ESCAPE FROM THE DESERT

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ESCAPE FROM THE DESERT

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 4

People holding dual citizenship for Russia and Turkmenistan have two months to decide which of them to choose. According to a decree signed by President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, people with dual citizenship should give up one of their citizenships by August 22, or they will lose it automatically.

Over 100,000 people with dual citizenship fear repression by the authoritarian regime of the president of Turkmenistan.

Vitaly Ponomarev, director of Central Asian programs for the Memorial human rights center: “Niyazov has a policy of isolation, and such people are a potential threat to his regime.” In Ponomarev’s opinion, if people with dual citizenship leave the country, this would suit the government of Turkmenistan, since it is has a policy of ousting non-Turkmens from the country. Ponomarev also notes that the talks conducted in Ashhabad indicate that Russia has paid attention to the situation of its citizens. “Before this decree, Russia had tolerated everything said by Niyazov,” said Ponomarev.

KASIANOV PREPARING PLAN FOR INTRODUCING VISA-FREE TRAVEL BETWEEN RUSSIA AND EUROPE

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has announced that a Russian working group is preparing a plan for implementing the initiative to introduce visa-free travel between Russia and EU countries. After talks with his Finnish counterpart Anneli Jaatteenmaki, Kasianov said that this regime “may be introduced for three years, or for five years, or even more.” According to the prime minister, the Russian working group will present this plan at the next Russia-EU summit in November.

PUTIN CONTINUES MEETINGS WITH BUSINESS LEADERS

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

On June 10, President Vladimir Putin met with Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of Russian Aluminum. According to Putin’s spokesman, Deripaska informed the president about progress on a number of major energy and metals projects in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Deripaska also told the president about Russian Aluminum’s international cooperation efforts.

RUSSIAN COULD BE MADE THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF THE CIS

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

On June 10, the Duma called for Russian to be designated as the working language of the CIS. It advised the CIS Parliamentary Assembly to speed up adoption of a draft law giving the Russian language the status of the official language across the territory of the CIS. Besides, the Duma proposed considering the issue of developing an interstate program called “The Russian Language”.

According to the draft of the model law on languages proposed by the Duma, citizens of other CIS nations have the right to appeal to agencies of state, regional, or local government in the official language or in a language of the most numerous population of any particular territory.

VIKTOR CHERKESOV RECEIVED NEW POWERS FROM PRESIDENT

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

Viktor Cherkesov, chairman of the State Committee for Countering the Drug trade, has reported that the president has signed several decrees regulating the activities of his agency.

According to Cherkesov, these decrees introduce regulations on the status of the committee itself and the law enforcement service for countering the drug trade within this committee. Besides, the president’s decrees introduce a list of positions for top-ranking officials in these agencies and ranks corresponding to these positions. Thus, as Cherkesov has stressed, the activities of the agency now have a good legal foundation, and these structures will employ as many as 40,000 people.

IMPROVING THE WEATHER IN ST. PETERSBURG COST 26 MILLION RUBLES

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

Efforts to improve weather conditions in St. Petersburg during the recent international summits cost 26 million rubles. According to Georgy Shchukin, Deputy Director of the Voeikov Geophysical Observatory, ten planes were involved in cloud dispersal. Their flights were coordinated with the schedule of arrivals of guests. The zone of the flights was considerably reduced because of the vicinity of Finland, since they could not cross the Russian-Finnish border

SERGEI STEPASHIN TO MONITOR RESTORATION OF CHECHNYA

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

Auditing Commission chairman Sergei Stepashin has announced that his agency intends to ensure strict monitoring over the spending of 400 million rubles allocated this year from the federal budget for the restoration of Chechnya. Stepashin reported that the Auditing Commission discovered misappropriation of 365 million rubles last year, and 20 million rubles of that “was simply stolen”. Stepashin noted: “The Auditing Commission has made the Prosecutor Generalr’s Office to institute four legal proceedings, and the culture minister of the Chechen government has been dismissed.”

MONEY FOR THE DICTATES OF SHARI’AH LAW

Izvestia, June 11, 2003, p. 3

Russian courts have ruled that Muslim women may keep their headscarves on for their passport photos; and now, encouraged by this success, Russian Muslim leaders are raising questions about Islamic principles in the economy. A conference opened at the Kosmos Hotel in Moscow yesterday: “Islamic financial relations and the prospects for implementing them in Russia’s Muslim community.” Russian Muslim religious leaders gathered to take a look at money from the viewpoint of Shari’ah law.

So what do they mean by Islamic economic principles? The Koran says that human beings are not the owners of riches and natural resources; all riches belong to Allah alone. It follows that human beings are entrusted by Allah, during their lifetimes, to use natural resources. Since all Muslims are brothers, there cannot be any exploitation in relations between them. But charging interest on loans is straight-out exploitation. The main difference between an Islamic financial system and a traditional system involves this ban on usury. An Islamic bank accepts deposits and grants loans on an investment basis, not a credit basis; the bank (or depositor) does not have a guarantee of return – that only happens if and when a profit is made.

Adalet Dzhabiev, president of the Badr Forte Bank, noted that more and more Muslims are becoming involved in Russia’s financial system. But the main problem is not public ignorance of Islamic economic principles, nor a shortage of personnel. Dzhabiev says the main problem is a lack of legislation covering the activities of organizations that operate or wish to operate according to Shari’ah standards.

So a test balloon has been launched to gauge the state’s reaction to the prospects of “Islamization” – not for the entire Russian economy, of course, but certainly some parts of it in some regions.

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