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(Un)Civil Societies Report: September 27, 2001

27 September 2001, Volume 2, Number 39
WORLD CHRISTIAN LEADERS CONGREGATE FOR ARMENIAN ANNIVERSARY. Representatives of the world's Christian churches conducted a joint ecumenical service at Echmiadzin on 22 September as part of the celebrations marking the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as its state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Among those attending were Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist. Aleksii also met on 22 September with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and with Armenian Catholicos Garegin II, who affirmed that "there is no closer friendship than that between the Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches," according to ITAR-TASS. Aleksii also attended the consecration of a new cathedral in Yerevan on 23 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 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. 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 Khachatryan 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 of it evangelizing during the forthcoming papal visit. (Keston News Service, 17 September)

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR SENTENCED AS 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)

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES HAIL 'GREAT VICTORY.' Jehovah's Witness Levon Markaryan has been found not guilty of the charge of "infringement of the person and rights of citizens under the guise of performing religious rituals." The judge delivered the verdict orally on 18 September in the court at Armavir. "It is a great victory for the Jehovah's Witnesses in Armenia," Markaryan's lawyer Rustam Khachatryan told Keston News Service from Yerevan in the wake of the ruling. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed the verdict, but the prosecutors have vowed to appeal. (Keston News Service, 19 September)

OPPOSITION PARTY THREATENED WITH EVICTION FROM ITS HEADQUARTERS. Police demanded on 22 September that the Civic Unity Party, which supports ousted President Ayaz Mutalibov, vacate the offices it currently occupies in Baku because the party is not formally registered with the Justice Ministry, Turan reported. All efforts by party leaders over the past two years to obtain such registration have failed. The Azerbaijan National Independence Party was recently evicted from a building in the outskirts of Baku that it had used for almost a decade. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

OIL WORKERS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION. Foreign oil companies operating in Azerbaijan discriminate against Azerbaijani employees by paying them substantially less than they pay Western staff, Turan quoted the chairwoman of the Committee for the Rights of Oil Industry Workers, Mirvari Gakhrimanly, as saying at a seminar in Baku on 19 September. She claimed that British specialists are paid $8,000-$10,000 per month and those from the Near East $5,000-$6,000 per month, while Azerbaijanis receive only $600-$1,200. She added that Azerbaijani employees of foreign oil companies are not permitted to join trade unions, and consequently there is no official body to represent their interests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

HUMAN RIGHT ACTIVIST SAYS ELECTION OBSERVERS ARE VICTIMIZED. Human Rights Center "Viasna" head Ales Byalyatski, who coordinated domestic election observers in Belarus's presidential election, told journalists on 21 September that many observers have been victimized and prosecuted, Belapan reported. According to Byalyatski, Ales Halich from Minsk and Pyotr Mihurski from Mahileu Oblast are to be brought to trial. Halich is accused of petty hooliganism for calling an election official a "villain" after the latter reportedly crumpled Halich's ID and threw it on the floor. Mihurski faces a criminal charge for allegedly exceeding his authority. Teacher Andrey Alyakhnovich and school instructor Alyaksandr Nikitsin from Minsk Oblast were fired from their jobs. Byalyatski added that Aleh Myatselitsa from Mahileu Oblast spent 15 days in jail for training election observers at his apartment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

BELARUS PARDONS ALLEGED GERMAN SPY. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has pardoned German citizen Christopher Lez, who was sentenced in July to seven years in prison after being found guilty of espionage, Reuters reported on 20 September. The agency quoted Belarusian KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau as saying that Italian citizen Angelo Antonio Piu, who was convicted last week on espionage charges and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, and Iryna Ushak, a Belarusian woman convicted of treason, may also receive pardons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

PRESIDENT PREPARES TO HINDER INFLOW OF AFGHAN REFUGEES. Lukashenka told journalists that the Belarusian authorities are preparing to counteract a possible huge influx of Afghan refugees should the U.S. conduct retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan. "You are aware of this illegal migration, and that we have been detaining hosts of people on the Polish border, deporting them -- but they keep coming there. As of today, there are about 100,000 such migrants in Belarus. Thank God, they still behave decently. But their number can increase. So we are preparing to thwart the influx of illegal migrants here, but Western Europe should understand that they will not escape this surge. A road, a wide road through Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic countries has already been paved," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

MUSLIM GENERAL TURNS HIMSELF IN. Former Bosnian army commander and cabinet minister Sefer Halilovic voluntarily surrendered to UN authorities in The Hague on 25 September, Reuters reported. The war crimes tribunal has indicted him for crimes committed by his forces against Croats during the 1993-1994 Muslim-Croat conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

EXHUMATIONS CONTINUE AT BOSNIAN MASS GRAVES. The State Commission for Missing Persons said in a statement in Sarajevo on 22 September that more than 200 bodies were exhumed from several sites during the previous 10-day period, dpa reported. The largest group was 162 Muslim civilians from Srebrenica, whose remains were found in a mass grave near Zvornik, which experts believe may contain up to 200 victims. Some 75 bodies were exhumed from the former Ljubija mining pit in western Bosnia. These are believed to be the remains of victims killed at Serbian concentration camps in the area. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

LIBYA POSTPONES VERDICT IN TRIAL OF BULGARIANS. A Libyan court on 22 September postponed passing verdicts on the six Bulgarians accused of having willfully infected children with the HIV virus, AP and Reuters reported. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova said the postponement "gives us reason to be optimistic, as it would give the court more time to consider the evidence presented by the defense." She said the verdict is now expected on 22 December. Parliamentary Chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov said that the postponement "and the presence of Western diplomats" at the court's session "could mean a new chance for our compatriots." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

PARLIAMENT APPROVES SOCIAL CUTS. The legislature voted on 21 September to approve the state budget and a package of measures aimed at cutting back expenditures on social programs. The social legislation will take effect in October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

SENIOR POLITICIANS DISMISS CLAIMS OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS SALES TO TERRORISTS. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross on 18 September said there is no evidence that terrorists obtained bacterial samples used in the manufacture of biological weapons from the Czech Republic, CTK reported. Czech police and government ministries investigated recent reports in the Czech and British media claiming deadly samples of anthrax or botulin were sold in the country prior to 1995. The chairman of the lower house's Defense and Security Committee, Petr Necas, added following a closed-door meeting with the country's intelligence chiefs that there was no reason to believe that a terrorist organization had attempted to obtain such materials in the Czech Republic. Necas added that he could absolutely exclude the possibility that deadly bacteria had been obtained from military facilities. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Tvrdik apologized to Czech tractor manufacturer Zetor for publicly accusing the firm of trading with companies related to bin Laden or entities of his Al-Qaeda organization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

CZECHS TIGHTEN ASYLUM REGIME. The Chamber of Deputies on 21 September approved a government-sponsored bill on asylum that is intended to prevent foreigners from using the country's asylum status to illegally enter third countries, CTK reported. The bill, which must still be discussed by the upper house and then signed by the president, also restricts asylum seekers' access to employment. There has been a steady influx in the number of refugees to the Czech Republic since 1989. In 1990, there were 1,600 asylum applicants, whereas last year that number grew to 9,000, CTK reported. The number of applicants is expected to exceed 20,000 in 2001, Interior Minister Gross said recently. The Czech Republic ranks 11th in the world in terms of the number of asylum seekers, well ahead of other post-communist countries, according to the UNHCR. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

STATUS LAW COULD BE DAMAGING TO HUNGARY'S REPUTATION. On 20 September, the chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, proposed accelerating talks with neighboring countries regarding the Hungarian Status Law, which he says has damaged Hungary's international reputation, Hungarian media reported. The legislation, which could go into effect on 1 January 2002, makes ethnic Hungarians eligible for some forms of Hungarian state assistance regardless of citizenship. Free Democrat Szent-Ivanyi said an executive supplement to the law should be completed by 30 October, the reports added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

DEFROCKED GEORGIAN PRIEST ANNOUNCES NEW CRUSADE AGAINST NON- ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS. Father Basil Mzekalashvili, whose followers have systematically assaulted Jehovah's Witnesses in Tbilisi and other Georgian towns, on 24 September staged a march in Tbilisi that was intended to mark the beginning of a new campaign against all non-Orthodox religious groups in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Mzekalashvili and his followers forcibly broke up a meeting of evangelists in Tbilisi on 23 September, according to "Rezonansi." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

KAZAKHSTAN AGAIN AFFIRMS READINESS TO COOPERATE IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM. Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov said in Almaty on 18 September following talks between visiting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo and President Nursultan Nazarbaev that Kazakhstan is ready for "the strongest possible cooperation with the U.S. and the world community in combating international terrorism," Interfax reported. Rushailo discussed with Nazarbaev, Idrisov, and Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev the possibility of U.S. retaliatory strikes against targets in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Rushailo said he and the Kazakh leaders agreed on the need for a more intensive exchange of information on the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

KYRGYZ TRADERS EXPELLED. On 24 September representatives of an estimated 700 Kyrgyz traders who have just been expelled from Kazakhstan staged a protest outside the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The traders, who ran market stalls in Almaty, said the Kazakh police began rounding them up on 21 September, annulled their registration papers with no explanation, and transported them to the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. The total number of Kyrgyz traders in Kazakhstan is estimated at 7,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

PROTEST LEADER ARRESTED IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN. Ulmeken Saidova, one of the leaders of the Adilet movement, has been arrested in South Kazakhstan Oblast on fraud charges, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 20 September, quoting the editor of a local newspaper. Saidova organized a protest action outside the Kazakh parliament building in Astana earlier this year by dozens of women from southern Kazakhstan who demanded that they be paid child allowances dating back to 1996. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

POPE VISITS KAZAKHSTAN. Pope John Paul II flew to Kazakhstan on 22 September and celebrated a Mass in Astana the following day for some 50,000 pilgrims from Kazakhstan's estimated 350,000-strong Roman Catholic community. Referring to the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S., the pontiff warned on 23 September against a "deepening of divisions" between Christians and Muslims, and called on followers of all faiths to work together "to build a world without violence," AP reported. He also met the same day with President Nazarbaev, who again affirmed his country's rejection of international terrorism and readiness to join a coalition of states to combat it, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

KYRGYZSTAN APPEALS FOR HELP AGAINST ISLAMIC TERRORISM. Speaking on 18 September in Vienna in the course of a state visit to Austria, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said his country needs help from the international community to cope successfully with the threat posed by Islamic militants who launched raids onto its territory in 1999 and 2000, dpa reported. Meanwhile Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov said in Bishkek the same day that Kyrgyzstan is willing to share intelligence on international terrorism with the United States, ITAR-TASS reported. Echoing earlier statements by Kyrgyz officials, he warned that large-scale fighting in Afghanistan triggered by a retaliatory U.S. strike could result in an influx of Afghan refugees that would destabilize Kyrgyzstan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

LATVIA DISCUSSES RATIFICATION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES CONVENTION. Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies Director Nils Muiznieks declared in Riga on 18 September that the ratification of the Council of Europe convention on the protection of ethnic minorities would be beneficial to Latvian foreign policy, BNS reported. Latvia signed the convention six years ago, but the parliament has yet to ratify it. Muiznieks suggested that Latvia should avoid increasing political tension by following the example of most countries that ratified the convention and not define what constitutes an ethnic minority. Parliament Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Chairman Antons Seiksts opposed this, asserting that such a definition is needed to prevent some people from manipulating the notion of "Russian-speakers," which should not be regarded as an ethnic group. Even though Latvia and Turkey are the only EU candidate countries not to have ratified the convention, it is unlikely that there will be any great demands for them to do so, as EU member countries France, Spain, and Germany have also not ratified it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

PRIME MINISTER WANTS NATO TO CHANGE POLICY TOWARD 'TERRORISM.' Speaking in Sofia on 18 September, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said that he hopes that the attacks on the U.S. will prompt NATO to change its policy toward "terrorism" in Macedonia, AP reported. (Macedonian politicians refer to the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army as "terrorists" even though their tactics are those of insurgents, not terrorists.) He said: "The international community was not energetic enough in dealing with terrorism in Macedonia. It flirted with the terrorists but did not always keep in touch with the legitimate institutions of Macedonia. Today, senior international politicians are saying what we kept repeating for eight months: there's no good or bad terrorism. Terrorism may not be justified in one place and condemned in another." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

PARLIAMENT BANS SUNDAY SHOPPING AT SUPERMARKETS. The Sejm on 18 September narrowly approved an amendment to Poland's Labor Code banning Sunday shopping at supermarkets as of 1 January 2003, Polish media reported. The measure, intended in part to protect small shops from competition by huge supermarkets, was backed by the Solidarity-led government as well as by the Roman Catholic Church. It was opposed by the opposition Democratic Left Alliance and the liberal Freedom Union, which said the amendment is economically unsound and will only increase Poland's already high unemployment. President Kwasniewski said the same day that he will veto the bill. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

TRADE UNION FEDERATION DENOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT. The Cartel Alfa trade union federation on 18 September announced that it is unilaterally ending a February agreement with the government and employers, Mediafax reported. Trade union leaders said the government failed to fulfill several points in the agreement, such as modifying the public pension system and promoting the creation of new jobs. Labor and Social Solidarity Minister Marian Sirbu denied the charges, arguing that the government has fulfilled all its obligations. The "social pact" had stipulated that the unions would not undertake labor action, in exchange for the government's pledge to raise living standards. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

RESITA WORKERS STOP LABOR SANCTIONS. The Resita trade union of the local CSR steel-producer on 21 September voted to accept the package offered by the government and end demonstrations and hunger strikes, Romanian radio reported. The union said it will not oppose the laying off of workers if the government provides an 18 billion lei ($600,000) emergency loan, but that sanctions will be resumed if the loan fails to materialize. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

PUTIN SAYS 'EVIL MUST BE PUNISHED.' In an interview with German ARD television broadcast on 21 September, President Vladimir Putin said that the evil of terrorism "must be punished." But he said that any strikes against it must be carried out within the limits of international law and after full international consultations, including with Russia. At the same time, the Russian leader said that Russia is ready for "comprehensive cooperation" with the United States. He said that Russian military participation beyond the borders of the country would be possible only after approval by the Federation Council and the UN Security Council, and he noted that Russia does not intend to fight "a two-front" war, preferring to concentrate its efforts on Chechnya. Putin said that each of the post-Soviet countries, including Tajikistan, has full freedom to decide whether to allow the U.S. to use bases on its territory. Putin dismissed suggestions that the counterterrorist effort will ignite a third world war. But over the weekend, the Russian president held lengthy meetings with the heads of his security agencies, Russian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

PARLIAMENTARIANS DENOUNCE TERRORISM, DIVIDED ON WHAT TO DO. Both the Duma and the Federation Council on 18 September unanimously passed resolutions denouncing international terrorism, but debates in both chambers suggested that the deputies remain deeply divided as to how far Russia should go in cooperating with the United States in the war against it. Reformist groups like Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) generally called for active cooperation, while the Communists and Agrarians were opposed, and the pro-Kremlin parties like Unity said they would follow President Putin's decision, Russian and Western agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

RUSSIANS OVERWHELMINGLY SYMPATHIZE WITH U.S. AFTER TERRORIST ATTACK... A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 20 September found that 77 percent of Russians said they felt shock and anger at the terrorist attacks against the United States and expressed sympathy for the American people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

...AS PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF TERRORISM CONTINUES. Ever more politicians, analysts, and business people on 20 September weighed in with their opinions on who was behind the attacks on the U.S. and what the future holds if the U.S. responds with force. Embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky warned against reducing the struggle against terrorism to punishing bin Laden, Interfax reported. SPS member Sergei Stankevich called for an alliance with the U.S. to fight terrorism. The Interfaith Council of Russia condemned terrorism in all its forms. Human rights activist Sergei Kovalev warned against launching a crusade against Islam. Presidential security adviser Igor Sergeev called for action only against targets carefully identified as terrorist. Meanwhile, Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the CIA organized them to raise oil prices, give more money to the defense industry, and lead to American dominance of the world, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

URALS UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS SPREAD PRAISE OF TERRORIST ATTACKS. Denis Vederko, a 27-year-old philosophy professor at Magnitogorsk State University, has been detained in Sverdlovsk Oblast for distributing pamphlets in support of the terrorist attacks on the U.S., Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 September. According to the agency, Vederko is an activist with the local branch of the National Bolshevik Party, which is led by Eduard Limonov. Other members of the party's branch including another professor from the local industrial college were also detained by police for distributing the leaflets, which bore slogans such as "Terror the weapon of heroes" and "For Belgrade." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

CHECHEN VIOLENCE SEEN PUSHING PUTIN TOWARD COOPERATION WITH U.S. According to an article in "Vremya novostei" on 18 September, the recent upsurge in violence in Chechnya may make it "easier" for President Putin to justify to Russians coordination with the United States in the fight against international terrorism. But the same day, "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested that Moscow is putting some "diplomatic distance" between itself and the U.S. in advance of any American counterterrorist strikes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

DUMA BACKS PUTIN ON CHECHNYA AS TERRORIST THREAT... By a vote of 345 to eight, the Duma on 20 September called on President Putin to combat terrorism in order "to protect Russian citizens," and to "cut off external support for terrorist groups in Chechnya," Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, officials of the Federal Security Service (FSB) are working with other Russian security agencies to identify and block the domestic and international channels of financing of the pro-independence Chechen forces, Interfax reported on 20 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

...BUT REFUSES TO CALL FOR EMERGENCY STATUS IN CHECHNYA. Also on 20 September, the Duma failed to pass a measure introduced by the SPS to call on President Putin to introduce a state of emergency in Chechnya; something the SPS insists is required to legalize the Russian troop activities there. Sixty-eight deputies voted for the measure, as opposed to the 226 needed for passage. Some 175 voted against. The deputies did, however, adopt with 231 deputies voting for it an appeal to Putin demanding "immediate and tough measures" to uproot organized crime, and they passed a resolution calling on the president to focus on what the parliamentarians called "negative trends" in the work of the Unified Energy Systems company and its chairman, Anatolii Chubais. In addition, the deputies passed on first reading a measure that will increase punishments for those violating Russian laws governing securities transactions, Interfax-AFI reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD TELLS SYRIANS THERE ARE ARABS AMONG CHECHEN MILITANTS. Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, the chief of the Russian-installed Chechen administration, told Syrian officials in Damascus on 21 September that the difficulties Moscow faces in Chechnya have been "caused by the presence of many mercenaries from Arab countries in the rebel units. They are fighting for money and want to seize power." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

TATARS, BASHKIRS KILLED IN CHECHEN FIGHTING. RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 21 September that seven servicemen from Bashkortostan have died in fighting in Chechnya since 7 August and that most of them are ethnic Tatars or Bashkirs. Meanwhile, the father of one of the men killed said in an interview published in "Kyzyl tan" the same day that he would like to see peace talks begin. He said that those who want to "raze" Chechnya to the ground will destroy more than Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

SENIOR OFFICERS KILLED IN CHECHNYA HONORED IN MOSCOW. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 21 September led mourners at the funerals of 10 senior Russian army officers who were killed on 17 September in Chechnya when their helicopter was shot down with a surface-to-air missile, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 22 September. Ivanov said that "those who dealt this treacherous blow from behind will be destroyed. We know who shot down the helicopter and are already hunting them down." The same day, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" that terrorist leader bin Laden is funding the Chechen militants. "Every day, bandits bring pain to Russians on bin Laden's money." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

MOSCOW RELEASES DETAILS ON SOLDIERS CONVICTED OF CRIMES AGAINST CIVILIANS IN CHECHNYA. For the first time during the second Chechen war, the Russian government has released detailed information on 15 servicemen who have been convicted of crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya. The list appeared in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 September. Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Yurii Yakovlev told the paper that Russian soldiers who commit crimes should and will be punished, but he suggested that many of the crimes for which they are blamed were in fact committed by Chechen militants who dress in the same uniforms as Russian soldiers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

CHECHEN LEADER BLAMES GUDERMES FIGHTING ON RUSSIANS. Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 18 September laid the blame for the previous day's attack on the town of Gudermes on the Russian military and police who failed to prevent Chechen fighters from entering the town, Interfax reported. "Agencies bound to guarantee the security of residents of Chechnya should be held responsible for what happened," Kadyrov said, implying that there were civilian casualties as a result of the fighting. Russian agencies have not reported any such civilian losses to date in addition to the 17 Chechen fighters and 10 Russian Interior Ministry troops said to have died. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

DUMA MAY IMPOSE HARSHER PENALTIES FOR MILITARY CRIMES. ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September that a group of Duma deputies has prepared legislation that will radically increase the penalties for crimes committed in the army. Under its terms, deserters would be punished by up to 15 years in prison; those found guilty of disobedience or inciting others to disobedience could receive the death penalty, and violators of military discipline or the mistreatment of other servicemen (known in Russia as "dedovshchina") could be sentenced from 15 years in prison to the death penalty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

'OPERATION DESERTER' TARGETS THOSE WHO DESERT MORE THAN ONCE. Officials in the Far Eastern Military District have launched Operation Deserter to deal with desertions from the army, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 September. Typically, officers find those who have fled at railroad stations waiting for a train home. Those who have tried to escape service only once are generally sent back to their units for further service. Only those who desert frequently, the military district spokesman said, are turned over to the courts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

ARMY SAID ON THE BRINK OF DISSOLVING INTO ARMED BANDS. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 September said that chaos and indiscipline in the Russian army today is so great that it threatens to turn the army into an uncontrolled but well-armed mob. The situation has deteriorated over the last decade, the paper said, because the quality of draftees has fallen, the army has no professional sergeants, there is no up-to-date regulation governing behavior, and soldiers serving in hot spots are treated according to peace-time rules. The paper called for updating the disciplinary code and imposing it lest the Russian army and the Russian state suffer the same fate they did in 1917. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO OVERTURN TOBIN CONVICTION. The Russian Supreme Court on 19 September refused to overturn the conviction of U.S. exchange student John Tobin for drug possession, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tobin has already been released after serving half of his 12-month sentence and has returned to the United States. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

VLADIVOSTOK POLICE FOUND GUILTY IN TORTURE CASE. Seven Vladivostok police officers were convicted of abuse of office on 18 September, and one chief of the city police department's criminal investigation division has been indicted for arranging false testimony, ITAR-TASS reported. The convictions stem from charges made by two cadets of the Far Eastern Marine Academy, who said that three years ago they were detained on the city's streets at random and were beaten severely over the course of four days in order to make them confess to a crime that they did not commit. According to Interfax-Eurasia, one of the cadets said that he was also photographed at police headquarters in a state of undress. According to ITAR-TASS, the court passed a suspended sentence of 3 1/2 to five years for each policeman. According to Interfax-Eurasia, the guilty were ordered to pay each victim 100,000 rubles ($3,395) in moral damages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

YOUTH CRIME UP DRAMATICALLY IN MOSCOW REGION. Interior Ministry officials said on 20 September that over the last five years, crimes committed by youths have increased by 71 percent and that crimes among those under 14 now account for 30 percent of the total number of youth crimes, Interfax-Moscow reported. The officials added that now more than 45 out of every 100,000 young people are drug addicts, and that the number of young people in this region infected with HIV has increased from 22 cases in 1998 to 1,371 cases in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

PEOPLES' DEPUTY GROUP WANTS TO RESTORE DEATH PENALTY. The Peoples' Deputy group in the Duma issued a statement on 19 September saying that its members will seek to restore the death penalty in Russia, Interfax reported. The statement said that ending the moratorium on the death penalty "is a cruel requirement of society," pointing to the terrorist attacks in the United States as an example of the sort of serious crime that should be punished by the death penalty. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the Interior Ministry is working on legislation that will make some radical Islamic groups illegal in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

OFFICIALS OF HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN CRITICIZE DRAFT CRIMINAL CODE. Members of the experts commission of the presidential ombudsman for human rights said on 19 September that the draft criminal code the government has prepared has many shortcomings in terms of protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, Interfax reported. Indeed, one of the experts, jurist Sergei Pashin, said that one could say that the draft bears "a repressive character." The experts offered 154 recommended changes in the draft. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

PUSH FOR CAPITAL AMNESTY GAINS MOMENTUM. "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 September that the Central Bank now supports the idea of declaring an amnesty on capital raised illegally in the past. The bank's leadership has concluded that such an amnesty would help reverse capital flight and lead to more domestic investment. Oleg Vyugin, the chief economist of the Troika Dialogue Trust, also has also expressed support for such an amnesty, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

PRICES INCREASE BY 0.1 PERCENT IN FIRST 17 DAYS OF SEPTEMBER. The State Statistics Committee on 20 September said that inflation rose by 0.1 percent between 1 and 17 September, with all of that small increase coming in the last week of that period, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Tatyana Paramonova, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, predicted that inflation will total 17-18 percent in 2001, the news service said the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

WAGE ARREARS DECLINE IN AUGUST. The State Statistics Committee on 20 August told Interfax that total wage indebtedness in Russia declined by 4.1 percent in August to a total of 32.73 billion rubles ($1.1 billion). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

GOVERNMENT OPPOSES CUTTING OFF HEAT AND POWER BECAUSE OF DEBTS. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 19 September that the Russian government does not support the practice of some power companies of turning off heat and electricity to consumers who have not paid all their bills, ITAR-TASS reported. He told the Duma that debt issues should be treated on a case-by-case basis and that past debts should be reduced according to an agreed-upon schedule as long as current bills are being paid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

MUSCOVITES SEEK TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM INFLATION BY BUYING PROPERTY. According to a poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 19 September, the most popular form of saving by residents of the Russian capital is through the purchase of property. Twenty-eight percent of residents identify buying a residence or land as the best investment. Others choose to purchase foreign currency (19.6 percent), put money in banks (7.2 percent), or buy jewelry or other valuables (3.8 percent). Only 2 percent purchase stocks and bonds, the survey found. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

MOSCOW URGES BULGARIA TO RECONSIDER VISA REQUIREMENT. A Foreign Ministry spokesman on 20 September said that Sofia's decision to introduce a visa requirement as of 1 October for Russian citizens traveling to Bulgaria was "somewhat unexpected" for Moscow, Russian news services reported. He urged that the Bulgarian authorities reconsider. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

SIBERIAN GOVERNOR EXPRESSES FEAR ABOUT POSSIBLE REFUGEE FLOW FROM AFGHANISTAN... Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii told reporters on 21 September that he is concerned about the possible penetration into his region of displaced persons from Afghanistan in the event that the U.S. conducts retaliatory air strikes against the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, Interfax-Eurasia reported. "For us the problem of refugees from Afghanistan is very serious. I think that a decision should be taken which will serve interests of Russia and the regions," he said. "We are counting on federal authorities to take effective steps." Tolokonskii also noted that Novosibirsk does not have a full-status state border with Kazakhstan and to achieve such would require interstate negotiations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

...AS STATE COUNCIL TO TAKE UP ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION FROM CIS COUNTRIES. In an interview with "Vek" on 21 September, Deputy Federation Affairs Minister Belan Khamchiev said that Russians who are living abroad and wish to return have a priority status compared with other would-be immigrants. He noted that "preserving the number of the population has strategic and economic significance. We have a huge territory, rich mineral resources, which require someone to develop them," he continued. According to Khamchiev, the 2002 draft budget earmarks 50 percent more resources for receiving immigrants. According to Khamchiev, the State Council will examine in October the problem of moving citizens of the former Soviet Union to Russia, Interfax reported on 21 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

ETHNIC GREEKS OF SIBERIA GET ORGANIZED. Ethnic Greeks across Siberia are organizing a regional national culture association to protect their traditions and strengthen ties with Greece, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. In Tomsk, activists from this association have opened a school where children are instructed in contemporary Greek language and literature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

IS MOSCOW A HAVEN FOR WAHHABIS? An article in "The Moscow Times" on 19 September notes that many young Muslims in the Russian capital are turning toward Islamic fundamentalism, with one of their leaders saying that "like the Bolsheviks in Switzerland a century ago, Wahhabis find haven in Moscow today." There are an estimated 20 million Muslims in Russia, of whom 1 million are in Moscow, and most of the young are turning toward fundamentalism. But this shift may mean that the Muslim countries to Moscow's south will become fundamentalist in the future, something that could significantly complicate Russian security, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

GAP BETWEEN RUSSIA'S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS INCREASES. Kazan's "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 20 September that Christians and Muslims in Russia are ever more estranged, a process that the paper said reflects not only Russian engagement in the Chechen war and coverage of international terrorism, but also the Kremlin's increasing pressure on non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation. In that situation, the paper said, ever more Muslim Russians are looking to Tatarstan for political leadership. Meanwhile, leading Russian Muslims, including Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told the media that the Taliban have nothing in common with Islam, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

ETHNOGRAPHERS CALL FOR TOLERANCE IN RELATIONS AMONG PEOPLES, RELIGIONS. A three-day international congress of ethnographers and anthropologists held in Nalchik issued an appeal to the media, journalists, and politicians to display "tolerance in their assessment and judgments about the interrelationships of people of different nationalities and religions," ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

HUMAN RIGHTS LEADERS CONCERNED ABOUT ANTI-ISLAMIC HYSTERIA. A declaration signed by Russian human rights activists including Yelena Bonner, Sergei Kovalev, Lev Ponomarev, Lyudmila Alekseeva, and Duma deputies Yulii Rybakov and Sergei Yushenkov expressed their shared concern about the rise of anti-Islamic attitudes around the world in the wake of the terrorist attacks against the United States, Interfax reported on 18 September. Meanwhile, another group of Russian human rights activists who are calling for immediate talks in Chechnya announced plans on 18 September for a series of national "peace marches" between Ingushetia to France in support of negotiations, the news agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

ETHNIC RUSSIAN COMMUNITY IN CRIMEA FEELS NEGLECTED. The ethnic Russian community in Crimea feels neglected by everyone, the Ukrainian authorities, Moscow, Russian businessmen, and the international community, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 September. Its members believe that the reunification of Russia and Ukraine would not be a bad thing, and one of the community's leaders observed to the Moscow paper that "if tomorrow Ukraine and Russia declare that they are again together, then in Crimea you wouldn't find even 2 percent of the population that would protest against such unification." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

ORTHODOX CHURCH CRITICIZES POPE'S DECISION TO GO TO KAZAKHSTAN. Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's foreign relations department, said on 18 September that the Russian Orthodox Church is disturbed by the plans of Pope John Paul II to visit Kazakhstan, which lies within the see of Patriarch Aleksii II, without having asked for the patriarch's blessing, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

DELAYED RULING HOLDS UP SALVATION ARMY APPEAL. The Salvation Army's appeal against a Moscow court ruling that its branch in the Russian capital is to be liquidated has been held up because the judge has not issued the ruling in writing, the organization's lawyer told Keston News Service on 20 September. He said the Salvation Army would lodge its appeal with Moscow city court as soon as it gets the text of the ruling. The liquidation ruling will not come into force until after this new appeal is heard. (Keston News Service, 20 September)

ORTHODOX CHURCH OPPOSED TO MANDATORY RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION BUT WANTS THEOLOGY TAUGHT IN UNIVERSITIES. Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, said on 19 September that the Russian Orthodox Church is opposed to mandatory religious instruction in Russia's schools but wants to see theology available as a subject of study in the country's universities, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE VANDALIZED. Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said on 24 September that vandals drew swastikas and anti-Semitic epithets on Moscow's main synagogue and below the office windows of Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt in the early morning hours of 23 September, Western agencies reported. Shaevich said, "Our security is very good, but perhaps they lost some vigilance because it has been peaceful recently." The U.S.-based National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) said in a press release the same day that "these incidents underscore the need for year-round protection of Jewish institutions" in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

TURNING IN TEACHERS IN RUSSIA HAS BECOME EASIER. The Education Ministry has set up a hotline and a website -- -- for Russian schoolchildren and their parents to denounce teachers and school officials for rudeness, allocating excessive homework, and other transgressions, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 September. Many of the complaints are relatively harmless, but the paper said that some of those who call in have identified serious problems including bribery, abuse, and improper searches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

MURMANSK OFFICIAL PREPARE FOR EVACUATION IN CASE OF SECOND 'KURSK' ACCIDENT. The administration of Murmansk Oblast discussed the possible evacuation of 12,000 residents from the village of Roslyakovo, which has a floating dock next to which the "Kursk" submarine will eventually be raised from the floor of the Barents Sea, Interfax reported on 20 September. According to the agency, buses, trains, tourist bases, and hotels will be prepared for the possibility of an evacuation. A representative for the Dutch company participating in the raising of the submarine said the operation will start no earlier than 27 September. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 September, Sergei Zhavoronkin, senior radiologist with Atomflot, said that the worst thing that can happen would be a breach of the "first contour pipes" that could release hot water. According to Zhavoronkin, the sub's nuclear reactor has been sealed off and will be hauled away separately. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September)

POPULATION DECLINE ACCELERATES. The State Statistics Committee said on 24 September that the population of Russia declined during the first seven months of 2001 by 530,800 people or 0.4 percent, Interfax reported. During the same period in 2000, the country's population declined by only 471,200 or 0.3 percent, the committee said. Moreover, during the January-July 2001 period, immigration compensated for only 5.5 percent of the total loss, a figure also lower than in earlier years. Meanwhile, officials at the Federation, Nationalities, and Migration Policy Ministry said that there may be 1.5 million or even more illegal residents currently living in Russia, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

ONE-THIRD OF POPULATION IN MIDSIZED TOWNS FEEL IGNORED. Yeleonora Sheremetyeva, the mayor of Uglich and the head of the national association of small and midsized towns, told journalists who visited her town over the weekend that one-third of the population living in cities and towns with a population of between 20,000 and 200,000 feel that their problems receive little attention from the federal government, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

SERBIA EXHUMES 269 FROM MASS GRAVE. Serbian investigators said on 18 September that they have found the bodies of 269 persons, apparently Kosovar Albanians, in a mass grave in a police compound in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)

GOVERNMENT ENDORSES OMBUDSMAN POST. The government on 19 September approved a bill on the establishment of an ombudsman's office as of January next year, CTK reported. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky said he expects the parliament to pass the bill by the end of November. Under the bill, the ombudsman is to be controlled by the parliament and be completely independent of executive power bodies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

PARLIAMENT TO BACKTRACK ON DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION. The parliament on 19 September decided to review during the current session the process and outcome of the vote on the abolition of the death penalty in Ukraine, Ukrainian television reported. First deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said there is documented evidence indicating that vote was falsified. On 22 February 2000, the parliament voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty in order to conform with Ukraine's obligations to the Council of Europe. Some deputies began to question the legality of the vote in July 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

UNATTENDED NUCLEAR-WASTE STORAGE FOUND. An unattended nuclear-waste storage facility has been found near Zhytomyr, central Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 24 September, quoting the local newspaper "Misto." In the article entitled "Nuclear Bomb Near Zhytomyr," the newspaper reported that unknown people found a concrete well with wooden boxes cast in concrete. The boxes contained steel blocks marked as radioactive substance. Each steel block emits from 0.017 to 1.2 milliroentgens per hour, while the maximal permissible emission level is 0.03 milliroentgens per hour. The newspaper said a Soviet army unit that stored nuclear warheads was previously deployed at the site. The newspaper added that Ukraine's Security Service has instructed the local authorities to urgently isolate the radiation sources. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)

GOVERNMENT TO RETURN BACH ARCHIVE TO GERMANY. The Ukrainian government has decided to return to Germany a vast archive containing works by Johann Sebastian Bach and other German composers and long considered lost in World War II, dpa and AP reported on 19 September. Soviet troops looted the archive from the Berlin Choral Academy in 1945. The archive, which contains nearly 5,120 documents, remained virtually untouched in Kyiv until Christoph Wolff, a Harvard music professor, found it in June 1999 and alerted Ukraine to its historic significance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September)

HAS UZBEK MILITANT JOINED FORCES WITH TALIBAN? In what may prove to be a classic example of Russian disinformation, Interfax reported on 18 September citing unnamed Afghan military sources that Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has been made commander of a Taliban military unit operating in northern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, ethnic Uzbek Afghan General Abdulrashid Dostum told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on 18 September from a location near Mazar-i-Sharif that the 14 September death of Northern Alliance military commander Ahmed Shah Massoud will not affect the combat ability of the anti-Taliban forces. "Our morale is very high," Dostum said. "We all have a united political and military position." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)


By Jan Maksymuik

Belarus's Central Election Commission announced on 10 September that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka overwhelmingly won his re-election the previous day, garnering no less than 75 percent of the vote. His rival, unified opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, obtained a mere 15 percent.

In a statement issued the same day, the OSCE said Belarus's electoral process had "fundamental flaws." Europe's election watchdog noted that the authorities did everything possible to block the opposition, including changing the campaign rules by decree, failing to ensure the independence of the election administration, failing to properly control early voting, and creating a campaign environment that was seriously detrimental to the opposition. The statement also said the authorities launched a campaign of intimidation against opposition activists, domestic observers, and independent media, and a smear campaign against international observers.

The U.S. State Department was far harsher in its assessment of Belarus's ballot, stressing that "Lukashenka has merely used a facade of elections to engineer a meaningless victory for himself." The U.S. State Department said the election cannot be internationally recognized. Washington pledged to consult with the OSCE on what steps to take to restore democracy in Belarus.

How many people really voted for Lukashenka will most likely remain a mystery. The authorities and election officials prevented independent monitors from tabulating precinct-by-precinct votes and offering an independent picture of the vote. At the same time, the use on a mass scale of a controversial early voting procedure has spawned widespread suspicions that the authorities may have resorted to mass falsifications during those five days of practically unmonitored early voting.

Gerard Stoudman, the head of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, told RFE/RL on 10 September that he has no evidence of manipulations of the election figures in Belarus. Stoudman, who led the OSCE's monitoring effort in the Belarusian ballot, added that in such a heavily Sovietized country as Belarus it is easy for the authorities to ensure a favorable election outcome without resorting to outright falsification of the figures.

The OSCE's final assessment of Belarus's presidential ballot is still to come, but it is already evident that the organization as a whole as well as each state participating in it will soon face a difficult question -- what to do about Lukashenka? Is he a legitimate president or not? Should European states resume political contacts with his regime or isolate it even further?

"A policy of isolation has never worked. It is clear that if this country [Belarus] feels like a fortress under siege, like Iraq, Yugoslavia under Milosevic, Cuba, etc., there will be no changes for the next 15 years," Stoudman told Reuters. It is likely that in time more and more European politicians will express their support for Stoudman's argument.

Does that argument in favor of not isolating Lukashenka mean that the effort, led primarily by the U.S., to support the anti-Lukashenka opposition and establish some mechanisms and structures of civil society in Belarus has suffered a failure? Not necessarily so. "The most important result of this election is the development of democratically and politically competent institutions in civil society," OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group head Hans Georg Wieck believes. Of course, it is primarily up to the Belarusian opposition to show that it can prove equal to further challenges and maintain its unity that was so painstakingly achieved shortly before the presidential election. But it is also obvious that Belarus's nascent democratic groups need further moral and financial support from the West in order to overcome their frustration in the wake of Lukashenka's election triumph.

Last week, "The Christian Science Monitor" revealed that Washington spent $24 million in 2000 to support NGOs and opposition groups in Belarus, and is going to spend no less this year. Although such sums may seem pretty fat in the country where National Bank reserves do not exceed $200 million, they are in no way commensurate with the money that is spent to counter any democratization processes in Belarus and to keep the Lukashenka regime afloat.

According to opposition estimates, supporting Belarus's antiquated economy -- which also means keeping the Lukashenka regime relatively popular among wider strata of the Belarusian population -- costs Russia no less than $1 billion annually. Russia supports Lukashenka by offering his regime cheap oil and gas, regular debt relief, and access to taxes on products heading for Russia. Russia is also the principal market for Belarusian producers who could have faced immense difficulties in finding buyers elsewhere.

Lukashenka's re-election -- on which Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Belarusian leader immediately after the preliminary election results were released by Minsk -- is presenting a troublesome dilemma for the Kremlin too. There has recently been an increasing number of voices from Russian politicians and political experts asserting that Moscow's support for Lukashenka costs Russia too much and is detrimental to Russian interests in the long run. Russia is apparently gradually becoming aware that it may be possible to maintain Belarus in the Russian sphere of influence without having the "last dictator in Europe" installed in Minsk.

In his independence-day greeting to Lukashenka in July, Putin spoke about Belarus's commitment to freedom and democracy as a necessary precondition for unification with Russia. While unification with Russia may not necessarily be the Belarusian opposition's primary goal, Moscow's tougher course toward Belarus's autocratic leader would obviously be welcome by all anti-Lukashenka groups. The presidential ballot in Belarus clearly testified that Moscow's political and economic leverage in that country remains a major factor that must be taken into account by all political players. Hancharyk and other opposition politicians have made an attempt at currying Moscow's favors in the presidential campaign. This time they failed, but 9 September 2001 in no way means the end of politics in Belarus.