24 October 2001, Volume
CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS DEFENSE OF FREEDOM MUST NOT SILENCE CRITICS.
Speaking at the closing meeting of Forum 2000 on 17 October, President Vaclav Havel said that it is "the duty of all people of good will to defend freedom, human life, human dignity, and justice among peoples and nations" and that "in extreme cases" such values must be defended by force. But defense of human freedom, he said, "cannot be a pretext for silencing critical voices," CTK reported. Participants adopted a declaration calling on wealthy countries to share their riches with third world countries and for "more global fairness," AP reported. "The promise of universal well-being and prosperity, which lies at the heart of the modern age, has turned out to be an illusion," the declaration said. "It would be useful to assert a global ethical minimum reflecting mankind's fundamental moral principles that must be respected." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
INTERNATIONAL ANTITRAFFICKING CENTER OPENED.
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta inaugurated an antitrafficking center in the port city of Vlore on 15 October amid increased international pressure on his government to do more to fight organized crime and the trafficking of drugs, people, and arms. The center will be jointly operated by Albanian, German, Greek, and Italian police and should help coordinate efforts to stem illegal flows from East to West, dpa reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
JUDGES OF NEW ECONOMIC COURT SWORN IN.
The chairman and six remaining members of Armenia's economic arbitration court were sworn in at the presidential palace in Yerevan on 20 October, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The court was set up by parliament earlier this year to resolve commercial disputes between private businesses, government agencies, and individual citizens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
OPPOSITION RALLY PROCEEDS WITHOUT VIOLENCE.
Several thousand people attended a demonstration in Baku on 20 October organized by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA), Turan reported. The participants called on political parties to "unite in the struggle" against the present Azerbaijani leadership, according to AP. They demanded that the government end human rights abuses, reduce unemployment, release political prisoners, close the criminal cases against DPA Chairman Rasul Quliev and abandon its "defeatist" policy on resolving the Karabakh conflict. Several hundred police observed the proceedings but did not intervene. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTION LEGISLATION.
Parliament deputies voted on 19 October overwhelmingly in favor of amending the law on the Central Election Commission to empower that body to conduct referenda, Turan and RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. It is not clear whether that move was made in anticipation that any proposed political settlement of the Karabakh conflict be submitted to a nationwide referendum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)PROSECUTOR DEMANDS 11-YEAR SENTENCE FOR MILITARY CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER.
Prosecutor Elsevar Abdullaev demanded on 16 October that former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev be sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for his alleged role in the April 1993 murder of the director of the Baku Naval College, Eduard Huseinov, Turan reported. Abdullaev also asked the court to base its verdict not on evidence given during Mirzoev's trial by his codefendant Aliyusif Tairov, but on Tairov's testimony during the pretrial investigation. Tairov said during that investigation that he had overheard conversations between Mirzoev and former Interior Ministry special troops commander Rovshan Djavadov that led him to believe that the two men were planning to murder Huseinov, but retracted that testimony during the trial. Mirzoev has been repeatedly detained and harassed in recent years for his efforts to publicize corruption within the Defense Ministry. He was arrested and charged with Huseinov's murder in November 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)BAKU SLASHES BENEFITS.
Up to a fifth of Azerbaijan's population will be affected by a government decision to slash annual social benefits from some $200 million to $30 million. Those currently receiving state aid include war veterans, pensioners, the disabled, orphans, refugees, internally displaced persons, and the unemployed. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting Service, 22 October)
OPPOSITION DENIES MISUSING WESTERN AID.
The Belarusian opposition group Charter-97 has rejected the accusations of misuse of Western aid that were made public by political analyst Alyaksandr Fyaduta last month, Belapan reported on 21 October. "All that Fyaduta said to Interfax about the usurpation of grants and financial schemes is a lie from the first word to the last," Charter-97 coordinator Dzmitry Bandarenka told journalists. Fyaduta alleged that the opposition misused $24 million. "Fyaduta made a big mistake citing this sum. U.S. charitable funds gave a total of $22 million in assistance under the interstate agreement. Of this amount, $12 million was in humanitarian aid, including Chernobyl-affected areas, $6 million was spent on exchange programs, $3 million for support of the independent press in Belarus, and $1 million or so on Belarusian NGOs and initiatives," Bandarenka said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)RESIDENTS WANT MINSK BELTWAY TO DETOUR STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE.
A rally of residents of Minsk's Zyalyony Luh-6 suburb on 17 October decided to seek a meeting with the state authorities over the reconstruction of the Minsk beltway, which threatens to damage the neighboring Kurapaty site where the Stalin-era NKVD executed tens of thousands of "enemies of the people," Belapan and RFE/RL reported. Some 500 people signed a petition asking the authorities to bypass Kurapaty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)YOUTH LEADER JAILED FOR PICKET.
A Minsk district court on 16 October sentenced Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets to 10 days of detention for organizing an unauthorized picket in front of the Minsk Automobile Factory on 2 October, RFE/RL reported. Sevyarynets and his colleagues were protesting the alleged sale of the factory to Russia's Siberian Aluminum industrial group. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)PRESIDENT PLEDGES GREEN LIGHT TO PRIVATE BUSINESS.
Speaking at a meeting with Belarusian businessmen on 19 October, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka promised that Belarusian businessmen will have a major role in privatization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)POLL SAYS 85 PERCENT OF BUSINESSMEN GIVE BRIBES.
The International Finance Corporation found in a poll conducted in July and August among 335 owners of small and medium-sized businesses in Belarus that 85 percent of them have offered bribes to bureaucrats, Belapan reported on 15 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)
SERB LEADER REJECTS UNITED BOSNIA AND TALK OF A SINGLE ARMY.
Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said the Republika Srpska would not be phased out and dismissed the idea of a united Bosnia-Herzegovina in statements carried by the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA and other media on 16 October. Ivanic said "nothing" could come of any initiative to form a single army in Bosnia-Herzegovina, labeling such moves unconstitutional, SRNA said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)NEW BOSNIAN MUSLIM POLITICAL LEADER OUTLINES KEY POLICIES.
Speaking on public radio on 17 October, the new leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) outlined the course that one of the country's strongest political parties will pursue under his leadership. Sulejman Tihic reiterated that delegates "defined our position as that of a center-oriented people's party," with such priorities as "general civilized values regarding rights and liberties, the economy, social policy, issues of war veterans and martyrs' families, and others." He stressed that the party now seeks to speak for the interests of non-Muslims as well. When asked about efforts to form a "Bosniak [Muslim] nation," the SDA leader said, "the number of those who support this initiative is growing by the day." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)
CORRUPTION INDEX RATING UP.
Transparency International ranked Croatia 47th among 91 countries ranked in its annual corruption index released on 15 October, Hina reported. That places the country alongside regional neighbors Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, the agency said. Croatia placed 74th in 1999 and 51st in 2000, Hina added, marking a gradual but consistent improvement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)HARD-LINE VETERANS PROTEST.
Some 15,000 war veterans demonstrated in Zagreb on 20 October against the government's policy of cooperation with The Hague, RFE/RL reported. Retired General Janko Bobetko told the veterans that the government seeks to "humiliate" them by reducing their privileges and pensions. After the protest, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said that the organizers' aims were political and that the turnout showed that they do not have much support. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
PRO PATRIA OPPOSES REMOVING ESTONIAN LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FROM ELECTION LAW.
The chairman of the Pro Patria Union faction, Tiit Sinissaar, asserted on 16 October that the amendments to the laws on parliament and local elections proposed the previous day by Kadri Jaatma of Pro Patria Union, Moderate Tonu Koiv, and Paul-Eerik Rummo of the Reform Party should not be supported, ETA reported. The amendments would abolish the requirement that candidates for these offices know Estonian to the extent that they can understand the contents of legal acts and other texts; make reports on agenda items; express their opinions, ask questions, and communicate with voters. Jaatma said that existing law does not prevent those who do not speak Estonian to be elected to local councils. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
VIOLATIONS REPORTED DURING BY-ELECTION.
According to preliminary returns, former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili defeated 10 rival candidates to win election in the Tbilisi district of Vake in a by-election on 21 October, winning 64.4 percent of the vote, Caucasus Press reported. National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, polled 9.7 percent. It is not clear whether the Central Electoral Commission will recognize the validity of the ballot as the ballot box was stolen from one of 48 polling stations shortly before polling closed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO OSCE.
The Abkhaz parliament has appealed to the OSCE to help mediate a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Russian agencies reported on 17 October. The appeal also requested that the OSCE "make an unbiased assessment of the actions of the Georgian leadership," rather than accept without question Georgian accusations that the Abkhaz engaged in ethnic cleansing of the majority Georgian population of the republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)ICRC VISITS PRISONERS IN ABKHAZIA.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on 15 October visited nine men taken prisoner during recent fighting in Abkhazia's Kodori gorge, according to a press release of 19 October. The men's nationality was not specified. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
ECOLOGY OFFICIAL SLAMS PROPOSAL TO STORE NUCLEAR WASTE.
Kairat Aitekenov, the chairman of the Environment Protection Committee of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, told a conference in Almaty on 19 October on storing nuclear waste that his ministry opposes recent proposals by other Kazakh officials that the country should import and store nuclear waste, Interfax reported He said doing so would be tantamount to "solving economic problems while ignoring environmental ones." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
AUTHORITIES BLOCK ATTEMPTS BY OPPOSITION PARTIES TO UNITE.
The Kyrgyz authorities are doing all in their power to prevent the founding congress of the People's Patriotic Movement, which was to have taken place on 20 October, Erkindik (Liberty) party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev told RFE/RL on 18 October. The movement is to unite the opposition Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, People's, and Republican parties, but the organizers are unable to find premises to hold the congress. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)PARLIAMENT AMENDS CONSTITUTION TO GIVE RUSSIAN STATUS OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGE.
The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral parliament) voted in the first reading on 19 October to amend the constitution to formally designate Russian as an official language, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Both parliament chambers endorsed legislation last year granting Russian such status. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
RATIFICATION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES CONVENTION DISCUSSED.
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 parliament has yet to ratify it. He also suggested that Latvia should follow the example of most countries that ratified the convention and not define what constitutes an ethnic minority. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 16 October)JUDGE MURDERED IN LATVIA'S CAPITAL.
The Riga Regional Court Criminal Case Council chairman, Judge Janis Laukroze, was gunned down in his apartment building's courtyard in Riga on 15 October, LETA reported the next day. The government has announced a 10,000 lat ($16,000) reward for information related to the case. The motives for the murder are not clear, but Laukroze's colleagues assert that it is linked with his work. He had presided over key cases such as the trial of the three Russian National Bolsheviks who seized the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church last November, and had decided which judge would hear other criminal cases. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
PARLIAMENT TO FINALLY APPROVE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES?
Under a recent agreement between Macedonian political leaders and representatives of the EU and NATO, the Macedonian parliament's constitutional committee is scheduled to meet on 22 October to deal with the package of 15 constitutional amendments outlined in the 13 August Ohrid peace agreement, Western news agencies reported. The parliament is slated to debate the amendments individually on 24 October. The process of amending the constitution to grant more equality to the large Albanian minority is several weeks behind the schedule outlined in the Ohrid agreement. Some ethnic Macedonian leaders have sought to revise key provisions of the constitutional changes and have engaged in obstructionist tactics in the legislature. A scheduled amnesty for UCK fighters, belatedly decreed by President Boris Trajkovski on 8 October, has been watered down so as to make it nearly meaningless. Parliament has yet to approve an amnesty. Elections are slated for January 2002, and many Macedonian legislators have taken a hard line toward the Albanians in order to appeal to voters in this ethnically polarized society. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
PARLIAMENT GRANTS PRESIDENT RIGHT TO REVOKE CITIZENSHIP.
The parliament approved on 18 October the final reading of a law granting the country's president the right to revoke Moldovan citizenship from persons who acquired it illegally, Infotag reported. To this purpose, it amended previous legislation that allowed the head of state to do so only after a court of law's decision. The opposition Braghis Alliance and Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) voted against the law, saying it violates the presumption-of-innocence principle. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)OPPOSITION PARTIES OPPOSE GAGAUZ-YERI 'FEDERALIZATION DRIVE.'
Deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the PPCD in the parliament said on 18 October that the "federalization drive" launched by the leadership of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic is inadmissible and infringes on the Moldovan basic document, Infotag reported. Last week, Gagauz-Yeri leadership submitted proposals for constitutional amendments to grant the autonomous region the status of "equal-right member" in a would-be Moldovan Federal Republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)METROPOLITAN CHURCH WANTS 'CONCORDAT' WITH STATE.
A first-ever "Great Assembly" of the Moscow-subordinate Moldovan Metropolitan Church on 19 October called on the Moldovan authorities to sign a "concordat" with the church, RFE/RL reported. Observers in Chisinau and abroad said such an agreement would contradict Orthodox canonical law and tradition, being "a Catholic import into the Orthodox dogma." The gathering was attended by some 1,000 priests who signed the appeal, which also demands that ownership of all Orthodox churches in Moldova be transferred from parishes to the Metropolitan Church. The appeal also demands that the state refuse registration of a parish unless it proves that at least 30 percent of the population belongs to it. Addressing the gathering, President Vladimir Voronin said his administration will "never register the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church" because it does not agree to creating divisions in the Orthodox Church. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
YOUNG LEFTISTS PROTEST WAR IN AFGHANISTAN.
Some 100 people from the Anti-War Accord demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw on 17 October against the war in Afghanistan, PAP reported. The Anti-War Accord was set up by the Polish Socialist Party Youth Organization, the Labor Union Youth Federation, and the Working Democracy group. "Millions cannot answer for the atrocity of a handful of people," the agency quoted one demonstrator as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)TRIAL OF JARUZELSKI FOR 1970 MASSACRE GETS UNDER WAY.
After nine previous efforts ended in vain, the Warsaw District Court on 16 October began reading an indictment in a trial of Poland's last communist leader, 78-year-old Wojciech Jaruzelski, and five other defendants who are accused of ordering and perpetrating the massacre of Polish workers in December 1970, Polish media reported. Jaruzelski, who was defense minister in 1970, is charged with ordering the military to fire on shipyard workers protesting price increases in the Baltic coast cities of Gdynia, Gdansk, Szczecin, and Elblag. At least 44 people were killed in the unrest, and more than 1,000 were injured. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)
GOVERNMENT DENIES ANY INTENTION TO ISOLATE ROMA.
Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu said on 16 October that the government has "no intention whatever" to isolate the country's Romany minority and will oppose any such intention on the part of local authorities, RFE/RL reported. Dancu said the Piatra-Neamt project provides for building apartments for 400 ethnic Romanians alongside 100 Roma and is by no means a project aimed at the "ghettoization" of the Romany population. He said declarations to that effect made by Piatra-Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru are "merely reflecting his personal electoral strategy," and added that if Rotaru moves to implement the isolation of the town's Romany minority, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, of which he is a member, will sanction the mayor. Mediafax reported that local authorities in Baia-Mare and Deva have announced similar plans to move their Romany population to town outskirts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)ROMANY ORGANIZATION TO SUE PIATRA-NEAMT MAYOR.
The Framework Romany Convention announced on 17 October that it will begin legal proceedings against Piatra-Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru over his plans to move the Roma in his town to a specially designated area, Mediafax reported. The organization praised President Ion Iliescu and Premier Adrian Nastase for their public opposition to the plan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
TRANSPARENCY: RUSSIA HAS 'PERVERSE SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE.'
In its annual survey of global corruption, Transparency International said that "corruption is not just a collection of criminal activities in Russia; it is a perverse system of governance," "The Moscow Times" reported on 18 October. The organization ranked Russia as the 81st most corrupt country of the 91 states in this year's survey. It ranks just below Pakistan and just above Tanzania, the survey reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)NGO GROUPS SAY RUSSIA BECOMING 'AN ADMINISTERED DEMOCRACY.'
A group of Russian NGOs issued a statement on 16 October saying that a system of "administered democracy" is being created in Russia in which citizens are increasingly excluded from the decisions that affect their interests, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, an article in "Izvestiya" the same day suggested that human rights groups in Russia are being put in an untenable position by the government, being forced either to cooperate with the regime or give up chances for influence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)POLL FINDS RUSSIANS SAY RESTORATION OF STATE POWER MORE UNIFYING IDEA THAN DEMOCRACY.
According to a poll reported by "Novoe vremya" on 14 October, 13 percent of respondents named communism and socialism as capable of uniting the Russian people, 7 percent named capitalism, 6 percent named democracy, and only 3 percent named religion. Five percent said that Russia's "uniqueness as a nation" is a unifying idea, but 35 percent said that the most unifying idea is "the revival of Russia as a mighty global power." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)MORE THAN 520,000 REPRESSION VICTIMS REHABILITATED IN LAST DECADE.
Officials in the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 17 October that more than 520,000 citizens of the Soviet Union who were subjected to political repression have been rehabilitated since the adoption on 18 October 1991 of the law calling for their cases to be re-examined, Interfax reported. The prosecutors said that they have examined more than 530,000 cases involving almost 740,000 people. They noted that they have rehabilitated 8,910 participants in the 1920 Kronshtadt revolt against Soviet power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)RUSSIANS SAY DISPUTES BETWEEN DUMA AND CABINET HELP COUNTRY.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 18 October, 51 percent of Russians believe that the political struggle between the parliament and the government is entirely normal and works to Russia's advantage, while 31 percent believe it is harmful. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)DUMA BACKS PRESIDENTIAL CITIZENSHIP BILL.
The Duma on 18 October voted 273 to 117 on first reading in favor of a Kremlin-backed citizenship bill that will increase the residency requirement from three to five years and add some additional restrictions, RTR television reported. But before showing its support for this measure, the Duma defeated a Communist-offered citizenship bill that would have extended Russian citizenship to the self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia, Transdniester, and South Ossetia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)CHECHEN DOCTOR SAYS WEST IGNORES RUSSIAN BRUTALITY.
Khassan Baiev, a Chechen doctor who has treated victims on both sides of the lines in Chechnya, said in an interview published in "The Independent" on 18 October that the West has failed to pay attention to Russian brutality in Chechnya. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told journalists that during the upcoming talks in Shanghai Washington will press Moscow to seek a political settlement in Chechnya, AFP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)MUSLIM LEADER PROPOSES REBUILDING CHECHNYA FROM BOTTOM UP.
In an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October, Nasrudy Chemerzaev, a member of the presidium of the Council of the Descendents of the Prophet Mohammed, said that all past and present proposals for solving the Chechen crisis and rebuilding political authority there have called for working from the top down. He argued that a better way is to use the existing small social units of that society and build on them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)INGUSH PRESIDENT CONCERNED BY ABOLITION OF NATIONALITIES MINISTRY.
Ruslan Aushev immediately criticized President Putin's decision to abolish the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies, which was responsible for providing assistance to displaced persons, AP reported on 17 October. Aushev said his republic still shelters an estimated 150,000 people who fled Chechnya during the past two years of fighting and are in desperate need of adequate housing and food. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)GOVERNMENT TO SPEND $35 MILLION TO HELP SOLDIERS RE-ENTER THE ECONOMY.
Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a directive on 18 October calling for spending up to 1.1 billion rubles ($35 million) over the next four years to help military personnel whose positions are eliminated re-enter the workforce, Interfax reported. The government plans to cut the size of the military significantly over that period, but Duma deputy and former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said the same day that the Russian armed forces should be maintained at a level of 1.2-1.3 million uniformed personnel in order to meet all the challenges Moscow faces, the news agency said. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 October that the Nizhnii Novgorod experiment with alternative service is proving effective, and that the number of those seeking to evade military service countrywide has fallen by two-thirds over the last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)SLAVERY SAID 'A NORMAL THING' IN RUSSIAN ARMY.
According to an article in "Tribuna" on 16 October, slavery in the Russian army is "a normal thing." Officers "very often" use soldiers as a source of free labor for their own projects and often hire them out to private entrepreneurs who then do not have to pay for the labor involved. A military prosecutor in Ivanovo said that his office alone launches "two to three cases" concerning such slavery each year, but the paper said that "slavery in the army flourishes." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)MANY CHECHEN WAR VETERANS SAID TO BE PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBED.
Tatyana Glakhova, a social worker with the Union of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 October that many of the veterans of the fighting in Chechnya who returned to Novosibirsk Oblast, where she lives, are psychologically disturbed. She said that the stress and chronic illnesses they experience are likely to last their entire lives, especially since there are few programs to help them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)NUMBER OF TERRORIST ACTS IN RUSSIA UP 400 PERCENT IN YEAR.
During the first eight months of 2001, there were 221 terrorist acts and 29 cases of hostage taking, four times as many as during the same period in 2000, Interior Ministry officials told Interfax on 16 October. The overwhelming majority of the terrorist acts -- 208 out of 221 -- took place in Chechnya, the officials said, with the remainder in the North Caucasus and in Bryansk Oblast. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" -- the paper that lost a lawsuit earlier this week to Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev -- reported on 16 October that there have been 15 major terrorist acts in Russia since Patrushev took control of the FSB. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)DID GOVERNMENT BUY DUMA'S SUPPORT ON BUDGET?
Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said he hopes that rumors that the government offered special breaks in the budget to particular deputies to win their support for the 2002 budget are untrue, "Vremya Novostei" reported on 16 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)JUSTICE MINISTRY SEES 50 POLITICAL PARTIES IN RUSSIA'S FUTURE.
Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko said on 19 October that about 50 political parties have begun to take shape and to contend for influence on Russian society, Interfax reported. He said that 1,999 social-political movements are currently registered with his ministry, including approximately 60 political parties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)CENTRISTS HOPE TO CREATE A PARTY WORTHY OF PUTIN.
Aleksandr Vladislavlev, the secretary of the political council of Fatherland and of the general council of the union of Fatherland and Unity, said on 15 October that his dream is that "a centrist party might be created which would be worthy of being headed by the president," Interfax-Moscow reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)ST. PETERSBURG BALLOT DECLARED INVALID DUE TO LACK OF VOTER INTEREST.
By-elections were held in St. Petersburg on 14 October to fill the seat left vacant by Sergei Stepashin, who now heads the Audit Chamber. However, due to low turnout, the results were canceled. A minimum of 25 percent of registered voters was required but only 22.7 percent materialized. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)CANDIDATE TRIES TO BRIBE VOTERS WITH FREE TEA.
The election commission for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast decided on 17 October to cancel the registration of local businessman Andrei Shabanov as a candidate for the oblast's legislative assembly because he failed to report the expenses he incurred from hosting a tea party in one village, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 17 October. The election is scheduled for 28 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)KOZAK TO REGIONS: WE'LL SEE YOU IN COURT.
Dmitrii Kozak, head of the presidential commission on power-sharing agreements, told a Federation Council hearing on 16 October that power-sharing agreements that have not been brought into conformity with federal law should be canceled, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that if a mutual understanding between the center and the regions is not achieved, then the matter may be resolved in court. Kozak said that regions have until 28 July to bring their agreements into compliance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)ABOLISHING DOUBLE TARIFFS MADE CONDITIONAL ON ESTONIAN CHURCH ISSUE.
Jaak Saarniit, the managing director of the Estonian Large Enterprises Association, was told by Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko during a visit to Moscow last week that Russia will not grant Estonia equal trade conditions until the issues concerning the Estonian Orthodox Church in Estonia are resolved, "Aripaev" reported on 15 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)ALEKSII CALLS FOR ORTHODOX UNITY IN UKRAINE.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II has sent a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma supporting the latter's call for the unity of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 16 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN ISLAM SAID UNDER THREAT.
On 17 October, "Izvestiya" featured a series of articles on the state of Islam inside the Russian Federation and on Islam's impact on Russian domestic and foreign policies. One of the articles warned that "Islam which traditionally exited in Russia undoubtedly is under threat" from both "the processes of the post-Soviet rebirth" of that religion and the negative impact of foreign "'well-wishers.'" Several Muslim leaders said they are confident they can prevent the radicalization of their congregations, while others, including Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, said that Islam rightly understood cannot pose any threat to Russia or other societies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)DIVISIONS AMONG MUFTIS SAID OPENING WAY FOR WAHHABIS.
Dmitrii Makarvo, a specialist on Islam at Moscow's Institute of Oriental Studies, told AFP on 16 October that the radical Wahhabi strain of Islam is spreading among Russia's Muslims because of corruption and tensions between the two leading muftis, Ravil Gainutdin and Talgat Tadzhuddin. Tadzhuddin has been head of the Council of Muslims for European Russia since 1980. Gainutdin was his deputy, but has now formed a rival council of Muslims for the same region using money from Saudi Arabia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)LINGUIST SAYS NON-RUSSIAN LANGUAGES THREATEN STATE.
Irina Khaleeva, head of the Moscow Language University and the Russian rapporteur on language problems at the Council of Europe, said in an interview in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 October that the increased status of non-Russian languages within the Russian Federation, and especially of the Tatar and Bashkir languages in their titular republics, threaten to destroy Russia. She said that Russia must protect itself by making the Russian language the state language of the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)ENVOY BLAMES CRIME RISE ON ETHNIC CRIMINAL GROUPS.
Twenty percent of all crimes registered in the Russian Federation are committed in the Volga federal district, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 October, citing Interior Ministry statistics. From January to September 2001, some 33,000 crimes were registered -- an increase of 15 percent from the same period last year. Presidential envoy to the district Sergei Kirienko said that this year, it was "the influence of ethnic crime groups in the district, who are occupied with the illegal sale of narcotics, was especially noticeable." The Volga federal district is composed of the republics of Marii-El, Bashkortostan, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvashia; the Kirov, Nizhnii Novgorod, Orenburg, Penza, Perm, Samara, Saratov, and Ulyanovsk oblasts; and the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)KRYASHCHENE SAY THEY'RE A SEPARATE NATIONALITY.
According to a report in "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 October, the Kryashchene, or "baptized" Tatars, consider themselves to be a distinct ethnic group separate from the Tatars and want to be counted as such in the next Russian census. They were listed as a separate group in the 1926 Soviet census but have been subsumed into the Tatar nation in subsequent enumerations. Tatar intellectuals have complained that Moscow is supporting this demand in order to reduce the number of Tatars, the second-largest nationality in Russia after the ethnic Russians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)TATAR NATIONALIST GROUPS ISSUE NEW CALL FOR INDEPENDENCE.
More than 2,000 people gathered in Kazan on 14 October to mourn those who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in 1552, RFE/RL reported on 15 October. Some participants burned likenesses of the Russian state symbol as well as historical maps. Leaders of moderate nationalist groups also made speeches, decrying Moscow's "mistaken policies toward ethnic groups within Russia" and growing federal government pressure on Tatar legislators. According to RFE/RL, demonstrators also called on Tatarstan's government and the Kremlin to "adopt an act on Tatarstan's full independence and create an Idel-Ural confederation, reject Russian passports and introduce [Tatarstan's] own, and [transfer] law enforcement and military bodies [to] local authorities." According to "Izvestiya" on 15 October, there were also calls to form a people's front and "liquidate 'colonial vertical Russian power.'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)NEO-NAZIS, FOREIGN STUDENTS CLASH IN ST. PETERSBURG.
"Novaya gazeta," No. 76, reported that Russian neo-Nazis clashed with foreign students in the northern capital on 13-14 October but that city officials have "prefer[red] to ignore its racist violence problems." One reason for the officials' position, the paper suggested, are claims by the neo-Nazi racists that "up to 30 percent of all Russians support the racist slogan 'Russia for the Russians!'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)ROMA DEPORTED FROM KRASNODAR KRAI.
Over 100 Roma from a dozen extended families have been forcibly expelled from Krasnodar Krai to Voronezh, their registered place of residence, Glasnost North Caucasus reported on 20 October. The rationale cited for the expulsion was that the Roma were engaged in drug trafficking, even though the Krasnodar police have not brought drug-trafficking charges against any of them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)SPS SAYS GOVERNMENT INCREASINGLY LIBERAL IN ECONOMICS, INCREASINGLY REPRESSIVE ON CIVIL LIBERTIES.
According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 October, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) is using a rating system to measure how liberal or illiberal the Russian government it. To date, the SPS has found the Russian government to be ever more liberal on economic issues but increasingly repressive on civil liberties issues. Meanwhile, according to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 October, big businesses are working behind the scenes to prevent any changes in the leadership and status of Russia's existing trade union groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)'BUSINESS RUSSIA' GROUP ORGANIZES, GAINS PUTIN'S SUPPORT...
At the inaugural congress of the Business Russia group on 17 October, participants pledged to promote the interests of small and medium-sized businesses, Russian news agencies reported. The day before President Putin received six representatives of the group at the Kremlin and told them that he supports their undertaking, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)...AND SMALL BUSINESSES ORGANIZE AGAINST TAX HIKE IN SARATOV.
Small business proprietors picketed on 17 July the building that houses Saratov Oblast's legislative assembly, RFE/RL's Saratov correspondent reported. The businessmen are protesting a recent decision by legislators that would increase their tax bill seven times. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)PERCENTAGE OF POOR PROJECTED TO FALL 50 PERCENT IN DECADE.
Yevgenii Gontmakher, the head of the department of social policy of the Russian government, said on 16 October that the percentage of Russians classified as poor (now 30 percent) will fall to 15 percent over the next 10 years assuming the economy continues to grow, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)DESPITE ECONOMIC GROWTH, AMOUNT OF BACK WAGES OWED RISES.
According to a report in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 October, the amount of back wages owed to workers rose 4.4 percent in September to 34.17 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) despite economic growth. Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization said that the minimum wage in Russia now amounts to no more than 6 percent of the amount needed for a minimum standard of living, Interfax reported on 19 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)STUDY FINDS FAR FEWER MOSCOW STREET CHILDREN THAN EXPECTED.
A recent sociological study established that there are approximately 28,000 unsupervised street children in the Russian capital and not the million or more that some media outlets have claimed, "Vremya MN" reported on 18 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)PARENTS' SOVIET EXPERIENCES SAID HAVING LITTLE IMPACT ON YOUTH.
Yurii Levada, the director of the polling firm VTsIOM, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 17 October that the kind of transmission of experiences from one generation to another that exists in most countries has been disrupted in Russia, and that young people are thus detached from the political experiences of their parents who grew up during the Soviet era. For that reason, young people today are more ready to take responsibility for their own lives, but they are also far less political than the older generation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October)ECOLOGIST WARNS OF GROWING ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT TO HEALTH.
Viktor Danilov-Danilian, the head of the Ecological Union of Russia, on 19 October said that increasing environmental pollution -- which now amounts to two tons per Russian per year -- threatens the health and well-being of the people of Russia, Interfax reported. He argued that the current ecological protection bill being considered by the Duma will do little to change this situation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)GOVERNMENT TO HAVE COMPATRIOTS PROGRAM IN PLACE THIS YEAR.
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said in an interview published in "Vek" on 18 October that the government will have in place before the end of this year a program of measures to provide assistance to ethnic Russians living outside of Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
HAGUE PROSECUTOR TO EXPAND CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC.
Carla Del Ponte, The Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, plans to expand the current charges against former President Slobodan Milosevic, according to Reuters from The Hague on 19 October. Some new charges include that of genocide for war crimes in Bosnia. Other charges stem from the recent discovery of bodies of Kosovars in a mass grave near Belgrade and include sexual assault. Del Ponte's spokeswoman said that new charges will be filed on 29 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)WORKERS STRIKE, THREATEN BLOCKADES.
More than 5,000 strikers blocked central Belgrade and 10,000 others in eight cities around Serbia chanted antigovernment slogans as strikes to protest the government's Labor Code continued, AP reported on 17 October. Union leaders have called for a one-hour blockade of Belgrade's main roads for 19 October and are demanding the resignation of Serbian Labor Minister Dragan Milovanovic. The Socialist Party of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic backed the strikers, saying the law "jeopardizes elementary rights of workers," while "giving too much power to employers and owners." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)SERBIAN, ALBANIAN LEADERS MEET FOR FIRST TIME SINCE KOSOVA WAR.
Marking the first meeting between the sides since the 1999 war, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic met in a roundtable with leaders of Kosova's main ethnic Albanian parties to discuss provincial elections set for 17 November, AP reported on 17 October. The meeting, organized by the U.S.-based Project on Ethnic Relations, focused on participation in the elections by the Serbian minority. In attendance were moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova and former Kosova Liberation Army leaders Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj. Although officials at the meeting were upbeat, others, speaking privately, said Haradinaj refused to meet with Covic while Thaci mostly argued with him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
WORKERS MARCH IN PROTEST.
Some 5,000 workers from all over Slovakia marched in Bratislava on 17 October in protest against the government's wage policies and rising unemployment, AP reported. Some demonstrators shouted, "We want communism back!" Trade union leaders addressed the protesters and demanded that the government keep its promises to fight low wages and unemployment, which has reached nearly 20 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD SLAMMED BY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL.
Amnesty International on 15 October said torture and ill-treatment of detainees as well as curtailment of the freedom of expression persist in Ukraine 10 years after it declared independence. "Ukraine's real commitment to human rights must be questioned. When formal complaints have been lodged and investigations opened in cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment by police officers, they have been slow, frequently lack thoroughness, and are often inconclusive," Amnesty International said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)PRESIDENT WANTS CRACKDOWN ON MONEY LAUNDERING.
Leonid Kuchma decided on 20 October to set up a governmental monitoring committee to combat money laundering, Interfax reported, quoting State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)NGOS WANT KUCHMA TO COMPENSATE FOR AIRLINER CRASH.
Some 1,700 people representing 500 Ukrainian NGOs on 19 October held a congress in Kyiv, Interfax reported. The congress adopted a statement which included apologies for "Kuchma's cynical words" asserting that "one shouldn't make a tragedy out of the crash if there has been a mistake." The congress also requested apologies for the attempts of Ukrainian top military leaders to deceive the public about the real reason behind the airliner tragedy. According to the congress, compensation for the downed plane should be paid not from the state budget, but from "foreign deposits of Kuchma and his entourage." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)NEW PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL PASSED.
The parliament on 18 October voted by 234 to 123 to adopt a new version of the parliamentary election bill that was vetoed by President Kuchma earlier this month, Interfax reported. Following Kuchma's suggestion, the deputies shortened the election campaign to 90 days. They insisted, however, on the provision that territorial election commissions must include members of the parties that won no less than 4 percent of the vote in the previous parliamentary ballot. As to all other parties, the bill stipulates that their representation in those commissions should be determined by a draw. The bill abolishes the requirement to collect signatures in support of parties seeking to register their candidates, but a party is to pay a security deposit equal to some $48,000 to qualify for elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)SOME 30,000 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DETAINED ANNUALLY.
Ukraine's police and Border Troops on 18 October reported that the number of illegal immigrants detained annually in the country is 25,000-30,000, Ukrainian Television reported. Ukraine has no accords with bordering countries on mutual extradition of illegal migrants. Moreover, the police do not know what to do with illegal immigrants after they have been detained for 10 days; according to current legislation, they must be released after that time. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)
PRACTICING MUSLIM TORTURED TO DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY.
Ravshan Haidov, aged 32, who with his younger brother Rasul (25) was arrested in Tashkent on 17 October on suspicion of belonging to the banned religious organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, died after torture in custody, Human Rights Watch reported in a press release datelined 20 October. Police claimed he died of a heart attack; his family say his neck and one leg were broken and his body was covered in bruises. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)
SLOVAK PRESIDENT PROTESTS HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...
President Rudolf Schuster told visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl on 18 October that Budapest should reconsider the controversial Status Law, TASR and CTK reported. Schuster said the law creates a situation in which "a minority is granted advantages over the ethnic majority" in countries that neighbor Hungary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October)...ROMANIA HAILS VENICE COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 19 and 20 October said the recommendations of the Venice Commission of EU experts have vindicated the Romanian position over the Status Law passed by the Hungarian parliament earlier this year. The nonbinding recommendations said that, while legislation encouraging ties with kinfolk in neighboring countries and intended to preserve their national identity is "positive," no state can "transfer jurisdiction" over a part of its territory to another state, nor can legislation affecting national minorities living abroad be implemented without the acquiescence of the state in question. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)...AND HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REACTS.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said on 19 October in Venice that Hungary is content that the Venice Commission of EU experts has concluded that other European countries also have legislation aimed at encouraging ties with kinfolk living in neighboring countries, Mediafax reported. Martonyi emphasized that the commission considers legislation aimed at encouraging minorities to preserve their national identity as "positive" and that states have the right to approve such legislation. He said commission recommendations will enable the sides to consult on the implementation on the Status Law in Hungary, adding that "interpretation of the recommendations can, of course, be still divergent," but consultations should help "close gaps." Martonyi also said it has never been Hungarian intention to have the Status Law apply elsewhere than in Hungary proper. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October)