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RFE/RL Review February 28, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
February 12 - 28, 2006

BELARUS SERVICE LAUNCHES ELECTION SPECIAL RFE/RL's Belarus Service launched a new weekly program Saturday, February 25, to provide highlights of the presidential election campaign ( The live, morning program called "Saturday Perspective," airs from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. (12 a.m. to 1 a.m. EST) and is moderated from RFE/RL's Broadcast Operations Center in Prague. In addition to the usual mix of weather, music, messages and calls from listeners, "Saturday Perspective" includes an international news segment, reports of breaking election news in Belarus, a look back at major election highlights of the week, an overview of world reactions to the election process (OSCE, Council of Europe, U.S. Department of State, etc.), comments by a three- member panel in the studio, and a preview of the campaign plans of each candidate for the coming week.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>. The Belarusian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at

RFE/RL ARMENIAN SERVICE MAKES NEWS ON KARABAKH NEGOTIATIONS A correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service in Stepanakert interviewed on February 18 the self-styled president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic, Arkady Ghukasian (an English- language article about the interview can be read at Ghukasian told RFE/RL that he has called on Armenia to pull out of the OSCE-sponsored peace talks with Azerbaijan. Ghukasian said that Azerbaijan's refusal to negotiate directly with the Karabakh Armenians is the main obstacle to a resolution of the Karabakh dispute, emphasizing that: "There is only one way Karabakh can enter the negotiating process: Armenia's refusal to negotiate with Azerbaijan. There is no other way out of this situation." Ghukasian said the Armenian government has to make a choice -- either continue fruitless negotiations or "refuse to talk to Azerbaijan until the latter understands that it is impossible to resolve the conflict without Karabakh."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <>. The Armenian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found at

RADIO FREE IRAQ GIVES BALANCED VOICE AFTER SAMARRA BOMBING... RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq gave voice to Iraqi politicians across the political spectrum calling for calm and unity following the bombing of Samarra's Golden Mosque on February 22.
In an interview recorded February 27, an RFI Baghdad correspondent spoke at length to Iraqi parliamentarian Qusay al-Suhail, about the rising political tensions in Iraq and the al-Sadrist perspective in negotiations over the composition of the incoming Iraqi government (English transcript at Al-Suhail, a Shi'ite parliamentarian and supporter of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said he had received an order to invite "all political parties and political leaders to participate in a big demonstration in Iraq to express the unification of the Iraqi people. This demonstration will be next week (March 11)," he said.
Al-Suhail also noted in the interview his disapproval of the fact that Shi'a militiamen guarding Sunni mosques had occupied them instead. He said some Mahdi militiamen were trying to recover Shi'a mosques made into Sunni mosques in Saddam's time, but that this was wrong. Al-Suhail said "Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah [Ali] al-Sistani have ordered people to evacuate these mosques and end this problem."
Commenting on the composition of a new government, Al-Suhail said his party and other followers of Muqtada al-Sadr continue to support current prime minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari as prime minister of a new government, but would like to see a Sunni Arab as president, replacing Jalal Talibani: "the face of Iraq should be Arab, because Iraq belongs to the Arab homeland. We do not reject the Kurds, but it's unsatisfactory for us that the president, the minister of foreign affairs, and the minister of planning are all Kurds. This is not representative of the Iraqi case," he said. Al-Suhail said unequivocally in the interview that Muqtada al-Sadr is not seeking a position in the new Iraqi government: "No, he wouldn't like to participate in the government. He has 14 followers in the parliament, and I think according to the present situation, at least three or four of them will be ministers." Al Suhail said Shi'as are interested in the service ministries: "Transportation, Municipalities, Electricity, Agriculture, Education, and not prominent ministries. We have very simple ambitions. We would also like to concentrate our efforts on the Ministry of Civil Society..."

...FOLLOWS NEGOTIATIONS TO FORM UNITY GOVERNMENT... Radio Free Iraq regularly broadcasts interviews with various representatives and participants in the negotiations, to keep listeners informed about the protracted political efforts to create an inclusive Iraqi government. A sampling of the coverage follows:
On Saturday, February 25, Kurdistan Coalition List official Fouad Ma'sum said in a telephone interview with RFI correspondent Ahmad al- Zubaydi in Baghdad, that talks on a new government were temporarily suspended because of the tight security measures after the Samarra bombings (English transcript at "The situation may remain like this for a day or two but the parties must definitely meet after that to put forward their proposals," he said. Asked about constitutional mandates, Ma'sum told RFI that parliament has to convene by March 13. He said parliament has not been in session while negotiations continue for the unity government: "Our aim is to avoid making the parliament a scene of conflict, argument, and counter-attack. But if we do not reach any solution, the parliament will have to convene. All the problems will move in there."
RFI correspondent Laith Ahmad interviewed two United Iraqi Alliance members, Sami al-Askari and Nadim al-Jabiri, for a February 13 broadcast on the progress in forming an Iraqi government (English transcript at Al-Askari said "the United Iraqi Alliance has started to work with other candidate lists, especially with the Kurdistan Coalition List and the Iraqi Accordance Front. Preliminary talks were conducted for exploring positions and reaching an agreement on principal points." He noted in the interview that after the final election results were announced and the prime minister named as a candidate for the United Iraqi Alliance, "the party has entered serious negotiations to form a government with the organizations representing those candidate lists." Al Jabiri said in the interview that The United Iraqi Alliance has formed a seven-member committee of the leaders of its member parties. He said, "This committee is a part of the institutional structure of the Alliance. It discusses decisive and strategic issues and takes decisions according to what it sees as the most convenient and the most beneficial for the country. The United Iraqi Alliance has not determined yet what ministerial posts it will assume. That is open to discussion and dialogue with the other candidate lists."

...TRAVELS WITH SICK CHILDREN... A correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq traveled with a group of sick Iraqi children and their parents, who were airlifted to Turkey for medical care on February 20. An Iraqi military plane flew the group from Baghdad to a hospital in Istanbul, where they will spend several weeks in treatment for severe eye ailments. The RFI program, which aired on February 21, said the action was co-sponsored on the Turkish side by the Anadolu medical foundation, affiliated with Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, and by the National Iraqi Assistance Center. The program also included conversations with the children on the plane, as well as interviews with an accompanying doctor and the chief of an Iraqi ophthalmologic center.

...INTERVIEWS IRAQ DELEGATION IN PRAGUE On February 27, a Radio Free Iraq correspondent spoke to a group of Iraqi government officials within hours of their arrival in Prague for a seminar on asylum, border and refugee problems, organized by the Czech Foreign and Interior Ministries. The 11-member delegation included a deputy interior minister and a deputy labor minister. Delegates told RFI that they will be attending lectures and visiting Czech asylum centers and border crossings as part of training to strengthen protection of Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran. The Iraqis are also gaining expertise on dealing with their huge refugee problem. An estimated 1.5 million refugees are displaced inside Iraq.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at

RUSSIAN SERVICE AT BAUMANSKY MARKET COLLAPSE RFE/RL's Russian Service has aired daily reports on the aftermath of the February 23 tragedy in Moscow, when the roof of the Basmanny market, located at the Baumansky metro station, collapsed under heavy snow, killing more than 60 people (English-language report at On the day of the accident, two Russian Service correspondents, alternating because of sub-freezing weather, reported live from the scene, filing interviews with anxious relatives, rescue workers and doctors on site, and updating official statements live for the newscasts and "Time of Liberty" program (,,, A third RFE/RL correspondent visited the hospitals treating the wounded and spoke to some of the victims and physicians (
A Russian Service correspondent interviewed architect and building expert Andrei Gozak, who said investigators were focusing on three potential reasons for the collapse -- poor design, bad maintenance, and excessive snow (
The market was home to many market traders from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and several RFE/RL language services worked together to provide comprehensive coverage. The Uzbek Service provided an eyewitness account from an Uzbek migrant worker across the street from the market. Identified only as Dilshod, the woman who worked at the Basmanny market, described her experience in a phone interview with Prague from Moscow: "Yes, we saw [the roof collapse]. We saw it by chance. The building is on the opposite side from the hotel where we [are staying]. We were asleep. At around 5:25 a.m. we heard noise. We got up immediately, looked out of the window and saw the building falling on us. We ran away. We found out that the building had collapsed. It's only 10 meters between the hotel and the market. It was a very weird feeling. We went downstairs. We saw two or three people who were alive. Others were injured. No one said anything but they made us go outside."
A representative of the Emergency Situations Ministry said most of the dead were Azerbaijani men who worked at the market. A Russian Service correspondent in Baku filed a report on the reaction there to the tragedy, and Moscow correspondents interviewed leading representatives of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Moscow (,; a story in English on the migrant workers can be found at (
Later programs followed the investigation of the tragedy, including a study that compared the Basmanny market collapse with the 2004 collapse of "Transvaal" Aquapark, built by the same architect, and a report by a correspondent for the Russian Service in Poland, on comparisons with the recent roof collapse of the Katowice exhibition complex.

...FOLLOWS RUSSIA-IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS... The Russian Service aired several special programs in late February on the negotiations between Russia and Iran on Russia's proposal for Iran to return to a moratorium on enriching uranium as a condition for taking part in a joint enrichment facility on Russian territory.
Following the two-day nuclear talks in Moscow, the service aired an international roundtable discussion February 22, analyzing the progress of the talks and their significance for the international community ( The program included an interview with Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, who voiced skepticism about Iran's intentions and its trustworthiness as a negotiating partner.
In other broadcasts, the Russian Service aired interviews with the head of Russia's Federal atomic energy agency, Sergei Kirienko (, Russian policy experts on Russia's interests (, and the press secretary of Russia's Atomic Ministry on technical aspects of the Iranian nuclear program.

...ASKS BEREZOVSKY ABOUT THREATS AGAINST PUTIN... Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky spoke with RFE/RL's Russian Service about British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's statement, warning Berezovsky that he might lose his refugee status if he continued to call for the overthrow of President Vladimir Putin ( In the exclusive interview, aired February 28, Berezovsky said: "Maybe not everyone is trying to speak out as loudly as I am and criticize Putin and his already unconstitutional, in my opinion, and illegitimate regime. In fact, I know that millions of people in Russia share my point of view. And secondly, nothing will sway my position and, fortunately or unfortunately, nobody has yet convinced me that Putin's regime is [not] destroying Russia. I'm deeply convinced that it is and I will make every effort to destroy that regime before it destroys itself."
In the same program, RFE/RL aired another exclusive interview with London Times diplomatic editor Michael Binion, who spoke to the Russian Service's London correspondent about the legal aspects of the controversy and about British diplomacy.

...INTERVIEWS MOTHER OF JAILED KHODORKOVSKY RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Mumin Shakirov gained an exclusive interview with the mother of imprisoned former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Marina Khodorkovskaya. In the wide-ranging interview, aired February 15, she spoke of her son's ill health and restrictions on communications, speculated about President Putin's motives for the case against Yukos and Mikhail Khodorkovsky and about why he remained in Russia, knowing he would be imprisoned (English transcript at Khodorkovsky was sentenced last September to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion and is serving his term in the Russian Far East, at the Krasnokamensk prison colony in Chita Oblast. Khodorkovskaya spoke from the Moscow suburb where she and her husband live in a boarding school for orphans, built by her son 12 years ago. She said her son had eye surgery and his vision is so poor he is unable to read. Once regarded as the richest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky is now working as a packer in a sewing shop. His mother said his lawyers take her letters to him when they visit and that although he writes to her, she has never received any of his letters from the prison.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>. The Russian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE EXCLUSIVES ON GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE After the recent reshuffle in the separatist government of Chechnya, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service conducted exclusive interviews with its two leading ideologists, Movladi Udugov and Akhmed Zakayev. The interviews were aired on February 12 and 19, respectively.
Udugov, recently made head of the National Information Service, repeated his call for Islamic law to be established in an independent Chechnya and for the new government to work from Chechnya and not from abroad. When asked how relations with the Russian Federation should be resolved, Udugov said "The people involved in this war should answer for everything. [...] We are not going to repeat the mistakes that our leaders allowed in the past, forgiving the evil that had been done to us."
Akhmed Zakayev, culture minister in the rebel government, said that it's up to the Chechen people to decide what kind of state an independent Chechnya should be. He cautioned against trying to interpret Islam for all other Muslims and seeking to head the Muslim world. "I am expressing the official position of our leadership, he said. We are not trying to create a state which will differ in its arrangements from other states in the world and will frighten its people and everyone else".

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in the North Caucasus region can be found at

AZERBAIJANI SERVICE BREAKS NEWS ON BIRD FLU RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service was the first media organization in Azerbaijan to report official confirmation of bird flu February 9 and subsequently to provide extensive coverage of the situation ( Dead birds have been appearing in different parts of the country for months, but only recently has the government taken measures to deal with the epidemic on poultry farms. RFE/RL reported that a state commission was established to fight the virus and that Azerbaijan has asked the European Commission for help. In another report on February 28, the service reviewed at a statement by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Finance that it was increasing funding for various programs to contain the avian epidemic (
A couple of days earlier, an Azerbaijani Service correspondent visited a poultry producer in Xocasand, a village near Baku. The owner of the Safali chicken farm, Murad Sadiqov, told RFE/RL's correspondent that more than 50,000 birds had died there in the past five days. The story aired February 26, and a day later, the State Veterinary Committee confirmed there was avian flu in Xocasand (
Correspondents from RFE/RL's Baku bureau interviewed government officials at the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, and a network of contributors spoke to local officials in Ganja, Nakhichevan, Qusar, and other towns where dead birds had appeared. In a sampling of public opinion in Baku, broadcast February 22, most people told RFE/RL they are deeply worried about bird flu and concerned that the government is not doing enough to prevent the spread of the virus. In another program, the Azerbaijani Service looked at the impact of temporary restrictions imposed by Russia on poultry imports from areas of Azerbaijan where bird flu has been confirmed.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>. The Azerbaijani Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Azerbaijan can be found at

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET WITHDRAWAL... RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan worked with the Russian Service on a special program commemorating the 17th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan on February 15, 1989.
Both services aired a broadcast on a little publicized story about Afghan orphans raised in Russia. Some 1,800 Afghan children whose parents died in ten years of fighting the Red Army were sent to the Soviet Union between 1984 and 1985. They retained Afghan nationality, but were raised and educated with Russian children. An RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent in Ivanovo, a city 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow, visited an orphanage there to find out what had happened to the children. She spoke to local officials and tracked down several of the children, now grown to adulthood. She found that many are now being branded illegal migrants and threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan where they have no ties and don't even speak the language.
Abdul Fatah Rashid told RFE/RL that he was sent to Russia when he was nine years old. Now he is married to a Russian but when he applied for Russian citizenship, the migration service rejected his application and told him he needed to present a certificate from Afghanistan proving that he had a clean criminal record prior to his arrival in the Soviet Union. "I left when I was 9 years old, and it is impossible to obtain this certificate," Rashid said in the RFE/RL interview. "The regime in Afghanistan has changed; the mujahedin came to power, and then the Taliban. Every time there was a regime change, the archives were burned. Apparently, no documents are left there. I received all my documents here, in Russia. Since I had no certificate, they sent me an official letter from the migration service asking me to leave the Russian Federation within a month."
Rashid turned to Svetlana Martinova, a lawyer working for the respected human rights group Memorial. She told RFE/RL that Rashid and many other orphans are caught in an impossible situation: "In order to obtain [Russian] citizenship, foreigners first need to receive a temporary residency permit. To obtain this temporary residency permit, they need a certificate proving the absence of criminal conviction from a plenipotentiary state organ," Martinova said. "The whole problem is that it is impossible for these people to obtain this certificate. The embassy does not issue such a certificate." Thus hundreds of young Afghan men and women live an ambiguous and precarious existence in Russia, hoping the migration laws will change.
On the day of the anniversary, RFA also broadcast a bilingual roundtable discussion in Dari and Pashto in RFE/RL's Kabul studio with Afghan experts. Habibullah Rafi, historian and analyst, and Mohammed Sedeeq Patman, Deputy Minister of Education, spoke about the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal, the nature of Afghan resistance at the time, reasons for the Soviet defeat, and why Afghans were not able to have a solid government after the Soviet invaders left.

...COVERS KARZAI TRIP TO PAKISTAN... RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan gave extensive coverage to President Hamid Karzai's three-day trip to Pakistan in mid-February, with correspondents following his itinerary and reporting on talks with that country's President, General Pervez Musharraf and other top government officials as well as press conferences in Islamabad and Peshawar.
In reply to questions from Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Najeeb Aamir in Peshawar February 17, Karzai emphasized that security topped his agenda in Pakistan, saying "We hope that Pakistan will also take the same tight and serious security measures to prevent those who work for the destruction of Afghanistan, and I talked with the leader [President Musharraf] and the prime minister of Pakistan about it." Asked about Pakistan's proposal to build a security fence along its border with Afghanistan to stop militants from crossing from either side, Karzai said: "Fences are built between hostile nations, not between brothers and friends, and if this is suggested to prevent terrorism this is not the way. Fences only split the nation. There is one nation. We want to fight terrorism in the terrorists' camps, and in the places where money is given to them."
After Karzai's return, Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents got confirmation from Afghan government officials and eventually, after initial denials, also from Pakistani officials that Karzai had given the Pakistani government a list of more than 100 names of Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Pakistan. On February 17 and 18, the service aired separate roundtable discussions on the results and impact of Karzai's trip and on tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Participants in the Pashto language discussion were Wahid Mojda, Afghan journalist and political analyst, and Afghan parliamentarian Moeen Marastial, and in the Dari language roundtable, the experts were Aziz Aryanfar, head of the Centre for Strategic Studies, and Daoud Moradyan, political analyst at St. Andrew University in Britain.

...TALKS TO PARTICIPANTS IN KABUL PRISON RIOT RFE/RL correspondents from the Kabul bureau of Radio Free Afghanistan were able to maintain telephone contact with several inmates in the Pol-e Charkhi prison in Kabul when a riot started there February 25, with Al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners taking control over a bloc of more than 1000 inmates ( In one telephone interview, broadcast February 27, rioters complained about prison conditions and said order would be restored if their demands were taken into consideration. The service also interviewed government negotiator Sebghatullah Mujaddedi on February 28; he was optimistic about bringing the uprising to an end within hours with no further loss of life. Five people died in the unrest.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at

UZBEK, UKRAINE SERVICES POOL INFORMATION ON RETURNED REFUGEES RFE/RL's Ukrainian and Uzbek Services and Central Newsroom worked closely on a developing story that broke on February 13, when a Ukrainian Service correspondent in the Crimea learned that more than 10 Uzbek refugees had been detained in the Belohorskiy and Nizhnehorskiy districts and taken to a detention center in Simferopol. Unconfirmed reports said Uzbek security officers were operating in the area and were involved in the arrests. It took another 24 hours before RFE/RL could get confirmation from Ukrainian authorities that indeed half a dozen, maybe more, Uzbek nationals were in custody, ostensibly as illegal aliens. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry's Crimean Division, Oleksandr Dombrovskiy, told RFE/RL on February 15 "We are considering extraditing them to Uzbekistan" ( RFE/RL assigned several correspondents in Kyiv, and in Crimea, while the Central Newsroom contacted international organizations to check the status of the Uzbek detainees and get a response from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
As the information was pieced together, it became clear that 11 Uzbeks had already been arrested in Crimea on February 7 and that, one week later, when Ukrainian authorities confirmed the arrests, the 11 had already been forcibly deported back to Uzbekistan. RFE/RL learned that the 11 were refugees from the massacre in Andijon, Uzbekistan last May and had been living in Crimea, hoping to be granted political asylum in Ukraine. They were arrested following requests for their extradition from the Prosecutor's Office of Uzbekistan (
Both the Uzbek and Ukrainian Services broadcast protests by UN agencies and human rights groups February 16 and 17, as well as the Ukrainian foreign ministry's statement February 21 that the Uzbeks were deported for violating Ukrainian migration laws. A February 16 report by RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, "Tough Times for Uzbek Refugees Abroad" (, looked at the problems encountered by Uzbek Andijan refugees in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as in Ukraine. Neither Ukrainian authorities, nor the Uzbek government have made the facts of the case known or given any information about the fate of the deported refugees in Uzbekistan. RFE/RL correspondents continue to make enquiries and monitor developments.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Olga Buriak, may be reached by email at <>. The Ukrainian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Ukraine can be found at ** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Sojida Djakhfarova, may be reached by email at <>. The Uzbek Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Uzbekistan can be found at

KAZAKH SERVICE FOCUSES ON POLITICAL MURDER THAT SHOCKED KAZAKHSTAN RFE/RL's Kazakh Service has reported daily since the February 13 murder of Kazakh opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev on the criminal case and its aftermath, as it continued to reverberate throughout the ranks of the government and outraged opposition movement.
RFE/RL correspondents rushed to the site in an Almaty suburb where Sarsenbayev was found with his bodyguard and driver, all shot dead (, The authorities said first that Sarsenbayev was killed while hunting, but his aide, Aydos Sarymov told RFE/RL unequivocally in a same-day broadcast that Sarsenbayev was murdered: "His hands were tied behind his back. They shot him first in front and then in the back of his head. There is no doubt it is murder."
In the next few days RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty interviewed the victim's widow, Saltanat Apusheva, and his brother Rysbek Sarsenbayev, as well as Sarsenbayev's colleagues -- co-chairmen of Naghyz Aq Zhol (True Bright Path) Party Oraz Zhandosov and Bolat Abilov, and leader of For a Fair Kazakhstan Movement, former Presidential contender Zharmakhan Tuyakbai (
RFE/RL's Kazakh service was the first and in several instances the only source of information on the case and its consequences. A Kazakh service correspondent was at the February 15 funeral which turned into a mass protest with thousands of mourners lining the streets (, Between February 13 and February 27, the Kazakh service reported official statements about the start of an investigation, interviews with politicians, observers, and opposition figures. In a February 15 broadcast, Kazakh deputy prosecutor general Ilyas Baktybaev told RFE/RL which officials were involved in the investigation, adding, "We are using all possible means and manpower to investigate the crime."
The announcement of suspects, arrests and high-level resignations followed in unusually rapid order. RFE/RL Kazakh correspondents covered the arrest of six suspects a week after the bodies were discovered, and continuing surprise announcements by the National Security Committee (KNB, formerly KGB) that the suspects belonged to a KNB hit squad ( In February 22, the KNB chief resigned, saying he lacked the moral right to head the agency ( Another KNB official resigned a week later amid continuing protests in Almaty and other cities. On February 26, thousands of protestors gathered in Almaty's Central Square demanding that the investigation be more transparent and fair. RFE/RL Kazakh service was the only broadcasting media outlet in Kazakhstan covering the event the same day. The authorities seemed quick to comply, disclosing that the murder was planned by the head of the administration of the Senate, the upper chamber of the Kazakh parliament, who was arrested, along with several KNB officers (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>. The Kazakh Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at

KYRGYZ SERVICE EXCLUSIVE ON DYING TURKIC LANGUAGE Marking UNESCO Mother Tongue Day on February 21, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service aired an exclusive interview with Turkic languages expert Mambetturdu Mambetakun, a Kyrgyz Chinese professor at Xinjiang Pedagogic University in Urumchi, capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region in China ( In the interview, conducted by a Kyrgyz Service correspondent based in Bishkek, Mambetakun spoke about the language of the Fu-Yu Gyrgys, a tiny minority of about 2,000 people of ancient Kyrgyz origin living in northern China. He said their language is an historic remnant of the pre-Islamic, medieval Kyrgyz language and is slowly dying out, spoken now only by elderly people. Mambetakun said younger generations have adapted to the life around them and speak Chinese. Mambetakun said that, by contrast, modern Kyrgyz is a vibrant, constantly developing language in no danger of dying out.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www.; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at

RFE/RL REPORT ON NUCLEAR WASTE SNOWBALLS IN BALKANS... RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service continues to follow a corruption scandal that was revealed in the context of a report on nuclear waste, aired February 9, about a contaminated region in eastern Serbia (
The original story, that a German ship brought a cargo of nuclear waste in 1989 that was then secretly melted down by a local firm and disposed of as ordinary waste, made headlines and sparked efforts by local officials to denounce and deny the report. SSALS correspondent Dejan Radulovic, based in eastern Serbia, followed his scoop with an investigative report, which included recent medical surveys that show the cancer rate in the region is among the highest in the world. In trying to trace the cause, RFE/RL's correspondent ran into difficulties, suggesting a network of people of various background and positions were involved in a cover-up and remain interested in stopping any information about the nuclear waste from becoming public. Radulovic also spoke to environment protection activists, who were prevented by authorities from raising the issue at the time.
Following media publicity on the February 9 story, several people who had witnessed the unloading of the German ship contacted RFE/RL to confirm the incident. A director of the company in question called a press conference to denounce it as "complete lies." An RFE/RL affiliate in the town of Bor, the headquarters of the company, has stopped rebroadcasting RFE/RL programs, and Radulovic has received several threatening anonymous phone calls, warning him to "stop poking into a hornet's nest."

...SOUTH SLAVIC SERVICE TALKS TO IMPRISONED DRUG ADDICTS IN SERBIA RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired a special broadcast February 15 on youth in prison for drug related offenses ( The SSALS youth program, produced in Belgrade and hosted by Milos Tedorovic, featured a female drug addict sentenced to four years for burglary, Sanda Djukicin, who had received special permission from the Belgrade prison warden to be a guest on the show in RFE/RL's Belgrade studio. Appearing with her were a prison psychologist and a therapist.
Djukicin spoke frankly on the show about her addiction which has landed her in prison three times, saying "It's a vicious circle, and now I'm trying desperately to get rid of it [the addiction] forever."
During the show, Tedorovic ran tapes on his interviews in prison with other convicts. The show, called "Entitled to a Second Chance," also discussed difficulties of getting rid of addiction and the importance of creating artwork and other successful ways of getting addicts off drugs. The broadcast attracted a lot of local media publicity because of the participation of a prisoner and interviews with inmates.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at, in Albanian at and in Macedonian at; English-language news about events in Bosnia- Herzegovina can be found at, in Macedonia at, in Serbia and Montenegro at and in Kosovo at

RFE/RL in the News

RFE/RL CELEBRATES 10TH TV ANNIVERSARY IN BOSNIA On February 26, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty celebrated the 10th anniversary of "TV Liberty", a 30-minute weekly news show prepared by RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) for Bosnian Public Television (BPT). "TV Liberty" is seen nationwide on BPT and carried also by 25 local, community television channels, as well as seven local TV stations in the neighboring state of Montenegro (it may also be viewed online, at The program features half a dozen major events of the week, focusing on social and political issues such as confidence-building measures among Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, combating corruption, drugs, and arms trafficking, or housing and medical care for returning refugees.
The 500th program anniversary special was dedicated to an archive review of program highlights of the past ten years and interviews with some of the station managers about the show's impact. The anniversary show got extensive media coverage in Bosnia, with special features on several local TV stations and articles about "TV Liberty" in weekend editions of three Bosnian dailies: "Oslobedenje," "Avaz" and "Nezavisine Novine."
RFE/RL has another weekly television program on Bosnian Public TV called "Open Parliament," a one-hour talk show produced jointly with BPT, and a 10-minute weekly news spot shown on Macedonian public television.

RADIO FREE IRAQ CORRESPONDENT AT MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq senior correspondent in Baghdad Nabil Al-Haidari was invited to a meeting of senior media representatives with Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari in Baghdad on February 24, two days after the golden mosque in Samara was bombed. All the participants were from influential television and print media. Al-Jaafari summoned the gathering to ask for support for the government's call for national unity and an end to sectarian violence. RFE/RL's Al-Haidari also addressed the meeting, stressing the importance of balance and independence for the Iraqi media and the need to preserve a multiplicity of sources and views, even in times of crisis.

RFE/RL UZBEK CORRESPONDENT RELEASED FROM PRISON Several human rights groups and wire services noted February 26 that RFE/RL Uzbek correspondent Nosir Zokirov was released from an Uzbek prison, after serving six months for insulting a member of the Uzbek security services. After he was released, Zokirov thanked all who had supported him in an interview with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service aired on February 26 ( Zokirov said he was not mistreated but that he had felt "really isolated" and that he had received no information about his family. "I was concerned about my colleagues and family, but I couldn't get any information," he said.
Zokirov was persecuted by Uzbek authorities for his reporting on the protest movement and bloody events in Andijan last May. He broke the story of the mass shooting there on the night of May 12 and since then was called in several times for police interrogation. At times, his phone was cut off and his house watched. Zokirov was summoned to court in his hometown, the eastern city of Namangan on August 26 and tried without the presence of a defense counsel and without the possibility of cross-examining witnesses. He was sent directly to prison from the courthouse (for more on Zokirov's trial, see Major international human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, and the Memorial Human Rights Center, protested on his behalf to the Uzbek government.
Zokirov is now unemployed. RFE/RL was forced to close its Tashkent bureau in December and to let go all staff and freelancers after the Uzbek authorities refused to renew the license for RFE/RL news operations in Uzbekistan.

RUSSIAN SERVICE BROADCASTER ON "KOJO NNAMDI SHOW" RFE/RL Russian Service senior broadcaster Irina Lagunina was interviewed on the popular "Kojo Nnamdi Show," broadcast on Washington, DC NPR affiliate WAMU-FM on February 14 ("Russia Stirs Unease," Other guests were Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia programs for Human Rights Watch, and Andrew Kuchins, senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They discussed Russia's presidency of the G-8 in January, the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia's recent crackdown on non-governmental organizations.

LONGTIME RFE/RL BROADCASTER ON PRAGUE RADIO RFE/RL's Prague-based Mardo Soghom was profiled on the Prague Radio "One on One" program on February 27 (English transcript at The 15-minute weekly show is billed as "an informal interview show...with some of the most interesting figures in Czech life." Soghom, a 17-year veteran of RFE/RL, was born Armenian, brought up in Iran, later lived in New York, and became a US citizen. He moved from RFE/RL's New York office to Prague in 1995. "The world is my home," he said in the interview. Soghom spoke about his work at RFE/RL where he has served over the years as director of the Armenian Service, director of Radio Farda News, and currently as senior marketing research analyst, manages special projects for converging media platforms at RFE/RL.

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