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(Un)Civil Societies Report: October 3, 2001

3 October 2001, Volume 2, Number 40

RFE/RL's "(Un)Civil Societies" will not appear next week but will return on 17 October.
PUTIN SAYS CIS MUST UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM... Speaking to a meeting of the prime ministers of the member governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), President Vladimir Putin on 28 September said that the CIS must unite to fight terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin noted that the organization has made many mistakes in the past but must not make them in the future in the fight against terrorism. For the first time in his presidency, Putin called the CIS countries Russia's "brothers," noting that they share with Russia a common heritage as "multicultural and multireligious" states, and that they all are committed to fighting terrorism, not Islam. The prime ministers in attendance approved a resolution condemning international terrorism and pledging expanded cooperation. Putin for his part asked the CIS countries to make the CIS Antiterrorist Center a reality and added that Moscow will pay 50 percent of the center's budget, RTR television reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

...BUT COMMENTATORS PREDICT CIS MAY BE WEAKENED OR TRANSFORMED. On 28 September, "Izvestiya" suggested that members of the CIS seem certain to play different roles in the international antiterrorist coalition, thereby posing a threat to cohesion within the CIS, and that President Putin's efforts to unite the CIS represent a kind of preemptive strike. On 28 September, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that the CIS meeting the day before, by its decision to abolish the Interstate Eurasian Coal and Metals Association, has demonstrated that the CIS is no longer primarily an economic group but may become "a military union" instead. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

CENTRAL ASIAN STATES PREPARE FOR REFUGEES, DRUGS FROM AFGHANISTAN. The five countries in Central Asia prepared on 26 September in various ways to meet what officials said is the likely influx of 300,000-350,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the event of an American attack, various agencies reported. Some of the states increased domestic security, others tightened or even closed borders, and some engaged in telephone communications. Meanwhile, UN experts said on 26 September that the escalation of tensions in Afghanistan almost certainly will lead to a growth in the trade of illegal drugs across Central Asia, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

CENTRAL (ASIAN) TRADEOFFS? Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, two of five former Soviet republics north of Afghanistan, will become bases for the U.S.-led military and intelligence drive against Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind behind the 11 September terror attacks, and his Al-Qaeda network. Although Turkmenistan has declared itself neutral, it hopes to use Afghanistan for export pipelines. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan fear floods of refugees from beleaguered Afghanistan. Tajikistan, with some 20,000 Russian troops on its borders, is ruled by an unstable coalition of Islamic and secular groups; it also has key links to Afghanistan's insurgent Northern Alliance. Uzbekistan has already held joint military exercises with the U.S. In his 20 September speech to Congress, President George W. Bush named only two international groups linked to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IMU aims to depose Uzbek President Islam Karimov's autocratic government and set up Islamist states in Central Asia. Some Central Asian specialists are concerned that Karimov's campaign against Muslims may radicalize young people, giving rise to speculation that the U.S. is in danger of submerging support for democracy and human rights to the goal of fighting terrorism. But U.S. officials say they are aware of this danger and deny that they are ignoring other objectives. ("Financial Times," 1 October)

THOUSANDS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN. A crowd estimated at between 3,000 and 12,000 demonstrators attended a rally in Yerevan on 28 September convened by opposition Hanrapetutiun party leader and former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In early September, Hanrapetutiun together with the People's Party of Armenia and the National Accord Party announced their intention of beginning impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian, whom they accuse of violating the constitution. Sargsian and former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan both described Kocharian's plans to seek a second presidential term in 2003 as "a threat to Armenia's statehood," Glasnost-North Caucasus Reported. Speakers at the rally claimed that attendance would have been larger had police not turned back buses carrying thousands more potential participants before they reached Yerevan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

WILL APOSTOLIC CHURCH GET CONCORDAT? Eighteen months after representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the government signed a document preparing for a concordat between Church and state, the Keston News Service has learned that there has been no visible progress towards that concordat. (Keston News Service, 27 September)

POPE BEGINS VISIT. Pope John Paul II arrived in Yerevan from Kazakhstan on 25 September. "The whole Catholic Church shares your deep joy and the joy of all Armenians on the 1,700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of this cherished land," the pontiff said upon his arrival at Zvartnots airport, where he was welcomed by Catholicos Garegin II and President Robert Kocharian, together with other members of the country's leadership, RFE/RL reported. The pope further noted the "unspeakable terror and suffering" to which the Armenian people was subjected in the 20th century. But in contrast to a joint communique issued after Garegin's visit to the Vatican last year, he stopped short of calling the 1915 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a genocide. Later on 25 September, the pope attended a joint service with Garegin at the main Armenian cathedral at Echmiadzin, where fatigue prevented him from completing an address. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONCERNED BY HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION. Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer on 28 September expressed concern at the increase in the number of instances of harassment and imprisonment of journalists in Azerbaijan in recent weeks, Turan reported. He called on the Azerbaijani leadership to guarantee free speech and journalistic independence, and also to make good on the pledge made in January when Azerbaijan was accepted into full membership of the Council of Europe to release or grant a new trial to all political prisoners. President Heidar Aliyev told a visiting Council of Europe delegation in July that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

SOME RELIGIOUS GROUPS MAY HAVE TROUBLE WITH REREGISTRATION. The Sharg news agency on 26 September reported that the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations plans to complete the re-registration of religious groups by the end of 2001, and that some groups that engage in missionary activities, such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, may have difficulty with this process. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

MINSK WORKERS BLOCK STREET TO GET OVERDUE WAGES. Some 500 angry workers of the Minsk Tractor Plant, a flagship of Belarusian industry, blocked the street near their factory for two hours on 28 September, to protest the delay in paying wage arrears, Belapan reported. The plant's management promised to pay workers their overdue wages in mid-September, but has failed to do so. According to the agency, the street protest greatly alarmed both plant managers and government officials who immediately arranged for payments to begin. "In current conditions, this is the only effective method for workers to defend their rights," said trade union leader Alyaksandr Bukhvostau. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

MINSK TEACHERS DENY THEY EARNED MORE THAN $100 IN SEPTEMBER. Tamara Chobatava, chairwoman of Trade Union of Science and Education Workers, has denied that the average wage of teachers in Minsk in September will amount to $104, Belapan reported on 27 September. Such a statement was made by Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau earlier the same week in a report to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Chobatava said the average monthly wage of a full-time teacher in Minsk is only 51,000 rubles ($35). She added that in order to increase their pay, many teachers work extra hours amounting to 70 percent of their standard workload. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

INTELLECTUALS PROTEST ROAD CONSTRUCTION AT STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE. Some 40 Belarusian intellectuals and prominent public figures have demanded that the Minsk City authorities stop the road construction work at Kurapaty, a site outside Minsk where tens of thousands were executed and buried by the NKVD in the 1930s, Belapan reported on 29 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

POLL SHOWS PREMIER HIGHLY POPULAR. A public opinion poll conducted by the national Public Opinion Research Center shows Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski leading the field of popular politicians, with an approval rating of 70 percent, BTA reported. He is followed by President Petar Stoyanov with 68 percent and Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski with 67 percent. Fifty-three percent said they would be ready to support Stoyanov's presidential bid if the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) backs his candidacy for a second term, but the poll shows that if the NDSV does not do so and names its own candidate, only 33 percent are ready to vote for Stoyanov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

LABOR LEADER SLAMS GOVERNMENT REFORM EFFORTS. The president of the Association of Workers' Trade Unions, Boris Kunst, accused the government of allowing social benefits and standards to fall during reform efforts, particularly in health care, Hina reported on 28 September. Kunst, who has called for public demonstrations under the slogan "Sobering Protests," said the poorest Croats are being affected most harshly. He accused the government of trying to establish a neoliberal model for social policies, the agency said, adding that poorly paid Croatian workers could hardly bear such an approach. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

NEARLY TWO-THIRDS DISGRUNTLED WITH POLITICAL SITUATION. Sixty-four percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the current political situation in their country, according to a September poll conducted by CVVM and reported by CTK on 27 September. Thirty-one percent are satisfied with the political landscape, compared with 36 percent in July, researchers said. Citizens who are young, in school, well-off economically, or followers of the ruling Social Democrats tended to be more satisfied, CVVM said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

SUPREME COURT REJECTS SUSPENSION AGAINST GREENS, COMMUNISTS. The Czech Supreme Court on 25 September rejected a government request to ban the activities of the Green Party and the Party of Czechoslovak Communists, but suspended five extraparliamentary parties for failure to comply with financial disclosure laws, CTK reported. The court cited a Constitutional Court ruling from 1994 that declared a "repeated, long-term failure" to submit financial statements as grounds for suspension. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. In an assessment prepared by its rapporteurs, PACE has expressed concern at ongoing human rights violations in Georgia, "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported on 26 September. The report noted numerous instances of unlawful arrest, the mistreatment or torture of detainees, the deployment of security forces to intimidate peaceful demonstrators, and failure to curtail violence by Georgian Orthodox believers against members of religious minorities. It also noted that since its acceptance into the Council of Europe in 1999, Georgia has not ratified the protocol to the European Human Rights Convention or documents pertaining to the protection of national minorities and outlawing money laundering. Georgia is "far" from fulfilling its commitments to the council, the report concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY? For lack of a quorum, the Georgian parliament on 28 September failed to select the members of the new Central Election Commission nominated by NGOs, Caucasus Press reported. Those members must be endorsed by no less than two-thirds of the 235 parliament deputies, but only 143 were present. Two days earlier, Central Electoral Commission Deputy Chairman Givi Komakhidze told Caucasus Press he doubts that local elections will take place as scheduled on 4 November. The commission has not yet received the 4 million laris ($1.93 million) required to cover the costs of the ballot, and numerous organizational problems have still to be resolved. Virtually all opposition parties have vowed to boycott the poll, claiming that the parliament vote on the new election law was invalid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

PATRIARCHATE MONOPOLY ON STATE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION... Georgia's main government official in charge of religious issues denied that the Orthodox Patriarchate has a monopoly on state religious education, but no one else with whom the Keston News Service discussed this subject in Tbilisi, agreed with this view. (Keston News Service, 2 October)

...AND VETO ON ORTHODOX CHURCH CONSTRUCTION. The parish of the breakaway Orthodox Church in Georgia in the western town of Kutaisi is still unable to build a church despite having purchased private land to do so, the dean of the Church's four communities in Georgia told the Keston News Service on 19 September. (Keston News Service, 2 October)

HELSINKI COMMITTEE RESPONDS TO PREMIER'S REMARKS ABOUT MUSLIMS. Ferenc Koszeg, the head of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, responded forcefully on 26 September to remarks about Muslims made by Premier Viktor Orban one day earlier on Hungarian TV. In his interview, Orban said the fact that the U.S., the largest state in Western civilization, enters into open military conflict with a state organized on Muslim religious foundations is sufficient reason for Hungary to monitor Muslims with special attention. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

MOTHERS RENEW PROTEST ACTION. A group of women from the Baidibek district of South Kazakhstan Oblast on 25 September began a new protest outside the parliament building in Astana to demand the payment of overdue family allowances dating back to 1997, RFE/RL. They have threatened to commit collective suicide if those allowances are not paid. Police in South Kazakhstan last week arrested the coordinator of the protests, Ulmeken Saidova, on fraud charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

POPE LEAVES. Pope John Paul II left Astana on the morning of 25 September after a four-day visit during which he celebrated a mass in the capital, met with seminary students and students of the Gumilev Eurasian university, and held talks with President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Bidding farewell to the pontiff at Astana's airport, Nazarbaev drew a parallel between the pope's "humane mission to bring the West and the East, Europe, and Asia, closer together," and that of Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. He added that he believes the pope was drawn to Kazakhstan "by his Slavic roots and by the fact that his friends and fellow believers, who were deported to this land together with other Poles," are buried in Kazakhstan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

SERBIAN MINISTER WANTS POSTELECTION GUARANTEES IN KOSOVA. Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told the 30 September "Vecernje Novosti" that "Serbs need additional guarantees that Kosovo will not declare independence after the [17 November] elections," and that Serbs will be able to organize their own local authorities under UNMIK rules, Serbian news agencies reported. He also said under the UN's plan, repatriating the 250,000 displaced Serbs to the province would take 250 years; although at the same time he criticized his own government for failing to deliver aid earmarked for the Kosova Serbs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

RUGOVA SLAMS 'PROPAGANDA AGAINST KOSOVA.' Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 25 September that unspecified reports from Belgrade and elsewhere about alleged links between accused terrorist Osama bin Laden and Kosova are "propaganda against Kosova." The next day, Rugova's press spokesman Skender Hyseni told RFE/RL's Kosova Unit that a story by ITAR-TASS from Rome the previous day is "completely false." The Russian news agency reported that Rugova's Rome bureau issued a statement in which he said unspecified UCK men from Kosova "are ready to organize acts of terrorism for the purpose of supporting Osama bin Laden." The alleged statement added that the UCK is "terrorist." Hyseni said Rugova does not even have an office in Rome, and that the entire ITAR-TASS story is disinformation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

VARIED MUSLIM RESPONSES TO ATTACKS ON U.S. Local inhabitants in the devoutly Muslim Kyrgyzstan part of the Ferghana valley believe that if war begins in Afghanistan, Central Asia will be drawn in, the Keston News Service learned during a three-day visit. While most expressed sympathy for American victims of the attacks, some people are ambivalent. Some argue that the attacks were "God's punishment" on the U.S. Keston spoke to Muslim clerics at a 19-29 September conference in Osh attended by almost all the imams of Kyrgyzstan's part of the Ferghana valley. About half the clerics were ethnic Uzbeks; their views are probably similar to people living in the Uzbek part of the Ferghana valley. The president of Kyrgyzstan's Islamic Center, the ethnic Uzbek Sadikjan Kamuliddin, condemned terrorism but told Keston on 19 September that the terrorists' actions were provoked by what he called the U.S. "anti-Islamic policy." Kamiliddin was concerned at the attacks' potential knock-on effects and he fears that the situation of Muslims will worsen in Uzbekistan. Members of the underground Islamic party Hizb-ut Tahrir were even more outspoken. Party members in Osh, who asked to remain anonymous, told Keston on 20 September that they oppose violence, but said that the attacks were "God's punishment for sins." (Keston News Service, 26 September)

POLITICAL PARTIES REQUEST MEETING WITH JAILED FORMER VICE PRESIDENT. Leaders of the Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Communist, People's, and Republican parties on 25 September made a formal request to President Askar Akaev and to National Security Committee Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov for permission to met with jailed Ar-Namys party Chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They reasoned that Kulov's assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan is relevant. Kulov served as national security minister in 1997-1998. He was jailed in January 2001 on what many believe were fabricated charges of abuse of his official position. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

GUNFIRE EXCHANGED AS MACEDONIAN TROOPS PREPARE TO MOVE INTO REBEL TERRITORY... The Macedonian government reported exchanges of gunfire on 30 September and the following day between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian police in the northwest of the country, AP reported. Police spokesman Victor Sutarov said there were no injuries in what he said was the most serious flare-up of gunfire in several days. He accused ethnic Albanian militants of initiating the shooting and said police manning checkpoints outside of Tetovo returned fire. An ethnic Albanian rebel commander told AP that the incident was a provocation by the Macedonian side. Gunfire was also heard in northwest villages -- former rebel strongholds during the insurgency -- where the Macedonian government is preparing to retake control. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

...AND EVERYONE WAITS FOR MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT TO DECLARE AMNESTY. Members of the Macedonian government, NATO and ethnic Albanian rebel leaders urged the Macedonian parliament to pass an amnesty before sending Macedonian security forces into rebel-held areas of the country, AFP reported. The amnesty is supposed to be granted in exchange for disarming of the rebels, which has been officially completed. Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said on TV that "I wish they [parliament deputies] would finally stop passing the buck about who should propose the law for amnesty and solve this painful issue...[I]f the status of former so-called UCK members is not regulated, this creates unease and room for incidents." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

PREMIER SAYS MOLDOVA WILL NOT 'BLINDLY IMPLEMENT' COURT DECISION ON BESSARABIAN CHURCH. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 26 September said his cabinet will not "blindly implement" a European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg decision on the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church because "Moldova is an independent country and must pursue its own national interests," Flux reported. He added that if the court were to agree to his cabinet's request to postpone the examination of the case, a "patriotic and humane" solution would be eventually found. But the same day, the cabinet approved a decision stipulating that the Moldovan Metropolitan Church is "the rightful successor" of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Hotin, which existed between 1918 and 1940. The Moldovan Metropolitan Church is now under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which the government refuses to recognize, is under the jurisdiction of the Bucharest Patriarchate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

LEFT'S LANDSLIDE VICTORY OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED. The State Election Commission on 26 September announced official results of the 23 September elections to the 460-strong Sejm and the 100-seat Senate. The coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance with the Labor Union (SLD-UP) won 216 seats in the Sejm; the Civic Platform 65 seats; Self-Defense 53 seats; Law and Justice 44 seats; the Peasant Party 42 seats; the League of Polish Families 38 seats; and the German Minority election committee two seats. The SLD-UP took 75 seats in the Senate. The Solidarity-rooted Blok Senat 2001 has 15 senators; the Peasant Party four senators; the Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families two senators each; and two senators were elected on a nonparty ticket. Turnout in the elections was 46.28 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

LABOR UNION TO HAVE SEPARATE PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS. Sixteen members of the Labor Union (UP), an election bloc partner of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), have become lawmakers. UP leader Marek Pol on 26 September said his party will form a separate caucus in the Sejm, adding that it will cooperate with the SLD. Pol also said the UP took seven seats in the Senate, PAP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

HUNGARIAN LEADERS COMPLAIN ABOUT PREMIER'S STATEMENTS. Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko on 26 September told journalists that Premier Adrian Nastase's recent statements on "indoctrination" of Transylvanian Hungarians by the Hungarian-language media in Romania and on the unacceptability of using textbooks produced abroad for teaching history and geography has "disturbed Magyar civil society" in the country and the UDMR. Marko said the UDMR leadership wishes to clarify the issue in a meeting with Nastase "as soon as possible" because "any measure that may result in restricting the rights of the Hungarian minority amounts to an infringement of the agreement between the UDMR and the [ruling] Social Democratic Party," Mediafax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

OFFICIALS CONCERNED BY POSSIBLE INFLUX OF REFUGEES. Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, the director of the Federal Border Service (FPS), said on 27 September that there could be a sizeable influx of refugees if the U.S. attacks Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yurii Vorobev said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 27 September that the number of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan to Russia could amount to as many as 300,000. Russian military officials on 27 September said that more than 1,500 additional Russian troops will be sent to Tajikistan this week, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

JUSTICE MINISTRY PREPARING NEW ANTITERRORISM LAWS. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika told Interfax on 27 September that his ministry is preparing new and tighter laws to combat terrorism. Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said that the government will ensure that human rights are defended even as Russia combats terrorism, the news agency said the same day. Meanwhile, the next day, visiting U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon said that the Russian-American inter-parliamentary commission intends to jointly develop counterterrorism legislation, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

POLLS HIGHLIGHTS CONCERNS ABOUT TERRORISM, COUNTERTERRORIST EFFORT. According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 27 September, 72 percent of Russians believe that the American response to terrorism could lead to a new world war. Forty-seven percent of Russians do not believe that the elimination of bin Laden will change the situation, while 70 percent believe that the West now sees Russia as an ally in this struggle. The poll also found that 45 percent of Russians believe the terrorists who mounted the 11 September attacks were motivated by hatred of the United States, while an equal percentage believe that they were Islamic "fanatics." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

COMMUNISTS FORM UMBRELLA 'RUSSIAN PATRIOTS' GROUP. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation and its allies held the inaugural congress of a new 'Russian patriots' group on 30 September in an effort to form a common front on the left against the policies of President Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. The group's member parties agreed to field a single candidate for most offices, including president. A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 30 September suggested that the Communists would garner a greater percentage of the votes -- 35 percent -- than any other party if parliamentary elections were held today ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

COURT REFUSES TO LIQUIDATE NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY. The Moscow Oblast court on 27 September refused to agree to an appeal by the Justice Ministry to disband the National Bolshevik Party headed by imprisoned writer Eduard Limonov, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to rule that those who took down the statues to Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii violated any law, the news service reported on 28 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

KOZAK SAYS JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE 'NOT AN END IN ITSELF.' Speaking to a conference on the 10th anniversary of the launch of judicial reform, Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration who is overseeing this work, said on 25 September that efforts to hold judges accountable are not intended to reduce their status but rather to enhance it, Interfax reported. He said that the independence of judges "must not be converted from a means to an end in itself." He also expressed his understanding for those poorly paid judges who "are forced today to go around with an outstretched hand." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

IS THE INTERIOR MINISTRY BECOMING A COMMERCIAL ENTITY? In an article published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 18 September, journalist Aleksandr Khinstein said that the Interior Ministry is being transformed from a law-enforcement agency into a giant commercial entity where ministry officials profit from the sale of almost anything, from promotions to favorable outcomes of criminal investigations. This pervasive system of corruption was set up by General Aleksandr Orlov, former personal aide of former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, the journalist argues. Orlov, who recently decided to live abroad, is nicknamed "the oligarch in epaulets" and is said to have close ties with magnate Boris Berezovskii and the Alfa Group. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 24 September)

SERIOUS CRIMES UP DRAMATICALLY. Interior Ministry officials told Interfax on 25 September that the overall number of crimes in Russia increased by 3 percent during the first eight months of 2001 compared with the same period in 2000. But they noted that serious crimes have increased more rapidly and now make up almost 60 percent of all crimes registered by the authorities. They said that the rate of increase was especially high in the most serious crime categories -- the number of murders rose 13 percent and the number of kidnappings by 23.5 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO SUFFER BRAIN DRAIN. Some 250,000 Russian specialists emigrate every year, "Versty," No. 108, reported. Most leave to earn more money than they can in Russia, but others, the journal said, do so because of the low demand for scientific workers in Russia and the poor conditions of laboratories and other scholarly facilities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

DOUBTS AND FEARS ABOUT WHAT COMES NEXT IN CHECHNYA. An article in "Izvestiya" on 26 September said that the Chechen fighters are unlikely to surrender their weapons before the end of the 72-hour period. It suggested that some believe Putin's offer is only "a pretext for harsh measures" after the time runs out. Meanwhile, an article in "Vremya MN" the same day suggested that "nothing will happen" after the deadline because "Russia has neither the strength nor the political will to make anything happen." But human rights activists expressed concerns on two grounds: Human Rights Watch Moscow Office Director Marie Struthers said the same day that the Putin deadline may have been set to allow Moscow to take draconian measures even as the attention of the world is directed elsewhere in the fight against terrorism, Reuters reported. And Arsenii Roginskii of the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial, told dpa that increasing Western willingness to look the other away concerning Moscow's violation of human rights in Chechnya could spell disaster. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

PROTEST AGAINST CHECHEN CONFLICT HELD IN CENTRAL CITY. Four NGOs in Ryazan organized a protest on 26 September against the military campaign in Chechnya, RFE/RL's Ryazan correspondent reported. Picket organizers from Memorial, the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, Yabloko's youth movement, and Choice of Conscience reported that they collected hundreds of signatures against the conflict in just one day. Organizers also sent a letter to the presidential administration asking that military activities be stopped. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

MINORITY LANGUAGES, AT MERCY OF REGIONS, NOW DYING OUT. An article published in "Vremya MN" on 26 September said that languages spoken by only a few people in Russia are now at the mercy of regional leaders rather than of central policy. These languages saw their first major decline the 1950s to the end of the 1980s when textbooks and instruction in them were reduced by Moscow's fiat. But since 1991, one of the "small" languages has died out -- Kerek, which was spoken in parts of Chukotka -- and many of the 60 others in this category are threatened with extinction, the article said. It also noted that Russia up to now has never signed a single international convention on the protection of small ethnic groups and languages spoken by relatively few people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

JEWISH CONGRESS DEMANDS VANDALS BE PUNISHED. The Russian Jewish Congress on 25 September issued a statement demanding the punishment of those who vandalized the main synagogue in Moscow on 23 September, Interfax reported. The statement said that "youngsters playing at fascism and specializing in setting off national and religious tensions must be severely punished [because] there is no place for them in a civilized society." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

ORTHODOX HIERARCH WARNS OF CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad said in Kaliningrad on 26 September that the attack on the World Trade Center threatens to unleash a clash of civilizations, adding that it is important that this not become simply a defense of "Western-liberal" society against Islam, Interfax reported. He said, "If we are not able to harmonize [various] civilizational models, then we will not be able to live in a stable world." He added that "it is impermissible to create integration on the basis of a single civilization model." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

MUSLIM LEADER WANTS RELIGIOUS TO WORK WITH SECURITY FORCES. Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said on 27 September that he wants representatives of various religions, including Islam, to work more closely with the military and security services to prevent the entry into Russia of "nontraditional religious groups" financed "from abroad," and thus protect Russia's national security, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, the head of the Spiritual Directorate of Asiatic Russia, said in an interview published in "Argumenty i Fakty," No. 39, that Russia's Muslims are loyal to Russia. He said that the current conflict is less between the U.S. and Islam than between the U.S. and Europe on one side and the Third World on the other. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

MUSLIMS, KREMLIN TO HOST MEETING ON 'ISLAM AGAINST TERRORISM.' Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 25 September that Russian Muslims, together with the presidential administration, will convene an international conference in Moscow in late October-early November 2001 on the theme of "Islam Against Terrorism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 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. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)

OVER 1,000 CATHOLIC PRIESTS REPRESSED BY SOVIETS. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Religii," No. 18, more than 1,000 Roman Catholic priests and bishops were repressed by the Soviets, and to this number, the supplement said, could be added "several hundred in monastic orders and millions of lay people." The same issue of the supplement carried an article attacking "the radical views" of those Russian Roman Catholics today who follow the line of the newspaper, "Russkaya falanga," which the article said propagates medieval views and monarchism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)

CONFERENCE HELD ON FUTURE OF CLOSED CITIES. Officials from the presidential administration, the Russian Security Council, security ministries, and others met on 26 September with the heads of the administration of closed territories and cities in Chelyabinsk Oblast to discuss their problems and their futures, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)

PUTIN SAYS DRUG PROBLEM THREATENS RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY. Speaking to a special meeting of the Russian Security Council on 28 September, President Putin said that the drug problem in Russia has become so serious that it threatens the country's national security both directly and by providing funds to terrorists, RTR reported. Other participants in the meeting noted that almost 20 percent of Russian draftees have used drugs, that there were 243,000 drug-related crimes last year, that some 12,000 of these crimes were committed by organized gangs, and that the illegal drug business now amounts to approximately $1 billion a year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

YAKOVLEV CALLS FOR REHABILITATING MEMBERS OF 1917 PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. Aleksandr Yakovlev, the chairman of the presidential commission on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, on 27 September called for the rehabilitation of the members of the Provisional Government who were later shot by the Bolsheviks, Interfax reported. He said he has turned over their files to the Main Military Prosecutor's Office. Meanwhile, Mikhail Kislitsyn, the chief military prosecutor, told the news agency the same day that since 1991, his staff has rehabilitated 81,000 victims of political repression, including 15,000 foreigners. He said that his office turned down requests for rehabilitation in 35,000 cases, including 7,000 involving foreign nationals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

CHILD DEATHS TO BE PINNED ON ADVENTISTS? Nearly two years after the Adventist church in Ashgabat was bulldozed by the authorities, police have discovered the bodies of two children in the ruins. Although a senior Turkmenistan police official told Keston News Service that the Adventists are not suspects, Adventists are being summoned regularly for questioning. The investigation seems to focus more on religion than on who was responsible for the deaths. (Keston News Service, 27 September)

TWO SENTENCED FOR KILLING POPULAR COMPOSER. The Lviv Oblast Court on 28 September found Dmytro Voronov and Yuriy Kalinin guilty of the premeditated murder of popular Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir and sentenced them to 15 and 12 years in prison respectively, Interfax reported. Bilozir died in a Lviv hospital on 28 May 2000 after being beaten by Voronov and Kalinin, who did not like his speaking and singing in the Ukrainian language while in a cafe. Bilozir's death provoked violent anti-Russian protests in Lviv and exacerbated to Ukrainian-Russian ethnic tensions in western Ukraine. Voronov and Kalinin were also ordered to pay 50,000 hryvni ($9,430) in compensation to Bilozir's family. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)

CONTROL... Partially due to the official Uzbekistan government's drive against Muslims, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) -- based in Tajikistan -- was formed. U.S. President George W. Bush mentioned the IMU when he outlined his war against terrorism to the Congress. "Of all the Central Asia countries, it is Uzbekistan that will face the most serious problems participating in the antiterrorist war," says Aziz Niyazi, director of the Institute for Central Asia Development at the Russian Academy of Sciences. "[T]here are illegal radical military groups" which control much of Uzbekistan's territory. "The radicals' positions are reinforced by serious economic and social mistakes, made by Uzbek leaders," he says. ("Christian Science Monitor," 1 October)

...OR HUMAN RIGHTS? The deplorable human rights record of the Uzbek government is largely being ignored, Human Rights Watch said on 26 September. Since late 1997, the government in Tashkent has used the terrorism issue to justify a far broader crackdown on its political opponents, including peaceful "independent" Muslims who practice their religion outside of state restrictions. The campaign against independent Muslims intensified after 16 February 1999, when a series of bombs exploded near government buildings in Tashkent, killing 16 people. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. Uzbek human rights activists estimate that 7,000 Muslims are in prison in Uzbekistan, most for "anti-state activity" or "attempted subversion of the constitutional order;" sentences range from 15-20 years. For more information, see: (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 26 September)