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Newsline - June 23, 2004

Speaking in the Ingushetian capital Magas following the tragic attacks the same day in Ingushetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2004), President Vladimir Putin said on 22 June that he has ordered the permanent stationing in Nazran of an additional 1,000 Interior Ministry troops, and other Russian media reported . "Judging by everything that is going on here, the federal center is not doing enough to defend the [Ingush] republic," Putin said, according to RFE/RL. "This is another attempt -- and not the first one -- to intimidate the Ingush people, to intimidate the republic's leadership, and to destabilize the situation in the south of Russia, in particular in the [North] Caucasus." Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Patrushev, and military-intelligence director Valentin Korabelnikov had briefed Putin on developments in Ingushetia at an emergency meeting of the heads of Russia's security agencies earlier in the day. Putin called for those responsible to be "found and destroyed," adding, "Those whom it is possible to take alive must be handed over to the courts." Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russian military troop numbers in Ingushetia will not be increased, according to RTR. VY

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Army General Anatolii Kvashnin, told journalists on 22 June that the fact that the "brazen raid by Chechen fighters was made in daylight and took federal troops by surprise raises many concerns, but I will refrain from commenting," according to the Military News Agency. Duma Deputy Gennadii Gudkov (Unified Russia), a former FSB officer, said the raids highlighted the "failure, shame, and disgrace of the Russian special services," reported, adding, "How could army intelligence overlook the deployment of the Chechen fighters and electronic intelligence fail to intercept their communications?" Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said, according to "Although we have such big military formations and special services in the region, all of a sudden a gang of fighters appears and kills the leadership [of local law-enforcement organs]. This means intelligence and the [security] services are working very badly." NTV suggested that Russia was taken by surprise to an extent reminiscent of 22 June 1941, the date of Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, with "the president and the defense minister awaiting an enemy on the other side of the map and arranging military exercises in the Far East." VY

The Moscow Helsinki Group issued a statement on 22 June in which it says it is "deeply concerned about the armed attacks on government buildings in Nazran and other towns in Ingushetia, which have resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties," and Interfax reported. At the same time, the organization expresses concern that the response by Russian forces might be disproportionate or violate international human rights and humanitarian law. The statement also quotes Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, as saying, "The Russian authorities' response to these attacks in Ingushetia must not descend to the levels of brutality witnessed in Chechnya." VY

In a statement posted on on 22 June, Akhmed Zakaev, who is Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's special representative abroad, said the 21-22 June multiple attacks on police facilities in Ingushetia are a direct consequence of the Kremlin's policy in that republic, specifically, the forced resignation of President Ruslan Aushev and his replacement by FSB General Murat Zyazikov. Zakaev said the ongoing wave of abductions and murders of ethnic Ingush triggered what he termed "a popular uprising" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 22 April 2004). Speaking in Grozny on 22 June, Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov said he believes both Maskhadov and radical field commander Shamil Basaev might have been directly involved in the raids, Interfax reported. On 21 June, pro-Moscow Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov told Interfax that Maskhadov no longer exerts any influence on the situation in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2004). LF

Russian officials on 22 June continued to claim that the estimated 200 masked fighters who perpetrated the raids in Ingushetia were Chechens, Russian agencies reported. Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Colonel Sultan Sataev suggested to Interfax that the fighters had infiltrated Ingushetia from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. But a correspondent for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reported that an eyewitness in Nazran quoted the militants as saying, "We are Ingush, not Chechens." The independent website similarly quoted a traffic-police officer taken hostage by the raiders, who saw them execute two district prosecutors, as saying the men were all speaking Ingush and were very young. Ingushetia's President Zyazikov told ORT that the victims included individuals of various nationalities, including Slavs. "It was international in the bad sense of the word," Zyakov said. The same website also cited ORT as identifying the commander of the raid as Magomet Evloev. The website suggested Evloev is an Ingush militant code-named Asadullah who commands a group of Ingush fighters subordinate to Basaev, and who warned in September that unless the ongoing murders and abductions in Ingushetia were stopped, Ingushetia could become a second Chechnya. LF

...AND DEATH TOLL MOUNTS quoted NTV on 23 June as reporting that the death toll in the raids has risen to 92, of whom 25 were civilians. Basaev's website ( gave a much higher figure of 150-200 killed and 300 wounded. Interfax quoted a UN press release claiming that one of those killed was a UN employee. Interfax further quoted a Russian officer from the Ingushetian branch of the FSB as claiming that the raiders targeted primarily civilians and shot dead a pregnant woman. Militants quoted by on the other hand claimed that their primary objective was to kill Russian servicemen and Ingush police, whom they branded collaborators, in revenge for the murder and abduction of young Ingush. NTV reported on 22 June that the dead include at least 10 FSB officers, including three members of the secretive Vympel special force who were apparently ambushed. LF/VY

President Putin arrived in Vladivostok on 23 June to observe the Mobility-2004 military training exercise that began on 7 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 22 June 2004), RTR and other Russian media reported. The exercise, the largest since the breakup of the Soviet Union, includes an effort to thwart "an attempt by separatists from an Oriental country to capture part of the Russian sea coast," according to ORT and RTR. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 22 June that the exercise demonstrates that the combat readiness of Russian troops is high but must be increased. "The army is decaying; it is not making war," Ivanov said. VY

The cabinet's draft 2005 budget includes an annual increase in spending on domestic and international security of nearly 20 percent, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 22 June. Under the plan, defense expenditures would rise more than 19 percent, from 436 billion rubles ($14.6 billion) to 519 billion rubles. The budget for domestic security would increase by nearly the same percentage, from 326 billion rubles to 388 billion rubles. The proposals are based on an inflation forecast of 8.5 percent and a dollar exchange rate of 30.2 rubles to the dollar, according to "Komsomolskaya pravda." "This is the cross we must bear," Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin commented on rising defense and security spending. VY

The Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee held a session at FSB headquarters on Lubyanka Square on 22 June devoted to draft legislation and additional funding requests to aid the fight against terrorism and political extremism, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. Council members and FSB department heads reportedly discussed the legal framework within which security agencies must work to confront the terrorist threat. Committee Deputy Chairman Viktor Ozerov said that holding the session at the FSB headquarters helped Federation Council members better understand the "professional needs" of the agency, ORT reported. VY

Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatiev stated on 18 June that the chances of a banking crisis in Russia are "extremely small and with time are becoming smaller and smaller," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 June. Ignatiev also sought to defuse controversy surrounding his first deputy, Andrei Kozlov, who was accused by Duma deputies and others of sowing panic on the interbank market earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 8, and 14 June 2004). According to the daily, deputies have written to the Prosecutor-General's Office and the FSB asking for an investigation of Kozlov. "Kozlov, as my first deputy, makes all significant decisions with my approval," Ignatiev said. RC

The Supreme Court on 23 June upheld the June 2002 conviction of Krasnoyarsk businessman and Krasnoyarsk krai legislator Anatolii Bykov and his 6 1/2-year suspended sentence, RBK reported. Bykov was convicted of organizing the attempted murder of his business partner Vilor Struganov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June and 2 October 2002). The court changed the count under which Bykov was convicted, however, from organizing a murder attempt to organizing the preparation of a murder. The court rejected a defense appeal to throw out the conviction. RC

The Supreme Court on 23 June upheld the March conviction of Liberal Russia party faction leader Mikhail Kodanev for the 17 April 2003 murder of liberal State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, reported. Kodanev, who headed the Liberal Russia splinter group that was supported by tycoon Boris Berezovskii, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 2 April 2004). The court rejected a defense motion that the conviction be overturned and the case sent back for a new investigation. RC

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko told a session of the city government on 22 June that she is personally overseeing the investigation into the 19 June slaying of racism and xenophobia expert Nikolai Girenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004), ITAR-TASS reported. Mativenko paid tribute to Girenko, saying that "we were all shocked by this cynical crime" and asking government members to observe a minute of silence. RosBalt reported on 23 June that Yabloko issued a statement describing the Girenko killing as a sign that law enforcement authorities have failed to combat "manifestations of Nazism" systematically and effectively. The statement said that racist incidents, including racially motivated murders, "are reaching a new level" in Russia, including in St. Petersburg. RC

Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis adopted a statement on 22 June condemning plans by the authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to hold elections to local government bodies on 8 August, Turan reported. The statement argued that such elections may be held only after the return to the unrecognized republic of Azerbaijani displaced persons who fled during the fighting of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The nomination of candidates for the elections is taking place from 19-24 June and registration from 24 June-19 July, Noyan Tapan reported on 14 June. LF

Some 100 members of the Organization for the Liberation of Karabakh picketed on 21-22 June and then forced their way into a hotel in Baku that was the venue for a planning conference for NATO exercises to be held in Azerbaijan in September, Turan and reported on 22 and 23 June, respectively. The picketers were protesting the presence at the conference of two Armenian military officers, one of whom, Colonel Murad Isakhanian, headed a three-man Armenian delegation that hoped to attend an earlier planning conference in Baku in January but was prevented from doing so by Azerbaijan's refusal to issue them visas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 14 and 15 January 2004). Baku police detained several of the picketers on 22 June, reported. LF

The seven Azerbaijani oppositionists who for the past several weeks have been boycotting hearings in their ongoing trial returned to the courtroom on 22 June, reported the following day. But they continue to argue that the presiding judge is biased and to claim that during the pretrial investigation they were subjected to torture in an attempt to induce them to incriminate one another. The seven face charges in connection with their participation in the clashes in Baku on 15-16 October between police and opposition supporters protesting the alleged rigging of the outcome of the Azerbaijani presidential election. LF

On an official visit to Baku on 20-21 June, Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to discuss European integration and ways to strengthen bilateral economic ties, especially in the oil and gas sector, Azerbaijani and Russian agencies reported. Greece has expressed an interest in importing Azerbaijani natural gas from the Caspian Shakh Deniz field via Turkey. Stephanopoulos's visit was initially scheduled for June 2003 but due to the illness of President Aliyev's father and predecessor Heidar Aliyev it was postponed first until the fall of 2003 and then until this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2003). LF

Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili warned on 22 June that his men may launch a punitive raid on the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia unless a local peacekeeping detachment hands over to the Georgian authorities within 48 hours the person or persons responsible for seriously injuring an elderly Georgian woman during artillery practice near the village of Brizi earlier that day, Georgian media reported. On 23 June, a Russian government delegation headed by First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin met with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov in Vladikavkaz to discuss the crisis in relations between South Ossetia and the central Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said in Beijing on 21 June that Kazakhstan plans to join the WTO by late 2005 or early 2006, KazInform reported the next day. Toqaev pointed to the achievements of the rapidly expanding Kazakh economy to justify his prognosis. He also noted that the World Bank and the EBRD have given the Kazakh economy high grades. Toqaev concluded, "Our main goal is to make our country's economy more competitive as a part of the global economy, including its Asian sector." DK

During a 22 June cabinet meeting in Astana, Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov criticized the 2005-07 state housing-construction program, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Addressing the officials responsible, he said, "I believe that you've prepared a highly unsatisfactory plan of action." Akhmetov noted that the plan lacks focus and contradicts the official state program in some instances. For example, the plan has no special section on mortgage programs. Akhmetov gave the plan's developers three days to fix the problems. Trade and Industry Minister Adilbek Zhaqsybekov, who was responsible for developing the plan, blamed local authorities for a "one-sided" approach to the housing issue, KazInform reported. Noting that successful implementation depends primarily on regional administrators, Zhaqsybekov said that they are not doing enough to stimulate construction. The state program calls for the construction of 12 million square meters of residential space in 2005-2007 at a cost of no more than $350 per square meter, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. DK

Nikolai Tanaev met on 22 June in Bishkek with an Iranian delegation headed by K. Jalali, chairman of the Department for Coordination and Economic Relations within the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Kabar news agency reported. According to the report, Iran is considering investing $10 million into the construction of a conference center in Issyk-Kul. The two sides discussed bilateral relations and threats to regional security. On the latter count, Tanaev noted that "instability in Afghanistan brings with it the threat of terrorist infiltration." Tanaev took the opportunity to thank Iranian representatives for attending the recent "Eurasia in the 21st Century" conference in Kyrgyzstan. DK

Mahmudruzi Iskandarov, chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, urged President Imomali Rakhmonov on 22 June to veto a recently passed bill amending the country's election law, Avesta reported. The agency quoted Iskandarov as saying, "We have every hope that before signing the election law, President Rakhmonov will send it back for reworking, and those aspects that parliament passed over and [political] parties were unhappy with will be taken into account." Iskandarov went on to note that the president has not yet responded to opposition leaders' appeals to veto the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2004). DK

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said in Ashgabat that the adulation lavished upon him by his countrymen has gone too far, reported on 22 June. Niyazov skipped concerts in his honor and the unveiling of a statue on 21 June, the 12th anniversary of his election as Turkmenistan's president. quoted him as saying, "Don't blame me for not going to the concerts. If they sing and speak about me less at future concerts, I'll go." He continued, "You can't link all events to a single person.... I just direct, while the citizens of Turkmenistan work, create, and build." Niyazov also told a 21 June cabinet meeting, "It is a bit difficult for me that I am being praised so much that I cannot even leave my home because of it.... You should not praise me," Turkmen television reported. The remarks prompted Russia's to suggest that the mercurial Niyazov is unhappy with some of his subordinates and may be contemplating a purge. DK

Niyazov told senior military and law-enforcement officials on 21 June that he will address the issue of future presidential elections in the fall, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov said, "The presidential election has passed. God willing, we will hold another in the future. I will tell you about it when the time comes at the Council of Elders in the fall. One person should not be president all the time, but because I am the first president, I am at the source of all work." Niyazov also took the opportunity to dispute allegations that Turkmenistan's Russian minority suffers discrimination, RIA-Novosti reported. The news agency quoted Niyazov as saying, "No one's rights are discriminated against in Turkmenistan no matter what their nationality, faith, language, or place of work." He went on to suggest that reports of discrimination are motivated by envy. DK

Kalina, a producer of perfumery and cosmetics, announced on 21 June that it has sold 95 percent of its Pallada Vostok production facility in Uzbekistan, reported the next day. The report did not provide any additional details on the deal. Kalina initially acquired Pallada Vostok in 2000 for $1.5 million in order to avoid high customs duties and currency convertibility problems. Kalina's press department noted that the duty and convertibility situation has eased, allowing the company to divest itself of a non-core asset, reported. Kalina still owns one production facility in Uzbekistan, the perfume and cosmetics factory Lola atir Upa. DK

The Chamber of Representatives voted 71 to eight on 22 June to reject liberal amendments to the Election Code proposed by Valery Fralou, Belapan reported. Amendments were placed on the agenda after a hunger strike by three members of the Respublika caucus -- Fralou, Uladzimir Parfyanovich, and Syarhey Skrabets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 22 June 2004). If passed, the amendments would allow observers to monitor ballot counting at a distance that would allow them to see the content of the ballots without hampering the election commission and would guarantee political parties' representation on election commissions, among other things. "I urge you to pass these changes for the sake of improving your own reputation and the reputation of our country," Fralow told lawmakers. AM

The State Security Committee (KGB) on 21 June expelled Mikhail Padalyak, deputy editor in chief of the Minsk-based weekly newspaper "Vremya," on the grounds that he harmed national interests, Belarusian and Ukrainian media reported. A group of KGB officers reportedly escorted Padalyak from his apartment to a train station and placed him on a train to Ukraine. The KGB has accused the newspaper, and Padalyak in particular, of biased coverage, libel, and incitement against the authorities. According to the KGB information center, Padalyak also violated regulations concerning foreigners' stays in Belarus and has been prohibited from entering the country for five years. Padalyak has resided in Belarus since 1990. Padalyak's expulsion was protested on 22 June by the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry the same day demanded an explanation from the Belarusian authorities. AM

The Our Ukraine and Yuliya Tymoshenko bloc caucuses demanded on 22 June in the Verkovna Rada to hear the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's report on crime fighting in the country, Interfax reported. The demand was submitted by Oleksandr Turchynov in connection with articles in "The Independent" newspaper on 19 June. The newspaper published excerpts from interrogations of policemen, who say they trailed independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze before his abduction on orders from Interior Ministry senior official Oleksiy Pukach. Pukach would have received his orders from Yuriy Kravchenko, one of Leonid Kuchma's closest associates. Turchynov said the publication proves "direct involvement of the president in Gongadze's murder, and Prosecutor-General Hennadiy Vasylyev does his best to wipe out the proof in the case." AM

The Verkhovna Rada voted 238 to one on 22 June to pass a bill providing for the reduction of the armed forces by 70,000 troops in 2004, Interfax reported. The Communist Party, Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko bloc, and the Center caucuses were not present at the vote. Under the bill, the Ukrainian army will be reduced to 285,000 troops by the end of the year. Ukraine currently has the largest army in Europe and the thirteenth largest in the world. AM

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy said on 22 June that Romania introduce a visa regime with Ukraine as of 16 July, Interfax reported. The visa agreement between Romania and Ukraine was signed in December 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2003) but it did not provide a deadline for introducing visas for travel between both countries. According to Lubkivskyy, visas will be issued without needing a formal invitation. Free visas will be issued for children under 18, students studying in exchange programs, residents of border regions, and the staff of international road and railroad services. Holders of service and diplomatic passports and the crews of ships and aircraft will qualify for visa-free travel. AM

Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic said in Banja Luka on 22 June that the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian forces killed up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males, was a "black page" in Serbian history and a crime against the Serbian nation itself, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May, and 7 and 14 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 September 2002). He called on Serbs to recognize what happened at Srebrenica and for others to note that 1,700 Serbs died in the same region before the town fell. Time has come for a "balance of justice" rather than for mutual recriminations, he stressed. Reuters noted that this is the first time that a top-ranking Bosnian Serb official has acknowledged the Srebrenica massacre, although Cavic did not apologize or call on indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and former General Ratko Mladic to surrender to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service commented that Cavic's remarks might be politically motivated to improve the Bosnian Serbs' international image on the eve of NATO's Istanbul summit, and that he placed the 1,700 deaths on a par with the deliberate massacre of up to 8,000 people. PM

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus of the reformist G-17 Plus political party told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Belgrade on 22 June that attempts to "harmonize" the respective markets of Serbia and Montenegro in their joint state have failed. The solution, according to Labus, is to dissolve the union and allow each republic to seek European integration by itself. He recalled that each country of the western Balkans has been told by Brussels that it alone can determine its pace of European integration, adding that the time has come for Serbia and Montenegro to take their respective futures into their own respective hands. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic recently expressed similar views. The joint state was set up in 2003 under great pressure from the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 22 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 February 2003). But Rade Obradovic, who heads the Political Committee of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), told RFE/RL that his party remains committed to the joint state. PM

The Montenegrin parliament's Legislative Committee announced on 22 June that the proposed joint defense strategy for Serbia and Montenegro must be revised because unspecified parts of the document are not in keeping with the joint state's Constitutional Charter, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The parliament is scheduled to debate the proposal shortly. In Belgrade, aides to Serbian parliamentary speaker Predrag Markovic told the private Beta news agency that the Serbian legislature will not debate the measure but will submit comments to the joint state's parliament. PM

Srdjan Bogosavljevic, who heads the Belgrade-based Strategic Marketing polling agency, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 22 June that ultranationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) is likely to win the 27 June second round of the Serbian presidential elections if the turnout is 2 million or less. His reformist opponent, Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party, seems set to win if the turnout is higher than 2 million, Bogosavljevic noted, adding that it is unlikely that the turnout will be less than 2 million (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 June 2004). In related news, Nikolic said that he will withdraw from the presidency and from politics if he is elected and concludes that his presence is an obstacle to Serbia's European integration. The EU has already made no secret of its preference for Tadic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2004). PM

Nikolaus Lambsdorff, who heads the EU wing of Kosova's UN civilian administration (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 22 June that he has asked the EU-run privatization agency to immediately launch a third wave of tenders, Reuters reported. He stressed that "privatization is now based on operational procedures which will ensure a fast, transparent, and clean process." The privatization of some 500 companies was suspended last October after Serbian authorities raised concerns about its legality. Kosova's government called the suspension "disastrous," noting that it blocked the economic recovery of the impoverished province. PM

After his meeting in Bucharest with visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 22 June, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the government intends to "keep up the pace [of EU accession efforts] in the second part of the year to avoid any negative impact [from parliamentary elections due in November]," Reuters and Mediafax reported. Verheugen said he is confident Romania will be able to close accession negotiations this year. He said the country's accession hinges on marked progress in four key areas: reforming the public administration, the judiciary, and the economy, and fighting corruption. Verheugen also met with President Ion Iliescu and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. In a last message to Romania, Verheugen said the country should "maintain [the current] political and economic stability level." He added that without this stability, Romania will not be able to meet its commitments to the EU. Verheugen's term as EU commissioner ends this month. ZsM

Visiting Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told a press conference in Chisinau on 22 June that the main obstacle to achieving a lasting settlement of the Transdniester conflict is the continued lack of trust between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Infotag reported. He added he is sure that "sooner or later, a mutually acceptable solution will be reached," but it is premature to assume that now. Pasi said Romania's joining of NATO and its possible accession to the EU in 2007 will promote a faster solution to the conflict. He also said that after ending the current EU enlargement process, "the untying of the Transdniester knot is becoming one of the priorities of the European community." In an interview with the Chisinau-based "Nezavisimaya Moldova" government daily published on 22 June, Pasi also said possible accords on the issue between Russia and the United States could likewise have a positive impact on the negotiations. ZsM

Speaking in Tiraspol on 22 June, Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov said that despite Moldovan authorities' declared willingness to find "a peaceful political settlement of the conflict, the real policy of the Republic of Moldova indicates the opposite," Flux and Infotag reported, citing a report by Transdniester's official Olvia press agency. He added that Chisinau "constantly attempts to block the existence of the Transdniester Moldovan Republic" through "economic, banking, and information blockades." Smirnov proposed separate referendums in Moldova and Transdniester on a possible federation, citing the example of Cyprus. ZsM

Armenia's leading opposition parties ended on 16 June their unsuccessful three-month campaign for President Robert Kocharian's resignation. The government can now heave a big sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that there will be no spillover into Armenia of last November's Georgian "Rose Revolution," at least in the next few months.

Still, the situation is likely to remain unpredictable in the longer term. Kocharian may have held onto power by capitalizing on popular apathy with politics and by ruthlessly cracking down on his opponents. But he has again failed to address the underlying cause of Armenia's post-Soviet political upheavals -- the absence of a democratic mechanism for regime change such as free and fair elections. The culture of electoral fraud to which the Armenian authorities again resorted in last year's presidential and parliamentary polls makes the legitimate rotation of power among the country's main political groups practically impossible. Hence, the perception that the only way the Armenian opposition could come to power is through a popular uprising.

Opposition leaders last week sought to put a brave face on their failure to oust Kocharian, saying that they have simply completed "the first stage" of the struggle and vaguely promising more "resolute" actions later this year. But it is not even clear whether the Artarutiun (Justice) alliance and its partner, the National Unity Party (AMK), will continue to act together. The two groups had an uneasy and at times hostile relationship following the February-March 2003 presidential election. But they were so inspired by the success of last fall's Georgian revolt that they decided in March to join forces.

Kocharian has said throughout the past three months' standoff that any attempt to replicate the Georgian revolution in Armenia is doomed to fail because he controls a more formidable security apparatus and has a better economic track record than his deposed Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze did. (He has, however, never claimed that his disputed re-election was cleaner than the pro-Shevardnadze bloc's declared victory in Georgia's reputedly fraudulent parliamentary election last November, which triggered the protests that culminated in Shevardnadze's ouster.) Indeed, there is a lot of symbolism in the difference between the thin row of demoralized police that protected the parliament building in Tbilisi moments before its seizure by angry protesters and the impassable cordon of heavily armed security forces deployed in a similar location in Yerevan. Those forces used force indiscriminately to disperse thousands of peaceful demonstrators during the night of 12-13 April, at the height of the opposition push for power.

That violence was followed by a major crackdown on the opposition that eased only this month. It has involved arrests of hundreds of opposition activists, the ransacking of the main offices of opposition parties, and an effective transport blockade of Yerevan ahead of virtually every opposition demonstration. Law-enforcement structures, especially in the regions outside the capital, increasingly act like Soviet-style secret police, harassing and intimidating opposition activists listed in their database. Local human rights advocates warn that Armenia risks degenerating into a police state.

Unlike in Georgia, all major Armenian television stations are loyal to the head of state. The only TV channel critical of Kocharian was deprived of its frequency two years ago. This might also explain why the opposition campaign failed to generate the kind of popular support and excitement that brought down Shevardnadze. The biggest opposition rallies attracted 20,000 people at most, and attendance at them has steadily declined since the beginning of May. Artarutiun pulled much bigger crowds during the 2003 presidential race when it single-handedly challenged the official vote results. Analysts believe that the bloc's failure last year to translate its substantial popular backing into practical gains left many Artarutiun supporters disillusioned with their leaders, who apparently had no clearly thought-through plan of action either then or now.

The opposition leaders and some observers say the campaign of street protests was nonetheless highly damaging to the authorities as it exposed their "real face" both at home and abroad. Such claims are less than convincing, however. What Human Rights Watch condemned as a "cycle of repression" has barely raised eyebrows in the West. The United States has only implicitly reproved the Armenian government, while the European Union has not reacted to the developments at all. Only the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has threatened to censure Yerevan. However, few expect it to follow through on that threat.

The lack of Western support for the Armenian opposition is another important difference from the Georgian case. The United States in particular seems anxious not to undermine Kocharian's international legitimacy lest in doing so it jeopardize the chances of achieving a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is Washington's key regional objective. But Kocharian might now be less inclined to risk a compromise agreement with Azerbaijan, which his domestic foes would not hesitate to exploit. Unpopular concessions on Karabakh might also antagonize nationalist groups inside the presidential camp whose backing is now more important for the Armenian leader than it was before the opposition offensive.

The opposition onslaught has kept Kocharian focused on his short-term political survival. All along he has tried to project the image of a responsible statesman who is too busy dealing with the country's grave socioeconomic problems to pay serious attention to the actions of what he has described as an "aggressive minority." Yet the scale of repression unleashed by his administration points to the contrary. Why would the Armenian authorities sentence an opposition activist who hit a violent police officer with a plastic bottle to 18 months' imprisonment? Why slap only slightly shorter jail terms on several other rank-and-file oppositionists for clashing with plainclothes police that nearly disrupted an opposition rally? Such draconian punishments suggest they are profoundly concerned about their political future.

A statement issued on 20 June by Hamed Agha, purporting to speak on behalf of the Islamic Movement of Taliban, claimed the capture of Charkh District in Logar Province, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The neo-Taliban statement also claimed the capture of five pro-government troops. Claims by the neo-Taliban of the capture of districts often amount to the arrival of a few militiamen at a location before fleeing and leaving a white flag as a sign of their presence. AT

A representative of General Ludin, former commander of Military Corps No. 3, denied Hamed Agha's claim that the neo-Taliban has captured Charkh District, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 22 June. The representative, who was not identified, said that while Charkh did come under attack, the neo-Taliban fighters escaped after pro-government forces arrived to challenge them. The representative said the security situation in Logar Province is deteriorating. AT

Afghan government soldiers have beheaded four suspected neo-Taliban militiamen in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, "The New York Times," reported on 23 June, citing Reuters. Ne'matullah Tokhi, commander of the 27th Division, said that on 21 June, neo-Taliban fighters captured an Afghan soldier and an interpreter for the U.S.-led coalition forces and later "cut off their heads with a knife." In retaliation, when his forces captured four neo-Taliban members, they "cut off their heads too," Tokhi added. AT

Mohammad Musa Yunos, a spokesman for Ahmad Khan, a local commander in the west-central Afghan province of Ghor, said that their side will launch an attack on the provincial capital of Chaghcharan unless Kabul solves the recent crisis in the province, AIP reported on 22 June. Ahmad Khan is opposed to commander Mawlawi Abdul Salam, whose forces captured most of Chaghcharan on 17 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 21, and 22 June 2004). Yunos said that the delegation from Kabul headed by Minster Adviser for Tribal Affairs Taj Mohammad Wardak has invited both sides to hold talks. "However, if these talks fail, then we will launch a big attack against Chaghcharan," Yunos warned. According to Yunos, Ghor Governor Ebrahim Malikzadah has joined sides with Abdul Salam after being forced to flee on 17 June. Yunos said his side views Malikzadah as responsible for creating "all these problems" and "no longer recognize him as the governor of the province." AT

Commander Abdul Salam said that he will disarm his forces and work with the central government only if commander Ahmad Khan does the same, the BBC reported on 22 June. "How can I hand over my weapons when my enemy is in power?" Ahmad Khan said, referring to Abdul Salam. Ahmad Khan is reported to have threatened "rivers of blood" unless Abdul Salam and Governor Malikzadah are removed from Chaghcharan. AT

Abu Dhabi Television reported on 23 June that eight British personnel who are being held by Tehran because their boats allegedly entered Iranian waters were released, whereas Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television reported that they will be released on 24 June, according to Reuters. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said earlier on 23 June that the release would take place that day, IRNA reported. An anonymous "informed source" said on 23 June that discussions between Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw contributed to matter's resolution, IRNA reported. The two discussed the topic on 22 June, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, and Ambassador Morteza Sarmadi met with an unnamed senior British official in London while Ambassador Richard Dalton spoke with Iranian officials in Tehran. An anonymous U.K. official, however, said, "We haven't ruled out the positive noises being a smokescreen," reported on 23 June. BS

Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television service on 22 June broadcast statements by two of the eight British personnel who were detained on 21 June. Sergeant Thomas Harkins of the British Royal Marines said, "The squad entered into Iranian waters by mistake and we apologize for this mistake because it was a huge mistake." Chief Petty Officer Robert Webster of the Royal Navy said, "We were arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Iranian territorial waters between Bahman Shahr and Arvand Rud rivers." Webster continued, "We entered the waters by mistake and by accident and we were, on orders from our squad commander, escorting a boat from Umm al-Qasr to Basra." BS

Ayatollah Hussein Ali-Montazeri-Najafabadi offered a harsh criticism of Iran's theocratic system in an interview that appeared in the 22 June issue of Italy's "Liberal Risk." Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult), he said, "respects neither Islamic law nor grassroots wisdom." Montazeri said that according to the Prophet Muhammad's sayings, the clergy rules over kings and kings rule over the people, but the current Iranian regime has cancelled this. Moreover, the Marja-yi Taqlid (source of emulation) no longer exists. "The current regime views all those who obey in a positive light. Anyone who does not obey is relegated to the sidelines of society." Montazeri said that the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, let other religious authorities answer questions, but this situation no longer holds true. Montazeri added, "The Iranian parliament does not represent the will of the people today." He said the Iranian people want Islam, but not the type that is being forced on them. BS

Montazeri spoke about Iran-U.S. relations in his interview with "Liberal Risk." "Relations with the United States should return to normal, on condition that the United States does not threaten to colonize us." He noted that young Iranians want good relations with the United States. Montazeri added that the 1979-81 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was a mistake and said that the current Iranian government must provide compensation. BS

Iraqi militants followed through with their threat to behead a South Korean hostage on 22 June, international media reported. Kim Sun-il's body was found on a roadside west of Baghdad, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry. Jama'at al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, the militant group linked to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, said in a videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera that they killed Kim because his country refused to withdraw its 660 troops currently in Iraq and renege on a pledge to send an additional 3,600 troops to Iraq later this summer. The videotape message said in part: "You insisted on remaining subservient to the tyrant of the age [U.S.]...this is the fruit of your actions...your army is here [in Iraq] not for the sake of the Iraqis, but for the sake of damned America." KR

A 16-minute audiotape posted to the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad website ( titled "The Shari'a Position on the Government of Iraq's Karzai" and purportedly recorded by wanted terrorist al-Zarqawi threatens to assassinate interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. "As for you, don't know that you have already survived traps we made for you. We promise you that we will continue the game with you until the end," AP cited the audiotape as saying. "We will not get bored until we make you drink from the same glass that Izz al-Din Salim tasted." Izz al-Din Salim, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, was assassinated outside coalition headquarters on 17 May (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 May 2004). KR

KPMG, the UN-appointed auditing firm hired to oversee the U.S. spending of Iraqi revenues, has criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its spending of some $11 billion in Iraqi oil revenues, reported on 21 June. KPMG said in an interim report obtained by that the U.S. managed Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) is "open to fraudulent acts." The report also criticized the CPA's accounting methods, stating: "The CPA does not have effective controls over the ministries' spending of their individually allocated budgets, whether the funds are [directly disbursed] from the CPA or via the ministry of finance." KPMG also criticized the State Organization for Marketing Oil (SOMO), which oversees the country's sale of oil. KPMG was hired by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq (IAMB), which was established by the UN to act as the audit oversight body for the DFI (see KR

A roadside bomb detonated in Baghdad on 23 June, killing an Iraqi woman and small boy, Reuters reported. The bomb reportedly was picked up by The young boy reportedly picked up the explosive, which then detonated near a passing car, said the car's driver, Qais Saad Abbas, whose wife was in the car and was killed by the blast. Three U.S. convoys also came under attack by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades west of Baghdad on 23 June, Al-Jazeera reported. No casualties were reported in the incident. Meanwhile, militants shot and killed two Iraqi policemen in Al-Ramadi on 23 June, Al-Arabiyah television reported. A roadside bomb also took the life of an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps guard and wounded two others in Mosul, Reuters reported on 23 June. The bomb reportedly detonated near a checkpoint in the city. KR

Italy's Council of Ministers passed a bill in Rome on 22 June extending Italy's military commitment to Iraqi through 31 December 2004, Rome's "La Repubblica" reported on 23 June. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reiterated his country's commitment to Iraq several times in recent months. Italy makes up the third-largest foreign troop contingent in Iraq, behind the U.S. and U.K. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on 21 June that Italy will not increase its troop presence in Iraq, however, adding that some soldiers may join a United Nations security force, Bloomberg reported on 22 June. KR