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(Un)Civil Societies Report: August 24, 2000

24 August 2000, Volume 1, Number 15
FORMER PRESIDENT ELCHIBEY DIES. Former President Abulfaz Elchibey died on 22 August of cancer in Turkey. He had been undergoing treatment--reportedly for prostate cancer--in Ankara since June. A former Soviet dissident, Elchibey, 62, became the democratically-elected president of Azerbaijan in 1992, but was overthrown in a 1993 coup that led to current President Heidar Aliev's accession to power. (Turkistan, 22 August)

EDITOR OF LEADING OPPOSITION PAPER ARRESTED. A 22 August statement signed by 15 independent newspapers and journalists' organizations protested that day's arrest of Rauf Arifogli, editor-in-chief of "Yeni Musavat," on charges of possession of an unregistered weapon. ("Zerkalo," 23 August)

FORMER PRESIDENT'S BODYGUARD ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJANI HIJACK CASE... Ilgar Sayidoglu, a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front (AHCP), who heads former President Elchibey's personal bodyguard team, was arrested with three other AHCP members in a teahouse in the Ordubad Raion of Nakhichevan on 18 August, Turan reported on 21 August. He is suspected of complicity in the unsuccessful attempt by Mehti Huseynli, a member of the Nakhichevan branch of the opposition Musavat Party, to hijack a passenger aircraft en route from Nakhichevan to Baku. Sayidoglu's lawyer, Ramiz Hadjiev, told Interfax that although his client knows Huseynli personally, there is not even circumstantial evidence linking him with the thwarted hijack. AHCP First Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov termed Sayidoglu's arrest as an attempt to discredit the AHCP, adding that Sayidoglu intended to run as the party's candidate in the Julfa-Ordubad electoral district in the 5 November parliamentary elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER CONDEMNS ARREST. Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar told Turan on 21 August in Baku that his party issued a statement on 18 August condemning the abortive hijack by one of its members. He attributed the authorities' attempt to incriminate AHCP members in the crime to a desire to discredit the election alliance formed by Musavat and the AHCP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

JOURNALISTS JOIN FAST TO PROTEST LAWSUIT. Journalists from 10 publications have joined in the hunger strike begun earlier this week by four journalists with the independent newspaper "Uch nogte," Turan reported on 17 August. They are protesting the legal action taken against the newspaper by Azerbaijani Information Minister Siruz Tebrizli. Tebrizli is demanding the newspaper's closure in accordance with a provision of the media law that requires the closure of publications taken to court three times over a 12-month period for publishing erroneous information. Newspaper editors have applied to the Baku municipal authorities for permission to picket the Ministry of Information on 23 August and to convene a demonstration on 25 August to protest the planned closure of "Uch nogte." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

PRESIDENT TO STRIP OFFICIALS OF SALARIES IF WAGE ARREARS NOT PAID. Lukashenka on 15 August threatened to strip government officials of their pay as of 1 September if the cabinet does not pay all wage arrears by that date, Belarusian Television reported. "An appropriate document will be signed early next week. All the salaries of ministers, government members, officials of the presidential administration with the president at their head, and bankers...will be taken at the beginning of September to pay those who feed us, teach us, instruct us in culture and ethics, and so on. And only after that we will get our pay," Lukashenka said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

HAS THE CASE OF THE MISSING ORT CAMERAMAN BEEN SOLVED? Holding out hope that cameraman Dmitri Zavadsky may still be alive, Pavel Sheremet told BelaPAN on 16 August that Belarusian authorities (assisted by Russia officials) made "several arrests two weeks ago" of those who may have been responsible for his disappearance. Although Sheremet would not give further details, he also would not exclude the possibility that the special services were involved in the case. (BelaPAN, 16 August)

PRESIDENT SACKS OFFICIAL OVER 'BUG GATE.' Petar Stoyanov signed a decree on 17 August dismissing General Bozhidar Popov from his post as chief secretary of the Interior Ministry for his part in the "Bug Gate" scandal, AP reported. That scandal is related to listening devices found in July in the apartment of the country's chief prosecutor. Popov directed a unit that was to remove secret eavesdropping devices from sensitive buildings. Stoyanov called for Interior Ministry officials "to regain Bulgarian citizens' trust in their institutions." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

OPPOSITION SAYS OFFICIALS SPYING ON THEM. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) told Bulgarian Radio on 16 August that it has information that official structures have been set up in the Interior Ministry to monitor opposition parliamentary candidates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

JEWISH CEMETERY DISPUTE TO BE RESOLVED SOON? Jiri Danicek, the chairman of the Prague Jewish community, told CTK on 16 August that he expects the dispute over how to deal with the issue of a medieval Jewish cemetery--at which an insurance company hopes to construct its headquarters--to be resolved by September. "It is necessary that all the details be agreed by all the parties involved beforehand so that no different interpretations arise," Danicek said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

ETHNIC MINORITY LEADER THREATENED. Oboete Ubam, a Czech national of African origin and founder of the Prague-based League of Ethnic Minorities, has been threatened repeatedly via e-mail and telephone, officials said, according to CTK on 15 August. An investigation is under way. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

NO END IN SIGHT TO ORTHODOX SCHISM. The Council of Bishops of Russian Orthodox Church has reaffirmed its non-recognition of the Constantinople-backed Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church and forbidden Russian Orthodox Church members to take part in events hosted by its rivals, BNS reported on 18 August. The council's resolution called the division of the Church in Estonia "forced." An unnamed cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church told BNS that the argument centers around property rights. Both Churches claim to be the official Orthodox Church in Estonia, and the two are involved in a dispute over legal and jurisdictional issues.( "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

ROME CONVENTION MAY KILL PRIVATE RADIO STATIONS. The government's unexpected ratification of the Rome Convention may threaten private radio stations with bankruptcy as they would have to pay performers and record producers in addition to copyright fees, reports the 27 July "Postimees." Rein Lang, manager of AS Trio LSL, which runs the Kuku, Elmar, Eeva, Uuno, and Raadio 100 private stations, said that the stations are already paying 4 percent of their advertising turnover for copyrights and that a further increase may easily lead to the closure of the radio stations. He criticized the state for ratifying the Rome Convention without consulting entrepreneurs. Culture Minister Signe Kivi has promised to convene a roundtable meeting over the issue in September. (Tallinn, ETA, 27 July)

TRIAL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' ATTACKERS ADJOURNED... A Tbilisi district court on 17 August adjourned the trial of followers of an unfrocked Georgian priest who are accused of assaulting Jehovah's Witnesses in Tbilisi last fall. That action came after sympathizers of the accused assaulted a Georgian human rights activist, a lawyer for the Jehovah's Witnesses, and a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau. The trial is scheduled to resume on 18 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

...AND POLICE THREATEN BAPTIST LEADER WITH ARREST. The chief of the Tianeti district police and three other policemen entered the Tianeti Baptist church on 20 August and disrupted services. The four policemen destroyed the altar cross, the pulpit, and the slab with the inscription, "Home of Prayer," and then took Pastor Kalatozishvili to a police station. Police Chief Gigauri told the Baptist pastor that if Kalatozishvili wanted to pray, he should go to a Georgian Orthodox Christian church. Gigauri also warned Kalatozishvili that if he continued to serve in the Baptist church, he would be arrested--first for 15 days, then for a month, and then for six months. (Emil Adelkhanov, Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development, 21 August)

ROMANY LEADER RETURNS FROM STRASBOURG. Aladar Kotai, leader of the Gypsy Minority Authority in Hungary's northeastern town of Ozd, said local officials in Strasbourg told him that they discourage Roma from fleeing Hungary. He said Romany refugees would not be welcome in Strasbourg, and asylum applications would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Kotai said he will encourage Roma to remain in Hungary. In other news, residents of Budapest's 14th district are collecting signatures protesting the temporary housing of Romany families in the neighborhood. The 300 signatories claim that the 49 Roma threaten public security and decrease the value of apartments in the district. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

WOODROW WILSON CENTER RESEARCH GRANTS. The East European Studies (EES) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is soliciting applications for its Research Scholar Grants for American citizens (or permanent residents) in the early stages of their academic careers (generally before tenure but after Ph.D.) or to scholars whose careers have been interrupted or delayed. For non-academics, an equivalent degree of professional achievement is expected. Research scholarships will be awarded for 2-4 months of research in Washington, D.C. The deadline for receipt of applications is 1 November. For more information, look at the website: (Civil Society International, 18 July)

PUBLISHING STUDIES WORKSHOP. The Center for Publishing Development will hold a publishing studies workshop in Budapest from 30 October to 3 November for staff of publishing centers in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to evaluate their institutions. The review will deal with the role of publishing training centers, curriculum, learning materials, and management, including marketing and financing, as well as a presentation on 28 October on the impact of new technologies. The course is free of charge for participants from Eastern Europe and Central Asia; all local costs will be covered. Registration deadline is 15 September. E-mail: (International Journalists' Network, 14-18 August)

ONLINE NGO NETWORK. "Grassroots Good News," sponsored by The Threshold Foundation, is available at For more info, contact The "News" is a monthly electronic mailing list which presents alternative news, contributes to the online networking of NGOs, and contains news on human-rights monitoring, citizens' diplomacy, environmental activism, and conflict management. (MINELRES, 19 August)

OSCE CONCERNED AT RETREAT FROM DEMOCRACY. Ulrich Schoening, the outgoing head of the OSCE office in Kazakhstan, met in Astana on 16 August with First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov to discuss the political situation in the country, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Schoening noted "ebbs and flows" in the democratization process and a lack of mutual respect between the government and political parties and pressure groups. He endorsed the proposal, made last year by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, to convene a roundtable discussion between the authorities and the opposition. Pavlov, for his part, singled out as promising areas for cooperation in fighting poverty and unemployment, which President Nursultan Nazarbaev last week termed a priority for the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

CHARGES OF DISCRIMINATION AT OIL COMPANY. The Chinese management of the Aqtobemunaigaz oil company is violating the rights of the enterprise's Kazakh employees by granting unspecified privileges to Chinese workers who are not covered by Kazakhstan's labor laws, Interfax reported on 15 August, quoting an official from the Aqtobe Oblast prosecutor's office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

JOURNALISTS INVITED TO 'MASTER CLASS.' "Master Class Kazakhstan-2000" invites professional journalists from Kazakhstan to participate in a media program at the First International Arts Festival in Kazakhstan. Dedicated to modern culture, the media program will conduct competitions for print journalism, photojournalism, and online publications. The deadline for submissions is 20 August. For more information, visit E-mail: (International Journalists' Network, 14-18 August)

JOURNALIST HOSPITALIZED AFTER INTERROGATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Svetlana Krasilnikova, who is deputy editor of the independent weekly "Delo Nomer," was hospitalized with cardiac pains in Bishkek on 17 August, a day after being subjected to an eight-hour interrogation by the Kyrgyz Security Ministry, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office opened a court case against the newspaper earlier this month on charges of divulging state secrets in its reporting of the trial of former Security Minister Feliks Kulov ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August). The Glasnost Defense Foundation reported on 18 August that "Delo Nomer" editor-in-chief Viktor Zapolsky and reporter Vadim Notchevkin were also summoned for interrogation in connection with the paper's printing of the full name of a Ministry of National Security secret agent connected to the Kulov affair. (GDF, 18 August)

OPPOSITION POLITICIAN SUES GOVERNMENT PAPER. A member of the board of the opposition Ar-Namys Party, Omurbek Subanaliev, told an RFE/RL correspondent that he sued the governmental "Kyrgyz Tuusu" paper on 17 August, demanding 500,000-som (about $11,000) in compensation. The paper wrote that SubanAliyev is linked with Islamic rebels dealing in narcotics. According to the paper, the Islamic rebels want to kill SubanAliyev because of his huge debt to them. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 18 August)

SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN TO SUE A GOVERNMENT PAPER. The chairman of the Supreme Court, Akynbek Tilebaliev, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek that he has not resigned yet. The government daily "Kyrgyz Tuusu" claimed that TilebAliyev resigned in the aftermath of the Feliks Kulov case. According to the paper, TilebAliyev influenced Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov to acquit Kulov a week earlier because TilebAliyev and Ahymbekov are relatives. TilebAliyev says Judge Ashymbekov took an independent decision in accordance with the law and announced his intention to sue "Kyrgyz Tuusu" daily. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 16 August)

MEDIA VENTURES LAUNCHED. Despite a spate of repressive actions by Kyrgyz authorities against the independent media, two new media projects got underway in July. A new Kyrgyz-Uzbek News Agency, "Alliance-Press," was registered with the Ministry of Justice; it is to work "closely with already existing press institutions" and publish two national newspapers, "Demos Times" in Uzbek and "Jash Muun" ("New Generation") in Kyrgyz. The agency and newspapers will receive initial funding from a U.K.-based nonprofit organization. A Bishkek-based Russian-language publishing house, "Vecherny Bishkek," started a weekly supplement for southern Kyrgyzstan with a print run of 10,400. On 1 August, a private Information and Commercial Center, DDD (Dostuk-Druzhba-Dustlik, "Friendship" in Kyrgyz, Russian, and Uzbek), started radio broadcasts in Uzbek and Russian with assistance from the Russian company Sodruzhestvo. DDD also runs TV programming on UHF-ultra high frequency (mainly in Uzbek) for Osh and publishes a weekly newspaper titled "DDD" with a circulation of 1,500. (Osh Media Resource Center Press Release, 18 August)

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ALLEGE OFFICIAL HARASSMENT. Eight of the 17 registered candidates in the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential election convened a press conference in Bishkek on 21 August. They accused government and local officials of illegally obstructing their efforts to collect signatures in their support, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Parliamentary deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, deputy parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebaev, and former parliamentary deputy Yuruslan Toichubekov all said that members of their campaign staffs have been harassed or beaten. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

UNEMPLOYMENT [GREATER CONCERN] THAN DEFENSE. A poll conducted by SKDS indicated that unemployment is seen as the most pressing issue for the government, BNS reported on 15 August. The poll shows that 35.4 percent of respondents believe the government should place employment issues at the top of its agenda, followed by education (26.8 percent) and the standard of living (26.5 percent). Only 0.6 percent believed that national defense should be the top priority of the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

TELEPHONE MONOPOLY SUES GOVERNMENT. Tilts Communications, the Finnish-owned company running the telephone monopoly Lattelekom, has filed a complaint against the Latvian government with the Paris-based arbitration court of the International Chamber of Commerce, LETA reported on 15 August. The two sides are deadlocked over the shortening of the monopoly period for Lattelekom under a 1993 agreement. Tilts, which has a 49 percent stake in Lattelekom (the remaining 51 percent is owned by the state) and is owned by Finnish telecom company Sonera, believes that the original agreement gave Lattelekom a monopoly on fixed-line telephone services until 2014. Latvia has told the World Trade Organization that the monopoly would end in 2003, and the two sides have been negotiating a compensation deal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

NAZIS RALLY IN KAUNAS. The unregistered radical Lithuanian National Social Union held a rally outside the Kaunas City Hall on 16 August, just one week after a similar rally in the city of Siauliai, BNS reported. Party leader Mindaugas Murza told a crowd of about 150, some of whom were wearing Swastika-like symbols, that they are coming "to rescue the nation." Anti-Semitic statements were made at the rally, as well as harsh criticism of the national government, according to the BNS report. Radical Kaunas Mayor Vytautas Sustauskas was present at the rally for about half an hour and spoke to Murza at one point. Siauliai Mayor Vida Stasiunaite of the New Alliance (Social Liberals), who took part in last week's meeting, has been accused of being in cahoots with the National Socialists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

NEW CHILDREN'S TV SHOW. In October 1999, a new series aimed at children ages 7-12 began on Macedonian television, focusing on conflict resolution and intercultural understanding. The series is primarily in the Macedonian language, but some scenes are in Albanian, Turkish, and Romany. The series is co-produced by the Children's Television Workshop and Common Ground Productions. The show can be visited online at: (MINELRES, 19 August)

HELPING THE 'KURSK' DISASTER FAMILIES. In the aftermath of the tragedy in which 118 men died, five funds have been created--two state-managed and three private--to help their families. "The Moscow Times," in an 23 August editorial, says its first choice for donations is the 10-year-old private group "Fond Pravi Materi" (Mother's Rights Foundation), which also gives the option of splitting donations between the Kursk families and those who have lost relatives in the Chechen war. For more information on these funds, turn to

'KURSK' (NON)RESPONSE--MEDIA PRESSURE OR INDIFFERENCE TO LIFE? Noting that "Gorbachev took nine days to respond publicly to the Chornobyl disaster and still didn't tell the truth about it...Fourteen years later, Putin took four days to respond to the Kursk accident, but had difficulty lying due to intense media coverage. The shortening of the reporting period by five days and the more rapid involvement of the outside world is largely thanks to the Russian media," Catherine Fitzpatrick, executive director of the International League for Human Rights, concludes, however, "The Kursk non-response is not even so much about secrecy, or unwillingness to lose face in front of technologically superior foreigners. It is about indifference to human life...This comes from a bred-in belief that the ends justify the means and even violent means covered with the Big Lie. We used to call this Bolshevism." (Johnson's Russia List, 19 August)

NGOS PROTEST 'KURSK' CATASTROPHE. Referring to a constitutional pledge that human life is the "supreme value," a 17-18 August protest from NGOs from 16 Russian cities and regions also cites three Russian Federation laws which it deems Russian authorities to have violated in its handling of the "Kursk" tragedy. The protest, sent to President Vladimir Putin and other high-level Russian officials, was signed by 35 environmental, journalist, and human rights organizations, and calls for those responsible to stand trial. ("Vremya MN, 19 August)

STATE TV GETS EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO 'KURSK' DISASTER SITE... Advocating the right of some 200 journalists in Murmansk to get equal access to the scene of the accident, the Russian Union of Journalists sent a protest on 18 August to Igor Sergeev, the Russian Minister of Defense. This protest was caused, in part, by VGTRK (All-Russian State TV-Radio Company, controlled by the federal government) having exclusive access to the cruiser, "Petr Veliky," the base for "Kursk" rescue operations. Vladimir Kuroedov, the Russian Military Fleet chief commander, personally decided to grant exclusive access to RTR, the 19 August "Kommersant" reported, reportedly after talks with Oleg Dobrodeev, VGTRK chairman. As a result, RTR (the TV arm of VGTRK) set up a satellite dish on board "Petr Veliky" for its exclusive live TV broadcasts.

...WHILE OTHER MEDIA FROZEN OUT ON SHORE. In Murmansk, representatives of some 20 news agencies--not to mention submariners' relatives--got no official information on the accident. Radio "Mayak" on 17 August observed that official silence only increases fear and noted that Northern Fleet commanders "had not lowered by a millimeter the iron curtain of cruel and illegal censorship." After bribing a navy official for exclusive rights to the list of 118 "Kursk" submariners, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reportedly may face criminal prosecution for printing this list on 18 August.

CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT EVER MORE AUDIBLE. The Russian government--and President Vladimir Putin, in particular--is increasingly being subjected to scathing criticism over the operation to save the "Kursk" crew. "Komsomolskaya pravda," whose major shareholders are Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, and "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, both chided the president for making no comment on the accident until 16 August, several days after the event, while Murmansk residents interviewed by CNN expressed disbelief that the president remains on vacation in Sochi at a time of national crisis. "Kommersant-Daily," controlled by businessman Boris Berezovskii, remarked that Putin and other senior government officials have avoided taking any responsibility because they would prefer that those leading the rescue operation ultimately shoulder the blame for any deaths. "Izvestiya," which is owned by Interros and LUKoil, similarly accused the government of seeking to save face rather than lives, commenting that the authorities have "hit the bottom" along with the "Kursk." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

MEDIA CRITICISM CONTINUES UNABATED. Following confirmation of the death of the "Kursk" crew, there has been no let-up in the media criticism of Russian officials' handling of the rescue operation. "Novye izvestiya," which is controlled by Boris Berezovsky, accused those officials of having concealed the truth from the public, saying that the "Norwegian divers broke through the lies and sabotage." "Segodnya," which is part of Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST group, argued that the "Kursk" tragedy had shown the "catastrophic" weakness of the Russian state, while "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is owned by Berezovsky, criticized Putin for taking his spin doctors' advice not to travel to the scene of the disaster, adding that after the successes of his first 100 days in office, the president now appears to be "running [in place]." "Vremya MN," which reportedly receives indirect financing from the Central Bank, predicted that "a hot political autumn" awaits Putin: "The catastrophe in the Barents Sea is becoming a cause to create a united opposition against the president" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August). Reuters, while acknowledging that some incorrect official statements in the "Kursk" affair "could have been caused by the fluid situation and lack of information," published a chronology of "official falsehoods." (Reuters, 21 August)

JULY PROVES BUSY MONTH FOR PRESS CENSORSHIP. "Versiya" published monthly data complied by the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost--which monitors press freedom across Russia--in issue number 30 for 8-14 August . According to the fund, three journalists were killed in July--Igor Domnikov of "Novaya Gazeta" of Moscow, Nikolai Kolesov of "Revdinsky rabochy" of Sverdlovsk Oblast, and Sergei Novikov of the radio station "Vesna" in Smolensk. Another three are missing--Sergei Semenduev of Makhachala, Viktor Petrov of the telecommunications company RIO in Samara, and Vladimir Yatsina of ITAR-TASS in Moscow. Also in July, six journalists were attacked: Mikhail Sidulin of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in Moscow, Yurii Vasiltsev of "Vecherny Novorossiisk," Andrei Barys of "Uralsky rabochy" of Perm Oblast, Sergei Melnikov of the telecommunications company ASB-Prestizh in Yekaterinburg, Aleksandr Tsaplin of the telecommunications company Magnit in Belgorod, and Anton Zharov of "Mayak" radio in Moscow. In addition, there were five cases of printers refusing to publish newspapers; four of these were in Penza Oblast and one in Moscow Oblast. The fund also reported that official press censorship appears to be occurring in Kaliningrad Oblast, where a new state position, deputy governor for information security, has been created. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August)

NTV CHIEF: 'GAZPROM PRESSURED BY KREMLIN.' Russian authorities have put "tremendous pressure" on Gazprom management, claims NTV Director-General Yevgenii Kiselyov in the 18 August "Kommersant," "resulting in the failure of talks" to settle its debts with Gazprom. Talks focused on repaying a $211 million portion of the total $486 million debt, said Kiselyov, which, under a "previous arrangement," Gazprom was to pay and "take over the Media-MOST stake in NTV." Due to official interference, Kiselyov claimed, Gazprom managers have "gone back" on this arrangement. Nevertheless, "Kommersant" reported, London talks continue between Gusinsky's lawyers and Gazprom over the future of the tycoon's controlling interest in Media-MOST. (Interfax, 18 August)

[YEKATERINBURG TV HAS SUBLIMINAL ADS?] The federal Media Ministry on 17 August suspended the broadcasting license of the Yekaterinburg-based television company ATN for two months because the station had been using subliminal advertising or "one-sequence inserts that viewers cannot perceive visually" but are reported to be registered subconsciously by viewers. The station periodically flashed on Sverdlovsk's channel 34 five one-shot inserts reading "Sit and Watch only ATN." First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii noted that "today [Russia] does not have any guarantees that any company might conduct a similar experiment, referred to in textbooks as one of the standard methods of psychological warfare," according to the website ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

MARI-EL PRINT RUN OF 'SOVERSHENNO SEKRETNO' DESTROYED. During the week of 7 August, Mari-El Republic President Vyacheslav Kislitzin gave an order to destroy issue No. 8 (135), a 2,000-print run of the "Sovershenno Sekretno" ("Top Secret") newspaper. The issue included an article: "The Fist's Dictatorship," which called Kislitzin a criminal who has been convicted 10 times. Editorial staffs of other local newspapers were also told not to reprint the article. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 18 August)

TATARSTAN JOURNALISTS' UNION STATUS. Rimma Ratnikova, chairman of the Tatarstan Journalists' Union, told "Zvezda Povolzhya" (10-16 August) about relations between the Journalists' Unions of Tatarstan and Russia. The union she represents did not join the Russian Journalists' Union, but in 1995 became an associate member. In the early 1990s the Tatarstan Journalists' Union joined the International Confederation of Journalists' Unions, successor to the Soviet Journalists' Union, with equal status to the Russian Journalists Union. ("RFE/RL Tatarstan Weekly Review," 11-17 August)

FOUR SIBERIAN TV STATIONS' LICENSES REVALIDATED. A Moscow arbitration court on 10 August reversed the Russian Federation Press Ministry order which had invalidated licenses for NTSC TV stations in Kemerovo, Barnaul, Omsk, and Tomsk, "Moskovsky Komsomolets" reported in Novosibirsk. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 21 August)

NIZHNI NOVGOROD TV CREW ATTACKED. The Russian Union of Journalists has made an official complaint to the city procurator, stating that on 11 August a "Volga" TV crew was assaulted by I. Serebryakova, the general director of a local hotel, and her assistants. The crew, which was attempting to film inside the hotel, was ordered by the hotel group to leave its premises at once. When the TV crew refused, the hotel personnel--who did not produce any documents--tried to seize the crew's TV camera. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 17 August)

IS ROSTOV-ON-DON PAPER TOO COURTLY? After "Gazeta Dona" published an article, "Prosecutor, Beware of Prosecutors," about the Rostov oblast procuracy staff involved in a major corruption case in Novocherkassk, an oblast prosecutor took the newspaper to court for libel. Even before the courts had reached a final verdict on appeal, court bailiffs came to the paper's offices, confiscated the paper's property, froze its bank account, and seized all its accounting files. (RFE/RL Russian Service, 9 August)

BASKHIR NEWSPAPER EDITOR FIRED FIRST DAY BACK ON THE JOB. After his paper printed some articles critical of the local government, Viktor Savelyov, editor-in-chief of the "Molodezhnoi gazeti Bashkirii," was fired from his job in April by order of the Bashkortostan press minister. By court order Savelyov was reinstated in his post; when he went to resume his duties in August, he was again dismissed--the official pretext was that all Bashkortostan youth newspapers are to be published by one publishing house and therefore he was no longer needed. (RFE/RL Russian Service, 9 August)

NEW ESTIMATE OF INTERNET USERS. The number of Russians who have used the Internet at least once has exceeded 9.2 million, Interfax reported on 17 August, quoting Andrei Milekhin, director-general of the Agency (see Milekhin is predicting that Russia's Internet users might grow to some 11 million by the end of the year, with a weekly figure of 3.5 million. Last April, International Data Corp. estimated that 2 million people in Russia were using the Internet and projected a 40 percent rise in their number by the end of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

...AND INTERNET IS NOW VIEWED AS POTENTIAL PROPAGANDA TOOL. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" recently stated that "in Russia there are over 26 million--with a median age of 33--regular users of the Internet as an information source...[and] 64 percent rely on the Internet for political news." While the Internet's political influence in Russia is likely to be greater than expected, the web is also known for being worldwide and difficult--if not impossible--for any government to control. The paper concludes that the Internet is likely to play a key role in future "information wars" and upcoming elections. (The Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 21 August)

NEW PORTAL FOR JOURNALISTS. A new website, has been launched for journalists and non-profit organizations in Russia to exchange information and use resources, Internews reported. The site is a portal of a new project of educational programs and competitions for journalists and NGO leaders from Perm, Barnaul, Murmansk, and Kaliningrad. Students will prepare news reports for the program's wire service and there will be a media seminar in London. The site is sponsored by the Independent Broadcasting Foundation, the Agency of Social Information, and the British Charities Aid Foundation. (International Journalists' Network, 14-18 August)

EDUCATION MINISTRY TALKS TO TEACHERS ONLINE. Teachers across Russia got a chance to meet "online" with First Deputy Education Minister Aleksandr Kiselev and the head of the department for secondary education, Margarita Leontievaya, on 21 August during the first Internet conference "Pedsovet-2000," "Segodnya" reported. Education Minister Vladimir Filippov said that his ministry hopes to connect with all regions of Russia to discuss the problems of the new school year. The daily notes that although only teachers in a few schools in large cites have access to computers at work, the number of teachers signed up to participate in the conference is "not small." According to the newspaper, 70 percent of schools do not have even one computer--let alone access to the World Wide Web. The ministry has tried to find computers for village schools, but reportedly even fairly "rich" companies such as Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems have offered nothing better than outdated IBM 386s. The Internet conference will conclude on 30 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

PAYING THE PRICE FOR A FREE EDUCATION. RFE/RL's "Korrespondentsky chas" program reported on 5 August on the lamentable state of funding for schools in the city of Cherepovets. According to the broadcast, it has long been a tradition that parents of the city's schoolchildren have helped to pay for the refurbishing of crumbling premises, for school equipment, and even for the wages of security personnel. This year, however, those same parents are being asked to dig even deeper into their pockets and come up with funds for their children's textbooks (many of which are new following recent changes in teaching methods). If a child requires up to 30 such books, the cost of which can range from 30 rubles ($1.08) to 70 rubles, the RFE/RL program calculates that the total amount required is equivalent to the city's average monthly wage--meanwhile the Russian Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to a free secondary education. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August)

BUS DRIVERS SAY NO MORE FREE RIDES AT EXPENSE OF WAGES... Workers in Russia's transportation sector held a nationwide protest on 15 August. In Moscow, some 300 people picketed the government building and the Ministry of Transport demanding that their overdue wages be paid in full and free rides for passengers be halted, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. According to the protest participants, one-third of Russian passengers have the right to free transportation or buy tickets only at a "symbolic price." Aleksandr Shurikov, chairman of the Moscow branch of the union, told the website that his union is not against passes per se but is "against them in such quantities." In St. Petersburg, some 200 protestors gathered while other protest actions also took place in Orenburg Oblast and Khabarovsk Krai, ITAR-TASS reported. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, if workers' demands are not fulfilled, they are threatening to launch a nationwide strike. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

...WHILE OTHERS ARE PAID IN PAPER, RATHER THAN MONEY. From 70 to 80 percent of subscribers to "Narodnaya gazeta" in Ulyanovsk Oblast are receiving subscriptions rather than wages, according to the "Simbirsky kurier." "Narodnaya gazeta" is the official newspaper of the oblast administration and the local legislative council. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 21 August)

ORTHODOX CHURCH ADOPTS FAR-REACHING SOCIAL POLICY. The Russian Orthodox Church's Council of Bishops on 14 August adopted a unique, 120-page document defining the church's position on all aspects of life--from foreign policy to education, the mass media, the military, and law enforcement, Russian agencies reported. The document says the state should not involve clerics in political activity; at the same time, it advises the clergy not to be "directly involved in intelligence activities," a hint of the role played by the KGB in the life of the Church under communism. In other passages, the doctrine opposes the abolition of the death penalty "in view of the high levels of crime" in Russia at the present time. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 21 August)

ORTHODOX CHURCH CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG CHRISTIANS. "The Moscow Times" reported the next day that the latter document rejects Protestant-inspired concepts of an "invisible Church" of all Christians, regardless of their denomination, or a "theory of branches." Rather, it speaks about the importance of Christ's commandment of unity and says it is a duty of every Orthodox Christian to work toward such unity. According to Interfax, the document calls for forming ties between individual Orthodox and Catholic congregations, rather than among Church leaders in Moscow and Rome. According to the daily, Reverend Igor Kowalewski, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Curia in Moscow, said the document is a "very positive step," and he compared it to policies adopted by the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican II Council in the 1960s. The social doctrine condemns homosexuality, abortions, cloning, and certain medical practices such as fetal therapy and the sale and purchase of human organs, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO ENVIRONMENTALISTS' CRITICISM? Less than three months after President Putin disbanded the State Ecology Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000), the government and the Ministry for Natural Resources have decided to create an independent State Service for Ecological Control by November of this year, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 August. According to the daily, the new service will follow the approach of the old committee by ensuring that licensing agreements to exploit natural resources are being fulfilled rather than overseeing how investors affect the environment. The newspaper also reported that the Ministry of Natural Resources will confirm the members of the new service. A number of environmental groups criticized the government when it eliminated the State Ecology Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2000). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

TATAR OPPOSITIONIST CALLS FOR UNANIMITY WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES. In an interview with TatarInform on 11 August, Rafis Kashapov, who heads the Chally branch of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, argued that the republic's authorities and democratic organizations should combine forces as a first step toward defending the republic's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 August. Then, he said, they should align with other republics in the Volga-Urals region. Kashapov blamed security forces for thwarting earlier attempts to create a united front. "If things continue the way they are going, Tatarstan will become a 'guberniya,' we'll lose our president and constitution. If we remain silent, we'll face baptism, the annihilation of our language, culture, religion, and national traditions," he said. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August)

TATARSTAN SOVEREIGNTY DISCUSSED BY ETHNIC MINORITIES. Sagit Dzhaksybaev, President of the Association of National-Cultural Organizations (ANKO), said on 11 August that Tatarstan serves as a model for the resolution of interethnic problems, reported the daily "Respublika Tatarstan" on 12 August. In his opinion, a main reason for this success is that the republic does not have a nationalities ministry. Instead, interethnic relations are handled by public organizations with the republic government, augmented by popular diplomacy and the Tatar diaspora. Another successful aspect of Tatarstan's ethnic policy, Dzhaksybaev said, has been a Tatarstan-wide organization. This organization, formed at the first Tatarstan congress in 1992, brings together 100 cultural communities of various nationalities in the republic, including 24 in Kazan. He said this organization and the Tatarstan Interior Ministry had recently signed an agreement on joint activity concerning often difficult relations with immigrants from other CIS countries. ("RFE/RL Tatarstan Weekly Review," 11-17 August)

EXPLOSION RIPS CAPITAL. An explosion on 18 August damaged a building in central Prishtina used by the OSCE for its program to promote democracy. The building is home to several ethnic Albanian and Serbian political parties. It also houses a restaurant, some trade union offices, and the offices of Belgrade's representatives in Kosova. A NATO spokesman said that one person was injured and several are in shock. He added that the explosion appears to have been caused by a bomb. Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in the province, said the bomb was planted by "enemies of democracy. A bomb is a very undemocratic means" of expressing one's views, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

GOVERNMENT PRESSURE INCREASES AS ELECTIONS APPROACH. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) issued a statement on 22 August strongly protesting "the resumption and intensification of independent media repression in Serbia as elections approach." (ANEM Press Release, 22 August)

U.S. DEFENDS BUDAPEST OFFICE AGAINST SERBIAN REGIME, OPPOSITION CRITICISM. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 17 August that the main purpose of the State Department's newly opened Budapest office is to "support the full range of democratic forces in Serbia and coordinate [those support activities] in Budapest." Both Serbian opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica and Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic have called the office an example of "gross interference" in Serbia's internal affairs. Reeker said: "We believe that Mr. Kostunica is indeed a genuine democratic leader, and he is entitled to his opinions. That doesn't mean that we have to agree with him in all of those opinions." Referring to Sainovic, Reeker noted that he is an indicted war criminal who, "like his cohort, [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, and others, belongs in The Hague rather than trying to make comments about the opposition or democracy in Serbia," Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

ANOTHER PRIVATE SERBIAN RADIO STATION'S PROGRAMS BLOCKED... Serbia's Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) said in a statement from Belgrade on 17 August that "the signal of Radio Jasenica in Smederevska Palanka has been [blocked] since the night of 16 August. Radio Jasenica technicians have determined that a new transmitter is illegally broadcasting state media's first program on Jasenica's frequency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

...AND STUDENT ACTIVISTS CHARGED. Serbian authorities on 15 August charged three Otpor activists in the Vojvodina town of Indija with "spreading false information," Reuters reported. One of the students told reporters that "we have no idea what we've been accused of doing." He added, however, that the charges are probably linked to Otpor's attempt to hold a benefit concert in Indija recently. Police arrested a total of five additional Otpor activists in two other Serbian towns on 15 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

CONTROVERSIAL INITIATIVE TO UNITE ISLAMIC COMMUNITIES. Current estimates of the total Muslim population in the former Republic of Yugoslavia are about 2.5 million. This population is of various ethnicities, including Albanians, Slav Muslims (defined as a separate ethnic group), Roma, and Turks. Muslims from Bosnia prefer to be called Bosniaks and aspire to greater unity with the Bosnian Islamic Faith Community (IFC). The Islamic Faith Communities in two areas of the FR Yugoslavia met recently to discuss the possibility of forming a new organization uniting all the local Islamic communities. A key Muslim leader in Belgrade, Hadzi Hamdija Efendi Jusufspahic--the Mufti of the Islamic Faith Community in Belgrade and of the Serbia IFC, as well as vice president of the World Islamic Federation for the Quran--did not attend the meeting. The leaders who called the meeting--the IFC of Sandzak--maintain their desire is for religious unity, though they did mention that the spiritual center of such a union would indeed be in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital of Sarajevo. (Keston News Service, 17 August)

SCHUSTER RETURNS TO SLOVAKIA. After being transferred to an Innsbruck clinic on 25 June for emergency surgery, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster returned home on 15 August, CTK reported. On his return, he told journalists that "I felt the strength of our citizens when I read in the newspaper about how the whole of Slovakia was living through it with me." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

NORWAY LIFTS VISA REQUIREMENT. The Norwegian government lifted visa requirements for Slovak nationals as of midnight on 15 August, CTK reported. Norwegian officials said that they took this step as a result of Bratislava's efforts to improve the conditions of Roma living in Slovakia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

CLEANERS MAKE DISCOVERY. Economics Minister Joze Zagozen told a press conference in Ljubljana on 17 August that cleaners recently discovered several listening devices in his offices. He said he will wait until he has more information before drawing any firm conclusions. The discovery appears to be but the latest chapter in an ongoing affair involving the ministry, state-run companies, and the police, "Dnevnik" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

UN NOTES ETHNIC DISPARITIES. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted in its 10 August report specific measures taken by the Slovenian government for the promotion and protection of the human rights of the Romany population. The committee expressed concern that minority groups, such as Croats, Serbs, Bosnians, and Roma, did not enjoy the same level of protection by the state as the Italian and Hungarian minorities. It recommended that Slovenia ensure that persons or groups of persons belonging to other minorities are not discriminated against. (MINELRES, 21 August)

FOREIGN REPORTERS DENIED NEWS? Foreign journalists accredited in Tajikistan find it "practically impossible" to get news about events on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, claims the 18 August "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Apparently, no one answers telephones in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or in the presidential administration, while officials in the ministries of security and defense, as well as the Committee to Defend State Borders, avoid answering questions. (

PRACTICING PROTESTANTS OUTNUMBER ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS. According to local church leaders, the total number of regular Protestant worshippers in Tajikistan already exceeds 3,000, compared with approximately 1,500 Orthodox. The main reason seems to be that whereas the Protestants seek members from all ethnic groups, including Tajiks, the Orthodox confine themselves to traditionally Orthodox, mainly Slavic, populations. (Keston News Service,15 August)

AN EARLY 1900'S PHOTO ESSAY. After Tsarist Russia's conquest of Central Asia, some of the Russians who went to the newly acquired territories brought cameras. Their photographic record of Central Asian life at the turn of the century was brought to light by Tajik film director Davlat Khudonazarov and is available at: (EurasiaNet Weekly Update, 18 August)

RFE/RL REPORTER IN ASHGABAT WILL REPORT DESPITE POLITICAL PRESSURE. Despite increasing pressure from Turkmen authorities to stop reporting for RFE/RL, Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, the Turkmen Service correspondent in Ashgabat, will continue his work. Ovezberdiev was told yesterday by the KNB, the National Security forces formerly known as the KGB, that he can no longer report for RFE/RL because he is not accredited in Turkmenistan. Yet, RFE/RL has official permission from the Turkmen Foreign Ministry enabling its journalists to work in the republic. The ban on Ovezberdiev's reporting would leave the RFE/RL Turkmen Service without an official correspondent inside Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, 18 August)

ASSAULT ON JOURNALIST PROTESTED. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) "expressed outrage" to President Leonid Kuchma over the 14 August attack on Valentina Vasilchenko, a free-lance journalist from the city of Cherkassy. She was beaten up by two unknown men, apparently in retaliation for a series of articles in April on police brutality and corruption in the local independent Russian-language weekly "Antenna." In one article, Vasilchenko reported that local police had charged a resident with manslaughter in a killing they allegedly had committed themselves. CPJ called on Kuchma to investigate the attack "immediately and thoroughly." (CPJ Press Release, 22 August)

ONLINE PAPER REPORTEDLY HARASSED. Law enforcement officials have allegedly been harassing the editor and several staff members of "Ukrainska Pravda" (Ukrainian Truth), a popular independent Internet publication on Ukrainian politics, reports the 20 July "Kiev Post."

JOURNALISTS POLLED ON PROBLEMS. A recent poll of leading journalists conducted by the respected weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli" asked journalists what subjective factors hinder impartial coverage of news in Ukraine. Journalists listed shortage of information, fear, and faintheartedness as the top-three factors. (

TOLERANCE IS THE BASIS OF SECURITY. The Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) is concerned that "influential political forces" inside and outside Uzbekistan raise a furor about "international terrorism" and "Islamic extremism." While the HRSU is "deeply concerned" about the current conflict on the Uzbek-Tajik border, it also points out there is little information available about it. Although the HRSU is in "open opposition" to the Uzbekistan government, it "does not support intolerance in any form, including terrorism." Indeed, the HRSU states, it is the "government's intolerant policies towards dissent [--worsening every year since 1992--] which is responsible for schisms in Uzbekistan society." (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Press Release, 18 August)

STATE SECURITY VERSUS RELIGIOUS LIBERTY? "In the past two years, in response to several security emergencies, the Uzbek government has arrested thousands of men for 'religious extremism,' distributing religious leaflets, and membership in banned religious organizations," Human Rights Watch asserts. "Arrests have also targeted people who prayed in mosques not run by the government; sentences range from 15-20 years in prison. Last week, Fakhriddin Tursunov, head of the Tashkent region's directorate of the National Security Service (SNB), exhorted the public to help police find "supporters of the terrorists," and "distributors of leaflets." "There is a big difference between taking legitimate steps to protect state security and marching someone off to prison for 15 years because he might have religious leaflets," said Ms. Denber, Acting Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 17 August)

BROTHERS OF EXILED OPPOSITION MEMBER REPORTEDLY ARRESTED. Uzbekistan authorities reportedly arrested Mannon and Husniddin Hamroev in Navoi Oblast on 18 August. They are the older and younger brothers of Bahrom Hamroev, head of the Zarafshon branch of the banned Birlik (Unity) opposition movement, who has been in Moscow exile since December 1992, according to the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. The Hamroev family has been subjected to threats, detention--on suspicion of importing into Uzbekistan Birlik's "Harakat" journal--house searches, and forced exile. For more information, contact,,, or

CALL TO RESPECT HUMANITARIAN LAW IN CENTRAL ASIAN CONFLICT. "More than a 1,000 civilians have evacuated Surkhandarya province in southwest Uzbekistan [in August]...This is an internal armed conflict, and there are rules that apply to protect civilians," said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 17 August)

KAZAKH, UZBEK PRESIDENTS SEEK TO EXPEDITE LEGAL REFORM. Addressing prominent lawyers in Astana on 14 August, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev instructed them to prepare amendments to the bill "On the Courts and the Status of Judges," Interfax reported. That law is intended to strengthen the independence of the judiciary from the executive. In Tashkent, Uzbek President Islam Karimov issued a decree similarly intended to make the country's legal system more democratic, Interfax reported. The decree will ensure the prompt conduct of trials and increase the legal protection of individual, political, social, and economic rights and freedoms, according to the presidential press service. Meanwhile, Amnesty International on 15 August issued an appeal on behalf of four young Uzbek men whose appeals against the death sentences handed down to them by a Samarkand court for separate murders have been rejected. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

'RACIAL BIAS' IN SLOVAKIA/CZECH REPUBLIC? The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on 11 August adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Slovakia and the Czech Republic in regard to racial bias in those countries. On Slovakia, CERD was concerned about "allegations that the police and prosecutors had failed to investigate acts of racially-motivated violence promptly and effectively, and had been reluctant to identify racial motive behind attacks." Slovakia was urged "to take all necessary measures to ensure that Roma enjoyed the full right to health and health care." As for the Czech Republic, CERD expressed concern "that the Roma continued to be subjected to discrimination and at the ineffective implementation of existing legislation to prosecute the perpetrators of incitement of racial hatred and support to racist movements." It recommended that "effective measures be taken to eradicate promptly practices of racial segregation, including the placement of a disproportionate number of Romany children in special schools." As to the positive aspects, CERD noted the declaration by Slovakia and the Czech Republic on their "recognition of the committee's competence to receive and consider communications from individuals, claiming to be victims of a violation by the State party of any of the rights set forth in that treaty." (MINELRES, 21 August)

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN ENGAGE IN POLEMIC OVER POWS. The Armenian National Security Ministry issued a statement on 16 August rejecting as "lies and falsification" a statement made in Baku two days earlier by Ramiz Gurbanov, a spokesman for its Azerbaijani counterpart, Noyan Tapan reported. Gurbanov had claimed that Armenia still holds a total of 783 Azerbaijani hostages and prisoners of war. He also accused Armenia of reneging on a promise to release two prisoners of war on 14 August. The Armenian National Security Ministry asserted that there are still an unspecified number of Azerbaijani prisoners in Armenia, but it added that some of them do not wish to return to Azerbaijan. The ministry also said that unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia allows the International Committee of the Red Cross free access to all prisoners of war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)


In "Speak Louder, the FSB (Federal Security Service) is Listening," "Segodnya" notes "unpopular decisions are always made in Russia at the end of summer" and that in contrast to the West, the wiretapping decree "has been passed in secret." The 22 August article prints portions of a decree (No. 130) issued on 25 July by the Russian Ministry for Communications and Information Science. According to "Segodnya," this decree "introduces total wiretapping of communication lines." The decree was registered by the Russian Ministry of Justice on 9 August (No. 2339), under the title, "On the Procedure for the Introduction of a System of Technical Facilities for the Provision of Operational-Search Measures on Telephone Lines, Mobile and Wireless Networks, and Pagers." (The complete text is available at The RFE/RL Russian Service noted on 21 August that "the decree does not require the FSB to show documentation to justify wiretapping to technicians during investigations," nor does it "require the FSB to reveal the names of those being wiretapped." Furthermore, the operators of communications companies "must purchase the necessary wiretapping equipment at their own expense" and "must in all cases assist FSB officials."