MASTER OF THE "DEATH BATTALION"

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MASTER OF THE "DEATH BATTALION"

Izvestia, July 20, 2001, p. 3

The US State Department has accused President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus of being responsible for the disappearance of activists of the Belarussian opposition. The State Department took notice of this issue on Thursday, when the information about a “death battalion” allegedly initiated by Lukashenko was published on the website of the Belarussian opposition.

The Americans cite documents presented by labor union leader and presidential candidate Vladimir Goncharik, and the testimonies of two former investigators of the Belarussian General Prosecutor’s Office, Dmitry Petrushkevich and Oleg Sluchek. The latter two escaped to the US in June, where they received political asylum.

According to the witnesses, in 1996, a special group of about ten people was set up in Belarus by the initiative of Secretary of the Belarussian Security Council Viktor Sheiman. This group was led by Dmitry Pavlyuchenko, an officer of a special brigade of the Interior Troops. These people were engaged in kidnappings and murders of people who annoyed the regime. And nobody could find their corpses.

The plan for eliminating people was tested on criminal authorities. A few of them suddenly disappeared. Then the special group dealt with those who were involved in politics. First, five or six people abducted Alexander Grachev, Director of the Control Department of the Culture Ministry, from an ambulance. He was followed by former chairman of the Central Election Commission Viktor Gonchar, his supporter Yuri Krasovsky, and former interior minister Yuri Zakharenko.

Overall, the group dealt with about 30 people. Among them was cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, who disappeared on July 7, 2000.

The president of Belarus has called these allegations “mere provocation by the opposition.” He has also told the US State Department, “You’d better mind your own business and not poke your noses into things you don’t understand!”

NO AMMUNITION FOUND ON THE KURSK

Izvestia, July 20, 2001, p. 3

On July 19, the multi-purpose vessel Mayo arrived at the Arctic port of Kirkenes. On the eve of this arrival, Norwegian rescue workers had prepared for operations for raising the Kursk submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea.

Igor Dygalo, aide to the Navy’s Commander-in-Chief, announced that no unexploded weapons have been found around the first compartment. This means there are no obstacles to the start of the operation.

The Mayo has brought the cutting equipment to separate the first compartment from the rest of the hull.

Alexander Nikitin, from the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, says it is not known as yet if Norwegian divers will go to where the Kursk sank at all, nor whether they have signed the corresponding contract with the Russian side already.

Nikitin says: “We have no grounds to doubt the official information on the salvage of the Kursk and the data from monitoring of the radiation levels. But we doubt the competence of the Mammoeth company, since we have failed to find any information about this company even on the Internet. What they are saying about themselves is likely to be a lie.”

MILITARY CRIMES IN CHECHNYA

Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 20, 2001, p. 2

Since the beginning of the current “anti-terrorist operation” in Chechnya, 82 military personnel have been charged over crimes committed against local residents.

Thirty-one servicemen have been charged with murder, 17 cases are connected with robbery, eight with infringements when driving cars and military vehicles, etc.

Even a simple list of the crimes committed in Chechnya shows that servicemen do not pay much attention to the local populace. Besides, many crimes have just been ignored.

By the way, according to the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office, ten cases were never submitted to the court, 11 have been sent to territorial law enforcement agencies, and 13 have been dropped.

Only 25 cases have gone to court. These cases could not have been concealed, since eight of them involve murders and the rest involve other serious crimes.

HOT AUTUMN IN STORE FOR DUMA DEPUTIES

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 20, 2001, p. 2

The Cabinet meeting on July 19 was devoted to preparations for the autumn session of the Duma.

According to Andrei Loginov, the Cabinet’s representative in the lower house, along with consideration and adoption of the draft 2002 federal budget, the Cabinet has identified 25 priority bills that must be passed during the upcoming session. Among them are the Land Code, the Labor Code, the bills on reforms to the pension system, amendments to the law on hard currency regulation, etc.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev also attended the meeting. He stressed that the Duma and the Cabinet worked together effectively during the spring session. However, he said that members of the Cabinet should attend Duma meetings more often. He also said that it is necessary to develop a plan for cooperation between Parliament and the Cabinet, since up to 500 bills are being submitted to the Duma in each session, although the Duma can consider no more than one-third of this number. Therefore, the speaker believes it is necessary to establish regulations according to which only the priority bills will be submitted to the Duma.

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES CRITICIZE MOSCOW COURTS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 20, 2001, p. 2

On July 19, a roundtable conference on justice in the Moscow Region was held in Moscow. The conference was attended by Svetlana Marasanova, chief judge of the Moscow Regional Court, and a number of human rights advocates. Representatives of the Moscow City Court ignored the invitation. Director of the Human Rights Institute Valentin Gefter proposed that his colleagues determine whether the courts are able to defend human rights, in the lead-up to the judiciary reform.

Lawyer Karina Moskalenko said at the meeting that many courts refuse to observe provisions of the Human Rights Convention. Andrei Babushkin, Chairman of the Committee for Civil Rights, cited the results of research into the activities of courts in Moscow and the Moscow Region, saying there are many cases of judges falsifying documents, dependence of courts on the executive branch, and “legal nihilism” – when subordinate courts refuse to carry out the orders of higher courts. Moreover, over the past few weeks several people have died of heat and suffocation in detention cells, since the temperature in them can go over 40 degrees Celsius. But courts continue rejecting appeals for release. On the contrary, in some detention cells the number of prisoners has even increased.

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