16 November 2000, Volume
According to a new World Bank study, "The Quality of Growth," Poland, the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic provide the most equitable opportunities for schooling. New research also suggests that strengthening the implementation of the rule of law or reducing corruption from the levels in countries such as Ukraine to the levels of countries such as Hungary is, over the long term, associated with at least a doubling of average incomes. Civil and political liberties and freedom of press help to reduce corruption, improve the effectiveness of social spending and safety nets, and increase the productivity of investments. The "Quality of Growth" and the World Bank's new development forum can be both viewed at http://www.worldbank.org/devforum/forum_qog.html. See also the Bank's new World Development Report at http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/wdrpoverty/. ("The Economist," 7 October)NGO NOMINATIONS FOR UN CONFERENCE COMMITTEE.
Nominations for the election of an NGO Coordinating Committee of the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance are being organized. The deadline is 24 November after having been pushed back to allow more NGOs to participate. Contact http://www.icare.to (MINELRES, 14 November)SUMMER COURSE ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
A summer course for archivists, historians, social scientists, political scientists, and journalists will be held at the Open Society Archives of Political Parties after the Collapse of Communism at the Central European University (CEU) in Hungary. There are possible scholarships for East-Central European citizens and for some Western applicants. Contact Ivacs Gabriella at firstname.lastname@example.org; the application deadline is 15 January. Visit the Summer Program website at http://www.osa.ceu.hu/ArchivalBridge/projects&partners/sun2001.htmFREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS.
Data on freedom information laws can be found at: http://www.accessreports.com/statutes/FOIA.htm or http://www.usdoj.gov/04foia/index.html. The Freedom of Information Center website at the University of Missouri has an international FOI section (http://www.missouri.edu) as does The First Amendment Project at (http://www.thefirstamendment.org).HELSINKI CITIZENS' GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
The fifth general assembly of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (hCa) took place from 28 October to 1 November in Azerbaijan. Attendees included over 500 civic peace and human rights activists, mainly from the Caucasus and the Balkans; there were 41 Armenian participants, with 12 from Nagorno-Karabakh. Among other initiatives, the hCa produced the Baku Appeal for Dialogue between Cultures and Civilizations, among local Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities as well as the Parallel Summerschool for Intercultural Dialogue and Understanding. (Helsinki Citizens' Assembly South Caucasus Project, 3 November)
AUTHORITIES FAIL TO RELEASE DETAINED BUSINESSMAN.
Arkadii Vartanian, head of the 21st Century Association, was transferred to the Armenian National Security Ministry on 9 November, one day before his 10-day administrative arrest was due to expire, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was detained at the end of last month for leading an unsanctioned march to the presidential palace on 30 October. Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian said last week that Vartanian had been charged with calling for the violent overthrow of the Armenian leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)
OPPOSITION PLANS PROTESTS.
The leaders of five Azerbaijani opposition parties--Musavat, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and the conservative wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party--adopted a statement in Baku on 9 November accusing the Azerbaijani authorities of usurping power by falsifying the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported. They called on other "democratic powers" not to cooperate with the new legislature and appealed to the international community not to recognize the poll outcome as valid. Also on 9 November, the Central Electoral Commission ruled to invalidate the elections results in one rural constituency. It had already done so in a district in Baku and another in Sumgait. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)FIVE OPPOSITION PARTIES CALL FOR ANNULMENT OF PARLIAMENTARY POLL...
Meeting in Baku on 11 November, representatives of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP), the Democratic, Liberal, Musavat Parties and the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party called for the annulment of the 5 November parliamentary poll and new elections, Interfax and Turan reported. They also called on President Heidar Aliyev to resign. The previous day, a Central Electoral Commission told Turan that of 96 deputies elected in single-mandate constituencies, 62 represent the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party and 26 are independent. The vote in the three remaining constituencies has been annulled. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and Musavat each have two deputies, while AMIP, Ana Veten, the Social Prosperity Party, and the Alliance for Azerbaijan have one each. The Central Election Commission has meanwhile asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate reports of widespread violations and falsification of the ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)...AS U.S. CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF IRREGULARITIES.
In a statement issued on 7 November, the U.S. State Department said that Washington concurs with the OSCE Election Mission's assessment that the 5 November Azerbaijani parliamentary poll did not meet international standards, Reuters reported. The statement called on the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate violations that occurred during the voting and ballot count and correct the final tally accordingly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November)BUT OFFICIALS INSIST PARLIAMENTARY POLL WAS FREE, FAIR, AND DEMOCRATIC.
Ali Ahmedov, who is executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP), told journalists in Baku on 8 November that the parliamentary ballot three days earlier was free, fair, and democratic, Turan reported. He added that the number of votes garnered by the various Azerbaijani political parties accurately reflects their relative popularity. YAP reportedly received 70 percent of the vote under the proportional system. Also on 8 November, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Mazahir Panahov similarly argued that the failure of all but two parties to win the minimum 6 percent of the vote required for representation under the proportional system shows that other parties "lack a social base." Panahov said he does not doubt international election monitors' claims that they witnessed "some" procedural violations, but he added that he doubts such "irregularities" occurred nationwide. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)KARABAKH OFFICIAL DENIES PLANS TO RESETTLE KURDS ON OCCUPIED TERRITORY.
A spokesman for the presidential staff of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has rejected as untrue Azerbaijani media reports that the enclave's authorities have reached agreement with representatives of international Kurdish organizations on resettling several hundred Kurdish families from Syria and Iraq in the Kelbadjar and Lachin areas of Azerbaijan, according to Groong, citing Snark of 8 November. Those districts are controlled by Karabakh army troops. Turan reported on 8 November that the Kurdish settlers would be granted Armenian citizenship. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS 'LET THEM WAIT.'
The failure of Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry to convene a meeting of the ministry's board for the past four months has held up the registration of up to 20 religious organizations, despite a requirement in the country's religion law that the ministry register or reject registration within 15 days. The board's head told the Keston Institute, "Let them wait." (Keston News Service, 9 November)
POLICE DISPERSE YOUTH MARCH IN MINSK, ARREST 100 PEOPLE.
Riot police on 12 November dispersed a crowd of several hundred youths who were marching in Minsk under the slogan "[We Want] Changes!" The march, organized by a coalition of non-state youth groups, had been banned by the city authorities. Belapan reported that the Minsk police arrested some 100 participants. "Young people do not want to live in a country of lies and violence, of deceit and fear, of servile mentality and dictatorship," Pavel Sevyarynets, head of the Youth Front, told journalists before the demonstration. The same day, youth groups staged similar protests against the ruling regime in 25 Belarusian cities, albeit on a smaller scale. Arrests were reported in Hrodna, western Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)
MINISTER REPRIMANDED FOR HITTING JOURNALIST.
Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov refused calls on 7 November for him to sack Justice Minister Teodossyi Simeonov, who punched a newspaper photographer three days earlier, Reuters reported. Kostov said Simeonov's behavior "cast an unfavorable light on the government...which respects the media and public opinion." The ruling UDF called on Simeonov to apologize to the photographer, who works for the newspaper "Sega." Simeonov said he was defending his constitutional right not to be photographed without his permission. Bulgaria's nine largest daily newspapers made a joint declaration that called for Kostov to sack Simeonov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)PARLIAMENT ADOPTS DECLARATION ON VISAS FOR EU.
The Bulgarian parliament adopted a declaration on 10 November demanding that the EU end its visa regime against Bulgarians, AP reported. Bulgaria and Romania are the only two EU candidate countries that are excluded from having visa-free travel within the Union. Bulgarian politicians have expressed annoyance at being placed at the same level as Romania, recognized as the country among the 12 EU aspirants that needs the most reform. The vote followed a strongly-worded speech by Premier Kostov condemning the visa regulations. All 233 of the 240 deputies present in the chamber voted for the declaration. Kostov said "Bulgaria must defend its national interest by preparing for an active and strong foreign policy response in case visa restrictions are not lifted. We must...not let ourselves be treated as third-hand Europeans." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 November)
PROTESTERS END BLOCKADES OF CZECH-AUSTRIAN BORDER CROSSINGS.
Austrian anti-nuclear activists on 9 November ended the blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings, Czech media reported. The activists had been seeking to force the Czech government to postpone the launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant. A spokesman for Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 9 November that the end of the blockades paves the way for a meeting between Zeman and his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, in December. Earlier this week, Zeman had cancelled a meeting with Schuessel to protest the continuing border blockades. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)
DEMONSTRATION PARTICIPANT DIES.
An unnamed participant in the 28 October Tbilisi demonstration by supporters of deceased Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia has died in hospital, Caucasus Press reported on 8 November. Vakhtang Bochorishvili, leader of the 21st Century parliament faction, has called for an investigation to ascertain whether the demonstrator died of injuries received when police used violence to disperse that protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2000). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)PRESIDENT PLEDGES MESKHETIAN RETURN...
"Meskhetian Turks deported from Georgia in [the] 1940s and wishing to return to their homeland, will be able to do this within 10-12 years," Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in an interview with Georgian National Radio on 30 October, the Midia Press Agency reported. Shevardnadze said that the problem must be resolved step-by-step, and without causing damage to anyone. The head of the state pointed out that young Meskhetians are gradually returning to Georgia, entering universities, and expressing their wish to serve in the Georgian army. (MINELRES, 2 November)...BUT MANY IN GEORGIA ARE OPPOSED.
At the 7 November session of the Georgian parliament, parliamentarian Anzor Tamarashvili expressed his lack of confidence in Guram Mamulia, head of the Repatriation Department of the Ministry of Refugees and Resettlement Affairs, who developed the official plan for the return of the Meskhetian Turks to Georgia. Tamarashvili claimed that 5,000 signatures have been collected against the Meskhetian Turks' settlement in Samtskhe-Javakheti, the territory where they were living before their mass deportation on Stalin's orders. (MINELRES, 11 November)FURTHER SPECULATION ON RUSSO'S MURDER.
"The Observer" reported that last month, days before his murder in Georgia on 16 October, Italian Radio Radicale reporter Antonio Russo had phoned his mother, Beatrice, in Tuscany. He told her he had obtained a videotape of children killed by nonconventional weapons and that he planned to air it internationally after returning to Italy on 18 October. ("The Moscow Times," 14 November)
NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED INCREASES IN ESTONIA.
The number of registered job seekers in Estonia grew from 42,900 in September (4.9 percent of the working-age population), to 47,600 (5.5 percent ) in October, "Aripaev" reported on 14 November. The number of unemployed was highest in Ida-Virumaa (10 percent) and lowest in Parnumaa (2.8 percent). Ludmilla Smirnova, the head of the statistics bureau of the Labor Department, said that the number of new job seekers in October reached a "record high" (9,500) in part due to amendments to the unemployment law that went into force on 1 October. Those amendments extended the period of paying unemployment benefits from 180 days to 270 days and changed the regulations for registering as jobless. In October, unemployment benefits were paid to 25,100 people, up 8.5 percent on September. The real number of unemployed is probably much higher: the Estonian Confederation of Trade Unions put the figure at 100,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)
COURT BEGINS HEARING OF JAILED OPPOSITIONIST'S APPEAL.
The Bishkek City Court on 7 November began reviewing the appeal by opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev and six other persons against the jail sentences handed down to them in early September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The seven men were found guilty, on the evidence of one man, of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev. Relatives of the seven, who received sentences of 16-17 years, have been picketing the regional administration in the southern town of Djalalabad since mid-October to protest the sentences. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November)POLICE WARN PICKETERS.
Police in the southern town of Djalalabad on 9 November warned 12 people who are picketing the local administrative building that they will be arrested if they continue that protest, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. For almost one month, the 12 have been protesting the sentencing in September of seven of their relatives on charges of planning to assassinate President Askar Akaev. Also on 9 November, the Bishkek City Court continued hearing appeals against those sentences. One of the men, Mamadiyar Orozov, told the court that until the trial commenced he had never met opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is accused of having masterminded the abortive plot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)TWO NEW REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS APPEAR...
The first issue of the independent monthly "Kembagaldar Uenue" (Voice of the Poor) was published in Naryn province, and sponsored by the Public Association for the Social Protection of People. Another newspaper, "Bilim Baiany," debuted in Talas province; it will focus on science and education. Although in theory there are five newspapers in Talas province, only two papers are actually published due to a lack of financing. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 9 and 10 November)...BUT PROVINCIAL STATE BROADCASTS STRAPPED FOR FUNDS.
Regional radio in Talas stopped broadcasting on 14 September while the regional TV station ended its programming for national television on 9 November -- due to a lack of funds. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 10 November)
POPULATION DROPS BY MORE THAN 10 PERCENT OVER LAST DECADE.
Preliminary census data released by the Central Statistics Office on 7 November indicate that the country's population on 31 March 2000 was 2.375 million, a decrease of 291,000 or 10.9 percent, from the 1989 census, BNS reported. Women number 1.282 million and men 1.093 million. The number of people over 60 increased by 39,000 to 502,300 while the number of residents below 14 decreased by 146,000 to 424,000 and those between 15-59 years by 186,000 to 1.448 million. The urban population decreased by 13.5 percent, with the largest declines in the cities of Liepaja (22 percent) and Riga (16 percent). The rural population fell by only 5.1 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)
POLISH PROSECUTORS PROBE ANTI-SEMITIC RALLY.
Prosecutors in Katowice have launched an investigation into the 11 November demonstration by some 400 nationalists who chanted anti- Semitic slogans and burned the EU and Israeli flags (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000), PAP reported on 13 November. The investigation is to determine whether the rally violated laws banning the public propagation of fascism and hate-mongering. The demonstration was officially organized by the No To Europe Association. The association's head, Tadeusz Mazanek, told the agency that only some 30 percent of participants in the rally were actually members of his organization. According to PAP, the anti-Semitic slogans were chanted by skinheads led by Boguslaw Rybicki, a founder of the National Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)REPATRIATION TO FOCUS 'MAINLY' ON COMPATRIOTS FROM KAZAKHSTAN.
The parliament decided on 9 October that the law on repatriation will "primarily" apply to Poles from the Asian part of the former Soviet Union and "mainly" from Kazakhstan, PAP reported. The Sejm rejected the Senate's amendment that stipulated repatriation provisions be extended to include Poles living in all states of "the former socialist bloc." Under the repatriation bill, a person seeking repatriation to Poland must prove that one of his/her parents or grandparents, or two great-grandparents, were of Polish nationality; an applicant must also demonstrate his/her "ties with Polishness," in particular, through continuing Polish traditions and customs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)
PROSECUTOR ORDERS MEDIA MAGNATE'S ARREST...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 13 November issued an order that Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinski be arrested on charges of fraud, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Gusinski failed to comply with a summons to appear at the prosecutor's office on 13 November. One of Gusinski's lawyers, Genri Reznik, said that Gusinski gave his lawyers a message to give to the investigators saying he has no intention of appearing because he believes he is being persecuted for political reasons "related to his position on the independence of the mass media and freedom of speech." Deputy Prosecutor General Vasili Kolmogorov told reporters that Interpol will soon join in Russia law enforcement bodies' efforts to find Gusinski. Kolmogorov added that if he should seek refuge in Israel, where he is also a citizen, Russia "will insist on his extradition." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)OFFICERS GO ON TRIAL FOR 1994 JOURNALIST'S MURDER.
A military court on 9 November began hearings against five former military intelligence officers accused of organizing the murder of "Moskovski komsomolets" journalist Dmitrii Kholodov. A sixth defendant, the head of a bodyguards agency, is charged with complicity. Kholodov was killed by a suitcase bomb in 1994; at the time of his murder, he was investigating widespread corruption among the military leadership. It has been suggested that the motive for the murder was career advancement: the defendants allegedly wanted to impress their superiors, who were facing scrutiny for suspected corruption. Shortly after opening the trial, the military court adjourned the proceedings until 14 November in order to consider requests filed by the defense. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)ONE IN THREE BELIEVE MEDIA SHOULD 'FULLY SUPPORT' PUTIN.
The All-Russia Public Opinion Center told Interfax on 9 November that one of its polls shows that 53 percent of Russians believe Russia has an opposition to President Putin while 25 percent do not believe one exists. Forty-seven percent of those polled said Russia needs an opposition to Putin and his government, but 29 percent said that Russia does not need such a group. Moreover, the poll found, 34 percent of Russians believe the Russian media should "fully support" the Russian president. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)TELECOMMUNICATIONS PUT UNDER CHEKIST.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has appointed Colonel-General Aleksei Shcherbakov to be first deputy communications minister, apparently making him responsible for controlling the country's telecommunications infrastructure, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. A KGB veteran, Shcherbakov until recently had been the first deputy of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). His appointment is another sign that Leonid Reiman, the communications minister, is turning his ministry into a "special service" for the Kremlin, "Profil," no. 44, suggested. Earlier this year, Reiman had authorized the introduction of government monitoring of telecommunications, known as SORM, and allowed the FSB to have anonymous access to the files of users ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November)KREMLIN SEEKS CONTROLS ON UNCLASSIFIED INFORMATION.
Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told "Vek," no. 44, that the new information security doctrine not only imposes constraints on dissemination of secret information but also on the use of unclassified information "obtained in an illegal way." In other comments, Ivanov said that he will seek to impose the same "rules of the game" for the 38 electronic and 66 print foreign-owned media outlets as enjoyed by domestic mass media. "Why," Ivanov asked rhetorically, "does Radio Liberty have unrestricted broadcasting rights in Russia while Russian Radio Mayak does not enjoy the same rights in America?" Ivanov also said that he will move to close press law "loopholes" to restrict "the misuse of press freedom." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November)KREMLIN EXPANDS ROLE OF FAPSI.
In the same interview, Ivanov said that Moscow will seek to sign the same type of information security accord it currently has with Belarus with at least some of the other CIS countries. He added that the role of the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information will play an expanded role in this area. In particular, he said, over the next six years, FAPSI will be responsible for the development of the information and telecommunications infrastructure of all government organs. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November)SCIENTISTS SEEK CONTROLS ON INFORMATION FLIGHT.
A group of prominent Russian defense scientists on 9 November submitted an open letter calling on the government to prevent the flight of political, economic, scientific, and technological secrets abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. The scientists said that such efforts must become "a national security priority," noting that foreigners currently "take advantage of our openness and economic hardships and sometimes of the venal nature of individual representatives of the military-industrial complex." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)STROEV SECURES CONTROL OVER REGIONAL MEDIA OUTLET.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 October pondered how regional leaders may be responding to the drive, spearheaded by presidential representative to the Northwest District Viktor Cherkesov, to create district-level media outlets and thereby secure central control over the media in the regions. It singled out Orel Governor Yegor Stroev, who in August 1999 issued a decree establishing the Oblast Television and Radio Broadcasting Channel, a joint-stock company owned 100 percent by Orel Oblast. The newspaper points out that in forming that new entity, the oblast administration transferred assets from the oblast State Television and Radio Company [GTRK] and thereby "ignored" the federal law on "the state management and support of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company [VGTRK]," of which the GTRK is a subsidiary. That law states that VGTRK's assets cannot be privatized and can be transferred only with the consent of the federal government. Stroev's decree declares that the Oblast Television and Radio Broadcasting Channel's founder is the oblast Committee for the Administration of State Property and its general manager, Vladimir Babin, who is also director of the Orel GTRK. In addition, it transferred a building belonging to the oblast GTRK to the authorized capital of the new joint-stock company. In mid-July 2000, shortly after Cherkesov announced his desire to create a district news outlet, the Oblast Television and Radio Broadcasting Channel was registered to "disseminate topical, objective, and full information on life in Orel Oblast." In the one year between Stroev's decree and the channel's registration, the newspaper remarked, nothing at all had been heard about the Oblast Television and Radio Broadcasting Channel, as if Stroev had been "saving his [new] media outlet for a 'rainy day.'" ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 November)NEW 'PRAVDA' NOW ONLINE...
Pravda.ru, a website set up early last year with no relationship to the newspaper -- other than that its founder Vadim Gorshenin used to work there -- is has been relaunched. About a dozen reporters, translators and computer programmers work there to try produce factual reporting without old "Pravda-"style political directives. Pravda.ru attracts a half-million unique visitors a month and claims to be breaking even. "We don't have any outside [investors]," Gorshenin says. "We depend fully on advertising." (TheStandard.com, 6 November)...AS OLD 'PRAVDA' DECLINES...
"Pravda" has seen its circulation decline from 11 million at its height during the Soviet era to around 65,000 today. Once a daily, the paper is now published just three times a week. Where once the paper boasted a staff of 500, with 66 correspondents across the Russian territories and 45 correspondents abroad, today no more than 70 people work for it. (TheStandard.com, 6 November)...AND INTERNET EXPANDS.
In June, Andersen Group, an American manufacturing and investment company, announced plans for a $350 million joint venture to provide high-speed Internet access in Russia. "In our country, Internet companies are being created at an astounding rate," Minister for Taxes and Charges Aleksandr Pochinok said in a press statement earlier this year. Russia has a number of consumer-oriented e-commerce companies, with sales on the order of $1 million in 1999, according to Troika Dialog, a Russian investment bank. In the first half of 2000, online sales grew to $5.7 million, a promising leap for a country with only 2.2 million registered Internet users. The actual number of surfers is likely much higher, since many dial in through hacked or illegal ISP accounts. Victor Abramkin, a Muscovite living in London who investigates potential Russian Internet partners for eCountries.com, says the real figure is probably between 5 million and 10 million Internet users. (TheStandard.com,6 November)GOVERNMENT MINISTER ADMITS RUSSIA LAGGING ON INTERNET.
Gref also acknowledged that Russia "considerably lags behind" other developed countries with regard to the Internet, ITAR- TASS reported. Gref estimated that there are 1.5-2 Internet users in Russia per every 100 people compared with 12 in Japan and 40-45 in the U.S. Gref said that Russia will pay much attention to the more active use of the Internet in the regional economy, including in commodity and financial transactions. Gref's estimate of Russia's Internet users, 2.2-2.9 million people, is slightly lower than a previous government estimate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August and 5 October 2000). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)NEW BUNIN FILM IGNITES PASSIONS.
When Alexei Uchitel presented the screenplay for "His Wife's Diary," a film about the Russian Nobel-Prize winning writer Ivan Bunin to the Russian state cinema financing commission, they refused to fund it due to its expose of the emigre author's love life. Uchitel had made a "grave mistake in underestimating how protective Russia remains of its artistic icons, inclined to treat even the most disreputable writers with devout, unquestioning respect," "The Guardian" reports. Only a "last-minute intervention from the film minister" provided the needed funds. Since its Moscow premiere in October, many see the film as the most important to come out of Russia this year and may be the country's entry for the best foreign film Oscar. ("The Guardian" U.K., 3 November)EDUCATION MINISTRY URGES MEASURES AGAINST 'NON-ESTABLISHED RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS.'
The Education Ministry sent a letter in September to the rectors of higher education establishments throughout Russia alleging that 700 'foreign' religious groups -- including the True Orthodox Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Salvation Army -- are involved in military espionage and the encouragement of separatist activity, and blames foreigners for allegedly encouraging splits within the 'traditional' Russian faiths, the Orthodox, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists. Law enforcement agencies views were presented in a separate, unsigned, four-page attachment claiming that foreign states use the "education route" via non-governmental and religious organizations "to form groups of people who can exert a long-term influence among the younger generation of Russian citizens, orientated firmly on western values." (Keston News Service, 8 November)CHIEF RABBI SAYS RUSSIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY TO BE 'MOST POWERFUL IN THE WORLD.'
Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of the Federation of Russia's Jewish Communities, told ITAR-TASS on 9 November that "the Jewish community in Russia will be one of the most powerful in the world." He pointed to the opening of "a major Jewish center" in Birobidzhan and a synagogue in Chelyabinsk as evidence of this trend. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)NEW KURSK GOVERNOR SLAMMED OVER ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS.
Aleksandr Mikhailov, a State Duma deputy (Communist) who was recently elected governor of Kursk Oblast, has come under sharp criticism for comments in the Russian press that he and President Putin are working to rid Russia of Jewish "filth." Mikhailov had maintained that the Kursk election was a "test ground" for fighting what he called the All-Russia Jewish Congress. Pointing out that it was not clear which organization Mikhailov was referring to, the Russia Jewish Congress said the new governor's comments are a "serious political provocation" and called upon President Putin to respond. Aleksandr Rutskoi, who was recently barred from seeking election as head of the region and who has a Jewish mother, has said he will sue Mikhailov, while Communist Party leader Zyuganov responded that the new governor should concentrate on the economy rather than "digging up other people's genealogies" (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 November 2000 [upcoming]). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)PLAN TO BAN PUBLIC DISPLAY OF NAZI SYMBOLS.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has asked Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko to push through the Duma legislation that would ban the public use of the swastika and other Nazi symbols, Interfax reported on 8 November. Several extremist groups, including Russian National Unity, currently use such symbols. The Moscow city authorities imposed such a ban in the mid-1990s, dpa reported, but the new proposal would extend that prohibition to the entire country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)DOCTOR FROM CHECHNYA GIVEN AWARD.
A doctor from Russia who risked his life to protect human rights in the 1999-2000 Chechnya military conflict was one of five recipients of Human Rights Watch highest award on 14 November. Dr. Khassan Baiev, a surgeon in Chechnya, treated both Chechens and Russians, civilians and soldiers. In January, a Chechen warlord threatened to execute Dr. Baiev for treating Russian soldiers, and, days later, Baiev's home was looted and burned by Russian forces. In February, many of the doctor's patients were executed by Russian forces, and Baiev had to flee when Russian forces labeled him a terrorist doctor for treating Chechen commander Shamil Basaev. Baiev kept a diary and provided detailed information on war crimes in Chechnya to Human Rights Watch. For more on the human rights situation in Chechnya, go to http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/. (Human Rights Watch, 10 November)GROZNY MAYOR IMPLICATES RUSSIAN MILITARY IN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
Speaking on local television on 12 November, Beslan Gantemirov said that the human rights situation in Chechnya is "very serious," with some 15-20 Chechen civilians being killed daily, Interfax reported. Gantemirov noted that not all those human rights violations are the work of Chechen fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov, although he blamed Maskhadov for creating a situation in which such abuses can occur. He said that the Grozny authorities are working together with the Russian military command to put an end to "lawlessness and unauthorized arrests of civilians." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)LABOR INSPECTORATE FINDS 1.5 MILLION VIOLATIONS.
Vladimir Varov, the deputy minister of labor and social development, told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that the country's labor inspectorate found more than 1.5 million violations of the country's labor laws during the first nine months of 2000. He noted that the inspectorate's actions helped to reduce back wages by 3 billion rubles ($110 million) during that period and reduced the number of strikes from nearly 6,000 in the first three quarters of 1999 to only 720 in the same period of 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS.
The Labor and Social Development Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 8 November that the number of people unemployed in Russia fell 15-20 percent in the first nine months of 2000 compared with the first nine months of last year. The ministry said its retraining programs have helped cut unemployment, adding that more than 60 percent of those still unemployed need professional training, retraining, or upgrading of skills. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November)PUTIN GIVES STATE WORKERS 20 PERCENT WAGE INCREASE.
President Putin on 10 November ordered state workers be given a 20 percent salary increase, Russian agencies reported. Most state workers earn less than those in the private sector, who currently average 2,290 rubles ($82) a month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)PUTIN PLEDGES COHERENT MIGRATION POLICY.
During his visit to the Southern Federal District, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia at the present time "does not have full-fledged state borders but will re-establish them," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November. Putin stressed that Moscow would continue to maintain "a very liberal attitude" regarding migration among the former Soviet republics but that it was essential that Moscow develop a coherent migration policy in order to "help solve many problems of the region as a whole." Moscow's denunciation of the Bishkek visa-free regime, Putin said, opened the way for the creation of such a policy, one that would be based on bilateral rather than multilateral arrangements ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November).PUTIN SEEKS RETURN OF RUSSIANS FROM FORMER REPUBLICS.
President Vladimir Putin is set to launch a program for the re-emigration of "millions of ethnic Russians from the former Soviet republics," Interfax reported on 6 November, as part of Moscow's effort to combat its demographic problems. According to the plan, which has the support of Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, the Russian government will provide "the maximum support to all Russians who have a natural desire to return to their homeland." This project, which could exacerbate ethnic tensions in many of the countries involved, supplements Moscow's current 3 billion ruble program to stabilize the birthrate and reduce life- threatening diseases. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November)PUTIN WANTS JUSTICE SYSTEM TO SPEED UP.
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 4 November that President Vladimir Putin continues to be unhappy with Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, whom he made responsible a year ago for an acceleration of the reform of the justice system. The paper noted that now Economic Development Minister German Gref is working on his own plan to restructure the Russian court system. Gref's plan reportedly includes ending lifetime tenure for Russian judges, reducing their service time to 15 years. Such arrangements, Gref argues, will reduce the corruption of judges and make them more accountable. One of its consequences, the paper notes, would be the ouster of Lebedev. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 November)COURT REFUSES TO HEAR DEFENSE WITNESSES IN POPE CASE.
The Moscow City Court on 14 November rejected a request by accused U.S. spy Edmond Pope's lawyers to call three more witnesses to establish if information received by Pope was classified. Pope is alleged to have obtained top-secret information on a high-speed torpedo, but several witnesses, including Anatolii Babkin, who is accused of handing over such data to Pope, have testified that the information was not classified. Babkin.told the Moscow City Court on 10 November that he retracts earlier testimony he gave to investigators, which he said was given under duress. The information he passed to Pope, he continued, is available in published textbooks, and he denied ever having taken money from the defendant According to AP, the court also rejected a defense protest that documents on the torpedo introduced during the trial are different from the ones Pope obtained from Babkin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 November)
STRIKER COMMITTEE BECOMES TEMPORARY BOARD.
The Radio Television Serbia Independent Union Strike Committee yesterday "grew" into a temporary body "analogous with the Managing Board" and appointed Nenad Ristic as acting general director, the state television Striker Committee announced on 4 November. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 4-10 November)MORATORIUM ON FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION PROPOSAL SUPPORTED.
The transition of domestic media will be a long-term process based on the experiences of neighboring and East European countries, as well as on the specific nature of the media in Serbia, concluded the international roundtable: "Transition towards free journalism." B92 reports that at the 7 November meeting organized by the Belgrade Media Centre, leading media, domestic and international media associations, and non-governmental expert organization representatives discussed reform strategies for the Serbian media. Most participants supported the Association of Independent Electronic Media and the Association of Independent Serbian Journalists proposal for a moratorium on radio and television channel frequencies distribution as well as the revision of the managing of state and pro state media. Future Federal Secretary for Information Slobodan Orlic told B92 that he would do his best to ensure that both the government and ministers be available to the public and journalists. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 4-10 November)PROPOSAL FOR PRE-ELECTION COVERAGE.
The Democratic Opposition of Serbia on 8 November sent all broadcast media proposed regulations for party representation on Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in the period prior to the parliamentary elections in Serbia scheduled for 23 December. According to the bill, RTS is obliged to equally and objectively present all parties and their candidates during the election campaign. The document regulated, among other things, that campaign material, except for that which is obligatory and free, should not be broadcast if the political parties are in debt to RTS from the previous electoral period. Media are not to comment on the pre-election activities of the parties during the pre-election campaign, and the activities of state officials and organs are not to be used to the benefit of electoral and party aims. All signatories will have the possibility of equal presentation of their programs and pre-election activities. The scheduling of such broadcasts and the duration of special programming blocks will be established by the relevant editors-in-chief. Participants in the electoral process will be obliged to respect the Serbian Constitution and refrain from the spreading of religious, national, sexual, and racial hatred and chauvinism. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 4-10 November)MEDIA SOS CENTER FORMED.
The Association of Serbian Journalists stated on 8 November that it had formed a Press SOS Center, with the aim of returning money taken from the redactions in accordance with the heavy penalties imposed under the Public Information Act as well as the reinstatement of illegally sacked journalists. FoNet reports that the association urged all redactions and individuals who have suffered under the Information Act to contact them in order to receive free legal aid in these matters. ("ANEM Weekly Report," 4-10 November)SERBIAN OFFICIALS AGREE TO INMATES' DEMANDS.
Serbian authorities released 14 Serbs and one ethnic Albanian from the Pozarevac prison on 10 November as the prison revolt in the republic loses momentum, AP reported. In exchange for the release, prisoners agreed to put down their weapons and allow guards back into the facility. Prisoner spokesman Darko Pavlovic said "we believe that we shall have a new amnesty legislation by the end of January." Serbian prisoners were angry that Kosovar Albanians were to be granted an amnesty that excluded them. Serbia's Justice Ministry said it will include some Serbians in the amnesty. The previous day, Kosovar human rights activist Flora Brovina secured the release of an ethnic Albanian teenager from Belgrade's central prison. Arrested in Kosova last year, Xhavit Podvorica was never charged with a crime. Brovina herself was set free by President Kostunica last week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November)
UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS CELEBRATE REVOLUTION, PROTEST ECONOMIC PLIGHT.
Ukrainian leftists held rallies across Ukraine on 7 November to celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution and protest the government's policies in the socio-economic sphere. According to estimates by Interfax, 2,500 people demonstrated in Kyiv, 3,500 in Kharkiv, 1,500 in Dnipropetrovsk, 3,000 in Simferopol, 4,000 in Sevastopol, 1,000 in Luhansk, and 2,000 in Mykolayiv. Police said there were no incidents during the rallies, adding that attendance was "much lower" than last year. The Kyiv demonstration, which was attended by Communist leader Petro Symonenko and Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, demanded that the government establish fixed prices for utilities and foodstuffs, set the minimum wage at a level no lower than the subsistence minimum, and re-establish the October Revolution anniversary as a public holiday. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November)'CREEPING ROMANIANIZATION.'
"Kievskie vedomosti" on 7 November reported that a growing number of Ukrainians are applying for Romanian citizenship in addition to their Ukrainian one. Romanian legislation allows dual citizenship, while in Ukraine it is prohibited to have citizenship of another country. According to the newspaper, there are rumors in Ukraine that Romania, by providing its citizenship to Ukrainians, is conducting a policy of "creeping expansion" with the final aim of "reacquiring Northern Bukovina [Chernivtsi Oblast] and Southern Besarabiya [part of Odesa Oblast]," which belonged to the Romanian state before World War II. Some Romanian parties, according to those rumors, are dreaming about restoring a "Great Romania" that would include Moldova and the above-mentioned parts of Ukraine. Some Ukrainian observers note that 300,000 Moldovans (including 50 percent of Moldovan lawmakers) have already acquired Romanian citizenship. According to the newspaper, Ukrainians apply for Romanian passports primarily for economic reasons. Some Ukrainian officials shrug off fears about Romania's "creeping expansion" in Ukraine, arguing that the problem of the redivision of state frontiers in Europe no longer exists. But others suggest that the Helsinki Final Act does not rule out separate regions within countries holding referendums on joining one or another state. "If Chernivtsi Oblast acquires a critical mass of Ukrainian-Romanian citizens, might they not decide on one beautiful day--let's say, on the day of Romania's accession to the EU--to become full-fledged participants of that holiday?" "Kievskie vedomosti" wrote. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 November)
FIRST NGO FOUNDS MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER IN KARAKALPAKISTAN.
The Aral Sea and Amu-Darya River Protection Union was the first non-governmental organization to be established in Karakalpakistan 11 years ago. Its activities are closely connected with the problems of the Aral Sea. It has recently founded a magazine titled "Orol Qizlari" (The Aral Girls) and a local newspaper titled "Jonli Orol" (The Living Aral). (RFE/RL Uzbek News, 13 November)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION.
Fifty years after its adoption on 4 November 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights remains an unfinished project, Amnesty International said in a 4 November report on the torture and ill-treatment which persists across Europe. In the first six months of 2000, torture and ill-treatment was documented by Amnesty International in at least 25 countries, 20 of them Council of Europe member states, including Belgium, Russia and Spain. "Europe is not a comfortable and secure place for all its inhabitants -- in many countries discrimination against vulnerable groups leads to torture or ill-treatment. Victims include members of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities; immigrants; refugees and asylum-seekers; children and criminal suspects." Despite the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the political will to bring torturers to justice remains lacking. The full document is on the Amnesty International website at: http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/Failure_at_Fifty.pdf (email@example.com 3 November)NEW WEBSITE ON JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN GEORGIA.
A new website was launched on 2 November 2000 titled "Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia," at the following address: http://www.jw-georgia.org (Center for Civil Society International, 8 November)A NEW PAPER ON MINORITY SELF GOVERNMENT IN HUNGARY.
"Minority Self Government in Hungary: Legislation and Practice," issued by the European Center for Minority Issues is at: http://www.ecmi.de/publications/jemie/data/minority_self-government_hungary.html (MINELRES, 9 November)USAID WEBSITE ON CENTRAL ASIA.
The URL of USAID's website for Central Asia is: http://www.usaid.gov/regions/europe_eurasia/car/index.html Among several features of the site are sets of links to other websites for each country in the region. (Center for Civil Society International, 9 November)