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RFE/RL Review September 17, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of September 11-17, 2004

In a September 16 interview for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Chechen separatist leader and former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov denied being behind the early-September hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia, in which at least 320 people died. Maskhadov said, "If the Russian leaders really want me to be in charge of such terrorist acts, they are out of luck and they can't make me do that. This is not something I am able to do."
The Kremlin has accused Maskhadov, together with the Chechen separatist militant Shamil Basayev, of involvement in the Beslan incident and is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the Chechen leaders. As Maskhadov told RFE/RL, "Such allegations have been made before and they don't surprise us. You remember 'Nord Ost' (the 2002 Moscow theater siege also blamed on Maskhadov by Russian authorities)."
Maskhadov's London-based spokesman Akhmed Zakayev, in an exclusive interview for last week for the North Caucasus Service (see "RFE/RL Review" for September 4-10), also rejected Kremlin assertions that Maskhadov had been involved in organizing the Beslan attack: "Claims of President Maskhadov's involvement in this terrorist act are part of a well-planned misinformation campaign, which also includes statements by [Russian] officials that there were Arab and African mercenaries among the terrorists. Their goal is to explain this terrorist act as being part of some foreign conspiracies. Those are lies."
On-demand audio of the broadcast interviews with Maskhadov and Zakayev can be found on RFE/RL's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

In the aftermath of the Beslan tragedy, observers have expressed fears about a possible outbreak of ethnic violence in southern Russia, primarily between the Ossetians and the Ingush, who clashed in 1992. The lands both north and south of the Caucasus Mountains are crowded with ethnic fault lines -- the region is home to more than 50 languages and has a long history of violence and unrest. To help listeners better understand events in that region, NCA correspondent Jean-Christophe Peuch wrote an audio documentary, distributed for use by RFE/RL's 18 broadcast services on September 16, that explores the history of the Caucasus and the roots of some of the current troubles.
Although conventional wisdom asserts that ethnic and religious diversity is the prime source of unrest in the Caucasus, several of the experts interviewed by NCA disagreed. Thornike Gordadze, who teaches Caucasus history at the Paris-based Institute of Political Studies, argues that Stalin's "divide and rule" politics led to the "ultimate ethnicization" of the region. In the 19th century, Gordadze argues, ethnicity was not the most salient identity of those living in the Caucasus. People defined themselves instead with regard to a particular clan or village or cemaat (eds: religious community) as, for example, in Dagestan -- or even to a vague Caucasian or "Circassian" identity.
Ronald Grigor Suny, a leading expert on Georgia at the University of Chicago, believes that, even now, ethnicity alone is not the driving force for conflict. He points out that, "What you have in the Caucasus, even more acutely than almost anywhere else, is a combination of ethnicity, political power and territorial control." Each little unit is contested by a particular ethnicity that considers that unit to be its national homeland and resents interference by others. According to Suny, this leads to a very intense struggle, where ethnicity, politics and territory all match -- or want to match -- each other.

** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <>.

Russian experts interviewed by RFE/RL's Russian Service see the Beslan school hostage tragedy as giving President Vladimir Putin a pretext to announce, on September 13, sweeping changes to Russia's political system.
In an interview on the Russian Service's flagship news and information program "Vremya Svobody" ("Time of Liberty"; transcript:, independent Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said: "The Kremlin always dreamed of appointing governors and getting rid of obstinate independent deputies. But what does it have to do with Beslan? Is it moral to use the death of hundreds of hostages, including children, to realize old political aims?"
Ryzhkov's view is shared by many well known legal and political experts in Russia. Another guest on "Vremya Svobody", former Yeltsin adviser and now INDEM Foundation head Georgiy Satarov, said Putin's proposed changes to the way Duma deputies and regional governors are elected amount to "an anti-constitutional coup d'etat" that moves Russia away from democracy and closer to autocracy (transcript: Satarov also pointed out that, contrary to some views, Putin's plan to end the popular election of Russia's 89 regional governors and independent lawmakers will not require amending Russia's 1996 constitution. Other experts polled by RFE/RL also said there are grey areas in the Russian constitution that could allow the kind of measures Putin wants to implement. (Satarov:
The Russian Service is also looking closely at Putin's creation of a "Federal Commission" for the North Caucasus (transcript: Russian Service Director Maria Klein says listeners want to know what this Commission will be doing and how its activities will relate to the war on terrorism.
RFE/RL's Russian Service continued to analyze the impact and consequences of Putin's planned government reorganization on September 14, with a panel discussion moderated from RFE/RL's Moscow bureau by Russian Service political correspondent Mikhail Sokolov on what the proposals mean for Russian Federalism. Sokolov was joined by former Russian media magnate Boris Berezovsky (by phone from London) and, in the studio, Konstantin Katanian of the Moscow daily newspaper Rodnaya Gazeta and political analysts Vladimir Lysenko and Sergei Markov. A transcript of the discussion is available on the Russian Service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

Radio Free Afghanistan (RFA) programming this week focused on the latest developments in Herat following the ouster of provincial governor Ismail Khan and resulting violence. Supporters of the self-styled "Emir of the West" stormed the gates of the UN compound in Herat on September 12, one day after the powerful warlord was sacked as governor by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The UN has since pulled most of its workers out of Heart, flying them to Kabul.
Afghan experts see the developments in Herat as the final phase of a long struggle between the central government and Ismail Khan. As political analyst Rostar Tarakai told RFE/RL, "The dismissal of Ismail Khan as governor of Herat Province will have a positive impact on the extension of Hamid Karzai's power in other provinces, in the country." RFA aired interviews with Tarakai ( and fellow analyst Abdul Kazim Haqanyar ( on September 14; both are available (in Pashto) on the Radio Free Afghanistan website.

** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Andres Ilves, may be reached by email at <>.

Although the security situation in Iraq remains a primary concern for Radio Free Iraq and its listeners, RFE/RL's Arabic Service is also focusing on internal and external political developments that will shape the climate for the country's upcoming elections. Following remarks by top Iraqi and US officials on September 12 about the need to move ahead on schedule with the elections, RFI reviewed preparations for the elections in a series of reports and interviews with Iraqi politicians and analysts that were broadcast on September 13 and 14.
Radio Free Iraq correspondent Karam Mnashe interviewed Mithal Al-Alousi, a senior member of Iraqi National Congress and head of Iraq's de-Baathification committee. The interview took place on September 12 in Jerusalem, where Al-Alousi was attending an international conference on the war on terror. Al-Alousi commented on the security situation in Iraq in the context of fighting terrorism. The next day, the INC leadership announced that Al-Alousi's participation in INC had been suspended -- a decision that caused an uproar in the Iraqi national media. The interview (in Arabic) can be heard on the Radio Free Iraq website, at
On September 14, RFI's correspondent in Baghdad interviewed INC deputy head Haidar Al-Mousawi about the decision to suspend Al-Alousi's INC membership. Following this report, RFI reran its earlier exclusive interview with Al-Alousi to highlight the ties that exist between the security situation and political developments in Iraq.

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

Representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and of the Muftiate of Kosovo participating in the RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Language Service's (SSALS) weekly roundtable program "Radio Bridge" on Sunday, September 12, spoke to each other for the first time since bloody riots tore through Kosovo in March 2004.
Participating in the program by telephone, Father Sava Janjic, deputy abbot of the Visoki Decany monastery in the town of Decani and Cemalj Morina, Vice Dean of the Islamic University in Kosovo's capital city of Prishtina discussed responsibility and accountability for violence committed against Albanians and Serbs, war crimes cases in the courts, autonomy versus independence for the Kosovo province, the role of the Orthodox church and the Muftiate in the conflict and whether destroying mosques and churches can ever be justified. Although both parties disagreed on most of the issues discussed, they agreed on the most important thing -- to continue their fragile dialogue. Audio of the program, moderated from Prague by SSALS Director Omer Karabeg, may be heard on the SSALS website at:
During the broadcast, Janjic asserted that, during the March events, ethnic Albanians burnt or destroyed 35 Serbian churches and monasteries and that Muslims did nothing to prevent the violence. Morina responded that during the Kosovo war of 1998-99, Serbian military and police units destroyed 220 mosques and that the local Orthodox Church never condemned these acts. While their discussion, conducted in the Serbian language, became heated at times, both participants agreed on two important points: that the Kosovo conflict is ethnic in nature and has no religious basis, and that their dialogue should continue.
SSALS Director Karabeg has hosted some 40 dialogues between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians as part of the "Radio Bridge" program, which is now in its tenth year on RFE/RL. In 2000, the Media Center in Belgrade published a book edited by Karabeg and based on these broadcasts, titled "Dialogue on a Powder Keg." Transcripts and audio (in Serbian) of this and earlier programs may be found on the SSALS website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

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