Issue No. 166 - March 20, 2000.
1. Russia: PUTIN ELECTED FOR SHURE
By Arkady Dubnov
2. Armenia: POLITICAL PERSECUTION: MYTHS AND REALITY
By Mikael Danielyan
3. Latvia - Lithuania: COMING TO TERMS WITH A TRAGIC PAST
By Howard Jarvis
4. Special addition: AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR CHECHNYA
Russia: PUTIN ELECTED FOR SHURE
By Arkady Dubnov
The latest election campaign in Russia is coming to a close. The first round of presidential elections will take place on March 26. The division of power among the dozen contenders remains practically unchanged. The main candidate, 48-year-old prime minister and acting president Vladimir Putin, has a confident lead in all ratings, bar none. His support among the Russian electorate varies in the range of 50 to 60%. Following him is the leader of the Russian communist party (CPRF), 53-year-old Gennady Zyuganov, with 20%. Yabloko movement head Grigory Yavlinsky comes in third with about 5%. The other candidates, the most considerable of whom is Vladimir Zhirnovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, can count on 13% of the vote all told.
Thus, the scenario of the 1996 elections is repeated as the candidate from the party of power faces a communist. The dilemma the voters faced was simplistic and extraordinarily advantageous for those in power: either back to the "bright" Soviet past or ahead to an unknown "capitalist" future. The choice was clear... Today, Putin's unprecedented popularity only partially matches Yeltsin's charisma. Now, Russians see in the one-time Soviet intelligence middleman the fulfillment of a dream of a strong state capable of bringing order to bear in a country plagued by a frenzy of terrorism, the metastasis of corruption throughout officialdom and private business, the low standard of living, and so on.
It is not for nothing that, according to many polls, Zhirnovsky's and even Zyuganov's supporters are prepared to vote for Putin. For many of them, assured in advance of the defeat of their candidate, Putin has associations with one of the last of the Soviet leaders, Yury Andropov, who headed the communist party and Soviet Union after the death of Leonid Brezhnev in 1982. Andropov, who had been in charge of the all-powerful KGB before that, made possibly the last real effort to save the Soviet Union from collapse stemming from the inability of the Soviet economy to withstand the arms race thrust on it by the United States.
But the main factor contributing to Putin's popularity is still the
war Russia is waging in Chechnya. Two-thirds of Russians are in favor
of the actions of the Russian army and connect those actions with Putin.
Characteristically, neither the West's accusations that Moscow's military
actions are inadequate, leading to civilian casualties, nor the highly
publicized and scandalous story of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky
has told on the ratings of the Russian government or Putin personally.
That is the real reason for the current government's attraction for the majority of the voters, and the main distinction of contemporary Russian society. The government is personified in its leader. By custom, Russians' self-respect and image of themselves is linked to the government. "Power in Russia comes from God," say the Orthodox monarchists and the "patriots," as the majority of Russian "leftists" and communists have declared themselves. (A curious slogan has shown up around Moscow: "Those who are against the CPRF are against God!")
Therefore, everything that is going on now in the election campaign is only the final touch on the picture of the March 26 election results. A significant number of the other candidates are already vying with each other with oaths of loyalty to the future president. Aleksei Podberezkin, former advisor to communist party leader Zyuganov, is urging his supporters to vote for Putin in the second round (if one occurs). Leaders of the Union of Right Forces (URF) Kirienko, Khakamada and Nemtsov endorsed Putin on Tuesday, in spite of the fact that the chairman of the URF political council, Samara Region governor Konstantin Titov, is also running. Several weeks ago, the URF decided not to endorse any candidate, to avoid a split within the bloc. Now the situation has changed. Putin has made a number of statement "reflecting the programmatic orientation" of the right, in particular, about the possibility of Russia's joining NATO. That statement, meant as a signal to the West that Ru is ready to renew the relations that were shattered by the NATO operation in Kosovo, shows the pragmatism of the future Kremlin leader but says little about his future foreign policy, and even less about his internal policy.
That statement was well received by Western leaders, who have already announced their readiness to work with him, should he be elected. British prime minister Tony Blair's whirlwind visit to St. Petersburg and meeting with Putin means the same for the latter as his meeting with "iron lady" Margaret Thatcher in London did for Mikhail Gorbachev before he was elected general secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union. At that time, Thatcher said that one could "do business with Gorbachev." Tony Blair spoke of Putin almost with delight as a democratic and liberal leader capable of setting up a Russian government under the rule of law.
World Bank director James Wulfenson made a similar statement on March 15 after meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg that same day. "On the questions of interest to the World Bank, I can say that we trust him and are ready to work with him. Putin has shown himself to be a strong person, well-informed and personally involved in the solution of many economic and other issues," he said.
The very latest events in the presidential campaign are loud scandals that have not the least connection with the real struggle between the candidates. On March 15, four of them, Vladimir Zhirnovsky, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, businessman of Chechen origin Umar Jabrailov, and Ella Pamfilova, the only woman "wanting to be president," walked out of a meeting of all the candidates with Central Elections Committee chairman Alexander Vishnyakov. The action was a protest against the constant "presence" of Grigory Yavlinsky on the majority of television stations on a wide variety of programs, ranging from medical and sports shows to those devoted to cooking and family life. Vishnyakov could not suppress a smile as he promised to right this injustice.
Another controversy broke out around a book by two well-known journalists based on what amounts to about a single day spent with Putin (six interviews). The same Mr. Vishnyakov declared the book impermissible election propaganda and it has been banned from sale with the suggestion that it be distributed free at the prime minister's campaign headquarters and paid for out of his campaign fund. Better advertising for Putin and the collection of interviews with him could not even be wished for...
One more person sworn his loyalty to the future president. Well-known film director Nikita Mikhailkov (who not long ago was also considered a possible presidential contender) said that he was in favor of canceling the presidential elections and replacing them with a plebiscite. "It's clear, after all, that Putin is going to win. Is that good or bad? I thinks it's the right thing. He is responsible for the country," he said. He continued by explaining that a country at war, that is, in extreme circumstances, requires extreme measures. Time and money should not be wasted.
The most authoritative human right organization in Russia, the Memorial Society, issued an endorsement of Grigory Yavlinsky on March 15. "The country is presented with a choice between democracy and authoritarianism, between lawful rule and police "order," the statement reads, "Yavlinsky is the only contender about whom it can confidently be said that he represents the prospect of democratic development for the country."
Ten years since the founding of the third republic, the Armenian authorities showed that they best of all know how to order convictions for their political opponents. It was practiced at the reign of L. Ter-Petrossyan when by the deliberate accusation the authorities attempted to stop the political activity of Dashnaktutun. But L. Ter-Petrossyan and Co ''were asked'' to leave. And now the new authorities, R. Kocharyan and his political support forces decided to win back. The first blow was directed to Armenian All-National Movement (AAM and to all those who were close to them). It was necessary to explain to the nation that the old authorities were bad ones and we, the new ones are good and now we'll punish all your offenders. Though as a matter of fact the new authorities at the old regime didn't stand aside.
Today in Armenia simultaneously two proceedings are brought to the court -trial on the leader of AAM, former minister of IA, former mayor of Yerevan Vano Siradegian and trial on the leader of political party ''New Way'', former minister of Education and Science, director of education complex ''Mkhitar Sebastatsi'' Ashot Bleyan. Two, one of the most vulnerable persons (in fact very different from each other) among the former authorities. And if V. Siradegian, having deputy inviolability, prolongs the ''pleasure'' of the trial (which is very uncertain when will be over) since June 15, 1999 A. Bleyan is under custody. V. Siradegian, the member of committee of ''Karabakh'', one of the leaders of national movement in 1991 at the demonstration stated: ''If necessary, we will make a dictatorship in the republic''. And we should accept that he kept his promise. While being the minister of IA from 1992 to 1996 and even after that being the mayor of Yerevan he didn't lose his power up to the resignation of L. Ter-Petrossyan. With Siradegian's name are bounded the ordered and till nowadays unexposed murders, corruption, racket, falsification of elections in 1995 and 1996. But it goes without saying that V. Siradegian couldn't do all this alone. For everybody Siragedian was the symbol of arbitrariness which took place in the republic. And that is why he was vulnerable. In 1998 after the resignation of L. Ter-Petrossyan, the former General prosecutor of Armenia (who belonged to Kocharyan's Co) applied to the National Assembly of Armenia soliciting to deprive V. Siradegian from the deputy inviolability for his arrest and institution of criminal case against him. But at that time Vazgen Sargsian, the minister of Defense, was alive. On those days he made a statement: ''Vano (Vano Siradegian) is my friend'' and V. Siradegian's deprivation from deputy inviolability was beyond any question.
Actually, a criminal case against him was instituted, but he wasn't arrested. In 1999 V. Siradegian again was elected MP of the National Assembly. Just after his election trial began where Siradegian and other 11 persons, all the former collaborators of the ministry of IA were accused of ordered murders, kidnapping, racket and other serious felonies. In fact, for the first two months the trial session didn't begin: Siradegian was changing councils of defense. Then October 27 came. Vazgen Sargsian was murdered, whose friend was Siradegian. That's the end-decided they. Now we will punish the criminals. But the trial is still being prolonged.
In my opinion, nobody is going to convict the former minister, because and nowadays government is bounded with Siradegyan with the same chain. And the president R. Kocharyan and his close companion and friend, secretary of Security Council, former minister of IA and NS Serg Sargsyan, and many other ministers, prosecutors, judges, all of them very clearly realize that if Siradegian tells the truth then nobody and nothing can stop him. Anyway, the show for more mortals still goes on. The Ashot Bleyan case is just a different one. From 1990 to 1994 Ashot Bleyan was MP at the National Assembly, and from 1994-1995 he was the minister of Education and Science. The educational complex ''Mkhitar Sebastatsi'' even at the communist regime by its unordinary methods of education differed from the other educational institutions. His political party ''New Way'' A. Bleyan founded in 1992. At the same year when the war was at its pick he left for Baku to make contacts with the political elite of Azerbaijan, looking for the possibilities of Karabakh conflict peaceful resolution. By this action he was anathematized by the nationalistic politicians (By the way, just they are at the power in Armenia now-M.D.).
In 1998 during the out-of-turn presidential elections surprisingly Bleyan suggested his candidature. Brilliantly realizing that he had no chances to become the president he used the alive broadcast to explain that R. Kocharyan ''was nominated'' to be the president of Armenia infringing the Constitution of RA. After the presidential election he was the only presidential candidate among 12 ones who applied to the Constitutional Court of RA claiming to take into consideration the illegitimacy of the new president. As the Constitutional Court of RA always supports the government of Armenia, A. Bleyan's claim was rejected and thus the political persecutions against A. Bleyan started. On October, 1998 a criminal case on office abuse in the educational complex was instituted by the procuracy of Yerevan. Simultaneously trial against N. Pashinyan, the editor-in-chief of newspaper ''Oragir'' began, who ruled the pre-electoral headquarter of A. Bleyan. In 1999 under the uncertain circumstances, one of the friends of A. Bleyan in the party ''New Way'', publicist and political scientist Tigran Hairapetyan died.
At the same time ''Oragir'' newspaper was closed and on March, 2000 the Cassation Court of RA passed the final sentence of N. Pashinyan. Groundlessly on March 23, 1999 Bleyan was accused and he gave a written undertaking not to leave a place. One of the most important episodes of the accusation was ''the case of paper'' in 1995. Between Russian organization ''Prizma'' and Armenian publishing house ''New School'' contract was signed, according to which paper at the amount of 120.000$US should have been imported to Armenia. No paper was imported to Armenia. The money disappeared. I got acquainted with all the documents concerning this episode. Frankly speaking neither the lawyers of the Helsinki Association nor I found any guilt of A.Bleyan.
The second episode was the ''case of the roof''. 10 teachers from their own savings contributed 10 mln. drams (1$=525 dram) for the repair of educational complex roof. Bleyan was accused of the Article ''swindle'' though the commission of the procuracy found out that the roof repair cost 16 mln drams but not 10 mln. drams. Besides, Bleyan was accused that he sold certificates. It is very interesting that all the direct participants of the episode of the ''case of the paper'', i.e. those w ho negotiated and signed the contract, the participants of ''the case of roof'', i.e. the constructors, as well as the participants in the ''case of certificates'' i.e. those who gave certificates as though by Bleyan's demand (more than 1500 certificates were checked up and only 10 of them had some uncertainty) aren't at the dock of the defendants. Moreover, they are among the 201 witnesses who don't come to the court room for testimony. Some of them left the republic after giving testimonies during the investigation.
On May 14, 1999 Bleyan was taken under custody referring that he violated
the written undertaking not to leave the place, though he was in Yerevan
at that time. For four times the question about his illegal arrest was
raised at the court and never he was given the opportunity to be present
at the hearing. On August 18, 1999 vice-chiefs of the SIZO and the collaborators
beat Bleyan after which the forensic examination was - light body injuries
and he was transferred to the punishment cell as if he resisted and violated
the order of inner regulations. On August 19 new accusations were brought
against him - bribe, office abuse and falsification of documents. On January
10, 2000 trial began and Bleyan was accused of the articles 90 part 4,
17-90part4, 89 part 2, 4 and 182 part 2, 185 p.2, 187 CC of RA. The chief
accountant 62-years-old Rima Pogosyan and cashier 58-years-old Aida Avakova
were at the dock of defendants. These women (Article 90 part 4 of CC of
RA) could have been released today, but during the investigation they refused
to give false testimonies against Bleyan. The investigator Hovik Petrossyan
pressed on them as well as on the other witnesses: the witnesses had been
waiting for several hours in the corridor of the procuracy, the investigator
compelled them to sign testimonies threatening that otherwise a criminal
case would be instituted against them, the teenagers from the educational
complex were beaten. The monitoring of the trial held by the members of
the Helsinki Association comes to prove that the judge Iskuhi Kocharyan
fulfils the order of the authorities. In the contemporary history of Armenia
one more case of political persecutions has been fixed.
The issue of suspected war criminals is not being forgotten, as a recent
meeting on the case of Konrad Kalejs testifies. Kalejs is accused of having
killed thousands of Jews as an officer with Latvia's feared Arajs Kommando.
Each Arajs member swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler. Since 1994, Kalejs
has succeeded in escaping trial not only in Australia, where he is a citizen,
but also in countries in which he has sought refuge - the US, Canada and
the UK. In January, he left the UK in a blaze of publicity.Representatives
from each of these countries, plus Germany, Israel and Latvia, discussed
the difficulties in bringing war criminals to justice at a closed meeting
in Riga on February 16-17. In the past, Australian officials have lacked
the evidence to bring Kalejs to trial there, while Latvia has said it lacks
the evidence to extradite him.
However, at the meeting each country pooled its evidence in a collective effort to bring Kalejs to justice, probably in Latvia. Where the US, the UK, Canada and Australia have failed, Latvia is expected to succeed. A three-month investigation by the Latvian authorities will end in May. As the meeting ended, it did so, in the words of the Latvian general prosecutor, with a "spirit of mutual trust and confidence".
Special addition: AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR CHECHNYA
American Committee for Chechnya c/o
Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe
2000 P Street, NW Suite 400, Washington DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7105, Fax: (202) 466-7140, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTACT: IRENA LASOTA
PROMINENT US CITIZENS CALL ON STRONGER AMERICAN RESPONSE TO RUSSIAN AGGRESSION AGAINST CHECHNYA
Three former officials responsible for United States foreign policy
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander M.Haig, Jr., and Max Kampelman - today
announced the establishment of the American Committee for Chechnya, a group
of nearly 100 distinguished U.S. citizens demanding a stronger American
response to Russian military aggression against Chechnya.
"We hope to generate policies and actions that will bring this terrible war to a peaceful end and begin a process of reconstruction and reconciliation," the three co-chairmen state. The Founding Declaration of the American Committee for Chechnya lists a series of policies and actions by the U.S., including suspension of World Bank and IMF loans as well as Russia's participation in G7+1 talks, support for appointing a UN Human Rights Commission Special Raporteur to investigate crimes against humanity, and pressuring Russia to open its borders to allow the mobilization of humanitarian and OSCE resources to relieve the suffering of the Chechen people.
"We must act against this brutal, inhuman war and try to help the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who have been targeted by Russian forces," Irena Lasota, the coordinator of the new Committee, said. Yelena Bonner, wife of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and Russia's leading human rights campaigner, also signed the Declaration, restating in a letter to the Committee her testimony to the U.S. Congress that Russia's goal is "to annihilate a large part of the Chechen nation and to drive out those who survive from their native land. This is not just another routine violation of human rights. This is a crime against humanity."
The announcement of the American Committee for Chechnya is timed to coincide with a day of protests being organized in Moscow on Sunday, March 19 in Pushkin Square by an anti-war coalition of human rights and other organizations, including the Human Rights Center "Memorial," the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees of Russia, and the Youth Human Rights Center. The coalition called for a day of international solidarity and actions against the war.
In addition to Dr. Brzezinski, who served as National Security Adviser in the Carter Administration, General Haig, who was escretary of State during the first Reagan Administration, and Mr. Kampelman, who was President Reagan's chief arms negotiator, the members of the American Committee for Chechnya include Morton Abramowitz, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former National Security Advisers Richard V. Allen and Robert C. McFarlane, the Jewish leaders Hyman Bookbinder and Rabbi David Saperstein, Paula Dobriansky who directs the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations, American Federation of Teachers president Sandra Feldman, former AFL-CIO president Thomas R. Donahue, actor Richard Gere, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Also on the list are Russia experts Eliot Cohen, Charles Fairbanks, Marshall Goldman, Richard Perle, Richard Pipes, and Peter away, as well as authors and editors William Kristol, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Norman Podhoretz.
ATTACHED: AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR CHECHNYA FOUNDING DECLARATION
AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR CHECHNYA
Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
Max M. Kampelman
We are American citizens of diverse and independent views who have come together in opposition to the brutal war that Russia is currently waging against the people of Chechnya. The ruthless bombardment and killing of civilians, the leveling of cities and the destruction of villages, the attacks on refugee convoys, the blocking of food aid and the denial of access to humanitarian relief organizations and human rights witnesses all belie Russian propaganda that this is a war against terrorism. It is nothing of the kind. As Dr. Andrei Sakharov's widow Elena Bonner explained to a Senate hearing last November, Russia's goal is "to annihilate a large part of the Chechen nation and to drive out those who survive from their native land. Their aim is to keep Chechnya as part of the Russian Federation - but without the Chechens. This is genocide. This is not just another routine violation of human rights. This is a crime against humanity."
This cruel war is a catastrophe for Russia as well as for Chechnya. The historic challenge facing Russia today is to build a modern democratic country after 70 years of communist totalitarianism. More than one third of the population lives in abject poverty. Crime and corruption are rampant. Life expectancy and general health conditions are appallingly low. Yet instead of trying to address these daunting problems, the Russian leadership has resorted to the worst and most self-destructive practices of the past - diverting scarce resources from the civilian to the military sector, using the press as an instrument of propaganda and Orwellian truth-twisting, inflaming nationalist passions and fears, and subjugating through brute force a small non-Russian people. The war fever generated by the government may enable Acting President Vladimir Putin to win the March 26 election, but for the Russian people this war is a dead-end.
The passivity of the international community in the face of Russia's inhuman assault on Chechnya has exposed the inconsistency of the policy of humanitarian intervention enunciated last year during the Kosovo crisis and subsequently in the effort to end the killing in East Timor. The killing of noncombatants in Chechnya is even more extensive, yet the United States and other Western countries have done nothing to oppose Russia's unconscionable actions other than issuing half-hearted complaints about the excessive use of force. There is no excuse for inaction. The United States should immediately announce a comprehensive plan to deter Russian aggression, provide humanitarian relief to the Chechen people, and begin a process of bringing the war to a negotiated end. The United States should:
Tragically, Russia has chosen to disregard the Khasavyurt agreement
ending the 1994-96 war and the peace treaty which was signed on May 12,
1997, by Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Maskhadov. That
treaty stipulated that "The High contracting parties, wishing to end many
centuries of antagonism and striving to establish durable, equal and mutually
beneficial relations, have agreed
1) To renounce forever the use or threat of force to decide disputes;
2) To construct their relations with the generally-accepted principles and norms of international law..." It is not too late to return to this agreement and to bring this pointless and self-destructive war to a peaceful end. The United States must use its influence within the E and directly in its bilateral relations with Russia to begin a process that will lead to a political settlement of the war and the reconstruction of Chechnya's devastated society.