SPEAKING OUT AGAINST ABUSES

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SPEAKING OUT AGAINST ABUSES

Argumenty i Fakty, August 20, 2003, p. 7

Among each day’s news of natural disasters and terrorist attacks, it’s easy to miss reports of a problem that is no less serious: the rights and liberties of ordinary citizens being violated. Manana Aslamazian, head of the Internews agency, is among the organizers of the “Abuses and the Law” media contest; he says there is another explanation for this: “Pressure and abuses on the part of the authorities and the law enforcement agencies happen a lot more often than they are reported in the media.”

Sergei Kalendin, a writer who is on the panel of judges for the contest, says: “Moscow sometimes resembles a Potemkin village – disturbing news from other cities and regions simply doesn’t reach it.” He added that such media reports are rare, for one reason: “In Moscow, they might trim your fingernails as a punishment for honest reporting. In the remote provinces, they’ll cut off your arms.”

There are independent journalists and publications in all Russian regions. But it’s not easy for them to do their job, says another organizer of the contest – Irina Yasina, project director for the Open Russia Foundation: “There are hundreds of examples of corruption and abuses by the authorities against ordinary citizens – and against journalist who write about this.” According to Yasina, the contest had been scheduled for next year: “But events have picked up pace, and more problems are arising each day – as we can see from the YUKOS affair.”

The Yabloko party is also among the organizers of the contest. According to Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Ivanenko, it would be wrong to say that society is passive: “People are people – they aren’t heroes. But they are awaiting free speech, and they want to be told the truth. After all, that’s the only way of countering abuses by the authorities.”

DIAMOND BOOM

Izvestia, August 21, 2003, p. 5 EV

The Alrosa diamond mining company and the Finance Ministry that directs it announced yesterday that the Niurbinsk mining and enrichment enterprise will commence operation on August 23. Once it reaches full capacity, Russia’s diamond production will rise by 16%. Analysts believe these new supplies of diamonds will not hurt the market or drive down prices significantly. The new enterprise, located close to some of the newest diamond deposits in Yakutia (Niurbinsk and Botuobinsk) will produce $400 million worth of diamonds a year.

Alexander Baranov, vice-president of the Russkie Fondy investment group, says that with the launch of the new enterprise, Alrosa will enter a price war with the Republic of South Africa (homeland of De Beers). However, Baranov notes that confrontation will be localized and will not lead to any substantial decline in diamond prices.

The draft budget for 2004 shows that the federal treasury expects to receive no less revenue from precious metals and gems next year than it has this year. In 2003, 20 billion rubles of this revenue is being directed into servicing foreign debts.

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