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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crackdown to Continue After Curfew Ends

Signs grew Friday that the Russian authorities intend to maintain or strengthen emergency measures in Moscow even after the present overnight curfew is lifted at the start of next week.


Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who has presided over a controversial police operation to remove non-Slavs from the Russian capital, declared that Moscow might enforce a "visa entry regime" after the state of emergency ends.


"Now, with the help of the organs of law and order, we intend to clean up the city", Luzhkov told Itar-Tass, which commented that the mayor had made it clear that "he personally prefers Russian traders to Caucasian ones".


Nationals from the Caucasus republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have been the primary targets of a police dragnet that has caught and expelled more than 6, 000 people from the capital and caused over 10, 000 to flee in fear since the state of emergency began Oct. 3. The total of those deported had reached 6, 846 by Friday, Moscow emergency rule headquarters said.


Luzhkov's comments indicate that the current deportations and increased police presence on Moscow's streets will not cease on Monday at 5 A. M. , when the state of emergency is scheduled to end.


That date was confirmed Friday by Alexander Kotenkov, head of the Yeltsin administration's legal department, who also declared that "a toughened regime of law enforcement will continue to exist in Moscow after the lifting of the state of emergency and the curfew", according to Itar-Tass.


The police crackdown in Moscow, which Luzhkov said had the full backing of President Boris Yeltsin, coincides with a series of measures by the government that conflict with Western notions of democracy.


In the last two days, the authorities have fired the editors of two major newspapers, Pravda and Sovetskaya Rossiya; banned and filed charges against 15 other newspapers and the anti-Yeltsin television program 600 Seconds, and served eviction notices to former legislators who stayed in the White House during the Oct. 3-4 rebellion.


In addition, according to an unconfirmed report in Izvestia, a draft of a presidential decree has been prepared that would seriously curtail civic freedoms in the run-up to parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum planned for Dec. 12.


In his comments to Itar-Tass, Luzhkov said he supported the police actions against the Caucasus nationals because there was now room for "honest traders" from Russian cities in Moscow's farmer's markets.


He admitted that exotic fruits might disappear from the markets, but said that the Caucasus traders would be replaced by traders from Tambov and other provincial cities selling "traditional Russian food".


The markets, which have been largely empty since the deportations started, "should not be a home for the mafia", he said. The strengthened visa regime, he added, would remove people who had come to Moscow in order to "make a profit and have a good time".


The tough stance from both national and city officials has heightened the anxiety of both the media and human rights groups.


At a press conference Friday, Oleg Orlov of the Memorial rights lobby called the idea of visas for Moscow "madness" and criticized Luzhkov for supporting the police crackdown, in which Muscovites have been actively encouraged to inform police about any illegal neighbors.


Orlov said that Memorial was "very concerned" about the closure of opposition newspapers and police abuse of "ordinary citizens" of Moscow who had "absolutely no political or press affiliations", and were in possession of legal residency permits.


Izvestia also called Friday for acute vigilance over human rights, publishing the draft of the presidential decree on its front page. The article stated, however that "not only has the draft not been signed by the president, but it has not formally reached his apparatus".


The measures described in the document include monitoring of entry and exit of motor vehicles into cities; monitoring of their movements; a tightening of the propiska regime of residency permits that would include a quota system, and deportation of people without the necessary residency papers.


The draft also calls for cancellation of immunity from prosecution for certain officials; extended rights for the security forces to conduct searches, and the detention without charge of people "suspected of having committed grave crimes" for up to 30 days, with provisions for certain prosecutors to hold such suspects for up to a year.


Under the draft, repeated violations of these emergency regulations can entail administrative arrest for a period of 30 days, but such cases should be heard within 3 days of arrest.


Were President Yeltsin to invoke such a decree, the present state of emergency would harden into a more permanent arbitrary rule from above, in the face of which Russians would have little legal defense.


The presidential press service told The Moscow Times on Friday that it had no information about the draft.