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Council Of Europe Concerned About Russia's Minorities
Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

May 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In a new resolution, the Council of Europe paints a grim picture of the situation facing Russia's 160-plus national minorities.

The current resolution , adopted May 2 by the council's executive arm, the Committee of Ministers, says the country has not done enough to implement existing federal legislation on minority protection.

The document also describes as "inadequate" the amount of state funding for the preservation and development of minority cultures.

The Committee of Ministers calls for a vigorous and open investigation of continuing human rights abuses in the North Caucasus region.

Officially, more than 75 minority languages are taught as a discipline in more than 10,000 schools in Russia. But the resolution says it remains difficult for some minority groups to receive access to such education.

Obstacles & Burdens

Russia's new law restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations has also put an increasing burden on the country's 2,000 public associations dealing with national minorities, as well as its 560 national cultural autonomies.

The resolution also notes a reduction in state financial support to minority language media. It says a new law aimed at protecting the status of Russian as the country's state language could present further obstacles to minority languages.

The situation facing people in or from the North Caucasus is singled out as "particularly disturbing," with violence and discrimination reported in a number of regions.

The Committee of Ministers calls for a vigorous and open investigation of continuing human rights abuses in the North Caucasus region.

The resolution also focuses on the sharp rise in racially motivated attacks in the past five years. Human rights activists say there have been more than 200 racist attacks registered in Russia this year alone, including 25 murders.

The media and officials in Russia still appear reluctant to acknowledge the racial motivation in such crimes, the resolution adds.

Some Progress

There have been some positive developments, the Committee of Ministers notes.

Since the adoption of a first such resolution in July 2003, high-level Russian officials have called publicly for steps to be taken to fight racism and intolerance.

The number of convictions in racially motivated crimes has increased, and a "lively" minority-language media scene is visible in much of the federation.

The Committee of Ministers has urged Russian authorities to step up efforts to strengthen the rights of minorities.

The Council of Europe has no enforcement mechanism. But the resolution, though nonbinding, puts public pressure on Russia to honor its commitments as a member of the council and a signatory to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

The Council of Europe has 46 member states. Russia joined in February 1996.