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Watch List: January 14, 1999

14 January 1999, Volume 1, Number 1

Editor's Note: Launched today, RFE/RL Watchlist will provide a weekly checklist of developments in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states that either promote or threaten the creation and growth of civil societies there. It will reflect information gathered by RFE/RL from a broad range of sources. We look forward to your comments and questions.

MORE EXTREMISM AHEAD IN RUSSIA... Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told ITAR-TASS on Dec. 29 that extremist groups in Russia will become increasingly active in 1999.

...AND YELTSIN PLEDGES CAMPAIGN AGAINST IT. Speaking on ORT television on Dec. 26, President Boris Yeltsin pledged that he would soon launch "a powerful offensive" against anti-Semitism and extreme Russian nationalism.

HUMAN RIGHTS DETERIORATING IN POST-SOVIET STATES. The Russian Federation is not the only place where human rights are under threat. In its year-end report on Europe and Central Asia, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch decries the deterioration of human rights in Belarus, Yugoslavia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as in Russia.

NEW RUSSIAN LAW THREATENS NON-PROFIT GROUPS. This month changes in the Russian tax code may cancel the tax exemptions that humanitarian, educational and religious organizations in Russia now enjoy. In Washington, Natalia Bourjaily of the Center for Not-For-Profit Law says that groups engaged in charitable activities in Russia are concerned that the new law will choke off their funding.

KAZAKH ELECTION "FLAWED." Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan�s president since 1991, was reelected with 82 percent of the vote. The OSCE charged that the election had been marked by "serious irregularities," while the U.S. State Department called it "seriously flawed."

BELARUSIAN PROTESTERS PUNISHED. In closed sessions, Minsk courts have punished nine people arrested for staging a demonstration on Dec. 25 against the Russia-Belarusia merger, the International League for Human Rights in New York reports.

KIDNAPPINGS CONTINUE IN CHECHNYA. Kidnappings for profit constitute the key factor in the international isolation of the Chechen people, keeping out humanitarian relief and business investments while deepening poverty, according to the premier issue of "The Cyber-Caravan," a biweekly journal on developments in Central Asia and the Caucasus published in Washington by Johns Hopkins University-SAIS.

BELGRADE FAILS TO BLOCK WEB SITE. University of Belgrade computer experts have devised a way around efforts by the Serbian government to block the state-run university system�s access to the Internet web site OpenNet, run by Belgrade's independent Radio B92. Drazen Pantic of Radio B92 told RFE/RL on 5 January that some 14 web sites, most of them originating in Western Europe, now "mirror" OpenNet material and thus allow approximately 30,000 readers access to this news source.

KOSOVO TO GET INDEPENDENT NEWS VIA LONDON. In Kosovo, three independent radio stations, two in the Albanian language and one in Serbian, have bypassed Belgrade�s ban and are broadcasting via London, courtesy of BBC's satellite relay, according to the Open Society Institute's Washington office.

KOSOVO ALBANIANS TOP REFUGEE STATISTICS. Ethnic Albanians fleeing Serbian-ruled Kosovo province made up the largest number of asylum seekers in Europe in 1998. For instance, they made up half of 31,000 asylum-seekers in Switzerland and one-third of the nearly 100,000 in Germany.

CZECH SKINHEADS CHARGED IN ATTACK ON ROM. On Dec. 28, six Czech skinheads were charged with a racially-motivated attack on a deaf Rom at the Havlickuv Brod railway station on Nov.14, according to a CTK report. The case is due to come before a court in late January.