SLAIN CHECHEN LEADER BURIED...
Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was killed by a bomb explosion in Grozny on 9 May, was buried on 10 May in his home village of Tsentoroi, Russian media and Reuters reported. Thousands of people attended the funeral, including members of the Chechen government and heads of neighboring North Caucasus regions; but Reuters noted that no senior member of the Russian leadership was present. The funeral also took place on 10 May of Khussein Isaev, chairman of the State Council (Chechnya's interim legislature), who was also a victim of the blast. In a statement summarized by Interfax on 10 May, the State Council paid tribute to both Kadyrov and Isaev and appealed to the Chechen people to close ranks to resist the "evil of terrorism." LF
...AS HIS SON IS PROMOTED
Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov, who in accordance with the Chechen Constitution has been named acting head of the republic pending new elections, on 10 May named Kadyrov's youngest son Ramzan first deputy prime minister, Interfax reported. That move has triggered media speculation that the Russian leadership may consider Ramzan Kadyrov a potential candidate to succeed his father. But Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax on 10 May that the elections for a new republican head will take place strictly in accordance with the Chechen Constitution, implying that no exception will be made for Ramzan, who is 27, to Article 66 of the constitution, which sets the minimum age for presidential candidates at 30. Dudaev added that the Chechen government and State Council fully control the political situation in the republic, while federal troops and the police are in charge of the military situation. Dudaev also rejected as inappropriate proposals by "some so-called experts" to impose direct presidential rule in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said doing so would throw the republic back several years. LF
PROSECUTOR GIVES HIS VERSION OF CHECHEN LEADER KILLING
Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Southern Federal District Sergei Fridinskii said in Grozny on 10 May that the device that killed Kadyrov and others was planted long before the event, RTR, ORT, and NTV reported. "We assume that...[the bomb was] not immediately [directed] against Kadyrov, who initially had no plans to visit the event," Fridinskii said. "We assume that it was [activated] by somebody in the Kadyrov entourage, because the security measures on the facility were such that nobody else could have done it," he added. He also said that investigators still have no firm suspects in the case, and that five local residents detained after the event (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2004) were released. VY
DEPUTY SAYS CHECHNYA NEEDS A STRONG MAN...
Deputy Chairman of the Duma Security Committee Mikhail Grishankov told Ekho Moskvy on 10 May that Moscow must not lose control of Chechnya. "The question of power in Chechnya is a question of strong leadership," he said, "and there are such leaders in Chechnya like [former Interior Ministry General] Aslanbek Aslakhanov and [former Grozny Mayor] Bislan Gantamirov." Grishankov, a former Federal Security Service officer and Putin loyalist, also ruled out talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. "It is not realistic. He already lost his chance when he was in power," Grishankov said. Grishankov also supported the idea of direct presidential rule in Chechnya, but said it must be a de facto rather than de jure change. VY
...AND 'TRAITORS' PRESENT IN PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN SECURITY STAFF
In the same interview, Grishankov said that Kadyrov was killed because "traitors" penetrated his security staff. Grishankov said that Kadyrov's bodyguards were recruited from former Chechen resistance fighters and that, "I was always against entrusting weapons too quickly to those who fought against us." Meanwhile, Duma Motherland faction leader Dmitrii Rogozin said that the killing of Kadyrov was a result of the Kremlin's mistaken decision to entrust his personal security to his son, Ramzan, Interfax reported on 9 May. "We sacrificed professionalism for the sake of clan interests," Rogozin said. VY
COMMANDER SAYS RUSSIA MAY DEPLOY MORE TROOPS IN CHECHNYA
Interior Ministry troops commander Colonel General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov told NTV television on 10 May that additional troops could be deployed to Chechnya if the situation there deteriorates, Interfax and chechenpress.com reported. At present Russia has some 70,000 troops in Chechnya. LF
QATARI COURT TO HEAR DEFENSE WITNESSES IN ASSASSINATION CASE
At the trial of two Russian nationals accused of assassinating former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in February, the Qatari court agreed on 10 May to hear the defense witnesses, NTV and gazeta.ru reported. According to the lawyers defending the Russian secret service agents, the witnesses, who are not Russian citizens, will appear in court on 13 May. Meanwhile, during a 10 May session the court ruled to remove from the court one of the Russian lawyers for "indecent behavior," gzt.ru reported. The Qatari court refused to give any further details as the trial is being conducted behind closed doors at the request of the Russian side. Russian lawyers, who are not operating with local legal licenses, are present in the audience as consultants. At the end of April, the Russian Duma held a closed hearing on the Qatar case. VY
KREMLIN INSIDER SAYS PUTIN AFRAID OF HIS OWN POWER...
Political analyst Stanislav Belkovskii told the German business daily "Handelsblatt" on 7 May that Russian President Vladimir Putin may not have decided what political course to take over the next four years. There are objective factors shaping his policy, Belkovskii said, including the continuous decay of the country's infrastructure, bad social conditions despite economic growth, and deteriorating relations with the United States. Belkovskii said that Putin is afraid of his own power because he did not achieve it by conquering, but rather was handed it by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Answering a question concerning the popularity of Putin's campaign against the oligarchs, Belkovskii said that oligarchs are no longer a problem for Putin, as they are playing by his rules. Putin's popularity, however, depends on the fate of the arrested former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii and his company, Belkovskii said. If Putin transfers Yukos's assets to selected oil majors in order to enrich his entourage, it could be politically suicidal for him. VY
...AS MOTHERLAND ECONOMIST CALLS FOR LIBERAL PURGE IN GOVERNMENT
Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute for Globalization Problems and a rising political star in the Motherland faction, said on 6 May that liberal members of the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov should resign, including Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, and Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, gazeta.ru reported. VY
MOSCOW YOUTHS CELEBRATE DAY OFF BY BRAWLING
Two brawls were reported on Moscow streets on 10 May, resulting in a number of injuries, Ekho Moskvy reported. In one that took place near the Prospekt Mira metro station, some 50-60 youths beat up passersby. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the youths used metallic chairs from the outside terrace of a McDonald's restaurant. According to a police press release, the youths were not skinheads or "at least they were not dressed like skinheads." Several people were injured, but business at the McDonald's was not affected, according to "Kommersant." In another fight, which took place near the Naberezhnaya embankment, several dozen young men took part, according to Russian news agencies. Three people were injured and hospitalized, according to gazeta.ru. Two days earlier on 8 May, another brawl took place in Moscow in which around 100 persons took part. According to RIA-Novosti, the latter fight was a conflict between fans of the Dinamo and Zenit soccer teams. JAC
PROPOSED GOVERNMENT REFORM TRIGGERS NEGATIVE RESPONSE FROM COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR
Experts in the communications industry are predicting that the Finance Ministry's recent proposed change to regulate their industry could disrupt the sector, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May. The ministry has suggested abolishing the State Commission for Radio Frequencies and stripping the Ministry for Transportation and Communications of its power to allocate radio frequencies. According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta," the Finance Ministry wants to take the regulatory functions away from specialists and give them to unspecified officials. The daily also reported that last year the communications sector was one of the economy's fastest growing, but the sector's rapid growth "highlighted the problem of Russia's acute shortage of radio frequencies." The daily argued that there should be a separate structure to regulate the 25,000 authorizations to use frequencies that are granted each year. In its coverage of the proposal, "Kommersant-Daily" quoted a number of industry representatives as well as the recently dismissed Deputy Media Minister Andrei Beskorovainyi criticizing the plan. JAC
REGIONS TAKING DIFFERENT APPROACHES WITH DEADBEAT EMPLOYERS
During its weekly check of local employers' compliance with paying wages on time, the state inspectorate of the Kirov Oblast found five organizations that were behind, regions.ru reported on 10 May. Four out of the five enterprises were found to have violated the law. Two quickly paid up back wages, while the directors of two others were fined 1200 rubles ($41) each. In Saratov Oblast, the local prosecutor's office has been enforcing a federal law under which enterprise managers who have been fined for not paying their workers can be dismissed if they continue to fail to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2004). JAC
IT'S ALL IN THE FAMILY IN KUBAN POLITICS
Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev's declared intention to attract new, young, ambitious people to his administration and to banish nepotism has not yet taken a firm hold, "Krasnodarskii kurer," No. 16, reported. Tkachev has named all of his new department directors, and many of them are connected by family ties or long-standing friendships to various local political leaders. For example, the new director of industry and forest resources, Aleksandr Dyachenko, is the brother of the new Deputy Governor Nikolai Dyachenko. The new director of the social protection department, Liliya Yegorova, is the daughter of the former krai governor Nikolai Yegorov. She is also reportedly married to a relative of Governor Tkachev's. The new director of the mass-media department, Yevgenii Filimonov, is a long-time friend of Deputy Governor Murat Akhedzhak. Filimonov, the former editor of the newspaper and "krai administration mouthpiece," "Kubanskie novosti," wrote a declaration about participating in a competition for vacant government positions. This competition was overseen by Akhedzhak. JAC
LEGISLATORS TO PROPOSE EXPORT QUOTA FOR MUSHROOMS...
Legislators in Krasnoyarsk Krai are planning to introduce legislation after the May holidays that would impose limits on mushroom gathering, Krasnoyarsk State TV reported on 30 April. Legislators from the Yermarkovskii Raion in the krai are the most concerned because the number of firms collecting mushrooms has been increasing tenfold annually, which according to the station, is causing damage not only to the environment but also to the local economy. Middlemen buy the mushrooms for kopeks and then sell them abroad for 2 euros ($2.37) a kilogram. The current regional law on the use of forest resources does not include any kind of limit on the collection or export of mushrooms. JAC
...AS NEW FOREST CODE REPORTEDLY WILL NOT PRIVATIZE MUSHROOMS AND BERRIES
"Rodnaya gazeta," No. 11, reported that in the Marii El Republic, persons who wish to gather mushrooms must pay the local administration for the privilege. In an interview with the weekly, State Duma Committee for Natural Resources First Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Belyakov said the new draft of the Forest Code will not require payment for berry or mushroom gathering because wild berries, mushrooms, and herbs belong to the government and will not be privatized. Commercial enterprises, according to Belyakov, are another matter: they must pay but the government, not corporations, will own the forest. A ROMIR poll conducted last year that showed that 60 percent of Russians gather mushrooms at least occasionally, while just 18 percent said that they have never done so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). JAC
ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION RESUME, SUSPEND TALKS
Meeting in Yerevan on 10 May, representatives of the three-party ruling coalition and the opposition Artarutiun alliance and National Accord Party agreed to upgrade the status of their ongoing "consultations" to "negotiations," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. They also agreed to abandon the previously agreed 30-point agenda for the consultations. The talks were then postponed until 13 May to give the coalition time to consider the opposition's demands, according to Noyan Tapan on 11 May. Albert Bazeyan, a leading Artarutiun member, told RFE/RL on 9 May that the authorities have not yet met any of the demands contained in a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution adopted late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004). Artarutiun last week announced a moratorium on further mass protests to give the authorities time to act on the PACE resolution. Bazeyan said if the authorities fail to take "reciprocal steps," the opposition will "probably" resume its mass protests on 14 May to demand either a nationwide vote of confidence in or the resignation of President Robert Kocharian. LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO ATTEND NATO SUMMIT
Due to the lack of progress in improving Armenian-Turkish relations, President Kocharian will not attend the 28-29 June NATO summit in Istanbul, a presidential press spokesman told journalists in Yerevan on 10 May, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The spokesman added that Kocharian's decision "has nothing to do with Armenian-NATO relations, which are currently on the rise." A series of meetings over the past year between the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers fueled speculation that Ankara might reopen its border with Armenia, but more recently Turkish officials have assured Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev that any such move is contingent on a solution to the Karabakh conflict that would formally preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Armenia and Turkey do not have formal diplomatic relations. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PARDONS MORE THAN 300 PRISONERS
To mark the birthday of his deceased father and predecessor Heidar Aliyev, President Aliyev signed a decree on 10 May pardoning 363 prisoners, Turan and Interfax reported. Those freed include several human rights activists and individuals considered by the Council of Europe to be political prisoners, among them the former acting head of the Baku Naval College, Djanmirza Mirzoev. Mirzoev was sentenced in November 2001 to eight years' imprisonment on charges, which he denied, of arranging the murder in 1993 of Rear Admiral Eduard Huseinov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). Mirzoev claimed at his trial he was sentenced in retaliation for his campaign to expose corruption within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 August 1999 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). The online daily zerkalo.az on 11 May quoted Mirzoev as saying he will continue to campaign to have the sentence against him repealed. LF
GEORGIA CRITICIZES COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Speaking in Batumi on 9 May, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili criticized as inappropriate the wording of an appeal addressed by Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer in early May to the leaders of both Georgia and Adjaria urging them to resolve their differences by means of peaceful dialogue, Georgian media reported the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2004). Konstantine Gabashvili, who chairs the Georgian parliament's commission on foreign relations, told journalists on 10 May that the Georgian Foreign Ministry has formally requested that the Council of Europe recall its representative Plamen Nikolov, on whose "inaccurate" reports of the situation Gabashvili said Schwimmer's appeal was based. But on 11 May, Caucasus Press quoted a Council of Europe spokesperson as saying that no such request for Nikolov's recall has been received. LF
INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS SENT TO SOUTHERN GEORGIA
Some 100 Interior Ministry troops were sent to the mountainous southern district of Tsalka on 11 May in response to a request by the local Georgian minority population, Caucasus Press reported. Violent clashes in Tsalka between Georgians and Armenians, who account for up to 80 percent of the district's population, have been reported sporadically for several years (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 June 2000), but they have apparently become more frequent in recent months. Several people were injured in violence there on 9 May. LF
DECEASED GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S MILITARY COMMANDER RELEASED FROM PRISON
Loti Kobalia, who served as the head of now deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's presidential guard, has been pardoned by President Saakashvili and was released from prison on 9 May, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Kobalia was sentenced to death in 1996 on charges of high treason and the murder of a journalist; that sentence was later commuted to 20 years' imprisonment. In October 2000, Kobalia escaped from a Tbilisi prison but was recaptured 10 days later (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 13 October 2000). He told journalists on 10 May he wants to help the new Georgian leadership restore its control over the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. LF
NORWAY'S STATOIL EYES KAZAKH OIL DEVELOPMENT
Norwegian oil major Statoil is considering participation in projects on Kazakhstan's section of the Caspian shelf, Khabar TV reported on 10 May. The report noted that talks are being held on how Statoil could become involved in oil production in Kazakhstan. Ottar Inge Rekdal, Statoil's acting executive vice president, stressed that Statoil is already cooperating with Kazakh national oil and gas company KazMunayGaz, adding, "We are looking into opportunities for us in this sphere.... We have already determined those areas that represent the greatest interest." DK
KYRGYZSTAN CONFERENCE DEBATES AFGHAN RECONSTRUCTION...
An international conference called "Afghanistan's Regional Economic Cooperation: Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan," opened in Bishkek on 10 May, Kabar news agency reported the same day. Organized by the Kyrgyz government and the United Nations Development Program, the conference drew high-ranking official representatives from Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Economic Cooperation Organization, as well as 200 entrepreneurs from the region, akipress.org reported. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev is expected to attend the final session on 12 May. DK
...AS KYRGYZSTAN, AFGHANISTAN PLAN TRANSPORT ACCORD
Amangeldy Muraliev, Kyrgyz acting minister for economic development, told journalists on 10 May that Afghanistan and Kyrgzystan plan to sign a transit agreement, Kabar news agency reported the same day. Kyrgyzstan currently exports construction materials to Afghanistan, but difficulties with transit through Uzbekistan hamper trade. Trade volume between the two countries now stands at $6 million but could rise to $20 million if the transit situation improves, according to Muraliev. The report noted that talks with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are under way to hammer out a four-way agreement. Afghan Commerce Minister Mustafa Kazemi also said his country is ready to sign a transit accord with Kyrgyzstan. DK
OSH GOVERNOR ISSUES LANGUAGE RESOLUTION
Naken Kasiev, governor of Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast, has signed a resolution to encourage the use of the Kyrgyz language in the oblast, akipress.org reported on 10 May. The resolution obliges the heads of regional administrations, rural administrations, businesses, and educational institutions to ensure that written business is conducted in Kyrgyz, beginning immediately. It also requires language-development commissions to identify those areas where Kyrgyz cannot be used and draw up a plan for switching to Kyrgyz by 2015. Finally, the resolution requires that advertisements and signs be written in Kyrgyz. DK
OPPOSITION ACTIVIST TO BE TRIED FOR DEFAMING BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT...
Opposition activist Aksana Novikava on 10 May received a notification from the Minsk Transport Prosecutor's Office that she is to stand trial on a charge of libeling Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported. Prosecutors claim that Novikava on 5 April handed out leaflets that "contained knowingly libelous, i.e. false, information that defamed the president of the Republic of Belarus and accused him of serious crimes." Novikava, an unemployed single mother of a three-year-old daughter, could face up to five years in prison, considering that she was convicted of the same offense and received a two-year suspended prison sentence in April 2003. Moreover, Novikava was fined 3.5 million rubles ($1,620) in January for staging an unauthorized demonstration in front of the Supreme Court's building in December. She has also previously received three fines totaling thousands of U.S. dollars for similar offenses. JM
...AS KGB IN HRODNA LOOKS FOR ANOTHER TARGET
The State Security Committee (KGB) in Hrodna has opened a criminal case against the unknown author of a satirical poem that allegedly libels President Lukashenka, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 10 May. KGB officers searched dwellings of Valery Levaneuski, head of a strike committee of Belarusian vendors, and his family, who reportedly possessed leaflets with the allegedly libelous verse. "The poem in no place mentions the name of Alyaksandr Lukashenka or 'our president,'" Alyaksandr Vasilyeu, deputy head of a strike committee of Belarusian vendors, told RFE/RL. "Therefore, they are rather fantasizing when they allege that the poem libels the president." JM
U.S. CONCERNED OVER ARREST OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk on 7 May released a statement expressing its concern over the recent arrest of Mikhail Marynich, a former Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland and former foreign-trade minister (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 11 May 2004). "We call upon Belarus's authorities, especially its legal and judicial organs, to respect and uphold the legal rights and freedoms of Mr. Marynich and all Belarusians," read the statement posted on the embassy's website (http://minsk.usembassy.gov). JM
AUTHORITIES RENEW LICENSE FOR PRIVATE UNIVERSITY IN MINSK
The Education Ministry on 10 May informed Tatsyana Halko, acting rector of the nonstate European Humanitarian University (EHU) in Minsk, that it has renewed its license for the next five years, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The ministry, which was required to announce its decision on the license by 1 May, had held the EHU in suspense, fuelling anxieties that the authorities intended to close the university (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2004). However, despite the Education Ministry's positive announcement, Halko is concerned that the EHU's troubles are not yet over. "The minister has told us that our university is linked to foreign educational programs, that it is integrated with the European and global educational sphere, and that the Education Ministry does not like this," Halko told RFE/RL. The EHU, established in 1992, currently has eight faculties with some 1,000 students. A recent survey by the university showed that 41 percent of its alumni are employed by the state, Belapan reported. Foreign donations account for some 40 percent of the university's budget. More than 60 professors from abroad visit the EHU every year to lecture. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION WANTS TO HEAR REPORT ON CONTROVERSIAL MAYORAL ELECTION
The parliamentary caucuses Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc on 11 May demanded that law enforcement agencies immediately present a report on the controversial 18 April mayoral election in Mukacheve (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 April 2004), Interfax reported. The Verkhovna Rada obliged the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the Security Service to investigate all circumstances pertaining to the controversial ballot and to present a relevant report to lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2004). Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said the report might be submitted to the legislature on 12 May. JM
UKRAINIAN PRO-GOVERNMENT PARLIAMENTARY COALITION TO REVIEW ITS RANKS
Lawmaker Stepan Havrysh, coordinator of the pro-government coalition in the Verkhovna Rada, told journalists on 11 May that he would hold a meeting of coalition leaders later the same day to determine whether the coalition has a parliamentary majority (226 votes), UNIAN reported. "We proceed from the understanding that there is a crisis in the parliamentary majority and it is necessary to find a way out of it," Havrysh said. The pro-government parliamentary coalition has fallen into disarray following the abortive vote on a constitutional-reform bill on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 13 April 2004). Havrysh also said the pro-government coalition will consider two constitutional-reform bills that were approved by the Constitutional Court but not subjected to a vote in the legislature. JM
BLAST AT UKRAINIAN MUNITIONS DEPOT LINKED TO SMOKING
Emergency Situations Minister Hryhoriy Reva told the Verkhovna Rada on 11 May that last week's blast at an artillery munitions depot in the village of Novobohdanivka, Zaporizhzhya Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2004), was caused by violations of fire safety rules, particularly a case of smoking near the storage facility, Interfax reported. Reva said the blast scattered some 900 wagons of shells over an area of more than 300 square kilometers, out of a total of 4,800 wagons of ammunition stored at the depot. According to the ministry, the residents of neighboring towns and settlements who were evacuated as a result of the blast and the ensuing fire have already begun to return home. JM
DIPLOMATIC TENSIONS RISE BETWEEN ZAGREB AND BELGRADE
Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic said on 10 May that it is still unclear who will accompany him during his official visit to Croatia scheduled for 24 May, Tanjug reported. "I do not know whether [Foreign Minister] Vuk Draskovic will travel to Zagreb, but the question will be decided by the authorities of Serbia and Montenegro," Marovic said in response to signals from Zagreb that Draskovic is unwelcome. When asked by Croatian national television whether Draskovic is welcome in Croatia, Croatian President Stipe Mesic answered on 8 May that, "Svetozar Marovic is welcome." Deputy Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Ognjen Pribicevic said Draskovic will not go to Zagreb, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. UB
EU OFFICIAL DEMANDS TOLERANCE FROM PRISHTINA...
Speaking after meetings with representatives of Kosovar institutions and the international community, EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said in Prishtina on 10 May that international standards must be implemented in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Patten warned that Kosova will otherwise face international isolation. Calling on the Kosovar Albanian majority to be tolerant toward the Serbian minority, Patten expressed his satisfaction that some of the perpetrators of the March violence have been arrested and that reconstruction of the destroyed property is under way (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"17 and 18 March and 4 and 10 May 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 March, 2 and 16 April 2004). UB
...AS KOSOVA IS DISCUSSED IN WASHINGTON, TOO
The head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), Harri Holkeri, met with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Mark Grossman on 10 May to discuss the situation in Kosova and the dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Draskovic meanwhile met with leading representatives of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and members of the House of Representatives to discuss the Serbian government's plan for decentralization in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April and 6 and 10 May 2004). Both Holkeri and Draskovic were expected to participate in the UN Security Council's session on Kosova on 11 May. UB
RADICAL SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WANTS NEW PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Tomislav Nikolic, the presidential candidate of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), said in Krusevac on 10 May that he will call early parliamentary elections if he is elected president in the 13 June presidential vote, Tanjug reported. The SRS became the strongest faction in the Serbian parliament in December's parliamentary elections, but failed to secure a majority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 December and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 January 2004). Earlier the same day, Nikolic announced that war crimes defendant and former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic supports him rather than the candidate of the Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Ivica Dacic, Tanjug reported. UB
HEARING OF SUSPECT IN PREMIER'S ASSASSINATION POSTPONED
A court in Belgrade on 10 May postponed until 10 June the first hearing in the trial of Milorad Lukovic "Legija," who is the key suspect in the March 2003 assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lukovic argued that he needs time to acquaint himself with the indictment. UB
MACEDONIA TO DEMAND EXTRADITION OF FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER
Macedonian Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti said on 10 May that his government will do everything in its power to bring former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who has been charged in connection with the killings of six Pakistanis and one Indian, back to Macedonia, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Boskovski, who is a legislator for the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), reportedly fled to Croatia using his Croatian passport shortly after the parliament lifted his immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, 6, and 10 May 2004). Some legal experts have suggested that former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and former public prosecutor Stavre Dzikov might also be held responsible in the case, according to "Utrinski vesnik." UB
FOREIGN DIPLOMATS URGE REFORMS IN ALBANIA
Ambassadors of EU member states on 8 May urged the Albanian government to accelerate reforms, the "Southeast European Times" reported. They underscored that this is the only way for Albania to proceed on the path to European integration. The diplomats also urged electoral reforms to ensure that the 2005 parliamentary elections are free and democratic. UB
LOCAL-ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF IN ROMANIA
Romanian parties on 8 May started campaigning for local elections slated for 6 June, Romanian media reported. Twenty-four candidates are running for Bucharest mayor, and all major cities in Romania have at least 10 candidates running for their respective mayoral offices. On 9 May, opposition National Liberal Party Chairman Theodor Stolojan asked President Ion Iliescu to refrain from campaigning for candidates from the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD). He accused Iliescu of stumping during his recent visits to Ploiesti and Constanta for the cities' incumbent mayors, who are running for additional terms on the PSD ticket. A 10 May press release by the presidential office denied Iliescu's involvement in the campaign, saying the president is merely carrying out his presidential duties. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Ilie Botos on 10 May announced the launch of an investigation into Cluj County Prosecutor Danila Suciu's participation in an electoral meeting. Suciu on 8 May attended the announcement of Administration and Interior Minister Ioan Rus's candidacy for the Cluj-Napoca mayoralty. Under Romanian law, neither prosecutors nor the head of state may be a member of any political party. ZsM
ROMANIA, SWEDEN TO COOPERATE IN COMBATING TERRORISM AND CRIME
Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and his visiting Swedish counterpart Goran Persson on 10 May signed an agreement to cooperate in combating organized crime, terrorism, and drug and human trafficking, Mediafax reported. Sweden is also to assist Romania in social-integration projects involving its Romany community. Persson also pledged Stockholm's assistance for Romania's EU-accession efforts, although he said Romania must take "very serious and drastic measures" in that direction. However, he added that the EU "needs Romania [as a member], just as Romania needs the EU." ZsM
GEORGIA SCORES TACTICAL VICTORY IN ADJARIA
The interplay of factors that culminated in Aslan Abashidze's resignation late on 5 May as Adjar Supreme Council chairman paralleled in many respects the events five months earlier that precipitated the ouster of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and the advent to power of a team of younger leaders headed by Mikheil Saakashvili. In both cases, Saakashvili gradually increased the pressure on his opponent, highlighting his weakness and tactical errors and thereby encouraging ever more people to take to the streets to demonstrate their desire for regime change. Crucial to that groundswell of support, in both instances, was the defection at the penultimate stage of police and security forces. And in both cases, pressure was exerted at the final stage by Moscow in the person of Igor Ivanov. (In November, Ivanov, who was born in Georgia, was Russian foreign minister; he is currently Security Council secretary).
Since his election in 1991, Abashidze had ruled Adjaria as his personal fiefdom, quashing any manifestation of domestic political opposition and reportedly syphoning off millions of dollars from the proceeds from the export of crude oil via Batumi. His five-month standoff with the Georgian government has, to all intents and purposes, been a struggle for control over those revenues. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) repeated allegations by Georgian officials, including Saakashvili, that Abashidze has not sought independence for Adjaria.
Abashidze's strategy has been initial rejection of demands from the central government that would circumscribe his freedom of maneuver, followed by last-minute tactical concessions. Thus he agreed only in late December to permit voting to take place in Adjaria in the 4 January preterm presidential ballot. In mid-March, Abashidze triggered a major crisis in relations with Tbilisi by refusing to allow Saakashvili's motorcade to enter Adjaria; that crisis was defused only following the intervention of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Most recently, Abashidze rejected first as unnecessary and then as logistically impossible Saakashvili's demand that he disarm illegally armed groups.
Saakashvili's failure to make good on his repeated threats to have Abashidze arrested should he fail to comply with Saakashvili's successive demands may have inclined Abashidze to conclude that the international community had warned the Georgian president against the use of force, and that therefore he could safely continue to defy Tbilisi, thereby demonstrating his own strength vis-a-vis the central government. If that was indeed Abashidze's rationale, then he failed to take into consideration, or perhaps his subordinates were afraid to inform him of, the magnitude of the resentment and hatred his policies had engendered. They ultimately created a situation in which, as Ivanov apparently made clear to him, he had no option but to resign.
If Abashidze demonstrated poor judgment, the Georgian leadership by contrast masterfully adapted its tactics as the situation evolved -- just as it had done last fall. But it also profited from good luck insofar as there was no way it could predict how swiftly fear of Abashidze's repressions would give way to open defiance.
With Abashidze out of the picture, Saakashvili moved immediately to consolidate his control over Adjaria. The Georgian Parliament endorsed on 6 May his imposition of presidential rule over Adjaria the previous day (as provided for by the Georgian Constitution). Also on 6 May, the Adjar Parliament voted to abolish the post of republican head, and then dissolved itself, and the republic's prime minister and government resigned. To fill the ensuing legislative and executive vacuum, Saakashvili appointed as de facto governor of Adjaria the head of Georgian Railways, Levan Varshalomidze, a native of Batumi. Saakasvhili said on 8 May that he envisages Varshalomidze occupying that post for three to four months at the least.
Saakashvili also named, and will chair, a 19-member Interim Council that will govern the region until preterm elections are held on 20 June. Its headquarters will be the republican parliament building in Batumi; its members include Koba Khabazi and Tamaz Diasamidze, both leading members of the opposition Our Adjaria movement formed earlier this year. Khabazi told journalists in Batumi on 8 May that at its first session earlier that day the council established five commissions -- on law and order; reforms; regional government; education, culture, and sport; and the economy. Varshalomidze said the council will draft a new economic-development strategy for the region, Caucasus Press reported on 8 May. In addition, Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze has been named to head a special commission to preside over disarmament and security issues.
Having brought Adjaria back under central government control for the short term, the Georgian leadership must now decide on the optimum framework for relations between Tbilisi and Batumi in the long term. Both Saakashvili and Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania have affirmed repeatedly in recent days that Adjaria's autonomous status will not be abolished. Two small nationalist opposition parties have argued that it should be, while the opposition Labor Party and Georgian parliament deputy Koba Davitashvili, a former close associate of Saakashvili's who split with him early this year in protest of the constitutional amendments that augmented the president's powers, have advocated putting the issue to a referendum.
Zhvania told journalists on 7 May that the Georgian parliament is drafting amendments to the Adjar Constitution and legislation that will abolish the bicameral parliament Abashidze established. Zhvania also said that all "power" ministries in Adjaria will be directly subordinated to the central government, but that the republic will retain a degree of autarky. Zhvania had announced on 3 May that the Georgian parliament will soon consider a draft bill on the creation of a free economic zone, but he said that the western region of Mingrelia would most probably be chosen as the site of such a zone instead of Adjaria. Whether the site of the zone might be changed following Abashidze's ouster remains to be seen. Stratfor noted in a 7 May analysis that one of the most crucial decisions facing the Georgian government will be how to divide between Adjaria and the central government the revenues from the Batumi port.
Of paramount significance will be the composition of the new Adjar parliament. Following the dissolution of Abashidze's Union for Democratic Revival, there are at least two political forces vying for the support of Adjar voters. One is the Tbilisi-based Republican Party headed by David Berdzenishvili, which for years served as a surrogate opposition in Adjaria. Berdzenishvili is close to Saakashvili, but has clashed in the past with Zhvania, whom he accused in late February of clandestine ties with Abashidze. The second is Our Adjaria, which was formed in early February when the Tbilisi-based Democratic Adjaria was subsumed into the original Our Adjaria. Even prior to that merger, Our Adjaria claimed 80,000 members, according to the independent television station Rustavi-2, quoting Diasamidze. Following the merger, Khabazi assumed responsibility for coordinating Our Adjaria's activities in Batumi, while Eduard Surmanidze, a member of the Burdjanadze-Democrats bloc, headed the organization's Tbilisi chapter. Many observers, not only in Tbilisi and Batumi, will be watching to see, first, whether Saakashvili demonstratively throws his support behind Berdzenishvili's Republican Party in the preterm Adjar elections or whether he encourages the National Movement to field candidates for the ballot; and second, which party ends up with a majority in the new Adjar legislature and how large that majority will be.
Also an open question is the long-term political loyalty of those members of Abashidze's leadership who chose not to flee to Moscow with him and whom Saakashvili has granted immunity from prosecution. "The Washington Post" on 7 May quoted Tsotne Bakuria, who headed the Tbilisi branch of Abashidze's Union for Democratic Revival, as saying that he plans to form a "loyal opposition" to Saakashvili in Adjaria. And the dismantling, or at least the internal reform, of Abashidze's draconian security organs may create a vacuum in which organized-crime structures based elsewhere in Georgia could be tempted to take advantage.
AFGHAN LEADER PAYS RARE VISIT TO HERAT PROVINCE
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai visited western Afghanistan's Herat Province on 10 May, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Karzai visited the gravesite of Mirwais Sadeq, the late civil aviation and tourism minister and son of powerful Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, and laid the cornerstone of a school named in Sadeq's honor. Sadeq died in March under circumstances that remain unresolved (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 March 2004). During his visit to Herat, Karzai noted that an agreement exists between Kabul and Ismail Khan for the disarmament of his provincial militia, AP reported on 10 May. A day before Karzai's visit to Herat, Ismail Khan said that if his militia is disarmed "there is no force to replace them." Since the establishment of the post-Taliban administration in Afghanistan in December 2001, Ismail Khan has proven unwilling to submit to central authority in Kabul and has maintained his own militia. AT
SIX PEOPLE KILLED IN CONTINUING UNREST IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Six people were killed in Faryab Province during armed clashes between supporters of the northern Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and Lieutenant General Hashem Habibi, commander of the 200th Army Division, Radio Afghanistan reported on 10 May. The clashes occurred in the province's Garziwan District. The identities of the victims are unknown. Meanwhile, in a recent unrelated event in Faryab Province, one person was wounded when a bomb exploded near the office of an unidentified aid agency. The ongoing unrest in the province began in April when troops loyal to Dostum reportedly crossed into the province from neighboring Jowzjan Province and ousted Faryab's Governor Enayatullah Enayat (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 April 2004). Dostum, who officially holds the title of special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, heads the Junbish-e Melli party and commands his own military force in northern Afghanistan. AT
SEVEN PEOPLE KILLED IN SUSPECTED ROBBERY IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Seven people were killed in Paktika Province on 9 May when a group of suspected robbers attacked a customs post, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 10 May. Paktika Governor Mohammad Golab Mangal said that four customs agents along with the group's leader, identified as Mohammad Fateh, and his brother and sister were killed in the incident. The incident occurred in the village of Robat in the province's Sarobi District. Mangal said that Mohammad Fateh's sister was killed while in her brother's house, which is near the customs post. Mangal suggested that she may have been hit by "a stray bullet." Mangal denied reports that the incident might have been carried out by the customs troops for political reasons, adding that Mohammad Fateh "was a well-known robber who had his own checkpoints" that he used to extort money. According to AIP, Mohammad Fateh held an official position as a security commander in Paktika Province. AT
REPRESENTATIVES PRESENT PETITION TO PROMOTE THEIR DISTRICT TO PROVINCIAL STATUS
About 100 representatives of Shinwar District in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province have traveled to Kabul to present a petition to the Afghan Transitional Administration requesting that their district be given provincial status, the Kabul daily "Erada" reported on 9 May. According to some of the Shinwari representatives, the rationale behind their demand is the remoteness of their district from Jalalabad, the provincial capital. "Erada" reported that the recent elevation of the districts of Daikondi and Panjsher to provincial status prompted the representatives of Shiwari to step up their efforts. The Daikondi District, formerly in Oruzgan Province, and the Panjsher District, formerly in Parwan Province, were named provinces in March and April, respectively (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 1 and 28 April 2004). The districts of Adnkhoy, Khogiani, and Orgun are also seeking provincial status. AT
IRANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS SECURITY CONCERNS AT NEW AIRPORT HAVE BEEN RESOLVED...
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Ali Reza Afshar, who is also a deputy head of the armed forces joint headquarters, has said in Tehran that the security issues at the Imam Khomeini Airport have been resolved, "as foreign companies are no longer being used to run the airport's affairs," ISNA reported on 10 May. The airport was closed down for security reasons on its first day of operation on 8 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2004), and it was not clear whether the airport had been reopened. Afshar had earlier said that the airport would not be safe until a contract with the Turkish-Austrian consortium Tepe-Akfen-Vie, which built and was to operate the airport, was terminated. The cabinet in a 9 May statement deplored the closure and what it called "measures violating legal norms...and the intervention of irresponsible elements in this incident," "Iran" reported on 10 May. The cabinet called for an investigation into the affair and "the prosecution and punishment of the culprit or culprits." ISNA cited IRGC spokesman Brigadier General Masud Jazayeri as saying on 10 May that IRGC troops were no longer at the airport to prevent the departure or arrival of flights. VS
...AS TRANSPORT MINISTER DENIES HE WAS ORDERED TO SUSPEND CONTRACT WITH TURKISH FIRM
Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram on 9 May rejected Brigadier General Afshar's claim that the Supreme National Security Council had instructed the ministry to suspend its contract with Tepe-Akfen-Vie, "Iran" reported on 10 May. "The [armed forces] headquarters merely argued that foreigners should not be there and the contract [should] be suspended. We said that there is no contract...only a letter of agreement [that] is not a contract," he told "Iran." This, he said, is a "civilian [airport] and has nothing to do with the armed forces joint headquarters." He said the presence of foreign workers was no reason to shut the airport. "We have foreign consultants at all our airports and ports. If [the military] has it their way, it means shutting the country's gates. Foreigners are coming and going. We buy equipment from them, which they install," he said. VS
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS U.S. HAS SHOWN ITS 'TRUE FACE' IN IRAQ
Kamal Kharrazi said in Rabat, Morocco, on 10 May that "with the crimes it has committed in Iraq, America has shown its true face and is isolated in the civilized world," Mehr News Agency reported. In reference to the recent revelations of abuse of Iraqi detainees by coalition forces, Kharrazi said during his meeting with his Moroccan counterpart Muhammad Benaissa that "America has upset all human rights norms and standards, and tortures people while it promises democracy." Kharrazi denounced U.S. plans to democratize the Middle East as "new colonialism," adding that there can be no Mideast peace "while there is injustice and oppression in Palestine," mehrnews.com reported. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karrubi was scheduled to travel to Jordan on 11 May to meet with parliamentary speakers of states bordering Iraq, mehrnews.com reported on 10 May. VS
BOMB DETONATES IN NORTHERN IRAQI MARKET
A bomb detonated in a busy market area in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on 11 May, Al-Jazeera television reported. Witnesses on the scene said a Katyusha rocket was hidden and detonated inside the market, killing four and wounding 25 others in a heavily populated Kurdish area of the city. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that three people were killed and 22 others wounded. An unnamed police official told the news agency that the bomb was made up of gas canisters. The force of the explosion tore down power cables and ignited wooden stalls in the market. KR
DIYALA GOVERNOR SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Abdallah Hasan al-Jaburi, the U.S.-imposed governor of Diyala Province, survived an assassination attempt near Ba'qubah on 10 May, Al-Arabiyah reported the same day. Two of al-Jaburi's bodyguards were killed in the attack, and three others were wounded. Attacks on coalition-appointed officials have risen in recent weeks. Hamid Qaraghuli, the chairman of the Yusufiyah city council, was assassinated by armed gunmen near that town, located some 20 kilometers south of Baghdad, "Al-Zaman" newspaper reported on 6 May. Witnesses in Yusufiyah reported that graffiti in the town warned that the "mujahedin" would kill anyone who cooperated with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the New Iraqi Army, or the police. Yusufiyah is populated by Sunni Muslims. Meanwhile, the CPA announced on 8 May that it has appointed one bodyguard each to members of Baghdad's city advisory councils, "Al-Mashriq" reported on 8 May. The decision comes following increased assassination attempts on members of the capital's advisory council. An unnamed source told the daily that the policy will be applied to other governorates in the future. KR
ATTACK ON CIVILIAN CONVOY BETWEEN JORDAN AND BAGHDAD LEAVES SEVERAL PEOPLE MISSING
A civilian convoy carrying supplies between Jordan and Baghdad was attacked by militants on 11 May, leaving several people unaccounted for, an unnamed senior U.S. military official told Reuters. It was unclear whether or not the 21-vehicle convoy belonged to a coalition contracting company. A number of vehicles were destroyed in the attack, which occurred near the Iraqi border town of Al-Rutbah. The main thoroughfare that connects Iraq and Jordan has been the site of numerous attacks on civilians in recent months. KR
U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY SUGGESTS PHOTOS OF BRITISH SOLDIERS ABUSING IRAQIS ARE FAKE
U.K. Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told the House of Commons on 10 May that the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the Royal Military Police has said that there are "strong indications" that a van seen in purported photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners was not used in Iraq at the time that the alleged photographs were taken, independent.co.uk reported on 11 May. "Additional lines of inquiry are being pursued to corroborate this," Hoon told the Parliament. The defense secretary later told Channel 4 News that photographs purportedly depicting British soldiers urinating on a hooded Iraqi prisoner, kicking him, and hitting him with the butt of a rifle are fake. "Certainly that is the evidence that we have, that this particular truck was not in Iraq. It is now really a matter for 'The Daily Mirror' to indicate whether they are willing to cooperate, as they said they would do, in now investigating what looks increasingly like a hoax." Asked specifically if he was implying the pictures were forged, he answered: "Well, it appears to be the case, yes." KR
U.S. GENERAL SAYS COURT-MARTIAL WILL NOT BE SHOW TRIAL
U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad on 10 May that the court-martial of U.S. military policeman Jeremy Sivits, who will be tried in Baghdad on 19 May for charges relating to the prisoner-abuse scandal, will not be a show trial, according to the transcript of the news briefing issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority's press office. Sivits has been charged with conspiracy to mistreat detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect prisoners, and maltreatment of detainees. Kimmitt said cameras will not be allowed to record the proceedings, which will be open to the public. "It's a practice of the U.S. military that in an open hearing, we allow family, we allow observers, we allow print reporters. It has not been our practice in the past to allow cameras inside," Kimmitt said. "But I'm absolutely confident that the gentlemen and the ladies of the Iraqi press will adequately record what happens inside that courtroom so their readers can observe it through the written word," he added. KR