's reportedly responsible for up to 30 murders," Hunter said on 17 July. "The United States takes these allegations very seriously and calls on the Belarusian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation," Reeker said the next day. Petrushkevich and Sluchak are now in the U.S., where they have reportedly been granted political asylum. Belarusian trade union leader Uladzimir Hancharyk recently publicized documents supporting their death squad allegations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)...WHILE LUKASHENKA TELLS WASHINGTON TO MIND ITS OWN BUSINESS.
"As regards the U.S. State Department's [comments on Petrushkevich's and Sluchak's claims], I would advise [them] to mind their own business. I think they should not meddle in problems they don't understand," Belarusian Television quoted President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying on 18 July. Lukashenka pledged "to react in an appropriate way in the near future" to the death squad allegations, which he said he sees as the opposition's efforts to discredit him in the presidential election campaign. He noted that the recent U.S. trip of the wives of disappeared Belarusian opposition figures and the letter they sent to his own wife and mother over the disappearances is only a "fuss," adding: "It is a predetermined losing affair for me to step into this chaos, into this fuss." Belarusian Television broadcast Lukashenka's comments without explaining the nature of Petrushkevich's and Sluchak's allegations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)OSCE URGES MINSK TO INVITE INTERNATIONAL ELECTION MONITORS.
Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, said on 18 July that OSCE Permanent Council Chairman Liviu Bota has called on Belarusian authorities to invite international observers for the 9 September presidential elections, Belapan reported. Wieck added that the OSCE wants to send to Belarus 14 long-term observers, whose mandate will begin six weeks before the election, and some 150 short-term observers through the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Meanwhile, Belarusian Television reported on 18 July that a delegation of an organization named the Association of the Organizers of Elections in Central and East European Countries has already arrived in Minsk, thus inaugurating the process of international monitoring of Belarus's presidential ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)PRESIDENTIAL CONTESTANTS PICK SINGLE CHALLENGER TO LUKASHENKA.
Four politicians supported by the Belarusian opposition -- Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski -- said on 21 July that they will withdraw from the presidential race and form a united campaign behind Uladzimir Hancharyk, the head of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus, Belapan reported. The five complied with their pledge to propose a single candidate from a broad coalition of democratic and opposition forces in a bid to oust dictatorial President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission said the same day that, according to "preliminary data," only four aspirants out of 22 -- Lukashenka, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, and Syarhey Haydukevich -- managed to collect 100,000 signatures required for the registration as presidential candidates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)
HUNDREDS OF ROMA SEEK ASYLUM IN NORWAY.
More than 900 Bulgarian Roma have sought political asylum in Norway over the last several months, BTA reported on 19 July. Norwegian Ambassador to Bulgaria Arnt Rindal said 169 of the requests have been rejected and those people will be sent back to Bulgaria on 22 July; some 200 others have also withdrawn their applications... ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
ROMA TO SET UP PATROLS FOR SELF-PROTECTION.
In reaction to a recent attack on a group of Roma by right-wing youths, Roma in Ostrava, north Moravia, are planning to organize patrols for their own protection, CTK reported on 18 July, citing "Mlada fronta Dnes." The police say the Roma have no reason to set up self-defense patrols. "The police can handle extremism. We clear up to 100 percent of cases," a police spokesman said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)
PARLIAMENT OPPOSITION APPEALS TO PRESIDENT TO SCHEDULE LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Opposition parliament factions on 19 July appealed to President Eduard Shevardnadze to set a date for long overdue local elections, Caucasus Press reported. The spring parliament session ended last month without agreement over the optimum procedure for selecting heads of district, city, and regional councils. The opposition accused the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) of deliberately postponing adoption of new laws on local government in a bid to retain power and as a way to falsify future election outcomes. An emergency 19 July parliament session to debate draft legislation on local self-government could not take place due to lack of a quorum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
BORDER GUARDS 'NOT JUSTIFIED' IN PREVENTING OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS FROM LEAVING COUNTRY.
In a press release dated 18 July, the Kazakh National Security Committee said the border guards who refused to allow two Kazakh opposition figures to board a plane for the U.S. at Almaty airport three days earlier had no grounds for doing so, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The border guards are subordinate to the National Security Committee. Amirzhan Qosanov, a leading member of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, and Ermurat Bapi, the editor of the opposition newspaper "Sol-Dat," had planned to testify at U.S. Senate hearings on 18 July. They told Interfax on 16 July that the security officials who prevented them from boarding the plane said they were acting on instructions from the National Security Committee. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)DIPLOMATS SUBPOENA FORMER PREMIER DURING CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS.
Kazakh diplomats issued a subpoena to former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin during U.S. Congressional hearings on 18 July on the human rights situation in Central Asia, AFX News reported. Kazakh Embassy officials subsequently apologized for doing so, claiming that they do not know either Kazhegeldin's legal address in the U.S. or who his legal representative is. One week earlier, Deputy Interior Minister Beksultan Sarkesov told journalists that a summons to Kazhegeldin to return to Kazakhstan and face criminal charges would be published in the media, as his whereabouts are unknown. On 19 July, Interior Ministry spokesman Nurtai Agubaev said Kazhegeldin may be tried in absentia, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER...
Kyrgyz prosecutors have brought new charges against former vice president and opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 17 July. He is accused of embezzling some $200,000 as governor of Chu Oblast in 1993-1997 and $435,000 in 1998-1999 as mayor of Bishkek. Proceedings were brought against Kulov in 1997 in connection with the accusation on his activities in Chu Oblast, but were dropped after oblast officials appealed to the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power as national security minister in 1997-1998. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)...OPPOSITION PARTIES DEPLORE COURT RULING.
The opposition Ar-Namys party issued a statement in Bishkek on 20 July condemning as politically motivated the Supreme Court's rejection the previous day of Ar-Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov's appeal against the seven-year prison term to which he was sentenced in January, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ata-Meken Party Chairman Omurbek Tekebaev similarly criticized the court's decision. He told RFE/RL the entire judicial system in Kyrgyzstan is dependent on the government. Aziza Abdrasulova of the Erkindik (Liberty) Party said she thinks the Kyrgyz leadership wants to exclude Kulov from national politics "forever." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)OPPOSITION LEADER HOSPITALIZED.
Erkindik Party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev was taken on 20 July from the prison camp where he is serving a six-year sentence to a prison hospital near Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. It is not clear what health problems he is suffering from. Turgunaliev, 59, was sentenced last September on what are believed to be fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)DETAINED HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST RELEASED.
Noomanjan Arkabaev, Osh Oblast coordinator for the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, was released on 18 July after 21 days in detention, RFE/RL reported. Criminal charges against him have not been dropped, however. He is accused of instigating public disorder and the overthrow of the constitutional system. Those charges are based on 42 leaflets found during a search of his office calling for President Akaev's resignation. Arkabaev claims the leaflets were planted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)
PENSIONERS CALL ON PREMIER TO TACKLE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IMMEDIATELY.
Leaders of the Latvian Pensioners Federation at a meeting on 19 July called on Prime Minister Andris Berzins to begin tackling social problems immediately, LETA reported. They requested that pensions be indexed, options for early retirement be retained, and that working pensioners be allowed to receive pensions. They also want to see the social budget deficit reduced. Berzins expressed regret that financial considerations would make it impossible to retain early retirement should restrictions on working pensioners be lifted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
Heavy fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and Macedonian government security forces broke out in the villages of Sipkovica, Gajre, and Selce near Tetovo at about 11:00 a.m. local time on 22 July, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 23 July. The exchange of machine-gun fire lasted until 12:30 p.m. It was the most serious breach yet of a 17-day-old cease-fire, which has otherwise largely held. Two Macedonian soldiers were reportedly injured slightly during the clashes. Unnamed "Western sources" told Reuters on 22 July that the Macedonian military responded "disproportionally" to a "couple of rounds of incoming fire." Two Russian-built Sukhoi 25 aircraft flew over UCK positions. "Dnevnik" added that there were a number of clashes between Macedonian security forces and insurgents during the night of 21 to 22 July. On 23 July, Macedonian Defense Ministry officials reported renewed fighting. A UCK commander told dpa, however, that the Macedonian authorities are simply seeking to increase tension. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)ALBANIAN PARTIES AGREE ON COMPROMISE...
The deputy leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Iliaz Halimi, told dpa in Skopje on 17 July that Albanian leaders and international mediators have reached a compromise on a number of issues, including the language question, the mechanism to protect the ethnic minorities from being outvoted in the parliament, and the role of local police. "This should be acceptable for the [National Liberation Army (UCK)].... It is not the maximum, but it is much more than the Albanians have had so far," Halimi said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)...WHILE ETHNIC MACEDONIAN POLITICAL PARTIES SLAM NEW PROPOSAL.
After having been informed of the compromise by U.S. envoy James Pardew, the leaders of the main Macedonian political parties slammed it as "totally unacceptable to the Macedonian bloc," Dnevnik reported on 18 July, citing the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Branko Crvenkovski. In a statement for MIA, Gjorgji Trendafilov, the spokesman for the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), said: "The content of the [compromise] is surprising and shocking, because it is a first step toward the federalization of Macedonia. That has never been a topic of the negotiations, and no one in the Republic of Macedonia would agree to it." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)100,000 DISPLACED PERSONS, REFUGEES IN CONFLICT.
As of 17 July, the Macedonian Red Cross had registered 37,144 internally displaced persons, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" said. Out of about 70,000 refugees who fled the country, 11,853 have since returned. Most of the refugees fled to neighboring Kosova. About 62,000 are still there. According to figures from the Labor and Social Policy Ministry, most internally displaced persons come from the Kumanovo region (18,500), followed by the Skopje (10,300) and Tetovo (7,640) areas. Some 570 come from the Skopska Crna Gora mountains. Meanwhile, the UNHCR has begun to give out humanitarian aid packages to the refugees and displaced persons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE EXCEEDS 18 PERCENT IN JANUARY-MARCH 2001.
The Main Statistical Office reported on 19 July that the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2001 was 18.2 percent, compared with 16 percent in the last quarter of 2000, PAP reported. The number of jobless people in January-March 2001 stood at 3.16 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
PREMIER ASSUMES PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOLOCAUST...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 17 July said at the Yad Va'Shem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem that as Romanian premier he "must assume responsibility for the unforgivable crimes committed [against Jews in Romania] between 1941 and 1944," adding that those crimes "cannot and will never be pardoned," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Asked by a journalist whether his cabinet regards wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu to be a war criminal, Nastase answered that "history's sentences cannot be changed...and the duty of present generations is to see to it that no similar mistakes are repeated." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)ROMA PROTEST RACISM, DISCRIMINATION.
Romany Ethnic Community Chairman Ion Bidia on 17 July demanded the outlawing of organizations that disseminate racial hatred in Romania, Mediafax reported. Bidia said police and the Prosecutor-General's Office must act against organizations such as the New Romanian Right, whose journal prints slogans such as "Death to the Gypsies." One day earlier, Florin Cioaba, also known as the "Romany King" said he will ask the authorities to open an investigation into anti-Roma graffiti recently painted on walls in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, as well as in other towns in Romania. Two nongovernmental organizations, the Romani Criss and the Romanitin Association of Romany Students and Youth, on 17 July said they are launching judicial procedures against the owners of three discos in Iasi, to which Romany students were refused entry on racial grounds last month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)
PUTIN OUTLINES DOMESTIC AGENDA.
Putin said his main task is to promote the "stabilization and consolidation of Russian statehood," and to that end he will not do anything, neither remove Lenin from the mausoleum nor make radical shifts in personnel or policy, that might destabilize the situation. He said he hopes to improve the lives of ordinary people, and he praised the work of the Duma. He said he is seeking to help Russia move toward the goal of economic liberalization, which he described as "a revolutionary development." He also said that he hopes to streamline the system of political parties, but that he will not end the system of elected governors. Putin said that his information security doctrine is not perfect, but that it has worked to reduce the influence of certain "interest groups" in Russian society. The only time the Russian president became angry was after he was asked by an RFE/RL correspondent about Chechnya. Putin said that he will not change course in Chechnya and denied that Russian forces have committed widespread violations of human rights there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)POPULATION SAID TO VIEW GOVERNMENT AS INCREASINGLY IRRELEVANT.
An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 July argued that "the government thinks the people love it, but in reality, the people are living their lives in a different world. The shadow economy, which is now several times the size of the federal budget, has created a unique political formation in Russia. And that is why Russian citizens really don't care about the government's reforms." But on the same day, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin told Interfax that the size of the shadow economy has fallen because of Russia's newly simplified tax system. Meanwhile, Moscow sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii argued in "The Moscow Times" on 20 July that Putin has created a cult much like that which CPSU General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev had, one based on continuing assertions that everyone likes the leadership and intended to cover up "the deepening decay" of the system. According to Kagarlitskii, "the rest of the country watches the Kremlin's work with an increasing sense of bewilderment, which is turning into irritation. If, sensing that time is running out, the Kremlin turns to another 'shock therapy' program currently on Putin's desk, the general apathy may turn into hatred." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)KASYANOV SAYS LAWS SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED ONLY IF THEY DO NOT THREATEN STABILITY.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 19 July told his cabinet that the government should implement new laws passed by the Duma this spring only when doing so will not threaten the country's stability, Russian news agencies reported. He said that such an approach is needed if the country is to move forward. He also called on the cabinet to continue to work to improve relations with the Duma. Meanwhile, Andrei Loginov, the government representative to the parliament, told Interfax the same day that the government has compiled a list of 25 priority bills for consideration in the fall session. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)PUTIN THANKS DUMA FOR CONSTRUCTIVE WORK...
Putin on 18 July met with Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev to thank him for the Duma's constructive and productive work during the parliament's spring session, Interfax reported. Putin said that it is important that the parliament continue to work with the Kremlin and the government over the summer to develop legislation to be adopted this fall. Meanwhile, Seleznev called on members of the approximately 500,000 NGOs in Russia to take a more active part in developing legislation in the future, the Russian news agency reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)...BUT ANALYSTS VARY IN ASSESSMENT OF SESSION.
The Russian media continues to evaluate the Duma's just-completed spring session. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 July suggested that "the Duma has become part of the administration of the president." Another article in that paper the same day suggested that the session has begun the process of simplifying the country's complicated multiparty system. An article in "Kommersant-Vlast" the same day suggested that the session has created a situation in which the left opposition can express itself within strictly defined limits. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref repeated on 18 July the government's view that the parliament achieved "the maximum program" that could have been expected, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)'PREDICTABLE PARLIAMENTARIANISM.'
An article in "Izvestiya" on 17 July said that the Kremlin and the government have succeeded in bringing the Duma to heel and making Russian parliamentarianism "predictable." As evidence of this, the article noted that in the last Duma, the Kremlin and the cabinet proposed 30 percent of all laws adopted, but during this Duma session, the Kremlin and the cabinet contributed 60 percent of all legislation. It added that discipline within each of the factions has increased, making it almost unnecessary to count the votes once the party and faction leaders have declared their intentions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)CANDIDATES ACCUSE GOVERNORS OF MASSIVE VOTING FRAUD IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD.
Three of the top four candidates in the first round of gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod held a press conference in that city on 17 July and accused incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov of rigging the election, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. State Duma deputies Gennadii Khodyrev (Communist), Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy), and Dmitrii Savelev (Union of People's Deputy) all signed a declaration accusing Sklyarov of "gross falsification of the election results." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)JUSTICE MINISTRY FEARS NEW LAW COULD ALLOW FOREIGNERS TO INFLUENCE ELECTIONS.
According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 20 July, the Justice Ministry is concerned that loopholes in existing legislation could allow foreigners to make contributions to candidates and thus affect electoral outcomes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)EXISTING POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS MUST REREGISTER WITHIN TWO YEARS.
There are 59 political parties, 35 political organizations, and 104 political movements in Russia now, and all must reregister with the government as political parties within two years, Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko said on 19 July, according to ITAR-TASS. (Political movements and political organizations will not be allowed to participate in elections after that time.) Sidorenko said that he does not expect that more than 10 political parties will remain as a result. He noted that if elections are held before 14 July 2003, the old rules will remain in force and all groups will be allowed to take part. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)DEFENDERS OF RUSSIAN WHITE HOUSE IN 1991 COMPLAIN OF HISTORICAL REVISIONISM.
Sergei Bratchikov and other members of the recently organized group of defenders of the Russian White House who call themselves "The Georgian Corps" said on 17 July that they are concerned by historical revisionism now taking place with regard to the events of August 1991, Interfax reported. Bratchikov said that the people who led the coup are now being treated as the fatherland's defenders when they were not that at all. He said that at that time, the battle was between "thinking people and nonthinking people." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)HOW MUCH HAS THE CHECHEN WAR COST?
According to "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 26, the Chechen war has cost Moscow several billion dollars, but the article said that "nowhere in the 2001 budget do we find a statistic showing just how much is being spent on measures connected with the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya. And it seems likely that no one knows the exact figure even in the government." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)PROTESTERS PICKET EMBASSIES TO URGE CHECHEN TALKS.
Members of the Russian committee "For the End of War and the Establishment of Peace in Chechnya" on 17 July picketed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and on 18 July picketed the French Embassy there to call for international involvement in promoting talks between Putin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)RUSSIAN TROOPS ACCUSED OF NEW REPRISAL IN CHECHNYA.
A spokesman for the Grozny city authorities said on 18 July that early that morning Russian servicemen abducted a Chechen driver and his son from their home in the suburb of Raduzhnoye, Interfax reported. Their present whereabouts are unknown. Between 100 and 150 local residents staged a protest against the incident. Also on 18 July, Chechen Premier Stanislav Ilyasov said that "about half" of all local district administrative officials have been provided with weapons for their security and the remainder will receive such weapons before the end of this month, Interfax reported. Ilyasov said those officials are free to select their own bodyguards from persons whom they trust. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)CHECHEN PROSECUTOR SAYS RADUZHNOYE SECURITY SWEEP JUSTIFIED.
The security sweep conducted by Russian troops early on 18 July in the Grozny suburb of Raduzhnoye was justified in that it yielded a cache of heavy weapons, Chechen Prosecutor Viktor Dakhnov told Interfax on 20 July. Two Chechens were detained by Russian troops during that operation and have not been seen since, but their car has been found abandoned and bloodstained. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY RECEIVES HUNDREDS OF COMPLAINTS FROM CHECHENS.
In Moscow, Russian human rights envoy for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov said his office has received, and is investigating, 200 letters from Chechens complaining of abuses during the security sweep, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE MOSCOW JUDGES.
Leading human rights activists said on 19 July that Moscow judges do not protect the constitutional and human rights of those who appear before them and that they have done nothing to protect those detained, often in inhumane conditions, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. Several people have died in detention over the last several weeks because of high temperatures, the activists said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)ORTHODOX CHURCH NOTES DIFFERENCES WITH PUTIN ON POPE.
Father Vsevolod Chaplin, the official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, told Interfax on 18 July that the church has taken notice of the discrepancy between Putin's generally positive assessment of Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine and its own view that the visit was harmful. "Naturally, the president as a state actor has the right to such a point of view, and the church respects it" but does not share it, Chaplin added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)A RAPPROCHEMENT WITH THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD?
According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 July, a new split within the emigre Russian Orthodox Church Abroad may lead to the reunification of many of that church's leaders with the Moscow Patriarchate. The paper suggested that the recent departure from the emigre church of its leader Metropolitan Vitalii opens the way to such a rapprochement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)PATRIARCH STAKES OUT POSITION ON LAND SALES.
Patriarch Aleksii II has sent a letter to Agrarian Party head Mikhail Lapshin in which he says that he is opposed to the "uncontrolled" sale of land to foreigners and wants to preserve the land for those who use it, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)KALMYK PRESIDENT TO GO AHEAD WITH DALAI LAMA VISIT.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 20 July, the president of the Republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, called for international recognition of the independence of Tibet -- a stance at odds with Russia's official foreign policy position. According to Ilyumzhinov, Tibetan leader Dalai Lama will visit Kalmykia's capital, Elista, within a month, although there has been pressure on Kalmykia to rescind its invitation to the Dalai Lama out of deference to Russia's relationship to China. According to Ilyumzhinov, Tuva and Buryatia, two other regions in Russia with significant Buddhist populations, recalled their letters of invitation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)IMMIGRATION INSPECTION INTRODUCED.
Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 19 July that the government must develop a comprehensive and comprehensible policy under which legal immigrants will feel welcome and protected and illegal ones will be dealt with as they deserve to be, RIA-Novosti reported. Kasyanov said that Russia will welcome immigration from other CIS states and the Baltic states. He added that a special immigration inspection system will be established to deal with the problems of immigration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)MIGRANTS OFTEN LIVE LIKE SERFS.
Voluntary migrants from CIS countries to Russia, most of whom are themselves ethnic Russians, are often subject to discrimination and mistreatment and in some cases are treated like serfs, according to an article in "The Moscow Times" on 17 July. The paper said that officials are seldom in a position to do anything to help them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)LIVING STANDARDS WILL RECOVER TO 1998 LEVEL ONLY IN FIVE YEARS.
Vladimir Litvinov, deputy director of the All-Russian Center on Standards of Living of the Labor Ministry, said in an interview in "Tribuna" on 20 July that Russian living standards will recover to the pre-August 1998 crisis level only in five or six years. He also said that income differentiation is much greater than the State Statistics Committee reports and that in 43 of the country's regions, the population is almost completely poor. Overall, he said, 45 percent of the population is poor, with only 18 percent being well-off at present. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO 9.2 PERCENT.
The State Statistics Committee told Prime-TASS on 20 July that unemployment fell 0.8 percent in June to a total of 9.2 percent of the able-bodied, working-age population. Officially registered unemployment now stands at 1.4 percent, only 15 percent of total unemployment, the committee said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)ILLEGAL TURNOVER OF MOSCOW MARKETS NOW $5.6 BILLION A YEAR.
Interior Ministry officials in Moscow said on 17 July that the illegal turnover, none of which is taxed, of Moscow markets has reached 170 billion rubles ($5.6 billion) a year, Interfax-Moscow reported. The officials added that there are now 174 such markets in the Russian capital that employ 245,000 people, including 50,000 foreigners. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)650,000 MUSCOVITES IN LINE FOR HOUSING.
In an interview published in "Trud" on 18 July, Vladimir Resin, the first deputy prime minister of the Moscow city government, said that 650,000 people are now waiting to be allocated housing in the Russian capital. He said that many of them are becoming desperate and purchasing half-finished properties. He also said that the amount of foreign investment in the city of Moscow will reach $5 billion by the end of 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)ONE MUSCOVITE IN 10 USES DRUGS.
Yevgenii Bryun, the chief narcotics specialist of the Russian capital, said on 19 July that approximately one Moscow resident in 10 now uses drugs and that the number of those suffering from the misuse of drugs is increasing by 4,000-5,000 a year, Interfax reported. He said that over the last decade, the relative price of a dose of illegal drugs to a dose of alcohol had fallen from 25 to one to almost complete equality, reflecting greater availability of drugs and rising alcohol prices. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)REGISTERED DRUG USERS INCREASE SIX TIMES OVER LAST FIVE YEARS.
Moscow city officials told Interfax on 18 July that the number of drug users registered in city clinics has increased by 600 percent over the last five years. They added that they intend to conduct surveys to determine how many additional drug abusers are not being treated at the present time. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN COMMON IN FAR EASTERN CITY.
Almost every third woman in Khabarovsk is subjected to physical violence in her family domestic situation, while one in two is subjected to emotional-psychological trauma, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 July, citing a research study done of 300 women in Khabarovsk by the A Chance for Hope nongovernmental organization. The women were from diverse age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. The organization is creating a center in Khabarovsk for women suffering from violence, and will operate a hot line for women to call for psychological and other help. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)
MINORITIES UNHAPPY OVER DRAFT RELIGIOUS LAW.
Some Serbian Protestants have expressed concern over aspects of the draft of the new law on religious freedom presented by the Serbian Ministry of Religion, accusing the state of introducing a state religion in a secular state. "The state should be separate from the churches, and not promote some and downgrade others," Baptist Union president Dr Alexander Birvis told Keston News Service. "This is becoming an issue of discrimination." The ministry is asking for more time, claiming that the law will follow the best legal tradition of democratic countries in Europe. (Keston News Service, 20 July)
CHURCHES PROTEST PROPOSAL TO TEACH YOGA AT SCHOOLS.
Education Minister Milan Ftacnik, a member of the post-communist Democratic Left Party, has proposed to introduce yoga as an optional subject in schools, TASR reported on 18 July. Ftacnik's proposal has recently provoked protests from Slovakia's Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which fear that the instruction of yoga will be used as an opportunity to inculcate young minds with Eastern philosophical systems, the Prague-based daily "Hospodarske noviny" wrote on 16 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)ROMA SLAM TEXTBOOK ON ROMANY HISTORY.
The Slovak Romany Initiative (RIS) has said a new textbook on Romany history by ethnologist Arne B. Mann is racist, adding that the Education Ministry should withdraw the book from its planned use at schools, CTK and TASR reported on 19 July. RIS Chairman Alexander Patkolo said the textbook primarily describes how Roma are different from other groups and does not deal with Romany history itself. Patkolo noted that the book presents Roma in a negative light. As an example, Patkolo quoted the statement that no later than 50 years ago Roma made their living by dancing with trained bears and monkeys. Magdalena Sedlackova from the Education Ministry denied that the textbook has been approved for use and distributed to schools. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)OSCE CONCERNED ABOUT ROM'S VIOLENT DEATH.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on 20 July expressed concern about the recent police violence in Slovakia that led to the death of a Rom, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)
Information on the situation of Roma in Slovenia is available on the Internet at: http://errc.org/publications/indices/slovenia.shtml. (MINELRES, 21 July)
CLOSURE OF ISLAMIC SCHOOLS.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has begun a new campaign to close Islamic schools. In late June, he said they were "unreasonably expanding," particularly in Tashauz region near Uzbekistan. The major casualty of this new drive is the madrassah (Islamic school) in Tashauz, which Niyazov ordered closed in mid-June. Yagshymurad Atamuradov, chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs, later declared that the Tashauz school would not admit young people this year, adding that students would attend a state-approved madrassah in Ashgabad. (Keston News Service, 16 July)'DON'T GO TO A JUDGE,' BAPTISTS TOLD...
Keston has learned that the secret police, the KNB, raided a Baptist church service in Balkanabad, noted the names, addresses, and places of work of those present, threatened to confiscate the church building and warned the Baptists not to take their case to court. (Keston News Service, 16 July)...BUT BAPTIST PRISONER BACK IN PRISON.
Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been returned to prison in Turkmenbashi, Keston News Service was told by the German-based Friedensstimme Mission. In May he was transferred to Ashgabad, where the KNB tried to persuade him to emigrate to the U.S. (Keston News Service, 23 July)
REGISTERED UNEMPLOYMENT DECREASES.
The State Statistics Committee on 19 July said there were 1.05 million registered unemployed people in Ukraine as of 1 July, which is 10 percent fewer than one year ago. The [official] unemployment rate in Ukraine is 3.8 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July)A YEAR WITHOUT PROGRESS OVER SIMFEROPOL MOSQUE.
A year after requesting permission to build a mosque in the Crimean city of Simferopol, the Muslim community is still awaiting a response from the authorities. A representative of the council of muftis has accused the authorities of deliberately dragging out consideration of whether to allocate a plot of land for construction work, although the mosque will not be built at the state's expense. Also a member of the Ukrainian parliament wrote to the authorities on 17 August last year supporting the community's request, but he has yet to receive a reply. No official has been prepared to tell Keston News Service what is holding up the application or even to discuss it. (Keston News Service, 16 July)MUSLIMS PROTEST 'SECRET' PROPERTY DECISION.
Crimea's Muslims have objected to the Crimean authorities reneging on an 18-month-old agreement over how to divide the site formerly occupied by a madrassah and an Orthodox monastery in Bakhchisarai, calling it "a serious political act of provocation." Muslim representatives told Keston News Service that they had only learnt in July of the March decision and are calling for it to be revoked. Despite numerous attempts, Keston has been unable to speak to any official involved in this decision to ask them why the original agreement -- drawn up by the then deputy chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, and approved by the Muslims and the Orthodox -- was changed without apparent consultation. Arsen Alchikov, a representative of the mufti in the Majlis, told Keston on 9 July in Simferopol said that Muslims do not blame the Orthodox for the dispute. The 500-year-old madrassah, a place of pilgrimage, is the cultural and historical center of the Crimean khanate and borders the Monastery of the Assumption and Karaite holy sites in the Marya-Derya Valley near Bakhchisarai. (Keston News Service, 9 July)
U.S. PUBLISHES LIST OF COUNTRIES WHICH DO NOT MEET MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR FIGHTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
A U.S. State Department report placed Lithuania on a list of 43 countries that are making significant efforts to fight trafficking in humans, but do not yet meet the minimum criteria, BNS reported on 18 July. The report said Lithuanian women are sold for sexual exploitation to customers in Western Europe (mentioning Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, and Austria), Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. It noted that although the Lithuanian Criminal Code prohibits human trafficking with penalties "commensurate with the penalties for rape or sexual assault," and the government has investigated cases of trafficking, there have not yet been any prosecutions for the crime. The government was also criticized for providing limited funding for the prevention of trafficking and rehabilitation programs for victims. France, Sweden, Japan, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia are among the other states listed in the same second tier as Lithuania. The report's third tier, composed of 23 countries where the situation is worse and little or no efforts are made to fight the lucrative business, includes Greece, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and Belarus. The report does not mention Estonia or Latvia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CALL ON PUTIN, KUCHMA TO CANCEL MEETING WITH LUKASHENKA.
The International Helsinki Federation, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and the Ukrainian Committee Helsinki 90 have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to revoke their 27 July visit to Vitsebsk in Belarus, where they are to meet with Belarusian President Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 18 July. The groups stated that the meeting will be viewed by Belarusian voters "as a direct intervention in the presidential race, in support of the incumbent president" and that Belarus's state-controlled media have already utilized the planned meeting for propaganda purposes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)EU CALLS ON KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN TO LIVE UP TO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITMENTS.
During talks in Brussels on 17 July, EU officials including Belgian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Annemie Neyts warned both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that economic reforms "should go hand in hand" with respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, Reuters reported. That agency quoted an unnamed European diplomat as saying that "to provide a solid basis for foreign investment you need to give assurances on democratic freedoms and human rights," and that corruption is more likely to flourish in an environment where media freedom is restricted. Neyts also urged the Kyrgyz leadership to remove barriers to foreign investment and trade, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)EUROPEAN COURT TO HEAR CASE BY MOLDOVAN NATIONALISTS AGAINST RUSSIA AND MOLDOVA.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights announced on 18 July that it will hear a case of human rights abuse brought by former political prisoner Ilie Ilascu and some others against both Russia and Moldova, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Ilascu, who spent nine years imprisoned in the breakaway Transdniester region after being sentenced to death on charges of terrorism, was released in May and is a senator in Bucharest. He filed the lawsuit along with Alexandru Lesco, Andrei Ivantoc, and Tudor Petrov-Popa, who are still serving 12- to 15-year sentences in Tiraspol. The four accuse Russia and Moldova of human rights abuses, including the right to a free and fair trial, and of subjecting prisoners to inhuman or degrading treatment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July)