Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: November 28, 2001

28 November 2001, Volume 2, Number 47
PRESIDENT HINTS AT PARDON FOR JAILED KARABAKH GENERAL. Robert Kocharian said in Yerevan on 22 November that he "is discussing" with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic the possibility of pardoning former Karabakh Defense Army commander Samvel Babayan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Babayan was sentenced to 14 years in prison in February on charges, which he denies, of masterminding the failed assassination attempt in March 2000 on Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian. Ghukasian told RFE/RL in July that Babayan cannot be pardoned because he has not admitted his guilt. Kocharian has not previously commented on a series of appeals by Armenian intellectuals for clemency for Babayan. Kocharian and Ghukasian met on 24 November, reportedly to discuss the economic situation in Karabakh and the prospects for resolving the conflict, according to Noyan Tapan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

IS CROATIA DRAGGING HEELS ON WAR CRIMES? Amid wrangling by lawyers, a judge in the Rijeka county court postponed for the fifth time the trial of General Mirko Norac and four other men indicted for war crimes against Serbian civilians in the Gospic area in 1991, Reuters reported on 26 November. This is the first trial of Croats for crimes against Serbs, and the first time that The Hague has allowed Croatia to try an indicted person on Croatian soil. It is not excluded that the war crimes tribunal might demand Norac's extradition if it concludes that the Croatian authorities are dragging their heels on bringing war criminals to justice. The government has opened a number of other cases in which Serbs were the victims, but no one has yet been brought to trial. Public opinion polls suggest that Norac and other indicted war criminals have a solid base of support, but also that most Croats want to put war-related issues behind them and promote their country's social and economic development. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

PRESIDENT RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF RULING PARTY... Delegates to the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party unanimously re-elected President Heidar Aliyev as party chairman on 21 November and nominated him as the party's candidate for the presidential elections due in October 2003, Turan reported. In his two-hour speech to the congress, Aliyev praised the party's role in ensuring political and economic stability in Azerbaijan, but also told its members to take more decisive measures to counter the actions of the "aggressive" opposition. At the same time, he stressed that the opposition is a necessary component of democracy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

...WHILE DEMONSTRATORS CALL ON HIM TO RESIGN. The opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party convened a rally in Baku on 24 November under the slogan "Bread, jobs, Karabakh," Turan reported. Participants accused Aliyev of violating the constitution and citizens' basic rights, and called on him to resign. The demonstration was sanctioned by the city authorities, and passed without incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

LEGISLATURE TO SUBMIT MEMORANDUM ON POWERS TO OSCE. Alyaksandr Vaytovich, the chairman of the Council of the Republic (the upper house of Belarus's National Assembly), said on 26 November that the National Assembly will submit a memorandum to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly by February 2002, Belapan reported. Vaytovich explained that the memorandum will outline the real powers of the National Assembly and offer ways to expand them. He said the idea of the memorandum originated during his meeting with OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Adrian Severin in St. Petersburg, last week. Vaytovich cited Severin as saying that if the memorandum makes a favorable impression, it may help the National Assembly fill Belarus's vacant seat in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The OSCE does not recognize Belarus's National Assembly, saying it was formed in an undemocratic election process and lacks real legislative powers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

SERB LEADER SAYS MILOSEVIC INDICTMENT THREATENS REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. Republika Srpska Deputy Prime Minister Sinisa Djordjevic told Belgrade Radio B92 on 25 November that The Hague's recent indictment of former President Slobodan Milosevic threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the Republika Srpska, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Djordjevic noted that the indictment will strengthen Muslim and Croatian claims that the Bosnian Serb entity was established on the foundations of ethnic cleansing. He stressed that it is in Belgrade's and Banja Luka's own interests to dispel "the myth of genocide" in the Bosnian conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

UN SACKS THREE MORE BOSNIAN SERB POLICE. Stefo Lehmann, who is a spokesman for the UN police administration in Bosnia (IPTF), said in Sarajevo on 27 November that Foca police officers Brane Cosovic, Miodrag Koprivica, and Zoran Vladicic "can no longer participate in any aspect of police work, either now or in the future, anywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina," AP reported. This is the latest in a series of sackings by the IPTF of persons linked to wartime atrocities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

PETRITSCH SAYS ISLAM IS PART OF WEST. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote in "The New York Times" of 20 November that "much has been made of the residual influence of the mujahedin fighters who stayed on in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the 1992-95 war. But no evidence has been produced that the country has served as a base for Al-Qaeda, although this cannot be excluded; after all, the organization had an active cell in Hamburg. Allegations made by some Serb extremists that the wars in the former Yugoslavia were fought to fend off Muslim fundamentalism are ridiculous -- was Mr. Milosevic at war with mullahs when his forces bombarded Dubrovnik? What is truly worthy of note is that the influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Balkans has been so weak. When we step beyond the us-and-them paradigm, we might remember that Islam is part of the European tradition. This is the larger context in which the small country of Bosnia and Herzegovina must prove that peaceful coexistence of Islam and Christianity is possible. More than ever, it needs Europe's support in doing so." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

TRADE UNION LEADER ADVISES WEST NOT TO RUSH TO EMBRACE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT. Uladzimir Hancharyk, the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rival in the 9 September presidential ballot, has called on the international community not to rush into improving relations with the Belarusian regime, Belapan reported on 25 November. "If the isolation is removed and there is not any action in response on the part of Lukashenka, if there is not any dialogue with political parties and trade unions, then such a thaw will produce nothing and will only be used for strengthening the regime," Hancharyk said. An OSCE Parliamentary Assembly mission consisting of Uta Zapf of Germany and Urban Ahlin of Sweden is currently visiting Belarus to study the postelection situation there. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

ARMY'S TRADE UNION COMPLAINS ABOUT 'MISERABLE' PAY. Ivan Narchyla, the head of the Trade Union of Armed Forces Employees, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Henadz Navitski, asking the government to urgently raise wages for servicemen, Belapan reported on 21 November. Narchyla says the average monthly wage in the army is well below the $100 that budget sector employees were promised by President Lukashenka that they would attain by August. Narchyla argues that low wages are responsible for the high rotation of army personnel, which undermines the combat efficiency of troops. "Miserable pay like that cannot support even one person, let alone a family," Narchyla wrote in his letter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

CHARGES AGAINST CATHOLIC PRIEST DISMISSED. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 21 November dismissed the charges filed earlier by police against Roman Catholic priest Vojtech Protivinsky on the grounds that he had urged parishioners not to vote for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the 2001 Senate elections, CTK and dpa reported. Protivinsky was also granted a presidential pardon from President Vaclav Havel earlier the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

PARLIAMENT ABOLISHES LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FOR DEPUTIES. On 21 November, the parliament by a vote of 55 to 21, with one abstention, passed amendments to the "Parliament Election Act" and the "Local Councils Election Act" abolishing the language requirement for candidates to the parliament and local councils, ETA reported The amendments, which required 51 votes to pass, were supported by all the members of the Moderates faction, most of the deputies from the Reform Party and the Pro Patria Union, and seven opposition deputies. On 23 November, the head of the OSCE mission to Estonia, Doris Hertrampf, said she will recommend to the OSCE permanent council in Vienna on 13 December that the mission be closed at the end of this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

U.S. AMBASSADOR TROUBLED BY OVERT ANTI-SEMITISM. U.S. Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker on 19 November expressed concern about the rise in anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Hungary. Addressing a meeting at the Hungarian Academy of Science, the ambassador said anti-Semitism and xenophobic statements "are the only unpleasant features" that she has come across during her two months in Budapest. She added that she has not experienced "anything like it anywhere else," Hungarian dailies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

'FINANCIAL TIMES' SAYS P0LITICS BECOMING POLARIZED. "Hungary is likely to witness next year its sharpest elections since the fall of communism," the "Financial Times" reported on 20 November. The newspaper observes that the consensus which prevailed during the 1989 change of regime is over, and the Hungarian political scene has since become polarized. The paper also says that voters will face a starker choice next year than in any of the three postcommunist elections in Hungary, and the "overtly chauvinistic" MIEP, with which FIDESZ has sometimes cooperated, could "tip the balance." The newspaper notes that FIDESZ leaders reject the idea of cooperation with MIEP, but it observes that Prime Minister Viktor Orban left himself room for maneuver on this issue in his recent interview with "Sueddeutsche Zeitung." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PROMISES STATUS LAW CHANGES. Janos Martonyi said on 19 November that Hungary will adjust the implementation decree of the Status Law in order to incorporate in it recommendations by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. Addressing a forum on the recent EU country reports, Martonyi said the report does not call on Hungary to amend the law. However, Hungary is prepared to clarify the criteria related to certificates of Hungarian ethnicity, Martonyi said, pledging that consulates will be involved in the process of issuing the certificates, as recommended by the Venice Commission. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

PRESIDENT SACKS MORE OFFICIALS... Nursultan Nazarbaev sacked Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov on 21 November and named First Deputy Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov to succeed him, ITAR-TASS reported. Akhmetov served earlier as governor in Pavlodar from 1994-1997. Zhaqiyanov, one of several top officials who on 18 November announced the founding of the Democratic Choice party, was repeatedly stopped by road police while driving from Astana to Pavlodar on 22 November, and prevented from boarding a flight from Pavlodar to Almaty the following day. On Akhmetov's orders, Zhaqiyanov's subordinates were prevented on 23 November from entering the Pavlodar Oblast administration building, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 22 November, Nazarbaev dismissed three more founding members of Democratic Choice: Labor and Social Protection Minister Alikhan Baimenov, First Deputy Finance Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, and State Agency for Natural Monopolies Chairman Berik Imashev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

...LAUDS AIMS OF NEW OPPOSITION PARTY. Nazarbaev met on 22 November in Astana with two further members of Democratic Choice, Kazkommerzbank President Nurzhan Subkhanberdin and Temirbank board Chairman Mukhtar Abliyazov (a former minister of economy, industry, and trade), to discuss the political situation and progress of democratic reforms in Kazakhstan, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Nazarbaev hailed the creation of Democratic Choice and lauded its aims. Subkhanberdin and Abliyazov assured the president that the party's aims correspond with his own and that Democratic Choice does not seek "confrontation" with the authorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

UN POLICE TO ENSURE SAFETY FOR LEGISLATORS. A special unit of 200 police is undergoing training in Prishtina to protect the 120 legislators elected in the recent parliamentary elections, dpa reported on 26 November. The 22 Serbian deputies will be guarded while traveling from their homes in largely Serbian regions to the parliament and back. Security arrangements for ethnic Albanian deputies will be dealt with on an individual basis. Weapons will be banned from the parliament building and all deputies will be searched upon entering. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

EX-GUERRILLA LEADER HELD. Former Kosovar guerrilla chief Gani Ymeri appeared before a panel of international judges in the Mitrovica district court on 26 November on charges of "serious crimes committed in Kosova in June 1999" against Serbian civilians, AP reported. The judges ruled that he should be held pending investigation of his case. Prosecutor Matti Hynynen told dpa that it is not excluded that the case could be sent to The Hague. This is the first time that a Kosovar Albanian insurgent leader has been arrested and sent to court on charges related to crimes against Serbs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

STATUS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE UPGRADED. Both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament approved on 22 November on second reading amendments to the constitution that proclaim Russian an official language, Interfax reported. The parliament passed legislation last year bestowing that status on the Russian language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

ANTICORRUPTION EFFORT GETS HIGH MARKS FROM TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL. Transparency International-Latvia board Chairwoman Inese Voika said at a press conference in Riga on 26 November that the organization's report on world corruption considers the situation in Latvia to be positive, LETA reported. The report stated that the fight against corruption in the Baltic states has reached the same level as in the poorest EU member states and that the EU is consistently applying pressure to combat corruption. But she said that, while Latvia has passed the necessary laws to fight corruption, they are not being implemented effectively. Voika noted that the report devotes considerable attention to the financing of political parties and calls for legislation requiring those parties to provide more information about the sources and size of donations they receive. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

NATIONAL HARMONY PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS. On 24 November, Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin told the eighth Congress of the National Harmony Party (TSP) in Riga that Latvia should respect the rights of minorities, LETA reported. The congress unanimously re-elected Janis Jurkans as the party chairman and a 43-member council. It also decided to participate in the 2002 parliament elections as part of the joint ticket of For Human Rights in a United Latvia with the Socialist Party and the Equality movement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S TORTURE CHARGES AGAINST POLICE REFUTED. Normunds Belskis, the director of the Press and Public Relations Department of the Interior Ministry, asserted on 23 November that the report released the previous day by the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture accusing the Latvian police of beatings, electrical shocks, and asphyxiation during questioning of suspects is untrue, LETA reported. The report also charged that detention centers are overcrowded, have poor hygiene conditions, and detainees do not always receive regular exercise or food. Belskis agreed that the conditions in the detention centers are poor, but added that requests for additional funds intended to improve the conditions have not been approved. He said the report produced no facts to support the torture charges and that the level of transparency in the detention system is great enough that such mistreatment could not have been concealed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

LEGISLATORS BACK ELECTION DELAY... Leaders of the four largest political parties have endorsed postponing the parliamentary elections slated for 27 January 2002 to a later date, as proposed by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26 November. The VMRO favors postponement on the grounds that a campaign should not take place until peace has been consolidated. The constitution requires that the parliament dissolve itself two months before an election, which would mean an immediate dissolution if the January deadline is to be kept. The two largest ethnic Albanian parties favor the postponement so that parliament can pass a law on local self-government and enact legislation on the use of the Albanian language by deputies, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

...AS NOW SEEMS ASSURED. On 27 November, parliament speaker Stojan Andov cancelled a planned vote on dissolving the legislature so the campaign for the January vote could begin, Reuters reported. This means the election will have to take place at some later date. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

JUSTICE MINISTER SUBMITS LIST OF AMNESTY CANDIDATES. Idzet Mehmeti, an ethnic Albanian, gave President Boris Trajkovski on 26 November a list of 88 imprisoned ethnic Albanians whom Mehmeti considers candidates for the amnesty that Trajkovski recently decreed, dpa reported from Skopje. Some 80 inmates are fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) who were imprisoned on charges related to "terrorism." The remaining eight belong to an underground Albanian militia. All were jailed before 26 August. The constitution recognizes as valid only an amnesty approved by the parliament, but Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has refused to enact such a measure. Most observers regard an amnesty of all UCK fighters not accused of war crimes by The Hague as an essential step toward peace. An amnesty was promised in the Ohrid peace agreement of 13 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

MASS GRAVE MYSTERY CONTINUES. Judge Aleksandra Zafirovska said in Tetovo on 25 November that workers have found unspecified "human body parts" at an alleged mass gravesite nearby, Reuters reported. She added that "identifying the evidence" could take up to "four or five months, depending on the process used." She refused to provide any details of the find or say whether any evidence of violence -- such as empty cartridges -- were found. In a move aimed at depoliticizing the issue, experts from The Hague-based war crimes tribunal and the OSCE are present at the site, guarded by NATO troops. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

OFF ON THE RIGHT CIVIC FOOT. Throngs of civic activists from across Russia converged in Moscow for a Kremlin-sponsored Civic Forum on 21 November, reported "The Moscow Times." Veteran Russian human rights activist and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseeva opened the congress by saying that "there would be no presidium, no voting and no resolutions." Alekseeva pointed out that the conference attendees represented over "350,000 NGOs employing about 1 million people [who] assist some 20 million Russians," and asserted, "These figures are a major proof that civil society already exists in Russia." She then gave the floor to President Vladimir Putin. ("The Moscow Times," 22 November)

A WORKING AGENDA? Gleb Pavlovskii's Foundation for Efficient Politics coordinated a special conference "dialogue" schedule: On 21 November afternoon, 21 discussion groups -- with up to 300 participants -- met on topics such as the Chechen conflict, health, women's issues, and foreign policy. By 22 November morning, these discussion groups broke up into roundtables with 100 people; by that afternoon, the roundtables delegated 15 people with specific proposals to "talk rooms" with leading officials. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov ordered a cabinet shutdown on 22 November afternoon so that ministers could meet with civic activists. Reportedly, the forum would be deemed a success if there was general agreement to continue talks. By 22 November evening, conference participants gathered in the Kremlin to hear an address by Kasyanov and reports from the groups. Another forum goal was to assist often fractious NGO activists in acknowledging their existence as a civil society. ("The Moscow Times," 22 November)

PUTIN: 'DIALOGUE OF EQUALS'... "[C]ivil society cannot be established at the state's initiative, at the state's will, much less in accordance with the state's plans...[such] attempts to form civil society [are] unproductive, impossible, and even dangerous.... Civil society...should feed on the spirit of freedom.... This is a necessary and continuous process in democracies, and in Russia it is only beginning.... [T]he government as such may have one task only -- to form the institutions maximally favorable for its development.... There are representatives of various civil institutions [at the forum]...some are opponents of the government on vital issues of state policy.... There cannot be a strong state or prosperous society without relations of true partnership between the state and society. A dialogue of equals is what is needed here.... [The authorities] are prepared to take organizational and perhaps even legislative measures to establish an effective two-way connection between society and the state apparatus.... It is what the state needs." ("Vremya novostei," 22 November)

...OUTLINES SPECIFIC AREAS FOR DIALOGUE... "[There is] the idea to establish an all-Russian staff reserve, and informational database to be used by the state, businesses, and institutions of civil society.... [C]ourt reforms are difficult...[c]itizens should voice their opinion, here and in the matter of making our penitentiary system more humane.... We will do our best to make sure civil institutions are involved in decision-making on these and other serious problems. A few words on cooperation of business communities. This cooperation is well-organized now, even better perhaps than others.... As to deregulating the economy, it should be a process of constructive cooperation with representatives of the national business community. [S]imilar cooperation [is] vital in the matter of human rights, within the context of religious and ethnic activism. This is of paramount importance for multiethnic Russia.... [O]nly civil society based on fully observed civil rights can become a reliable barrier to marginalization and extremism...."("Vremya novostei," 22 November)

...'STATES ARE JUDGED BY INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY.' "States are not judged only by political successes and economic development. First and foremost, states are judged by the level of individual liberty, by the influence wielded by civil society itself. There will never be a truly strong democratic state if society remains weak.... The ethical principles of society have an effect on the state apparatus and on results of its work.... [T]he government will inevitably lose if it lacks a free society as a partner. Bureaucratization would have been the worst possible solution here. Copying state structures' methods of work will not be appropriate here. Civil society has different, more effective methods of operation." ("Vremya novostei," 22 November)

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? A military reform discussion included five generals and Deputy Defense Minister Lyubov Kudelina plus Colonel General Vladislav Putilin, head of the General Staff organization and mobilization department, who reported on a planned troop cutback and complained about a shortage of funding for army reform. Delayed for an hour by Moscow traffic, Soldiers Mothers Committee executive secretary Valentina Melnikova simply told the military reform session, "Let's not talk again about what is bad, but talk about what we can do." ("The Moscow Times," 22 November)

NGO FORUM ENDS WITH CRITICISM AND PRAISE. According to ITAR-TASS, the meeting was attended by a number of high-level government officials in addition to Putin and Prime Minister Kasyanov, such as presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, among others. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky panned the meeting, calling it a "purely image-making activity," and asked what kind of "dialogue" can take place with 5,000 people with diverse interests. Yabloko deputy Sergei Mitrokhin told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 November that he also considered the event to be primarily about public relations. According to Mitrokhin, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin summed up the event well when he told delegates "to give us all of your suggestions, so we can put them in one place." After the first day, human rights activist Valentin Gefter told "Kommersant-Daily" that he was satisfied with the results: "Putin lacks the administrative resource. He has come for support. He wants us to put state officials under pressure," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

PAVLOVSKII SEES EMERGENCE OF A NEW TYPE OF OPPOSITION AT CIVIC FORUM. In summing up the work of the Civic Forum, which took place in Moscow on 21 and 22 November, Gleb Pavlovskii, the president of the Foundation for Efficient Politics, said the 21 agreements signed between NGOs and government officials represent a new foundation for future cooperation between the state and society, the forum's website reported on 27 November. Pavlovskii compared the forum to the Helsinki agreements, and said Russian NGOs are now facing challenges to put enough pressure on government officials to ensure their agreements are further developed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

PUTIN HOLDS ANOTHER MEETING WITH OLIGARCHS. President Putin met with members of board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) on 23 November. RSPP head Arkadii Volskii told reporters that the meeting was "quite useful" and will result in instructions being issued to Prime Minister Kasyanov as well as to the government as a whole, Interfax reported. According to Volskii, the topic of the bureaucratic red tape businesses face was discussed in detail. According to "Vremya novostei" the next day, YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii complained about the endless audits and checks by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, which he said interferes with the business sector's normal functioning. Uralmash General Director Kakha Bendukidze spoke on the topic of banking, concluding that "half the banks in Russia are incapacitated," and if forced to function according to international accounting standards would cease to exist. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

'MILITARY ANARCHY' IN CHECHNYA. A Russian journalist who recently fled into exile because of her reporting on the war in Chechnya told an RFE/RL audience on 20 November that "a state of total military anarchy" exists in Chechnya, where even "bits of territory inside a Russian military zone" are subject to ever-changing lines of authority among various Russian military units. Anna Politkovskaya, a special correspondent for Moscow's "Novaya Gazeta," described the Russian military campaign in Chechnya as a "war of colonels," particularly in the mountains, where federal troops act on their own and define their role as "to avenge their fallen comrades." Under these conditions, prosecutors and courts in Chechnya allow the Russian military to engage in "ethnic cleansing" and the taking of hostages, Politkovskaya explained. She estimates that there are 2,000 Chechen families searching for their relatives at this time, unable to pay Russian troops the required ransoms to obtain their release. Politkovskaya said she sees no quick end to the conflict, because new armed formations have entered the fray on both sides of the fighting. Some Russian troops in Grozny have joined the Chechens and a "civil war" exists among the Chechen field commanders, 90 percent of whom detest the presence of Arab mercenaries that are reportedly aiding some 10 percent of Chechen units. Politkovskaya said that in two years of covering the war she "had not seen a single Arab mercenary, dead, wounded or alive, among the Chechen fighters," although Russian military spokespersons consistently point to such a presence. On the basis of her own reporting, Politkovskaya believes that the controversial Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev is cooperating with the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) which now directs the Russian campaign in Chechnya. Basaev is said to use Arab mercenaries among his troops. Politkovskaya said that when the Russian military seeks to publicly justify its war against radical Islamic bandits in Chechnya, Basaev's troops will enter a village to provoke an attack and "escape" before Russian military units begin their "cleansing" operation. She gave two examples where she witnessed this pattern: the village of Mahkeri in Vedeno district and the town of Gudermes in August. (RFE/RL Press Release, 21 November)

CHECHEN FSB OFFICIAL NAMED TO HEAD CHECHEN INTERIOR MINISTRY. A career FSB officer, Colonel Said Peshkhoev, has been named to head the newly created Chechen Interior Ministry, Interfax reported on 26 November. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has consistently argued that Chechnya needs its own Interior Ministry, rather than a subsidiary of the federal ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

RADUEV TRIAL RESUMES. The trial in Makhachkala of Chechen field commander Salman Raduev and three associates accused of the January 1996 hostage-taking in Kizlyar resumed on 26 November after a four-day break, Russian media reported. Several former hostages and police officers testified that Chechen fighters seized hostages and killed at least one of them, but they failed to confirm that either Raduev or his codefendants killed or wounded any hostages or ordered other Chechen fighters to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

MVD FIGHTS CORRUPTION WITHIN ITS RANKS. Addressing hearings in the Duma, Deputy Interior Minister Yevgenii Solovev said over 10,000 officers have been put on trial since the beginning of the year, "Izvestiya" and ORT television reported on 22 November. Among those officers, 2,700 have been sued for corruption. "Criminals now consider [acquiring] protection [krysha] from the Interior Ministry (MVD) as often as from the criminal world," Solovev said. In the first nine months of this year, organized crime groups made 820 attempts to infiltrate the MVD. Solovev, who himself has worked for 20 years in both the MVD and the FSB, said the MVD has asked its Internal Security Service to launch an investigation into the matter and that the FSB now screens all applicants for positions within the MVD. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS TO WEAR UNIFORMS. The Russian government has decided that Russian ambassadors and senior diplomatic personnel will be required to wear uniforms, "Kommersant" reported on 23 November. Initially, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MID) wanted Russian couturier Vyacheslav Zaitsev to design a dark-colored uniform with gold trim, such as existed under the Soviet regime, but after Zaitsev refused the offer the MID turned to designers who specialize in uniforms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

GORBACHEV, TITOV LAUNCH NEW SOCIALIST PARTY. The Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR) held its constituent congress in Moscow on 24 November at which some 700 delegates along with guests from 16 countries attended, according to ITAR-TASS. The new party represents a merger of Gorbachev's ROSD and the Russian Party of Social Democracy (RPSD) headed by Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov. Also present were members of Aleksei Podberezkin's Spiritual Heritage, Ivan Rybkin's Socialist Party, and Nina Zhukova's Union of Realists. However, the leaders of those parties did not elect to join RPSD. Gorbachev was elected leader of the new party, while Titov was selected as chairman, according to Interfax. Both ran for those seats unopposed. The new party may have 30,000 members once it is finally registered, according to Russian agencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

NEW JUDICIAL REFORM PACKAGE INTRODUCES JURY TRIALS... On 22 November, the State Duma passed on second reading fundamental amendments to a three-bill package that would set new limits on judges' terms in office and establish complicated procedures for lifting their immunity from prosecution, "The Moscow Times" reported. Deputies voted 293 to 33 in favor of amendments to the bill regulating the status of judges, RIA-Novosti reported. One of the amendments pertains to the introduction of jury trials, which would be mandatory as of January 2003 in all regional courts for cases involving "dangerous" crimes such as murder and rape. Defendants accused of "theft" -- one of the most common charges in the country -- will not be eligible for jury trials. The code also expands the powers of defense lawyers and attempts to separate the court's functions from those of the prosecution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

...REGULATES CRIMINAL PROCEDURES. Deputies also voted on second reading on 22 November in favor of an amendment to the new Criminal Procedural Code that stipulates that all agencies wishing to open a criminal investigation, including the FSB and the Tax Police, would be required to receive permission from prosecutors. Putin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, told the parliamentarians that the amendment, which was passed by a vote of 247 to one, is a necessary safeguard against criminal proceedings instigated under pressure from persons or groups with vested interests, "The Moscow Times" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

DUMA LEGISLATORS SUGGEST CRIMINALIZING DISRESPECT FOR STATE SYMBOLS. The Duma Legalization Committee has initiated a bill that would make showing lack of respect for the state anthem, seal, and flag a punishable criminal offense, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 November. The bill would include an amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow for the punishment for such offenses with stiff fines or a prison term of up to two years. A spokesman for the committee said he foresees that "insulting the state anthem" will require additional definition because in contrast to the other state symbols, "it has no physical form." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

MOSCOW CHURCH SAYS HEAD OF EXILED CHURCH MAY VISIT RUSSIA. On 23 November, Patriarch Aleksii II told Interfax that he has sent invitations to visit Moscow to Metropolitan Lavr, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and to Bishop Gavriil, the secretary of the exiled church's synod, the news agency reported. Patriarch Aleksii II said, "Conditions have emerged in the 21st century for the reunification of the Russian Orthodox diaspora with the mother church." He added that, should the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile accept his invitation, negotiations will take place in Moscow on unifying the two churches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

IS NORILSK A 'CLOSED CITY?' Adding to the recent confusion, on 25 November, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed declared the industrial city of Norilsk of "strategic importance," and announced that as of 26 November the city will be closed to all non-Russian citizens except Belarusians, NTV television reported. A city of 200,000 located north of the Arctic Circle, Norilsk is home to the world's largest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel. Under the new regulations, the FSB is in charge of issuing special permits to foreigners who plan to fly to Norilsk, and the local airline KrasAir will no longer sell tickets to the city to foreigners. Lebed also said foreigners currently living in Norilsk as well as foreign visitors who arrived prior to his declaration will be asked to leave the city. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

MOSCOW TO LIMIT DOWNTOWN ACCESS? On 22 November, Moscow Traffic Police chief Sergei Kazantsev said access to the center of Moscow should be limited to overcome the heavy traffic that often paralyzes the Russian capital and proposed that a special access fee for automobiles be introduced, reported on 25 November. Kazantsev said such a measure could help reduce traffic in downtown Moscow by 30 to 40 percent. He also said war veterans and invalids should pay only a reduced access fee. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

NEW, OLD SYMBOLS. A government working group has recommended the adoption of a set of state symbols, which the parliament will vote on in a 15 February 2002 session, RFE/RL reported on 23 November. They include the precommunist national anthem "Boze pravde" and the 1882 coat of arms, which includes a crown. Historian and Christian Democratic party leader Milan Protic told "Vesti" that the crown is a symbol of state sovereignty and not necessarily of a monarchy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

GENOCIDE INDICTMENT FOR EX-LEADER. On 23 November, The Hague-based war crimes tribunal released its third indictment against former President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. This time he is charged with genocide and other crimes in conjunction with the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict. Genocide is the most serious charge in the tribunal's book. The document mentions several other individuals who were part of Milosevic's "criminal enterprise." They include "Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Biljana Plavsic, General Ratko Mladic..., [General] Veljko Kadijevic, [General] Blagoje Adzic, Milan Martic..., Vojislav Seselj, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, and others," "Vesti" reported. In Sarajevo, a spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign Ministry hailed the indictment as a step toward justice, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)

MECIAR PREDICTS 'HALF-VICTORY' IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS. Former Premier Vladimir Meciar told journalists on 26 November that his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) will win in four out of the eight regional elections scheduled for 1 December, CTK reported. Meciar said that in all eight regions the HZDS candidates for regional head will advance to the second round. He explained that the HZDS electorate is "among the most disciplined," and that he predicts a high turnout of HZDS supporters at the ballot. Almost 140 candidates are running for the eight regional head positions. The elections will also produce 400 deputies to the eight regional assemblies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

NEW POLITICAL PARTY HOLDS CONSTITUENT CONGRESS. The founding congress of the Vahdat (Unity) Party took place in Dushanbe on 17 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 20 November. In a statement released at the congress, delegates acknowledged the progress achieved by the country's present leadership towards establishing a democratic society, but noted unspecified problems that it pledged to assist the leadership in overcoming. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

CRACKDOWN ON DUSHANBE'S UNREGISTERED MOSQUES. As Muslims in Tajikistan mark the holy month of Ramadan, city authorities in Dushanbe are cracking down on unregistered mosques in line with a resolution adopted in September, reports Keston News Service. Muslims fear that the authorities will try to close down unregistered mosques, which far outnumber registered mosques in Dushanbe. A city official insisted to Keston that mosques must be registered in order to function and said that it the number of unregistered mosques increased, it would be "more difficult to control their activity." "Then mosques could become centers of extremism and could destabilize the situation in the republic." (Keston News Service, 23 November)

RESIDENCE REGISTRATION DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The Constitutional Court on 20 November ruled that the Interior Ministry's regulations requiring that citizens obtain residence permits from and register their places of residence with relevant Interior Ministry visa and registration departments run counter to the Ukrainian Constitution, Interfax reported. The Constitutional Court's ruling, which is binding and not subject to appeal, came in response to a motion by some 50 lawmakers who argued that the constitution guarantees the freedom of movement for all citizens. The obligatory registration of the population is one vestige of the Soviet era, and Ukrainian regulations in this regard are based on Soviet norms dating back to 1974. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

CONFIRMATION OF NAMANGANI'S DEATH REQUESTED. The Uzbek authorities would like to see concrete evidence to substantiate reports that the country's most wanted man, outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Djuma Namangani, was indeed killed while fighting on the Taliban side in Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 26 November, quoting an unnamed Uzbek government official. Interfax last week quoted Tajik officials as confirming that Namangani was killed during fighting in Kondoz on 18 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

VORONIN SAYS MOLDOVA 'OWES NO EXPLANATION' TO ROMANIA. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin told journalists on 26 November that Moldova "owes no explanation" to Romania over the speech made in Strasbourg in early October by Justice Minister Ion Morei, Mediafax reported. Morei told the European Court on Human Rights, which is examining the complaint of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, that Romania's "expansionist policies" are one of the reasons for that church's revival. Following the speech, Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase canceled a scheduled visit to Moldova. Voronin said Morei is a Moldovan official who "owes explanations to his hierarchical superiors alone." Voronin also announced that Romanian President Ion Iliescu will pay an official visit to Chisinau in December, Infotag reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)

NEW STUDY ON NGO ROLE IN DEVELOPMENT. "Striking a Balance: A Guide to Enhancing the Effectiveness of NGOs in International Development," published by the International NGO Training and Research Center, is a 350-page study, in Russian or English. It describes five key factors: organizational design; leadership and human resources; external relationships; mobilization of finance; and the measurement of performance. (Center for Civil Society International, 27 November)


By Roman Kupchinsky

"A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 8 November found that 51 percent of Russians do not trust the Interior Ministry while 41.4 percent do. This was 3 percent higher than in a comparable poll conducted in March 2001, the news service said." (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2001) Similar and even more alarming statistics can be found for most postcommunist countries in Eastern Europe, once the most heavily policed countries in the world. The police in these countries today are by and large seen as part of the problem of corruption and rarely as the solution.

In a recent study carried out by the Czech branch of Transparency International, results showed that the most corrupt institution in the Czech Republic appears to be the police. New scandals in Russia and Ukraine point to the Interior ministries as the protectors of criminal organizations in their countries. And despite numerous campaigns to clean up the police force (the Moscow police recently began another such drive), the results often amount to nothing more then a series of statistics on how many bribe-taking traffic cops were fired, or burglars apprehended, rattled off by a senior MVD official.

Lacking rigorous oversight and effective internal affairs departments, many underpaid police officers of the former USSR have chosen to go the route of corruption. At the same time, their supervisors in the MVD as well as ministers and their deputies have taken advantage of large-scale criminalization of society and many have allowed themselves to be used by the new criminal/governmental elite.

The net effect of this is a corrupt upper echelon among police which demands that cops on the beat be honest and vigilant in fighting street crime. The public demands safe streets, and politicians react to these demands. Thus most anticorruption campaigns in the former Soviet Union have centered on stopping petty bribe-taking -- for speeding tickets and payoffs to cops by street gangs and burglars -- while ignoring massive graft at the top. The logic is simple: Most people are concerned with their own safety and their own property, and high-level corruption is something which does not impact upon them directly.

As Stephen Handelman points out in his excellent study of crime in Russia, "Comrade Criminal," criminality in Russia is so ingrained that: "To understand where Russia is heading, it is worth looking at the trauma of Italy, which discovered in 1994 that for more than three decades its prosperity had depended upon a secret alliance between organized crime, government, and industry. Russia, with a weaker and more unstable central government and a long tradition of official misbehavior under communist rule, looked certain to surpass Italy. It would be even harder to root the comrade criminal out of his place at the center of Russian society."

Roman Kupchinsky is editor of the "RFE/RL Crime, Corruption, and Terrorism Watch."