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RFE/RL Review August 31, 2007

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
August 1-31, 2007
Belarus Service Exposes Theater Raid
In late August the Belarus Service provided its listeners with daily updates on the extraordinary raid carried out by police on an underground theater group. On August 22, a special-task police squad arrested approximately 50 people during a performance by Free Theater in Minsk. The group was performing a show entitled "Eleven Vests" in a private house when police stormed the premises and arrested both actors and spectators, including Dutch and French citizens and three children. The Service broadcast a report on the late-evening raid, reactions of audience members, and interviews with police. The Service even tracked down the Theater Director's wife at the police station, who, in a whisper, told listeners what police were doing to those arrested. On August 24, the Service spoke to the Director himself, Mikalaj Khalezin, who said that its Minsk performances were always scrutinized by security forces. Khalezin said he was in touch with Tom Stoppard and Vaclav Havel, who are honorary patrons of Free Theater, as well as Mick Jagger, whom Khalezin had met weeks earlier in Poland. All three celebrities voiced their concern about the raid. The Service also interviewed visiting French director Christin Benedetti, who, as the director of the aborted performance, was among those detained. Benedetti told the Belarus Service that he was most impressed by the fact that in Belarus "you have many people who, in spite of everything, think and behave like Europeans. We are once again convinced that theater is a good platform for the development of democracy."
** 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
Radio Free Afghanistan Covers Korean Hostage Crisis from Start to Finish
Radio Free Afghanistan provided in-depth coverage of the hostage crisis involving 23 Korean nationals during the summer. The Korean aid workers were in southern Afghanistan when the Taliban seized them on July 19 and demanded the release of imprisoned Taliban militants. Two Koreans were killed before the South Korean government negotiated a release of the remaining 21 hostages. Throughout the crisis, Radio Free Afghanistan delivered reporting and analysis of the crisis that no other domestic media could match. Among other things, Radio Free Afghanistan interviewed the chief mediator between the two sides, relayed the condemnation of the kidnappings by local leaders, reported the killing of two of the hostages, gathered man-on-the-street reactions from citizens, and held roundtable discussions on the topic of kidnapping and the handling of the crisis by the Afghan government. Radio Free Afghanistan continues to follow this story amid allegations that the Korean government paid ransom for the hostages to be released.
** 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
Russian Service Closely Follows Detention of Activist in Psych Ward...
Throughout the summer the Russian Service reported on the case of Larissa Arap, an activist from The United Civil Front, who, despite protests from her and her family, was forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals, first in Murmansk and then in Apatity, for over a month. While in custody she was beaten, forced to take sedatives, and denied all contact with the outside world. After examining Arap in early August, Yuri Savenko, president of the Independent Psychiatric Association, told the Russian Service that Arap never posed any threat "to herself or to other people." Arap's case attracted attention around the world because of its chilling resemblance to the many cases of "punitive psychiatry" brought against dissidents during the Soviet era. The Service interviewed Arap herself after her confinement had ended on August 20.
...Covers Train Derailment
When a bomb caused a train heading from Moscow to St. Petersburg to derail on August 13, injuring 60 people, the Russian Service covered all aspects of the breaking story. The Service broadcast a series of reports, interviews, and analysis of what the Russian government called a terrorist attack. The highlight of the Service's coverage was an interview with the driver of the train, who was widely praised for the courage with which he handled the derailment.
** 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
Georgian, Russian Services Monitor Growing Rancor between the Two Nations
Throughout the summer, the Georgian and Russian services paid close attention to the growing animosity between the governments of the two countries. On August 6, when the Georgian Interior Ministry said that a Russian jet had violated Georgian airspace and fired a missile onto Georgian territory--an accusation that Moscow denied--each Service delivered thorough coverage of the story, enriched with analysis from experts and comments from officials. The services likewise covered a similar incident that took place two weeks later in the breakaway province of Abkhazia, where, according to Georgian officials, a Russian aircraft again violated Georgian airspace on three consecutive days. The Georgian government claims that on the third day of such violations, August 22, Georgian forces shot a Russian aircraft down. On August 30, the Georgian Service landed an exclusive interview with the Georgian Emergency Minister, who had visited Moscow to discuss the current tensions between the two countries.
** 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
Radio Free Iraq Talks to U.S. Ambassador
On August 27, Radio Free Iraq Baghdad correspondent Laith Ahmad spoke to Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, about the Iraqi political situation. In the interview, which Ahmad conducted at a conference about reconstruction projects in four northern Iraqi provinces, Ambassador Crocker provided his assessment of the new political arrangement signed by President Jalal Talabani, Vice Presidents Adel Abdelmahdi and Tariq Al-Hashemi, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the President of the Kurdistan region. According to the Ambassador, "Without any doubt, the five-party agreement is encouraging and important. The cooperation between the five leaders is important for the future of the country. Of course they and we all still have things to do but this is certainly a good and encouraging step for the Iraqi people."
** 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
Tatarstan President Emphasizes Importance of Power-Sharing, Freedom
Mintimer Shaimiev, the president of Russia's oil-rich Republic of Tatarstan, visited RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on August 3 to give an interview to the Tatar-Bashkir Service. In the interview, Shaimiev emphasized the importance of his republic's power-sharing treaty with Russian federal authorities in Moscow as well as the need for a free press. Shaimiev told the Service that the power-sharing treaty, approved by both houses of the Russian parliament in mid-July, will maintain Tatar statehood within the Russian Federation. Addressing the sensitive issue of moving the Tatar language to a Latin-based script, an idea supported by many people in Tatarstan, Shaimiev said that his concern arises not from the switch itself but from the possibility that such a move may divide the global Tatar community if Tatars outside of Tatarstan decide to retain the current Cyrillic script.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Rim Gilfanov, may be reached by email at <>. The Tatar-Bashkir Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan can be found at
Czech President Talks to RFE/RL about Radar Base, Global Warming "Hysteria"
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL on August 2, Czech president Vaclav Klaus said that most Czechs oppose plans for a U.S. radar base near Prague because they don't understand the reasons for it, and that this opposition must be respected. Klaus attributed Czech apprehension to more than 20 years of Soviet military occupation of then Czechoslovakia, as well as the fact that for Czechs, Iran and North Korea seem very far away and "people don't feel a clear enough danger." In the wide-ranging interview, Klaus also criticized what he called "the ridiculous and undignified hysteria in the U.S. and western Europe" about global warming. He said he plans to give "a very tough speech" at a UN conference on global warming in New York in September before the opening of the UN General Assembly.
** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Ulrich Speck, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at
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Copyright © 2007. 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 21 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.
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