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(Un)Civil Societies Report: September 21, 2001

21 September 2001, Volume 2, Number 38
GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO IMPROVE STATUS OF MINORITIES. The new government of Prime Minister Ilir Meta easily won a vote of confidence in the parliament, Reuters reported on 12 September. In addition to its main priorities of promoting Euro-Atlantic integration and eliminating power cuts, the government wants to bring its policies toward ethnic minorities more into line with European standards, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The government also plans to devote more attention to working with the various religious communities and the diaspora. The Greeks are the largest single minority, but Macedonians and other Balkan Slavic and non-Slavic groups are also present. The main religious communities are Sunni Muslim, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Bektashi. All have reemerged with new vigor following decades of persecution under communism, partly with the help of their respective co-religionists abroad, such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Bektashi community of Detroit in the U.S. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

FORMER DISSIDENT DETAINED FOR ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF ARMS. Armenian police arrested Azat Arshakian, a Soviet-era dissident and one of the founders of the Independence Army, a former paramilitary group now engaged in charitable work, on 14 September following the discovery earlier that day of large quantities of weapons and ammunition at a Yerevan office building belonging to the Independence Army, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17 September, quoting an unnamed Interior Ministry official. Police said the weaponry included 30 flamethrowers, 230 hand grenades, some 300 mine detonators, and more than 13,500 cartridges. Arshakian has reportedly accepted responsibility for the arms cache, the third to be found over the past 12 months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

FORMER PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT SAYS HE WAS TORTURED. Journalist Nairi Badalian told the Presidential Human Rights Commission on 17 September that the Military Prosecutor's Office subjected him to torture in an attempt to coerce him to give incriminating evidence in the investigation into the October 1999 parliament shootings, Arminfo and Noyan Tapan reported. Specifically, Badalian said he was ordered to give false evidence incriminating President Kocharian's adviser, Aleksan Harutiunian. Harutiunian was detained in December 1999 and spent four months in custody before being released for lack of evidence against him. Badalian was similarly taken into custody after the shootings and held for eight months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

ESTIMATES OF KARABAKH POPULATION DIFFER. The authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic recently released statistics according to which the region's present population is just over 143,000, which is close to the number of Armenians living there prior to the onset of the Karabakh conflict in early 1988, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 10 September. (In early 1988, Armenians accounted for approximately 75 percent of the total 160,000 population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.) Officials in Yerevan say that over 1,000 Armenian families, most of them refugees from Azerbaijan, have moved from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh or the Armenian-controlled district of Lachin since 1994, and that up to 100,000 more families are ready to do so on condition that the Armenian government provides them with financial assistance. But Armenian journalist Vahram Aghadjanian challenged those figures in an interview published in the independent Azerbaijani daily "Ekho" on 8 September and reproduced by Groong. He said that families from Armenia who have settled in Nagorno-Karabakh are numbered only in "dozens," not hundreds. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

TWO AZERBAIJANI POWS RELEASED. One Azerbaijani serviceman and one civilian, both of whom were taken prisoner some two months ago by Armenian forces, were released on 12 September through the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Turan reported. The two men have returned to Azerbaijan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

VERDICT POSTPONED: JEHOVAH'S WITNESS TRIAL. Although the closing hearing in the case against Jehovah's Witness Levon Markarian took place on 11 September, the judge has withheld a verdict until 18 September. The head of the court chancellery told Keston News Service that she did not know the reason for the delay. The judge gave no reason to the court. It appears that both the government's State Committee for Religious Affairs and the National Security Ministry (the Armenian successor to the KGB) have been involved in the case. (Keston News Service, 10-14 September)

CHARISMATIC PASTOR ON REMAND. As Armenia prepares to celebrate 1,700 years since the proclamation of Christianity as its state religion, the female pastor of Yerevan's Warriors of Christ charismatic church is about to enter her third month in a remand prison in the capital, Keston News Service has learned. On 13 July, according to a 29 August statement from the church, up to 30 armed police officers confiscated all the church's movable property, and four days later 46-year-old church leader Shogher Khachatrian was arrested on suspicion of swindling. Church members claim the arrest is linked with the authorities' fear of the church's growing prominence and the possibility that it may evangelize during the forthcoming papal visit. (Keston News Service, 17 September)

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR SENTENCED, OTHERS FREED. When Jehovah's Witness Gevork Palyan was sentenced to one year's imprisonment on 12 September by a Yerevan court for refusing military service on religious grounds, he was the latest in a long line of conscientious objectors to face imprisonment in Armenia under Article 75 of the Criminal Code (refusal to perform military service). An amnesty this summer has seen many of them freed, although Armenia continues to ignore its Council of Europe commitment to end punitive measures against conscientious objectors and introduce a law on alternative service. One official told Keston News Service in Yerevan that no alternative service law is in preparation. (Keston News Service, 18 September)

ECOLOGISTS DEMAND CLOSURE OF CONTROVERSIAL RADAR STATION. At a roundtable in Baku on 11 September, ecologists called for the closure of the Gabala radar facility in Azerbaijan that is currently leased to Russia, Turan reported. After years of inconclusive talks, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev and his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov succeeded during talks in Moscow on 7 September in coming close to agreement on the conditions under which that lease will be extended. The roundtable participants argued that the radar station causes serious damage to the environment and to the health of the population nearby, and could be a prime target for a nuclear strike. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER PACKET OF KEY LAWS. In its autumn session, the Milli Mejlic will consider a draft law on alternate military service and amendments to the current martial law legislation, Turan news agency reported. Parliament will also debate new draft laws on national defense and espionage, Milli Mejlic Deputy Speaker Ziyafet Askerov told journalists on 11 September. (Eldar Zeynalov, 11 September)

LUKASHENKA OFFICIALLY DECLARED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WINNER. The Central Election Commission on 14 September rejected as unfounded the complaints by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the "Vyasna" Human Rights Center, and presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk that the 9 September presidential elections were rigged, Belapan reported. The commission announced official election results, according to which incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka obtained 75.65 percent of the vote, Hancharyk 15.65 percent, and Syarhey Haydukevich 2.48 percent. Turnout in the elections was 83.86 percent. Lukashenka's ceremonial inauguration for his second term will take place on 20 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

POLL SAYS LUKASHENKA GOT 44 PERCENT OF THE VOTE IN MINSK. The independent news agency Belapan conducted a poll among 500 Minsk residents from 10-12 September, finding that Lukashenka was supported in the presidential elections by 44 percent of the residents of the Belarusian capital. According to official data from the Central Election Commission, Lukashenka obtained 57.37 percent of the vote in Minsk. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY IN BUDGET SPHERE TO RISE TO $100 BY 2002. Economy Minister Uladzimir Shymau on 12 September announced that the government will increase the average monthly salary of employees in state-funded organizations by 26.6 percent by the end of this year, Belapan reported. The average salary will be increased to reach the equivalent of $100, in compliance with President Lukashenka's pledge earlier this year. According to Shymau, the average monthly salary in the country in July amounted to 138,700 Belarusian rubles ($99.3 at the official exchange rate). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

COURT SENTENCES ITALIAN IN SPY CASE. The Minsk City court on 12 September sentenced Italian citizen Angelo Antonio Piu to 4 1/2 years in prison for espionage, Belapan reported. Piu's interpreter, Belarusian citizen Iryna Ushak, was sentenced to four years for treason. The Belarusian KGB arrested Piu and Ushak in April during an exchange of material containing military data. Both pleaded guilty in a trial conducted behind closed doors. Piu's lawyer, Syarhey Kazlou, said the two are hoping for a pardon. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

STRIKERS REJECT OFFER. The 400 workers on hunger strike at Polihem in Tuzla have rejected an offer from the Elektroprivreda company to pay $120,000 toward their back wages, "Avaz" reported on 12 September. The workers rejected the offer of "social assistance" as "immoral" and an attempt to skirt the real issues involved. The workers want the company to restore Polihem's electric power so that they "can work and earn ourselves." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

APPELLATE COURT COMMUTES SENTENCES AGAINST SKINHEADS. A Czech regional appellate court has reduced the sentences of several youths convicted of a racially motivated attack on a group of Roma in the central Bohemian town of Podebrady, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 12 September. The Central Bohemian Regional Court commuted their prison sentences to suspended sentences. The attack came last April after the youths shouted insults at a group of Roma children and forced them to leave a public playground. The newspaper did not offer the court's reasoning. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

AUSTRIA BEGINS SECOND PHASE OF WWII COMPENSATION. A representative of the Czech Council for Victims of Nazism on 11 September said Austria has begun the second phase of compensation to forced laborers who worked on its territory during World War II, CTK reported. Payments will for the first time include compensation to the heirs of some of the total 10,000 applicants, roughly one-tenth of whom have died since filing their applications. Some 1.2 billion Czech crowns ($32.13 million) will be distributed among forced laborers from the territory of the Czech Republic and their relatives. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

NEW POLITICAL PARTY LAUNCHED. A new political party emerged on 13 September with a formal request to register Cesta zmeny (Path of Change) by a group led by businessman Jiri Lobkowicz and media analyst Bork Severa, CTK and local media reported. A statement issued in connection with the registration process said Path of Change is "a party of a new center" and "oriented neither right nor left, but forward." Its backers hope to tap into what they believe is considerable disenchantment among voters frustrated by a calcified political landscape and close cooperation between the two largest parliamentary parties despite considerable ideological differences. Those two parties, the Civic Democratic Party and the ruling Social Democrats, have had a virtual stranglehold on power since entering into an opposition agreement in 1998. The next national elections are slated for June 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

EDUCATION MINISTER PROMISES MORE FUNDS TO UNIVERSITIES. Responding to the declared boycott of the government by university rectors, Education Minister Tonis Lukas announced on 14 September that the state will increase spending on higher education in 2002 by 150 million kroons ($8.8 million), or 23 percent, BNS reported. He said that a large share of the additional funds will go toward Tallinn Technical University's new study center. Lukas called demands to raise the state allocations per university student from the current 12,600 kroons to 20,000 kroons surprising and out of proportion, as the state would need at least an additional 400 million kroons to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

RELIGION LAW RETURNED TO PARLIAMENT. Amendments to the religion law adopted by the Estonian parliament in June but vetoed by President Lennart Meri had to be submitted by 13 September. An adviser to parliament's legal committee told Keston News Service on 14 September that her committee would invite religious groups to set out their concerns when the law is again considered. (Keston News Service, 10-14 September)

'MOBS TERRORIZE NON-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS...' Georgian authorities are indulging and abetting mob violence against non-Orthodox Christian worshippers, Human Rights Watch said on 29 August. Over 40 attacks have taken place this year; more than 80 violent incidents have been reported since 1999. The assailants, civilian militants who are sometimes led by Orthodox priests, have meted out beatings, ransacked homes, and destroyed religious literature. The mobs target Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentacostals, Baptists, and followers of other Christian faiths non-native to Georgia, attempting to intimidate them into abandoning their faith. Since last year, mob attacks have spread from Tbilisi to other towns and rural areas. For the full text of the report, see Human Rights Watch urged the U.S. to challenge the Georgian government's failure to address the violence, and called for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to visit Georgia and investigate. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 29 August)

...DO AUTHORITIES CONDONE ATTACKS? Encouraged by government and police inaction, the frequency of attacks is on the rise. President Eduard Shevardnadze has spoken out against the attacks and ordered police and prosecutors to "identify and punish" perpetrators, but the authorities have failed to investigate seriously or make arrests. The leader of most of the attacks, defrocked Orthodox priest Vasili Mkalavishvili, publicly claims to receive help from police and security services. Police officers have failed to intervene to protect the victims and in some cases the police have violently broken up prayer meetings. In February, the Supreme Court ruled to deregister the Jehovah's Witnesses as a legal entity in Georgia. The Supreme Court decision prompted a new surge of violent attacks. Local level police, customs officers, and Orthodox priests leapt to interpret the decision as a ban on Jehovah's Witnesses' activities. They have used it variously to disperse prayer meetings, confiscate literature, and to issue new threats. The Georgian Orthodox Church has failed to condemn the violence explicitly. Since 1998 it has lobbied for laws to gain special status and to have restrictions placed on other faiths. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 29 August)

CONSTRUCTION OF SIX MOSQUES BANNED. Local authorities in districts of southeastern Georgia, where the population is overwhelmingly Azerbaijani, have ordered that work on construction of six mosques in the region to be suspended, according to Interfax on 15 September and Caucasus Press on 17 September. The chairman of the Georgian parliament subcommittee for national minorities, Vakhtang Shamiladze, said that neither the Georgian authorities nor the religious leaders of the Azerbaijani community in Georgia have given official permission for the construction, which, he added, was being financed by representatives of unnamed Middle Eastern states posing as officials for international Muslim charities. The ban is likely to fuel latent tensions between the Azerbaijani population of the region and the Georgian authorities. In recent weeks the Azerbaijani media have repeatedly reported that Azerbaijanis in Georgia are subject to systematic discrimination. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

TWO KILLED IN FIGHTING. Two people died on 16 September and one was injured in fighting in a village in Tsalka, southern Georgia, between an ethnic Greek family and a family of highland Svans resettled in the district following a natural catastrophe in their native northwestern Georgia in 1987, Caucasus Press reported. Police were deployed in the region to prevent further clashes and are patrolling access roads. Tensions between the Greek population in Tsalka and the local Armenian minority were reported last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT ESTABLISHED. RFE/RL reports from Astana that a new political movement, Mening Qazaqstanym (My Kazakhstan) was established in Astana on 14 September. The leader of the new movement is Qayrat Satybaldy, who reportedly is a nephew of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 September)

'ON HORNS OF DILEMMA.' Major Macedonian dailies ran editorials on 11 September in which they expressed concern that the country might soon be forced to accept a new international force that could lead to the partition of Macedonia along ethnic lines, Makfax news agency reported. "Dnevnik" wrote that Macedonians' "worst nightmares" might thus come true. "Nova Makedonija" noted that "we are all well aware that the ethnic Albanians [want] an extended presence of NATO soldiers despite the fears among the Macedonian population that certain parts of Macedonia's territory will be declared an international protectorate" in the process. Commenting on the West's concern about a "vacuum" arising in Macedonia once Operation Essential Harvest ends, the daily noted: "too much concern raises suspicions." It added that NATO troops are likely to stay for some time once they arrive, and that Macedonians should decide whether this is acceptable. "Dnevnik" wondered if one can "fill a security vacuum with gunpowder." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

ECHR TO EXAMINE BESSARABIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CASE IN OCTOBER. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided to examine a case filed by the Bessarabian Orthodox Church against the Moldovan government, Flux reported on 11 September. The Bessarabian Church, which is subordinate to the Bucharest Patriarchate, filed a complaint to the court following repeated refusals by consecutive Moldovan governments to register the church. Premier Vasile Tarlev's cabinet had previously asked for a postponement and expressed its readiness for settlement. According to Popular Party Christian Democratic deputy Vlad Cubreacov, the ECHR rejected the cabinet's request for an additional postponement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

NEW PARTY SET UP. Former Party of Revival and Conciliation Deputy Sergiu Mocanu on 11 September announced the formation of a new political party, Flux reported. The party, called Democratic Unity Party, is "pro-European," and will primarily focus on social issues, Mocanu said. He added the party insists on the definition of "Moldovan" as being identical with "citizen of the Republic of Moldova." As for external policies, the party considers Moldova "a bridge between West and East." Mocanu said Moldova should end special relations with Romania, thus facilitating Romania's accession to NATO and the EU... The party is to hold its first congress in November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

POLICE SEARCH GERMAN MINORITY ORGANIZATION OFFICE. Police officers on 12 September searched the office of the German minority organization Reconciliation and Future in Katowice, southern Poland, PAP reported. The officers said they were looking for museum pieces that were allegedly misappropriated by Reconciliation and Future head Dietmar Brehmer. Brehmer commented that the police search was meant to intimidate the German minority in the region and spoil his chances in the 23 September general elections. Brehmer is running in the elections as No. 1 on the list of the German Minority of Upper Silesia election committee. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

BONNER SAYS STATE CANNOT FORM CIVIL SOCIETY. In a wide- ranging interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 September, Yelena Bonner, the widow of academician Andrei Sakharov and a leading human rights activist, said that civil society cannot be created by the state but must evolve on its own. She added that this process is inevitably long and often difficult, and criticized President Putin for thinking that he can help develop civil society by organizing a Civic Forum later this year. Putin came to power because of his backing of the war in Chechnya, and now "he does not know how to get out of it," Bonner said. Moreover, she added, Putin has "become the hostage of those forces that are prosecuting this war." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

GULAG MUSEUM TO OPEN IN MOSCOW... Some 50 years after Stalin's death brought about the end of the worst horrors of the Soviet Union's labor camp system, plans to open a national museum about the Gulag are reopening painful wounds. The Gulag Museum, with archives and artifacts showing the plight of the millions who suffered and died under Soviet communism, is due to open next autumn in the center of Moscow. The city of Moscow has allocated a building and funds towards the $2 million budget for the controversial museum. Museum director and survivor of 13 years in the Stalinist camps, Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, 81, said the museum is needed so that younger generations can learn about the Stalinist period. ("Financial Times," 8 September)

...GIVING RISE TO CONTROVERSY. Yuri Pivovarov, director of the Institute of Social Science Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that a reevaluation of Russian history lacked institutional support in that the Orthodox Church was "a marginalized and compromised force." In addition, the collapse of communism, resulting in a sharp drop in the standard of living, replaced "disillusionment with the past with a romanticized memory of its better aspects." This view is supported by Russian academic Igor Klyamkin, who said that "The number of Russians who think the repression was good is very small but people also remember positive things: the winning of the war and the battle for space exploration." According to Klyamkin, most older people "prefer not to think about [Stalinism.]" Such ambivalence can be found in even greater measure among Russia's political elite since most of them were active participants in the old regime. Arseny Roginsky, director of Memorial, an NGO devoted to Gulag victims, believes that any new museum should not draw too sharp a distinction between the "evil past and the good present." Roginsky observes that many Soviet archives have been inaccessible to researchers over the past few years, that human rights abuses continue, and that many people deported under Stalin are still unable to return home. ("Financial Times," 8 September)

LEARNING FROM HISTORY? Some Russian experts compare Russian and German attitudes towards their respective histories. One of them, Yuri Pivovarov, the director of the Institute of Social Science Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: "People do not equate the ethical and moral horrors and shame of Nazism with those of communism." He argues that a first wave of changing postwar attitudes in Germany was imposed by Allied forces and supported by the Catholic Church and rapid economic growth. Other experts point out that it took the younger generation in Germany years of effort to gain greater public recognition of the Nazi past, and that similar processes may eventually take place in Russia. ("Financial Times," 8 September)

MOSCOW TO GIVE EUROPEANS DATA ON CHECHEN TIES TO BIN LADEN, CASES AGAINST RUSSIAN MILITARY. Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said on 13 September that his office will hand to a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe materials proving links between Chechens and international terrorist Osama bin Laden, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Kremlin adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the same day that he has given Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, a list of criminal cases that have been opened against Russian military personnel in Chechnya, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

RUSSIAN GENERAL KILLED IN CHECHNYA. A Russian general and eight other servicemen were killed on 17 September when Chechen fighters shot down a Russian military helicopter attempting to land at the Russian military base at Khankala on the outskirts of Grozny, AP reported. Also on 17 September, several hundred Chechen fighters launched a multiple attack on targets in the town of Gudermes, east of Grozny. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)

SPS WANTS DUMA TO ASK PUTIN TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW IN CHECHNYA. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputies on 17 September asked the Council of the Duma to schedule a vote by the full parliament on their proposed appeal to President Putin to declare martial law in Chechnya, Interfax reported. One of the authors of the appeal, deputy Sergei Yushenkov, said that "considering the connection of Chechen bands with international terrorism, it is necessary to coordinate efforts with the world community in the struggle with this 'plague of the 21st century.'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

MOSCOW MARKS ANNIVERSARIES OF 1999 EXPLOSIONS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 13 September led the commemoration on the second anniversary of the 8 and 13 September 1999 terrorist explosions in apartment buildings in the Russian capital that claimed 124 lives and which the Russian leadership adduced as its rationale for beginning the second Chechen war, RTR television reported. Russian prosecutors have charged five residents of Karachaevo-Cherkessia with involvement in these attacks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

LUZHKOV CALLS FOR MUSCOVITES TO BE 'VIGILANT.' Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on 13 September called on citizens of the Russian capital to increase their vigilance and to report anything suspicious to police authorities, Interfax-Moscow reported. Meanwhile, across Russia, officials announced heightened security measures, Russian agencies reported. In particular, special security measures have been introduced at nuclear power plants and at military facilities, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

NEW PARTY SEEKS TO DEFEND RIGHTS OF ALL RUSSIAN CITIZENS. A constituent congress of the All-Russian geopolitical party, "The Party of the Peoples of Russia," took place on 13 September near Moscow, and party leaders said that they see as their task to be organizing "the defense of the rights and freedoms of man and citizens independent from nationality and religion," Interfax reported. Nadezhda Cherbukhkova, the chairwoman of the organizing committee and the head of the Nationality Affairs Commission of the Central federal district, said that this party will help consolidate society on the basis of strengthening the state and "the principles of all-Russian patriotism and citizenship." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

URALS OFFICIALS CALL FOR TIGHTER IMMIGRATION POLICY. At a meeting on 12 September with leaders of law enforcement structures and members of the Sverdlovsk Oblast's government in Yekaterinburg, law enforcement officials expressed their concern about the growth of illegal immigrants from countries in Central Asia, primarily from Tajikistan, the website reported. According to police data, the number of persons illegally arriving in Sverdlovsk has reached 50,000-70,000 a year. To address the problem, official have called for setting up a telephone hot line and drafting legislation that will make migration policy more strict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

BASHKIR OPPOSITION FIGURE ADVOCATES ESTABLISHING POPULAR FRONT. Russia has never allowed the non-Russian peoples freedom to develop, and so they must create the necessary conditions to do so either individually or in cooperation with each other, Ekhter Bosqynov, who heads the Ural Bashkir People's Center, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 12 September. Acknowledging that "Tatarstan has always been a model for us," Bosqynov advocated creating a popular front in Bashkortostan comparable to that in Tatarstan and which would set as its priority the defense of the right to self-determination of the Muslim peoples of the Russian Federation. Bosqynov also accused Moscow of planning to abolish the republican status of both Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and lower their status to that of an oblast or krai. He called on the leaders of both republics to cooperate in opposing those plans. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

PROSECUTORS CHARGE PERM CAMP COMMANDER WITH MISTREATING INMATES. Following complaints by journalists and human rights activists, prosecutors in Perm announced on 11 September that they have brought charges against the commander of a special forces commander who heads one of the prison colonies in the region for mistreating inmates, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Moscow has announced a number of charges against Russian troops fighting in Chechnya, a move "Vremya novostei" on 10 September said is designed to make Russia look good in advance of the fall meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

PUTIN BRIEFED ON PRISON SYSTEM. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika on 13 September briefed President Putin on how his ministry is implementing court decisions on prisons and how it is improving its responsiveness to citizen inquiries, Interfax reported...("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

A SNAPSHOT OF POLICE CONDUCT IN SIBERIAN REGION. Since the beginning of the year, 423 police officers in Novosibirsk Oblast have faced disciplinary action for violating the rights of citizens, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 11 September, citing the press service of the oblast's prosecutor. In addition, criminal cases have been launched against 16 police officers. The number of searches conducted without approval of the prosecutor-general has increased 17 percent since the beginning of the year. According to the press services, some indicators have shown improvement: the number of persons arrested under Article 122, suspicion of committing a crime, dropped, and in a number of raions in the oblast not one citizen was found to have been arrested without grounds. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

PUTIN -- ON ROSH HOSHANAH -- ACKNOWLEDGES CONTINUING ANTI-SEMITISM. President Putin on 17 September issued a message of greetings to Russian Jews on the occasion of the celebration of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hoshanah, Russian agencies reported. He said that the last year was one of progress but noted that "unfortunately, even today we encounter manifestations of anti-Semitism. There is not and cannot be any justification for them." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

ISLAMIC PARTY CALLS FOR CREATION OF PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL ON ISLAM. A congress of the Islamic Party of Russia on 15 September called for the creation in the presidential administration of a Council on Islam, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 September. The delegates also expressed their condolences to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. Party leaders said that the group now has more than 600,000 members in more than 50 regions of Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

SUFISM DEFENDED AS INTEGRAL PART OF ISLAM. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Religii," No. 17, argues that Sufism should not be treated as some "special" or "mystical" tendency in Islam but rather viewed as essentially "a truly Islamic path of spiritual perfection for a Muslim." Such a view is at odds with the approach typically adopted by both Russian and Western writers on this aspect of Islam. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

KREMLIN DOESN'T TRUST ORTHODOX LEADERSHIP, SAYS TOP OFFICIAL. Senior Kremlin official Maksim Meyer has revealed the extent of disillusionment with the Russian Orthodox Church's leaders within President Putin's administration. In an exclusive interview with the Keston News Service, he claims that the Kremlin does not trust the Orthodox leadership, believing it to be "dishonest" and involved in "intrigues" while the Church's core is "crumbling away." He says the Kremlin is prepared to defy the Orthodox Church by introducing a system of concordats with individual confessions rather than a status of traditional confession. (Keston News Service, 10-14 September)

MORE REVISIONS TO DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICY... The latest revisions to one of the two draft religious policies followed comments to its authors -- the Institute for State-Confessional Relations and Law (ISCRL) and Moscow justice department official Vladimir Zhbankov -- from Muslim and Orthodox leaders, ISCRL Director Igor Ponkin told the Keston News Service on 10 September. The latest draft narrows "traditional" faiths to exclude newer forms, especially in the Muslim and Buddhist communities. (Keston News Service, 10-14 September)

...AS LAWYER CLAIMS 'SET UP'... A Moscow lawyer who specializes in religious liberty cases told the Keston News Service that the positive comments he made about an earlier draft of a religion policy were tricked out of him. "I was set up," Anatoli Pchelintsev declares of the way his endorsement of the policy drafted by the Institute for State-Confessional Relations and Law and an official of the Moscow Justice Department was obtained. He now says he prefers the rival policy drawn up by the religious faculty of the Russian Academy for State Service. Meanwhile, the Institute's head said to Keston that Pchelintsev had seen every draft. (Keston News Service, 11 September)

...OR NO RELIGIOUS POLICY DOCUMENT? Even as the two draft religious policies circulated, a presidential administration religious affairs official told the Keston News Service that such policies were not commissioned by the government and are not needed. He said they remain the personal initiative of their respective authors. (Keston News Service, 10-14 September)

SALVATION ARMY'S MOSCOW BRANCH ORDERED TO DISBAND... A court in Moscow on 12 September ordered the closing down of the Moscow branch of the U.K.-based Salvation Army, Interfax reported. The court announced the decision before the Army's lawyer could appear; he arrived 15 minutes late. The humanitarian assistance organization will appeal the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)

...AND CASE TAKEN TO STRASBOURG. At the same time as it is pursuing its case against the liquidation of its Moscow branch through the Russian Constitutional Court, the Salvation Army has taken its case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The lawyer in charge of the case there confirmed to Keston on 12 September that the case had been registered on 17 August but would not be given priority. (Keston News Service, 13 September)

GOVERNMENT OUTLINES ANTIDRUG PROGRAM. An 11 September conference devoted to combating illegal drug use chaired by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov ended with the announcement that the government plans a broad program of activities in schools, including drug searches, television programs, and other actions to try to combat the rising tide of drug abuse, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

GOVERNMENT SAID GOING BACK ON ITS WORD ON PAY INCREASES. According to an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 September, the Russian government is "going back on its word" to increase the salaries of state-sector employees. It quoted Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko as saying that the cabinet had planned to raise salaries by 20 percent in September 2001, but will not be able to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)

CRIMINALS IDENTIFIED IN HIGH PLACES IN MOSCOW. Investigative journalist Oleg Lurie wrote in "Novaya gazeta" on 17 September that three major criminals identified by the police are serving in the Duma, 18 more are among senior government officials, and two are working in the presidential administration. He said that these 23 people all have the type of tattoo that identifies them as members of the senior hierarchy of the underworld. He noted that because of the risk of the fusion of the government and the criminal world, it is time to name names. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

ANTIGLOBALIST GROUP ATTRACTS FEWER THAN 200. The two-day action of what organizers called "Anti-Capitalism 2001 -- the March of Youth on Moscow" failed to attract more than 200 people at the end, Interfax reported on 16 September. Earlier, a few of the participants were involved in a confrontation with police. Several demonstrators were detained, and one policeman was hospitalized. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)

MOVEMENT FOR A DEMOCRATIC SLOVAKIA TOPS POLL. The MKV polling agency found in a poll conducted 4-11 September that the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia would have won parliamentary elections with 28.5 percent of the vote if they had been held at that time, TASR reported on 13 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)

PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW. The parliament on 13 September voted by 230 to 113, with 6 abstentions, to adopt a bill on parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. The bill introduces a number of amendments to the current election law but leaves unchanged the hitherto controversial provision that 225 deputies are elected in one-seat constituencies and another 225 under a proportional party-list system. Kuchma has repeatedly vetoed the parliament's previous attempts at changing this provision in favor of increasing the number of deputies elected under a party-list system. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September)