Issue No. 308 - February 14, 2003
 

Contents:

1.  Russia/Chechnya: EVEN "NORMALIZATION" IS HALTED

2.  Ukraine: THE "CONCRETE" CLAN
by Ivan Lozowy

3.  Belarus: SANCTIONS STILL NOT LIFTED
by Paulyuk Bykowski
____________________________________________________

Russia/Chechnya: EVEN "NORMALIZATION" IS HALTED
* The Situation in the Chechen Republic in November-December 2002 *

        The terrorist action of hostage taking in Moscow at the end of October complicated the situation in Chechnya and the life for Chechens in Russia. It also brought a complete halt to the normalization process, itself ephemeral and painfully slow before that.

        Russian president, Vladimir Putin pronounced that "terror is one thing and political normalization is another-we won't negotiate with bandits." For all intents and purposes, his statement broke even the feeble link to peace that was being created in Chechnya by individual politicians, political parties, and public organizations.

        After the high-level announcement that there would be no negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov and that the normalization process would continue unimpeded, a delegation of elders and representatives from the Temporary Administration of Chechnya arrived in Moscow on November 8. Russian television carried the information that a group of influential Chechens had requested that Putin hold a referendum in Chechnya on ratifying a new constitution for the republic and on holding presidential and parliamentary elections. According to several sources, the decision to hold a referendum came from the Kremlin. The local initiative was feigned.

        The so-called Congress of the Peoples of Chechnya met on December 11 in Gudermes and confirmed the date for the referendum and the questions to appear on the ballot. The congress was held under the highest security. It was first announced that it would be held in Grozny, then it was moved to Gudermes. Administrative heads from all levels were invited to accompany the delegates, flaunting even the appearance of propriety and democratic procedure. A Russian journalist observing the congress commented that there were "300 delegates, people with arms guarding the building and the entirety of Akhmad Kadyrov's electorate in Chechnya."

        The political farce playing itself out in Chechnya will further tragic effects on Chechen society. This imitation of political processes may lead to schisms and incite rebel activity, which would inevitably cause an increase and intensification of punitive actions against civilians so as "to establish the necessary conditions for holding the referendum."

        In the background, a political scandal seems to be breaking out in Ingushetia over the Ingushetian authorities' attempts to remove refugee camps there. The Chechen administration decided in 2001 to return the Chechen refugees to so-called temporary placement points in Grozny, and then this year decided to get rid of all refugee camps in Ingushetia before the end of the year. After his election to the Ingushetian presidency, Murat Zyazikov stated that no one will use force to return Chechen refugees to Chechnya. His statement was contradicted by the incident in the village of Aki-Yurt, which focused the indignation and protest of not only human rights activists and humanitarian organizations, but even numerous heads of state. With journalists watching, Ingushetian police destroyed tents and possessions and mishandled people. The international response was so strong that the Ingushetian president's press service was forced to issue a statement denying that forcible evictions from the tent cities had taken place, and Chechen and Ingushetian authorities noticeably reduced their efforts at repatriation. President Zyazikov even met residents of the Bart tent city and gave financial assistance to the neediest residents. The Ingushetian minister of the interior appeared on local television to deny that Chechen refugees were being pressured to leave Ingushetia and accused several human rights organizations of disinformation and politicking.
 
        The flurry of evictions in Ingushetia is undoubtedly connected with preparations for the referendum in Chechnya. The authorities intend to hold the referendum with great pomp, inviting international observers on the highest level and, in the words of the Chechen administration, "establish all the conditions necessary to carry out that democratic procedure." Refugee camps, of course, have no part in this democratic illusion. Their removal has been suspended for the moment, but future developments are unpredictable.
 
        The Chechen refugees' refusal to return to the "comfort" of Grozny is understandable. Life in Grozny and all of Chechnya is hard. Chechen civilians are still deprived of all civil rights, most of all the right to life.

        In spite of limited reconstruction in downtown Grozny, the city remains in ruins. There is no running water, sewer service, heat or electricity in many of its neighborhoods. The rare extreme cold this December has created many problems. Like last winter, apartments are being heated with unsafe gas stoves and heaters that pose a danger to life and health.
 
        Many buildings have unexploded bombs, shells, and rockets in their walls and ceilings. People often live in semi-ruined buildings.

        Environmental degradation in the city is also notable. A pall of black smoke from burning oil wells hangs over the city. Even though most oil-well fires have been extinguished, they periodically recombust and their black smoke settles over fields already blackened in battle. In addition, irreparable damage has been done to the city by the tapping and refining of oil condensate. This practice is a true calamity for Chechnya.

        There is no sanitation in Grozny. The streets are littered with wrecked building materials as well as household and food wastes. The streets are also slippery with water, including sewage. The city's central market is especially filthy. It is the only place where the residents of the city and its outlying areas can buy food. The city is ripe for an epidemic. A sanitary and epidemiological service was set up long ago, but it has so far been unable to cope with the situation. The drinking water available is no less of a threat to the inhabitants' health. In most parts of the city, residents obtain water from wells, which are sometimes located far from their homes. These wells often contain high levels of gas condensate and are often polluted by sewage. While this water is a great danger, there are no alternative sources available.

        Medical care has not been improved. The most elementary supplies are missing from hospitals and patients must pay for both their medicine and care. Many people in the city suffer from serious chronic diseases. Mental illness is also on the rise.

        In spite of the tremendous numbers of police and Russian soldiers present on the streets of Grozny, crime is flourishing. Murders occur almost nightly and marauding gangs roam the city after dark in search of loot. Serious crimes, such as robbery and murder, are committed by the soldiers as well.

        The same humanitarian aid organizations are still operating in Grozny. These include the International Red Cross, Danish Council on Refugee Affairs, the Chechen organization People in Need and Polish Humanitarian Action. But even their combined efforts are not enough to provide the basic necessities of life for the people of Grozny.

        The situation in other areas of the Chechen Republic is no better.
 
        Rebels continue to attack federal forces while they are in transit. Land mines explode along the sides of roads from time to time, killing both Russian soldiers and local civilians.
 
        So-called cleansings are being conducted in various settlements throughout Chechnya, resulting in the arrest, murder or disappearance of many men.
 
        From late October through early December, the villages of Mesker-yurt, Starye Atagi, Samashki and Assinovskaya were subjected to cleansing.
 
        In Assinovskaya, the Russians blew up the home of one of the female participants in the October terrorist act in Moscow.
 
        Large-scale cleansing was carried out in the village of Samashki on the last day of Ramadan, spoiling the holiday for its inhabitants, several of whom were arrested and beaten. Some of the arrestees have yet to be released.
 
        In Starye Atagi, the cleansing was conducted by federal forces along with Chechen police and, therefore, did not have a large negative impact on its inhabitants.
 
        The greatest misfortune to befall the Chechen people are the so-called address cleansings. These were supposed to be, according to Russian officials, a way of avoiding mass repression of the civilian populace.
 
        In reality, it is a highly sophisticated method of annihilation. It most often occurs according to the following scenario: late at night, armed men in camouflage gear and masks enter a house or apartment. They have no identifying markings and some of them speak Chechen. They call out the name of the person they are after and take him away, without giving any explanation, presenting any documents or making any accusations. The arrestee then disappears. No Russian officials claim responsibility for his arrest and, in the best of circumstances, his body is later recovered.
 
        All of these factors work together to create apathy towards ones fate and that of the society and distrust of political transformation. People have no illusions about European or U.S. intervention in the Russian-Chechen conflict. They are well aware that they are small change in the high-stakes game of politics, and that they are doomed to extermination.

________________________________
 * Dispatches from Chechnya is written by correspondents in Chechnya and distributed in English by the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy and pluralism in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. To receive [ITALIC] Dispatches from Chechnya directly by email, please contact <idee@idee.org>. For more information about IDEE, its programs, and the situation in Chechnya, visit the IDEE web page at www.idee.org.
 
 
 

• • •

 
Ukraine: THE "CONCRETE" CLAN
by Ivan Lozowy
 
        Ukraine's new Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, has not exactly made a splash. His early tenure has not quite lived up his billing as possible "successor" to the presidency, consisting of foreign visits to Russia and Poland and a government plan due for review in the Rada.

        Appearances can be deceptive.  Yanukovych's election to the post of Prime Minister on November 21, 2002 is highly significant since, for the first time, Ukraine's most powerful clan, or "financial- industrial grouping," has made it to the top of the power pyramid.

        Yanukovych is associated with Renat Akhmetov, a Donetsk businessman who controls most of the Donbas' metals and coal-rich industries as well as the "Shakhtar" football club.  Touted as head of the "Industrial Union of the Donbas," by some estimates Akhmetov is worth over 1.7 billion USD.
 
        It should be kept in mind, however, that a "clan" or "grouping" is a loose socio-economic concept and fluid in practice. Yanukovych’s new position is, first and foremost, his opportunity to enter the ranks of the oligarchs in his own right.

        Yanukovych is a "self-made" man in true post-Soviet style, his career taking him from juvenile delinquency to academic to governor to Prime Minister.  His associations within the Donetsk clan and its other luminaries, such as Mykola Azarov, permitted Yanukovych to get as far as he has.  For his part, Yanukovych "serviced" the Donetsk clan's needs on the government side.

        Of course, Yanukovych could not have made it to the post of Donetsk oblast governor without a keen ability to "play the game" of collaborating with the powers-that-be.  The scale of his falsification of the March 2002 elections in Donetsk is now legendary. Indeed, not a single communist won a majoritarian district in this traditionally "red-belt" region.

        During the run-up to his election as Prime Minister, it was well known that payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were promised and paid out to individual deputies in exchange for their votes.  According to an associate, Yanukovych can easily "earn" an additional 100 million dollars in the first several months after his appointment.  And this is precisely where the seeds of conflict and Yanukovych's probable downfall are being sown.

        Recently, Kuchma vowed to repeal a Cabinet of Ministers decision to subordinate "Naftohaz Ukrayiny" to the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, which is controlled by a fellow Donetsk clan member, Minister Vitaliy Haiduk.  If the Donetsk clan’s appetites continue to overreach, there are plenty waiting to pick up the pieces.  The Social- Democratic Party-united, or SDPU(o), led by Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, have conflicted with the Donetsk clan on many occasions.  Kuchma himself, a representative of the Dnipropetrovsk, or Dnipro, clan, has always been wary of his neighbors.

        Yanukovych's situation of being anointed by Kuchma but always on the verge of a falling-out is symptomatic of Kuchma's strategy.  In general, Kuchma has called up the reserves in trying to preempt a successful presidential bid by Our  Ukraine's Viktar Yushchenko. Former militia strongman Yuriy Kravchenko was called back from early retirement in Kherson to head up the tax service.  The head of the 1994 presidential campaign, "Dima" Tabachnyk, has been appointed a Deputy Prime Minister.  Long-time associate Wolodymyr Horbulin, who at one point had arranged Tabachnyk's ouster but was then disposed of himself, is back as an adviser. Yanukovych's nomination by Kuchma is part and parcel of a general gathering of the "faithful."
 
        It also reflects a confused approach, made evident [...] in December's failed attempt by a Kuchma-organized parliamentary majority to take over the Rada’s leadership posts, despite Wolodymyr Lytvyn, Kuchma's right-hand man, running the show as speaker. In this instance, Medvedchuk’s group overreached, trying to claim four committee chairs (instead of the present one) and three first deputy chairmen posts despite the SPDU(o) getting only 6 percent in the March 2002 elections.  This attempted power grab alienated the Donetsk crowd, among others, and the parliamentary majority split its vote on the leadership issue.

        The general confusion is compounded by what  may turn out to be Kuchma's single greatest mistake, that of replacing Azarov.  The latter had given birth to the tax service empire in its present form and raised it from an infant stage.  Now this structure is being systematically dismantled from the top by Kravchenko, the expected approach since the new head of the State Tax Administration needs subordinates loyal to him personally. For his part, Azarov was out of his depth as Deputy Prime Minister, unable to maneuver within the entrenched Cabinet of Ministers bureaucracy.

        Kuchma's mixed-clan confusion is to Yanukovych's benefit, allowing him time and space to envelop governmental financial flows.  This is in line with his reputation as a "konkretny" manager. "Konkretny", in Ukrainian slang, refers to hard-boiled characters who stop at nothing to achieve wealth and power.  The only problem is that, thanks to Kuchma, the scene is replete with "konkretny" types.
 
 



• • •

Belarus: SANCTIONS STILL NOT LIFTED
by Paulyuk Bykowski

        The presence of Eberhard Heyken and the staff of the Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Minsk will not be sufficient to merit the removal of visa restrictions placed on Belarusian leaders.  This determination was announced by Uta Zapf, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly working group on Belarus and member of the German Bundestag, on February 7 after a visit to Minsk.
 
        Ambassador Eberhard Heyken of Germany, appointed to head the Minsk Office of the OSCE on January 30, arrived in Minsk on February 9.  He was met at Minsk National Airport by German ambassador to Belarus Helmut Frick. He officially began in his post the next day, but has so far refrained from contact with the press.

        It is interesting to note that one year ago the Belarusians did not consent to Heyken as successor to Hans-Georg Wieck as head of the OSCE Consultative-Observational Group. At that time they were attempting to put through a new mandate for the OSCE mission, under which all projects would require the approval of the Belarusian government.  The OSCE did not allow that limitation.

        The length of appointment of the head of the Office of the OSCE in Minsk is of special importance for the mission's new mandate.  One significant difference between the mandate of the OSCE Consultative-Observational Group and that of the mission is the requirement that the Consultative-Observational Group is required to have the annual Belarusian government approval of its activities and budget.  It is possible that the first annual budget will be approved by the Belarusians in Vienna, but the person authorized to manage the funds must be in Minsk.  For the sake of comparison, the regular budget approved by the Permanent Council of the OSCE last year was 872,500 euros.

        In addition, "all activity by the Office of the OSCE in Minsk not covered by the regular budget must be directed toward the fulfilment of the mandate."  This new requirement was added to prevent the allotment of money to prodemocracy groups, according to Vladimir Socor of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Washington, DC.
 
        The grants in question were made by the OSCE from the funds of its member states, mainly Western countries.  As Socor observes, under the Memorandum of Mutual Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Belarus and the OSCE of December 30, 2002, a project financed outside the budget of the mission can be implemented only with the approval of the Belarusian government.

        The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, however, indicates that the United States interprets the mandate somewhat differently, considering it necessary only to "consult" with the Belarusian government before implementing such projects. Socor notes that, even in that case, the new mandate will have a negative effect on the support given to the democratic opposition in Belarus.

        It seems that Belarusian officials will dispute the American reading of the mandate, although it is possible that a compromise can be found staked on the removal of the visa restrictions on the top Belarusian leadership.  The Belarusian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Alexander Mikhnevich, and the US deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, Steven Pifer, held negotiations on January 14 in Washington at which Mikhnevich raised the subject of removing the sanctions.  ITAR-TASS reported that Pifer responded that the U.S. administration will examine that question "after the OSCE begins to function normally" in Minsk.  Even then the United States will consult with the European Union, which has imposed identical restrictions.

        Just before Heyken's arrival, a delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly working group on Belarus visited Minsk, headed by Zapf.  The delegation's visit was only indirectly related to the reopening of the OSCE mission.  The working group was set up in 1997 after the Belarusian president dissolved the legitimate parliament, the 13th High Council.  At that time, Belarus's membership in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was suspended and the working group began studying the possibility of collaboration with the new legislative body, the National Assembly.

        The goal of this visit was to assess the progress made in meeting the four criteria set by the OSCE:  improvements in election law, strengthening of parliament, free press and the absence of pressure opposition activists.  According to Zapf, not one of those criteria has been met.  That visit occurred just before the February 20 session of the Permanent Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna.  That committee has the authority to reinstate Belarus in the Parliamentary Assembly. However, Zapf, noted, there is no basis for doing so.

        While in Minsk, Zapf, in meetings in both houses of the National Assembly, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with Belarusian citizens continually brought up the topic of OSCE representation in Belarus.  "I am very happy that the crisis with the OSCE mission has been solved and a new mandate received.  Mr. Heyken will arrive on February 9 and begin as head of the mission on February 10," Zapf stated at the beginning of her press conference.  She denied rumors of a reduction in the authority of the mission at the same press conference.

        The mandate of the Office of the OSCE has the same contents as that of the Consultative-Observational Group, including specification of the same number of employees (both Belarusian and foreign), the same rights and responsibilities, the same budget, Zapf said.  She added that it was based on the same international agreements as that of the Consultative-Observational Group, but that its responsibilities were more concretely stated.  In addition, there are two elements in the new mandate not found in that of the Consultative-Observational Group:  economic cooperation and environmental protection.

        Zapf noted that many officials in Minsk have the feeling that the reopening of the OSCE Office in Minsk as a unilateral step on the part of the Belarusian government would lead to the immediate removal of the travel prohibitions on the top leadership of the country.  "But it is not a gift from the Belarusian authorities to the OSCE, rather a solution to the complex crisis caused by the closure of the OSCE mission" Zapf said.  In any case, she noted, the functioning of the Office of the OSCE must be confirmed.  And the decision to remove the travel sanctions must be made by those who imposed the sanctions, i.e. the United States and the countries of the European Union.