8 August 2001, Volume
U.S.-BORN ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER ALLEGES DISCRIMINATION OVER CITIZENSHIP DELAY.
Former Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian wrote in the daily "Aravot" on 2 August accusing President Robert Kocharian of deliberately delaying for "political reasons" a response to his request to be granted Armenian citizenship, RFE/RL reported. Hovannisian, who was born in the U.S., surrendered his U.S. passport in April and has been without a valid travel document since then. Kocharian's spokeswoman Hasmik Petrosian told RFE/RL that a special presidential commission chaired by Justice Minister David Harutiunian approved Hovannisian's application for Armenian citizenship on 25 April. She said the delay in Kocharian's endorsement of that ruling was due to Hovannisian's insistence that his Armenian citizenship be backdated to 1991. In order to contest the Armenian presidential election due in 2003, candidates must have been citizens of the Republic of Armenia for the previous 10 years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)OPPOSITION SAYS LUKASHENKA PREPARED TO USE FORCE TO STAY IN POWER.
Opposition leaders in Minsk said on 1 August that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is prepared to use violence to stay in power should he lose the 9 September presidential election, Belapan reported. Opposition presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk said that Lukashenka revealed "that he would not give up power [in the event that he loses the election] and named the means that he would use to retain power -- the Interior Ministry troops." Lukashenka said at a 31 July press conference that he will gain at least 90 percent of the vote in the election and that he will use security forces, including elite police units, to counter any attempts to "question the election results" or to depose him. A statement signed by other leading members of the opposition, including Mikhail Chyhir, Syamyon Domash, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski, said that "the incumbent president made it clear he will not give up power under any circumstances." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)KEY WITNESS AT MEDZAMOR TRIAL ARRESTED.
An 18-year-old Jehovah's Witness who rejected allegations in court on 20 July that Levon Markaryan had forced him to reject military service, has himself been arrested. Jehovah's Witness sources told Keston News Service that Aram Shahverdyan was arrested in Medzamor on 25 July on charges of "evasion of military service," saying that this might be an attempt to prevent him testifying for the defense when Markaryan's trial resumes on 2 August. A witness for the prosecution in that trial admitted in court that a National Security Ministry officer dictated part of her written statement. (Keston News Service, 26 July)...TO RESTRICT MISSIONARIES' VISITS?
There are today 7,000 religious communities in Azerbaijan of which two-thirds are not registered. "Most of these religious communities are sects which historically have nothing to do with Azerbaijan," said Rafik Aliev, chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations. Aliyev said that such communities as Adventists, Krishnaists, Bahai, Baptists, and Baku Christian Church, must obey Azerbaijan's laws and should not be regulated by their foreign headquarters. Aliyev also said that limitations should be placed on the number of foreign pastors and missionaries, and the length of their stay in Azerbaijan, the Turan News Agency reported on 26 July. (MINELRES, 6 August)
WIDE POWERS FOR NEW STATE COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS...
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev approved new regulations for work with religious organizations. The new Committee for Work with Religious Organizations (CWRO) is to create the conditions necessary to ensure freedom of conscience; control implementation of relevant laws; oversee registration, including the possible liquidation of unregistered religious groups; and organize pilgrimages to foreign countries, Turan News Agency reported. It will also defend government positions in disputes; bring relevant issues before the proper state authorities; control publication of religious literature, the import and distribution of religious attributes; and supervise religious schools. The CWRO can also initiate legal suits for incitement of religious discord and subversive activity against national security. The institution is also authorized to collect information about religious propaganda by foreigners and stateless persons and to notify law enforcement bodies, reports "Zerkalo" on 24 July. (MINELRES, 6 August)
RELATIVES OF 'DISAPPEARED' PROTEST.
The relatives of four prominent men who have disappeared over the last two years and are believed to be dead held a demonstration near the presidential administration building to demand an investigation into these cases, Belapan reported. The protest comes amid accusations that President Lukashenka and members of his government are involved in the disappearances. A statement issued by opposition leaders said "the president, the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of Belarusian citizens, is not willing to conduct an independent investigation nor to suspend officials involved in these crimes because the personal loyalty of police chiefs is what the regime counts on." Presidential candidate Hancharyk added that "Lukashenka is not interested in solving these crimes." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)TEACHERS MUST DECLARE VOTING PREFERENCE BEFORE RECEIVING VACATION ALLOWANCES.
Schoolteachers at school No. 2 in the town of Radun, in the Hrodno region, report that they must answer for whom they will vote in the presidential election before they receive their summer vacation allowances, Belapan reported on 3 August. Ivan Fesenko, a teacher in Voronovo, said the teachers' answers are recorded and sent to the school's principal. He said the practice is being done at other schools and even factories in the region: "Teachers are afraid to say what they [really] think, that is why they put down only one name known to everybody." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)A PAST THAT CAN'T BE EXPUNGED.
Vandals have destroyed a monument near Minsk to victims of Stalin-era mass murders in Belarus, the opposition Belarusian Popular Front said last week. Uladzimir Yukho suggested that this action appears to represent an attempt to expunge from the record one of the most notorious events in Belarusian history and one of the most important sources of the Belarusian national movement over the last two decades. Yukho noted that the small granite memorial presented to the people of Belarus by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton when he visited that site in 1994 had served as a focal point for the Belarusian opposition. The discovery in the 1980s of the Kurapaty mass graves helped to power the rise of the Belarusian democratic movement. Activists of the Popular Front say that the graves, located in a forest near the national capital, contain the remains of hundreds of thousands killed in the 1930s. But officials of the current Belarusian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka have attempted to play down the importance of Kurapaty and insist that there are no more than 7,000 dead buried there. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the defacement of this monument, and no one has been arrested or identified as a suspect. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 31 July)PASTOR BANNED FROM RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY.
A Ukrainian pastor who has long worked in the Belarusian capital Minsk "does not have the right to conduct any public religious activity" in Belarus, a senior state official told Keston News Service. Pastor Veniamin Brukh of the Church of Jesus Christ faces an administrative charge for "carrying out religious activity without permission," although his 1,000-strong parish wants him to continue as pastor. (Keston News Service, 30 July)
THREE MUSLIM GENERALS UNDER ARREST.
Former Bosnian Generals Mehmed Alagic, Enver Hadzihasanovic, and Amir Kubura are in detention and awaiting extradition to The Hague in the next few days, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 2 August. Florence Hartmann, the spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL the next day that the three were recently placed on the tribunal's secret indictment list for crimes committed against Croats in central Bosnia in 1993. Bosnian officials said that the men turned themselves in once they learned that they were on the tribunal's list, but RFE/RL's South Slavic Service suggests that evidence indicates that the three were arrested. Federal Interior Minister Muhamed Bedjic nonetheless maintains that the three turned themselves in. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)REACTIONS TO HAGUE EVENTS.
"Oslobodjenje" reported on 3 August that many Muslims in Alagic's hometown of Sanski Most are "upset" that a man they regard as a war hero was arrested. Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said in Sarajevo that "in the name of Bosnia and the federation" a lawyer will be hired to "help the men prove their innocence," RFE/RL reported. VOA reported the previous evening that female survivors of the Srebrenica massacres are "outraged" that Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic received a sentence of only 46 years. Spokeswomen for the survivors said that they want Krstic returned to Bosnia, where they would mete out what they described as "justice." Other women said he should "burn in hell." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)MUSLIM VICTIMS REBURIED.
Several hundred Muslims gathered in Visegrad on 5 August for the reburial of 152 people killed in the town at the start of the 1992-1995 war and dumped into mass graves, AP reported. Serbian forces killed some 3,000 people in the once mainly Muslim town, but only 300 bodies have been found. The remains of only 16 people have been conclusively identified. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)
LEADER SAYS MORE MUST BE DONE FOR RETURNEES.
Milorad Pupovac, who heads Croatia's Serbian National Council (SNV), told "Jutarnji list" on 2 August that much of the money earmarked to help returning Serbs has not been paid out. He noted that many returnees do not have electricity in their homes. Others are unable to move into their property because it is occupied by Croats, who still have other homes elsewhere. Some 20,000 applications for home reconstruction and 5,000 applications for the return of property remain unprocessed, Pupovac argued. Pupovac remained a mainstream Serbian civilian leader in Croatia throughout the 1991-1995 war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)LEADERS MARK NATIONAL HOLIDAY.
On 5 August in Knin, many Croatian political leaders marked the sixth anniversary of Operation Storm, which ended the revolt of the Serbian minority and restored Croatian sovereignty throughout Croatian territory. Tensions between several of the political leaders over cooperation with The Hague-based tribunal were evident, "Jutarnji list" reported. In churches across Croatia, commemorative masses were held. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CALLS FOR END TO BRITISH CHECKS.
Speaking after a meeting of the government's Committee for Romany Community Affairs, Human Rights Commissioner Jan Jarab said that the checks by British officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport are likely discriminatory and should stop as soon as possible, AP reported on 2 August. Jarab said the checks have created additional tension between the Roma and other Czech citizens, as well as between the Roma and the government. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who also attended the meeting and is heading the government over the summer holiday season, said he hopes negotiations between the Czech and British governments result in a clear description of criteria applied during the checks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)AIRLINE EMPLOYEES STOP ROMA FROM FLYING TO IRELAND.
Employees of the Czech airline CSA turned back two Romany families trying to fly to Ireland from Prague, CTK reported, citing Nova television. Airline employees reportedly took members of the Romany families aside and began asking them questions about where they would stay and how much money they had. CSA said that its employees acted in keeping with agreements with Irish immigration officials, but the Irish Embassy's Charge d'Affaires James O'Connel said that no such agreement exists between the Czech Republic and Ireland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)
RED CROSS MAY CLOSE MISSION AFTER FUNDS DISAPPEAR.
A senior official of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRC) told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 August that the federation may pull out of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. He accused the director of the Georgian Red Cross, Nodar Tskitishvili, of "abuse of his official position and misappropriation of humanitarian resources," and set down specific conditions for a continuation of its programs to assist the needy. The federation suspended aid programs in Georgia in June after Tskitishvili was first suspected of having embezzled funds. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze expressed regret the following day at the possibility of an end to IFRCRC programs in Georgia, which he said would reflect badly on Georgia's international image. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS...
Deputies from the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) faction and smaller pro-government factions approved the draft amendments to the election law on 2 August in the first reading by a vote of 126 in favor, with one abstention, Caucasus Press reported. Those amendments stipulate that the Central Election Commission (CEC) is to be composed of seven NGO representatives selected from among no less than 14 candidates proposed by NGOs that were registered no later than November 1997 and that have participated in monitoring no less than two elections. Local election commissions are also to consist of seven members, three of whom will be proposed by the CEC, three by parties that won parliamentary representation in the previous elections, and one by the local administration. The united parliamentary opposition, which boycotted the vote on the amendments, issued a statement the same day denouncing them as antidemocratic and an attempt by the SMK to preserve its control over electoral commissions at all levels, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)...AND ADOPTS LAW ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT.
SMK and other pro-government deputies also approved the law on local self- government on 2 August in the second and final reading, Caucasus Press reported. The vote was officially given as 124 in favor and one against. But opposition deputy parliament speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili challenged those figures, claiming that the vote was invalid as only 113 deputies, rather than the 118 needed for a quorum, were present. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)
RUSSIAN TO BECOME OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN CONSTITUTION?
Meeting in Sochi at the CIS summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said that the Kyrgyz parliament may soon amend the country's constitution to formally designate Russian as an official language, ITAR-TASS reported. In a bid to stem the outmigration of qualified Russian personnel from Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz parliament last year adopted legislation giving Russian the status of an official language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)UN OFFICIAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
Hina Jilani, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for human rights, told journalists in Bishkek on 3 August that she has "concerns" that legislation guaranteeing the right of freedom of assembly, free speech, and freedom of association is not being systematically observed in Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and RFE/RL reported. Jilani met in Bishkek with senior Kyrgyz government officials and representatives of opposition newspapers, and traveled to Osh and Djalalabad oblasts in the south of the country for talks with human rights activists there. But she was denied permission to visit imprisoned Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is currently being treated for high blood pressure at a prison hospital in Bishkek, RFE/RL reported. TurgunAliyev is serving a six-year sentence on what observers consider fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)FOREIGN NGO MEETS JAILED OPPOSITIONIST.
Chinara Jakypova, head of the Bishkek office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told RFE/RL that on 6 August she met with opposition leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev in a labor camp medical ward. On 20 July, TurgunAliyev was hospitalized and moved from labor camp to a labor colony in Bishkek. According to Jakypova, TurgunAliyev said his health had improved and he thanked his supporters. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 6 August)
PARLIAMENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS.
The parliament on 3 August by a vote of 77 to one, with four abstentions, approved amendments to Article 119 of the constitution, ELTA reported. The amendments grant all permanent residents the right to run for and vote in local government elections. The terms of office for those posts were also extended from three to four years. The parliament also agreed to prepare by 1 October the necessary laws specifically defining what constitutes permanent residency. The amendment was prompted by the need to comply with the European Union's demand that EU citizens permanently residing in candidate countries be allowed to participate in local elections. The amendment will grant this right not only to EU citizens, but all permanent residents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)
MIXED MESSAGES IN MACEDONIA.
Macedonia marked its national holiday -- the anniversary of the 1903 Ilinden uprising against the Ottoman Turks -- on 2 August, Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service reported. Speaking at the Prohor Pcinjski monastery, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that agreeing to a political settlement "while our territories are occupied by terrorists would be a shameful agreement for Macedonia. We must take back our occupied territories because we can't close our eyes to the fact that we are talking under the threat of guns. Macedonia has the military equipment and able police and soldiers who are ready to implement the [law as set down in the] constitution." But President Boris Trajkovski stressed that the only solution to Macedonia's problems is a peaceful, negotiated one. He noted that "unfortunately, today we have a strong and decisive people but indecisive leadership," the "Financial Times" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)BREAKTHROUGH REPORTED ON LANGUAGE ISSUE.
EU negotiator Francois Leotard said in Ohrid on 1 August: "We have obtained...an agreement from the four political parties on the question of language, but this accord is conditional on the continuation of the political discussions, notably on the issue of the police. Therefore, it is a conditional agreement. We will resume talks on the police issue on Friday morning," RFE/RL reported. The agreement reportedly makes Albanian an official language in the parliament -- where simultaneous translation will be provided -- and in communities where Albanians make up at least 20 percent of the population. Citizens may communicate with the central government in Albanian, in which laws will be published, as well as in Macedonian. Macedonian will remain the sole language for government meetings and in external relations. U.S. envoy James Pardew said: "This is a good deal for everyone, but I am not euphoric. There's a lot of tough work ahead. This is not the end of the negotiations," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)HARD-LINERS STILL THINKING OF VIOLENT SOLUTION?
Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said that the "only optimistic option is to defeat the terrorists [in order] to achieve peace, and we have enough force" to do so, "The Washington Post" reported from Berlin on 2 August. Observers note, however, that the Macedonian military has shown itself to be unable to defeat the UCK and lacks basic counterinsurgency forces. The UCK, members of which Macedonian politicians and media usually call "terrorists," generally does not employ classical terrorist tactics. The UCK more often takes control of population centers and holds them in pitched battles. The government's response is to bombard the guerrillas with artillery and tanks, and to send jet aircraft and helicopters overhead. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)
MORE THAN HALF OF YOUTH WOULD LEAVE COUNTRY IF GIVEN CHANCE, SAYS POLL.
Fifty-six percent of young Romanians would leave the country, while 68 percent are extremely dissatisfied with the political environment, says a poll commissioned by the Youth and Sports Ministry, Mediafax reported. According to the poll, the biggest problems Romanian youth face are finding a job, finding their own housing, living standards, general corruption, conditions for establishing a family, and personal safety. To be successful in life, 15 percent of those polled believe education is important, 15 percent think that they must belong to a wealthy family, 12 percent rely on hard work, 12 percent think that luck is essential, and 10 percent favor the need for talent and intelligence. 1,192 people aged 15-29 were polled. Representatives of the ministry say that results of the poll will serve as the basis for a national strategy to prevent Romanian youth from leaving the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)
RUSSIA DROPPED FROM 'BLACKLIST' OF MONEY-LAUNDERING COUNTRIES.
Russia's ambassador to the Council of Europe, Aleksandr Orlov, gave that organization on 4 August a certificate of ratification by Russia of the international convention on combating money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. Orlov noted that, thanks to the Russian parliament's quick ratification of the convention, Russia was dropped from the list of the states involved in money laundering, which are subject to possible economic sanctions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)FSB DENIES MEDIA REPORT ON ITS ECONOMIC ROLE.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) on 29 July denied a report in "Argumenty i Fakty," on 27 July, that Yurii Ovchenko has prepared an FSB paper calling for a radical change in Moscow's economic policy away from privatization and toward greater currency controls. In a statement, the FSB said that Ovchenko has never been employed by the agency and that the FSB had nothing to do with the report on economic policy to which the "Argumenty i Fakty" article refers. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 6 August)NEW 'EURASIAN' PARTY REGISTERED.
The Justice Ministry has registered the Eurasian Party of Russia (EPR) led by Refakh leader and State Duma deputy Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 4 August. The new party has branches of no less than 5,000 members in 70 regions of Russia, according to the newspaper. However, for the EPR to become fully legal, it will have to reregister under the rules established by the newly adopted law on political parties, which comes into force in July 2003, under which it must have branches of no less than 10,000 members in more than half of Russia's 89 regions. Niyazov is confident that that his party will meet the barrier, because it unites "Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, and a devotion to the Fatherland." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)LOCAL OFFICIALS PREVENT CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONS' PROTEST MARCH.
Ingushetian police on 2 August halted a group of Chechen displaced persons who had begun a protest march from a displaced persons camp in Ingushetia to demand that the Russian leadership begin peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, AP reported. Two organizers of the protest were detained. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev has previously defended the interests of the displaced persons and repeatedly called on the Russian leadership to begin talks with Maskhadov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF JAILED U.S. STUDENT.
A raion-level court in Voronezh ordered that U.S. Fulbright scholar John Tobin be released from jail on 3 August, Reuters reported. According to the agency, Tobin walked out of the prison in the village of Rossosh. The court's judgement follows a decision by a parole board in that city on 2 August that Tobin should be set free. Tobin was sentenced to three years in jail following his conviction on charges of marijuana possession. That sentence was later reduced to one year. According to ITAR-TASS, prison administration officials reported that Tobin never complained about prison conditions and participated in sports while there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)FSB STEPS UP PRESSURE IN SUTYAGIN TRIAL?
The trial of academic Igor Sutyagin for espionage continued in Kaluga Oblast, as prosecution witness Sergei Boris, the head of the Russian navy's Main Personnel Department for the Protection of State Secrets, charged that Sutyagin is responsible for transferring classified data to foreign intelligence services, NTV reported on 1 August. As the main expert for the prosecution, Boris said that although Sutyagin worked using information from open sources, the conclusions Sutyagin drew from these sources were nevertheless secret. "Vremya novostei" on 1 August concluded that by persecuting Sutyagin and other persons from "creative professions," the FSB is in fact trying to prevent them from sharing with the public the results of their research or subject of their concerns. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)RUSSIA'S CADRE OF SCIENTISTS IN DANGER OF DYING OUT.
In remarks to journalists in Moscow on 1 August, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov spoke about the need for Russia to train new scientists. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Filippov noted that the Academy of Science is aging: The average age of a Russian scientist is 60 years old, and 52 percent of all doctors of science are already at pension age. In order to replenish the cadres, Filippov announced that the ministry plans to create scientific-scholarly centers on the basis of higher educational institutions and scientific research institutes, in which 1,200 new jobs will be created for university students, graduate students, and Ph.D.s. The centers will be located in large cities as well as remote regions of the country. Two-thirds of the necessary funding for the centers will come from the federal budget, and the remainder from the regions. On 29 August, the State Council's presidium will discuss educational reforms, according to ITAR-TASS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)GOVERNMENT EXPLAINS DEMOGRAPHIC POLICY CONCEPT...
The government has finished drafting a concept for its "Demographic Policy up to 2015," which postulates that the "depopulation" of Russia is exacerbated by the sharp imbalance between younger and older population groups, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported 4 August. The imbalance emerged in 1998, when the number of pensioners exceeded the number of children and teenagers for the first time. By 1 January 2000, the gap between these two groups already was over 1 million. The aging of the population will inevitably lead to a deficit of the labor force and growing financial burden for the working population. By 2016, Russia may face a situation in which it will not have enough people not only for all sectors of the economy to function, but also for defense of the country. In the 19th century, the Russian scientist Dmitrii Mendeleev calculated that to protect and develop its huge territory, Russia needs at least 500 million people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)...AND OUTLINES PROGRAM FOR ENCOURAGING PUBLIC TOLERANCE.
The government has approved a program for "encouraging public tolerance and combating extremism" that seeks to educate Russian citizens to respect and tolerate each other even under conditions of rising social tension, "Izvestiya" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 August. According to the program, by 2005 the federal and regional governments should instruct citizens regarding the norms of "stable behavior in extreme situations." According to the deputy head of the Duma Committee for Defense, Pavel Burdyukov (Agro-Industrial), Russia needs such a program because it may face many crisis situations in the future, including food shortages. Burdyukov told "Vek" No. 31 that "Today we depend on our food imports from our Western partners. If they decide to stop them, we will experience starvation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS.
President Putin has signed a decree raising the minimum pension by 10 percent to 660 rubles ($23), ORT reported on 1 August. The increase will affect about 18 million pensioners, although the recent hikes in the cost of utilities and rent may wipe out any gains. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)REGIONAL OFFICIALDOM LEARNS HOW TO DRESS FOR SUCCESS.
Authorities in Saratov have issued a document called "Recommendations for the external appearance of workers in state establishments," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 July. According to the document, "clothing should raise the authority of the individual worker and the organization as a whole." The ideal male bureaucrat should wear a gray, blue, or beige suit with a white or pastel-colored shirt and a silk tie. The cuffs should not be rolled up except to look at one's watch. The recommendations for female workers have more of a "prohibitive character": no clothes of a particularly cheap or expensive nature, short skirts, lacy tights, loudly colored nail polish, or strong perfume. The deputy head of the government apparatus said that the recommendations are only that, and no one will be disciplined for not following them. However, the correspondent notes that "still it is possible to look to the future of the oblast government with hope" especially when residents recall the previous brochure "Etiquette in Saratov Oblast," which practically all bureaucrats there always have on hand. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 2 August)AMETISTOV FOUNDATION.
The Ametistov Foundation is a nonprofit organization involved in such civil society issues as the theory and practice of international legal and constitutional protection of human rights. The Foundation, named for Russian legal scholar Ernst Ametistov, conducts educational programs for young journalists, politicians, officials, lawyers and others connected with human rights concerns. Human rights issues relating to Russian legal practice include: the 1993 Russian Federation Constitution: the legal system; constitutional control; criminal, administrative, and civil legal proceedings; executive power; parliamentary mechanisms; individual rights and freedoms. (Center for Civil Society International, 27 July)TOTAL ECLIPSE OF SOVIET-ERA CHIEF RABBI.
With the appointment in March of Berl Lazar in place of Adolf Shayevich on the presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Organizations, the Putin administration placed its definitive seal of approval on the former as the legitimate leader of Russia's Jews. Keston News Service heard widely differing accounts of the dispute between the two chief rabbis from a variety of Jewish commentators, some of whom mentioned the role in the affair of out-of-favor oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky. One representative told Keston that Judaism "should not be a card in some kind of political game -- the consequences are always bad. Politics should not interfere in religion." (Keston News Service, 24 July)RIVAL JEWISH ORGANISATIONS BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY.
Whereas Berl Lazar's eclipse of Adolf Shayevich as chief rabbi now appears to be total (see above), the battle for hegemony between the two Jewish leaders' religious organizations is still underway. And just as the seemingly insurmountable obstacle to becoming chief rabbi of his non-Russian citizenship has been removed, so the identification of Lazar's organization with a minority strain of Judaism is proving no impediment to its bid to represent the majority of Russia's practicing Jews. (Keston News Service, 24 July)
PLIGHT OF REFUGEES RECONSIDERED.
In Belgrade on 4 August, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia said in a statement that the time has come to give "serious consideration" to how to help the tens of thousands of Serbian refugees from Croatia who have been in Serbia since 1995, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Milosevic incited and armed the rebellion so that the Serbian minority could "remain in Yugoslavia." Once the Serbs fled advancing Croatian troops, however, Milosevic largely ignored them and did not grant them citizenship. Refugees without friends or family in Serbia were often forced into destitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)'INTOLERANCE' OBSTRUCTS VISHNU COMMUNITY ACTIVITY.
Serbia's Vishnu faith community complains that it faces not just slanderous media coverage to which it cannot respond, but that popular sentiment against it has hindered other public activity, including practical help to refugees. Since its Belgrade temple was demolished by thugs in 1993 it has been unable to acquire a permanent meeting place. (Keston News Service, 31 July)
PREGNANT MOTHER TO BE DEPORTED.
Two Baptist women -- one of them in the latter stages of pregnancy --- have been told to leave Turkmenistan along with their nine children. Nadezhda Potolova is expecting her fourth child in August. Keston News Service was informed that on 16 July she and Valentina Kalataevskaya -- whose husbands were deported for religious activity in late June -- were told by Ziyad Ishchanov of the KNB (former KGB) that they must leave by 15 August, or the authorities will send soldiers to deport them. (Keston News Service, 23 July)JEHOVAH'S WITNESS FAMILY LODGES LAST-DITCH EVICTION APPEAL.
A Jehovah's Witness family in Ashgabat, threatened with eviction from their rented home after using it for religious meetings, has lodged a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court. The Segzekov family�s earlier appeal against a district court ruling that they be deprived of their home "without provision of another place of residence" was rejected by the Ashgabad city court. No date has yet been set for the Supreme Court hearing. (Keston News Service, 1 August)
UKRAINE UPSET WITH MOSCOW'S CALL TO MAKE RUSSIAN AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry criticized Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko for his call that Russian be made the second official language of Ukraine, AP reported. In a statement, the ministry called Khristenko's suggestion "unreasoned" and said such statements "do not assist in strengthening a climate of trust and mutual understanding" in bilateral relations. Khristenko said earlier this week in Moscow that making Russian an official language in Kyiv would be in the best interests of the two countries, and added that bilingualism is a "historical fact" in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians make up some 20 percent of Ukraine's population. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August)NAZI VICTIMS RECEIVE MONEY.
The German government presented 13 former Nazi concentration camp prisoners and forced laborers during World War II with compensation at a Kyiv ceremony on 6 August, dpa reported, citing Interfax. Germany, which has pledged $790 million for the program, will give $6,800 to each former prisoner of a concentration camp, and $1,900 to each forced industrial worker. Forced agricultural or domestic laborers and people taken to Germany as children will receive $680. Between 540,000 and 560,000 Ukrainians are expected to receive compensation. The first recipients included 87-year-old forced laborer Tatiana Moslkalenko, and 60-year-old Lilia Zhir, who was an inmate at a concentration camp as a child. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)BREAKTHROUGH FOR ORTHODOX UNIFICATION?
Following an agreement reached during a visit by a mixed delegation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate to Istanbul between 12 and 14 June, the two sides have entered into an active dialogue aimed at unifying at least the two smaller of the country's three branches of Orthodoxy. The Moscow Patriarchate is not participating in the unification process, but representatives attended a meeting about it. (Keston News Service, 25 July)
CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST BAPTIST PASTOR DROPPED.
Criminal charges against Nikolai Shevchenko, pastor of the Bethany Baptist church in Tashkent, have been dropped "for lack of substance of a crime," Keston News Service learned on 23 July. He had been accused of leading an "illegal" religious organization; his church has been seeking registration for five years. He continues to face charges under the administrative code for "violation of the law." (Keston News Service, 23 July)
NEW WEBSITE ON NGO CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN CAUCASUS.
There is a new resource on NGO peace-making activities in the Caucasus, http://caucasus.freeservers.com, for an association of NGOs of the Southern and Northern Caucasus. Although the site is still under construction, there is information on forum activities. (MINELRES, 8 August)WEBSITE FOR AMETISTOV FOUNDATION LAUNCHED.
The Ametistov Foundation honors the work and life of Russian legal scholar Ernst Ametistov (see above). Its new website includes Ametistov's biography; Foundation news and events; education information; and a database. The website is partly bilingual (Russian, English). See http://www.terralegis.org/index.html, or in English: http://www.terralegis.org/index_e.html (Center for Civil Society International, 27 July)
BACK TO THE USSR?
By Liz Fuller
Although last week's CIS summit in Sochi was billed as an informal get-together, the top issue on the agenda was bound to, and did, engender controversy, even annoyance among the meeting's 10 participants. (Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov was absent for at least the third consecutive time, while Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze explained his absence in terms of the tensions generated in Tbilisi by the 26 July murder of TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya.)
The issue at stake has plagued the CIS since its inception a decade ago, namely, whether it is desirable (let alone possible) to reach consensus on shared common objectives and on measures to ensure the optimum degree of cooperation between CIS states in achieving those objectives. That question presupposes that CIS member states will, if necessary, subordinate their own interests to that of the CIS as a whole, and that they will refrain from adopting policies that could undermine the CIS.
There has been no shortage either of declarations of intent, or of specific programs of measures, or even of separate alignments within the CIS (the Collective Security Pact, the CIS Customs Union) intended to promote such cooperation. But the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of measures agreed on have never been implemented: in early 1998, then-CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya calculated that of 887 documents drafted since the CIS was created, only 130 had been signed by all member states.
One of the reasons why so many initiatives intended to promote greater coordination between CIS states have failed has been the ensuring suspicion of several of them that Russia perceives the CIS above all as a mechanism for restoring its control over other former Soviet republics. That suspicion was substantiated by an article published on the eve of the March 1997 CIS summit in Moscow that outlined measures for sabotaging alternative alliances emerging within the CIS in order to preserve and strengthen Russia's influence throughout the former USSR (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1997). Those proposals, which then Russian President Boris Yeltsin reportedly endorsed, cast a pall over the Chisinau CIS summit in October of that year, and expedited the emergence of GUAM, the unambiguously pro-Western alignment of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova.
In the apparent realization that the threat of subversion risked sounding the death knell for the CIS, Moscow in the spring of 1998 embarked on an alternative approach to promoting economic cooperation between the CIS member states in the form of an Inter-State Economic Agreement that would theoretically benefit them all. Boris Berezovsky, at that juncture still riding high in the saddle as CIS executive secretary, was tasked with persuading CIS presidents of the advantages of that model, and he subsequently presented an ambitious blueprint for economic cooperation that envisaged the creation of one or several CIS free-trade zones as the first step toward an economic union.
But even that strategy aroused suspicion: Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, for example, objected that Berezovsky had exceeded his brief. In early 1999, Berezovsky was removed from his CIS post, after which Uzbekistan first declined to renew its membership of the CIS Collective Security Pact, and then joined GUAM.
Although the planned free-trade zone has figured on the agenda of subsequent CIS summits, priority has been given to upgrading an alternative vehicle for closer intra-CIS economic cooperation, namely the transformation of the CIS Customs Union (comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) into the Eurasian Economic Community. But that move only served to strengthen the impression of the emergence of two opposing camps within the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community and GUUAM.
The emergence in mid-1999 of an Islamic threat to both Central Asia and to Russia (or the tacit agreement to construe both the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the pro-independence Chechen fighters as constituting such a long-term threat by virtue of their putative connections with the Taliban) served to provide an alternative focus for cooperation. At the first summit presided over by Vladimir Putin (in January 2000) in his capacity as then-acting Russian president, participants endorsed a proposal by Karimov and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev to draft an international program of measures to combat terrorism, including establishing a CIS antiterrorism center.
The setting up of that center and the creation of the CIS rapid reaction force have eclipsed the planned free-trade zone. But at the Sochi summit last week, Putin again returned to the question of promoting closer and more effective economic cooperation within the CIS as "the sole basis for developing cooperation in all spheres." Putin also focused on the role of what he termed "regional organizations" within the CIS, a formulation that suggests that, consciously or unconsciously, he does not regard the other former Soviet republics as sovereign states. Putin declared that "I want to emphasize that the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty, GUUAM, the Central Asia Economic Community can by all means complement the Commonwealth and...can even become a sort of laboratory for conducting specific variations on cooperation prior to their subsequent introduction throughout the CIS."
But Putin went on to make clear that such "regional organizations" should not adopt policies that could be perceived as directed against the broader collective interests of the CIS as a whole -- a warning that was almost certainly directed specifically at GUUAM, which has recently proposed creating its own free-trade zone, and several of whose members make no secret of their ultimate aspiration to NATO membership. It is, Putin said, "most important and a matter of principle" that "regional organizations work to strengthen the commonwealth as a whole and toward...raising the living standards of our peoples and safeguarding the security of all our countries."
What specific objections to that argument were expressed in the ensuing behind-closed-doors discussion, and by whom, is not known. But according to "Vremya novostei," when the 10 presidents finally emerged from that session, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliyev asked loudly, "Shouldn't we create the Soviet Union again?" prompting a lively discussion of who should occupy what post in a new USSR. ("Vremya novostei" did not supply details, but suggestions may have included Putin as CPSU general secretary; either Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka or Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, both of them former collective farm chairmen, as agriculture secretary; Nazarbaev as chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers; Armenian President Robert Kocharian as defense minister; and Aliyev as KGB chairman).
But while Aliev's off-the-cuff comment may have eased tensions momentarily, Putin's arguments are likely to have given further impetus to precisely those centrifugal and pro-Western tendencies within the CIS that he abhors most. How Moscow intends to counter those tendencies remains to be seen.