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Staff Delegation to Moscow, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus

Each country visited by the delegation has its own particular problems, as they all cope with their newly acquired independence. Their implementation of CSCE commitments naturally reflects the political circumstances obtaining in the country at large.

Belarus exhibits little evidence of ethnic conflict (the situation of the Polish minority, while worrisome, is unlikely to become a state-threatening crisis) and Belarus has historic and ethnic reasons to cleave to Russia, despite the breakup of the USSR. As in Turkmenistan, Belarus’s post-Soviet “stability” appears to mean relatively little organized political activity and the survival in power of the renamed Communist Party elite. On the other hand, such “stability” retards growth away from Soviet reality. By contrast, Georgia and Moldova are far more unstable. They share the unhappy reality of ethnic war, exacerbated in Georgia by a bitter rift between supporters of the current and former authorities. As states without Slavic majorities and with historic reasons to fear Russian domination, their efforts to create a non-Soviet personality and structure have been accompanied by major disruptions and bloodshed, while their relations with Russia — an important factor in their hopes to achieve stability — have been stormy.

Georgia is engulfed in bloody ethnic disputes (particularly in South Ossetia, where a multilateral peacekeeping force has restrained the violence, and Abkhazia) and a political conflict (between backers of ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Eduard Shevardnadze). Gamsakhurdia’s removal by force last January is the key to Georgian politics today, as it determines the legitimacy — or lack of legitimacy — of the current government and the battle between adherents of the opposing sides. Whether stability can be attained under such circumstances, even after the scheduled October parliamentary election, is unclear. Consequently, prospects are uncertain in Georgia for resolving ethnic tensions and establishing a law-based state which observes human rights and protects national minorities.

The chief concern in Moldova is the carnage of the civil war in Transdniestria. President Snegur and other officials emphasized their wish to find a just solution to the issue but were clearly concerned about the aggressive position of Russia, while two major political groups charged that the Snegur administration had gravely mishandled the crisis. Parliamentarians and government representatives outlined other areas in which Chisinau was attempting to reconcile various claims and interests of the ethnic Moldovan Romanophone majority with those of the many other ethnic groups in the country. The editor of the major Jewish newspaper in Chisinau reported a significant rise in Jewish cultural activities, but also detected signs of an increase in “day-to-day anti-Semitism.” Evangelical Christian leaders reported that their churches were carrying on an extensive program of evangelization, despite what they considered a noticeable tilt in Moldovan “freedom of conscience” legislation toward the “national” Orthodox church.

In Belarus, democratization has made relatively little progress. The Belarusian Popular Front and its allies have secured enough petition signatures to force a referendum on establishing a new parliament, but the Front fears that the old-line majority in the parliament will delay holding the referendum until it can reinforce its grip on power. The press is entirely subsidized by the government, limiting the opposition’s ability to get its message out. There are at least four “secrecy” refuseniks in Belarus, and although a new “exit and entry” law is being drafted, OVIR officials defended the present practice of detaining emigration applicants for up to five years on the basis of their access to “secrets.” The leader of the Belarus Baptist community was enthusiastic about the new freedoms and opportunities enjoyed by the church, and praised Supreme Soviet Chairman Shushkevich for his positive attitude toward believers in Belarus. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minsk and Mogilev charged that Minsk was delaying the return of churches and church property to the church, apparently out of fear that the predominantly Polish-language church was part of a Polish irredentist movement in Western Belarus.

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Press Releases

HEARING: Supporting Georgia’s Sovereignty and Democracy

May 17, 2024

Tuesday, June 4, 2024 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Room TBD WASHINGTON—The recent adoption of a Russian-style foreign agent law heralds an openly anti-western turn by the ruling Georgian Dream government, and their concomitant alignment with Russia as well as other authoritarian powers such as China. After three decades of a pro-west, democratizing, and Euro-Atlantic-facing […]

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Hearings

Closing the Skies, Liberating Ukraine

May 16, 2024

WASHINGTON—The recent, bipartisan passage of supplemental aid for Ukraine may represent a turning point in the war against Russia’s genocidal invasion. Outgunned and outmanned, Ukrainian forces have lost territory in recent months, but made Russian forces pay a tremendous cost for ultimately moderate territorial gains, with Russian forces suffering nearly 90,000 casualties in taking several […]

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Press Releases

HEARING – Closing the Skies, Liberating Ukraine

May 09, 2024

Thursday, May 16, 2024 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Rayburn 2212 Stream live here: https: https://www.youtube.com/live/AN0aG5BGwI0 WASHINGTON—The recent, bipartisan passage of supplemental aid for Ukraine may represent a turning point in the war against Russia’s genocidal invasion. Outgunned and outmanned, Ukrainian forces have lost territory in recent months, but made Russian forces pay a tremendous […]

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Statements

Helsinki Commission Leadership Honors World Press Fr...

May 03, 2024

WASHINGTON—On World Press Freedom Day, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issue the following joint statement: “On World Press Freedom Day, we stand in solidarity with courageous journalists globally. We are especially concerned about American journalists […]

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Statements

Helsinki Commission House Leadership Statement on Re...

Apr 25, 2024

“After decades of struggle since regaining its independence, Russian influence is making a comeback in Georgia. To its shame, Georgia’s ruling party, defying the Georgian people’s Euro-Atlantic choice and against the advice of its closest friends, is again pushing a Russian-style foreign agent bill. This bill, alongside other attacks on Georgia’s increasingly diminished democracy, aims […]

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Press Releases

Paul Massaro Appointed Helsinki Commission Staff Dir...

Apr 22, 2024

WASHINGTON — Today, Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) made the following statement: “I am very grateful to appoint Paul Massaro as Staff Director of the Helsinki Commission. He has worked closely with me and my staff for many years advancing legislation to hold dictators to account and further the cause of democracy and Ukrainian victory. I […]

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Hearings

Malta: Leading the OSCE Through Turbulent Times

Apr 16, 2024

  WASHINGTON—The Republic of Malta stepped up to take leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—demonstrating its commitment to uphold the principles of the organization, including on security, conflict resolution, democracy and human rights.  Two years into Putin’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, much of the […]

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Press Releases

HEARING – The Republic of Malta: Leading the O...

Apr 10, 2024

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Rayburn 2247 Stream live here: https: https://youtube.com/live/TddF3ycKl1A WASHINGTON—The Republic of Malta stepped up to take leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—demonstrating its commitment to uphold the principles of the organization, including on security, conflict resolution, democracy and […]

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Statements

Helsinki Commission Senate leadership Statement on R...

Apr 05, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC—In response to the Georgian government’s announcement that it intends in the coming days to reintroduce Russian-style “foreign agent” legislation, U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Ben Cardin (Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and Senate Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee) issued the following statement: “This is a deliberate attack on […]

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Press Releases

U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Issue Statement in Nurem...

Mar 20, 2024

February 20, 2024 Nuremberg, Germany Court Room 600 NUREMBERG, GERMANY—U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02), Helsinki Commissioners Senator Thom Tillis (NC) and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (IN-05), Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX-37) and Congressman Andy Harris (MD-01) led a field hearing on February 20 to examine how best to bring Russian perpetrators to account for their […]

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Hearings

FIELD HEARING–Holding Russia Accountable for its War...

Feb 20, 2024

Session One: Russian crimes against Ukraine’s children, women, and civilians, as well as the use of new technologies in the collection of evidence Session Two: Holding the Russian state and affiliated individuals accountable through courts and international mechanisms Congresswomen Jackson Lee’s Audio Statement from for the Field Hearing: “Lessons from Nuremberg”

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Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leadership Responds to Murder of...

Feb 16, 2024

WASHINGTON — Following reports of Alexei Navalny’s death in prison, Helsinki Commission Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following joint statement: “Alexei Navalny dedicated his life to seeing Russia free and at peace. Despite every cruel obstacle Putin placed in his way, even a near-fatal poisoning, he did not waver in his condemnation […]

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