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RFE/RL Review May 13, 2005


The PDF version is available at http://www.rferl.org/reviews/

RFE/RL REVIEW
The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
-----------------
April 30-May 13, 2005


RFE/RL COVERAGE OF THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF V-E DAY All RFE/RL services broadcasting to post-communist countries began airing programs on the 60th anniversary of World War II at least one week before the beginning of U.S. President George W. Bush's trip Riga, Maastricht, Moscow and Tbilisi, from May 6-10. In addition to looks back at the events of that era and at differences in interpretation between East and West, RFE/RL broadcasts carried interviews with WWII veterans and camp survivors, the families of those who went missing in action, as well as historians, analysts, educators and young people who know of World War II only from history books.
RFE/RL's Central News department and language services collaborated on a series of more than a dozen programs broadcast in all 28 languages and posted on a special Internet website, located at http://www.rferl.org/specials/worldwarII/ . It looked at the enduring legacy of World War II in RFE/RL's broadcast region -- unresolved territorial changes and festering ethnic, political, ideological, and economic disputes. The war continues to loom large, from Central Europe to the Russian Far East and from the level of geopolitics down to the daily lives of individuals and families. Below is a sampling of some of the themes in RFE/RL's 60th anniversary broadcasting: * Western Allies Gave Key Support To Soviet War Effort * The Anglo-Soviet Invasion Of Iran And Washington-Tehran Relations * In Baltics, Anniversary Of War's End Is Little Cause To Celebrate * Collaborators And Partisans In Belarus * Russia And Japan Still Searching For Closure * Mykola Lebed And The Ukrainian Partisan Army * For Victims Of Stalin's Deportations, War Lives On

Tatar-Bashkir Service Fills Gaps in History RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service (http://www.azatliq.org/) focused in interviews with war veterans on the treatment of POWs in Stalin's Soviet Union and other issues omitted from the current official Russian history of World War II events. The series broadcast by the service discussed the significance of "the second front" in the Soviet victory over Germany, as well as American military aid to the Soviets and the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. The broadcasts helped fill in missing history and balance media coverage of the anniversary in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan which concentrated mostly on glorifying the Soviet past.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <agif@rferl.org>.


Kazakh Service Discovers Grave of Kazakh War Hero... RFE/RL's Kazakh Service (http://www.azattyq.org/), in complicated cross-country reporting initiated a sequence of events that sparked nationwide interest in Kazakhstan and was widely quoted in local media.
It started with an interview with a war veteran in Kazakhstan that was republished in Kazakhstan's popular youth newspaper "Jas Alash." The WWII veteran, Qalmukhan Isabay reminisced about his experience in the Soviet Army, fighting the Germans in Slovakia and moving with the Red Army to Prague. He said that it was in Prague that the famous, decorated Kazakh war hero, Mejit Junusov, lost his life. Jusunov was killed in Prague in 1945 but, according to Isabay, no one knew where he had been buried.
A Prague-based Kazakh Service correspondent, Abdighaniy Zhiyenbay, went searching for the grave -- and found it, in Prague's Olsanske Cemetery. His May 3 broadcast about the finding of the grave, lost to the public for 60 years, sparked huge interest in Kazakhstan. Zhiyenbay was approached for interviews by all major Kazakh media, which appeared on radio and television and newspaper frontpages for several days after the discovery.
Members of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service organized a religious ceremony at the newly discovered grave, with Muslim prayers for Yunusov and the many other Kazakhs, Turkmens, Tatars, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and other Muslim minorities of the former Soviet Union who were laid to rest far from home, in the heart of Europe.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <sharipzhanm@rferl.org>.


...Covers Graveside Memorial for War Dead with National Anthems In another moving program, aired May 7-8, the Kazakh Service covered a 60th anniversary ceremony at Prague's Olsanske Cemetery, organized jointly by the Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian Embassies in Prague to remember the soldiers from their countries who are buried there. The program noted that, 60 years ago, there was only the sound of the Soviet anthem over the graves -- now four different national anthems were played. Would the young Kazakhs have believed, asked the moderator, that Kazakhstan would mark the 60th anniversary of their death, of their victory, as an independent state?
As part of its WWII anniversary coverage, the Kazakh Service also broadcast interviews with former Czech prime minister Stanislav Gross (May 11) and Russian Rear-Admiral Andrey Katyshev (May 10), who came to Prague with a Russian military delegation to participate in the ceremony.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <sharipzhanm@rferl.org>.


RFE/RL Series for the Balkans on Today's Perspective of WWII Factions RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/) launched a seven-part series on May 2, examining from today's perspective and interpretation the pro-fascist and quisling groups, as well as the anti-fascist and resistance movements active in the former Yugoslavia during WWII.
The program spotlighted attempts to revise history, particularly regarding the rehabilitation of notorious secret police groups such as the Chetniks in Serbia and Ustashas in Croatia. Some local historians and writers give equal treatment to the partisans who fought against Nazi occupiers and the Chetniks and Ustashas who collaborated with them -- even going so far as to claim the police groups were the real patriots, working with the Nazis in order to save their nations.
The SSALS series was organized geographically -- the first program looked at the sensitive issues of WWII in Serbia, the second on Croatia, the third on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the fourth on Montenegro, the fifth on Kosovo, and the sixth on Macedonia. The seventh and final program in the series looked at the region as a whole, in interviews with foreign historians.

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


Foreign Minister Tells RFE/RL What Latvia Wants to Hear from Moscow RFE/RL's Central News correspondent Jeremy Bransten went to Riga in advance of President George Bush's visit and spoke to Latvian Foreign Minister Andris Pabriks about relations with Russia -- and what it would take to achieve closure on the Soviet annexation of the three Baltic counties in 1940 and post-WWII occupation that lasted until 1990. The May 6 interview (transcript available at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/4889560A-78A1-4B05-A222-EDE3CB63DEC5.html) was included in broadcasts to all the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Pabriks told RFE/RL said the 60th anniversary was an opportunity to acknowledge communist crimes, as well as those of Nazi Germany: "Nazi crimes, this is only half of the story. We have to finish this book also by recognizing communist crimes and the crimes of the Soviet Union against the free nations of Europe. And our president made the very hard decision [to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to participate in the 60th anniversary celebration in Moscow] for this reason, particularly, as well as to say that, despite our past and despite our fundamental differences of perception in Latvia and in Russia, we are willing to look into the future, and we are willing to build a good relationship with our neighboring country."
But first, according to Pabriks, Latvia would like to hear from Putin "that Russia recognizes the Soviet Union's crime against Latvia in 1940, that it recognizes that this was an occupation, it was annexation, and it was communist rule which was imposed on us from outside. And if this is recognized, I think it will be much, much easier for our two nations -- Latvians and Russians -- to build a constructive future. We cannot go any further forward for a longer time -- not only between Latvia and Russia but also between Europe and Russia -- if we are not putting an end to this story. And a concrete and correct end, not a distorted end... We would like to have good, normal relations with Russia, despite our past. We do not need anything from Russia. We simply want normal relations, where our people can exchange visits, where our tourists can exchange visits, that we can sit at the same table and discuss normal issues. We do not want any more interference from outside in our internal affairs. We do not want any more accusations about things which do not happen in this country. We want simply to have a good, friendly relationship."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Central News department, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <girniusk@rferl.org>.


Romania-Moldova Service Interviews Brzezinski RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service interviewed former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski on May 7. During the interview (audio at http://www.europalibera.org/rubrics/ro/2005/05/DBB6D031-E424-42DC-9A97-EFF53B20DD9B_1259815.RAM; English transcript at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/B62307E1-832C-4FBC-AB91-BA8FA7A0EB24.html), Brzezinski spoke about what he called Russia's "imperial nostalgia," and referred to Vladimir Putin as the "final gasp of the Soviet era." He said the U.S.-Russian relationship has some elements of cooperation, but added that "there are some significant disagreements. Russia is still motivated by a nostalgia for the past, which is unrealistic and counter-productive." Brzezinski said "the Soviet elite still dominates Moscow, politically, and through Moscow, it dominates Russia. But that elite is increasingly fading from the scene. It is also increasingly self-isolated." Brzezinski said that he expects to see far-reaching changes in Russia over the next several years -- "especially when the younger, more genuinely post-Soviet elite begins to push to the top." The service followed up the interview with a discussion with students, aired May 9, on what they know about WW II and how it shaped Europe for half a century.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <serafimo@rferl.org>.


...Former Romanian Monarch... The Romania-Moldova service broadcast on May 6 an interview with Romania former monarch, King Michael -- the last surviving head of state from World War II. He was visiting the Czech Republic to honor the memory of 15,000 Romanian soldiers who died in 1944-45 fighting to liberate Czechoslovakia from the Nazis.
During the interview (audio at http://www.europalibera.org/rubrics/ro/2005/05/929ED065-7D07-4DFA-A35D-48E5D429304E_1254949.RAM), King Michael spoke about the palace coup he staged in August 1944, when military dictator and staunch Hitler ally Ion Antonescu, who was refusing to sign an armistice with the Soviets, was arrested. This is how he remembered those tense days: "We should have gotten out of the war [against the USSR] before, but it was not possible. We already had the support of the Romanian people, the support of traditional [Liberal and Peasant] political parties plus the communists and the social democrats. The idea was that Antonescu himself make an armistice... but he refused, and we arrested him, we could not have proceeded otherwise. That's how it happened," King Michael said. Soon thereafter, Romania signed an armistice with the Soviets and expelled the Germans from the country.
King Michael said Romania's decision to switch sides had significant, military impact on the war, shortening it by several months: "The whole eastern front in Greece and Yugoslavia collapsed because of us."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <serafimo@rferl.org>.


...and Historians, Politicians, People The comprehensive 60th anniversary coverage of RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova service (http://www.europalibera.org/) included several exclusive interviews with historians and a roundtable discussion of motives and results of "rewriting history."
Programs aired May 4 and May 8 carried an interview with Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara, who fought with the Romanian army against the Soviet Union in the Transdniester region and later worked with western allies becoming an important diplomat in the negotiations that made Romania change sides in 1944. A roundtable on May 8 featured three historians -- one from Romania and two from Moldova -- with different approaches toward the war and its consequences for the region. In another 60th anniversary program, RFE/RL interviewed political leaders in Chisinau, including the communist party leader and representatives of opposition parties. In a May 7 broadcast, the Romania-Moldova Service spoke with veterans and victims of WWII and the two wars Romanians fought -- as a German ally against the Soviet Union and as a Soviet ally against Germany. Those interviewed included a mother who lost both her sons in these two different wars and still does not know where they are buried, as well as a peasant from a small village who made it his goal in life to build a cross for all the war dead in his village. He said those killed in the village during WWII included Romanians, Russians, Germans, Kazakhs, and hundreds of Jews. The service aired a particularly moving interview with a woman who discovered her father, while fighting in Germany against the Nazis, had a "natural son"there and said she hopes one day to meet "her brother."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <serafimo@rferl.org>.


Belarus Service Profiles Collaborator And Partisan Within the framework of its "Belarus at War" series, RFE/RL's Belarus Service broadcast an interview with Valyantsin Taras and Jan Zaprudnik, giving a nonstandard view of Belarus under Nazi occupation (audio and Belarusian transcript at http://www.svaboda.org/articlesprograms/ww2belarus/2005/3/258b3f29-b823-4757-9c91-e6237ab6cdb3.html; English transcript of the interview can be read at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/71EEE4B9-77FA-48C7-AF7D-9500508491E4.html).
Valyantsin Taras, born in 1930, was an adolescent participant in the Soviet guerilla movement in Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1941-44, which has been glorified in Soviet historiography as a major contributor to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Taras, who graduated from the Belarusian State University in 1955, is a writer and translator who has been published in both Belarusian and Russian. He lives in Minsk.
Jan Zaprudnik, born in 1926, attended two high schools opened under Nazi patronage in Belarus. Zaprudnik left Belarus in 1944, graduated from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) in 1954, and obtained a doctorate in history from New York University in 1969. He has written extensively on Belarus and spent 37 years with RFE/RL's Belarus Service as a correspondent, producer, and editor. He lives in the United States.
Asked about collaborating with the Germans, Zaprudnik said there wasn't much choice in occupied Belarus -- it was "either obey or get a bullet in your head." Zaprudnik added, "There were thousands of such collaborationists. After the Soviets returned to Belarus, they drove all of them into the Gulag, including not only village heads and office clerks, but also cooks who earned bread for their families working at German kitchens. After the end of the war, the people who had been compulsorily moved to Germany were transferred to Siberia without a stopover [in Belarus]. My wife's sister-in-law, Khima, who was taken to Germany as a girl, was sent to Siberia for 10 years without a stop in Belarus when she was returning home after the victory."
Taras agreed, noting that many ordinary people were categorized as collaborators --"my aunt was such a 'collaborationist' -- she washed plates and bowls in a German canteen. My grandmother, Hela, was such a 'collaborationist' -- she worked as a nurse's aid in a German hospital. Painter Mikalay Huseu, my father's close friend, was also such a 'collaborationist.' During the occupation, Huseu lived on his profession -- he painted portraits of German officers and fed his family with this job. After the war he got four years," Taras said.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <andrusyshynb@rferl.org>.


Turkmen Service on Ukrainian Medal for Niyazov's Father In Turkmenistan, the personality cult of President Saparmurat Niyazov (known as "Turkmenbashi," or Father of the Turkmen) continued to dominate all events, including the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. During last year's commemoration, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported that Niyazov had received Ukraine's highest honor from then-President Leonid Kuchma. This year, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko bestowed a medal on Niyazov's father.
A Turkmen Service broadcast May 5, quoted the head of Ukraine's Neftegaz Ukrayiny oil and gas company, Oleksiy Ivchenko, speaking May 4 to Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat. Ivchenko said that on Yushchenko's behalf, he is presenting "Ukraine's highest award, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, posthumously to your father, Atamurat Niyazov, who symbolizes the 740,000 (Turkmen) batyrs (heroes) who died in the Great Patriotic War liberating our homelands, including Ukraine."
The award was roundly criticized by human rights activists. To present their point of view, RFE/RL interviewed Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation. She said in a phone interview May 5 that "This step by Ukraine is yet another act of hypocrisy by politicians courting the leader of one of the most repressive regimes in the world" and that "against the backdrop of massive criticism of Niyazov's regime by the international community, this step by Yushchenko looks absurd and inappropriate. He could have awarded the entire Turkmen nation which made its contribution to the victory in the Great Patriotic War. Now it seems that such politicians do the exact opposite of what they say publicly, in front of journalists, in front of the people."

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Olga Buriak, may be reached by email at <buriako@rferl.org>.


Tajik Service Interviews WWII Woman Pilot RFE/RL's Tajik Service (http://www.ozodi.org/) spotlighted the role of women in World War II broadcasting a special report about their contribution May 7 and on May 9 an interview with a surviving woman pilot in Tajikistan. She shared her memories with a reporter from RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau in her home surrounded by her grandchildren.. The service's Kabul correspondent also interviewed an Afghan WW II veteran who was in Tajikistan during the war and broadcast a program on the role of Tajiks in the Soviet armed forces. The subject of another program was complaints about the treatment of war veterans and president Rakhmonov's announcement that social benefits would be increased for Tajik WWII veterans.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <torfehm@rferl.org>.


Russian Service on President Bush's Meeting with Russian Human Rights Activists RFE/RL's Russian Service interviewed a participant in the May 9 meeting of representatives of 18 Russian human rights groups with President George W. Bush and broadcast the program minutes later (Russian transcript at http://www.svoboda.org/ll/soc/0505/ll.050905-2.asp).
Lyudmila Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a Russian Service correspondent said she informed Bush that the human rights situation in Russia is deteriorating and asked him to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Alekseeva said the activists spoke with Bush for nearly an hour and that she told him Russian human rights activists want more help from the West. According to Alekseeva, "We have problems with financing. I think that psychologically Russian business is ready to support civil society and human rights organizations. However, our business is not independent and businessmen know that authorities will be unhappy with those businessmen who would finance human rights organizations." She also said that seeking financial help from abroad is frowned upon by the Russian government: "We are often rebuked that it is not patriotic to seek help abroad." ** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>.

RFE/RL Reports Enthusiastic Reaction in Georgia RFE/RL's Central News correspondent Robert Parsons was on Freedom Square in Tbilisi May 10, mingling with the huge crowd gathered to hear U.S. President George W. Bush and reporting live for all services the immediate reaction of participants (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/38B36A1F-C9B4-441B-81B6-28716BB5CFD1.html):
"The tens of thousands of people who gathered Tuesday in bright spring sunshine in Tbilisi's Tavisupleba (Freedom) Square let out a huge roar as George W. Bush and Mikheil Saakashvili finally appeared, flanked by giant American and Georgian flags. From the moment he spoke, George Bush could do no wrong... Saakashvili stood smiling behind Bush, secure in the knowledge that the visit is already being hailed in Georgia as a massive diplomatic triumph.
In his opening remarks, Saakashvili praised Bush, saying: "Throughout history, this city has been visited by the leaders of many empires, but they all came to Georgia as conquerors. Today, for the first time in the history of Georgia stands the leader of the world's greatest power. I am proud to welcome him here."
RFE/RL recorded voices in the crowd leaving no doubt that ordinary Georgians felt the same way. One woman said: "The visit has left a great impression. The whole nation is happy he came." Another commented:"We're delighted he honored such a small country as ours by coming here. We want to thank him for giving us so much attention." A man nearby said about Bush: "He has left a brilliant impression. Everything was really good and I think the entire Georgian nation is delighted by George Bush's visit."
Moat Georgians also seemed supportive of their own president Mikheil Saakashvili, who assured Bush of Georgia's committed support. Georgia, he said, would be America's partner in spreading democracy around the world.
Saakashvili's words were particularly appreciated by his critics. Tina Khidasheli, a member of the opposition Republican Party said in an RFE/RL interview: "These promises made by the Georgian president -- in this case made in front of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets and in front of the U.S. president and the whole delegation -- this is an important promise that we might consider is a promise for real democratic reforms undertaken in this country. It is probably the last chance we have to shake our government and to believe and to see that -- this country does not have a future if it is not democratic and it is not based on the freedoms of the people living in this country."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Central News department, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <girniusk@rferl.org>.


...Disappointment in Azerbaijan RFE/RL' s Azerbaijani Service (http://www.azadses.org/) spoke to some of the opposition members who had gone to Tbilisi, hoping to have a meeting with President Bush but were disappointed. The closest they got was Freedom Square, where they joined the tens of thousands of Georgians to hear Bush's address to Georgians. In the interview broadcast May 10, the head of the group also said Georgian police would not allow the Azerbaijani oppositionists to unfurl their banner.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <djavadia@rferl.org>.


KYRGYZ SERVICE COVERS INTERIM PRESIDENT BAKIEV'S FIRST MEETING WITH PRESIDENT PUTIN... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service gave extensive coverage to interim president Kurmanbek Bakiev's trip to Moscow, in the context of the commemoration May 8-9 of the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, where he met for the first time Russian President Vladimir Putin and other state leaders.
Before leaving for Moscow, Bakiyev's spokesman said the Kyrgyz interim leadership planned to discuss increasing Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation with Russian officials during the WWII anniversary celebrations (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/05/9B762C90-00D5-4E76-9A1D-F23631D5820F.asp). In Moscow, the service's Moscow corespondent filed reports on Bakiyev's schedule and meetings, and Putin's address.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>.


...GETS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER The Kyrgyz Service interviewed acting foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva in Bishkek, on the eve of her departure for a working visit to China. In the interview broadcast May 8 (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/05/86C603CF-1521-4CDD-89E8-B887F8768574.asp), Otunbayeva was asked about the decision of two Baltic states not to go to Moscow for the Victory Day celebration. In other 60th anniversary programs, the service looked at the treatment of war veterans and the social conditions they live in; broadcast the reading of letters written from the front by Kyrgyz soldiers to their families, a program on what it was like to be a child during the great war and a poetry reading on themes of war and peace of works by Kyrgyz poet-war veterans. According to the official count, some 360,000 Kyrgyz fought in the Second World War and more than 90,000 Kyrgyz died.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>.


CHECHEN COMMANDER TELLS RFE/RL OF NEW THREAT A leading Chechen military commander contacted RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service to say that Chechen separatists are changing tactics and plan, in his words, "to take the war to enemy territory."The commander, Doku Umarov, telephoned RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service director Aslan Doukaev on May 7 (a report on the Umarov interview can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/F2A49F75-4387-4C52-A5AE-9FF68F2FA31E.html).
Umarov said that Chechen fighters had until now kept most of their operations inside Chechnya. But now, he said, units are regrouping and redeploying for attacks in what he called 'enemy territory.' "We have begun to determine targets," Umarov said.
He said Chechens are decided on this course because "the killing and abductions of civilians is on a massive scale, even flagrant." Umarov said his 70-year old father, his brother, his wife and 7-month old baby all were abducted last week and are being held captive. During his call, Umarov named the kidnappers as pro-Moscow Chechens related to Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Moscow-installed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated one year ago.
Umarov served as minister for security in the government of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Mashkadov, who opposed a terrorist war against Russia. Mashkadov was killed by Russian troops in early March. Chechen fighters continued to respect his wishes, but have thrown off restraints now, as Umarov explained, because of the kidnappings. Umarov identifies himself as commander of the southwest front in Chechnya, but said in the interview that he receives reports from Chechen fighting units from all parts of the republic.

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


KURDISTAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES CORRUPTION, DEMOCRACY WITH RFE/RL The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) representative to the United Kingdom, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman gave a wide-ranging interview May 4 to RFE/RL Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo on corruption in Kurdistan and her government's democratization policy. The interview (an English transcript is at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/830AD2D4-E624-4F1D-AA50-610356411F07.html) was aired on Radio Free Iraq and was also used by other language services.
Rahman said that "the perception of corruption is probably far worse than the rate of corruption itself" and that the Kurdish administration is cracking down on corruption through the legal system. Rahman told RFE/RL that it has, however, failed to get that message through to the public: "The message isn't really getting through to people that we are doing these things. I think that's probably where we really have failed. We need to be much stronger and much clearer in delivering the message that we are coming down on corruption and that we are stamping it out," she said.
Commenting on the democratization program, she said: "the Kurdistan Regional Government is very aware of the fact that the democracy that we have is a fledgling democracy, and we never pretend that it's a perfect democracy... Part of the democratization process is to build the capacity of our people, to build their skills, and training. Because of that, or as part of that strategy, the Kurdistan Regional Government is trying to develop relationships with organizations in Europe, in the United States, in other countries around the Middle East that have a democracy in place." Rahman added that her government's policy is "to have free enterprise and to encourage these organizations that will help establish, and not only establish but deepen the roots of democracy in Kurdistan. This is our stated aim, and we are doing the best that we can."
Rahman noted that one factor helping the democratization process is the free flow of information and uncensored media. She said, "many people in Kurdistan now have access to the Internet, so it's not the case that the Kurds of Iraq will only see the Kurdish media. Many Kurdish people, particularly young people, are very Internet savvy, and they will get onto these websites and they will read them, and they will read other websites, they will read the Arab, and Turkish, and Iranian-language websites as well."

** The Director of RFE/RL OnLine, Virginie Coulloudon, may be reached by email at <coulloudonv@rferl.org>.


UZBEK SERVICE BREAKS NEWS OF U.S. EMBASSY PROTEST RFERL's Uzbek Service was the first to report on May 3 on a demonstration of about 100 people outside the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, protesting against alleged rights abuses by Uzbek authorities (English report at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/B61E23B7-E4FB-4269-8775-592F7C15992E.html).
Many of the protesters were relatives of Bakhodir Choriyev, a farmer whose private farm was confiscated in 1999. Choriyev was arrested several times for protesting the seizure of his farm and later granted U.S. asylum. His relatives said they are being persecuted by authorities unable to find work or feed their families.
RFE/RL correspondents in Tashkent reported live from the venue from the first minutes the demonstration started, recording sounds of the ensuing clash the second day, when police started beating the protesters, among whom were many women and children. They were forced into buses and driven away. Two days later, RFE/RL reported the protesters had been taken back to their home district of Kashkadrya.
The Uzbek Service (http://www.ozodlik.org) aired comprehensive coverage of the incident, with reactions from the U.D. embassy, the Uzbek Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor Genera's office, as well as comments of observers in Uzbekistan, Switzerland and the U.S. RFE/RL was the main source on the story for western news agencies , as well as regional media. All the broadcasts were also posted on the Uzbek Service's web page, accompanied with pictures. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many young people went to RFR/RL's website to get information on the protest.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <najimovaa@rferl.org>.


RFE/RL LEARNS SERBIAN ARMY PROTECTED HAGUE FUGITIVE RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) has elicited an admission from a former Serbian official that General Ratko Mladic, a fugitive wanted for war crimes by the Hague Tribunal moved freely around Serbia with the help of the Serb military until March 2003. The admission came during an on-line interview with Zarko Korac, deputy prime minister in the government of assassinated prime minister Zoran Djindic (audio and Serbian transcript are available on the service's website, at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/forum/71.html).
During the interview broadcast in late April, Korac said that "Mladic roamed freely in Belgrade... because the authority over the Army, which protected him was in the hands of Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, who has been a staunch opponent of cooperation with the Hague tribunal." Mladic was indicted by the Tribunal for genocide against Bosniaks in Srebrenica in 1995. Korac said he believes Mladic is still in Serbia, "more precisely, in the area bordering with Bosnia." Korac asserted that prospects remain bleak for the Balkans "as long as Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic evade trial before the Hague Tribunal."
His comments to RFE/RL caused a stir in the Serbian parliament, with deputies analyzing the RFE/RL interview and arguing about who is to blame that Mladic is still at large.

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

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Copyright (c) 2005. 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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