Month: March 2007

Combating Press Freedom

From a recent Reuters report (via LN):

The United Nations top human rights body condemned “defamation” of religion on Friday and, in an apparent reference to the storm over the Prophet cartoons, said press freedom had its limits.

With the support of China, Russia and Cuba, Moslem and Arab states comfortably won a vote on the 47-state Human Rights Council to express concern at “negative stereotyping” of religions and “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism”.

RFE/RL has a further report.

And there’s a graphic comment here. (hat tip: JP)

RCFS at Vienna

Although its relations with NGOs in general are increasingly frosty, the Russian government seems to have taken an especial dislike to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, which a Russian court recently ordered to be dissolved. The main reason for the hostility -which exceeds the norm in such cases – appears to be the fact that the Society once published some public statements by Aslan Maskhadov (murdered by Russian forces in March 2005) and Akhmed Zakayev (now living in London, England). This, it appears, is enough to brand the RCFS as an “extremist organization”.

Now Russian representatives at the OSCE are objecting to an invitation issued to the RCFS to attend the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Assembly, Association and Expression that is currently taking place in Vienna, Austria.

Oksana Chelysheva writes (via JP):

I am in Vienna now at the OSCE meeting. The day was really horrible as the Russian official delegation kept labelling us terrorists. One “political technologist from the Kremlin’s public chamber even insulted me in public…

Their behaviour is so absurdly stupid that all the delegations here are expressing their indignation. Except the Spanish who want “to make the balance” and not “offend their Russian friends”. I am coping with it although it really hurts.

As an honorary member of the RCFS, I protest against the behaviour of the Russian authorities, which is surely counter-productive, and will only serve to increase antipathy between Russia and the West.

Dudayev’s Man

In Chechnya Weekly , political analyst Mayrbek Vachagayev has some interesting comments on the recent appointment of Supyan Abdullayev as Ichkerian vice-president:

After the First Chechen War, Supyan Abdullaev held the rank of colonel and following the appointment of Islam Khalimov to the post of minister of internal affairs in 1997, became his deputy. Both of the men left the ministry following the gun battle in Gudermes between the Salafites and the supporters of Aslan Maskhadov on July 15, 1998. In the aftermath, Abdullaev grew distant from politics and was well known as a “second stringer.”

During the Second Chechen War, Supyan entered the ranks of the resistance in the very beginning, and even though he was a dzhamaat member, remained loyal to Aslan Maskhadov. Known for his calm and deliberate manner, Abdullaev never became part of any internal disputes and reached the level of brigadier general by the end of the conflict. He also started out as a leader of a dzhamaat and eventually became the commander of a front and a member of the Maskhadov government (, August 5, 2004).

The choice was made in favor of Abdullaev because he is a member of the old guard who began his career with Dzhokhar Dudaev. Even though he was not one of the primary figures during that time, his involvement with the resistance traces back to the early 1990’s; today, there are very few remaining who have experienced both of the Chechen wars. And it is because of this that Dokka Umarov chose this man out of his group of comrades that have been in close contact with him for almost twenty years.

This is not, however, the only reason for Abdullaev’s new position. The leader of the Chechen resistance movement understands that Supyan has significant influence over the Salafites, who are one of the best-organized groups within the Dagestani dzhamaat. This is an important concern for Umarov, since the “Shariat” dzhamaat of Dagestan has recently followed in the footsteps of Karachai’s dzhamaat by creating its own website. This is a notable departure from the times of Aslan Maskhadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, when all of the dzhamaats were united in using the services of the “Kavkaz-Center” internet portal controlled by Movladi Udugov.

Imperial March

On April 8 Moscow will be the scene of an “Imperial March”, organized by the Eurasian Youth Union.

It will be interesting to see if police take action of the kind that was taken against the recent “March of the Dissenters” (Marsh nesoglasnykh) in St Petersburg, and even more so against a similarly-titled march that took place in Nizhny Novgorod on March 24, and was actually broken up by police.

The President and the Ambassador

A press release from the office of Estonia’s President:

Today, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves received Dr. Reza Nazarahari, Iran’s Ambassador to Estonia, who presented his credentials to the Estonian Head of State.

During the conversation that followed, the President of the State revealed that the European Union is concerned regarding Iran’s extended presence in the international spotlight in association with the problems surfacing in co-operation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and now also due to the arrest of the British marines.

“We are anticipating that all the British marines that were detained on 23th March, would be released as soon as possible,” told the Estonian Head of State to the Iranian Ambassador.

In addition, President Ilves expressed his hope that in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1747, Iran will transform the Iran’s nuclear programme to comply with the requirements of IAEA.

“Estonia has high hopes that Iran would lean towards the diplomatic solution, opting for the so called stimulus package presented by the European Union in June last year,” stated the Estonian Head of State. “The very package could form a basis for a long term agreement that would allow Iran to develop modern civilian nuclear technology in compliance with the IAEA standards.”

Dr. Reza Nazarahari, Iranian Ambassador, affirmed that Iranian authorities are working to address the issue of the arrested British marines.

Ambassador Nazarahari, residing in Helsinki, Finland, took an opportunity to introduce the various possibilities of economic partnership and tourism between Estona and Iran.

(via LN)

Islamism and Communism

At Counterterrorism Blog, Lorenzo Vidino discusses the links in Italy between Islamist forces and those of the extreme left, and focuses his attention on recent statements by a prominent Islamist and former militant Communist who gave a speech in which the example of the street riots in France two years ago was held up as a model for other radical forces around the world to follow. Vidino concludes:

Piccardo’s speech seems that of a Communist leader, rather than that of the leader of one of Italy’s most important Muslim organization. An explanation can be found in Piccardo’s past involvement in the militant Communist underworld. Before his conversion to Islam in 1975, Piccardo had been a member of Autonomia Operaia, one of Italy’s most radical leftist formations during the 1970s. Piccardo, like other UCOII members that come from the radical left, dreams of a fusion of Communist and Islamist ideologies, with anti-capitalism, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism as the glues for this odd marriage. The UCOII case is not an isolated example of the alliance between far left and radical Islam in Europe. Another notorious example is Respect, the unlikely political formation borne out of the alliance between the Brotherhood-linked Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and fringe leftist groups headed by George Galloway. The phenomenon needs to be monitored, as the repercussions for both the security and the social cohesion of Europe can be serious.

Estonian Coalition Formed

The leaders of three Estonian political parties have now initialled a coalition agreement, Postimees reports. Andrus Ansip, Pro Patria and Res Publica Alliance (IRL) leader Mart Laar and Social Democrat chairman Ivari Padar finalised their discussions at the government residence on Toompea today. Not all cabinet positions have yet been assigned, but the run-down so far looks like the following:

IRL: speaker of parliament, five ministerial portfolios (ministries of defence, education, agriculture, economy, regional development) as well as heads of three parliamentary commissions (EU, environment and law commission).

Reform Party: prime minister and deputy speaker of parliament, five heads of ministries (ministries of foreign affairs, justice, environment, culture and social Affairs), plus chairs of four commissions in the parliament (financial, economic, defence, constitutional).

SDP: three ministerial positions (ministry of finance, interior ministry, ministry of population), plus heads of four commissions: foreign affairs, social affairs, cultural affairs and rural life.

(hat tip: LN)

Litvinenko: Russian investigators now in London

Interfax reports that

Russian investigators probing the murder of former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Alexander Litvinenko are in London, where they are expected to question more than 100 people, including exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky.

Interfax learned on Tuesday that a delegation headed by Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev left for the United Kingdom a day earlier.

The Avoidance of the Past

Commenting on Russia’s recent criticism of the March 25 commemoration of the 1949 deportations in Estonia, Vladimir Socor writes that

At the societal level […] Russia has not experienced the post-totalitarian process known in post-totalitarian Germany as Vergangenheits-Bewaeltigung, the paradigmatic “coming to terms” with history, including its crimes. Absent such coming to terms, many Russian officials and citizens tend to confuse occupations and annexations with liberations, cling to symbols of brutal conquest as attributes of national prestige, and seem startled when confronted with these issues. The aborted coming to terms with Soviet history is casting shadows on Russia’s relations with its neighbors.