Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: October 17, 2001

17 October 2001, Volume 2, Number 41
GLOBAL POLICE CORRUPTION TARGETED AT PRAGUE CONFERENCE. An 8-11 October international conference on the struggle against corruption organized by Transparency International ended in Prague by pledging to target corrupt police and security agencies whose abuse of human rights, participants said, fuels global terrorism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

CZECH PRESIDENT OPENS FORUM 2000 CONFERENCE. President Vaclav Havel, opening the fifth meeting of the Forum 2000 international conference in Prague on 14 October, said that the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States were a "challenge to mankind" and as such raised the question of whether mankind's focus should continue to be on technological progress rather than on spiritual values, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

CONCERN OVER THREAT TO COETHNICS IN ABKHAZIA. Galust Sahakian, who heads the Armenian parliament's largest faction, Miasnutiun, said on 11 October in Yerevan that the Armenian government should take unspecified steps to protect the Armenian community in Abkhazia, RFE/RL reported. Several Armenians were reported killed in the village of Giorgievskoe on 3 October and 14 more died during a raid late on 8 October on the village of Naa. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

ACTIVISTS DETAINED DURING NAKHICHEVAN DEMONSTRATION RELEASED. Nineteen people detained by police in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan during a demonstration on 29 September were released on 10 October, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

TRADE UNIONS SAY WAGE ARREARS AT 'CRITICAL' LEVEL. Belarus's Federation of Trade Unions on 9 October warned the government that wage arrears have reached a "critical" level, amounting to $33.4 billion Belarusian rubles ($22.5 million) by October, or to 7.5 percent of the country's monthly wage fund, Belapan reported. The federation blames the situation on the 9 September presidential election, saying that before that date the authorities strived to pay wages at any cost and many state-owned enterprises have gone into debt. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

BOSNIAN SERBS ACCUSED OF USING TERRORIST THREAT TO DISCREDIT MUSLIMS. A UN spokesman has urged Bosnian Serbs to stop using the terrorist attacks on the United States in a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Bosnian Muslims, AP reported on 9 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

HUNDREDS OF BODIES EXHUMED FROM FORMER MINE. Forensic experts have exhumed 372 bodies in the past four weeks from one of the largest mass graves discovered in Bosnia since the 1992-95 war, AP reported. The victims are believed to be Bosnian Muslims and Croats killed by Serb troops at the beginning of the conflict. The grim body count could increase as experts continue to search for victims at the former iron mine near the Serb-held town of Prijedor, some 175 kilometers northwest of the capital Sarajevo, the deputy head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons, Jasmin Odobasic, was quoted as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

UN SAYS REFUGEES RETURNING HOME IN GREATER NUMBERS. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees registered a year-on-year jump of nearly 70 percent in the number of Bosnian refugees returning to their homes in the first eight months of 2001, AP reported on 9 October. More than 50,000 have returned to areas not dominated by their own ethnic group, the agency quoted UNHCR spokeswoman Aida Feraget as saying in Sarajevo. Some 30,236 people have returned to the Muslim-Croat federation and another 17,899 to the Serb republic, while 2,314 individuals returned to Brcko, the northern district run by the central government, the UNHCR said. The figures indicate that more than half of the nearly 1.5 million refugees the war produced are registered as having returned in the past six years, AP said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

PRESIDENT, CHIEF MUFTI SAY TERROR IS NOT SAME AS ISLAM. President Petar Stoyanov and Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed said on 10 October in Sofia that Bulgaria's support of the antiterrorist struggle "cannot justify any intolerance or aggressive attitudes against Muslims in Bulgaria or the world at large," BTA reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

LEADER SAYS REFUGEES' RETURN HALTED BY POOR SECURITY. The chairman of the Independent Democratic Serb Party in Croatia, Vojislav Stanimirovic, warned on 9 October that the return of ethnic Serb refugees to Croatia has effectively stopped because of poor security, SRNA reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

COUNTY COURT DROPS WAR CRIMES CHARGES AGAINST LOCAL SERBS... A county court in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek has dropped war crimes charges against two local Serbs, citing a lack of evidence, dpa and HINA reported on 10 October. Desimir Lancanin and Zeljko Lozanovic had been on trial for genocide and ethnic cleansing since 20 September. Their case was separated from that of another 23 local Serbs in eastern Croatia who were accused of genocide during the occupation of the country's eastern counties between 1991 and 1997, dpa reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

...AND FORMER OFFICER TESTIFIES TO ATROCITIES AT LORA MILITARY BASE. A former Croatian military police officer, who says he lost his job for objecting to atrocities against prisoners of war (POWs), told a local daily that killings and torture were commonplace at the Lora military base in Split during the war, dpa reported on 12 October. His superior told him many POWs were not registered anywhere and therefore he could "do whatever you like" to them. After he appealed to then-President Franjo Tudjman, he said he lost his job. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

POLL RAISES QUESTIONS ON DEMOCRATIC PERFORMANCE. A public opinion survey conducted by the Institute for Applied Social Research (CVVM) shows that 45 percent of Czechs do not know who represents them in the Senate. This is 2 percent higher than last year, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

MINISTER SEES NO DANGER OF HUMAN RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT. Interior Minister Gross on 11 October told public radio Cesky rozhlas that strengthening the powers of the secret services to fight terrorism would not lead to an infringement of human rights, CTK reported. The possibility is being discussed within preparations for a new bill on the secret services, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

GOVERNMENT SETS UP GENDER EQUALITY COUNCIL. The cabinet approved at its 10 October meeting a proposal by Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla to set up an interministerial council on gender equality, CTK reported. The council is to function as of 1 January 2002, and Spidla said its formation is to be regarded as "a signal to the EU." The council will focus on harmonizing hiring and promotion procedures intended to grant equal opportunities to women. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

OSI REPORT SAYS SITUATION OF ROMA UNCHANGED. The annual report of the Open Society Institute (OSI) said the situation of Czech Roma has not improved over last year, despite efforts of the government to reduce discrimination and implement a large-scale program for integration, CTK reported on 10 October. The report said discrimination is not legally outlawed in the Czech Republic and relevant regulations against discrimination, though existing, are not consistently applied. It also said the interministerial committee for Romany affairs has neither the means nor the strength to ensure ministries fulfill pledges to act against discrimination. OSI also said that despite a government campaign in support of tolerance, displays of racism have become more frequent over the last year, and the number of racist organizations has grown. It also says Czech courts are often reluctant to convict perpetrators of anti-Roma violence within legal provisions against racism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

NEW PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE. Arnold Ruutel took his oath of office as president in front of parliament on 8 October, BNS reported. In his inauguration speech, he said that the new president has three priorities: restoring positive population growth, equal opportunities in education, and reducing unemployment. Ruutel stressed that he will seek to develop good and friendly relations with Russia, noting that an important step in improving relations would be the signing of the border agreement that was initialed in 1996, but which has not yet been signed due to Russia's reluctance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

NEW MAINLY RUSSIAN PARTY REGISTERED. The registration of the new political party "Unity in Estonia" was completed on 9 October when it was entered in the register of nonprofit organizations, BNS reported the next day. Governing board member Igor Pisarev said the party has 1,325 members, two-thirds of whom live in Tallinn and the rest in other parts of Estonia. He rejected the media's designation of the party as "Russian," as about one-third of its members are ethnic Estonians. The party considers itself to be center-right and sees its goal to be the formation of a middle class in Estonia. The founding congress of the party was held on 3 August, but the party chairman will only be elected in November at the first meeting of the party's extended board. The most prominent member of the party is Gennadi Ever, a member of the Tallinn city council is currently under arrest for alleged involvement in organizing the murder of Vitali Khaitov, his former business partner and publisher of the country's largest Russian-language newspaper "Estoniya." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES MINORITY SITUATION. After hearing a report by representatives of Roma, ethnic Germans, and disabled people on the state of minorities in Hungary, the European Parliament (EP) on 10 October passed a resolution urging appropriate parliamentary representation for national minorities and the improvement of minorities' education in their native languages. In addition, a report issued by the legal department of the EP concluded that Hungary's Status Law does not violate the associate agreement signed by Hungary with the EU. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

TOWN'S RESIDENTS PROTEST REFUGEE CENTER. Residents of Kalocsa on 12 October demonstrated against the government's recent decision to set up a refugee detention center in the town, which will host mainly Afghan refugees. Mayor Andor Gusztav Torok told the rally that the former barracks chosen to house the center is unsuitable for refugees because it was the site of a meningitis outbreak two years ago and is too close to the Paks nuclear power plant. Interior Ministry Chief of Staff Laszlo Valenta said the government will not revoke its decision. He added, however, that refugees from the former war in Yugoslavia who are still living in Hungary, not Afghans, will be moved to the center, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WARNS PRESIDENT HIS SON-IN-LAW HAS ACQUIRED TOO MUCH POWER. Tolen Toqtasynov, a deputy to the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's bicameral parliament) on 10 October made public the text of an open letter he has addressed to President Nursultan Nazarbaev requesting that he "rein in" his son-in-law Rakhat Aliev, RFE/RL reported. Aliyev is first deputy chairman of the National Security Committee (the former KGB). Toqtasynov said that the National Security Committee is currently engaged primarily in monitoring opposition political parties rather than taking measures to increase the country's security. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

RUGOVA: ELECTIONS' OBJECTIVE INDEPENDENCE... Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said on 10 October that the 17 November general elections are an opportunity to work for the province's independence from Yugoslavia, AP reported the same day. "The national objective of our program is to work toward the formal recognition of Kosova's independence," he said in a speech marking the opening of the Democratic League of Kosova's election campaign in the capital, Prishtina. He also promised that if his party wins it "will guarantee and protect the minorities and integrate them in the institutions of Kosova's democratic state." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

...WHICH SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS IS ILLEGAL. Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 10 October that all the ethnic Albanian parties campaigning for Kosova's elections are breaching UN Security Council Resolution 1244 by calling for independence, Radio B-92 reported the next day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

WORLD BANK STUDIES POVERTY. The World Bank on 11 October released a report on poverty in Kosova that says half of the province's population live in poverty, dpa reported. The study also says that 12 percent of the population live in extreme poverty, and also that poverty is concentrated in areas with higher ethnic diversity, suggesting the existence of different access and utilization of public services and market opportunities. The survey also said that there are more poor Kosova Serbs (59 percent) than Kosova Albanians (50 percent). The report said non-Albanians like Serbs, Roma, and Muslim Slavs are more exposed to poverty risks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

SUPREME COURT REDUCES SENTENCES OF RUSSIAN RADICALS. The court decided on 11 October to reduce the sentences of the three Russian National Bolsheviks whom the Riga Regional Court had found guilty of terrorism after they seized the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church in November 2000, LETA reported. It ruled that they were only guilty of delinquency but not terrorism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

REBEL LEADER CAUTIOUSLY WELCOMES MACEDONIAN AMNESTY... The former political leader of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), Ali Ahmeti, welcomed the amnesty adopted by the Macedonian government on 9 October as "an expression of political goodwill," Western news agencies reported on 11 October. But Ahmeti also demanded the release of all the former UCK members arrested in the seven months of fighting in the spirit of the amnesty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

...WHICH IS ALREADY UNDER THREAT OF COLLAPSE? Ethnic Albanian Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi said on 11 October that days prior to the government's amnesty, Macedonian police raided villages in search of young ethnic Albanians bearing arms and 50 were arrested and await trial, AP reported. He said it indicates a lack of sincerity by the ethnic Macedonian-dominated government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS STRASBOURG DECLARATION MADE 'UNDER GOVERNMENTAL MANDATE'... Justice Minister Ion Morei on 11 October said in Chisinau that he has no reason to submit his resignation, as has been demanded by opposition parties and Moldovan civic movements, Mediafax reported. Morei said the declarations he made before the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg were "under governmental mandate." He said he used the term "Romanian political expansionism" to describe the fact that "certain political forces from both Moldova and Romania, whether overtly or covertly, do not recognize Moldovan state sovereignty." He said these forces "strive to use any possible method" to undermine Moldovan sovereignty and that "the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is just part of those methods." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTIES UNABLE TO AGREE ON REFERENDUM. President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) failed at a working group session on 8 October to reach agreement with the Liberal Alliance on the question to be put forward in a referendum on independence from Yugoslavia, SRNA reported the same day. The parties also failed to agree on the majority needed for such a referendum to be valid, though they did agree on allowing only citizens of Montenegro to vote, not all nationals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

PRESIDENT VETOES TOUGHER PENAL CODE. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 9 October vetoed the amended Penal Code that raised penalties for some grave crimes, Polish media reported. Kwasniewski said that both he and legal experts found many amendments to be misconceived as well as incompatible with the Polish Constitution and European laws. Former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski, who had advocated tighter screws on crime while a member of Jerzy Buzek's cabinet, called Kwasniewski's veto "a green light for the criminal world," PAP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

LAWMAKERS PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION, BUT NOT AGAINST NATIONAL MINORITIES. The Chamber of Deputies on 9 October approved a governmental ordinance prohibiting discrimination, but eliminated from the law the prohibition of discrimination against national minorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

PREMIER NASTASE DISAGREES WITH PLAN TO BUILD SPECIAL ROMANY NEIGHBORHOODS. Premier Nastase said on 14 October that he is opposed to Piatra-Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru's plans to build a separate neighborhood for the town's Romany population, Mediafax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

RUSSIANS AT ALL LEVELS DIVIDED ON THE ANTI-TERROR CAMPAIGN... As the Duma prepared for a full-scale debate on 10 October concerning the antiterrorist effort, most politicians restated the positions they took earlier, ranging from deep pessimism to a belief that the war will allow Russia to gain support for its actions in Chechnya. The media took an increasingly long-term view on 9 October, with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" suggesting that the antiterrorist coalition is so diverse that it may soon break down, while other papers including "Izvestiya," "Kommersant-Daily," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" warned that the conflict may spread into Central Asia or even make Russia itself into a target. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov in "Trud," and longtime political observer Fedor Burlatskii in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" warned against allowing the struggle against terrorism to become a "war of civilizations" between the West and Islam. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church on 9 October called on the U.S. to minimize the risk its attacks have for civilians in Afghanistan, while a Novosibirsk mullah sharply criticized American operations against that country, Interfax reported. A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax the same day found that 42.4 percent of Muscovites support U.S. actions in Afghanistan while 49.4 percent oppose them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

FSB PLEDGES TO WORK AMONGST MUSLIM REFUGEES... Pskov Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov, whose oblast borders Estonia and Latvia, also called for the immediate introduction of a strict visa regime with Central Asian countries, Interfax-Northwest reported on 8 October. Meanwhile, in Novosibirsk, which borders Kazakhstan, the head of the oblast's Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate, Sergei Savchenkov, told reporters that the flow of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan and neighboring countries into Russia has already increased. Savchenkov told Interfax-Eurasia on 9 October that the work of the FSB will be strengthened with a special emphasis made on "work among refugees from Muslim countries with the goal of preventing opportunities to conduct various types of extremist actions." ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October)

DUMA PLANS HEARINGS ON DISAPPEARANCES IN BELARUS. Duma deputies decided on 11 October to hold hearings before the end of the month on the disappearances of journalists and opposition figures in Belarus, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

PAVLOVSKII: SOCIAL GROUPS MUST ABSTAIN FROM PROTESTS IN FACE OF TERRORIST THREAT. In a wide-ranging press conference in Moscow on 9 October, Kremlin media adviser and head of the Fund for Effective Policy Gleb Pavlovskii said that Russian society and the Russian state must consolidate to confront the changed conditions in the world following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S., and that social groups must refrain from engaging in the kind of protest actions they have used in the past, Interfax reported. He also suggested that the antiterrorist coalition will lead to the formation of new alliances internationally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE... Air traffic controllers at 38 airports across Russia began a hunger strike on 10 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. They are protesting legislation that prevents trade unions from participating in collective bargaining if the union includes fewer than 50 percent of the employees. But because Russian law prevents them from walking off the job, the air traffic controllers have chosen a hunger strike to attract attention to their cause. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

...AND IT CALL OFF. The Russian Federation of Unions of Air Traffic Controllers on 11 October called off the hunger strike its members began 24 hours earlier, Russian agencies reported. Federation officials said they did so to ensure that their members will be able to do their jobs and will not suffer any physical harm. The union added that some airport managers attempted to remove from work controllers who were on hunger strike, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

'BETWEEN THE HEAVENS AND US' IS ONLY PUTIN. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 9 October, Aleksei Levinson, a sociologist at the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), said that President Putin so overshadows all other political and social figures in Russia now that there are almost no individuals who could serve as leaders of an independent civil society. This is a remarkable shift, Levinson said, from conditions in 1999 when numerous leaders enjoyed significant rates of identification and trust and thus could serve as catalysts for the promotion of civil society institutions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

PAVLOVSKII WANTS STATE, SOCIETY TO BE MORE CLOSELY LINKED. In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 12 October, Gleb Pavlovskii, the director of the Effective Policy Foundation and a close Kremlin media adviser, said Russia's government "is structurally isolated from society" and has been so since 1991. He said that "civil society has existed in our country for a long time," noting that "I have been working and living within it for at least 30 years." He said that steps like the convening of the Civil Forum next month can help to create conditions in which society will "be able to realistically aspire to equality with the state -- which is not the case at present." As that happens, Russian citizens will cease to be "a society of passive consumers" and become partners with the state to the benefit of both. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS REMAIN DIVIDED ON KREMLIN'S PLANNED CIVIC FORUM. As Vyacheslav Surkov, the deputy chief of the presidential administration, convened on 11 October a planning session for the 21-22 November Civic Forum of Public Organizations, Russian human rights activists were divided on whether to participate in that meeting, Interfax reported. Duma deputy and former human rights ombudsman Sergei Kovalev said that groups that elect to take part could jeopardize their reputations because of the way the Kremlin has gone about organizing this session, but that they could also take advantage of the meeting to press their causes. But Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces) Sergei Yushenkov spoke out categorically against any participation in the upcoming meeting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

POLL SUGGESTS SOME CONCERNED ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 11 October...2 percent said that there has been an improvement in the observance of civil rights and freedoms, but 4 percent said that there has been a deterioration in that area. Six percent said there have been positive developments in the area of personal security, while 10 percent suggested that things have become worse in that area under Putin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP RELEASES HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY. On 9 October, Ludmila Alekseeva, the president of the Moscow Helsinki Group, announced the release of the third annual survey of human rights conditions in the regions and republics of the Russian Federation, Interfax reported. For the first time, the study, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, covers all 89 subjects of the federation. Alekseeva told RFE/RL that the process of collecting data for the project has helped to create a countrywide network of human rights activists, and that this network is now in a position to put more pressure on the authorities to correct human rights abuses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

NEW MASS GRAVE FOUND IN CHECHNYA. On 13 October, police in Grozny began exhuming a mass grave discovered in Grozny's Lenin Raion, Interfax reported on 14 October. The bodies of 12 men and women, all of whom died a violent death, have been recovered so far. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN SAYS BIN LADEN INVOLVED IN CHECHEN FIGHTING... In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 11 October, Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that Osama bin Laden is directly involved in sending terrorists from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Yastrzhembskii said that these "mercenaries" are "notorious for their ferocity." But he said that there are only a few mercenaries in Chechnya at present. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

...AND SAYS MASKHADOV HAS 'LOST RIGHT' TO SPEAK FOR CHECHNYA. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 12 October said Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has forfeited the right to speak in the name of the Chechen people and that Moscow will never agree to a second Khasavyurt accord or to Chechen independence, Interfax reported. In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maskhadov called for international mediation in the conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

...AS RUSSIANS REMAIN DIVIDED ON CHECHEN FIGHTING. Some 46.5 percent of Russians now support Moscow's approach in Chechnya while 41.1 percent oppose the continuation of the war in its current form, according to a ROMIR-Gallup International poll reported by Interfax on 9 October. The poll showed a shift over the last three months toward more support for continuing the fighting, which analysts at the polling agency suggested reflect the impact of the events of 11 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

RUSSIAN CASUALTIES IN NORTH CAUCASUS ESTIMATED AT 10,500. The Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees on 27 September said that its calculations show that since 2 August 1999 Russia has suffered 10,500 combat losses, three times the official figure, Interfax reported. The group also reported on an increasing number of complaints by soldiers about mistreatment, beatings, and nonpayment of wages in the combat zone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

SOLDIER'S MOTHER COMPLAINS OF SLAVE LABOR. Lidia Guseva, the mother of soldier Aleksandr Gusev, has appealed to the Nizhnii Novgorod Soldiers' Mothers Committee, complaining about the conditions under which her son is serving in the Russian army, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported on 22 September. Aleksandr Gusev is serving not in the North Caucasus but in "peaceful" Volgograd Oblast; however, he and 15 other draftees are working 14-hour days of hard physical labor on a watermelon plantation. Gusev wrote to his mother saying that two soldiers have already died and that if she didn't bring him home, he would soon arrive in a "zinc box." ...[T]he military prosecutor in Nizhnii Novgorod is conducting an investigation of the soldier's charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

SERBSKII INSTITUTE FINDING MAY LEAD TO FREEING OF BUDANOV. Interfax reported on 1 October that Colonol Yurii Budanov, who is accused of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, may be convicted of a lesser charge and thus be subject to an immediate amnesty. Experts at Moscow's Serbskii Psychiatric Institute have concluded that he acted in a fit of passion when he killed Elza Kungaeva. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

THREE OF FOUR CRIMES NOW BEING SOLVED. Russian police solved 72 percent of the 2,270,492 crimes committed during the first three quarters of 2001, Interfax reported on 9 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

PRESSURE ON VLADIVOSTOK LEGISLATOR TURNS VIOLENT. A deputy from Vladivostok's Duma, Irina Keldyusheva, was severely beaten by two unknown assailants on 12 October, and doctors say her condition is critical, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Boris Danchin, chair of the city Duma, said that a number of deputies have received telephone threats demanding that they resign. Earlier in the month, the city Duma took control of the administration and leasing of municipal properties. And, on 4 October, deputies approved a decision to direct an inquiry to Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov about transactions with municipal property over the last few years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

MOST RUSSIANS DO NOT IDENTIFY WITH A POLITICAL PARTY. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by "Versty" on 2 October, more than 60 percent of Russians do not identify with any political party and those that do could not give more than the most general reasons for their attachments. The poll found that 19 percent of Russians support parties of the left, 9 percent support those of the right, and 11 percent support those of the center. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

FAR NORTH ELECTION FAILS DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST. By-elections held in Arkhangelsk on 7 October for a State Duma seat were declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout, Interfax Northwest reported on 8 October. Earlier, election officials told RFE/RL that they feared the election would fail to attract the necessary 25 percent of registered voters and turnout totaled only 22.14 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

TWO OPPOSITION CANDIDATES REFUSED REGISTRATION. The Orel Oblast Election Commission refused on 3 October to register two candidates from Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Vyacheslav Alekseev and Vladimir Kapustyanskii, for 23 October gubernatorial elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October. The commission charged that the signatures supporting their candidacy had many inaccuracies in passport information, and many people were included who either don't live in the oblast or do not exist. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October)

ST. PETERSBURG ELECTION TURNS UGLY? Former St. Petersburg legislator Yurii Shutov has charged that candidates in the 14 October by-election for a vacant State Duma seat from St. Petersburg are facing unequal conditions, Interfax-Northwest reported on 10 October. Shutov, a candidate in the race, is currently on trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder among other things. He was arrested almost two years ago, but his trial began just two weeks before the election. Meanwhile, Ruslan Chovpin, the assistant of another candidate, Yurii Solonin, was beaten by unknown assailants. According to Interfax-Northwest, eight candidates are competing in the election. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

PUTIN TELLS COMPATRIOTS THAT THEY MUST FEEL ONE WITH RUSSIA. President Putin on 11 October told the Moscow meeting of the Congress of Russian Compatriots Abroad that Moscow must do more to help them than it has in the past when efforts to reach out to them were hampered by "bureaucratism and indifference," Russian agencies reported. He said he hopes that ethnic Russians abroad will feel at one with Russia and help Russia to integrate into the international community. Meanwhile, Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said Russia should create an international organization to defend the rights of ethnic Russians abroad, and that the parliament must adopt a law on the national cultural status of the Russian people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

MOSCOW AGAIN RAISES ETHNIC ISSUE IN ESTONIA, LATVIA. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on 5 October that Moscow remains concerned about the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

ONE RUSSIAN IN FOUR 'SERIOUSLY CONCERNED' ABOUT ETHNIC PROBLEMS. According to poll results reported by "Novoye vremya" on 30 September, 24 percent of Russians are "seriously concerned" about relations among ethnic groups in Russia. The poll also found that 86 percent of the sample believe that their ethnicity gives them neither advantages nor disadvantages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

SPS LEADER SAYS SELF-DETERMINATION 'RUINOUS' FOR SOCIETY. In an interview published in "Vremya MN" on 29 September, Duma Deputy Speaker and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) member Irina Khakamada said that her party considers that national self-determination is "ruinous" for society. She argued that federal arrangements become impossible if a subject of the federation can decide on its own to leave at any time. She also said that repressed peoples should be given monetary compensation but not given their territories back. And she called for "the gradual and very careful transition to an administrative territorial system," with the first step being to stop designating the holder's nationality in passports and the second to increase the size of regions. But Khakamada said that cultural autonomy should be preserved through schools with instruction in minority languages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

TATARSTAN'S CONSTITUTION DEEMED IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL CONSTITUTION. The Tatarstan Supreme Court ruled on 3 October that parts of the republic's constitution violate federal legislation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 October. According to the bureau, the court accepted major parts of the argument made by Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, the deputy prosecutor-general for the Volga federal district, but rejected some other elements. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Zvyagintsev had charged that some 42 articles of the constitution do not comply with federal law. According to Tatarstan Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Ilgiz Gilazov, articles on representative and executive powers, in particular, do not coincide with the legal principle of separation of powers, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October)

TATARS RALLY FOR INDEPENDENCE... According to a BBC-Monitored 15 October TV6 program, some demonstrators asked for "full independence" or Tatarstan passports during a rally of 2,000 in Kazan. The demonstration occurred on the anniversary of Ivan the Terrible's military occupation of Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. (TV6, 15 October)

...TATAR NATIONALIST BEATEN AND THREATENED... A local leader of a Tatar nationalist group was beaten last month by unknown assailants who threatened his life and the lives of his children if he participated in an organizing session for the Milli Mejlis public organization scheduled later this month, Tatar-Inform reported on 3 October. Shakirzyan Zalyaev said he was warned that making a fuss would not be in his best interest. Meanwhile, the presidium of Milli Mejlis has issued a statement that the attack on Zalyaev is "the beginning of a terror against Tatar national movement activists that may lead to the most unpredictable consequences." The local Federal Security Service directorate has said that it will join the police investigation of the incident if a political link is established. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October)

...WHILE TATARSTAN MUSLIMS SAID AGAIN TITHING GRAIN HARVEST. Muslims in rural regions of Tatarstan are again giving 10 percent of their harvest as the Koran suggests for the work of mosques and medressahs, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 October. Meanwhile, an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 September said that there are an estimated 13.17 million Muslims in Russia, some 9 percent of the population. The combined population of Tatars and Bashkirs account for nearly half of this total. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

SALVATION ARMY TO APPEAL DENIAL OF REGISTRATION. The Moscow office of the Salvation Army told Interfax on 9 October that it intends to appeal the decision of a Moscow court denying it registration and hence the right to operate in the Russian capital. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

PATRIARCH AGAIN CRITICIZES VATICAN. At a press conference on 5 October, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said that "the religious expansion of the Vatican in former Soviet republics does not give grounds to the Moscow Patriarchate to hope for improvement of relations with the Roman Catholic Church," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii was especially critical of Pope John Paul II's failure to consult with him before traveling to Ukraine and Kazakhstan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

FSB SUPPLIES OLD ICONS TO NEW CHURCH. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 October, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has provided some old icons to Moscow's newest Russian Orthodox Church, which is named for those martyred by the Soviet state. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

GOVERNMENT BACKS PRONATALIST DEMOGRAPHIC PLAN. The Russian government on 27 September approved a concept paper on demographic policy through 2015 that calls for a pronatalist and pro-immigrant policy to counter population declines caused by low birthrates, high death rates, and disease, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

MALE LIFE EXPECTANCY NOW AT 55.5 YEARS. Citing a report by the RBK agency, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 October that the average life expectancy for Russian men is now 55.5 years. The same day, Interfax-Moscow reported that during the first nine months of 2001, there were almost twice as many deaths -- 99,000 -- in Moscow as births -- 57,000 -- there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

TODAY'S ELITES DESCRIBED AS 'IRRESPONSIBLE.' Viktor Tretyakov, a member of the directors' council at ORT, told a Moscow conference on the role of elites in Russian society on 1 October that Russian elites are those who have access to the Kremlin, Interfax reported. He added that today's Russian elites are "absolutely irresponsible before the country" and promote reforms only to the extent that those reforms serve their own interests. An analysis of payment of utility bills in Saratov found that Russian pensioners pay their bills more reliably than do wealthier "new Russians," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

3,400 FAMILIES IN MOSCOW HAVE BEEN ON WAITING LIST FOR HOUSING SINCE 1983. Nikolai Fedoseev, chief of the Moscow city housing policy administration, said on 9 October that 190,462 families in the Russian capital are on waiting lists for housing, Interfax-Moscow reported. Fedoseev added that 3,400 of these families have been on a waiting list since 1983. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

RUSSIANS MORE INTERESTED IN ECONOMIC GROWTH THAN RECEIVING BACK WAGES. A poll conducted by the VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 1 October showed that 52 percent of Russians believe that promoting economic growth is the most important task, with only 35 percent saying that receiving payments for wage arrears is the most important. But the percentage naming the promotion of economic growth the most important task is 9 percent lower than the figure named in a similar poll one year ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAND CODE. Despite the presence of picketers outside, the Federation Council approved by a vote of 103 for, 29 against, and nine abstentions the Land Code previously passed by the Duma that allows the buying and selling of a small portion of the country's land, Russian and Western agencies reported. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said the move will reduce criminal activities involving land by setting up common rules, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said the same day that the government will now begin drafting legislation allowing for the buying and selling of agricultural land, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

SERBS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF MILOSEVIC OUSTER WITH WARNINGS FOR NEW GOVERNMENT. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Yugoslav parliament on 5 October, one year after protests led to the downfall of President Slobodan Milosevic, to celebrate but also warn the new government that their patience with the slow pace of reforms is wearing thin, AP and Reuters reported. A group from the town of Cacak, which played a key role in the protests by driving bulldozers and tractors in the streets, came with a truck carrying a bulldozer and a sign reading: "We've seen enough of you!" "We came to celebrate," said Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic. "But we also came to give the new authorities a warning." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

MINERS BACK TO WORK, STRIKES ELSEWHERE TO FOLLOW? Workers at the Kolubara mine returned to work after a week-long strike on 10 October after the government partially met their demands for better wages and working conditions, AP reported. Serbian radio also reported on 11 October that workers at the Bor mine ended their strike after the government agreed to pay them back wages from April. Meanwhile, Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said on 10 October that there will be no wage increase in the electricity sector to avert a strike threatened for that day. But he admitted that the government decree freezing state wages was a blunt instrument that had resulted in an absurd situation, as the unions claimed, and the decree can be modified, Tanjug reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

VOJVODINA ASSEMBLY DECLARES NOVI SAD CAPITAL. The parliament of the Serbian province of Vojvodina on 11 October decided to return to the province's main city of Novi Sad the status of provincial capital, Reuters reported the same day. Leaders in the assembly say they want to win back the political and economic autonomy granted to Vojvodina by the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution and stripped by former President Milosevic, but that they are not calling for independence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN NIS BURNS. A 19th-century Serbian Orthodox church in the south Serbian city of Nis was destroyed early in the morning hours of 12 October in a fire and explosion, Reuters reported. The church was undergoing restoration work and the cause of the fire is thought to be negligence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

SLOVAKIA AMBIVALENT REACTION TO OSI REPORT ON ROMA SITUATION. Slovak officials reacted ambivalently to the annual report published on 11 October by the Open Society Institute (OSI) on the situation of the Roma in Slovakia, CTK reported on 13 October. The report said discrimination of the Romany population is continuing and Slovak politicians express racist opinions about the Roma. It also criticized the fact that most Roma do not have a permanent residence address and for this reason cannot participate in elections or benefit from their rights pertaining to education and health care. A spokesman for Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, who is in charge of human rights and minority problems, said he doubts that the report reflects Slovak realities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

ERRC FILES SUIT. The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (EECR) on 11 October filed a complaint with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg over the case of Lubomir Sarissky, a Rom who died of injuries suffered while in police custody in August 1999, CTK reported. The official Slovak version of the case claims Sarissky was questioned at a police station because he was suspected of stealing a bicycle and that during questioning he snatched a gun from the investigator and shot himself in the stomach. He died despite undergoing three operations. However, before his death Sarissky told a friend in the hospital that he was injured by a police officer. The officer was handed a one-year suspended sentence in October 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

POLICE ARE CHARGED WITH TORTURING AND KILLING ROM. Seven members of the Slovak police were charged on 9 October with having tortured and cruelly treated Karol Sendrei in July, resulting in the Rom's death, CTK and AP reported. If convicted they face up to 15 years in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

GOVERNMENT, UNIONS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT. A "tripartite" meeting held on 12 October between members of the government, representatives of trade unions, and employers' representatives ended in failure to overcome differences, and CTK described the situation as "even more tense" after the talks. The unions are objecting to the government's intention to increase prices for energy by 19 percent and are threatening to take labor action. Ivan Saktor, chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ), said after the meeting that the Council of Economic and Social Agreement -- more often known as "the tripartite" -- cannot be turned into a body that "dictates to social partners." Premier Dzurinda said in response that "it is easier to conduct politics on the street, hamper solutions, and threaten [profitability of] enterprises that work well," than to seek "honest solutions" that would help the employees. Dzurinda also accused the KOZ leadership of "becoming politicized." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

ISLAMIC PARTY LEADER REJECTS CALL FOR JIHAD. Islamic Renaissance Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a news conference in Dushanbe on 8 October that his party will ignore calls by Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden for a jihad, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Nuri expressed neither approval nor condemnation of the U.S.-led antiterrorist strikes against targets in Afghanistan, but said such measures should ideally be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

U.S. TO ALLOCATE $1 MILLION FOR POLICE. The U.S. government will provide Turkmenistan with $1 million to train police officers to combat organized crime and the illegal drug trade, Interfax reported on 8 October, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS FAMILY LOSES SUPREME COURT APPEAL. The threat of eviction of Jehovah's Witness Maria Segzekov and her family from their rented home in Ashgabat looms after the Supreme Court upheld earlier court rulings that they be evicted for using their home for religious meetings. Jehovah's Witness sources told the Keston News Service on 3 October that the authorities had not yet taken steps to evict the family. The Segzekovs intend to appeal the decision. (Keston News Service, 4 October)

KUCHMA PLEDGES TO ELIMINATE DOMESTIC TERRORISM... President Kuchma also urged tighter antiterrorist measures in order to eliminate "manifestations of terrorism" within the country. "I have no right to think that there is no [terrorism] in Ukraine," Kuchma said in Chernivtsi, southeastern Ukraine. Kuchma suggested that the violent clashes between police and antipresidential demonstrators in Kyiv on 9 March were such manifestations of terrorism. "Terrorism seeks to intimidate the authorities, to cause panic in society, to stir people to oppose the authorities, and so on. We see this in Ukraine or we saw this in Ukraine. But we called these things different names," One Plus One television quoted Kuchma as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October)

...AND WARNS AGAINST ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION OF LANGUAGE PROBLEM. Speaking to a congress of Ukraine's education sector employees in Kyiv on 8 October, President Kuchma warned against administrative and forced methods in expanding the sphere of use of the Ukrainian language. Kuchma noted that given Ukraine's "significant Russophone population," such methods can only increase opposition to Ukrainianization and polarize society. "We should understand such lessons now when the [parliamentary] elections are nearing. Rival political forces, striving for sympathies of the electorate, are stepping up speculation on the language problem. Political stability in Ukraine will to a high degree depend on our ability to ensure the natural course of the language education process," Ukrainian Radio quoted Kuchma as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

'OUR UKRAINE' BLOC TO BE FORMALIZED. Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 6 October announced that the Our Ukraine election bloc he proposed in July will be formalized in the near future, Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, Our Ukraine will consists of some 20 political parties and 30-40 civic groups and movements. On 8 October, five political parties -- the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Reforms and Order Party, the Liberal Party, and the Christian Popular Union -- initialized a formal accord on the creation of Our Ukraine. Meanwhile, Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hladiy said the same day that talks are being conducted on forging an election coalition of Our Ukraine with the For a United Ukraine bloc. For a United Ukraine consists of four pro-presidential groups: the Popular Democratic Party, the Party of Regions, the Agrarian Party, and the Labor Ukraine Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)

SLOVAK, ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERS OPPOSE HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW. Slovak parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas and Romanian Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu said after a meeting in Bratislava on 8 October that they both consider the Status Law approved by the Hungarian parliament earlier this year to be "discriminatory" and an obstacle to collaboration between countries in the region, MTI reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October)