ATTORNEYS FOR SOLDIERS

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ATTORNEYS FOR SOLDIERS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 22, 2003, EV

The Civil Liberties Foundation (CLF) established by Boris Berezovsky and the Sochi branch of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers are launching a legal aid program for soldiers serving in the North Caucasus. From now on, soldiers and their parents will be able to have their lawyers’ fees paid by the CLF.

Pavel Arsenyev, head of the CLF office in Sochi, said: “It is of principal importance that the program provides assistance to both victims of abuse and soldiers who are accused of an offence. We have already been providing legal aid to soldiers in Moscow and the Moscow region, the Nizhny Novgorod region, the Murmansk region, and some other regions. Now soldiers serving in the North Caucasus will be able to avail themselves of this opportunity.” According to Arsenyev, over the past year the CLF has paid the costs in around 860 legal cases, of which over half were on behalf of victims of abuse. Nearly all cases concerned hazing of new conscripts and abuse of power by senior officers. The number of dismissed lawsuits and not guilty verdicts has been 7%, considerably above the average national level (1% verdicts of not guilty). Around 2 million rubles in damages was recovered in favor of claimants.

The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers says that attorneys hired by the independent CLF are more effective than their counterparts provided by the state, since they will be accountable to both the Committee and the CLF. The CLF, a non-profit charity organization, was established in late 2000 and has chartered capital of $25 million scheduled to last for five years, according to Yury Alexandrov, a CLF program coordinator. The CLF defends the rights of prisoners as well as soldiers. It also offers support and assistance to regional human rights groups and ethnic Russian communities in other republics of the former USSR, and provides social services to journalists. It should be noted that the CLF’s funds cannot be used for political activities.

CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION TELLS JOURNALISTS ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS

Izvestia, May 22, 2003, p. 3 EV

Central Electoral Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov said at a news conference on May 21 that amendments to campaign coverage laws for the media will be relaxed. According to Veshnyakov, the amendments being drawn up at the moment say that TV channels may be spared being held accountable for any of their programs violating electoral legislation. The specific program’s producers will be liable to prosecution, unless the program is not registered as an independent media company. Veshnyakov pointed out that the amendments specify who is entitled to submit an application to the Media Ministry to suspend operation of a media outlet which breaks the law.

INTERIOR MINISTER WELCOMES THE IDEA OF A PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY GOVERNMENT

Izvestia, May 22, 2003, p. 3 EV

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, leader of the United Russia party, has come out in support of the idea of forming a government responsible to the parliamentary majority. “The machinery of state must be made accountable to the public. Forming a government responsible to the parliamentary majority is essential for that,” the minister said Wednesday, in his opening speech at a Law Enforcement Veterans Organization conference.

DUMA RATIFIES RUSSIAN-LITHUANIAN BORDER TREATY

Izvestia, May 22, 2003, p. 3 EV

On Wednesday, the Duma ratified the Russian-Lithuanian state border treaty which had been signed on October 24, 1998 in Moscow: 268 Duma members voted in favor, with 226 votes needed for the decision to be passed; 138 voted against, with one abstention.

Before the vote, representatives of the centrist factions, Yabloko, and the Union of Right Forces spoke in support of the treaty, while the left-wing forces and LDPR were opposed. The decision was passed in compliance with agreements relating to the Kaliningrad enclave problem, reached at the Brussels summit last autumn. These agreements require Russia to confirm the treaty on the state border between the Russian Federation and Lithuania before July 1, 2003. In fact, the treaty fixes the borderline between the two countries as it was in 1963.

DEFENSE MINISTER WELCOMES MISSILE DEFENSE COOPERATION WITH UNITED STATES

Izvestia, May 22, 2003, p. 3 EV

Russia and the United States may cooperate in the sphere of missile defense only on a long-term basis and provided both sides fulfill certain conditions, says Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. “We are ready for dialogue with the United States, but only if certain conditions are met,” said Ivanov at a news conference in Hawaii. Ivanov spoke in favor of friendly long-term cooperation between the two countries. “This cooperation ought not to be viewed as one side taking something away from the other,” the minister observed.

SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY CONCERNED ABOUT CONDITIONS IN SIBERIAN MILITARY DISTRICT

Izvestia, May 22, 2003, p. 3 EV

The current state of military forces stationed in the Siberian Military District is a top priority, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo declared when commenting on a meeting with the command staff of the Siberian Military District troops and other forces stationed in the district. The meeting took place on Wednesday in the city of Novosibirsk. The minister said that some of these problems will be discussed at meetings of interdepartmental commissions of the Security Council. The results of the commission’s work will be reported to the president.

UNION OF RIGHT FORCES SEEKS TO INFLUENCE PRESIDENT BY MEANS OF PUBLIC OPINION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 22, 2003, EV

The Union of Right Forces has started a petition in support of its military reforms plan. The party plans to collect at least 100,000 signatures of Russian citizens by June 1. Then the collective petition will be submitted to the president. As we were told by the URF press service, this action might be the last opportunity for the URF to block definite approval of the military reform concept proposed by the Defense Ministry. The URF considers that the president has lately become a “hostage to generals”, who want to delay the long-awaited reforms. That is why the URF has decided to appeal to public opinion to exert influence on the president.

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