22 November 2001, Volume 2, Number 46
ARMENIAOFFICIALS AFFIRM READINESS TO COOPERATE WITH OPPOSITION. The Azerbaijani authorities are prepared to cooperate with the "constructive opposition" with the aim of strengthening "civic solidarity," but cooperation with the "hostile" opposition is "impossible," presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told Turan on 16 November. He did not specify which Azerbaijani political parties he considers fall into which category. Hasanov added that many opposition parties regard cooperation with the leadership as "betrayal," while cooperation with foreign organizations which may be hostile to Azerbaijan is considered a normal phenomenon. It is not clear whether Hasanov's offer was made in response to the cooperation agreement signed on 5 November between the influential Azerbaijan National Independence Party and the reformist wing of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, and the far smaller Taraggi (Progress) party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
TWO NEPHEWS OF EXILED OPPOSITIONIST ARRESTED. Two nephews of former Azerbaijani parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, who has lived in the U.S. since resigning that post five years ago, have been arrested, Turan reported on 14 November. One has been charged with embezzling property worth over $1 million, and the other with involvement in organized crime and illegal possession of arms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
POLICE THWART PLANNED PROTEST. Police in Baku on 15 November forcibly dispersed several dozen journalists who planned to stage an unsanctioned protest against court decisions to shut down the newspapers "Bakinskii bulvard" and "Milletin sesi," Turan reported. Six journalists including "Bakinskii bulvard" founder Elmar Huseynov and "Milletin sesi" editor Shahbaz Hudaoglu were taken into police custody but released hours later. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
BULGARIAPARVANOV WINS PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST. Georgi Parvanov, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, won the 18 November presidential runoff and outgoing President Petar Stoyanov conceded defeat, international agencies reported. All six polling agencies that produced exit polls identified Parvanov as the victor, with a figure of between 51.9 and 56 percent of the vote. Provisional official results give Parvanov 53 percent and Stoyanov 47. Full results are due on 20 November. Turnout was about 54.6 percent. Parvanov pledged to "work for continuity and speed up Bulgaria's progress toward membership of EU and NATO." But he also said it is "extremely important" for Bulgaria to revive its relations with Russia, Ukraine, and other "strategic partners." Stoyanov said he "made many mistakes" in the campaign, and that it had been "difficult for me to convince people that I have succeeded as president when their lives are poor." Arguments about European and Atlantic integration, he said, "seem wrong when someone has nothing to eat." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
CROATIACHARISMATIC PASTOR FREED, BUT CASE CONTINUES. The pastor of a Charismatic church in Yerevan, Shogher Khachatrian, was freed on 15 October after three months in a jail of the National Security Ministry, she told Keston News Service on 9 November. Although she said she had been cut off from all access to her family or her church during her imprisonment, she said she had not been beaten or mistreated. The case against her on charges of swindling continues although she denies the charges. (Keston News Service, 14 November)
FORMER DISSIDENT RELEASED AFTER ONE-DAY TRIAL. Azat Arshakian, a Soviet-era dissident and leader of the former paramilitary Independence Army, was given a two-year suspended sentence on 14 November on charges of illegal possession of weapons following a four-hour court hearing, RFE/RL reported. Arshakian was taken into custody in September after quantities of weapons and ammunition were found at the Independence Army's Yerevan headquarters. Arshakian maintained he was unaware of their existence, and that the group surrendered its weapons in the early 1990s when it transformed into an NGO that aids the families of war veterans. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
AZERBAIJANTENTH ANNIVERSARY OF VUKOVAR MASSACRE MARKED. President Stipe Mesic said in Vukovar on 18 November that Croatia wants all war criminals brought to justice, whether before a domestic court or in The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He noted that it is necessary to try not only former President Slobodan Milosevic but also the former Yugoslav military command, the political leadership of Serbia that was in power 10 years ago when Serbian forces entered Vukovar, as well as individuals who took part directly in the massacre of Croatian civilians and hospital patients. More than 10,000 people attended the memorial service, "Jutarnji list" reported. The siege, fall, and massacres of Vukovar are widely regarded in Croatia as the single most important episode in the 1991 chapter of the 1991-95 war for independence, followed perhaps by the shelling of Dubrovnik. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
CZECH REPUBLICLEADERS MARK 17 NOVEMBER 'DOUBLE ANNIVERSARY.' Czech leaders on 17 November -- a public holiday -- marked the double anniversary of the November 1939 Nazi repression and the execution of students who protested against Czechoslovakia's dismemberment and occupation, and the communist police repression of a students' demonstration in Prague in 1989 which triggered off the collapse of the regime, CTK reported. President Vaclav Havel and Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla lit candles and placed flowers at a monument on Narodni Street where police first clashed with students in 1989. Spidla said that "freedom is difficult to win but easy to lose." Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus said the "twin anniversary is both tragic and optimistic." He said the execution of nine student leaders in 1939 was tragic, but the students' demonstration that brought about the Velvet Revolution was optimistic, and that both events were "a symbol of the struggle for democracy that had lasted half a century." In view of the 11 September events, Klaus added, it is "impossible to believe that that struggle is now over." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
POLICEMEN CHARGED WITH RACISM. Five policemen from Karlovy Vary who in May attacked and beat a Rom have been charged with "racially motivated behavior," CTK reported. The five checked the papers of Karel Billy at a petrol station and although his documents were in order the policemen insulted him, slapped him, took him to a forest, and brutally beat him. They then threatened to kill him if he reported the incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
ESTONIAPARLIAMENT POSTPONES DISCUSSIONS ON ABOLISHING LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS. The parliament by a vote of 39 to 32 decided on 22 October not to discuss this week the amendments to the laws on parliament and local elections that would abolish the Estonian-language requirements for candidates, ETA reported. The opposition People's Union proposed the postponement, with the Center Party suggesting that Foreign Minister and Moderates Chairman Toomas Hendrik Ilves make a co-report on the amendments proposed by the three partners in the ruling coalition. Ilves said he is willing to explain his reasons for amending the election laws. On the other hand, Prime Minister Mart Laar asserted that the amendments cannot be supported in their current form and must modified to ensure that they do not a change the working language of the parliament. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 19 November)
OSCE MISSION MAY END THIS YEAR. In an interview in the daily "Postimees" on 29 October, OSCE mission in Estonia head Doris Hertrampf said that the mission's mandate is extended every two months and may end on 31 December. The aim of the mission, which was established in 1992 and has offices in Tallinn, Kohtla-Jarve, and Narva, is to promote integration and mutual understanding between ethnic communities. She noted that Estonia has harmonized with European norms its laws on citizenship, aliens, and language, as well as legal acts associated with education and language examinations. One remaining issue is the Estonian-language requirement for candidates to parliament and local governments. Hertrampf welcomed the recent discussion in the Estonian parliament, noting that "these language requirements are not in conformity with the UN principles, which define political and civil rights," but stressed that no one is challenging Estonia's right to have a monolingual parliament. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 19 November)
HUNGARYVOTERS PREFER ORBAN TO MEDGYESSY. According to a Median poll conducted earlier this month, Prime Minister Viktor Orban leads his Socialist challenger Peter Medgyessy 40 percent to 33 percent among voter preferences for premier, Hungarian media reported on 19 November. The survey also found that the Smallholders are considered the most corrupt party, at 85 percent on a scale of 100, ahead of FIDESZ at 65 percent, the Socialists at 59 percent, the Free Democrats at 57 percent, the Democratic Forum at 49 percent, and the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) at 46 percent. The FIDESZ-Democratic Forum alliance has the support of 37 percent of decided voters, up from 34 percent in October, while support for the Socialists fell from 36 percent to 30 percent. However, in a survey conducted jointly by the Szazadveg and the Tarki polling agencies, the Socialists are favored by 43 percent of decided voters and the FIDESZ-Democratic Forum alliance by 42 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
ROMA INTEGRATION OFFICE TO BE ESTABLISHED? Zoltan Pokorni, chairman of the ruling FIDESZ, said on 14 November that his formation believes it is necessary to establish a Roma Integration Office to solve the problems of that minority in Hungary, whose situation was also criticized in this week's European Commission report, Hungarian media reported. Pokorni said the office could be set up after the 2002 elections and be placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs. That proposal was first made by National Gypsy Authority Chairman Florian Farkas during a recent meeting with Justice Minister Ibolya David. Meanwhile, police on 14 November detained 16 activists from the Roma Civil Rights Foundation after they tried to prevent the eviction of squatters from flats in Budapest's 7th district. The activists were released after three hours and warned to refrain from engaging in similar acts in the future. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
KAZAKHSTANFIVE-DAY PRISON SPELL FOR BAPTIST PASTOR. Baptist Pastor Valery Pak, fined last spring for refusing to register his church, spent five days in October in prison, reported Keston News Service. Although Kazakhstan's religion law does not require religious groups to register, prosecutors are increasingly relying on a new article of the administrative code which renders the activity of unregistered religious organizations liable to punishment. Two other Baptist pastors are facing similar charges. (Keston News Service, 12 November)
BAPTIST RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. A young Baptist leader, Asylbek Nurdanov, from the town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region, was freed from a psychiatric hospital on 16 November, the U.S.-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston News Service. His release came after a Baptist delegation, including Pastor Peter Peters from Russia, visited him in Kyzl-Orda hospital. He had been sent there on 10 November by police. (Keston News Service, 16 November)
OBLAST GOVERNOR FOUNDS NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT. Appearing on TAN-TV on 16 November, Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov accused President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev of precipitating what he called "a political crisis" by using the media outlets under his control to disseminate what Zhaqiyanov termed "disinformation" about events in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL reported. He demanded the convening of an emergency session of parliament at which the country's leadership would be required to explain the present situation. On 18 November, Zhaqiyanov together with other senior officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov and Deputy Defense Minister Zhannat Ertlesova, and several parliament deputies including Tolen Toqqtasynov, who first accused Aliyev last month of abusing his official position, announced the founding of a new movement to be named Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. In a statement released the same day, they expressed concern that "democratic reforms in Kazakhstan have stopped," and pledged to initiate new reforms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
KOSOVAFIRST DEMOCRATIC PARLIAMENT ELECTED... Some 65 percent of Kosova's 1.25 million registered voters turned out on 17 November to cast their ballots in the province's first democratic legislative election, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. About 70 percent of ethnic Albanians went to the polls, as did between 50 and 60 percent of ethnic Serbs. Many Serbs voted only after dark, perhaps to avoid being seen by organized extremists who called for a boycott, AP reported. Belgrade leaders and prominent representatives of the international community, including U.S. President George W. Bush, called on Serbs to vote to ensure they have a voice in Kosova's future. Some 10 of 120 legislative seats are reserved for Serbs, but their relatively high turnout could mean a Serbian bloc of about 22 seats. There were no serious incidents reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
...WITH RUGOVA CHOSEN FOR 'FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY, INDEPENDENCE...' The first official returns are not expected until late on 19 November, but initial projections indicate that moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) will receive just under 50 percent of the votes, AP reported. Former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) is expected to have about 24 percent, and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova may have about 8 percent. Serbian parties took about 10 percent, with the remainder going to smaller parties. The LDK's slogan was "freedom, democracy, independence." All of the parties representing the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority want independence. The Prishtina independent daily "Koha Ditore" said in its headline on 18 November: "Now, toward statehood for Kosova!" Rugova said, "We take this opportunity once again to call for the formal recognition of the independence of Kosova as soon as possible," Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
...WHILE LOCAL SERB LEADER STRESSES SERBIAN TIES. Serbian voters, however, cast their ballot in hopes of remaining "within Serbia and Yugoslavia," as stressed in the run-up to the election by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Local Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic told AP on 18 November in Mitrovica: "We will now switch to parliamentary struggle with the active participation of Serbia and Yugoslavia." He added, "Serbian deputies in the parliament will make efforts to preserve peace and, in cooperation with the international community, to build Kosovo as a democratic society, good enough for all who live here," Reuters reported. He stressed, however, that this must be "a society within Serbia and Yugoslavia." He dismissed Albanian demands for independence, saying: "It doesn't mean anything. They'll have the entire international community against them" if they seek independence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT HAILS VOTE. Kostunica said in Belgrade on 18 November that he is pleased with the Serbian turnout in Kosova, RFE/RL reported. He urged Serbs to remain involved in political life, noting that the international community has promised that the legislature will not have the right to declare independence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
CONFLICTING AGENDAS FOR KOSOVA. Serbs and Albanians will sit together in the new parliament -- itself no mean achievement -- but virtually all observers agree on one thing: there does not appear to be an easy way to reconcile the Albanian demand for independence and the Serbian desire to "remain in Serbia and Yugoslavia." A plan to partition the province by removing the northernmost, largely Serbian areas has long been in circulation and linked to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic. "The Guardian" of 19 November quoted Kosovar human rights lawyer and presidential candidate Flora Brovina as insisting on independence as an expression of self-determination and majority rule. In an allusion to the recent Haekkerup-Kostunica pact, she said: "Democrats of the world have come here to present democracy. But with their behavior they show they are not democrats. They may write different agreements, but they should know they have no value without our signature. The internationals do not have to create Kosovo's independence. We will establish independence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVA IN THE CARDS? "The Guardian" reported on 19 November that "political analysts in the region predict that such statements [as Brovina's] will become more common and that relations between the UN and Albanian population will get increasingly uneasy. 'Among the international community I see an increasing uneasiness to talk about it [independence],' said Peter Palmer, the Prishtina director the International Crisis Group think tank. 'The problem is, as long as they avoid the issue, there will be an unsatisfactory status quo, and Albanian impatience will grow.... As long as this continues, both sides [Serb and Albanian] will regard each other as a threat.'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
CHARGES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERB EX-MINISTERS. The Banja Luka police have filed charges against former Republika Srpska Justice Ministers Milan Trbojevic and Cedo Vrzina for allegedly embezzling money budgeted for subordinates' social benefits in 2000, RFE/RL reported on 14 November. (RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
CHAPEL BLOWN UP, TOMBSTONES DAMAGED. The Serbian Orthodox chapel in the village graveyard at Staro Gracko (Gracke e Vjeter), 30 kilometers south of the Kosova capital Prishtina, was destroyed on 8 November by three dynamite explosions, Keston News Service has learned. Tombstones within a radius of 30 meters were also damaged. The NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR reported that no one was injured in the attack and that an investigation has begun. This was the third incident in a week affecting Orthodox sites in Kosova. (Keston News Service, 12 November)
KYRGYZSTANMILITARY COURT REJECTS ISLAMIC MILITANTS' APPEAL. The Board of the Kyrgyz Military Court on 15 November rejected appeals by two members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who were sentenced to death in July on charges of terrorism, murder, and hostage-taking for their role in an incursion by Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan guerrillas into Kyrgyz territory last year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS CONCERNED BY IMPRISONMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST. Two international human rights watchdogs have reported that Ravshan Gapirov, who headed a human rights organization in the town of Kara-Suu in southern Kyrgyzstan, was arrested in late October and tried and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment on charges of drug trafficking, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
APPEAL TO KYRGYZ PRESIDENT OVER JAILED OPPOSITION LEADER. The New York-based International League for Human Rights sent a letter on 9 November to President Askar Akaev expressing concern at the Constitutional Court's refusal to consider an appeal by jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov against the seven-year prison sentence handed down to him in January 2001, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
CRIMINAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST PICKETERS. Three residents of Djalalabad Oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan have been charged with hooliganism, breach of the peace, and resisting the authorities for their role in a protest demonstration last month in which some 800 people blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway to protest low cotton procurement prices, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
OPPOSITION FIGURE DENIED PERMISSION TO TRAVEL ABROAD. Erkindik Party Chairman Topchubek TurgunAliyev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 17 November that he has been informed by the National Security Service that he will not be allowed to leave Kyrgyzstan to undergo medical treatment abroad. TurgunAliyev was sentenced in September last year to 16 years in prison on charges of plotting to assassinate President Akaev, but was released in August 2001 in response to pressure from Western governments and human rights organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
ELECTION LAW AMENDED. Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission decided on 13 November to revoke the amendment to the election law passed last month that bans NGOs that receive funding from abroad from monitoring elections, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16 November quoting the Coalition of NGOs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
LATVIAPRIME MINISTER: LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS TO CONTINUE. Prime Minister Andris Berzins told BNS on 23 October that his country would not follow the example of the Estonian government and support the abolition of language-proficiency requirements for candidates to the parliament and local councils. He noted that such a decision could affect the case in the European Court of Human Rights submitted by Ingrida Podkolzina, who claimed language discrimination when she was barred from running for parliament in 1998 due to inadequate knowledge of Latvian. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 19 November)
OSCE OFFICIAL SAYS CLOSURE OF ITS MISSION LIKELY. The head of the OSCE mission to Latvia, Peter Semneby, told parliament Deputy Chairman Rihards Piks that he expects his mission to be closed at the end of the year, BNS reported on 14 November. While praising Latvia's accomplishments concerning citizenship and naturalization as well as the successful implementation of the state language-teaching program, Semneby noted that the Latvian election law setting language requirements for candidates to the parliament and local councils might prove an obstacle to EU and NATO accession. Semneby suggested as a compromise the abolition of the state language-proficiency requirement for candidates who obtained Latvian citizenship after 1991, and not setting a higher proficiency standard for candidates than the one needed to pass the language test for naturalization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
MACEDONIAONE STEP CLOSER TO AMNESTY. On 16 November, President Boris Trajkovski issued an amnesty to former ethnic Albanian guerrillas that "plugged some of the loopholes" of an earlier decree, Reuters reported. The new measure makes it clear that only persons "indictable" by The Hague-based war crimes tribunal may still be arrested and held. Trajkovski said in a letter to the EU, NATO, and the OSCE that he has "official statements and firm commitments" from leading hard-liners, such as Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. But Albanians still insist on an amnesty formally approved by the parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS DISSOLUTION. Parliament speaker Stojan Andov announced that he will convene the parliament on 23 or 24 November, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 17 November. The parliament will discuss whether and when it will dissolve itself. Andov expects the decision on dissolution to be made on 26 or 27 November. The Ohrid peace agreement signed by the leaders of the main political parties provides for early parliamentary elections on 27 January 2002. In recent weeks, there were rumors that Georgievski's nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Movement (VMRO-DPMNE) will try to form a new government without holding elections That party is faring badly in the polls. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
MOLDOVAGAGAUZ-YERI DISSATISFIED WITH ENVISAGED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Peter Zlatov, adviser to the Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly, said on 14 November that the Moldovan government's proposed amendments to the constitution have been drafted "without taking into account Gagauz interests" and disregarding the proposals of the assembly. The envisaged amendments were published the same day in the Moldovan official gazette. In them, the Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly is granted the right to initiate legislation, and the existence of a Gagauz legislature and an executive are recognized. The amendments also stipulate that the Gagauz assembly and its executive power are to be elected in line with legislation passed in the autonomous republic, and Gagauz-Yeri is recognized as having a special status within the Moldovan Republic. The amendments also stipulate that if Moldova loses its independent status, the region will have the right to "self-determination." Zlatov, however, said the envisaged bill intends to split Gagauz-Yeri into "districts, and thus deprive us of the self-determination achieved in 1994" when Gagauz-Yeri was granted special status. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
ROMANIAMAJOR TRADE UNIONS DENOUNCE AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT. The National Syndicate Bloc (BNS), one of Romania's main trade union federations, announced on 14 November that it has nullified the social accord signed on 19 February with the government and with employers and will launch street protests, RFE/RL reported. As grounds for the decision the BNS mentioned the 2002 austerity budget and the government's failure to solve demands to increase pensions. The BNS said the first large protest will take place in Bucharest on 29 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
RUSSIACIVIC FORUM FACES FINANCIAL PROBLEMS EVEN BEFORE IT CONVENES. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 November, organizers of the Civic Forum are having difficulty raising from business sponsors the funds needed to bring 5,000 participants to Moscow for three days at the end of November. If more money is not raised soon, the paper said, many of the participants will have to pay their own way and may not attend. In another article in the same newspaper, Ramazan Abdulatipov argued that Russia is going about the construction of civil society backwards. He said that a civil society should arise and create a state, rather than having the state attempt to create a civil society. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
KREMLIN: A CIVIC TRIPLE THREAT... On 21 November, the officially blessed Civic Forum, will take place in the Kremlin. According to "The Russia Journal," this initiative dates back to May, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Gleb Pavlovskii, director of the Effective Politics Foundation, to plan and implement a concept for Russian civil society within two weeks. The Russian NGO sector, reports "The Russia Journal," provides 1.5 million jobs, and another 10 million Russians are involved with the so-called third sector. The Russian authorities have at least three reasons for wanting to build civic society "from above": concern over exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky's Foundation for Civic Freedoms, which gives NGO grants; the foreign funding behind most Russian civic groups; and the worry that these public groups represent a major political force as can be seen "when environmental organizations took only three months to collect 2.5 million signatures for a demand that a referendum be held on bringing foreign nuclear waste into Russia." ("The Russia Journal," 16-22 November)
...REPLACED BY POTEMKIN-VILLAGE-STYLE CIVIC GROUPS? First, the Kremlin, according to "The Russia Journal," has built up loyal organizations to parallel "awkward" NGOs. Its purpose in doing so is to gradually supplant genuine critics with faux civic groups which will sideline these critical NGOs, to push the genuine civic groups away from negotiations with officials and for these faux groups to serve as Russian representatives in the international arena. In carrying out this plan, the Kremlin has two motives: one is to rely on "regional associations with little knowledge of Moscow politics" but which have a "Soviet-style attraction to power" from above. The second motive is ideological: that after 11 September "society's main task today is to help the state ensure national security and help broaden the president's powers." ("The Russia Journal," 16-22 November)
ACTIVISTS PLAN RESISTANCE TO IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTE FOR STORAGE. Activists from the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko and a number of environmental organizations in Krasnoyarsk Krai are preparing documents for the conduct of a region-wide referendum on the storage of nuclear waste in the krai, regions.ru reported on 14 November. According to the website, the referendum will ask a single question: "Do you think it is necessary to ban [the creation] of new sites for the maintenance, reprocessing, and burying of spent nuclear fuel on the territory of the krai?" Local SPS leader Andrei Vasiliev said that his group will begin gathering signatures for the referendum on 15 November. By law, only 35,000 signatures are needed, but environmental organizations are preparing to gather no less than 100,000. Krasnoyarsk, along with Chelyabinsk, has been on the shortlist of Russian regions seen as a likely recipient of spent nuclear fuel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
NEW LABOR CODE INSPIRES PROTEST. Up to 1 million people participated in protests on 14 November organized by the Independent Trade Union Organization in cities across Russia to call for an increase in the minimum wage and to introduce changes into the draft Labor Code, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Some also demanded payment of wage arrears and the resignation of Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok. According to Interfax-Eurasia, more than 1,000 people gathered in Vladivostok's main square for a meeting, and around 900 people congregated in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii. In Novosibirsk, more than 800 people, including First Deputy Governor Viktor Kosourov and Novosibirsk Mayor Vladimir Gorodetskii, participated in protests. In Kazan, police officials estimated the number of protesters at around 500 people. In Sverdlovsk, around 200 protesters gathered around the residence of the nemesis of Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, presidential envoy to the Urals federal district Petr Latyshev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
DUMA RAISES SOLDIERS' PAY. On 15 November, State Duma deputies approved in the first reading a presidential bill reforming the system by which the military is paid cash allowances. As of 1 July 2002, military personnel will receive 86 percent more money than they make now, according to Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kudrin. In addition, military salaries will no longer be any lower than those of public sector employees. The bill passed with 249 votes in favor, 131 against, and two abstentions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
FIRST RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS TAKE PLACE NEAR MOSCOW. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative, Akhmed Zakaev, flew from Istanbul to Moscow on 18 November where he met for two hours with the presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, to discuss how to end the current fighting in Chechnya. Both men subsequently said the talks went well, and that further meetings are planned, but did not say when. Reuters quoted Zakaev as telling journalists on his return to Istanbul that "both sides believe in stopping the war entirely by political and diplomatic means." Members of Kazantsev's staff told ITAR-TASS on 19 November that the meeting was held in a "friendly, informal atmosphere," and that the sole issue discussed was the terms on which the Chechen fighters are prepared to disarm and return to civilian life. But Turan quoted Zakaev as denying that the issue of the Chechens' laying down their arms was discussed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
TRIAL OF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER OPENS IN DAGHESTAN... Salman Raduev went on trial in Makhachkala on 15 November amid massive security precautions on charges of terrorism, banditry, hostage-taking, and murder arising from his leadership of the January 1996 raid on the town of Kizlyar in Daghestan, Russian media reported. In the course of that raid Raduev and his men took more than 2,000 hostages and killed at least 43 people. In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 15 November, Raduev said he agreed to lead the raid only because he was asked to do so by then-Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev, who he believes is still alive. Raduev predicted that he will receive a 10-12-year jail sentence, adding that while in pretrial detention he was treated "like a general." He also condemned current Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov for failing to prevent the rise of Wahhabism in Chechnya, and praised Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov as "the man whom Chechnya needs now." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
...WHO DENIES SEIZING, KILLING KIZLYAR HOSTAGES. On 16 November, the second day of his trial on charges of terrorism, hostage-taking, and murder arising from the January 1996 raid on the town of Kizlyar in Daghestan, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev denied he issued any orders to take hostages or kill anyone during that operation, Interfax reported. Raduev claimed that he was entrusted by then-President Djokhar Dudaev only with the political aspects of the raid, while the military aspects were the responsibility of fellow field commander Khunkar-Pasha Israpilov. Israpilov was killed during the Chechen retreat from Grozny in February 2000. Raduev claimed the raid was intended as "a public relations action" to attract the world's attention to the war in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS SUCCESSES AGAINST CHECHEN MILITANTS. Russian military spokesmen in the North Caucasus told ITAR-TASS on 15 November that in the course of a one-month, three-stage operation that began on 12 October, Russian army troops have killed 376 Chechen fighters and captured a further 545. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
IS MOSCOW SEEKING A PRETEXT TO CLOSE OSCE MISSION IN CHECHNYA? ITAR-TASS on 13 November quoted unnamed "ranking experts" as arguing that the OSCE mission is Chechnya "is a source of disinformation" concerning developments there. The unnamed experts claimed that the OSCE mission is "neither balanced nor objective" in its assessment of developments in Chechnya, and that it makes "tendentious" and unfounded claims about brutality on the part of the Russian forces there while "not a word is said about the brutality" of Chechen fighters against the civilian population. "Their monitoring boils down to unfounded criticism of the federal authorities, and they draw information about the situation in Chechnya from biased assessments of various nongovernmental organizations and information agencies, not from reports of official Russian representatives," the experts concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
FIVE CONVICTED FOR 1999 APARTMENT BOMBINGS. A court in Stavropol passed sentence on 14 November on five men from Karachaevo-Cherkessiya in connection with the bombings in August and September 1999 of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, Russian agencies reported. The five received prison terms ranging from nine to 15 years on charges of terrorism, illegal possession of explosives, and forming an illegal armed group. The five men admitted to having trained at camps in Chechnya run by Jordanian-born field commander Khattab, but pleaded not guilty to the apartment bombings. The prosecution failed to make public any evidence that they were guilty of those attacks, according to "The Wall Street Journal" on 15 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
RACIST GANGS IN RUSSIA SAID SEEDBED OF TERRORISM. In an interview published in "Versiya" in its 13-19 November issue, Abdul-Vahid Niyazov of the Eurasian Party of Russia said that the main threat to Russia's security are racist groups that, he said, represent "a potential source of terrorism." Many of these gangs, he said, obtain some of their energy from the prevailing atmosphere of Islamophobia "reigning in Russia." Niyazov said that his group will lead a Peace March in Moscow on 17 November to call attention to the opposition of Russian Muslims to what the United States is doing in Afghanistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
WEST SAID RESPONSIBLE FOR APPEARANCE OF SKINHEADS IN RUSSIA. An article in "Profil" on 12 November argued that the skinhead subculture is "the most dangerous thing that Russia has imported from the West." The weekly suggested that racist and neo-Nazi gangs are the product of Western societies and would not have appeared in Russia had the country not opened itself to the world after 1991. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST CONDEMN 'WAVE OF RACISM IN RUSSIA.' A group of Russian human rights activists on 14 November organized a roundtable discussion in Moscow at which they condemned "the wave of racism in Russia" that is "gathering force and threatens to become a storm." They said "every day in Moscow, blacks, Hindus, and people from the Caucasus are beaten." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
WEEKLY ASSERTS THAT COVERT FSB HAS BEEN FORMED. "Versiya" (no. 43) has a long article about a regional organization of law enforcement officials that, according to unverified reports, is a "clandestine organization of secret service officers." According to the organization's annual report for 2000, the group has 42 offices throughout Russia and the CIS and comprises more than 8,000 men, most of whom work in security structures or are recent retirees. A clandestine organization is needed, according to the weekly, to do away with corruption within the country's intelligence services. The legal service director of the organization told the publication that the group's ultimate objective is the "revival of trust in law enforcement agencies and the restoration of their prestige in society." He added that the group is often "approached by serious business owners and bankers who have problems with law enforcement agencies and the underworld." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
PUTIN BUILDS UP HIS OWN TEAM -- FROM HIS HOME CITY. According to an article in "Kommersant-Vlast" on 13 November, President Putin has now appointed 33 people who had close ties with him in the past. Some are people he grew up with, others are secret police officers, officials from the St. Petersburg mayor's office, or simply people from St. Petersburg with whom Putin has some sort of ties. Meanwhile, in a survey of the broader political elite, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, the head of the Institute for the Study of Elites of the Moscow Institute of Sociology, said in an article published in "Vremya MN" on 14 November that the share of the core elite made up of economists and lawyers has declined, while the percent of military officers has risen, as has the number of business people. She noted that Putin has advanced a higher percentage of people from his home city to positions of power -- 4.1 percent of the political elite -- than did former President Boris Yeltsin, who named people from his hometown of Sverdlovsk to 2.6 percent of key positions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
NEMTSOV SAYS RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY REQUIRES EXPANDED TIES WITH WEST. In an interview carried by Ekho Moskvy on 12 November, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that the future of freedom and democracy in Russia depends on how efficient Russia's cooperation with the West and the United States will be. He said that the current summit in the United States is "a moment of truth, when the direction of Russia's development for many years to come is being determined. Europe and the United States must make it clear where they stand." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS JACKSON-VANIK PROVISIONS TO BE DROPPED BEFORE BUSH VISITS RUSSIA. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told ITAR-TASS on 14 November that the leadership of the U.S. Congress has promised that the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was adopted to promote Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union but which Russian leaders today say restricts trade between the two countries, will be dropped before President George W. Bush visits Russia in June 2002. Meanwhile, Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar told AP on 14 November that President Putin is committed to eradicating anti-Semitism in Russia and to protecting the rights of Jews there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
WHITE HOUSE PROMISES TO PRESS FOR REVOCATION OF JACKSON-VANIK. Interfax reported on 15 November that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell have exchanged letters about the U.S. administration's intention to seek a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. According to "Izvestiya," the U.S. has also agreed to boost funding for projects involving small and medium-sized businesses in Russia and for Russian financial institutions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
MUFTI SEEKS STATE'S HELP TO WARD OFF EXTREMIST MISSIONARIES. In an interview published in "Trud" on 14 November, Supreme Mufti Talgat Tadjuddin of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Russia and the European Countries of the CIS said that the government should help his organization to resist pressure from foreign missionaries propagating extremist Islamist ideas. He said that the radical missionaries have the funds to distribute their literature free, to buy television time, and even to bribe individual mullahs. Noting that the first attempts to introduce Wahhabism in Russia took place at the start of the 20th century, Tadjuddin said that the government should support Muslim training institutions inside Russia so that students will not go abroad where they may be affected by radical mullahs. He called on the authorities to crack down on Muslim groups inside Russia that advocate the division of Russia into three republics, the Siberian, European, and Far Eastern Republics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
RUSSIANS HIGHLY VALUE HIGHER EDUCATION. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by "Vremya MN" on 14 November, 74 percent of Russians believe that having a higher education is very important in today's world. Young people and those with higher education share this belief in even higher numbers. Russians divide in their assessment of higher educational institutions in Russia. One-third believe that they are below international standards, a quarter believe that they are equal to those standards, and 15 percent believe that Russia's higher schools are better than universities abroad. Forty-six percent told pollsters that they believe Russian universities were better before the collapse of the USSR than they are now. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
SERBIAPRIME MINISTER MOVES TO DISCIPLINE ELITE POLICE... Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 14 November that he will not allow Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic to resign as demanded by rebellious Red Beret paramilitary police, "Danas" reported. Djindjic stressed that "no individual group will be able to take to the streets to oust ministers as long as I'm the prime minister." He accepted the resignations of the security chief, Goran Petrovic, and his deputy, Zoran Mijatovic, who sided with the Red Berets in their opposition to the government's cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Djindjic said that he is transferring the Red Berets to the Public Security department, where they will be integrated into antiterror structures. Former President Slobodan Milosevic made the Red Berets into an elite unit of his Praetorian guard. They were reportedly involved in bloody campaigns in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. Many of them are said to fear extradition to The Hague under the government's policy of cooperating with that body. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
...WHICH ENDS ITS MUTINY. The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement on 17 November that members of the restive Red Berets elite paramilitary police have agreed to be "reinvented" as an antiterror unit subordinated directly to the minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The men had balked at Prime Minister Djindjic's plans to integrate them into the civilian police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
SON OF EX-SERBIAN LEADER CHARGED WITH ASSAULT. The public prosecutor's office in Pozarevac, which is the hometown of the Milosevic family, filed assault charges against the ex-leader's son, Marko, on 15 November, AP reported. He is said to have threatened to kill opposition activist Zoran Milovanovic in March 2000 with a power saw by "cutting him into pieces" if he did not reveal information about opposition activities. Marko fled Serbia following his father's ouster in October 2000 and is widely believed to be somewhere in the former Soviet Union, where he allegedly has mafia connections. Milovanovic said that he nonetheless still receives phone calls threatening his life if he does not withdraw charges against Marko. If convicted, young Milosevic would face up to five years in prison if he ever returns to Serbia. The current government has sought to put members of the former regime behind bars by charging them in concrete, easily provable cases in what is called the "Al Capone option." (RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
SLOVAKIAEXTREMIST PARTY BARRED FROM RUNNING IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS. The Supreme Court ruled on 16 November that the recently established Real Slovak National Party cannot participate in the regional elections scheduled for 1 December, CTK reported. The court said the party cannot be registered as long as the appeal against its registration by the Interior Ministry launched by the Slovak National Party is not solved by the court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
TURKMENISTANFORTY DETAINED AT PROTESTANT MEETING. All of the more than 40 people attending a service of the Word of Life church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 15 November were detained when the private flat where the church was meeting was raided, several sources in Ashgabat have told Keston News Service. Officers of the police and of the KNB security police (the former KGB), as well as officials of the local hakimlik (administration), were involved in the raid on the evening meeting. Among those detained for interrogation were the church's pastor, Vladimir Shamrai, and his wife Olga. (Keston News Service, 15 November)
PROTESTANTS FINED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. More than 40 people who were detained when police raided a service of the Word of Life church in Ashgabat on 15 November have been released, but only after paying fines totaling more than 40 million manats ($7,700). Sources in Ashgabat told Keston News Service that although the fines varied from individual to individual, most paid the equivalent of the average monthly wage in Turkmenistan. A police inspector admitted to Keston that the group had been arrested and then released, but declined to discuss why the meeting in a private home had been raided. No other official was prepared to explain why the church service was raided. (Keston News Service, 16 November)
REGIONALDIFFICULT PARTISAN WAR AHEAD IN AFGHANISTAN? An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 November said that the fall of Kabul to the Northern Alliance does not represent the end of the struggle against the Taliban, but rather the transformation of that war from a more or less conventional one to a more complicated and potentially more lengthy partisan conflict. Meanwhile, General Makhmud Gareev, president of Moscow's Academy of Military Sciences, said the same day that the international antiterrorist coalition should take advantage of the month of Ramadan to end bombing and other combat operations and switch to political methods in resolving the conflict there, ITAR-TASS reported. "If Americans and their allies ignore political ways of settling the situation in Afghanistan and lay emphasis on military methods," Gareev said, "they risk repeating the mistakes made by the Soviet Union in the 1980s." Also adding his voice for the suspension of all military actions in Afghanistan during Ramadan was Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Russian and Western news agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)
FORMER LEADING AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL PROPOSES DEPORTING KARABAKH'S ARMENIAN POPULATION. In an interview with "Yeni Azerbaycan," the official paper of the eponymous ruling party, published on 14 November and circulated by Groong, former presidential foreign policy advisor Vafa Guluzade argued that the entire Armenian population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic should be deported in retaliation for the "ethnic cleansing" of Armenia's Azerbaijani minority. (Azerbaijanis fled from the then-Armenian SSR en masse in late 1988.) Alternatively, Guluzade continued, Armenia should agree to the creation of an Azerbaijani autonomous formation in its southern region of Meghri. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
TURKEY REJECTS PUTIN'S ALLEGATIONS OVER CHECHENS... The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 November expressing "regret" over President Vladimir Putin's claims that Chechen fighters move freely from Russia to Georgia to Turkey, whence they travel to Afghanistan, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 16 November, quoting Anatolia News Agency. The statement said Putin's remarks "create the impression of going too far," and that it is not clear what evidence they were based on. The Foreign Ministry stressed that Chechens are subject to the same visa requirements when entering Turkey as all other citizens of the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
... AND GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ADMITS TO HELPING CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER LEAVE GEORGIA. In an interview published in the daily "Akhali taoba" on 15 November and summarized by Caucasus Press, Intelligence Department chief Avtandil Ioseliani said that on orders from President Eduard Shevardnadze, he and former National Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze helped Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev retreat from Abkhazia's Kodori gorge last month and return to Chechnya. Ioseliani said the Abkhaz authorities were informed in advance of Tbilisi's plans to extricate Gelaev from Kodori and did nothing to hinder that operation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November)
CEFTA SIGNALS POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH OVER STATUS LAW DISPUTE... Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, who participated in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) summit meeting, said after a meeting held separately from the summit that the encounter was "a success." Orban said that "in two or three years, we shall remember this day as having been very important." The two premiers discussed the ongoing disagreements over the Status Law, and Nastase handed Orban a letter summarizing his government's positions on that legislation. Nastase said Romania has no objections to the Hungarian government's efforts to safeguard the cultural identity of the Hungarian national minority, as his cabinet is making similar efforts to maintain the identity of ethnic Romanians abroad. He said the disagreements are limited to the stipulations providing for granting special economic and social rights to ethnic Hungarians. Orban pledged that his cabinet will quickly analyze the Romanian letter and reply to it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
...AND SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS HUNGARY 'FLEXIBLE' OVER STATUS LAW. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, returning from the UN General Assembly debates, said on 18 November he has discussed the Status Law with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Martonyi and that "his words reflected great flexibility," TASR reported. Kukan said he received assurances that Hungary will consider all Slovak comments and proposals on the law, which grants special rights to ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries. Kukan also quoted Martonyi as saying that Slovak experts should propose amendments to the law, and that the date when the Status Law takes effect can be postponed until mutual agreement is reached. Kukan said the change in Hungary's position might have been induced by the recent European Commission report. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
SLOVAK PREMIER OPTIMISTIC ON SETTLING CZECH VISA REQUIREMENT WITH CZECH COUNTERPART. "It sometimes happens in politics that civil servants show more zeal than the countries' politicians," Mikulas Dzurinda said on 17 November in reaction to reports in the Czech media that Prague is considering introducing visa requirements for Slovak nationals who stay in the Czech Republic for longer than 90 days. Dzurinda said he believes the issue will be solved during his scheduled visit to Prague this week, when he is due to meet Premier Milos Zeman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)
END NOTEAMERICAN ACTIVISTS FEAR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA
By Jeffrey Donovan
Despite claims of a new era in U.S.-Russian relations, there is growing concern among American activists that the issues of human rights, freedom, and democracy are no longer top priorities in Washington's relations with Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited President George W. Bush at his Texas ranch on 15 November for what's being billed -- to quote Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart -- as "the beginning of a beautiful friendship" with the United States.
But American human rights activists are up in arms over what they perceive as the Bush administration turning a blind eye to Russian abuses -- especially in the war-torn Caucasus region of Chechnya -- as the price for Moscow's friendship and its support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Prior to the terrorist attacks of 11 September that killed nearly 5,000 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the United States had often publicly taken Moscow to task for its conduct in Chechnya. According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of civilians have been indiscriminately killed since the war first broke out in Chechnya in 1994. But Moscow and Washington have forged closer ties following the terrorist attacks, with Putin even comparing Russia's Chechen war to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan. That war is aimed at toppling the ruling Taliban and destroying the Al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of September's attacks. Putin says the Chechen war is also an antiterrorist action, launched after Chechen terrorists allegedly blew up Moscow residential buildings in 1999, killing some 300 people. Putin also says Al-Qaeda members are fighting in Chechnya, and last month Bush acknowledged for the first time that Russia faces an international terrorist threat in the region.
U.S. human rights activists are now wondering whether this new relationship with Russia will prevent Washington from showing its traditional concern for Russian rights abuses -- both in Chechnya and also manifested in the increasingly restricted freedoms enjoyed by the media and NGOs. Catherine Fitzpatrick is the executive director of the International League for Human Rights, one of the main U.S. rights groups with observer status at the United Nations. Fitzpatrick, citing recent reports of fresh atrocities in Chechnya compiled by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, says Russian abuses appear to have worsened since this "new friendship" with the U.S. started: "Because of the events of 11 September, because of the U.S.-Russian rapprochement and the war against terrorism, there's a definite climate of impunity. It's a kind of green light, you know, that is given -- that the forces there feel that anything goes."
Indications of the apparent shift in U.S. priorities can be found in statements made by Bush himself. Three weeks ago in Shanghai, Bush told Putin that the war on international terrorism should not translate into a war on minorities -- a clear reference to Chechnya, human rights activists say. But at the 13 November White House news conference with Putin, Bush praised what he called Russia's progress in dealing with its minorities, as well as Putin's efforts to forge a political solution in Chechnya.
Tom Malinowski is the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which, like Fitzpatrick's group, wrote to Bush and Putin this week to urge them to bring an end to the killing in Chechnya. Malinowski -- citing Bush's statement on 13 November -- suspects a change has occurred in the U.S. stance on Chechnya: "He welcomed the progress in Chechnya, which was rather stunning, given the fact that there really has been no progress in Chechnya. It indicates there may, in fact, be a trade-off between Russian support for the war on terrorism and U.S. criticism of human rights violations in Chechnya." The report by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee was drawn up after its members recently spent two weeks interviewing Chechen refugees in neighboring Ingushetia. The report concludes that the situation in Chechnya is getting worse, with murder, disappearances, and torture occurring on a daily basis.
But Fitzpatrick warns that other rights abuses loom in Russia, including the possibility that Western-funded NGOs are being forced to either give in to government demands on their activities or else face harassment and taxation. "We need to be concerned not just about unsavory people that need to be put on the payroll for the war against terrorism. We need to be concerned about how you support civil society in a positive way and people who understand American objectives and if those objectives are about universal values, who share those universal values. That is not what's happening."
Fitzpatrick says the situation brewing in the Central Asian countries -- where she said crackdown on dissent is commonly carried out in the name of "antiterrorism" -- could come back to haunt both Russia and the United States. Fitzpatrick urges authorities in those countries, particularly in Uzbekistan, to legalize civil society NGOs: "When you don't legalize society, they begin to take other forms to vent their protests. It's a recipe for disaster and [for the] breeding of terrorism."
Malinowski agrees. And he adds that if the U.S. turns a blind eye to Moscow's abuses, then Bush's efforts to ensure the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan is not seen as a war on Islam could be undermined by suspected Russian atrocities against Muslim civilians in Chechnya. "The United States is not going to be able to fight an effective global war on terrorism if it's associated with practices -- for example, in Chechnya -- that fail to distinguish between terrorists and people with legitimate political aspirations."
But even if Bush privately presses Putin on Chechnya, does a U.S. government bent on getting Russian backing for its war in Afghanistan and concessions for its missile defense system really have much leverage? Fitzpatrick thinks so. Ultimately, she says, if Russia wants to be part of the West, it will have to play by Western rules, such as respect for democracy and human rights. She believes strongly that Russia is gravely violating these concepts in Chechnya: "There's no other member of the G-8 [group of industrialized countries] that has been slaughtering civilians on this massive scale. That's all there is to it."
After the Bush-Putin summit ended on 15 November in Texas, the Russian president will depart for New York and the United Nations. Both Malinowski and Fitzpatrick hope that before Putin leaves, Bush will press him to open Chechnya to United Nations human rights monitors, to hold his military officers accountable for brutalities in Chechnya -- not one has been found guilty of abuse since the first war began in 1994 -- and to keep human rights high on the U.S.-Russian agenda.
Jeffrey Donovan is an RFE/RL correspondent.