Accessibility links

Newsline - July 1, 2003


MOSCOW REAFFIRMS ITS PARTICIPATION IN IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met in Moscow on 30 June with visiting Iranian Vice President Qolam Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi, who oversees Tehran's nuclear program, RIA-Novosti and iran.ru reported. During the talks, Ivanov confirmed Russia's intention of meeting all its obligations relating to the construction of the nuclear-power plant at Bushehr. Ivanov also reiterated Moscow's assurances that the Bushehr plant will be "in strict compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." He also again called on Tehran to sign the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Additional Protocol, which would open the way for international inspections of all Iranian nuclear sites. By signing the protocol, Ivanov said, Tehran would prove "the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program." Strana.ru on 30 June commented that judging from Aqazadeh-Khoi's schedule of talks with Russian Security Council and Atomic Energy Ministry officials, he came to Moscow seeking advice on his country's overall nuclear strategy. The website added that Moscow will likely seek to play the role of mediator between Washington and Tehran. VY

PROSECUTORS DELAY INDICTMENTS IN CASE OF ALLEGEDLY CORRUPT POLICE OFFICERS...
The Prosecutor-General's Office has postponed bringing an indictment against Lieutenant General Vladimir Ganeev, the most senior of the seven law enforcement officials arrested on 23 June in major anticorruption sweep (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003), Russian media reported on 30 June. Among other accusations, Ganeev is reportedly suspected of extorting $700,000 from an unidentified businessman and of illegally trafficking in precious stones. Ganeev, who is the head of security at the Emergency Situations Ministry, maintains his innocence and his lawyers have appealed the Moscow court decision to issue an arrest warrant for him, gazeta.ru reported on 30 June. Ganeev has also reportedly refused to cooperate with investigators, citing his constitutional right not to incriminate himself. His lawyer, Boris Kuznetsov, told journalists that the prosecutor's decision to postpone bringing an indictment could mean that investigators are having trouble assembling sufficient evidence against Ganeev. Speaking in Petrozavodsk on 29 June, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that the case will be brought before the courts within the time frame established by law, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 June. VY

...AS ELITE MOSCOW POLICE DEPARTMENT FACES MAJOR SHAKE-UP
More than 700 officers have been suspended from the Criminal Investigations Department (MUR) of the Moscow Interior Ministry directorate, the department where six of the seven high-ranking law enforcement officials arrested on 23 June worked, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 June. For decades, this department has been glorified in films and books as a symbol of heroic and virtuous law enforcement. According to the paper, all the suspended MUR officers will be questioned about possible corruption before being returned to duty. A major purge is expected among the chiefs of MUR's units and divisions. Interior Minister Gryzlov said that the situation will not hamper MUR's anticrime operations. " MUR is one of the most famous and elite divisions in the Interior Ministry," Gryzlov said, according to the newspaper. "It works well and will continue working well." VY

ARMY CALLS FOR HALT TO MILITARY REFORM
Speaking at a roundtable of senior generals and leading military experts organized by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party in Moscow on 30 June, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii proposed that the transition to a volunteer military begin not with the army but with the border guards and Interior Ministry troops, RTR reported. Baluevskii revealed that the General Staff has recommended that the country's political leadership suspend the reform of the armed forces and, especially, planned reductions in the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN). In the wake of Washington's abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Moscow should adjust its reform plans, which were drafted on the basis of that agreement, Baluevskii said. In this connection, the country's total military force will not be less than 1.1 million service personnel by 2005. Speaking after Baluevskii, Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman and army General Nikolai Kovalev (Unity) said that there are three elements to military reform: reducing the conscription period to one year, improving military salaries and living conditions, and increasing the prestige of military service. Kovalev, who is a former director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that he supports Baluevskii's proposal that the transition to volunteer service begin not with the army, but with the border guards and Interior Ministry troops. VY

U.S. COURT CONVICTS FOUR IN $100 MILLION FRAUD CASE
The Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, on 28 June convicted four former employees of a fictitious brokerage firm founded by Russian citizen Andrei Kudashev, a former economics adviser to Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov, lenta.ru, "Kommersant-Daily," and the BBC reported on 30 June. According to court documents, Kudashev created Evergreen International Spot Trading and the related clearinghouse First Equity Enterprises in 1997 and opened offices in the World Trade Center in New York City. Over the next few years, the company reportedly bilked about 1,500 investors from the United States and 13 other countries of about $100 million. The company sent investors false account reports while actually depositing the money in banks in Austria and Hungary. After 11 September 2001, investors discovered that they were unable to get any information about the firm, and it was revealed that Kudashev had fled the country with the company's money. An indictment for his arrest was issued in November 2001, and it is believed that he is currently in Moscow. The four Evergreen employees who were convicted are Polina Sirotina, Mamed Mekhtiev, Albert Guglielmo, and Philip Levenson, all of whom face up to 30 years' imprisonment. They are scheduled to be sentenced on 26 September, "The Moscow Times" reported on 1 July. VY

REAL ALTERNATIVES TO PUTIN'S CHOICE DECIDE NOT TO RUN IN ST. PETERSBURG RACE
St. Petersburg's legislature voted on 30 June to set 21 September as the date for the city's gubernatorial election to replace former Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, Russian media reported. Earlier, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that by law the election must take place between 20 October and early November. However, local and national media had been reporting that 21 September was the most likely date so that the election could be held at the same time as Leningrad Oblast's gubernatorial election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2003). Also on 30 June, State Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces) and Duma Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva (independent) announced that they will not run for governor of St. Petersburg. Khakamada said that she will support presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Valentina Matvienko's candidacy, and that the city "requires a prompt change in power." President Vladimir Putin recently announced that Matvienko is his choice for the post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Dmitrieva had been considered one of the strongest potential candidates in the race. JAC

VOTE RIGGING CHARGED IN UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER
A scandal is developing in connection with the Federation Council's 26 June vote on amendments to the law on communications, which mandates universal access to telephone service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 26 June 2003), "Vremya-MN" reported on 1 July. That bill passed by a slim seven-vote margin, and according to the daily, after the vote was taken, the measure's opponents alleged that at least two senators who allegedly voted for the bill were out of the country on the day of the vote. In the State Duma, legislators may vote for their absent colleagues, but this is not allowed under Federation Council rules. Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told reporters on 30 June that an investigation has been conducted that revealed that council staff were allowing not just the parliamentarians, but also their assistants to have access to the chamber when voting is conducted. Those staff have been punished, but Mironov said that he doesn't think the voting should held again. However, it is expected that the Constitutional Court will rule on the legality of the vote. JAC

PAROLED RADICAL WRITER SAYS HIS PARTY WILL REMAIN ACTIVE IN POLITICS
National Bolshevik Party leader and writer Eduard Limonov was released on parole from prison in Saratov Oblast on 30 June, Russian media reported. A city court earlier in June granted Limonov an early release from his four-year prison sentence because he had already served half of his sentence while in pretrial detention, and prison authorities found his behavior satisfactory, Interfax reported. Limonov was sentenced in April to four years' imprisonment on weapons charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2003). Limonov told reporters in Saratov that he will continue to engage in politics, but he does not plan to run in the December State Duma elections. He added that he "will continue his struggle using every legal method," and his party plans to learn from the experiences of Greenpeace and other antiglobalist organizations in conducting mass actions, according to RosBalt. He also called on his fellow Russians not to forget their compatriots in Turkmenistan. JAC

RUSSIAN MIDDLE CLASS NOT AS LARGE AS IT SEEMS...
In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 30 June, Tatyana Maleva, director of the Independent Institute for Social Policy, said that about 1-2 percent of the Russian population could be considered "rich" and 20 percent could be called "middle class." However, opinion polls indicate that about 40 percent of the population consider themselves middle class. Among those who are actually poor but who consider themselves middle class are the intelligentsia and people with higher education such as doctors, teachers, and low-level state officials. Maleva also reported that gains from recent economic growth are generally shared by two groups: the middle class, which is developing businesses that are contributing to the growth, and the poor. However, the most populous group -- which is made up of state-sector workers, low-level businessmen, and wage laborers -- is not sharing in these gains, and the government is doing practically nothing to help them. JAC

...AS POLITICAL ROLE OF NEW RUSSIANS HAS GROWN
In an article in "Vedomosti" on 30 June, sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya expands on some of her earlier articles about the increasing representation of security and military officials in the Russian political elite (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 17 January 2003). In the "Vedomosti" article, Kryshtanovskaya asserts that so-called New Russians have also created a network of representatives at all levels of power. According to Kryshtanovskaya, the New Russians hold 16 percent of the positions in the executive branch, 17 percent of the seats in the State Duma and the Federation Council, and 5 percent of the posts in the federal government. She argued that one must conclude that the New Russians' political role has grown. JAC

DUMA SPEAKER THROWS HIS HAT IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE EARLY
State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told students at Surgut State University on 30 June that he plans to run for president of Russia in 2008, Interfax reported. "We all know who will win the [presidential] elections this time," Seleznev explained. "However, I will run for president in four years' time." After Seleznev was expelled from the Communist Party last year, many analysts predicted that his career would founder as did those of other former Duma speakers such as Ivan Rybkin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July and 12 September 2002). JAC

RUSSIAN, CHECHEN OFFICIALS DISCUSS DRAFT POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT
Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin chaired a meeting in Moscow on 30 June to review the draft power-sharing treaty between Chechnya and the federal center, Russian media reported. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said after the meeting that he will continue to insist on the maximum political and economic privileges for Chechnya. The draft power-sharing agreement was published in the Chechen press 10 days ago, and reportedly stipulates that all revenues from the extraction and sale of Chechen oil and other natural resources be used to reconstruct the republic's devastated infrastructure. Russian commentators have argued that other provisions of the draft agreement, including that on a Chechen National Bank, violate the Russian Constitution. LF

TRIAL OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT GUNMEN RESUMES
The trial of the five gunmen charged with killing eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 resumed in Yerevan on 30 June, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hearings were suspended in mid-January when presiding judge Samvel Uzunian fell ill. Uzunian told RFE/RL on 1 April that he had recovered from his illness and that the trial would resume "soon," but on 18 April, the date set for resumption of the hearings, they were again postponed on the grounds that one of the defendants, Vram Galstian, was allegedly suffering from heart problems. On 30 June, however, Galstian denied that report and said that while in detention he had been repeatedly forcibly injected with unidentified drugs that, he claimed, have damaged his nervous system. Lawyers representing two of the slain officials have asked that Galstian's medical records be made available. LF

TURKEY HINTS AT SOFTENED STANCE ON ARMENIA...
Speaking on 27 June in the east Anatolian city of Kars, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara will not open its border with Armenia until that country formally abandons its international campaign for recognition that the killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 constituted genocide, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Erdogan did not insist, as Turkish politicians have hitherto done, that establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia is contingent on a solution to the Karabakh conflict that leaves the enclave a part of Azerbaijan. A senior Armenian official told RFE/RL that Turkey is under pressure from the United States to open its border with Armenia and might do so prior to establishing diplomatic relations. The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 30 June reaffirmed Yerevan's readiness "to continue the ongoing dialogue" with Turkey in the hope that it will eventually lead to specific steps. The Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers met in early June on the sidelines of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting in Madrid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). LF

...OFFERS TRILATERAL TALKS WITH ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN...
Speaking on 30 June in Baku at a conference on conflicts in the Balkans and the Caucasus, Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ahmed Unal Cevikez said Ankara is ready to organize trilateral talks among Turkish, Armenian, and Azerbaijani officials if Baku and Yerevan request such talks, Turan reported. Cevikez said such talks could help to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF

...WHILE ARMENIAN COALITION PARTNER WARNS AGAINST CONCESSIONS
In a 27 June statement, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) warned against abandoning Armenia's campaign for genocide recognition, Noyan Tapan reported. The statement argued that recognition by the Turkish authorities that the 1915 genocide took place is a necessary precondition for any official dialogue with Turkey, and that such dialogue is doomed to fail as long as Turkey demonstrates a biased attitude toward the Karabakh issue and refuses to lift its blockade of Armenia. The tough HHD statement raises the question whether that party might leave the three-party coalition with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia and the Orinats Yerkir party due to disagreements over the most appropriate policy toward Turkey. LF

AZERBAIJANI SERVICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN CEASE-FIRE VIOLATION
An Azerbaijani servicemen was killed on 28 June when Armenian troops opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in the village of Garakhanbeyli in Fizuli Raion, Turan reported on 30 June. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE DISPERSE PROTEST OUTSIDE IRANIAN EMBASSY
Police in Baku prevented some 15-20 members of the opposition Umid (Hope) Party from picketing the Iranian Embassy on 30 June, Turan and Interfax reported. Seven party activists were arrested. The picketers were protesting the reported mass arrests of Iranian Azerbaijanis in the cities of Tabriz, Ardabil, and Urumiyeh, whose release they are demanding. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE RECEIVE PAY RAISE
Both civilian and uniformed staff of Azerbaijan's Interior Minister --with the exception of the Interior Ministry troops -- will receive a 50 percent pay increase as of 1 August, Turan reported on 30 June. President Heidar Aliev has decreed similar wage increases for teachers and medical-sector employees in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May and 11 June 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS ELECTIONS BE HELD UNDER EXISTING LAW...
Eduard Shevardnadze suggested on 30 June during his regular Monday radio interview that the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2 November could take place under existing election legislation if no agreement is reached between the authorities and the parliamentary opposition on amending it, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze invited political parties last week to meet and discuss a new draft Election Code, but the leaders of the opposition Labor Party and the National Movement declined that invitation. Shevardnadze on 30 June again proposed such meetings, but stressed they should take place only after parliament meets in emergency session to debate the election legislation. Also on 30 June, Supreme Court Chairman Lado Chanturia rejected a proposal by the Labor Party and the National Movement that the Supreme Court be empowered to confirm the accuracy of election returns, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AS WESTERN AMBASSADORS URGE GEORGIA TO ADOPT NEW ELECTION CODE
The ambassadors in Tbilisi of the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, the EU, and the OSCE and a senior UN representative met for three hours on 30 June with the heads of the Georgian parliamentary factions to discuss the impasse over the election law, Caucasus Press reported. They also issued an eight-point statement listing recommendations for ensuring that the upcoming ballot is transparent and fair. Caucasus Press quoted UN representative Lance Clark as saying that international aid to Georgia might be reduced if the elections are undemocratic. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HIS POWERS SHOULD NOT BE CURTAILED
President Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 June that he believes strong presidential power is essential for Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. "As long as I live, the president of Georgia will keep all competencies envisaged by the constitution," Shevardnadze said. He added that if parliament were to vote in favor of constitutional amendments curtailing the presidential powers, he would veto those amendments. LF

IMF ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT
A team of International Monetary Fund (IMF) experts that arrived in Tbilisi on 23 June to review Georgia's compliance with earlier fund recommendations has given the Georgian government 48 hours to draft concrete measures for raising budget revenues and combating widespread tax evasion, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported on 30 June, quoting Deputy Minister of State Giorgi Isakadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003). The budget deficit for the first six months of the year totaled 121 million laris ($55.8 million), according to Caucasus Press on 30 June. Caucasus Press quoted the chairman of the parliamentary commission on taxes and incomes, David Salaridze, as saying that the IMF has demanded that budget expenditures be cut by 80 million laris. LF

GEORGIA READY TO ACCEPT RUSSIAN OFFER OF ANTITERRORISM HELP
Georgia is ready to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer of financial help and information in the fight against international terrorism, the newspaper "Mtavari gazeti" on 30 June quoted Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze as saying. But Djaparidze added that Tbilisi has no need of Russian military assistance. Speaking in Edinburgh on 25 June, Putin again accused Georgia of harboring international terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003). Also on 30 June, President Shevardnadze announced that a Georgian commando battalion trained by U.S. military personnel within the parameters of the "Train and Equip" program launched last spring will be deployed on Georgia's border with Chechnya. Shevardnadze added that the deployment is not intended "to frighten Russia." He said there is no threat to Russia from terrorists encamped in Georgia and suggested that some Russian ministers might have misinformed Putin about the alleged presence of international terrorists in Georgia. LF

GEORGIAN POWER SECTOR WORKERS STRIKE
The staff of the Inguri Hydroelectric Power Station, which generates much of Georgia's electricity, launched a strike on 30 June to demand the payment of back wages for the past 13-17 months, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The power station's management has traveled to Tbilisi to try to persuade the Georgian government to accede to the strikers' demand. LF

KAZAKH GOVERNMENT TO RAISE TAXES ON OIL-AND-GAS SECTOR
A joint session of the Kazakh parliament on 30 June approved an ambitious action plan submitted by the new government of Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003) that foresees a tripling of Kazakhstan's GDP by 2015, khabar.kz reported. Lawmakers had no major complaints about the government's plans, according to khabar.kz, but according to Interfax-Kazakhstan on 30 June, some deputies asked about taxation of the oil-and-gas sector and were told by Akhmetov that the government intends to raise taxes in this sector. A government working group is supposed to draft revisions to the current Tax Code by 1 September, the prime minister was quoted as saying. He agreed with parliamentarians that some existing contracts in the oil-and-gas industry are now inadequate, although earlier they helped attract foreign investment. Akhmetov said that in revising the Tax Code the Kazakh government was copying Norway, where the government controls pricing processes in the oil-and-gas sector. Earlier, Akhmetov stated that contracts with foreign firms will not be rewritten (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). BB

IOM ASSESSES HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN KYRGYZSTAN
At a weekend seminar on human trafficking in Kyrgyzstan, data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was cited that indicate that about 4,000 Kyrgyz citizens are trafficked annually, Deutsche Welle reported on 29 June. IOM staff member Damira Smanalieva was quoted as telling the seminar that Kyrgyz girls are falling victim to the same tricks used by organized crime in other countries to lure the unsuspecting into prostitution in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Germany, Greece, and Korea. According to the IOM, when the girls are no longer useful as prostitutes, they are forced by their "purchasers" to serve as drug couriers or organ donors. Kyrgyz men are reportedly being sold to work on Kazakh tobacco plantations. Smanalieva was quoted as saying that shortcomings in Kyrgyzstan's legislation are making it difficult to combat human trafficking effectively, and the number of prosecutions for the crime declined from 18 in 1999 to just four in 2000. More recent data was not cited. BB

RESULTS OF EU URANIUM CLEAN-UP PROJECT PRESENTED IN KYRGYZ TOWN
The results of a European Commission project to clean up uranium-tailings dumps in the southern Kyrgyz town of Maili-Suu were presented there on 30 June, according to akipress.org on 30 June and centrasia.ru on 1 July. According to the European Commission representation in Kyrgyzstan, the two-year project included assessing the danger posed by the dumps, stabilizing the dump that was found to pose the greatest threat, improving the monitoring system that was already in place, and carrying out a technical and economic analysis of various ways to correct the situation. According to centrasia.ru, the mayor of Maili-Suu complained that the findings of the 500,000-euro ($575,000) project are not new; 130,000 euros worth of promised monitoring equipment has not arrived; and two-thirds of the total amount of the project went to foreign firms, while only 30,000 euros went to local contractors. An EU expert was quoted by akipress.org as saying that 3 million euros will be needed to remove the radioactive waste from the most unstable of the dump sites. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PROTESTS POST-PRESIDENTIAL PRIVILEGES FOR AKAEV
A Kyrgyz opposition movement comprising parliamentarians, human rights activists and opposition political figures that is seeking the resignation of President Askar Akaev issued a statement on 30 June protesting a law adopted by the lower house of parliament last week that would grant special privileges to Akaev after he leaves office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003), RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The statement asserted that the life-long privileges for Akaev and his family, including retention of government-owned housing and the use of a car and driver, would require significant expenditures of public funds. Opposition parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, who heads the movement for the president's resignation, was quoted as calling the law "anticonstitutional and antidemocratic." He also objected to granting Akaev and his family life-long immunity from prosecution. The benefits are not intended to apply to future presidents, but only to Akaev as the first head of state of independent Kyrgyzstan in recognition of his "historic mission," and to two former first secretaries of the Soviet-era Communist Party of Kirghizia who are now members of parliament. BB

KYRGYZ PARTY DECLARES ITSELF IN OPPOSITION
The Kyrgyz Ar-Namys Party formally declared itself in opposition to the government at its third congress on 28 June, akipress.org and the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights reported on 30 June. The congress, which was attended by 98 elected delegates from all oblasts, re-elected former Vice President Feliks Kulov as head of the party. Kulov, presently serving a jail sentence for crimes alleged to have been committed during his period as the country's top security official, reportedly runs the party from his jail cell. The congress criticized the government for failing to carry out democratic reforms and criticized some international organizations for using the government as their main partner in implementing projects. Party leaders complained that the authorities prevented them from holding their congress in Bishkek, forcing them to find a private venue in nearby Alamedin Raion. BB

TAJIK PARLIAMENT REDUCES USE OF DEATH PENALTY
The Tajik parliament has adopted a law submitted by President Imomali Rakhmonov amending articles of the Criminal Code to reduce the number of crimes for which the death penalty may be applied and to abolish the death penalty for women (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. Presidential adviser on legal issues Shermahmad Shoev was quoted as saying that the reduction in the number of crimes for which the death penalty may be applied from 15 to five was intended by Rakhmonov to make Tajikistan's criminal legislation more humane. The death penalty may now be applied only for treason, terrorism, large-scale drug trafficking, and a few other crimes. BB

RUSSIAN SECURITY SERVICE ARRESTS FORMER TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTER
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has arrested former Tajik Interior Minister Yakub Salimov in Moscow at the request of Tajik law enforcement agencies, Interfax and other Russian media reported on 30 June. A Tajik delegation is reported to be in Moscow seeking to arrange Salimov's extradition. Salimov has been accused of treason, murder, and planning an armed coup in 1996-97. Tajik opposition journalist Dodojon Atovulloev, who lives in exile in Moscow, told a correspondent for "Kommersant-Daily" that if Russia extradites Salimov, it "risks losing Tajikistan in the future." Atovulloev's assessment of Salimov as one of the most influential political figures in Tajikistan and the man who brought President Rakhmonov to power was posted on the tajikistantimes.ru website. According to Atovulloev, Rakhmonov's former close associates, including Salimov, are now turning into his main enemies. After fleeing Tajikistan in 1997 following an attempted coup to overthrow Rakhmonov, Salimov joined the opposition in exile. Atovulloev added that Salimov's arrest is part of an effort by the Tajik authorities to induce Russian law enforcement agencies to round up the Tajik opposition in Moscow. BB

ARE AUTHORITIES ANGLING TO EXPEL U.S. ORGANIZATION FROM BELARUS?
The Minsk offices of the Washington-based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) has dismissed as lies recent allegations aired by Belarusian Television about the organization's activities, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 30 June. Belarusian Television's Channel 1 broadcast a program on 22 June in which the country's KGB alleged that IREX allocated at least $500,000 to Russian television networks for a mudslinging campaign against Belarus during the 2001 presidential election. The program, which was subsequently rebroadcast by two other state channels, also alleged that IREX earmarked $600,000 for deploying a network of transmitters in Poland, Lithuania, and possibly Ukraine to broadcast propaganda into Belarus. IREX, which is a nonprofit organization specializing in higher education, independent media, Internet development, and civil-society programs, has demanded explanations from the KGB and apologies from Belarusian Television. IREX activists did not exclude the possibility that authorities are preparing to reject an extension of IREX's registration in Belarus, which expires on 7 August. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO DEFEND INDEPENDENCE...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an interview with Belarusian Television on 30 June that he is ready to defend Belarus's independence via "various methods, even including extraordinary measures," Belapan reported. "I am ready for this, and I think you are ready for this too," Lukashenka told his viewers. He stressed that Belarus can enter a currency union with Russia only if the country's sovereignty is preserved and "financial guarantees" are offered by the Russian side. "I pose the question [to Russia]: Where are the guarantees that our state sovereignty will not be violated, that our people will be independent? What is independence without money?" Lukashenka said. JM

...AND OFFERS BELARUS AS BRIDGE BETWEEN RUSSIA, WEST
Lukashenka said in the same interview that Belarus is ready to serve as a "wide bridge between Russia and the West." "We are going to build our relations with the unified Europe the way Europe wants them, [but] we will do all we can to make sure something in these relations depends on us too," Lukashenka said, adding that Belarus has many other "trump cards" apart from its geographical location. "We have quite powerful armed forces,... a high-tech country, and high-tech economy. We also have wise, reasonable people," he said. JM

VISITING RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL PRAISES 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH UKRAINE
"Russia always considered and continues to consider Ukraine its strategic partner. We are building our military relations proceeding from this [premise]," Interfax quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying after his arrival in Kyiv on 30 June. Ivanov met the same day with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. The following day, Ivanov and his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk signed an accord on the handling of aviation equipment that is being either scrapped under international agreements or repaired at military enterprises in both countries. "If an aircraft is being scrapped in Ukraine and its units and sets are necessary in Russia, they will be shipped to Russia; and vice versa," Ivanov said of the accord. The defense ministers also signed an agreement on training Ukrainian air-defense units at Russian military ranges. JM

OUR UKRAINE PROPOSES PREFERENCES, TAX BREAKS FOR BELEAGUERED FARMERS
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko on 1 July urged lawmakers to pass a special resolution granting temporary relief from taxes and other dues to agricultural enterprises and annulling accumulated fines and penalties for unpaid taxes in the agricultural sector, Interfax reported. Yushchenko argued that such a measure will help alleviate the situation on Ukraine's food market, which is witnessing a consumer run on grain products and considerable hikes in food prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 June 2003). "Control over the formation of [Ukraine's] food market has been lost," Yushchenko said. The Verkhovna Rada is expected to debate possible measures to ease the situation on 2 July. JM

ESTONIA'S CENTER PARTY POSTPONES TAKING POSITION ON EU MEMBERSHIP
The extended board of the Center Party met in Kanepi, Voru County, on 29 June and voted 35-15 to approve a statement urging citizens to participate in the country's EU referendum in September as opposed to one expressing outright support for EU membership, BNS reported the next day. Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar gave a speech in which he listed positive and negative aspects of EU membership and called for postponing a decision on the issue until the party congress in Tartu on 9 August. His neutral position was apparently strong enough to overcome the pro-EU position of party Deputy Chairmen Peeter Kreitzberg and Sven Mikser and most of the ministers of the previous cabinet. SG

POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER DISCUSSES ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH LATVIA
Marek Pol paid a one-day visit to Latvia on 30 June at the invitation of his Latvian counterpart Ainars Slesers, LETA reported. Latvian Economy and Transportation Ministers Juris Lujans and Roberts Zile also participated in the meeting of the deputy premiers that primarily focused on international infrastructure projects, including the Rail Baltica railway, Via Baltica highway, Baltic Ring energy network, and the Liepaja-Gdansk ferry line. Both sides agreed that the Rail Baltica project should be a priority, as it could have an important role in boosting tourism and freight transport. Pol also pledged to urge the Polish Chamber of Commerce to open a Polish trade office in Riga to improve cooperation among Latvian and Polish businesspeople. In addition, he met in Riga with Latvian Development Agency Board Chairman Juris Kanels and Latvian Merchants' Association Chairman Henriks Danusevics and visited the Liepaja Free Port. SG

LITHUANIA SHOWS 9 PERCENT ANNUAL GROWTH
The Statistics Department announced on 30 June that Lithuania's GDP in the first quarter amounted to 12.21 billion litas ($4.1 billion), 9.4 percent higher than during the same period in 2002, ELTA reported. There were significant increases in all sectors except mining. The greatest growth was in the sectors of energy (27 percent), construction (18.3 percent), and manufacturing (16.3 percent), with more moderate growth in retail and wholesale operations (8.2 percent), transportation and communications (7.7 percent), and agriculture and forestry (4.2 percent). Corresponding GDP growth in Latvia and Estonia over the same period were 8.8 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. SG

POLISH-LED DIVISION IN IRAQ TO CONSIST OF 9,000 TROOPS
The division to be deployed in the Polish-administered sector in Iraq will consist of more than 9,000 troops from some 20 countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2003), PAP reported on 30 June. The first group of 250 soldiers from a Polish contingent of more than 2,000 troops will leave for Iraq on 2 July, along with General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, commander of the division. "The key to our success will be good understanding and contacts with local people. We want to treat them with respect and show respect for their tradition and customs," PAP quoted General Czeslaw Piatas, chief of the General Staff, as saying. JM

CZECHS ASSUME LEADERSHIP OF VISEGRAD FOUR
The Czech Republic took over the 12-month revolving chairmanship of the Visegrad Four on 1 July, CTK reported. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has pledged to use the position to prepare the political bloc for introduction of the Schengen accords on the free movement of people within the enlarged EU borders. The Visegrad Four, launched in 1991, comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. AH

CZECH CULTURE MINISTER SEEKS TO OFF-LOAD CHURCH BURDEN
Culture Minister Pavel Dostal and Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares have jointly proposed transferring responsibility for church relations from the Culture Ministry to Mares's government portfolio, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 1 July. Church-state relations remain strained as a result of lingering disputes over property restitution, which has effectively been stalled since Dostal took over the Culture Ministry in 1998. "I'm tired of fighting with the churches; let somebody else do it," Dostal said. A spokesman for the Czech Bishops Conference, Daniel Herman, countered that relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Culture Ministry "in fact have not been idyllic, but through no fault of the church," CTK reported. AH

CZECH CABINET APPROVES 20 MILLION-EURO PAYOUT OVER ABANDONED HIGHWAY PROJECT
Ministers voted on 30 June to approve a 20 million-euro ($23 million) payment in connection with the cancellation of a dubious $4.5 billion highway project, the daily "Hospodarske noviny" reported the next day. Police are expected to question ministers from the Social Democratic cabinet led by former Premier Milos Zeman (1998-2002), including some who serve in the current three-party coalition government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Media speculation has focused on the fact that the massive project was handed out in the absence of a tender and in the final hours of Zeman's government. AH

VISITING RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONGRATULATES SLOVAKS ON EU EFFORT
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov congratulated the Slovak Republic in Bratislava on 1 July on its successful effort at integrating into the European Union, TASR reported. During a meeting with parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky, Ivanov and Hrusovsky discussed bilateral relations and agreed that Slovak accession to the EU need not present any technical barriers to mutual trade and business contacts, the agency added. Hrusovsky also said Slovakia's entry to NATO remains a fundamental pillar of its foreign policy, adding that the trans-Atlantic nature of that alliance is crucial for Europe. AH

SLOVAK JUDGE FREES SUSPECTED CRIME LEADER -- AGAIN...
Kosice district Judge Jan Poprocky rejected Slovak prosecutors' request on 30 June for the pretrial detention of one of the country's wealthiest businessmen, Jozef Majsky, TASR reported. Police suspect Majsky of attempting to influence witnesses since the same judge released him on 21 June, the news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Majsky is awaiting trial on charges of fraud and founding a criminal group in connection with the 2002 collapse of two unlicensed investment companies, Horizont Slovakia and B.M.G. Invest, TASR reported. Judge Poprocky reasoned that the authorities did not sufficiently demonstrate that Majsky was seeking to influence witnesses through third parties, as prosecutors alleged. AH

...PROMPTING BIAS CHARGE BY PROSECUTORS
Kosice prosecutors immediately filed a complaint with the Kosice Regional Court alleging bias in Judge Poprocky's 30 June decision to release Majsky, TASR reported the same day. The report did not cite a basis for prosecutors' claims. The regional court's decision is expected on 3 July following a process closed to the media, the news agency reported. AH

SLOVAKS BUST CROOKED CUSTOMS AGENTS
The Slovak Customs Administration and regional authorities combined to carry out the largest anticorruption operation in the history of an independent Slovakia on 30 June, according to TASR. Citing a Customs Administration spokeswoman, the agency said "a large number of customs agents" were detained at a Bratislava customs branch office on suspicion of accepting bribes, abuse of public authority, and aiding and abetting organized crime. The suspects face prison sentences of three to eight years, TASR reported. AH

SLOVAK POLICE MUST WEAR BADGES, DECLARE ASSETS UNDER NEW REGULATIONS
Slovak police officers must wear badges and submit property declarations under regulations that went into effect on 1 July as part of a government effort to combat corruption announced by Interior Minister Vladimir Palko, TASR reported. "Nametags" are required for traffic and patrol units, as well as for border and migration services, but not in raids and other collective actions, TASR reported. Senior police functionaries must submit property declarations within a month, the news agency added. The regulations are part of an amendment to the law on state service, and noncompliance may lead to dismissal. AH

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ROMANY ISSUES OPENS IN BUDAPEST
A three-day international conference on Romany issues in Central and Eastern Europe opened in Budapest on 30 June, Hungarian and international media reported. The conference is sponsored by the World Bank, the European Union, and the Open Society Institute. Opening the forum, Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said the situation of the Roma is one of the most important issues to be dealt with in a "new Europe." The integration of Roma into society is a pressing task that will span several generations, Medgyessy said. European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou added, "There is poverty [and] discrimination faced by the Romany people, and it is a concern for Europe as a whole." There will be some 8 million Roma in an enlarged EU in 2007, making it the largest ethnic minority in that political bloc, TASR reported, citing a European Commission plea to encourage Romany integration. World Bank President James Wolfensohn said Roma lag behind the rest of Europe in terms of life expectancy, education, health care, and opportunities. Open Society Institute founder George Soros proposed that a "decade of the Roma" be launched in Europe from 2005 to 2015 to allow national governments and international organizations to follow up on pledges toward Romany integration. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES STATUS LAW WITH OSCE COMMISSIONER
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told visiting OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on 30 June that the recently amended Hungarian Status Law complies with European norms, as controversial passages were removed from the text, Hungarian radio reported. Kovacs told Ekeus that his government has proposed bilateral discussions at the ministerial level with all affected neighboring countries on the implementation of the act. Regarding last week's upbraiding by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), Kovacs said a report by Erik Juergens condemned the original version of the Status Law, not the existing version of what he called the "Benefits Act." Juergens could not have expressed an opinion on the amended law, Kovacs reasoned, as it was passed by the Hungarian parliament just 36 hours before the Strasbourg session. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS HOSPITAL ACT BUT REQUESTS RULING FROM CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
President Ferenc Madl signed into law on 30 June a recently passed act on hospital privatization, but asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the circumstances under which parliament overrode his veto to approve the act, Hungarian television reported. Madl had sent the bill back for reconsideration on 23 June, but the house passed it unchanged later that day in a hastily arranged extraordinary session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 24 June 2003). Madl asked the Constitutional Court to decide whether he is obliged in all cases to sign an act he has sent back to parliament, and particularly whether this obligation applies when parliament violates procedural regulations in passing the bill. Madl's challenge did not prevent the act from going into effect on 1 July. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ELECTS NEW HEAD
Hungarian Constitutional Court justices elected Andras Hollo in a secret ballot on 30 June to serve as the body's president until November 2005, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The 60-year-old Hollo was the court's general secretary from 1990-96. He will take up his new post on 1 August, following the retirement of incumbent President Janos Nemeth. In other news, Hungary officially implemented a four-tiered justice system on 1 July, when new appellate courts began operating, the daily reported. New courts in Budapest, Pecs, and Szeged will rule on appeals of rulings by county courts. Previously, challenges of such rulings went directly to the Supreme Court. MSZ

HUNGARIAN POLICE BRIEFLY DETAIN KOSOVAR LEADER
Hungarian border police detained Hashim Thaci for several hours at Budapest's international airport on 30 June on the basis of a Yugoslav arrest warrant for "terrorism" issued during the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Thaci is a former commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and currently heads the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), which is the second-largest party in Kosova's legislature. Border police detained Thaci when he arrived at Budapest's Ferihegy Airport in transit to Paris and Brussels, although a spokesman for the police denied that they formally arrested the Kosovar leader. Thaci was freed after Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), spoke by telephone with Hungarian officials. In Belgrade, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said two Milosevic-era international arrest warrants against Thaci remain in force. In The Hague, Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, said Thaci's detention has nothing to do with the tribunal. PM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO AND CROATIA SET TO LOSE U.S. MILITARY AID
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 30 June that at least 30 countries will lose U.S. military assistance if they do not conclude a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the U.S. by 1 July prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Albania and Bosnia have each ratified such a pact, while Macedonia has said it will do so. Slovenia and Croatia have refused to do so under intense pressure from the EU, a move that will cost Croatia about $19 million. Hina reported from Zagreb on 1 July that the government is determined to find a legal formula to enable it to continue to receive assistance. Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic said in Belgrade on 30 June that his government will not respond to the United States by the 1 July deadline, adding that Belgrade's eventual decision will not affect its chances of acceptance into NATO's Partnership for Peace program. It is not clear if Montenegro will make its own response to Washington or accept the decision of the Belgrade authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 27 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). PM

BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT SURRENDERS
Zeljko Meakic surrendered to Serbian police in Belgrade on 30 June, Reuters reported. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted him in 1995 for genocide for his role as commander of the Omarska concentration camp near Prijedor in 1992. Pictures of emaciated Muslim and Croat prisoners there were publicized around the world in the summer of 1992, drawing attention to Serbian ethnic-cleansing policies in Bosnia. The indictment said that "the Serb forces killed, raped, sexually assaulted, beat, and otherwise mistreated the prisoners. Many, whose identities are known and unknown, did not survive the camp." It is not clear when Meakic will be extradited to The Hague or whether he is a citizen of Bosnia or of Serbia and Montenegro. Belgrade's policy has long been that Bosnian nationals are not entitled to the protection of Serbian law. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT OPENS SECTION OF IMPORTANT HIGHWAY
Thousands of people in the Zadar area celebrated the opening of the 82-kilometer Udbina-Gornja Ploca-Zadar II section of the Zagreb-Split highway on 30 June, Hina reported. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said a further 150 kilometers of the highway will be put into operation in 2003 and an additional 190 kilometers in 2004. The highway is a politically important project for the government, which is expected to call elections in late 2003 or early 2004. The government's prestige was bolstered by the recent visit of Pope John Paul II but was dealt a blow by the EU's refusal to set a firm date for Croatia's admission to the Brussels-based bloc (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). PM

ROMANIA'S LOWER HOUSE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
The Chamber of Deputies on 30 June unanimously approved amendments to the Romanian Constitution, Romanian media reported. All 254 legislators present voted for the amendments, although members of the extremist Greater Romania Party boycotted the vote to protest a provision granting ethnic minorities the right to use their native languages in courts and in public administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). The amendments must still be approved by the Senate. Premier Adrian Nastase the same day said the chamber's approval of the amendments was wise and represented the "expression of political dialogue." He said that while the previous constitution, adopted in 1991, was one of "transition," the amended constitution will be tailored to "pre-accession" to the European Union. He further added the constitution might need further modification following Romania's anticipated accession to the EU in 2007. ZsM

NGO REPORT WARNS OF POLITICAL PRESSURES ON MOLDOVA'S JUSTICE SYSTEM
A joint report on the reform of the justicial systems of four former Soviet republics that was issued on 30 June by Freedom House Moldova and the Budapest-based Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute says the independence of Moldova's judicial system is limited and that political pressure on judges has intensified over the past two years, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. The report also says all of Moldova's recent governments contributed to some extent to "discrediting" the judicial system. ZsM

TRANSDNIESTER LEADER TAKES TOUGH STANCE ON MOLDOVA
Transdniester President Igor Smirnov said on regional television on 30 June that Tiraspol authorities will "respond" to Moldova's "economic blockade" on the region, Flux reported. He did not specify what kind of actions Tiraspol might take, but he said the Chisinau authorities will bear full responsibility for the consequences of these actions. Smirnov said Chisinau is waging an "economic war" against Tiraspol by not granting Transdniester authorities the right to use the new Moldovan customs seal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2003). Moreover, as of 1 July Ukraine will not permit the import of goods from Transdniester that have not been registered with the Moldovan Registration Chamber. Infotag commented that Smirnov might be considering blocking the transcontinental pipeline that pumps Russian gas to the Balkans, or halting supplies of electricity to Moldova from the Moldavskaya Power Plant near Tiraspol. The Moldovan authorities did not immediately react to Smirnov's declaration, but Premier Vasile Tarlev was schedulted to hold a press conference on 1 July on the "destabilization of the Transdniester situation." ZsM

BULGARIA'S MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS URGES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva told the joint television program of RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service and the private bTV on 30 June that the country's EU membership negotiations could be delayed and Bulgaria could lose the confidence of its partners within the EU should it fail to amend its constitution. Kuneva underscored that Bulgaria seeks to make progress on the justice and home affairs chapters as well as the competition policy chapters of the EU's acquis communautaire during Italy's six-month EU Presidency, which began on 1 July. She added that the problems in closing these chapters mainly stem from domestic difficulties. UB

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BALKAN TRANSIT IS INTOLERABLE...
Speaking in Tirana on 30 July at a meeting of Balkan leaders, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said the countries of the regions must step up their efforts to improve existing infrastructure, novinite.bg reported. In providing rather optimistic estimates for travel times in the Balkans, Pasi said, "At the beginning of the 21st century, it takes nine hours by car to travel from Sofia to Tirana (550 kilometers); to Skopje, four hours (240 kilometers); to Sarajevo, 10 hours (740 kilometers); and to Belgrade, five hours (400 kilometers)." He said these travel times are nearly twice as much time as for comparable distances elsewhere in Europe. "We have no direct flights to Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Zagreb, and those to Skopje and Tirana are once or twice a week," he complained. "Sofia has no railway connection with Skopje and Skopje has none with Tirana. This situation cannot be tolerated any longer." UB

...AND REVEALS HIS VISION FOR THE FUTURE
Foreign Minister Pasi stressed the need to build the long-delayed, so-called Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 8 that would run from Italy via Albania and Macedonia to the Bulgarian Black Sea Port of Burgas. "From our perspective, a major priority is to bridge the missing parts of the corridor and eliminate the bottlenecks across the borders and, in particular, to complete the railway line between Sofia and Skopje," Pasi said. He also stressed the strategic aspects of such a corridor, as it would run "across the center of the Balkan Peninsula, linking Europe with Asia and acting as a stepping stone to the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Caspian region, Northern Africa and the Mediterranean." Prior to inviting the regional prime ministers (see above) to meet in Sofia in November or December, Pasi said: "I myself do believe that in the long run Corridor No. 8 will be extended by a bridge over the Adriatic, thus reducing the [travel time] between the Black Sea and Italy to a mere 10 hours by car." UB

SHOULD FORMER CHECHEN FIGHTERS BE ALLOWED TO JOIN POLICE?
Since the idea of a new amnesty for Chechen fighters was first proposed in late March, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has argued on several occasions that those militants who apply for and are granted amnesty should be allowed to join the Chechen police force. Kadyrov reasoned that former guerrillas know all the paths used by resistance fighters and all their "ringleaders." Kadyrov's logic is, however, difficult to reconcile with allegations made by other pro-Moscow Chechen officials that fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov or other Chechen field commanders have already infiltrated the Chechen police in large numbers, casting doubts on that force's reliability.

Ever since the 2002 decision to create a Chechen police force, there have been differences of opinion among both Chechen and Russian officials over whether Chechen police officers could be trusted. Even Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov, whose loyalists formed the nucleus of the force, claimed in the fall of 2000 that many raion police divisions had been infiltrated by Maskhadov's supporters. At a government session in February 2001, Gantemirov again alleged that Chechnya did not at that time have a single reliable local police unit.

Efforts to recruit Chechens to serve in the police force continued throughout 2001-02. By May 2001, some 5,000 men had been recruited, and in November of that year an FSB Colonel Said-Selim Peshkhoev was named to head the Chechen police. In early 2001, then-Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov announced plans to replace the police units brought in from other parts of Russia with Chechen units by the end of the year. Ilyasov said the ultimate strength of the Chechen police would be in the region of 10,700 officers.

But as more and more Chechens were recruited, the claims that Maskhadov's men were infiltrating the police became more frequent. In July 2002, Interfax reported that an attempt by fighters loyal to radical field commander Shamil Basaev to penetrate the special police unit headed by Musa Gazimagomadov had been thwarted. Days later, however, an officer from the Russian Interior Ministry Directorate in Chechnya told Interfax that of 400 police officers vetted for reliability the previous month, only six were considered unsuitable.

Then in October 2002, more than 20 people were killed when a bomb largely destroyed the police station in Grozny's Zavod Raion. The investigation suggested that the bomb was planted by renegade police officers, prompting Chechen National Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev and presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov to demand more stringent vetting of recruits to the police force.

In December 2002, the Russian Interior Ministry finally created a Chechen Interior Ministry, and a career Chechen police officer, Ruslan Tsakaev, was named Chechen Interior Minister. Tsakaev too immediately announced that all 11,000 members of the police force should undergo new security screening to weed out any unreliable elements. In April 2003, Dudaev said the screening process had improved since the Zavod bombing. But although all information about potential candidates is now thoroughly evaluated, the selection process still needs to be improved, Dudaev said. He also pinpointed two major problems that negatively affect the ministry's work: the shortage of qualified senior specialists and a chronic shortage of equipment.

Tsakaev resigned in early April for reasons that remain unclear, and died of a heart attack shortly thereafter. Kadyrov, Dudaev, and Chechen Prime Minister Anatolii Popov were unanimous in praising Ali Alkhanov, who was selected in mid-April as Tsakaev's successor. But at the same time, both Dudaev and Popov criticized the police force for allegedly failing to ensure public security and prevent the nocturnal abductions of Chechen civilians by Russian troops. At a 24 April Security Council session, some local administration heads even accused the police of being behind some of those abductions.

Criticism of the police force's imputed inability to protect the population serves to highlight the tensions that exist between the Chechen police and the Russian forces in Chechnya. There have been several reports -- denied by both Russian and Chechen officials -- of shootouts between the two sides, including one in the center of Grozny last September.

Nor is it only the Russian troops that have doubts about the loyalty and reliability of the Chechen police. On 16 June, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov said at a Moscow roundtable that local Chechen police forces "are often manned on family or clan principles, without adequate checks of recruits' former involvement in illegal armed formations." Kolesnikov claimed that 60 percent of the officers now serving at police stations in Grozny are current or former resistance fighters, while in other districts of Chechnya the figure is closer to 80 percent. In late 2001, for example, the police detachment formed in Nadterechnyi Raion in northern Chechnya numbered 341 men, of whom 245 were former militants. Kadyrov In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 June Kadyrov rejected Kolesnikov's figures as a gross exaggeration. He said Alkhanov has been working since his appointment to purge the police of unreliable people.

In March 2003, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, a former Russian Interior Ministry general who is Chechnya's deputy in the Russian State Duma, suggested an alternative approach to ensuring that Chechen police remain loyal. He proposed that candidates for the police force be selected at village meetings, and that prospective recruits swear an oath on the Koran to discharge their duties honestly and to remain loyal to their service. Whether the Chechen leadership is prepared to implement that proposal, and whether it would serve to allay Russian suspicions, remains an open question.

VIDEOS PURPORTEDLY DEPICT TORTURE OF PRISONERS OVERSEEN BY HUSSEIN'S HALF BROTHER
Al-Arabiyah television has acquired two VHS videotapes containing what appears to be a professionally recorded, hour-long video of Iraqi prisoners being beaten and tortured by police officers at the behest of the half brother of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and former Iraqi interior minister, Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, "The Washington Times" reported on 1 July. A reporter for "The Washington Times" reportedly viewed the videotapes, excerpts of which were scheduled to be aired on Al-Arabiyah on 1 July, and said the videos show prisoners being held in a tiny fenced courtyard and beaten with sticks, electric cables, and metal bars. "Then, as their bodies and heads become increasingly bloodied and their flesh torn, most topple to the ground and curl up in a fetal position. As some try to stagger to their feet when blows are being inflicted on other prisoners, the police officers return, knocking them down again until many lie helplessly on their backs, motionless and apparently unconscious," the daily reported. One former prisoner reportedly told "The Washington Times" that prisoners were beaten every day for a month for charges such as buying stolen or unregistered goods or for domestic disputes. The videotapes are expected to be used as evidence when Hasan, captured on 13 April, is prosecuted, although that is not expected before a new constitution is in place. KR

UN ENVOY OPENS WORKSHOP ON JUSTICE IN IRAQ
UN Special Representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello opened a two-day workshop in Baghdad on 30 June that brings together Iraqis, international experts, and Coalition Provisional Authority officials to discuss a common legal and judicial approach to dispensing justice to former members of the deposed Hussein regime, UN News Center reported the same day (http://www.un.org/news). "Thousands of men, women, and children from all walks of life, religions, ethnic groups, political affiliations, classes and professions were often targeted simply because they disagreed -- or were thought to disagree -- with those in power," Vieira de Mello told the participants. "All communities suffered: No one was spared. The only nondiscriminatory policy of Saddam was the systematic across the board violation of human rights." He stressed the need for Iraqis to take the initiative, telling participants, "I wish us to use this meeting as the first opportunity where we can sit together, and have the Iraqi people lead us in our thinking on comprehensive approaches to address the terrible injustices wrought upon the people of Iraq." KR

U.S. CONVOY ATTACKED, MILITARY VEHICLE BLOWN UP
A U.S. military vehicle traveling in a convoy was blown up on 1 July in central Baghdad near Al-Mustansiriyah University, Reuters reported. Witnesses told Reuters that an Iraqi car blew up alongside the military vehicle, while others claimed that a rocket-propelled grenade was responsible for the blast. Reuters reported that U.S. troops pulled four badly wounded soldiers from the burning vehicle, while Al-Jazeera reported that the soldiers traveling in the vehicle were killed, in addition to a number of Iraqi civilians who were near the vehicle when it exploded. Some 22 U.S. and six British soldiers have been killed by hostile fire in Iraq since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over on 1 May, according to Reuters. KR

EXPLOSION ROCKS MOSQUE, KILLING SEVERAL IRAQIS
An explosion at a mosque in Al-Fallujah on 1 July left at least six Iraqis dead and several wounded, according to international media reports. Al-Jazeera claimed that U.S. aircraft fired a missile on the Al-Hasan Mosque, located east of Al-Fallujah, while an imam was lecturing to students, leaving eight dead and six wounded. But a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters that the military does not know the cause of the blast, which he said came from an adjacent building. A U.S. rapid-response team "found minimal damage to the mosque but significant damage to the building next to the mosque," the spokesman said. Yassin Hamed told reporters at the local hospital that four bodies were pulled from the rubble. "The bodies are still buried for now -- seven, 10 people, I don't know," another unnamed witness told Reuters. The imam was not killed in the incident. KR

Al-NAJAF GOVERNOR ARRESTED ON KIDNAPPING, FINANCIAL CHARGES
U.S. forces arrested the U.S.-appointed interim governor of the holy Shi'ite city of Al-Najaf on 30 June on charges of kidnapping, hostage taking, and pressuring government employees to commit financial crimes, Reuters reported the same day. A U.S. military commander appointed Abu Haydar Abd al-Mun'im, a Sunni Muslim, interim governor of the Shi'ite-majority southern Iraqi town in April. Sixty-one people working for Abd al-Mun'im, including his bodyguards, were also detained, a U.S. administration spokesman said. "We've said all along we would make mistakes in this process and given his behavior it was clear it was a mistake to appoint him," the spokesman told a news conference. "This will send a message to all the governors that they are to be held accountable for their actions." According to Reuters, a locally appointed special prosecutor and an Iraqi investigative judge requested Abd al-Mun'im's arrest. He will be tried under Iraqi law. The Coalition Provisional Authority canceled local council elections scheduled to take place in Al-Najaf in early June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003). KR

HUNGER-STRIKING WIFE OF JAILED IRANIAN JOURNALIST HOSPITALIZED
Soheila Hamidnia, the wife of journalist Mohsen Sazgara, was hospitalized on 27 June, the "Hambastegi" daily newspaper reported on 28 June. An anonymous source said her condition resulted from her hunger strike and mental stress that were brought about by the jailing of her husband and her son Vahid. Hamidnia had just visited the Prosecutor's Office at Evin Prison to inquire about her family members when she was told that she must report to the prison in 48 hours, "Iran Daily" reported on 28 June. BS

PISTACHIOS IMPORTANT TO IRANIAN ECONOMY
Sohrab Javadi, the deputy head of the Agricultural Jihad Ministry, on 25 June said that pistachios constitute 55 percent of Iran's horticultural exports and 45 percent of its agricultural exports, IRNA reported. Iran produces 145,000 tons of pistachios annually, Javadi said, and this accounts for 60 percent of global production. Pistachios stand second only to carpets in terms of Iran's non-oil exports. Javadi said the Agricultural Jihad Ministry and the Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Ministry have undertaken a joint project that would reduce the level of aflatoxin, a highly carcinogenic, naturally occurring mold that is found in pistachios. In 1997, the European Union briefly banned imports of Iranian pistachios due to alleged aflatoxin contamination, a charge Iranian officials denied. The pistachio is Iran's third-largest hard-currency earner after oil and carpets and is referred to by some as "green gold" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 April 1999). BS

MOSCOW, LONDON ENCOURAGE TEHRAN TO SIGN ADDITIONAL NPT PROTOCOL...
The Iranian government's foreign counterparts are encouraging it to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol, which would open the way for international inspections of all Iranian nuclear sites. In Moscow on 30 July, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo told visiting Iranian Vice President for Atomic Energy Qolam Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi that cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field is very important for Russia, Interfax reported. "Moscow welcomes steps to increase transparency in the nuclear field, specifically through cooperation with the IAEA," Rushailo said. "Iran's timely signing of the Additional Protocol to the agreement on IAEA safeguards would serve this purpose and meet the interests of Iran, first of all." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said during a 29 July press conference in Tehran that Iran should sign the Additional Protocol and thereby improve its international trustworthiness, IRNA reported. BS

...AND TOKYO THREATENS TO BACK OUT OF OIL DEAL
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters on 1 July that Japan will not sign a contract with Iran for an oil-development project if Tehran fails to address international concern about its nuclear activities, Kyodo World Service reported. Fukuda encouraged Iran to deal with allegations about its nuclear program and said that "we are unlikely to sign a contract over crude oil that sets aside concerns related to Iran's nuclear program." Negotiations over the Azadegan oilfield have been continuing for about two years, and the signing of the contract was expected to take place in July. The deal is estimated to be worth about $2 billion and the "Financial Times" reported on 28 June that "Washington has been pressing Tokyo to pull out of it. BS

IAEA CHIEF HEADING TO IRAN
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei is scheduled to arrive in Iran on 2 July, Iranian state radio reported on 1 July. Ali Salehi, who heads the Iranian representation's office at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna said el-Baradei will "discuss various issues with our country's officials." According to Reuters on 1 July, however, el-Baradei will visit Iran on 9 July. Khalil Musavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said el-Baradei will stay for one day but his accompanying delegation "might stay longer and might visit Iran's nuclear facilities." BS

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY SAYS SECURITY IS AFGHANS' RESPONSIBILITY
Foreign Secretary Straw arrived in Kabul on 30 June for a two-day visit, AFP reported. After meeting with Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Straw praised Afghanistan's progress in the fields of economic activity and women's rights and told reporters security is the country's greatest challenge and, ultimately, its responsibility. Other states "can do what we can," Straw said, "but it's both your responsibility and your duty." The United Kingdom announced on 28 June that it will send 50 troops to Mazar-e Sharif in early July to provide security for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). NATO, which will assume command of the International Security Assistance Force in August, has said it might deploy small numbers of soldiers to PRTs throughout the countryside as a means of extending Karzai's influence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). Straw was to meet with Karzai later in the day. TH

UN BEGINS DISBANDING CAMP ON AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN BORDER
The UN refugee agency on 30 June relocated 800 Afghans to camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the first day of dismantling a large settlement on the border, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced. Nearly 20,000 refugees were stranded early last year in the Chaman "waiting area" when Pakistan closed its borders to refugees fleeing the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The camp, to which Pakistan did not allow the UN to provide full services, was reportedly considered unsafe due to its location on a smuggling route and because of its makeshift nature. Pakistani, Afghan, and UN authorities decided in May to close the camp for security reasons. These concerns were highlighted last month when the bodies of 22 suspected Taliban fighters killed in a clash with Afghan troops were dumped in the middle of the camp (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 29 May 2003). Officials from Spin Boldak sent the bodies there to make a point because they claimed the Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan from the camp, according to Afghan Islamic Press. About 60 percent of the camp's residents have asked to be placed in the Zhare Dasht camp near Kandahar and most of the rest are expected to be sent to the Mohammad Kheil camp near Quetta. TH

ATTACKS ON U.S. TROOPS CONTINUE IN AFGHANISTAN'S SOUTHEAST PROVINCES
Assailants fired on U.S. soldiers near the border with Pakistan on four separate occasions over the past few days, AFP reported on 30 June. According to military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis, Task Force Devil Scout on 29 June "received small-arms fire from an unknown-sized element" near the military base in the Paktika Province town of Shkin, some 241 kilometers south of Kabul. The previous day, a dozen fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades ambushed a U.S. patrol northeast of Shkin, prompting return fire and air support from Apache helicopters. In nearby Paktiya Province, the Gardayz military base came under rocket fire on 29 June, as did a military base in Urgun, Paktika Province, on 28 June. No casualties were reported in any of the incidents. AFP reported that some 500 U.S. and Afghan troops are engaged in intensive operations against suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces north of Paktika Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). TH

XS
SM
MD
LG