In brief - 2006-02-15
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed skepticism about the future of democracy in Russia. She said on Feb. 12 that the United States was very concerned, particularly about some of the "elements of democratization that seem to be going in the wrong direction." Rice pointed to severe limits on nongovernmental organizations begun this year and Russia's use of energy as a weapon in a dispute with Ukraine this winter. She said she thinks the question is open as to where Russia's "future development is going." But Rice also said that nothing could be gained by isolating Russia from institutions that demand democratic values from its members. The United States and Russia cooperate in fighting terrorism, she added, opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other areas.
Denmark's foreign minister has rejected calls for his government to apologize for a Danish newspapers' publication of prophet Muhammad caricatures, saying such an apology would be pointless. Per Stig Moeller said his government could not apologize for something it had not done. He also said nothing illegal was done because no one had been found guilty in a court of law. Protests against the cartoons continued throughout the week. In Cairo, thousands of al-Azhar University students demonstrated, and in the West Bank, hundreds of Palestinian schoolchildren stomped on a Danish flag in the city of Hebron. An Iranian newspaper editor asked Danish caricaturists to join a competition in depicting the Holocaust through cartoons.
Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Meller said he might quit over differences with the government and the president on how to conduct foreign policy. Pawel Dobrowolski, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said intense talks were currently underway between President Lech Kazynski, Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and Meller. Meller said he believes there is hope for a "new opening" in relations with Russia following months of tensions. He said the thawing relations could result in high-level talks soon between both sides. Since taking over the presidency last year, Kazynski has spoken in harsh tones about Russia.
A soldier in the Russian army who was reportedly beaten up by fellow servicemen has died of his injuries. Nursullah Dautov died in intensive care at a hospital in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan republic, where he was brought on Feb. 9. Russian news agencies quoted witnesses as saying Dautov was hospitalized with serious injuries two days after he was beaten up by fellow servicemen. Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation. Russia's Defense Ministry said 53 servicemen died last month as a result of crimes and accidents. Fourteen of those committed suicide. Russian lawmakers have scheduled discussions this week on the situation in the Russian army following a brutal hazing incident over the New Year's holiday that left one conscript without legs and genitalia.