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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Russia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Russia, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa571c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

The Russian Constitution establishes democratic governance through three branches of power with checks and balances: the Presidency and the Government, headed by the Prime Minister; a bicameral legislature, or Federal Assembly, consisting of the State Duma and Federation Council; and the courts. The Constitution also lays a comprehensive groundwork for observance and enforcement of human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The constitutional referendum of December 1993, which was concurrent with parliamentary elections, strengthened President Boris Yeltsin's position vis-a-vis the legislature. He continued to proclaim his commitment to political reform and the transition to a modern market economy. Nevertheless, the process of institutionalizing democracy and a modern market economy lagged due, in part, to the slow enactment of laws and development of regulatory institutions, widespread unfamiliarity with democratic and market principles, and a reaction against "democrats" and free market advocates because of social dislocation.

The Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) is responsible for internal security issues, including foreign intelligence activity in Russia, drugs, terrorism, and state corruption. The Federal Border Service is broadly responsible for the security of Russia's external borders. The Ministry of Interior (MVD) is responsible for the police, prison system, and paramilitary forces used to maintain public order. Legislative oversight of these organizations is tenuous at best, and some MVD prison and police personnel have committed human rights abuses. Russia is a vast country with a wealth of natural resources and a diverse industrial base. It made significant progress in 1994 in its ongoing transformation from a centrally planned economy to a market-based one. Over 70 percent of enterprises are now privatized, and the majority of workers are employed outside the state sector or in both the private and state sectors. However, by official measurement, gross domestic product continued to fall and unemployment to rise, and the Government continued to battle inflation and deficit spending.

The overall human rights record in Russia in 1994 remained uneven. The concept of the rule of law has yet to be institutionalized and implemented. In his desire to combat rapidly increasing crime, President Yeltsin signed two decrees in June, which contradict constitutional rights to protection against arbitrary arrest and illegal search, seizure, and detention. The Constitutional Court, the only body having the authority to settle constitutional disputes, remained inoperative because of governmental inability to fill vacancies. Courts of general jurisdiction, with several notable exceptions, remained timid in asserting their authority. Moreover, judges generally feel uncomfortable with the idea of having the duty and responsibility to declare actions taken by the executive branch and regional authorities as unconstitutional.

In August Sergey Kovalev, the Human Rights Commissioner, (a position provided for in the Constitution), published a highly critical report on the human rights situation in 1993, noting that law enforcement officials reportedly beat and physically abused detainees; military officers failed to discipline those who engaged in "dedovshchina," the violent hazing of conscripts, which led to numerous deaths and injuries; and prison officials appeared unable to correct life-threatening situations in pretrial detention centers.

Claiming the need to prevent Chechnya's secession from Russia, Russian troops crossed into the Russian Federation's Republic of Chechnya on December 11. Beginning in late December following major Chechen resistance, there was massive aerial and artillery bombardment of Chechnya's capital, Groznyy, resulting in a heavy loss of civilian life and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. These actions were in conflict with a number of Russia's international obligations, including those concerning the protection of civilian noncombatants and notification of troop movements. In late December, Human Rights Commissioner Kovalev accused Russian troops of violating human rights on a "massive scale" in Chechnya. The international community and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) called upon both parties to respect international humanitarian law and the human rights of noncombatant civilians.

Although freedom of speech and press is widely respected, there were physical attacks on journalists by unknown persons and at least one killing. Journalists reporting on the conflict in Chechnya were harassed and threatened. Other human rights abuses include official and societal discrimination against people from the Caucasus, some continuing societal discrimination against Jews, violence against women, lack of attention to the welfare of children and the handicapped, and bureaucratic obstacles to the development of independent labor unions.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known political killings by agents of the Government, but the line between politically motivated killings and criminal activities has become difficult to distinguish.

Dmitriy Kholodov, an investigative reporter for the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets who was to testify in the State Duma on corruption in the Russian army in East Germany, was killed on October 17 when he opened a package allegedly containing documents on the army's illegal arms sales. Many journalists charge complicity in the killing by high-level Defense Ministry officials (see Section 2.a.).

Law enforcement authorities have been unable to stem an upsurge in contract killings and extortions aimed at Russian businessmen (especially bankers). These criminal activities are in part a result of the ongoing struggle for commercial and financial markets in which there is deep Mafia (and sometimes Mafia and government) involvement. On December 2, elements of the President's Security Service staged a raid on the headquarters of "Most" bank in central Moscow, injuring several bank security guards. While results of the Government's inquiry into this incident were pending at year's end, businessmen expressed concern about the authorities' inability to provide protection and stability and to curb Mafia intimidation.

The violent hazing and cruel treatment of new recruits by soldiers [dedovshchina]continued to cause a number of deaths which the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, a human rights group, asserts have been covered up by military authorities as suicides or accidental deaths (see Section 1.c.).

At year's end, Russian military forces attacking the city of Groznyy, the capital of the breakaway Russian Republic of Chechnya, utilized disproportionate force and inflicted heavy civilian casualties. (See Section 1.g. for a fuller description of violations of humanitarian law regarding internal conflicts.)

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Article 20 of the Constitution specifically prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. A series of laws passed since 1991 establish internationally accepted standards for the treatment of persons suspected of crimes.

Practices and conditions worsened in the prison system (including both pretrial detention centers and prison camps) because of overcrowding and the failure to expand capacity, the Government's lack of sufficient funds for the care and feeding of inmates, inadequate supervision by law enforcement and correctional facility personnel, and the lack of individual or institutional accountability for violations. The lack of funding has also resulted in many prison personnel not being paid, exacerbating prison conditions, particularly in rural areas. The Government is considering transferring responsibility for administration of the prison system from the MVD to the Ministry of Justice. The Duma has created a committee to investigate abuses in prisons, including those that occur during pretrial detention.

Overcrowding is becoming severe. A Moscow prison built with a capacity for 8,500 inmates now houses well over 17,000 and is still considered better than most prisons in the regions. Many prisons were built in the 1930's and have never been renovated. According to Russian and international human rights groups, many are unfit for human habitation as a result of deterioration and lack of sanitation systems adequate for the number of prisoners housed.

Observers claim that some prisons have stopped feeding prisoners for months at a time, relying on inmates' friends and relatives to bring in rations which are shared among all inmates. According to the Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions, the lack of funding has also led to a crisis in which inmates receive medical care and medications only when they are suffering from a life-threatening condition. Prisoners with infectious diseases are sometimes not separated from more healthy inmates, and tuberculosis is widespread.

Conditions in Russian pretrial detention centers are particularly bleak. One such facility in Moscow, Butyrskiy prison, was originally built in the 18th century. MVD personnel have publicly warned that overcrowding and inhuman conditions undermine the Ministry's ability to guarantee security in such institutions. In some cases, detainees lack even the room to sit down, must stand shoulder to shoulder, and sleep in two or three shifts. Many detainees suffer from infectious diseases. Many of the most severe reported cases of beatings occur in pretrial detention centers where officials resort to extreme measures to punish minor infractions of the rules as a means to ensure discipline and guarantee their own personal safety.

Detainees in pretrial detention centers face much worse conditions than convicted criminals in prison camps. Moreover, although existing law allows authorities to hold suspects up to 18 months in investigative detention, in practice, thousands are held for much longer periods. In some cases, the time a detainee serves in pretrial detention is as long as the term he would have served in prison if found guilty. Given these circumstances, some detainees choose to confess to crimes they did not commit in order to escape the harsh conditions of pretrial detention centers.

There are widespread, credible reports of beatings by law enforcement officials during arrest and by prison personnel during detention and incarceration. Pressure on law enforcement officials from the central Government, local government, and society to deal with the rapidly increasing crime rate in Russia has led officials to overlook heavyhanded practices during arrest and incarceration. Russian human rights monitors claim that law enforcement officials are rewarded for bringing cases to quick closure and thus routinely deny suspects their right to an attorney and beat and intimidate them during questioning to extract a quick confession to a crime. Autopsies are rarely performed to determine the cause of prison deaths.

The Moscow Center for Prison Reform has spoken with prisoners who have witnessed abuse and rape of female detainees, but rape and abuse victims seldom register official complaints.

Police, labor camp, and prison officials harass and abuse persons on the basis of sexual orientation. Gay men are particularly targeted for abuse in prisons and labor camps. The Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions claims there are approximately 1,000 gay men in Moscow pretrial detention centers who have not been formally charged with crimes. The Society also alleges that gay men are subjected to sexual and nonsexual physical abuse on the part of fellow inmates and prison officials and are routinely given low priority in access to services such as medical care.

While the law does not criminalize lesbian relations, it is widely regarded as a form of mental illness, and police frequently place lesbians against their will into psychiatric hospitals after receiving requests from family members or friends to commit the "patient" to an institution for treatment. The Moscow Society for Lesbians, Literature, and Art alleges that medical textbooks in Russia still include materials on clinical treatments for homosexuality as a mental illness. In psychiatric hospitals, chemical treatments are prescribed, and lesbians are sometimes beaten if they refuse treatment, according to the Society which claims the only way to be discharged is to renounce their sexual orientation. (See Section 1.e. for a discussion of gay men who continue to be imprisoned even though the sodomy laws were repealed in 1993.)Officers of the armed forces continue to permit, even encourage, dedovshchina, the violent and cruel hazing of young recruits which, at best, involves forcing recruits to perform menial tasks, often outside official duties, and, at worst, leads to beatings, murder, and suicide. The national military leadership made no moves to implement training and education programs systematically to combat dedovshchina, nor has the concept of a military police force advanced much past the discussion phase.

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers in Moscow and other human rights groups note with grave concern that dedovshchina--viewed during the Soviet era as a rite of passage--remains a key form of discipline for some military officers. Widespread publicity and human rights groups' efforts to eliminate dedovshchina have been successful in individual cases and are very much dependent on local commanders. Without effective leadership training and a viable noncommissioned officer corps, dedovshchina can be expected to persist. Given current financial difficulties, unit officers are often too preoccupied maintaining barely adequate living conditions (or taking second jobs to make ends meet) to devote much attention to their troops. The Committee claims that the military often covers up deaths due to dedovshchina as suicides or accidental deaths. During the first half of 1994, according to a July report by Ministry of Defense officials to the Russian legislature, 518 deaths were recorded in the armed forces, including 74 officers. Of these, 57 percent were due to "violations of safety regulations"; 5 percent to "barracks violence"; 8 percent to "premeditated murder"; and 25 percent were determined to be suicides.

In addition, the military leadership has yet to address the worsening problems of dangerous sanitary conditions, poor food rations, and the use of conscript labor for personal or private gain. There is credible evidence that inhumane care and treatment of soldiers, including lack of suitable housing or shelter, poor nutrition, and unsanitary conditions have resulted in outbreaks of disease, notably hepatitis and dysentery.

Officers have subjected soldiers to inhuman and cruel punishment. Acting Prosecutor General Aleksey Ilyushenko described to the press in September one incident in which the commander of the Northern Fleet cruiser "Admiral Gorshkov" punished violators of discipline by locking them into a metal pit, some for as long as 370 days. Seven sailors, who had been incarcerated in a room measuring 4 square meters, were killed when a steam pipe burst in February. This makeshift brig was not monitored, and no one else on the ship was aware of the accident until it was too late to rescue those confined.

There have also been allegations of forced labor in the armed forces inuring to the private gain of corrupt senior officers. Young conscripts appear to be often used as forced labor by senior officers on personal building and construction projects. Moreover, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers claims to have assisted several families whose sons were sold into servitude during their military service. In one case, Mikhail Fedotov, a Russian soldier serving in the Russian army in Uzbekistan, was allegedly "sold" by a superior officer to local Uzbek inhabitants and forced to work from December 1992 to April 1993, after which he was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Article 22 of the Constitution states that arrest, taking into custody, and detention of persons suspected of crimes are permitted only by judicial decision. Criminal suspects must be arraigned before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest. Detainees have the right to have an attorney present during questioning following arrest and throughout proceedings up to and including arraignment. Detainees have the right to request a court evaluation of the legality of detention. If the court finds the detention illegal, the judge has the power to order immediate release.

Nevertheless, police make arrests without judicial warrants and detain persons without judicial permission beyond the 48-hour time period. In September a member of the President's legal advisory board estimated that several thousand people had been arrested illegally over the previous 2 years, that one out of every three persons arrested was denied the right to legal services, and that 70 percent of detainees were held for terms three to five times longer than necessary while awaiting sentencing. To strengthen the law enforcement authorities' ability to combat organized crime, President Yeltsin issued two decrees in June, giving them power to detain suspects without charges and without access to a lawyer for 30 days, and to conduct warrantless searches and seizures. Law enforcement authorities are credibly reported to rely on these decrees to avoid abiding by relevant constitutional provisions.

The present judicial and criminal investigative systems lack the resources to deal with the continuously increasing number of cases. According to the Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions, due to the Government's inability to implement a functioning system of release on bail, by the end of 1994 authorities held a total of 250,000 people in pretrial detention centers. This amounted to 25 to 30 percent of the total prison system's population.

The constitutional right to judicial review of detention within 48 hours of arrest is frequently ignored. Russian human rights monitors have documented evidence from interviews with detainees that the few who are aware of their rights and complain of violations are subjected to beatings. Nevertheless, about one in six cases of arrest is now appealed to the courts, and judges release one in six of these on grounds of insufficient evidence or breach of procedure.

The Constitution provides for legal assistance for the indigent, but in practice the indigent receive little assistance. Local governments lack sufficient funds to pay for trial attorneys representing the indigent.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In the last 3 years, the Government made substantial efforts to reform the criminal justice system and judicial institutions. Despite these efforts, judges are only now beginning to throw off the Soviet legacy to assert their constitutionally mandated independence from other branches of government.

The courts of general jurisdiction, or civil courts, are undifferentiated as to function and consider criminal, civil, and juvenile cases, although a separate court system dealing with commercial cases exists. Civil courts are organized on three levels: district courts, which try the overwhelming majority of cases; regional courts, which operate at the provincial level; and a Supreme Court centered in Moscow. All may act as a court of first instance, depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime.

While the Constitution prescribes the separation of powers and the complete independence of the judiciary, judges in practice are totally dependent on the Ministry of Justice for court infrastructure and financial support and on local authorities for their housing.

Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the district, regional, and federation levels. They are ultimately responsible to the Prosecutor General, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council. Aleksey Ilyushenko, twice nominated by the President for the position, was denied confirmation by Parliament in 1994 but nevertheless continued to serve in an acting capacity. Apart from regions where adversarial jury trials have recently been introduced, prosecutors remain very influential in the conduct of court proceedings. Prosecutors supervise criminal investigations, which are usually conducted by the MVD.

Criminal cases at the district and regional court levels are tried by a panel consisting of 1 judge and 2 lay assessors, or--in the 9 (out of 89) regions where by year's end adversarial jury trials have been introduced--defendants in serious criminal cases may elect to have their cases tried by a jury. Trials are public except when government secrets are at issue. (See Section 2.d. regarding Mirzayanov case.) Defendants are required to attend their trials unless they have been accused of a minor crime not punishable by imprisonment. They may confront witnesses and present evidence. The court appoints an attorney for any defendant who needs one.

Although the former Supreme Soviet and the present Parliament, with active encouragement of the President's staff, enacted many legal reforms, both the Government of the Russian Federation and regional governments failed to fund their implementation adequately. According to a Ministry of Justice official, only one-third of the $600,000 (1.5 billion rubles) promised in 1994 for judicial reforms was allocated, and inflation turned the rest into "a pile of kopeks." As a result, the widespread reintroduction of adversarial juries is not taking place according to schedule because courts are not being renovated, judges are not receiving necessary training, and insufficient funds are available to pay for jurors' stipends.

There are also a few instances in which laws have been reformed or changed, but persons previously convicted continue to be imprisoned. The Society for the Defense of Convicted Businessmen and Economic Freedoms is aware of a number of prisoners incarcerated for economic crimes, although the number in 1994 is much less than in 1993, when there were tens of thousands of such people. The Criminal Codes are still in the process of being revised, but already such crimes as bribe-taking, currency speculation, and embezzlement carry penalties far less strict than the severe consequences, including the death penalty, in effect until 1991.

The Society for the Guardianship of Penitentiary Institutions, which compiles relatively reliable statistics, believes there are few, if any, persons still imprisoned for sodomy since the repeal of the sodomy law in 1993 and the enactment of Article 54 of the Russian Constitution which states in part "if liability for an offense has been lifted or mitigated after its perpetration, the new law shall apply." Nevertheless, the Society added that many homosexuals were imprisoned for crimes other than or in addition to sodomy and, therefore, were not released when the law was repealed (though their prison terms may have been reduced, as permitted under Article 54.)In the 80 regions where juries have not yet been introduced, criminal procedures are still weighted heavily in favor of the prosecution. For example, the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence is often disregarded, and defendants are expected to prove their innocence rather than prosecutors proving guilt. Moreover, rates of conviction remain above 99 percent, as opposed to the 16-percent acquittal rate among juries. Judges--fearing that an outright acquittal will result in a prosecutorial appeal--frequently send cases back to the prosecutor for "additional investigation." This greatly increases defendants' time spent in pretrial detention.

The right to an attorney during pretrial questioning is often overlooked. Many defendants refute testimony given in pretrial questioning, stating that they were denied access to an attorney, or that they were threatened or beaten and only said what they thought the authorities wanted to hear (up to a full confession) so that the abuse would stop. Nevertheless, Russian human rights monitors have documented cases in which convictions were obtained on the basis of the original, illegal testimony (after the defendant refuted that testimony in court), and even in the absence of other proof of guilt.

Criminal defendants, and prosecutors in nonjury trials, have the right of appeal. In practice, however, superior courts lack the authority to overturn decisions of a lower court and may only mandate that the case be retried. The lower court can retry the case on the same evidence, reach the same decision, and--since there is no legal limit to the number of appeals--the dissatisfied party can appeal again. The system, however, is heavily weighted against appeals because (1) the prosecution and the courts have a vested interest in clearing the backlog of cases, and (2) defendants prefer prisons, where better conditions prevail, over pretrial detention centers. (See Section 1.c. for a description of conditions in prisons and pretrial detention centers.)In a notable assertion of judicial authority, in what is believed to be the first time in Russian history, a Russian court awarded an individual compensation for an arbitrary act committed against him by the State. In March charges of revealing state secrets were dismissed against Vil Mirzayanov who had passed information to the Western press concerning Russian violations of international chemical weapons conventions. In June a court heard Mirzayanov's suit for damages against the Russian Government and ordered the prosecutor's office and Mirzayanov's former employer to pay him about $15,000 (30 million rubles) in damages because of malicious prosecution.

This victory was short-lived, however, as a Moscow city court in July overturned the decision to award damages. After more legal maneuvering between the two courts with jurisdiction over the case, the Moscow Chief Prosecutor, according to Mirzayanov, refused to hear the case again on appeal, citing, inter alia, technicalities such as the lack of a readily identifiable defendant in the case. In October the research institute which formerly employed Mirzayanov sued him for 33 million rubles (about $11,000 at the October rate of exchange) in damages, accusing him again of fabricating information. Mirzayanov expects the court to try the case in January 1995. (See Section 2.d. regarding Mirzayanov's desire to travel abroad.)The case concerning Semyon Livshits demonstrates continuing problems. Livshits, a naval officer, was arrested on April 23, 1990, after applying for an exit visa for Israel. Initially, he was accused of conspiring with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, to turn the submarine on which he was serving over to the Israeli Government. These charges were later dropped. He was also accused of group rape and robbery, for which he was tried, convicted, and given a 10-year sentence by a Vladivostok military court. In October 1992, the Supreme Court struck the sentence, finding insufficient evidence and violations of judicial procedure. From March 1993 to April 1994, Livshits was retried by a Vladivostok court, which again found him guilty and resentenced him to 10 years in prison. Livshits plans to reappeal his case to the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. By year's end, defense attorneys had presented all required documents for the appeal to the court in Vladivostok, which in turn was preparing the final documents to be sent to Moscow.

The Constitution provides for a Constitutional Court, and Parliament adopted a law establishing one. But by year's end, the Federation Council failed to confirm all the President's nominees, leaving one vacancy on a consequently inoperative Court.

There were no known political prisoners. In exercise of its constitutional prerogative, the State Duma declared an amnesty for all those detained by law enforcement authorities in the aftermath of the October 1993 crisis, including Ruslan Khasbulatov, Chairman of the former Supreme Soviet, and Alexander Rutskoy, former Vice President.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Article 25 of the Constitution states that the right to privacy in the home may be violated only on the basis of a court decision or in accordance with federal laws. In practice, law enforcement organs and internal security forces fail to do this and continue to observe the Soviet-era requirement of informing the prosecutor's office of intent to enter private premises.

Article 23 of the Constitution provides for privacy of correspondence and electronic communications, except in cases in which a judge issues a warrant. Many Russians believe electronic monitoring of residences and telephone conversations continues, even if at reduced levels in comparison to the Soviet era.

Refugee organizations claim that law enforcement officials routinely use informer networks to track the whereabouts of persons from the Caucasus, whether resident in Russia legally or illegally. General societal discrimination against people from the Caucasus area and reports of harassment against these people by law enforcement officials lend credence to such assertions.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

The Russian Federation's Republic of Chechnya in the northern Caucasus declared itself independent from the Russian Federation in 1991. In the summer, the Russian Government intensified its charges against the government of secessionist President Dzhokar Dudayev, accusing it of repressing political dissent, of corruption, and of involvement in international criminal activities. Meanwhile, several armed opposition groups financially and militarily supported by Russian government entities sought to overthrow President Dudayev. In August they bombed a telephone station and the Moscow-Baku railroad line. The Dudayev government blamed the acts on the political opposition and introduced a state of emergency, followed in September by martial law. Restrictions included a curfew, limits on exit and entry procedures, and restrictions on travel by road in some areas. The opposition launched a major offensive on November 26 with the covert support of "volunteers" from several elite regular Russian army units. The operation failed to unseat Dudayev.

By December, Russian military forces were actively working to overthrow the Dudayev regime. Russian military aircraft bombed both military and civilian targets in Groznyy, the capital of the republic. Russian military officials initially denied any official involvement in the conflict. Regular army and MVD troops crossed the border into Chechnya on December 10 to surround Groznyy. Air strikes continued through the month of December and into January, causing extensive damage and heavy civilian casualties. Beyond the large number of civilians injured and killed, most residential and public buildings in Groznyy, including hospitals and an orphanage, were destroyed. These actions were denounced as major human rights violations by Sergey Kovalev, President Yeltsin's Human Rights Commissioner, and by human rights NGO's. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jose Ayala Lasso, reiterated his profound preoccupation at the reports of violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Chechnya, characterized by a large number of civilian victims. The Russian Government announced on December 28 that Russian ground forces had begun an operation to "liberate" Groznyy one district at a time and disarm the "illegal armed groupings." Dudayev supporters vowed to continue resisting and to switch to guerrilla warfare. (See Section 2.a. for a description of the harassment of journalists reporting on the conflict in Chechnya.)

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

During 1994 freedom of speech and press was generally respected. The print media, most of which are independent of the Russian Federation Government and many of which are privately owned, functioned largely unhindered and represented a wide range of opinions.

The Russian Government has placed intermittent restrictions on Russian and foreign press covering the war in Chechnya, claiming the need to protect military secrets and to ensure journalists' safety. Duma deputy and Human Rights Ombudsman Kovalev, who was in Groznyy for most of the war, reported that the Russian Government has "continually hindered the activity of correspondents in the war zone... and force has been used to interfere with reporters (including) instances of mistreatment, death threats, and confiscation of material." He also alluded to government pressure on the Moscow press, including threats to dismiss state television chief Oleg Poptsov for airing news broadcasts critical of the Chechnya operation.

The press law requires that mass media publications be licensed by the State Committee for the Press. Its former chairman, Boris Mironov, who favored tight regulation of the media, was dismissed by the President in September for allegedly asserting he was a Fascist. His successor, Sergey Gryzunov, announced in December the closure of the newspaper Al-Kods (an anti-Zionist Palestinian publication generally critical of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat) because of noncompliance with a provision of the press law barring non-Russian citizens from founding newspapers. Gryzunov also stated he would issue official warnings and begin legal proceedings against about 100 newspapers he considered to be Fascist or inciteful of ethnic and racial enmity.

Regional political authorities resorted to various devices to close down critical newspapers. The Glasnost Defense Fund, which monitors press freedom throughout the former Soviet Union, recorded dozens of such incidents. Perhaps the best known case occurred in early 1994 when Governor Nazdratenko of Primorskiy Kray (Vladivostok) fired the mayor of Vladivostok and closed down two newspapers which had criticized the governor's actions. A radio reporter was also fired and then beaten by unknown attackers in September after criticizing the administration. Regional political authorities also cited unpaid printing bills or other debts as a pretext for closing newspapers that were too critical. Many media organizations are liable to pressure by such authorities because they occupy city-owned premises or receive subsidies. In towns dominated by a single industrial enterprise, the leaders of that enterprise have sufficient power to suppress investigative reporting and discussion of embarrassing topics, such as environmental pollution or privatization schemes benefiting management.

Organized crime is increasingly able to exert pressure on the media either because of the dire financial straits in which most newspapers find themselves or because of the corruptibility of underpaid journalists willing to write articles favorable to particular companies, products, or individuals. In addition, opponents of the Government and journalists have alleged involvement by military officials in the murder of an investigative reporter. On October 13, one of Moskovskiy Komsomolets' journalists, Dmitriy Kholodov, was notified by telephone by one of his contacts that a package of very important documents on illegal arms sales by the Russian army was waiting to be picked up at the Kazanskiy train station. He retrieved the package and, when he opened it in the newspaper building, it exploded, killing him. Known for investigative pieces on corruption in the military and intelligence agencies, he was scheduled to testify in the State Duma on alleged corruption in the Western Group of Forces, formerly stationed in East Germany. Since Kholodov's death, some journalists covering corruption in the military claim to have received anonymous threatening telephone calls.

In September a well-known television journalist and two executives of St. Petersburg's Channel 5 television network were beaten and robbed in a 1-week period. The attacks are widely considered to have had political motives, although the attackers remain unknown.

Broadcasters have a weaker legal basis for freedom in broadcast programming and are potentially subject to much greater government control due to the Government's monopoly of transmission facilities and the expense involved in establishing and maintaining independent stations. However, stations such as NTV, a privately financed Moscow television station, TV6, and other smaller private stations are beginning to provide competition to state broadcasting in Moscow and other large urban centers.

Television studios at the regional level, formerly part of the central broadcasting system during the Soviet era, now operate more or less independently. They function as affiliates, opting to use programs from state-owned sources and producing local news programming independently. Local authorities sometimes subject these affiliates to pressure. All broadcasters and cable networks, both public and private, use foreign broadcast material.

In connection with the Russian military action in Chechnya in December, both Russian and foreign journalists reported efforts, including harassment and threats of force, by Russian officials and military personnel to prevent journalists from entering certain areas or to influence their reporting. Although formal censorship procedures were not established, nor was access to areas of conflict categorically forbidden, the Russian Government did not repudiate such efforts by individual elements within the military and the Interior Ministry to control or suppress media coverage of events in Chechnya.

The breadth of academic freedom in Russia continues to expand. Virtually all institutions of higher learning, from universities to research institutes, enjoy increased autonomy. While many university rectors and department heads are still appointed by the Ministry of Education, a growing number of senior university administrators are now selected by secret ballot in free and open elections. Curriculums and textbooks are continuously being revised and updated, and many institutions have developed relations with Western counterparts. The entrenched academic nomenklatura (privileged bureaucracy) nonetheless continues to exert influence through its control of some resources and privileges.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the Government generally respects these freedoms.

Organizers of demonstrations must apply for permission to local authorities between 15 and 10 days in advance, and officials must respond at least 5 days before the scheduled event. Participants in unauthorized demonstrations are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including fines, 15-day jail sentences, and stiffer punishment. In December Moscow police briefly detained members of the human rights organization Memorial for holding an unauthorized protest in front of the Presidential Administration building against the bloodshed in Chechnya. The authorities routinely issued permits for demonstrations throughout Russia in October to mark the first anniversary of the violent confrontation between forces loyal to President Yeltsin and members of the former Supreme Soviet (legislature). In 1994 there were many public demonstrations, few of which were marred by violence.

All public associations must register their bylaws and the names of their officers with the Ministry of Justice. Political parties must also present 5,000 signatures and pay a fee to register. There are now over 300 social and political organizations, and the authorities are not known to have refused arbitrarily to register any organization.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this freedom.

The Russian Orthodox Church continues to gain influence throughout society, including within the Government. The head of the Church, Patriarch Aleksiy II, has asserted the Church's belief in complete religious freedom but has been reluctant to condemn openly anti-Semitic pronouncements by Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg.

Bureaucratic obstacles to complete religious freedom still exist because the 1990 Soviet law on religion requires religious groups of 10 or more persons to register with local authorities. Some groups view the requirement itself as contradicting their beliefs and refuse to register. Failure to register precludes organizations from the right to establish schools, own property, or engage in social work. The registration process is open to bureaucratic obstructionism, such as lost or delayed applications or denial of adequate facilities. In Vladivostok, city authorities tried to block the registration of a Roman Catholic parish, reportedly after pressure from local Orthodox clergy.

In Krasnodar, after the son of a Pentecostal minister was murdered, the local authorities claimed a church member killed him and shut the church down. There were credible reports that Russian Orthodox believers prevented Pentecostals and other evangelical groups from meeting. (See Section 5 for a discussion of religious discrimination.)

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are generally free to travel within Russia. All adults are issued internal passports which they must carry while traveling and use to register with local authorities visits of more than 3 days. Travelers not staying in hotels usually ignore this requirement.

The right to choose one's place of residence freely, although provided in Article 27 of the Constitution, is still restricted in practice. Under the "propiska" system, all citizens must obtain a residence permit. A law passed in July 1993 attempted to change the character of the system from one in which the authorities grant permission for a citizen to reside in a given location to one in which the citizen simply registers to inform the authorities of his place of residence. The law came into force on October 1, 1993, but has not been implemented. The authorities of larger cities enforce the existing propiska system selectively, often targeting those who are not Russian, primarily persons from the Caucasus and Central Asia. In a few cases, individuals have appealed propiska refusals in court and won, but such instances are rare. Human rights monitors cite these cases as the absurd lengths to which citizens must go to enforce observance of basic constitutional rights.

Some officials have called for abolition of the propiska system, stating that it is unconstitutional. However, officials in major cities, especially Moscow, staunchly defend the system, predicting widespread crime and homelessness if it were abolished. Citing this as justification, Moscow city authorities on July 1 imposed a system under which nonresidents must pay a daily fee to visit the capital. Furthermore, Russian citizens from within the Russian Federation who wish to change their residence to Moscow must pay a fee equal to 500 times the monthly minimum wage to purchase a permit, while persons from the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States must pay 1,000 times the monthly minimum wage and those from all other countries must pay 1,500 times the monthly minimum wage. The authorities also enforce this system selectively, especially harassing persons from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Russian citizens also have the constitutional right to emigrate. Under the May 1991 Soviet law on emigration and foreign travel, which officially came into force on January 1, 1993, exit permits and formal invitations from abroad are no longer required of travelers who are not emigrating. Emigrants need only show an invitation from any relative abroad or permission to enter the country to which they are immigrating. The law, however, continues to restrict the emigration of persons with access to state secrets. Special travel regulations apply to some Russian scientists wishing to travel abroad temporarily.

An interagency government commission reviews individual passport applications denied on secrecy grounds. Persons have the right to present their case and to call expert witnesses to challenge the continued secrecy of the information in question. Since the commission began reviewing cases in June 1993, the overwhelming majority of passport denials on grounds of secrecy have been overturned. The most famous case of a refusal of a passport for foreign travel, that of Vil Mirzayanov, a Russian scientist incarcerated several times for revealing to a U.S. journalist that Russia continued to violate international agreements on chemical weapons production, was overturned by the commission on August 31.

The 1991 law also retains the requirement that those intending to emigrate obtain permission from close relatives in Russia to leave the country. If unable to obtain this permission, the intending emigrant may pursue a resolution of the problem in the courts. In 1994 Russian courts for the first time began to accept such cases for review. At least two such cases were resolved in favor of the intending emigrant.

Before the events of December in Chechnya, estimates of the number of refugees and forced migrants in Russia differed widely, with some stating a total of 3.5 million. Forced migrants or resettlers are generally persons with Russian citizenship who lived permanently in other states of the former Soviet Union and fled due to economic hardship or discriminatory laws. There are three categories of refugees in Russia: (1) ethnic Russians fleeing conflict areas, such as Tajikistan, who are considered refugees by the Russian Government and in some cases under the internationally accepted definition of refugee; (2) nonethnic Russians, such as Armenians and Azerbaijanis of mixed marriages, who would face persecution in either Armenia or Azerbaijan and who might be eligible for refugee status; (3) third-country refugees, mainly Somalis, Afghans, Iraqis, and Kurds, who could not safely return home. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there to be about 50,000 people in this third category.

Many forced migrants resettled to rural areas complain that housing is inadequate, job opportunities are scarce, and they are unprepared to work in agriculture. Many areas have refused to accept refugees resettled by the Federal Migration Service (FMS). Human rights monitors allege that the FMS also places unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles in the way of processing applications of persons from the states of the former Soviet Union and sometimes expels newly arrived refugees, who may have valid claims to refugee status, across Russia's southern borders.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Pursuant to the Constitution, the Russian people have the right to change their government at both the federation and regional levels, although this right under the provisions of the 1993 Constitution has not yet been tested in practice. In December 1993, concurrent with voting on the constitutional referendum, voters elected representatives to the Federal Assembly in national parliamentary elections. This body consists of a 450-seat lower house, the State Duma, and an upper house, or Federation Council, comprising two representatives from each of the federation's 89 constituent regions. (The breakaway Republic of Chechnya refused to participate in the elections.) The next parliamentary and presidential elections at the federation level are scheduled to take place in late 1995 and 1996, respectively, although many prominent politicians have called for their postponement.

President Yeltsin was democratically elected to an exceptional 5-year term in 1991. After he prorogued the Supreme Soviet in October 1993, he emerged in a stronger position politically vis-a-vis the legislature. In order to avoid legislative delays in the Federal Assembly and to overcome political opposition in Parliament to bills proposed by the Government, the President makes heavy use of his constitutional power to issue decrees. Although presidential decrees may not contradict the Constitution or the Federal Assembly's statutes, the constitutionality of many decrees is openly questioned in the Government and the press. With the Constitutional Court not yet in operation, there is no entity which may definitively determine the constitutionality (and hence the validity) of either presidential decrees or legislation of the Federal Assembly. In contrast to national political institutions, most executive branch leaders at the regional level have yet to be elected by voters. For example, almost all sitting regional governors were appointed by the President and have not yet stood for popular election, although, by contrast, almost all heads of ethnically based republics within the Russian Federation have been properly elected. Most regional legislatures, disbanded by presidential decree in 1993, had been reactivated by year's end.

The Constitution provides for equal rights and freedoms for men and women, but women do not occupy many leading positions in politics and government. However, the Women of Russia bloc received around 8 percent of the seats in the State Duma through proportional balloting. Women hold 8 of the 170 seats in the Federation Council and 59 of 450 seats in the State Duma. Although members of Russia's ethnic and religious minorities face no legal limitations on political participation, some ethnic and religious minorities face societal discrimination that makes it difficult for their members to be elected. Most major ethnic and religious groups, however, do have some representation in Parliament.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Numerous local human rights groups were active during the year, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, the Center for Human Rights Research, and the Union of Councils. They investigated and publicly commented on human rights issues, generally without government interference or restriction. There was one reported incident in which a human rights group was denied access to several prisons for the purpose of conducting inspections, although other groups gained access and reported extensively on prison conditions.

It is perhaps too early to assess the impact of events in Chechnya on the effectiveness of human rights organizations in Russia. On one hand, several organizations (for example, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, Memorial, Glasnost Defense Fund) have gotten considerable exposure and recognition both at home and abroad for their stand against the incursion. On the other hand, one official government response to reports of human rights abuses in the theater of conflict criticized "biased" political figures and human rights organizations who fail to see that the situation in Chechnya "has made human tragedies and losses actually inevitable."President Yeltsin late in 1993 established a special Commission on Human Rights headed by Sergey Kovalev, a former dissident and political prisoner widely respected in human rights circles. By the end of June 1994, the Commission had drafted an unprecedented, highly critical report on human rights practices in Russia in 1993 which was leaked to the press and then published in full by an official government newspaper.

While openly critical of his style and many of his policies, human rights monitors gave the President high marks for creating Kovalev's Commission. However, the Government's dialog with human rights organizations broke down as a result of the Russian military operation in the Chechen republic. Activists, including Commissioner Kovalev, charged the Government with indiscriminate use of force, disseminating disinformation, and attempting to muzzle critical reporting in the mass media.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Article 19 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, language, social status, or other circumstances. Both official and societal discrimination still exist.

Women

Although women are entitled to the same legal rights as men, in practice they are subject to considerable discrimination, both official and unofficial. Women are often paid less than men for equal work and frequently are the first to be laid off as enterprises reduce staff because of a societal bias in favor of male employment as the primary income for the family. While methodologically reliable statistics are difficult to compile, the Center for Gender Studies in Moscow has stated that in 1991 women earned on average 75 percent as much as men, while in 1994 that figure had dropped to 40 percent, and unemployment was three times higher among women than among men. Men still disproportionately occupy positions of influence and prestige in both the Government and the economy.

Although the Government maintains no statistics, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that violence against women, including rape and spousal abuse, is both substantial and growing. Russian human rights monitors allege that police often do not take an interest in cases of violence against women, particularly cases of domestic violence. Incidents often go unreported because of the belief that the authorities will do little about the matter and because of the victim's own shame. In the case of spousal abuse, there are no specific legal provisions against wife beating, and legal recourse such as bringing charges of assault is unlikely to be successful and seldom exercised.

Anecdotal evidence also indicates that rape and sexual exploitation and harassment in the workplace have grown substantially. According to the Sexual Assault Recovery Center, thousands of unrecorded and uninvestigated rapes take place. Police reportedly are reluctant to deal with rape complaints because investigating them is time-consuming, often unsuccessful, and increases the unsolved crime statistics. To prove rape, the victim must have a mass of evidence including material evidence of resistance and medical records. Many doctors are also reportedly uncooperative, fearing time-consuming mandatory court appearances. Statistics on crime rates do not disaggregate cases of trafficking in women, and reliable estimates on the extent of the problem are not available. There were few instances of persons being prosecuted for such activity in 1994.

The "Women of Russia" electoral bloc focused its campaign on the need for guaranteed health care, education, and social welfare.

Children

The Constitution assigns the Government some responsibility for safeguarding the rights of children. However, the Government's efforts to develop an effective social safety net are severely hampered by its failure to allocate sufficient resources. In particular, living conditions in orphanages are deteriorating, and adoptions by Russian families are declining. Statistics from human rights organizations state that about 20 percent of Russian orphans commit crimes and are sent to prisons as minors, and 10 percent commit suicide. There are indications that orphans and other disadvantaged children are becoming instruments of organized criminal organizations.

Indigenous People

The State Committee for the Development of the North, based in Moscow, is tasked with representing and advocating the interests of indigenous peoples. With only a tiny staff, its influence is limited. Local committees have been formed in some areas to study and make recommendations regarding the preservation of the culture of indigenous people. Indigenous leaders criticize these committees as lacking political influence.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination against people from the Caucasus and Central Asia increased in the middle of 1994 concurrently with new measures at both the federal and local levels to combat crime. With wide public support, law enforcement authorities targeted dark-complexioned people for harassment, arrest, and deportation from urban centers. According to Russian human rights monitors, some were dragged from automobiles in traffic, harassed, extorted, and beaten in broad daylight on the streets.

Human rights groups in Moscow criticized the discriminatory procedures under which thousands of persons were forced to leave the capital after the June crime decrees. However, the crackdown was generally applauded by Muscovites, who blame much of the crime in the city on people from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Vendors and merchants in Moscow's many markets, and in city markets throughout Russia, were also targets of discrimination. Concentrating on persons who by appearance seemed to be from the Caucasus or Central Asia, Moscow police forced many to halt their business, confiscated their wares, and subjected them to physical abuse.

Religious Minorities

Muslims comprise about 10 percent of the Russian population, and there were no reports of official discrimination against them. The Russian Government last year facilitated travel on the hajj to Saudi Arabia. Between 4,000 and 6,000 Russian Muslims made the pilgrimage. There have been tensions between Muslims and Christians in some areas, particularly Chechnya.

The Government of Russia does not condone anti-Semitism. During the January 1994 Moscow Summit, President Yeltsin joined President Clinton in a statement promoting human rights observance that included specific condemnation of religious intolerance and prejudice, including anti-Semitism.

Jewish leaders have increased efforts to revive the Russian Jewish community and have received assistance from both local and federal authorities in obtaining buildings to reopen synagogues and Jewish schools. The Russian "black book" on the Holocaust, which was sponsored by Stalin and then suppressed, was published with help from U.S. nongovernmental organizations and released in September.

Nevertheless, anti-Semitism continues to exist and is manifested in acts of vandalism and verbal assaults on persons who appear to be Jewish. On December 30, 1993, fire destroyed one of Moscow's three synagogues. The Jewish community believes, and authorities suspect, that arson was the cause of the blaze. The results of the investigation by year's end were still inconclusive. In October a crude explosive or incendiary device was found in the Moscow Choral Synagogue during an evening choir rehearsal. Authorities removed the device, which caused no injuries or damage.

Popular expression of anti-Semitism is particularly evident in politics. Street protestors opposed to President Yeltsin often refer to him pejoratively as a Jew, and antigovernment graffiti often contains anti-Semitic imagery. Subtle suggestions of Jewish heritage manifested through mispronunciation of politicians' names or ways they are printed in the press are used as a means to discredit them. The number of extreme nationalist and outright Fascist publications which openly promote anti-Semitic views and sold publicly is increasing. The governmental agency responsible for regulating the print media, the Russian Committee for the Press, in December announced its intention to take legal action to stop the publication of some 100 periodicals it considered Fascist. (See Section 2.a. for a fuller description.)Certain political and religious circles, led by Metropolitan Ioann, the Russian Orthodox bishop of St. Petersburg, disseminate strong anti-Semitic views. Patriarch Aleksiy II, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, censured Metropolitan Ioann for his anti-Semitic statements. Nonetheless, Ioann's followers continue to express such views.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Both the 1993 Constitution and the Labor Code provide for the right of workers to form or join trade unions. However, the full exercise of this right is limited in practice. Labor unions are required to register with local authorities, which in the past have used this requirement to discourage or block the formation of new unions. However, independent trade unions have become more effective in countering obstruction by local authorities. Until October 1993, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), the successor to the Soviet-era All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, was the principal obstacle to the exercise by workers of their right to leave the FNPR and join new independent unions. It controlled the social insurance fund which provides worker benefits, such as disability and maternity payments, sick leave, and vacations. Hence, many workers were reluctant to leave the FNPR and openly join an independent union.

As of October 1993, the Labor Ministry began officially administering the fund, but FNPR employees continue to manage the day-to-day operations of local offices. As a result, discrimination and the threat of discrimination continue. A leading independent labor union allows workers to join without compelling them to resign from the FNPR.

About 70 percent of Russia's 75 million workers are now members of labor unions. The FNPR, which had claimed a membership of 65 million, now admits that its membership has dropped to about 50 million workers. Independent unions account for approximately another 3 million workers.

Labor unions are independent of the Government and political parties. The FNPR was officially allied with the Civic Union, but that relationship disintegrated in late 1993 because of the FNPR's decision to support the opposition to President Yeltsin during October 1993 and the Civic Union's poor showing in the December 1993 elections.

Although the Russian Federation Labor Code provides that workers have the right to strike, it also contains numerous restrictions that severely limit the exercise of that right. The Labor Code prohibits strikes for political reasons, strikes that pose a threat to people's lives or health, and strikes that might have "severe consequences," interpreted so as to include the defense industry, communications, civil aviation, and railroads. The Labor Code requires a multistage process of notification and negotiation before a strike is permitted. Despite these restrictions, strikes are numerous in Russia. According to the Labor Ministry, there were nearly 400 strikes in the first 9 months of 1994, compared to 264 strikes in all of 1993. Several strikes were declared illegal, including a nationwide strike of airline pilots.

The Government makes little effort to protect trade union leaders and strikers from management retribution. In numerous instances in 1994, enterprise managers fired workers for their union activities. For example, during a strike at the Avtovaz Automobile Factory, management first tried a lockout and then unilaterally declared the strike illegal, bringing in police to end the strike. Forty workers involved in the strike were fired for violations of "worker discipline." The independent labor union that organized the strike is appealing to senior government officials and is contemplating court action to reinstate the fired workers.

Independent labor unions continued to seek redress for labor law violations from the Russian courts, with increasing rates of success. They have established two labor law centers to help unions and their members enforce their rights in the courts.

Unions are permitted to form or join federations or confederations and may participate in international bodies.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is protected by law but is not practiced widely. The managements of many enterprises refuse to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, and many of those that are concluded are not the product of genuine collective bargaining because of the close subordinate relationship of the FNPR to enterprise management and because of management personnel's membership in the FNPR. Independent unions, however, have been aggressive in demanding genuine collective bargaining, and one of them boasts of concluding 2,000 collective bargaining agreements. In several sectors of the economy, labor unions, management, and government representatives in a tripartite commission negotiate industrywide wages, benefits, and general conditions of work. This arrangement reinforces the workers' tendency to rely on the Government to establish wages and other workplace conditions.

The Labor Code does not explicitly prohibit antiunion discrimination by employers although it is implied in several sections. Discrimination against one union in preference for another continues to occur throughout Russian industry. Under current law, there is no mechanism for resolving labor disputes.

Russia has several foreign enterprise zones. There is no evidence that worker rights are more restricted in these zones than elsewhere in the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers alleges that some military conscripts were sold into servitude during their military service (see Section l.c.). Government enforcement is ineffective.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code does not permit the regular employment of children under the age of 16. In certain cases, children aged 14 and 15 may work in intern or apprenticeship programs. The Labor Code regulates the working conditions of children under the age of 18, including prohibiting dangerous work and nighttime and overtime work. However, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the working conditions of children under 18 violate Labor Code standards. The responsibility for the protection of children at work is shared by the Labor Ministry and the Ministry for Social Protection, but government enforcement is largely ineffective.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Federal Assembly sets the minimum wage, which applies to all workers. The current monthly minimum wage, set in July, was 20,500 rubles (or about $6 at the December rate of exchange) and was insufficient to provide a decent living for a worker and family. However, very few workers actually receive the minimum wage. Its primary purpose is to serve as a baseline for computing benefits, pensions, and some wage scales (primarily in civil service positions).

The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, which includes at least one 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium pay for overtime work or work on holidays.

Russian law establishes minimum conditions of workplace safety and worker health, but these standards are widely ignored, and government enforcement of safety and health regulations is inadequate. Industrial deaths and accidents continue to rise dramatically. The Labor Ministry reported that each day 30 workers die as a result of workplace accidents, while another 50 are injured.

 

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