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RFE/RL Review April 30, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
April 15-30, 2006

SENATOR MCCAIN SHARES VIEWS ON U.S. AND IRAN, RUSSIA, IRAQ U.S. Senator John McCain (R- Arizona) gave a wide-ranging interview to RFE/RL Romania-Moldova Service New York correspondent Radu Tudor, on Iran and U.S. relations with Russia and Iraq. During the interview, which was broadcast by several RFE/RL services on April 20, Senator McCain said the Iran nuclear crisis is "very, very dangerous" and that "any country that announces its dedication to the extinction of its neighbor should not be accepted in any international arena, forum, or anywhere else." But, the Senator emphasized, "there is no probability on the horizon that the United States would exercise a military option."
On Iraq, McCain said U.S. policy envisages "the Iraqi military taking over more and more of the responsibilities that are being carried out by American troops now, until they can carry out their own security requirements. That is not going to be soon, it is going to be long and hard and tough, but they are making progress in that direction."
Sen. McCain was critical of developments in Russia, saying: "The Russians continue to oppress the people of Chechnya, and they cannot win a conflict the way that they are conducting it, which is radicalizing the region. They continue to cause problems in various areas, and Mr. Putin continues to seek the reconstitution of the Russian Empire, and I worry about that a great deal and so do many others." McCain said, "Any UN vote on sanctions on Iran would be a 'very important' test of relations with Russia, a country that is developing in a 'very disturbing' manner" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

** 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

TWENTY YEARS AFTER CHERNOBYL: RFE/RL language services aired extensive coverage of the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Soviet Ukraine's Chernobyl power plant. The April 26 anniversary was important for those countries most affected by the accident -- Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia -- but nuclear reactors with the same technology that failed at Chernobyl are still widely used in many of the countries of the former Soviet Union.
RFE/RL Central News, working with the language services, issued a package of articles looking at the legacy of Chernobyl and what has been learned from the accident, including the political fallout, the role the accident played in the breakup of the Soviet Union, the environmental impact on land and people, the international reaction, and the status of nuclear power today.
A special program was developed on "the liquidators" -- the clean- up crews that were sent into the area, often without equipment or protective clothing and many not knowing where they were going or what had happened. Thousands of these people have since died.
RFE/RL located several surviving liquidators in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia and spoke to them about their experience and how it has affected their lives. Talgat Suyunbai, a member of the Kazakhstan Union of Chernobyl Veterans, said he and fellow officers had one night of training in Kazakhstan for what turned out to be 7 months of work. They were not told a nuclear accident had taken place; they wore regular uniforms to work. He told RFE/RL that, of the 32,000 liquidators from Kazakhstan, only 6,000 men are still living. Former liquidators in post-Soviet countries are dying at the rate of 4,000 a year. In Kyrgyzstan, 85 percent of the survivors are disabled and a significant number of the children born to them also are badly disabled (

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

* Rich Programming by the Russian Service... While Russian media downplayed the anniversary, RFE/RL looked at domestic, international, economic, political, and medical angles of the disaster. The Russian Service began its broadcasts on the theme of the Chernobyl anniversary on April 22, during its weekly "Time Difference-- Documents of the Past" program, in which senior broadcaster Vladimir Tolz analyzed secret, previously unpublished transcripts of Politburo meetings on the Chernobyl catastrophe. The program also featured an interview with Russian human-rights activist Elena Bonner about the damage Chernobyl did to the international image of the Soviet Union (
The Russian Service's "Quality of Life" weekly talk show April 22 was also devoted to the Chernobyl anniversary. Host Marina Katys in the RFE/RL studio in Moscow spoke about the aftermath and lessons of the tragedy with guests Alexei Yablokov, leader of the "Green Russia" party, Vladimir Chuprov, head of the Russian Green Peace energy department, and representatives of the "Chernobyl Union." In another RFE/RL interview, General Nikolai Tarakanov, recalled how in 1986 he commanded the military operation which helped to fight the fire in the reactor (
On April 24, the Russian Service aired its weekly "Justice" talk show about the fate of the liquidators and a 1991 law that was supposed to guarantee their rights. RFE/RL moderator Mariana Torocheshnikova spoke with studio guests Nagapet Karibjanjan, a former liquidator and one of the people who worked on the law, and another former liquidator Dmitry Gorokhov, head of the �Common Affair" rights group. In a separate story, a regional correspondent for the Russian Service went into the danger zone to talk to residents and find out why many people had returned to their contaminated homes, ignoring the known and very real health hazard. A day before the anniversary, the Russian Service aired on its weekly "Rights of Man" program an interview about Chernobyl victims with Lev Ponomarev, head of the all-Russia movement "For Human Rights," and former liquidator Olga Bobinova (;
The April 25 "Time and World" analytical radio journal featured an exclusive interview with Czech nuclear physicist Frantisek Janouch. Janouch now lives in Sweden, but in 1986 was sent to Kyiv by the European Commission on Nuclear Energy to monitor the dismantling of the Chernobyl reactor after the tragedy. The Russian Service's Belarus correspondent also visited a special cancer hospital in Minsk treating Chernobyl victims and their sick children and spoke to doctors and patients there for a moving story aired that day (
On the April 26 anniversary, "Time and World" aired a report by its correspondent in Poland about the first news of the disaster reaching Poland, despite efforts by the Russian government to maintain an information blackout ( The following day, the service ran a story by its Swedish correspondent on the response of Swedish authorities and ordinary people to news of the catastrophe, when high levels of radiation were detected coming from the Chernobyl region (
A special program on April 26 used archive material to tell the true story of Chernobyl through reports by witnesses, who offered listeners information long withheld by Russian authorities about the devastation the explosion caused (
The "Over the Barriers" cultural journal that day looked at a German film on Chernobyl with a Russian liquidator as its hero, interviewing film director Ahim von Borris and actor Ivan Shvedov . In addition, the Russian Service's Minsk correspondent provided live coverage of a rally by thousands of people, the "Chernobyl Shljakh", held annually in Belarus on the anniversary of the nuclear disaster (

** 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

* ... Belarus Service Goes Live and Multi Media... RFE/RL's Belarus Service aired a special, live program on April 26 with reports from Minsk correspondents on the Chernobyl protest rally. RFE/RL correspondents were with an estimated crowd of as many as 10,000 mainly young people, who heard the announcement by opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich of the creation of a broad, pro-democracy movement. Milinkevich also urged rally participants to work for unity and solidarity, saying: "If we stay together, we can defeat a dictatorship that denied the Belarusian people a choice," and "We can overcome the dictatorship in the next two years, perhaps sooner."
Immediately following the Chernobyl Way rally, Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka was arrested, and RFE/RL reported that before the rally started, State Security officers arrested United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka. They handcuffed him, covered his head with a jacket, and drove him around the city for several hours until the rally ended. As soon as he was released, Vyachorka gave an interview to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, saying he was beaten during the detention and interrogation.
On April 27, the Service reported more arrests, as opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Belarusian Party of Communists leader Syarhey Kalyakin, who was the head of Milinkevich's presidential campaign, and Labor Party leader Alyaksandr Bukhvostau were taken into police custody.
A major part of the Belarus Service's coverage was on the Internet, with 72 reports published on-line, together with more than 70 photographs of the protests and news events taken by RFE/RL correspondents. In addition, the Belarus Service published to its Internet site Chernobyl photos sent by listeners who are participating in the service's "Photos of Liberty" competition. On April 26 alone, the Belarus Service received 145 photographs -- the largest number of photos sent by listeners since the competition started one month ago. During the Chernobyl anniversary program, the Minsk bureau broadcast dozens of calls from listeners, and read live SMS messages received during air time from their listeners.

** 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

* ... Ukrainian Service Adds Unique Perspective... For RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, the Chernobyl anniversary was a central topic in broadcasting and on its website for weeks prior to the April 26 anniversary.
On April 10, a photo gallery was posted on the Ukrainian Service's website,, presenting a history in pictures of the Chernobyl plant, the accident, and the exclusion zone. On April 17, the Service aired an original report by its Warsaw correspondent on Chernobyl as a tourist destination. Busloads of mostly German tourists signed up for a one-day Chernobyl tour organized by a Polish travel agency. Ukrainian Service correspondents visited the abandoned villages of Narodychi and Duminske, close to the disaster zone, and found that some residents had returned. One woman recited poems she had written about Chernobyl during a program that aired April 21. A separate program, "My Chernobyl," focused on works of art inspired by the Chernobyl explosion.
The service also ran two in-depth interviews on the aftermath of the disaster -- with Ukrainian Environmental Minister Pavlo Ihnatenko, broadcast April 28, and with former Environmental Minister Yuriy Shcherbak, formerly a doctor who was one of the first civilians in 1986 to enter the exclusion zone immediately after the accident. Shcherbak spoke with senior broadcaster Irena Chalupa about a book he has written on the basis of interviews with the liquidators. Shcherbak, a former ambassador to the U.S., Israel, and Canada, told RFE/RL that the Chernobyl disaster was the most important event in the Soviet Union since World War II. The interview was posted on the Ukrainian Service's website.
The Ukrainian Service also aired a program with one of its own, Kyiv bureau chief Viktor Yelensky, who recounted his experience as a conscript in the Soviet military in 1986, when he was sent with other young men to participate in the post-disaster cleanup effort.
On April 26, a correspondent for the Ukrainian Service was in Slavutych, a town built to house Chernobyl plant workers after the accident, where people commemorated the anniversary by walking silently through the streets shortly after midnight. The Service also covered a commemorative ceremony that took place at Chernobyl, where President Viktor Yushchenko said, "Chernobyl has to return to the fold of Ukraine" and be developed with the help of the United Nations. "We will prove there are neither black holes, nor blank spots of territorial exclusion in Ukraine," Yushchenko said.

** 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

* ... Kyrgyz Service Talks to Chernobyl Victims RFE/.RL's Kyrgyz Service took an in-depth look at the misery of Chernobyl survivors who suffer from a lack of medical care, inadequate pensions, and neglected social problems. The service broadcast interviews with Kyrgyz who worked in Chernobyl, who said that 3,734 young Kyrgyz men were sent to help with the post-disaster cleanup in 1986, most of them unaware of the radiation contamination. About half of these men have since died, and most of those who still live are disabled. Those who spoke to the service's Bishkek correspondent said they get the equivalent of US$10 a month from the Kyrgyz government for medical treatment. On the eve of the anniversary, the Kyrgyz government gave the Chernobyl liquidators a special one-time payment of 4,500 Kyrgyz soms (more than U.S. $100)

** 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

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN FINDS LOST RELATIVES The weekly "Missing People" program on Radio Free Afghanistan has reunited as many as twenty families since it was launched a year ago. The program, moderated by RFA broadcaster Ibrahim Amiri from RFE/RL's Broadcast Operations Center in Prague, broadcasts messages and letters from people who have lost touch with their loved ones through decades of war and chaos and follows up with the authorities and human-rights organizations as warranted. Amiri gets on average 100 phone calls per week on a dedicated line and more than 50 letters, including some from outside Afghanistan. Listeners in Iran, Pakistan, and even Saudi Arabia have asked Radio Free Afghanistan for help in locating lost relatives. On April 28's "Missing People," Amiri was able to bring together separated members of three different families: * In the first case, Ahmad Wali, formerly from Helmand Province now living in Qutta, Pakistan, contacted Radio Free Afghanistan looking for his lost uncle, missing for 30 years. The initial Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast with Wali's voice was heard by his uncle in Iran, who set out immediately for Pakistan and discovered his family had survived, and he now had a large family of four grown daughters, three sons, and many grandchildren. Wali and his uncle shared their joy at the family reunion in a joint interview aired by Radio Free Afghanistan on April 28.

* An Afghan listener to Radio Free Afghanistan, in prison in Mach, Pakistan, sent a letter saying he had lost touch with his family when he was jailed four years ago and inquiring about his widowed mother. His mother and cousins in Wardak Province in central Afghanistan heard the broadcast, called Radio Free Afghanistan for details, and said they would pay a fine and get their relative out of prison.

* Mohammad Din, a listener to Radio Free Afghanistan living in the remote, mountainous north of Afghanistan, has no telephone -- but was able to get a message to a relative in Iran, asking him to contact Radio Free Afghanistan for news of Din's missing son Bahar. Through the chain of messages from Din to his relative Haroon and from Haroon to Radio Free Afghanistan's "Missing People," Bahar learned his father's address and returned home ending many years of separation. Bahar's father Mohammad Din sent another message, through Haroon in Iran to Radio Free Afghanistan, to express gratitude for the return of his son.

In an earlier broadcast in March, Radio Free Afghanistan was contacted by an Afghan prisoner in Saudi Arabia, serving a 14 year sentence for drug smuggling. After eight years in prison, he wanted to get in touch with his family, who did not know what had happened to him. His relatives, living in Konar province in eastern Afghanistan, heard the broadcast and told Radio Free Afghanistan they were re-establishing contact with him and appealing to authorities to shorten his sentence.

** 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

RADIO FREE IRAQ GETS SUNNI PERSPECTIVE ON NEW GOVERNMENT... Muthanna Harith al-Dari, secretary-general of Iraq's Muslim Scholars Association, an influential Sunni Arab organization, was interviewed by RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent Fa'iqah Rasul Sarhan in Amman, Jordan, on April 29. Al-Dari denied reports he had been offered a post in the new Iraqi cabinet and was not optimistic about the new government's ability to improve the political situation: "I think that the political situation has not been eased and will remain as it is," he said, adding that "statements, and attitudes of the leaders of this government have from the very beginning indicated that it will probably not leave the path of the previous governments. That is why we are pessimists on the foreseeable future developments of the situation" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

... ASKS ABOUT MILITIAS... Radio Free Iraq correspondent Fa'iqah Rasul Sarhan spoke with former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Amman, April 26, to ask what should be done about independently operating militias. Allawi rejected the idea that the militias should be integrated into the Iraqi army and police forces, stating emphatically that they should be disbanded: "We want militias to finish. We do not want to have them integrated in the military and similar structures of the state. No integration. The integration would mean creating one regiment Shi'ite, another one Sunni, another one loyal to the [Iraqi National] Accord [Allawi refers only to Al-Wifaq, or the "Accord"; his Iraqi National Accord is the core part of the Iraqi National List], another one loyal to the Supreme Council [of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq], another one loyal to someone else -- and what will be the result? There will be fights. We want an army built in a style that is recognized." He also warned that the structure of the new government is likely to encourage division rather than cohesion in the country and that ethnic killings are already a reality in Iraq: "We can see happening in front of us now killing based on identity... people being expelled from their homes because of their identity, not because they have committed a wrong" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

... DISCUSSES RELATIONS WITH TURKEY... On April 26, Prague-based RFE/RL Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo interviewed Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) International Relations Director Saffin Dizay, who spoke by telephone from Salah Al-Din about Iraq's relations with Turkey. He said Iraq's Kurdish leaders would be willing to play a role in helping find a peaceful solution to Turkey's "Kurdish problem." Dizay said "a military solution is not the answer" and that Iraq is "ready to talk to Ankara on a bilateral basis in Kurdistan within the KDP scope or within the Kurdistan Regional Government scope... especially on economic, social, and cultural developments." He said Iraq and Turkey have "very good relations" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

... TALKS TO POLITICIAN ABOUT UNITY GOVERNMENT... RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent Layla Ahmad gained an interview April 30 with United Iraqi Alliance leadership member and former deputy parliament speaker Husayn al-Shahristani on continuing negotiations for a unity government. Al-Shahristani noted that prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki has set a May 9 deadline for completing cabinet appointments, but al-Shahrastani said, "attitudes still differ on some ministries, either between the [Kurdistan] Coalition and the [Iraqi] Accordance [Front], or between the [Iraqi] Accordance [Front] and the Iraqi [National List] -- [in the latter case, it is] on the post of deputy prime minister." He said "it is the right of the Iraqi [National List] to get the post of deputy prime minister, or if they relinquish that post, to get a top leadership position [of deputy prime minister]. In fact, all the blocs, from the [United Iraqi Alliance] to the others, have nominated their strongest leaders to be included in the cabinet. Therefore, we believe it will be one of the strongest Iraqi cabinets and one of the most able so far to solve the crises in Iraq" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

... QUERIES RED CRESCENT ABOUT REFUGEES Iraqi Red Crescent president Ismai'l Haqqi spoke to RFI's Baghdad correspondent about help for the many displaced families in Iraq. In the interview, aired April 19, Haqqi said that until March 22, there were some 3,400 displaced families, averaging seven to 11 people. But "between March 22 and April 15, the number of the [displaced] families tripled, jumping to 9,900, nearing 10,000 families." He said most cases of displacement are in Baghdad and its neighborhoods, in addition to the southern governorates Wasit, Al-Najaf, Karbala, and Misan. The only governorates free of displacement cases are the governorates of Kurdistan Region [i.e. Dohuk, Irbil, and Al-Sulaymaniyah]. He said the people running from violence tend to be whatever the given minority is in that area: "If there is a Shi'ite majority, Sunnis escape from them to [predominantly] Sunni areas such as Abu Ghurayb, Al-Fallujah, and Al-Ramadi. If Shi'ites are in the minority, they re-settle to places like Sadr City, Ubaydi, Al-Najaf, and Karbala" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

** 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

SENIOR CHECHEN IN REBEL GOVERNMENT TELLS NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE OF MILITARY OPERATIONS On April 15, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service aired an unusually revealing interview with Doku Umarov, vice president of the rebel Chechen government, in which he described rebel military operations in the region.
Umarov told RFE/RL: "We have three fronts -- in Kabarda-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. Fighters in Dagestan and Kabarda-Balkaria communicate with the military emir and then through myself. They coordinate all their actions with us. They never take any steps without consulting us. As we know, the Russians have a good communications network. They can intercept telephone and radio conversations. Therefore, we have a chain network. The Dagestani mojahedin, as we know, maintain close contacts with us anyway."
Umarov said further that "the situation in Kabarda-Balkaria in terms of finances and arms is bad, they [resistance fighters] also lack military experience. They are ordinary civilians who have risen against arbitrariness against Muslims in those republics. No matter how hard we try to make them refrain from combat operations, we will not succeed. They are our brothers in faith and therefore we help them -- we share our experience and direct them. God willing, we are planning to send our experienced instructors there this year. We will not leave them alone. It is our duty to help them. The situation in Ingushetia is different. There are people there who have taken part in fighting, who are experienced and who have weapons. All these are being used against arbitrariness. The situation is the same in neighboring Dagestan." There, Umarov said, "the commander in Dagestan is Rabbani [Rappani Khalilov]. Many mojahedin and journalists know him. He fought on the eastern front in Chechnya for four or five years. I am sure, even if some Chechens might not like this, that Dagestani mojahedin observe principles of Islam and discipline better."
Asked about Arabs fighting alongside the Chechen rebels, Umarov said he could count "just five of them" and that "Russian authorities invent those reports in order to fit into the so-called antiterrorist operations."
The full text of the interview was translated from Chechen into Russian and posted on the Chechenpress website on April 17. The BBC translated the interview into English and published it on BBC Worldwide Monitoring April 19.

** 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

ARMENIAN SERVICE HOSTS EDUCATION MINISTER Armenian Education Minister Sergo Yeritsyan visited RFE/RL's Broadcast Center in Prague April 25 to meet RFE/RL Armenian broadcasters and discuss the current state of education in Armenia. Fifteen years after independence, education remains a key issue in the post-Soviet states and a program topic for many RFE/RL language services. RFE/RL Central News correspondent Rob Parsons talked with Yeritsyan at length on the progress of educational reform and the importance of diversity in the new education system. Yeritsyan said Armenian education is now "in the stabilization phase" and said, "We're reviving the system and carrying through reforms at the same time... its parameters are closer to the international system" (A full transcript of the interview in English can be found at

** 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

TURKMEN SERVICE REFLECTS ON TRIUMPH OF NOVELIST ESENOV RFE/RL's Turkmen Service carried several broadcasts the week of April 17 about banned Turkmen novelist Rahim Esenov, who received the 2006 PEN/Goldsmith Freedom To Write Award at a gala award ceremony in New York April 18. RFE/RL New York correspondent Nikola Krastev covered the event, reporting that the 79-year-old novelist, a frequent contributor to RFE/RL Turkmen broadcasts, described his appearance at the award presentation as a "miracle" (Krastev's article can be found at
Esenov was under confinement for more than two years in Ashgabat, and Turkmen authorities were refusing his request to travel to the United States to receive the prize up to the last minute, giving in only after pressure from the U.S. and OSCE. Esenov says that out of the more than 20 books he has written in Russian, he considers his historical novel "The Crowned Wanderer" his lifetime achievement. It was banned in 1997 after Esenov refused to edit it to suit Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov, and 800 copies were destroyed. The historical novel is about the life of Bayram Khan, a military general and a man of letters who fought to save the Turkmen nation from falling apart.

** 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

TAJIK WOMEN CALL RFE/RL FOR HELP A group of 12 women from a remote, rural area in southwestern Tajikistan, close to the Afghan and Uzbek borders telephoned RFE/RL's Tajik Service in Prague April 20, asking for help. They said they were being subjected to repeated abuse and violence by local police, looking for their sons, who in the late 1990s were members of a unit, led by Colonel Mahmud Khudaiberdiev, a rebel officer and leader of two unsuccessful coup attempts against the government. The women told RFE/RL they had fled from the countryside to the city of Qurghon-Teppa to escape persecution by local authorities. One mother, who identified herself as Khusnikhon, described her experience: "Everyday they come to my home and say 'your son did this and that' and say 'find him and bring him.' On Sunday [April 16], two policemen came and beat me. I had two cows; they took them."
A regional correspondent for the Tajik Service interviewed authorities in the Khatlon region, while Tajik Service broadcasters in Prague contacted the United Nations Office in Dushanbe and a human- rights group in Qurghon-Teppa. After RFE/RL broadcast the story, RFE/RL's regional correspondent reported Khatlon Regional Prosecutor Okhunov met with journalists and denied there was any persecution of relatives. The RFE/RL broadcast was heard also by several of the sons and husbands sought by police. A man, calling himself Abbos, telephoned RFE/RL's Tajik Service in Prague and said he was with a group of some 20 people armed and hiding out in the mountains of Tajikistan and that they were prepared to defend their mothers, sisters and wives.

** 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

KYRGYZ SERVICE COVERS OPPOSITION RALLY... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service gave extensive coverage in the last week of April to a major opposition rally protesting corruption, organized crime's influence on Kyrgyz politics, and the slow pace of democratization. In the days before the event, set for April 29, Radio Azattyk correspondents in Bishkek interviewed opposition leaders and rally organizers, as well as Kyrgyz officials, including Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov, who said his troops would be standing by and "use harsh measures against provocateurs... We will ensure there is no provocation." A reporter for the Kyrgyz Service was in the southern city of Osh April 26 at a similar rally, which failed -- ostensibly because of "pro-government provocateurs." One of the Bishkek rally organizers, member of parliament Temirbek Sariev, told RFE/RL that rally participants planned to police themselves on April 29 with a special unit of hundreds of unarmed men. Prime Minister Feliks Kulov said April 27, "The rally will be held in a normal, democratic way... and prove the maturity of our civil society." Radio Azattyk correspondents on Alatoo Square with the protesters, numbering in the thousands, reported that it was the biggest demonstration since president Kurmanbek Bakiev came to power last year in the so-called Tulip Revolution. Some 50 opposition political parties and human-rights groups participated in the event, which turned out to be orderly and peaceful. People chanted slogans, shouting, "Down with corruption, down with thieves!" Speakers criticized the government and the crowd jeered when Bakiev arrived at the Square and pledged that he is with the people, trying to make things better. Protesters read a list of 12 demands, giving the government one month to meet them.

... SPEAKS WITH U.S. AMBASSADOR U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Mary Jovanovic gave an interview to a Bishkek correspondent of RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk April 24 to discuss bilateral relations, including negotiations about payment for the Manas airbase used by the U.S. She reiterated that the United States is committed to reaching an agreement on the terms of use for Kyrgyzstan's Manas airbase, known informally as the Ganci base. Jovanovic told RFE/RL listeners that it is important for Kyrgyzstan and the United States to continue cooperating in the war against terrorists.

** 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

ROMANIA-MOLDOVA SERVICE LOOKS AT U.S., ROMANIAN VIEWS ON CHILD ADOPTION RFE/RL Romania-Moldova Service New York correspondent Radu Tudor interviewed U.S. Congressman Jeb Bradley (R-New Hampshire) after his return from a trip to Europe with constituents who have been waiting for three years to adopt a child from Romania. Bradley told RFE/RL that some 200 American families waiting for adoptions were recently rejected by the Romanian government because of new legal restrictions and that most had been approved for adoption before the change in Romanian law. The 2005 Romanian law makes international adoption a last resort, with Romanians getting priority. But, Bradley said, "There are not enough families in Romania willing to adopt children," and he has appealed to the European Parliament to take action. The interview was broadcast April 26 together with a conversation with head of the Romanian Office for Adoption Theodora Bertzi, giving the Romanian interpretation of the new adoption law.

** 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

UKRAINIAN SERVICE INTERVIEWS FIRST LADY RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service hosted an important visitor shortly before the Ukrainian Orthodox Easter. Ukraine's first lady, a former US citizen, Mrs. Katherine Yushchenko came to RFE/RL's Kyiv studio to tape a half-hour interview that was broadcast April 21. Mrs. Yushchenko spoke about the charitable activities of her fund, Ukraine 3000, how life has changed since her husband became president, and how the Yushchenko family would be celebrating Easter. She avoided commenting on political issues, saying that it is difficult to influence her husband and that he has traveled a lot since becoming president, and they have less time together as a couple.

** 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

BALKAN BROADCAST ON 'WHITE MUSLIMS' RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) took an in-depth look at the term "white Muslims," currently a popular topic for Bosnian and Croatian media. In a special program aired April 26, RFE/RL broadcasters conducted a series of interviews and discussions to define the term and its impact.
In an RFE/RL interview, AP journalist William Cole, one of the first to use the term in his article "Terrorists Recruiting White Muslims," told RFE/RL that he used it to depict Bosnian citizens who are, supposedly, very attractive to Arab militants because they look the same as most Europeans and can infiltrate western European culture more easily than Arabs.
Bosnian political analyst Esad Hecimovic said this attitude is an example of either bad journalism or racial prejudice. He told RFE/RL that 'white Muslim' is inappropriate from an Islamic point of view, because Islam does not distinguish people according to the color of their skin.
Bosnian Television Brussels correspondent Elvir Bucalo told RFE/RL that he uses 'white Muslim' as a technical term, "to stress the difference between Bosnian Muslims and Muslims who live in the Middle and Far East."
Bosnian publicist from Sarajevo, Ivan Lovrenovic, said that the term has a long history, but was never used in a racist sense and does not have a negative connotation. He said it first appeared after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and "was used to describe Muslims who are authentic Europeans by origin." A Croatian parliamentarian interviewed by RFE/RL disagreed. Semso Tankovic, member of the Croatian Parliament and head of the Party for Democratic Action in Croatia, whose members are mostly Muslims, told RFE/RL the term is offensive and harmful, creating divisions among Muslims. Tankovic said it separates the European Muslims from Afro-Asian immigrants, called "Black Muslims," who bring to their new country strong traditional values. Tankovic stressed that Islam, like Christianity, is colorblind: "Muslims are Muslims, and Christians are Christians, regardless of the color of their skin." (A full transcript of the program can be accessed at the SSALS website:

** 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

RFE/RL in the News

GEORGIAN SERVICE GOES ON TELEVISION RFE/RL's Georgian Service has expanded its audience reach with a popular new TV show, introduced April 16. Called "Tea and Liberty," the half-hour, weekly talk show airs Sundays at 6 PM Georgian time (9 AM EDT) in a cozy kitchen setting. In Georgia, like many post-Soviet countries, the kitchen remains a place where important family business is hashed out over a cup of tea. RFE/RL host Tamar Chikovani of the Georgian Service's Tbilisi bureau sits at a table and talks over the week's news with her guest in an informal, intimate atmosphere. Her first guest was professor and philologist Tamaz Kvachantiradze, discussing the hot topic that week -- the state of the Georgian language. Viewers get a chance to express their views in pre-taped responses featured in the program. It is broadcast on Imedi Television, a private Georgian station with a weekly reach in Georgia of 89 percent.

** 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

RFE/RL KYRGYZ JOURNALIST WINS AWARD A Bishkek-based correspondent for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Aida Kasymalieva, won the silver medal in the 2006 annual Developing Asia Journalism Awards, sponsored by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Asian Development Bank. She placed second out of 16 finalists from 11 countries that were recognized for their excellence in reporting on development issues. Kasymalieva's winning entry in the "Women and Development" category was her story "Depressed Kyrgyz Seek Solace in the Bottle," about female alcoholism. In nominating her for the 2006 Developing Asia Journalism Awards, the IWPR Kyrgyz office noted that Aida's stories on female alcoholism in remote mountainous villages and rising teen pregnancy rates among ethnic Kyrgyz had angles that the absolute majority of local journalists have generally avoided.
Kasymalieva produces and presents RFE/RL's "Azattyk Plus Youth" program, broadcast weekly on Kyrgyz public television. News of her award at a ceremony in Manila April 19 was posted on the IWPR website at

** 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

CNN, IHT QUOTE RFE/RL An RFE/RL interview with Iranian women's-rights activist Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh was quoted extensively in international media, including CNN ( and the International Herald Tribune ( RFE/RL Central News correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari of spoke with Gholizadeh by telephone from Prague April 24 about a ban on women entering a sports stadium. Gholizadeh told RFE/RL that the women's movement in Iran has been fighting for a long time for equal access to public places and that members of her group plan to defy the ban and try and watch the next soccer game held in Tehran stadium. Under current regulations, women are allowed into the stadium only if accompanied by a husband or other male relative (a full transcript of the interview can be found at

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