Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: August 15, 2001

15 August 2001, Volume 2, Number 32
GOVERNMENT CREATES FUND TO IMPROVE PRISON CONDITIONS. The Armenian government announced on 9 August the creation of a special fund to finance improvements in conditions in the country's jails prior to their transfer from the Interior and National Security Ministries to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That transfer, which was one of two conditions on which Armenia was admitted in January 2001 to full membership of the Council of Europe, is scheduled to take place in October-November 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS ASSAULT ON ITS MEMBERS. The opposition Musavat Party issued a statement on 9 August condemning the assault earlier that day in the town of Khudat on a group of its members headed by party Deputy Chairman Rauf Arifoglu, Turan reported. The statement noted that local police failed to step in to halt the assault, and arrested two Musavat Party members. It demanded the release of those two persons and the arrest of those responsible for the violence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

OSCE: BELARUS OBSTRUCTING OBSERVATION OF ELECTION. Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said on 7 August that Belarusian officials are hampering the "effective observation" of the country's upcoming presidential election, Belapan reported. Stoudmann said "never before has an OSCE participating state refused entry to the ODIHR to observe an election. It is a clear violation of international commitments undertaken by the government." The ODIHR had hoped to have an observer group in Minsk by 1 August, but has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Belarusian government and the observer group's members have been denied visas to monitor preparations for the September election. Stoudmann said "time is running out," and added that because of the delay, "it is already too late to conduct the kind of full-fledged observation that we do in other countries. The credibility of the entire election process is being drawn into question." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

POLL SHOWS LUKASHENKA COULD BE IN FOR A RACE. A poll of Minsk residents shows that if the presidential election were held now, incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka would be in a close race against leading opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, Belapan reported on 7 August. In a three-way race including Syarhey Haidukevich, leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, Lukashenka would garner 29 percent of the votes, Hancharyk would get 27 percent, and Haidukevich would receive 9 percent. If the ballot included Syamyon Domash, who registered as a candidate but will withdraw in favor of Hancharyk -- then Lukashenka would receive 27 percent, Hancharyk would garner 20 percent, Domash would get 14 percent, and Haidukevich some 8 percent. The poll was conducted by Belapan for the private newspaper "Nasha Niva" 30 July and 1 August. Lukashenka boasted last week that he would receive "over 90 percent of the vote." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

PRISON WARDEN SAID TO HAVE CONFIRMED GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT IN DISAPPEARANCES. The former warden of a death-row prison in Minsk has confirmed recent allegations of state involvement in the disappearances of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, and Anatol Krasouski, according to opposition presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, Belapan reported on 7 August. Hancharyk referred to his 6 August telephone conversation with Colonel Aleh Alkayev, former deputy chief of Belarus's Penal Committee, named in documents made public by Hancharyk in mid-July as having issued a pistol used for prisoner executions to Interior Ministry officer Dzmitry Pavlyuchenko on orders from Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau. Alkayev's current whereabouts are unknown, though his wife has said he has been staying with relatives in Russia for more than a month in the belief that his life is in danger. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

LUKASHENKA BUYS THE FARM VOTE. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka shored up his popularity in one of his main areas of support -- workers of Soviet-style state farms -- by announcing on 7 August that he is providing them with 25,000 tons of free fuel for the coming harvest, AP and Reuters reported. "A month ago I asked the government to ask all structures dealing with make a contribution to the president's election campaign and deliver thousands of tons of fuel oil to my farmers, my voters," he said, quickly adding that the election campaign reference was a joke. However, he warned that companies that fail to comply will face trouble. Lukashenka's announcement came during a 2 1/2 hour intercom conference with local officials broadcast live on national television and radio. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

POLICE BESIEGE NGOS IN HOMEL. Police on 8 August laid siege to the offices of the NGO Civic Initiatives and a youth group named Hart, Belapan reported. Two activists from each group were arrested outside the offices and police were trying to gain entry to the building. A police spokesman, Boris Tolkachev, said the four had resisted arrest. He did not explain the reason for the raid, saying it was an ordinary visit by a district police officer and a tax inspector. Hart activists said at least three police vehicles were involved in the operation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

LAW ENFORCERS CLAMP DOWN ON NGOS IN HRODNA, HOMEL. Police officers on 10 August conducted a search without a warrant of the office of the Hrodna-based organization Ratusha headed by presidential hopeful Syamyon Domash, seizing all computers and other office equipment, Belapan reported. The same day, KGB officers searched an apartment in Homel that houses a youth organization named Hart and seized all of the organization's documents and computers. Two days earlier, police officers searched the office of the Homel-based organization Grazhdanskaya Initsiativa headed by Domash's presidential campaign manager in the Homel region. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

FORMER COMMANDER DENIES THE HAGUE WANTS HIM. Naser Oric told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 6 August that there is no reason to believe that The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has placed him on its secret list of indictees. He said that claims that he has been indicted "are Serbian lies. I have not received any documents, information, or explanations from The Hague. Besides that, I recently attended a [war crimes] hearing in Sarajevo." Asked whether he would give himself up voluntarily if he were indicted, Oric said: "I was a volunteer in the 1992 war. If something will come up that I must do, I will do it. I am ready to go and have no problems whatsoever with it. I travel freely to Croatia and Slovenia, but not to Serbia, where I do not go. No border has been closed to me, which means that I have no reason to hide. I walk about as a free man." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

FORMER LEADER: OUR MEN ARE NOT GUILTY. Former President Alija Izetbegovic told "Avaz" of 7 August that "our generals are not guilty" of war crimes. He said that his Party of Democratic Action (SDA) differs from many Bosnian Serbs in its attitude toward The Hague-based tribunal in that the SDA supports the tribunal in principle, although it has criticized the indictment of three Muslim former commanders. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT ARRESTED? Bosnian Serb authorities told AP in Banja Luka on 10 August that NATO peacekeepers arrested Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic, an officer in the Bosnian Serb army's engineering corps, when he arrived for a meeting about mine removal. Deputy Interior Minister Zeljko Janjetovic told Reuters: "Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic was arrested this morning in the Banja Luka public security area zone." The British peacekeepers had a "sealed indictment" from The Hague for the arrest of Blagojevic, who commanded troops in Bratunac near Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 war. But Captain Andrew Coxhead, an SFOR spokesman, said, "We are unaware of any arrests." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

LABOR MINISTER TO FIGHT UNEMPLOYMENT. Lidiya Shouleva said that her top priorities are unemployment and poverty, BTA reported on 7 August. In an interview with the newspaper "Demokratsiya," Shouleva also said that the budget is currently being reviewed to see if funds exist to increase public-sector wages by 10 percent. She said the government is also looking into various plans to provide loans to private businesses. Shouleva said that other topics her ministry is looking at are reducing welfare and maternity benefits as well as aiding the poor in paying their utility bills. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

POLICE PROTESTS. Many of the 3,100 police and other cashiered Interior Ministry employees demonstrated on 7 August to protest the government's plans to fire them outright or reassign them to other jobs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Demonstrations took place in Bjelovar, Pakrac, Okucani, Zadar, and Vinkovci. The union representing government employees promised to take legal action against the authorities. A police strike remains a possibility. Officials of the opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) called for a special session of the parliament to discuss the sackings, saying that the government's decision will lead to reduced safety and security for citizens. On 8 August, a protest continued. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

SUIT LAUNCHED AGAINST COMMUNIST ADVOCATE... The Prosecutor-General's Office in Sumperk, northern Moravia, on 10 August ordered an investigation against David Pecha due to his support of a movement aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of other citizens, CTK reported. In an interview with the magazine "Pochoden" (Torch), Pecha praised communism and called for a return to that system by force. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to eight years in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

...AS RIGHTIST EXTREMISTS PROTEST AGAINST 'DISCRIMINATION...' Some 40 right-wing extremists on 12 August protested in Prague against police intervention during a 3 August concert organized by skinheads and attempted to hand a letter of protest to the Interior Ministry, CTK reported. There was no ministry official to take the letter, which was read out to journalists. The demonstration was organized by the far-right National Social Bloc. In the letter, the demonstrators accused Interior Minister Stanislav Gross of implementing the policies of "pseudo-humanist groups." Police detained one of the participants, who wore a shirt with Nazi symbols, and a police spokeswoman said he will be prosecuted for supporting a movement aimed at repressing the rights and freedoms of citizens, an offense for which he has been prosecuted several times in the past. The letter accused Gross of hindering free speech and said skinheads are being fired from jobs because of their opinions. The demonstrators also said they intend to launch "various forms of civic disobedience." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

...AND ATTACK GAY CLUB IN LIBEREC. A gay club in Liberec, northern Bohemia, was attacked by skinheads on 11 August, CTK reported. Two assailants were detained and charged with disturbing the peace. Jan Jarab, the government commissioner for human rights, on 11 August said his predecessor in that office, Petr Uhl, had proposed to the cabinet a program for the re-education of young extremists as far back as December 1999, but the program has not been implemented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

YOUNG CZECHS CHARGED WITH RACIST OFFENSES. Police in Zlin, central Moravia, on 9 August brought charges against four young people who chanted Nazi slogans in a restaurant in the town of Slavicin last May, CTK reported. If found guilty, they face a sentence of up to three years for "support of a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of other people" and for breaching the peace. Milan Rudny, who heads a local police squad dealing with extremism among youth, said the four had been investigated in the past on the same suspicion but this time police were able to find them "with the help of people willing to report illegal behavior and to testify." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS FOREIGN CENTER AIDS ROMANY EXODUS. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky on 12 August said on Prima TV that an investigation has been launched into allegations that the Munich-based European Center of Roma is behind the recent exodus to the U.K. by Czech Roma, CTK reported. Rychetsky said Czech and British secret services are conducting an investigation. Romany Regional Representative Board spokesman Ondrej Gina told Prima that he has "no information about any organization, either abroad or in our country, that would organize the exodus of Roma." On 10 August, Rychetsky met with Romany representatives to discuss ways of improving their situation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

ALL SIDES WELCOME HALT TO CZECH AIRPORT QUESTIONING. As Czech politicians of all stripes hailed the discontinuation of the British checks at Ruzyne airport, the daily "Pravda" opined that while Britain has "merely" tarnished its image with the maneuver, the Czech Republic has paid dearly for its cooperation, CTK reported on 8 August. A country that allows another to curb its citizens' right to travel, and indeed helps implement the measure, loses international prestige as well as pride and security in the minds of the citizenry, according to the daily. "The country renounced the rights of Romany citizens to avoid visa requirements, so whose rights will it renounce next?" "Pravda" asked. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

OSTRAVA ROMA FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST PUB OWNERS. Mikulas Horvath, the chairman of the Ostrava Romany Civic Initiative (ROI), on 8 August told journalists that his organization has launched a complaint against the owners of two pubs in the northern Moravian town who last week refused to serve Romany customers, CTK reported. Following several incidents in June, ROI has set up unarmed Romany self-defense patrols in Ostrava. In reaction, the far-right Republican Party youth organization in town has also set up patrols with the alleged aim of ensuring that Roma minority members do not violate the law or attack residents "without reason." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

ROMANY POPULATION LIVES IN FEAR. Some 46 percent of Roma live in fear in the Czech Republic, while roughly one in four is considering requesting asylum abroad, asserts a survey conducted for "Mlada fronta Dnes," as cited by CTK on 8 August. The conclusions were published less than 24 hours after the Czech government announced the discontinuation of British checks on U.K.-bound flights from Prague, which were seen by many as an attempt to stem the flow of Romany asylum seekers from the Czech Republic. About 53 percent of Roma polled said they had been denied jobs in the Czech Republic because of skin color, 46 percent had been denied service in restaurants, and 5 percent said they had been denied contracts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

AUSTRIAN COMPENSATION ON THE WAY FOR THOUSANDS OF CZECHS. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 7 August that the first letters have been sent informing victims of World War II forced labor of compensation levels, adding that Austrian payouts will reach roughly 4,900 Czechs in the days to come, CTK reported. Another 2,000 citizens should receive compensation by the end of August, Kavan added. He said that some 10 percent of the original 10,000 applicants for the Nazi-era compensation had died since submitting their requests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

CITY DEPUTIES SEEK EQUAL STATUS FOR RUSSIAN LANGUAGE. Four deputies on the Narva City Council have made a proposal to permit the use of the Russian language in the city as an official language of public administration, BNS reported on 9 August. Noting that 86 percent of Narva's population speak Russian as their native language, they cite Article 52 of the constitution, which states that in localities where the language of the majority of the residents is not Estonian, local governments may use the language of the majority of the permanent residents as an internal working language. Population Minister Katrin Saks, however, commented that she had not heard of any problems related to speaking Russian in Narva, but had personally experienced difficulty in being understood in Estonian there. Therefore, she said, the Estonian government must first ensure the fulfillment of the language law requirement that officials be fluent in Estonian at the required level before it can approve the Narva proposal. The Narva City Council chairman sent a proposal similar to that of the four deputies to the Estonian government in 1995, but never received a response. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

ARMY CHIEF SACKS SIX PEACEKEEPERS OVER PALDISKI INCIDENT. Defense forces commander Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts on 10 August discharged six soldiers who were involved in a conflict with local residents in Paldiski, BNS reported. Twelve other soldiers were reprimanded and nine were demoted. On the night of 23-24 July some 30 off-duty soldiers training at the Peace Operations Center, angered that local youths had robbed their colleagues in Paldiski, stopped and beat up several residents who were not able to speak Estonian well enough. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement on 31 July calling the actions of the soldiers racist and indicative of Estonia's nationalistic policy toward non-Estonians. Recognizing the need to improve relations with the local population, the Peace Operations Center will launch a long-term cooperation program in Paldiski including participation in the city's social and education programs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

OPPOSITION PLANS TO WORK MORE CLOSELY. Meeting in Tbilisi on 10 August, leaders of parliamentary parties and factions and extraparliamentary opposition parties agreed that next month they will officially unveil a coordinating council on which each party will have two or three representatives, Caucasus Press and Prime News reported. The council will not have a chairman, and will make decisions by consensus. The decision to coordinate opposition activities was triggered by the Georgian parliament's adoption of laws on elections and local government that they consider undemocratic. But parliament deputy speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili said the opposition will boycott the local elections scheduled for this fall only as a last resort. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

NGOS DEMAND RELEASE OF IMPRISONED OPPOSITION POLITICIAN. More than 10 NGOs and independent journalists in Kyrgyzstan on 7 August appealed to President Askar Akaev to release imprisoned opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev in connection with his past services to the country, his deteriorating health, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's declaration of independence, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Turgunaliev, who turned 60 last month, is serving a six-year sentence on charges of plotting to assassinate Akaev. He was recently hospitalized. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

IMPRISONED OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S PROPERTY CONFISCATED. Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service has issued orders to confiscate all property belonging to imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov, a member of that agency told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 9 August. Kulov was sentenced on 22 January to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power. New charges of embezzling a total of $635,000 were brought against him last month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

PREMIER SAYS ANTICORRUPTION MEASURES INEFFECTIVE. Addressing a cabinet session in Bishkek on 11 August, Kurmanbek Bakiev described efforts by law-enforcement bodies to counter corruption, smuggling, and economic crime "as a total disaster," RFE/RL reported. Bakiev attributed that failure to the fact that most criminal groups have protectors within the law-enforcement bodies, and estimated financial losses from smuggling at approximately 1.5 billion soms ($31 million) annually. He claimed that the Interior and Justice ministries arrest and imprison persons "who have stolen one chicken," while failing to apprehend "well-known criminals who robbed the country of $25 million," Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

UN COMMITTEE SAYS LEFTIST'S HUMAN RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED. Tatyana Zhdanoka, a leader of the left-wing alliance For Equal Rights, announced on 9 August that the UN Human Rights Committee on 25 July had found illegal the decision by a Latvian election committee in 1997 to remove Antonina Ignatane, a Latvian citizen, from the list of candidates in municipal elections because she was not fluent in Latvian, BNS reported. The UN committee ruled that the Latvian municipal election law provision requiring candidates to obtain from the State Language Board a Latvian-language proficiency certificate, is contradictory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It stated that Latvia is obligated to provide Ignatane with an effective remedy and to take steps to prevent future similar violations. Zhdanoka said that the UN committee's decisions are only recommendations, but that countries usually try to abide by them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

TEMPESTUOUS WEEKEND. Fighting raged in several parts of Macedonia over the 11-12 August weekend, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Focal points included the Radusa and Ljuboten-Ljubanci areas near Skopje, as well as the Tetovo area. Observers suggested that both sides were trying to take or consolidate territory in the run-up to the expected signing of the political agreement on 13 August. Government forces also sought revenge for the recent deaths of eight soldiers near Ljuboten. Ethnic Albanian political leader Arben Xhaferi said that the military "indiscriminately bombed" civilians in a "wild campaign," AP reported. Under heavy pressure from Western diplomats, the government announced a cease-fire late on 12 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: UCK TORTURED MACEDONIANS. The Washington-based NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 11 August that ethnic Albanian guerrillas tortured five road workers whom they recently captured, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. The statement added that the incident represents "an increasing pattern of illegal detentions and kidnappings" by the UCK. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SITUATION. In a joint declaration, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, and the Jewish Community expressed their concern over the current situation in Macedonia, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 11 August. The communities deplore the deaths of young people regardless of their religious affiliation, and express their sympathy with the relatives of the victims. The statement also says that the communities are alarmed at the constant threat to and destruction of religious buildings such as churches, monasteries, and mosques. This is the first joint declaration of the religious communities regarding the current conflict. Earlier this year, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religious Community accused each other of warmongering and fomenting religious hatred. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

MYSTERIOUS 'ALBANIAN ARMY' PART OF DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN? The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 13 August discusses what is known about the "Albanian National Army" (AKSH), which has featured in some media reports from Serbia and Macedonia in recent weeks. It is allegedly fighting for a Greater Albania, which is what Belgrade has long claimed is the goal of its ethnic Albanian opponents. No mainstream ethnic Albanian party in the Balkans endorses such a platform, however. The Frankfurt daily concludes that the reports about the existence of the AKSH are not conclusive, and that the organization might be a militant splinter group, if it exists at all. The article notes that the political and security situation in the Balkans -- including Macedonia -- will remain unstable until the political status of Kosova is settled. All of the parties of the ethnic Albanian majority there favor independence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

WHAT ROLE FOR AMNESTY? AP reported from Ohrid on 7 August that the ethnic Macedonian parties in the political talks agreed to an amnesty for UCK fighters, except for individuals who committed "crimes that the United Nations war crimes tribunal deals with." It is not clear whether the Macedonians intend to prosecute such individuals themselves or send them to The Hague. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH SAYS KILLINGS WERE 'EXECUTION.' "The Washington Post" reported on 8 August that an investigator for Human Rights Watch has rejected the Macedonian Interior Ministry's statement that the recent killing of five ethnic Albanian rebels took place because the men resisted arrest. The investigator and the daily likened the killings to a "summary execution." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

NEW BASIC TREATY WITH RUSSIA FINALIZED. Russian and Moldovan experts recently finalized in Moscow the text of the new basic treaty between the two countries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 10 August. Among other things, the treaty condemns "separatism" and the sides pledge to refrain from aiding "separatists" or any infringement on each other's "sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity." Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin agreed at the recent CIS summit in Sochi that the treaty will be signed in September or October and will be ratified by the two parliaments by the end of 2001. Deputy separatist leader Alexandr Karaman criticized the document, calling it "a concession by Moscow to Chisinau." The treaty also stipulates that the Russian language plays an "important role" in Moldova. Chisinau pledges to "ensure the necessary conditions for Russian-language instruction" in schools, while Moscow pledges to "create the necessary conditions for Moldovan-language instruction in the Russian Federation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

COURT HALTS PROSECUTION OF OPPOSITION LEADER. A court of justice in Chisinau on 10 August stopped the prosecution of Popular Party Christian Democratic leader Iurie Rosca on grounds that the plaintiff failed to file her complaint within the time limits specified by the law, Infotag reported. Rosca was charged with hitting a woman in the print shop that publishes his party's newspaper and the parliament last month lifted his parliamentary immunity to allow the prosecution. Rosca said in reaction that the entire affair had been staged by the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists in order to discredit him, and added that he will appeal the court's decision, which says the offense had been committed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

SENATE TO VOTE ON DISCLOSURE RULES FOR LEGISLATORS. The Rules and Senate Affairs Committee on 8 August threw its weight behind an amendment that would require from legislators the full disclosure of their assets, PAP reported. The full Senate vote was slated for 9 August on the legislation, which would define the duties of lawmakers in both the Senate and the lower house, the Sejm. The amended law would also maintain the confidentiality of legislators' addresses and the location of their real estate assets. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

GOVERNMENT FORMS COMMISSION ON COMPENSATION DISPUTE. The Polish government on 6 August formed a commission to look into complaints about the payments to Polish Nazi-era slave laborers, AP reported. Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said the commission, led by Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Steinhoff, would investigate claims by the Polish representatives of the Polish-German Reconciliation Fund that the German side had cheated victims out of 50 million zlotys ($12 million) by converting German marks at a poor exchange rate. The central German compensation fund distributes payments through funds in Central and Eastern Europe, and Poland was the only country to choose to receive compensation payments in local currency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

JEDWABNE MAYOR QUITS OVER MASSACRE MEMORIAL. Mayor Krzysztof Godlewski of Jedwabne, where Polish residents murdered their Jewish neighbors in 1941, resigned on 5 August to protest resistance by the town council to memorialize the massacre, AP reported on 6 August. Godlewski said he had threatened to resign even before Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski commemorated the 60th anniversary of the massacre on 10 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

STEELWORKERS RENEW PUBLIC PRESSURE. More than 2,500 workers staged a demonstration in the southern Polish city of Katowice on 10 August in one of the largest demonstrations in that country's heavy industry sector since the 1980s, dpa reported. Protesters aim to rally public support over the threatened closure of the bankrupt Huta Baildon steelworks, and marched to the district administrative office to demand that their jobs be saved, according to dpa. The new effort follows a recent rally by some 700 workers and continuing hunger strikes by a dozen Huta Baildon steelworkers demanding job guarantees or adequate welfare benefits. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

OPPOSITION, MEDIA CRITICIZE GENERALS' RETRIAL... National Liberal Party deputy Ovidiu Draganescu on 8 August said that the retrial ordered by Prosecutor-General Joita Tanase of Generals Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac is an attempt to "cleanse the files" of the chief culprits in the repression of the 1989 anticommunist uprising, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Draganescu was reacting to the official announcement that the retrial will begin on 28 January 2002 at the Supreme Court. Draganescu also said that Tanase's appeal of the 15-year sentence passed on the two defendants in 1999 "shows that the justice system serves political power." The daily "Ziua," cited by AP, commented that "the heroes of Timisoara," where the uprising started, "are turning in their graves," while the daily "Evenimentul zilei" sarcastically asked in a headline: "Revolution? When? Where?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

...AS PRESIDENT MAY CONSIDER REQUEST TO PARDON MINERS' LEADER. President Iliescu on 8 August said that he "has not yet received" the request of Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor that he pardon miners' leader Miron Cozma, but will "analyze" the request "when I return from vacation," Mediafax reported. Cozma, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1999 for his role in staging the violent demonstrations that brought about the demise of the cabinet headed by Petre Roman in 1991, was also the leader of the miners' rampage in Bucharest in July 1990, when he heeded an Iliescu request to "restore order" against anticommunist protesters. In his letter to Iliescu, Tudor says the president should use his prerogatives to "end the judicial farce of the [Emil] Constantinescu regime." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

PUTIN TO CAST NEW MAN IN LEADING ROLE ON PARDONS COMMISSION. RIA-Novosti reported on 9 August that President Vladimir Putin is mulling over at least two candidates to replace Anatolii Pristavkin, the current head of the Presidential Pardons Commission -- Nikita Mikhalkov, the prominent filmmaker and actor, or Yurii Solomin, an actor who during the Soviet era often played the role of KGB officers. Putin has decided to reorganize the commission and to oust Pristavkin following an investigation undertaken by the deputy chief of his administration, Viktor Ivanov. In his report to Putin, former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Ivanov wrote that the commission indiscriminately "granted amnesty to hard-core criminals." In an interview with Interfax on 9 August, Pristavkin acknowledged that he expects to be dismissed soon. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

FSB FINDS MORE 'SPIES' IN KRASNOYARSK. An FSB spokesman in Krasnoyarsk announced on 9 August that the FSB directorate has opened a criminal case against a group of Russian citizens on suspicion of state treason "in the form of revealing state secrets to a foreign state," RIA-Novosti reported. The spokesman refused to give details of the case but said that parallels can be drawn with the case of local scientist Valentin Danilov, who was arrested in February for espionage for China. The spokesman added that Danilov is accused of transferring materials on the impact the sun has on the functioning of satellites to Chinese intelligence services. This information reportedly helped China save enormous amounts of money in developing its space program. However, Danilov's lawyer, Yelena Yevmenova, said that in his contacts with the Chinese, her client used only materials from open sources. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

JOURNAL EXPLAINS PUTIN'S INTEREST IN OPINION POLLS... Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 31, analyst Dmitrii Furman argues that the reason Vladimir Putin's administration is so interested in the president's personal approval rating is because they see the rating as a kind of index of political stability. According to Furman, Putin does not follow his approval rating in the same way European or U.S. political leaders do, since he is not overly concerned about winning re-election in 2004. Instead, "if Putin sees a high approval rating, he is reassured that society is calm, and hence that he is doing the right thing." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

...AND PREDICTS THAT POLLS MAY BE SUBJECTED TO MORE MANAGEMENT. Furman also suggests that because Putin and his administration have such a tremendous influence over the approval ratings -- a result of their ability to "restrict or shut down any media outlets that 'lower' his rating," such as Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST outlets -- they do not mean what they do in the more "uncontrolled democracies as the U.S. and France." Furman concludes that the next natural step in managing the president's approval rating will be that if the rating starts to decline, the administration will question not its own course but the accuracy of the polling agencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

POLL REVEALS LONGING FOR LOST SUPERPOWER STATUS... In a poll conducted by the VTsIOM polling research center about Russia's future foreign policy priorities, the highest proportion of respondents -- 31 percent -- said that Russia's goal should be to regain the superpower status once held by the Soviet Union, "Profil" reported in its 30 July issue. At the same time, 16 percent of respondents thought Russia should give up on its ambitions abroad and focus on resolving domestic problems. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

...AND DISSATISFACTION WITH SITUATION IN CHECHNYA. VTsIOM also found that 40 percent of its respondents think the situation in Chechnya has not improved over the past two years, while 53 percent feel that peace talks are needed to settle the situation, AFP reported on 6 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

NEMTSOV AGAIN CALLS FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 August, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov again said that the Russian leadership should immediately embark on peace talks with Chechen representatives, Turan and RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. He proposed that the Chechen people should hold elections to choose who should represent which Chechen clan at those talks, and that President Aslan Maskhadov should not be excluded as a negotiating partner. Nemtsov said Russia should be represented by someone in whom President Putin has absolute trust, possibly FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev or Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, but not by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. But also on 9 August, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii rejected as "a bluff and wishful thinking" claims made by Maskhadov in an interview with a Slovak newspaper that representatives of the Russian leadership have repeatedly tried to contact him about holding peace talks, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

BRITISH CITIZEN DEPORTED FROM CHECHNYA. A 61-year-old British subject who formerly worked for a Danish NGO was detained in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan on 3 August without valid documentation and has since been flown from Ingushetia to Moscow. The man, who had a Russian visa valid only for Moscow and St. Petersburg, told the local military commandant's office that he was investigating the possibilities of supplying humanitarian aid to the region, Reuters reported on 6 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

CHECHEN CIVILIANS PROTEST ARREST. A group of some 40 people blocked the Grozny-Gudermes railway at Argun for several hours on 10 August to demand the release of a neighbor detained by Russian troops one week earlier, Interfax and AP reported. They were persuaded to disperse after "long talks" with Grozny officials and prosecutors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

MOSCOW OBLAST SEEKS TO BAN LIMONOV'S PARTY. The main administration of the Justice Ministry for Moscow Oblast has filed a suit in the oblast court to stop the activities of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NPB), ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August. The party was registered in the oblast four years ago, but has not been registered at the national level. According to the agency, several members of the NPB have been detained in a number of regions for trying to buy large quantities of automatic weapons, ammunition, and explosive materials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

NOVOSIBIRSK DEPUTY MAYOR ASSASSINATED. Novosibirsk Deputy Mayor Igor Belyaev was killed on 7 August on his way to the office in a manner typical of a "contract killing," RTR reported. Within the mayoral administration, Belyaev was in charge of the real estate as well as the city's flea markets. Interior Ministry investigators believe the murder is linked to his official activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

TOP KRASNOYARSK OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION. The prosecutor for Krasnoyarsk Krai has launched criminal proceedings against the head of the krai administration for natural resources, Aleksandr Boichenko, and Kansk Mayor Sergei Gurov on suspicion of being engaged in illegal commercial activities while in government service, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 August. According to FSB investigators, the two officials transferred more than $1 million to foreign bank accounts, including an account belonging to the former deputy governor of the krai, Nikolai Verner, who now lives in Germany. Verner is leader of the all-Russian youth movement named Lebed. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, Boichenko and Gurov obtained shares in several companies, which is a violation of the law on state service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

BANKRUPTCY OF TWO LARGE FIRMS IN KRASNOYARSK PUTS 10,000 OUT OF WORK. Ten thousand workers at the Sivinit synthetic fiber plant and the Krasnoyarsk cellulose industrial complex recently received notice that they are out of work, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 August. About a month ago, a local arbitration court declared the two companies bankrupt because of their large unpaid debts of some 1 billion rubles ($34 million). The two companies owe mainly overdue tax bills to various levels of government as well as an unpaid energy bill to Krasnoyarskenergo. Krasnoyarsk Deputy Governor Mikhail Gotovko told the daily that investors have been found to help Sivinit out of its crisis. A group named Industrial Investors is prepared to invest $10 million to help wipe out the company's debt. However, the situation with the cellulose plant is more complicated since the enterprise uses outdated technology and supplying it with modern equipment could cost $20-$35 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

OFFICIAL UNEMPLOYMENT PREDICTED TO FALL BELOW 1 MILLION THIS FALL. The ranks of the registered unemployed dropped by 102,000 from March to June 2001, according a government economic research center on 7 August, Russian agencies reported. The number is expected to drop even further by late September of this year, declining by 17,000 to reach 985,000. Meanwhile, the number of official vacancies rose 50 percent during the first six months of the year, and supply and demand in the labor market is expected to be relatively balanced by this fall. However, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok recently predicted that labor shortages will occur in the industrial sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2001). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

BEREZOVSKY ANNOUNCES GRANT FOR CHILDREN OF 'KURSK' CREW MEMBERS. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 August, each "Kursk" crew member's family was paid 720,000 rubles ($25,000) by the government and also received payment of 60,000-80,000 rubles from a military insurance company. On 10 August, the Fund for Civil Liberties, which was founded by Boris Berezovsky, announced that it will be giving $10,500 to each of the 11 children of dead crew members who reached the age of 16 by 1 August, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

RUSSIANS DRINK ACCORDING TO INCOME, AGE. In a broadcast on 10 August, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau continued its look at recent research on the Russian way of life conducted by the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). On the topic of drinking, 8 percent of respondents said that they never drink, while 28 percent could not remember the last time they had a drink. Natalya Kim, director of VTsIOM press center, told the bureau that the center concluded that half of the adult population drinks at least once a week. Younger and wealthier adults also drink more than their poorer and older counterparts. Seventy percent of the student respondents had had a drink either the day of the survey or the previous day. In terms of using profane language or swear words, one in two men and one in four women do so on a daily basis, according to the center. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

NEWSPAPER ALLEGES THAT SPREAD OF DRUGS MAKES RUSSIA 'A COUNTRY WITHOUT FUTURE.' "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued on 9 August that President Putin's reforms may eventually fail for the simple reason that "there will be no one to continue them." According to the daily, one underemphasized aspect of the Russian demographic crisis is the accelerating spread of drug addiction. Although Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov recently estimated the number of drug addicts at 451,000, the real figure is no less than 5 million, the newspaper reported, citing sources in Russian intelligence services. If, according to the World Health Organization, a nation is doomed to fade away if the number of drug addicts exceeds 7 percent of its population, then Russia comes very close to this threshold, the daily concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

RUSSIANS LAUGH MORE THAN THEY CRY. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 6 August, Natalya Kim, the director of the press center for VTsIOM, spoke about recent research the center conducted on the Russian way of life. In a survey of 2,000 respondents, 83 percent said they had laughed either the same day as they were being questioned or the previous day. And in response to the question as to when they had last cried, 52 percent of the men and 28 percent of the women said that they can't remember, while 20 percent of all the respondents said they had cried either that day or the previous day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DENIES EQUATING MUSLIMS WITH 'EXTREMISTS.' The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement on 7 August denying that Russian police consider all Islamic organizations extremist, Interfax reported. That statement was issued in response to media comment on a meeting in Moscow last month at which, according to "Izvestiya" on 11 July, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov criticized the heads of other law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, for failing to crack down on "extremist" Islamist groups. The paper added that participants at that meeting agreed on the need to infiltrate agents into Islamic organizations. Also on 7 August, the Council of Muftis of Russia, which is headed by Ravil Gainutdin, issued a statement dismissing media claims that the rights of Muslims in Russia are systematically violated, Interfax reported. In a 19 June article on Islam in Russia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" criticized Gainutdin's role, accusing him of minimizing the threat posed to Russia by "Wahhabism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

CHINA ASKED RUSSIA FOR HELP IN PERSECUTING FALUN GONG. The Chinese government has asked Moscow to suspend the activities of Russian followers of the Chinese religious sect Falun Gong, which has been banned by Beijing, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 August. The Chinese government also requested that the Russian government prevent Falun Gong's members from holding a planned press conference in Moscow. In a letter handed over by the Chinese military attache in Moscow to the Russian Interior Ministry, the Chinese side expressed its appreciation for that ministry's efforts to combat "religious sects of extremist nature." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

FIRST LATIN ALPHABET STREET SIGNS APPEAR IN KAZAN. The first signs in the Tatar language with Latin rather than Cyrillic script appeared in Kazan's historic district, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 8 August. According to officials of that district, all street names will be replaced with those in Latin script by the end of the month at a cost of 40,000 rubles ($1,400). According to Interfax-Eurasia, a complete transition to Latin script is scheduled to take 10 years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August)

PRESEVO ALBANIAN LEADER CALLS FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION OF MINORITY. Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi told Kosova Live news agency on 6 August that the Presevo Valley's ethnic Albanian population should be represented proportionally in local organs of government, including the judiciary and police as well as the administration. He called for better representation for ethnic Albanians in central Serbian and Yugoslav bodies as a step toward greater democracy. He noted that there is only one Albanian in the Serbian legislature. In addition, Halimi called for more investments in the Presevo region and the creation of unspecified "special organs" to promote Albanian cultural and religious rights. Elsewhere in the Presevo region, OSCE officials began training the first of what will eventually be 400 new Albanian police for the region, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)

PRIME MINISTER: 'FIRST CLASS SCANDAL' OVER MURDER OF SECURITY OFFICER. Zoran Djindjic said that the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia is in its deepest crisis yet following the murder on 3 August of Momir Gavrilovic, a state security officer, "Danas" reported on 13 August. It has recently come to light that, hours before his death, Gavrilovic met with members of President Vojislav Kostunica's staff and showed them evidence linking unnamed top state officials to the underworld. The Podgorica daily "Vijesti" reported on a commentary of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, suggesting that Gavrilovic was aware that Kostunica's allies in the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party and the army high command could be linked to criminal elements close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

HOMOSEXUALS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION. Several dozen Slovak gays and lesbians on 10 August marched in Bratislava in protest against discrimination, CTK reported. Ivan Pozgai of the Inakost (Diversity) organization said the protest is aimed against the lack of "a political will to respect the contemporary democratic values of equality of the minorities [and against] the arrogance of those who abuse political tools to manipulate public opinion." While debating a new law on civil service in early July, the parliament refused to ban discrimination of homosexuals in the workplace. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August)

OPPOSITION PARTY BANNED. Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 7 August complied with a request by the country's Justice Ministry to ban the Adolatkhoh (Justice) Party, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The Supreme Court had suspended the party's activities late last year for a period of six months on the grounds that it had violated the Law on Political Parties by including in its membership lists persons with no connections with the party. Under the Law on Political Parties, they must have no less than 1,000 members and regional organizations in most administrative districts. Vavorud on 8 August quoted Adolatkhoh Secretary-General Abdurahmon Karimov as saying that on 21 July he appealed to the Justice Ministry to postpone for six months a decision on banning the party in order to enable him to reregister members. He said the party had not yet succeeded in doing so because of financial constraints. Karimov claimed that Adolatkhoh has 1,200 members in Konibodom (northern Tajikistan) and a further 6,000 members elsewhere in the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)

SECRET POLICE OFFICER ASSASSINATED. Colonel Yevhen Zadorozhny, the head of the Ukrainian secret police's anti-organized crime division in Odesa, was shot dead on 7 August, dpa reported. Zadorozhny was killed outside his home in Odesa as he left for work. Zadorozhny was responsible for investigations into mafia-related activity in Odesa, primarily the smuggling of oil products, drugs, and weapons. He held the job for about one year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)