- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

Russia’s ‘spy mania’

Congressional human rights advocates are warning of a growing threat to civil liberties in Russia and urging President Bush to raise the issues at this week’s Group of Eight summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “is increasingly relying on the security-intelligence apparatus to run Russia, with ominous consequences for human rights, civil liberties and democratic progress,” leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe wrote to Mr. Bush.

They said Russian human rights activists refer to Mr. Putin’s “spy mania.”

The letter was signed by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and commission chairman, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican and co-chairman, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the commission’s senior Democrat.

They asked Mr. Bush to raise their concerns when he meets with Mr. Putin and other world leaders at the summit in Sea Island, Ga., which begins tomorrow.

They said many academics and environmentalists have been charged with collaborating with Western intelligence agencies “on the basis of questionable evidence and procedures.”

One such case involved Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at Moscow’s U.S. and Canada Institute, who was jailed for 15 years on espionage charges for passing publicly available scientific research to foreign colleagues.

Religious liberty is also at risk, they said, citing a Moscow court’s ruling that bans Jehovah’s Witnesses from spreading word about their sect.

“This should set off alarm bells for members of other religious minorities in Moscow and beyond,” the legislators said.

They also denounced the Russian government’s policies in the rebellious Chechnya region “where the most egregious violations of international humanitarian law anywhere in the [European] region are occurring.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyiannis, who meets Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and discusses Greece’s preparations for the 2004 Olympics with invited guests of the Western Policy Center. Tomorrow, she meets with members of Congress.

• Amit Mitra, secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, who delivers the keynote address at a forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Shalom Sabar, professor of Jewish studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who discusses Jews of Kurdistan in a noon lecture at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building.

Tomorrow

• Rita Kieber-Beck, deputy prime minister of Liechtenstein, who meets Attorney General John Ashcroft.

• Thomas Lambie, president of Federated Farmers in New Zealand, who joins a Cato Institute forum on global agricultural trade.

Wednesday

• Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who addresses the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Thursday

• Four Russian human rights advocates — Ludmilla Alekseeva, chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Mara Polyakova, director of the Independent Council for Legal Expertise; Arseny Roginsky, chairman of the International Memorial Society; and Alexei Simonov, director of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. They address invited guests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Friday

• Svenja Sinjen of the University of Kiel, Germany, and May-Britt Stumbaum of the German Council on Foreign Relations. They discuss Turkey and NATO in a forum sponsored by Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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