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RFE/RL Review March 17, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
March 1-17, 2006

HUMAN RIGHTS A GLOBAL ISSUE ON RFE/RL All RFE/RL services reported extensively during the second week of March on the U.S. State Department's global human rights report. RFE/RL's Central News correspondent in Washington covered Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's press conference March 8 and gave an overview of the annual "Country Reports on Human Rights" for 2005. The report said that Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Russia are among the countries with the most troubling records, mostly for concentrating too much power in the central government, while in Iran too much power was centered in religious authorities. The report said human rights are improving in many post-communist countries, but also that problems persist, despite the worldwide explosion of information and strong Western efforts to spread democracy. Each of RFE/RL's 18 broadcast services aired details with analytical comment and reaction for individual countries.
In particular, RFE/RL's Russian Service filled a gap of omission by Russian domestic media, which mostly ignored the State Department report. RFE/RL broadcast several news reports in Russian on the human rights findings and the press conference and made it the main topic for the March 8 and 9 "Time of Liberty" talk show. Guest Lev Ponomarev, leader of the Moscow-based "For Human Rights" organization, supported the main findings main findings of the report, but disagreed with a statement that post-communist countries marked "some progress" in human rights in 2005. Ponomarev said that, in Russia, the situation worsened considerably. (

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; 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

BELARUSIAN SERVICE COVERS VIOLENT PRE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN... On March 2, the Belarus Service offered listeners live coverage of an opposition rally in Minsk that was brutally broken up by police, who detained and beat opposition presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin (English-language report at RFE/RL correspondents were on the scene and at a pro- government assembly, where President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made a lengthy electioneering speech.
In another program aired the same day and posted to the service's website,, RFE/RL reported harassment of election activists in the provinces and the difficulties RFE/RL correspondents experienced in getting the story. Valer Kalinouski, a journalist working for the Belarusian Service, was punched by commander of the special forces brigade Colonel Paulichenka when he attempted to ask a question, and other journalists present had to come to his defense; photo correspondent Yulia Daraskevich was detained twice by police, and another journalist working for RFE/RL in Homel, Anatol Hatouchych, was summoned for questioning by the city prosecutor's office. In yet another case of press harassment on March 2, an RFE/RL regional correspondent returning from Vilnius was stopped at the Lithuanian- Belarus border, searched, and relieved of some of his print material.

...TALKS WITH VACLAV HAVEL... On March 1, RFE/RL's Belarus Service interviewed former Czech President Vaclav Havel after he presented Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski the Homo Homini prize at the Prague opening of the One World international festival of films focused on human rights ( Havel told RFE/RL that he personally sympathizes "with all those who struggle for freer and more democratic conditions, who want to change the authoritarian system, because we have our own experience and we feel a higher responsibility to show solidarity with those who struggle for something we struggled for."

...EXTENDS BROADCASTING FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty sought to be the main source of independent, balanced news coverage for Belarusians during the presidential elections of Sunday, March 19. Traditionally the leading foreign broadcaster in the country, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service added six hours to regular programming and was on the air live from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning. Special election teams in Minsk and at the RFE/RL broadcast center in Prague worked all night to post breaking news and expert views on the election to the service's website, The service mobilized 40 correspondents throughout the country to report on voter turnout and monitor proceedings at polling stations in all six regions of Belarus. In Minsk, RFE/RL correspondents reported live from the campaign headquarters of the three candidates running against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission, as well as from Kastrychnitskaya (October) Square, the site of protest rallies and the police headquarters and central jail, where arrested activists were held. In Prague, RFE/RL analysts interviewed policy experts in Munich, Moscow and Washington to provide hourly interpretation and perspective on events.

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

RUSSIAN SERVICE COVERS BELARUS' PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN... RFE/RL's Russian Service reported extensively on the presidential election campaign in neighboring Belarus, drawing on reports by a Russian Service correspondent in Minsk, close cooperation with the Belarusian Service, and additional material compiled by RFE/RL Central News.
During the second week of March, with a week to go until the March 19 election, Russian language programs covered the elections from a variety of angles: political, economic, the media situation, the government and the opposition, and voters and voting patterns. Talk shows discussed possible results and how it would affect Russia. During the service's March 14 "Press Hour" show, moderated in RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, guests included economist Andrei Makagon, representative of the Lukashenka camp Nikolai Cherenets, and Jonathan Steel, correspondent for the Manchester "Guardian" and author of an article in favor of Lukashenka's candidacy. Many listeners called in to praise Lukashenka for providing political stability and high living standards, which they said were much better than in Russia. One listener said Russians pray for Lukashenka�s victory, because in that case Belarus could escape Russia's miserable destiny. (A transcript of the program can be found at . The March 16 "Time of Liberty" show carried a report from the Russian Service's correspondent in Poland on the views of people and politicians in Poland about the upcoming elections and on freedom of speech in Belarus (

...REPORTING SHUTS DOWN HAMAS WEBSITE... A Hamas website with children's cartoons praising suicide bombers against Israel was closed hours after RFE/RL's Russian Service broke the news on March 7 that the website was being hosted by a Russian provider ( The RFE/RL report revealed that the domain was registered in Lebanon and hosted by a client of Moscow-based Corbina Telecom. The site, launched in February, encouraged children to become martyrs. The RFE/RL story was quoted extensively in Russian and Israeli media, leading Corbina Telecom to block the site. By late Wednesday, March 8, the site was closed with an explanation in Russian stating "the account is not accessible." [The site has since found a new web host, and is again accessible-eds.]

...MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH OF ASLAN MASKHADOV In the March 7 "Time of Liberty" program, Prague-based moderator Andrei Chary featured Chechen politician in exile Akhmed Zakayev and Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky. They discussed Maskhadov's role in the North Caucasian war and changes in the Chechen resistance after his death. Zakayev said that "Maskhadov, despite his political and professional activity (he was a professional soldier), as I knew and observed him personally, was more a humanist than a politician or a military man" (

** 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

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN HELPS CHECK TYPHOID EPIDEMIC... A February broadcast on RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan about an outbreak of typhoid in Afghanistan's central Ghor Province led to developments announced in two subsequent programs of the "Liberty and Listeners" weekly call-in show on March 3 and March 10. In the original February show, after callers complained that 700 villages were infected and 25 people had already died, Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Zarif Nazar contacted Afghan health minister Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi to tell him about the complaints and to urge government action. In a second interview, aired March 3, the minister promised to airlift doctors and drugs into the region. The following week, RFE/RL's Kabul bureau received a stream of calls from grateful listeners confirming the arrival of medical teams treating typhoid victims in the remote villages of the Ghor region. One caller said that thanks to Radio Free Afghanistan, authorities responded to the health crisis with unusual promptness and that doctors are braving snow three meters deep in the mountain pass to help the sick in villages beyond it. The third broadcast with listeners talking about the arrival of the medical teams aired on March 10.

...REPORTS SURPRISE VISIT OF PRESIDENT BUSH... Radio Free Afghanistan covered the visit of U.S. President George Bush to Afghanistan March 1, the surprise first stop his South Asian tour. Radio Free Afghanistan covered the arrival of President Bush and did a simultaneous translation of President Karzai�s and President Bush�s press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul in both the Dari and Pashto languages. Bush said he is confident that Osama bin Laden will be brought to justices and that the U.S. is proud of Afghanistan's progress as a nation in the face of rising violence. After the news, Radio Free Afghanistan interviewed experts commenting on the significance of President Bush's visit and on U.S.- Afghan relations (

...FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DESTRUCTION OF BUDDHA STATUES... It has been five years since the Taliban destroyed two ancient giant Buddha statues carved into a hillside in the central Afghan province of Bamiyan. Radio Free Afghanistan commemorated the event in interviews with local leaders and national and international experts.
An exclusive RFE/RL interview on March 10 with Afghan-born archeology professor Zemaryali Tarzi offered hope of a third, yet undiscovered, statue of Buddha buried somewhere in the hillside (An English-language transcript of the interview can be accessed at Tarzi, who now teaches in France, said "I am searching now for a Buddha that I think is about 300 meters long and was built in a sleeping or lying position." According to descriptions dating back to the 7th century, Tarzi said, the third statue, which would be the largest in the world, is in the form of the Buddha with 1,000 legs.

...POLITICAL ASSASSINATION... On March 11, Radio Free Afghanistan gave extensive coverage to the failed assassination attempt on former Afghan President Sebghatullah Mujaddedi, now speaker of the Upper House of the Afghan Parliament (Meshrano Jirga) and the head of a commission encouraging Taliban defections and reconciliation with the government. An RFA correspondent from the Kabul bureau covered the press conference Mujaddedi gave a couple of hours after a car laden with explosives detonated as his vehicle was passing by on a busy road in Kabul. Mujaddedi accused the Pakistan Intelligence service (ISI) of being responsible for the attack in which two of the bombers and two civilians were killed. Radio Free Afghanistan interviewed both Afghan and Pakistani officials on the issue and on the increasing tension between the two governments (;; in English

...CONFIRMATION OF BIRD FLU Radio Free Afghanistan was among the first media outlets in Afghanistan to break the news of the confirmation of avian flu in the country, with the discovery of the deadly H5N1 virus in dead birds. Radio Free Afghanistan interviewed officials from the Ministry of Health about preventive measures that people should take and also about government steps to minimize the threat of a pandemic. Six birds were found with the strain. They all came from the east of the country, from the capital Kabul, the city of Jalalabad, and the district of Khogiani. Samples from the northern city of Konduz and the southern city of Kandahar tested negative (

** 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

TAJIK SERVICE CORRESPONDENT GOES INSIDE KABUL PRISON... The notorious Pol-e Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul was the scene of several days of rioting in March; five people were killed and over 25 injured. One of the prisoners killed in the fighting, Haji Mahmud, was a Tajik national.
RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Fakhriddin Kholbekov went undercover to the prison to talk with two Tajik prisoners: Haidar, accused of a suicide bombing, is serving a 20-year sentence; Jamshid, the other prisoner, has a six-year sentence for accompanying Mahmud, who was charged with being an Al-Qaeda accomplice. Haidar is from Jirgatal, Tajikistan, and Jamshid is from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. Both young men, in their early twenties, said they had spent four years in prison and not seen a lawyer yet. They had settled in Afghanistan as refugees fleeing the civil war in Tajikistan and had nothing to do with suicide bombing and Al Qaeda. Yamshid said, "I begged [them] to prove my guilt. Finally, the only reply I had was that I had entered the country illegally and I was to stay in jail. One court gave me two years, another gave one and a half years; the third one gave me six years. Haji Mahmud [who was killed in the riot] also got eight years. Now we have been here for about four years." Yamshid said that Mahmud received daily beatings "because he always challenged the authorities to bring proof of his guilt. He knew the law and spoke about legal procedures in legal terms. They beat him up. They said he was the one who started the riots and then they shot him." (An English translation of the interview can be accessed at

...INTERVIEWS IRANIAN NOBEL LAUREATE SHIRIN EBADI A correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Abdulfattoh Shafiev, on assignment in Rome gained an exclusive interview with Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi about the struggle for gender equality in her country and other patriarchic cultures around the world ( In the interview, broadcast by several RFE/RL language services March 13, Ebadi called for an interpretation of Islam that recognizes women's rights. She said: "with a correct interpretation of Islam, we can have equal rights for women. But the problem is that there are wrong interpretations of Islam, which cause discrimination against women. That is why the situation for women in various Islamic countries is different. For example, in Saudi Arabia women can't even drive, but in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh women have been able to become prime minister or president. Or, for example, in some countries -- like Iran -- men are allowed to have several wives [up to four] while in other countries, such as Tunisia, it has been banned. This is because there is not a single interpretation of Islam. We need an interpretation of Islam that recognizes women's rights."

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Normahmad Kholov, may be reached by email at <>. The Tajik Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at

UZBEK SERVICE FOCUSES ON TRIAL OF OPPOSITION ACTIVIST On March 1, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service focused on the harsh sentencing of Nodira Hidoyatova, Sunshine Uzbekistan opposition coalition member, to 10 years in prison for economic crimes and tax evasion. Oleg Babenko, a defense lawyer, said she is innocent of the charges and that her guilt "was absolutely not proven."
Surat Ikramov, the head of the Center for Human Rights Initiatives in Tashkent, who has monitored the trial since it started in late January, gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Central Newsroom correspondent. He agreed with the defense lawyer, asserting that Hidoyatova's case is politically motivated. "The charges were not proven, absolutely not," Ikramov said in the interview aired March 1; "Many observers in the courtroom saw that no charge was proved. I can see that the conviction and sentencing of Nodira Hidoyatova was done according to an order from above. The main reason behind this is that she worked for the Sunshine [Uzbekistan] coalition since last April."
Hidoyatova, 38, has been a coordinator for the Sunshine Uzbekistan opposition coalition since it was formed in April 2005, in the wake of a revolution in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and one month before the bloody dispersal of a demonstration in Andijan. RFE/RL also spoke to Hidoyatova's daughter, 16-year-old Malika, after the verdict was read. She said her mother has been ill since she was imprisoned in December and had lost a great deal of weight (

** 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

RADIO FREE IRAQ GETS KURDS' VIEWS ON UNITY GOVERNMENT... RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq interviewed Kurdish parliamentarian Mahmud Uthman on March 2 to ask about political developments in Iraq following the decision by Sunni, Kurdish, and secular political groups to ask the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to withdraw Ibrahim al- Ja'fari's nomination as prime minister. Uthman said all the parties, except the Shi'a ones, support the request because "they think that he will continue the same policy as he had before, and before as the prime minister he failed to solve the country's problems... I think it will be difficult for him to succeed and for us to work with him." Uthman said Shi'a parties are also split with some supporting Al Ja'fari and others Adil Abd al-Mahdi as a candidate for the prime minister "so Ja'fari doesn't have a strong position within his own list either." Uthman criticized the current caretaker government of Iraq for failing to improve security in the country and for traveling outside Iraq when the situation is so bad in the country. "None of these responsible [leaders] should go abroad now. They should be here solving the security and political problems inside," Uthman said. A report in English about the difficulties in forming a new government can be found at

...TALKS WITH CONTROVERSIAL KURDISH ACADEMIC... Radio Free Iraq has been following the controversial case of Kurdish academic Kamal Sayyid Qadir, who was supposed to face trial on March 9 but the date was postponed to March 20. RFI correspondent Shamal Ramadan reported from Irbil on March 9, saying the Court of Misdemeanors needed more time to hear out the public prosecution and the defense. Qadir was convicted in January of defaming the Kurdish cause and the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in articles that he wrote while in Austria, where he has citizenship. His new trial was to be on lesser charges but Kurdish officials told RFI that Qadir remains in prison because he is considered a "special" case.
Qadir is currently being held by the Asayish intelligence service in Irbil. He has been allowed to keep his mobile phone in his cell, and he spoke by telephone with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq in a lengthy interview that aired in two parts in the first week of March. He told RFE/RL, "I have returned to Kurdistan and taken the taste of prison and injustice, but I will stay in Kurdistan for the sake of justice and strengthening democracy in Kurdistan, and for the sake of justice not only in Kurdistan but also in the Kurdish areas that were Arabicized by the former regime [of Saddam Hussein]... I would like to dedicate the coming two years to supporting the right of the displaced to the return to their homes and so forth in accordance with the Iraqi constitution."
RFI's correspondent also spoke to Qadir's lawyer Govand Baban, who said he expected the March 20 proceeding to be "the last part of the trial before the judge takes time out to consider and issue the sentence. The thing is that there is only one judge in the Court of Misdemeanors so there is no jury meeting, but the judge takes time out for an individual consideration. This will be the end of the trial" (an English transcript of the Qadir interview can be found at

...INTERVIEWS GOVERNMENT MINISTERS ON TRIP TO TURKEY Iraqi Transportation Minister Salam al-Maliki and Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati, both members of an Iraqi delegation led by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari to Turkey, spoke to Radio Free Iraq Baghdad correspondent Laith Ahmad about the trip in a program broadcast March 2 (English transcript at Al-Maliki said, "Turkey has responded positively to the idea of opening a new border gate between Iraq and Turkey and also wants to expand airline connections." He said the two sides also discussed developing railway connections. Al-Maliki said, "The visit was really positive and it will have a good effect on the Iraqi-Turkish scene." Asked about the Kurdish question, Al-Bayati told RFI that "the issue of Turkomans was not included in the talks, and the issue of Kirkuk was treated in the [new] constitution and, previously, in the Transitional Administration Law. Iraqis, with their political forces and government, have been doing their best to find a convenient solution to the Kirkuk issue in accordance with the constitution and Iraqi laws."

** 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

GEORGIAN SERVICE COVERS ETHNIC CLASHES RFE/RL's Georgian Service sent a correspondent from its bureau in Tbilisi to the remote village of Kushi, in the Tsalka district of southeast Georgia, to look into clashes that left one Georgian-Armenian dead and another wounded. The area is populated by several minorities, including Armenians, Greeks, Svans, and Azeris.
RFE/RL's Koba Liklikadze recorded interviews with Georgians, Georgian-Armenians and Georgian-Greeks, who spoke about their problems, stressing that their main concern is not ethnic hatred, but indifference on the part of the central government. Liklikadze covered the funeral of 24-year-old Georgian-Armenian Gevork Gevorkian and spoke with the victim's family. The program aired on March 14 (; the next day, the service followed up with a roundtable on the problems of ethnic Armenians living in Georgia (; Participants in the roundtable, recorded in the Tbilisi bureau, included an ethnic Armenian member of parliament and a representative of the non-governmental group "Caucasian House."

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

SSALS REACTS TO MILOSEVIC'S DEATH RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) was among the first media broadcasting to the Balkans to confirm the death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on March 11 in his cell in The Hague. A scheduled broadcast to Montenegro, starting at 1:30PM, Prague time, was able to report confirmation from The Hague issued five minutes earlier and to air an interview with Alexandra Milenov, spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, who spoke by phone from The Hague. SSALS followed the announcement with an obituary and audio cuts from RFE/RL archives.
The 2PM broadcast to Serbia already included first reactions, including further statements by the international court and an exclusive telephone interview with Milorad Vucelic, Vice President of Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), who said the War Crimes Tribunal was responsible for Milosevic's death because it had not allowed him to go to Moscow for medical treatment. Later RFE/RL broadcasts carried reactions and comments from across the region, including Milosevic supporters and critics.
All components of RFE/RL's complex broadcasting to the Balkans were involved in the effort to bring timely and balanced reporting of the event. SSALS' regional team in Prague prepared the two-hour daily regional programming broadcast in four languages that is carried on FM by 40 radio partners in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Kosovo. In addition, RFE/RL broadcasts separately in language to each of these countries and region, carried by a total of more than 130 affiliates.
RFE/RL's Senior Regional Analyst in Prague, Patrick Moore, gave an interview detailing Milosevic's medical history and the domestic and international impact of his death that was used by a number of services and posted on RFE/RL's website (
RFE/RL's six bureaus in Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Podgorica, Prishtina, and Skopje were fully engaged March 11, along with broadcasters in Prague, in getting interviews with local officials, legal and medical experts, and political analysts. Broadcasters in Prague searched RFE/RL archives and compiled a historic review of the four years Milosevic spent incarcerated at the Hague on trial for 66 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
In prime-time evening broadcasting to the region, SSALS included this material, with a story on a phone conversation between Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic intercepted by western intelligence, in which Milosevic pledged military assistance and gave instructions to Karadzic on fighting Bosnian Muslims. International reaction to Milosevic's death included statements by western leaders and top regional officials -- the presidents of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, as well as the prime minister of Kosovo. In another segment, SSALS aired public reaction, ranging from condemnation of Milosevic by people interviewed in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo to expressions of admiration and praise by his compatriots in Serbia and the Republika Srpska Bosnian Serb enclave. RFE/RL also interviewed people in Milosevic's native town Pozarevac, where he was buried.
An important part of the evening programming were interviews with political experts on the Balkans, including an American university professor, a Russian analyst, and a representative of the New York- based Coalition for International Justice. Altogether in Saturday's coverage, RFE/RL broadcast 67 audio cuts, including original interviews, archive material, vox pop reaction, and official and expert comment.

** 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

TATAR-BASHKIR SERVICE ON SCENE OF ROOF COLLAPSE RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service had a correspondent at the scene of the March 10 collapse of a marketplace roof in Kazan. The service was able to get an interview with a spokesman for Tatarstan's Ministry of Emergency Situations, Artur Shaidullov, who confirmed that heavy snow on the roof caused the collapse. Shaidullov told RFE/RL that no one was killed; "One woman was taken to hospital with a leg injury," he said.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Normahmad Kholov, may be reached by email at <>. The Tajik Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at

RUSSIA'S UN AMBASSADOR SPEAKS TO RFE/RL RFE/RL's New York-based correspondent Nikola Krastev gained an interview March 16 with Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Andrei Denisov about his government's position on Iran's nuclear program. Denisov spoke about UN Security Council meetings scheduled for March 16 and 17 and said Russia will not accept any mention of sanctions in the Council's statement: "We are firmly against even the discussion of this subject. It is so sensitive that it cannot be a subject to some kind of abstract reasoning." He said all the Security Council members are conferring with one another and consulting several times day to agree on the language of the statement. Denisov said, "This is an official Security Council document, and it has approximately the same legal weight as a resolution." The interview aired March 17, 18 on RFE/RL's Russian language broadcast, Radio Farda to Iran, and several other services.

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL NOTES GORBACHEV BIRTHDAY On the eve of Mikhail Gorbachev's 75th birthday, the last leader of the Soviet Union spoke in Moscow to Murat Temirov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, about the Soviet legacy, Russia's troubled path towards democracy, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's performance in office. A number of RFE/RL language services aired the interview in broadcasts March 1 and March 2, the day of Gorbachev's birthday. Leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to its collapse in 1991, Gorbachev is remembered for introducing glasnost "openness" and perestroika "restructuring" in an attempt to invigorate the stagnating Soviet economy, but mostly for ending the Cold War and withdrawing from eastern Europe without bloodshed. Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. In the interview, he recalled Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, which Gorbachev said laid the foundation for perestroika and democratization.

** 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

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN RFE/RL KYIV STUDIO Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov was a guest in the Kyiv studio of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on March 15. He answered questions for an hour in a live broadcast of the Time of Liberty show. He declined comment on most domestic political issues related to the approaching March 26 parliamentary elections, but spoke about Ukraine's current border dispute with Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester. Yekhanurov warned that "Ukraine has simply introduced international rules of the game and smuggling won't be tolerated any longer. And it looks like in recent days, after we introduced the international (customs) regulations, there hasn't been any smuggling or so-called shadow economy on the border." Ukraine imposed new regulations on March 3 requiring all cargo to be cleared by Moldovan customs officers. The measure was taken under pressure from the European Union, which is concerned about smuggling from the separatist Transdniester region. (; a transcript in English can be accessed at

** 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

RFE/RL CORRESPONDENT AT TRANSDNIESTER BORDER RFE/RL Romania/Moldova Service correspondent Lina Grau spoke on March 15 with Yevgheni Shevciuk, the speaker of the parliament of the unrecognized Transdniester republic, about the ongoing disagreement with Ukraine over new customs regulations and about prospects for talks with Moldova aimed at resolving the frozen Transdniester dispute ( Shevciuk said that, although the republic holds many different views about what the territory's status should be, "they all, or a majority, are united around one thing: anything, but not (a union) with Moldova." He said the delay in moving goods across the border will "knock Transdniester enterprises out of the market... and some may not recover." He said that this is likely to further impede "discussion of a common state."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>. The Romania-Moldova Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Moldova can be found at and in Romania at

KYRGYZ SERVICE TALKS TO SENIOR SECURITY OFFICIAL... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service Bishkek correspondent Ulan Eshmatov interviewed on March 15 Miroslav Niyazov, a senior official on Kyrgyzstan's Security Council ( Niyazov spoke about plans to reform the law enforcement system and discussed the fate of four Uzbek refugees currently being held in Osh since fleeing the May 2005 Andijon massacre in Uzbekistan. Niyazov said there is no decision yet on whether to return them to Uzbekistan, as the Uzbek government demands, or hand them over to a UN agency. "We sent more than 400 Uzbek refugees to a third country, we need to decide the fate of the four refugees in right direction," Niyazov said.

...NEW PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER MARAT SULTANOV After a protracted parliamentary process, reported extensively by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, the Kyrgyz parliament on March 2 chose a new speaker, Marat Sultanov. RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service Bishkek correspondent Burulkan Sarygulova got an exclusive interview with Sultanov the following week, on March 9. In the interview, Sultanov urged the branches of government in Kyrgyzstan to work closely to continue democratic reforms. He also reiterated a decision to dismiss deputy Aidar Akayev, the son of ousted president Askar Akayev, from parliament, as his candidacy and election into parliament raised many questions of irregularity. Sultanov said the issue will be on the agenda of parliamentary session in April. Sultanov addressed problems of taxation and corruption, saying all Kyrgyz citizens have to declare their wealth, including people who hold positions of power.

** 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

UZBEK SERVICE INTERVIEWS U.S. MILITARY EXPERT RFE/RL's Uzbek Service March 1 aired an interview with U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Kurt Meppen, a specialist on Eurasia, about U.S.-Uzbek relations. He said the U.S and Uzbekistan have common interests but there is currently no political will from the Uzbek side to pursue them. The interview was made by telephone from an Uzbek Service broadcaster in Prague to Washington where Meppen is working as a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

** 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

RFE/RL in the News

TROUBLE IN TURKMENISTAN The continuing saga of persecution of correspondents working for RFE/RL in Turkmenistan received international media attention, with statements of support by the US government, the OSCE, half a dozen leading human rights groups in the US, UK, Russia, France, Austria and elsewhere, in response to RFE/RL's public appeal March 9 ( The two correspondents, arrested March 7 and sentenced without trial to two weeks in prison, were released early March 16 after pledging not to work for RFE/RL (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at

KYRGYZ SERVICE LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM Radio Azattyk, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, launched a new daily program "Morning Azattyk" March 13. The two-hour live show (from 7 AM to 9 AM Bishkek time) is carried by new RFE/RL local radio partner State Teleradiobroadcasting Company of the Kyrgyz Republic (MTRK). It is broadcast nation-wide on UKW (the so-called Eastern-Band FM) and FM frequencies, covering a broad stretch of mountainous territory in the countryside, as well as densely populated towns and villages in every region of Kyrgyzstan. The show, combining news and views in the form of live interviews and listener call-ins, can also be heard on short wave by satellite and online. In addition to the five hours a day it airs on the radio, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service also broadcasts two weekly programs on MTRK Television -- a half-hour youth-oriented program as well as the popular, hard-hitting, politics and news show called "Inconvenient Questions."

** 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

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Copyright (c) 2006. 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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