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Newsline - October 26, 2004


CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD SPELLS OUT CONDITIONS FOR TALKS...
Alu Alkhanov told a press conference in Moscow on 25 October that he is ready to negotiate with any resistance commander who is in a position to make a decision and act on it, Russian media reported. But he added that he does not believe that Aslan Maskhadov could fulfill any such pledge, much less radical field commander Shamil Basaev, whom Alkhanov branded "a recognized international terrorist." Alkhanov declined to comment on the 23 October prediction by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov that Maskhadov is ready to surrender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). On 26 October, Russian military spokesman for the North Caucasus Major General Ilya Shabalkin told newsru.com that Maskhadov and Basaev are preparing new terrorist attacks comparable to the school hostage taking in North Ossetia on 1-3 September. LF

...SAYS POWER-SHARING TREATY ALMOST READY FOR SIGNING
Alkhanov also told journalists on 25 October that the treaty defining the division of responsibilities between Chechnya and the federal center has been reworked to incorporate proposals from Chechen experts and bankers and will be signed next week, Russian media reported. Work on that document began in March 2003, but was delayed by Moscow's reluctance to agree to the major concessions demanded by Alkhanov's predecessor, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 31 March, 25 April, and 11 October 2003). Alkhanov admitted on 25 October that agreement has still not been reached on Chechnya's demands concerning oil revenues. Alkhanov further denied the announcement by Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov two weeks ago that a Disneyland-type park will shortly be built in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. LF

COMMENTATORS SEE NO HAPPY ENDING IN KHODORKOVSKII CASE...
On 25 October, Russian media and commentators marked the anniversary of the arrest of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who was detained one year ago by the special Alfa antiterror force on board his jet in Novosibirsk. In a statement on yabloko.ru, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said that the "attitudes and methods used by investigators in the Khodorkovskii case look less like a legal process, and more a settling of accounts between two big oligarchic groups." National Strategy Institute Director Stanislav Belkovskii, who is believed to be one of initiators of the Kremlin campaign against Yukos (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 7 April 2004), said that he is disappointed by the behavior of the authorities in the case. What initially looked like a crusade against oligarchy has turned "into a vulgar division of loot," NTV quoted him as saying. And Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii said that as a former Soviet political prisoner he understands how Khodorkovskii feels being in jail, "Vremya novostei" reported on 25 October. He predicted that Khodorkovskii can expect nothing but prison. Even if President Vladimir Putin wanted to intervene in the case, he would face insurmountable judicial problems, since "from a legal perspective, the financial deals of the 1990s are indefensible," Pavlovskii added. "In any case, the giant project Menatep-Yukos-Russia is finished." VY

...AS RUSSIANS STILL HAVE NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TO OLIGARCHS
According by a poll conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), 43 percent of Russians are in favor of the legal prosecuted of Khodorkovskii and want the same measures to be used against other oligarchs, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 October. A negative attitude toward oligarchs was also revealed by a poll by the Levada Analytical Center, the daily noted. Meanwhile, according to an online poll of 1,265 readers of the newspaper's website, 35 percent said that Khodorkovskii "should stay in prison for at least a year," while 9 percent called for five years, 4 percent wanted 10 years, and 3 percent called for life imprisonment. Finally, the greatest number of respondents, 47 percent, responded that Khodorkovskii should stay in prison "until he returns everything." VY

COMMUNIST LEADER ACCUSES PUTIN OF 'BONAPARTISM'...
Speaking at a session of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Central Committee, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 23 October that President Putin has established a "Bonapartist regime" in Russia that "suppresses all political freedoms," newsru.com and kprf.com reported. "Using the temporary revival of the economy linked to high oil prices, the regime in fact is doing nothing for the development of the country and, in fact, is breaking it," Zyuganov said. "At the same time, within the regime there is an internal struggle between bureaucracy, bandits, and business." VY

...AND CALLS FOR TACTICAL UNION WITH LIBERAL PARTIES
At the same Central Committee session, Zyuganov called for a tactical alliance with Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces, and other liberal political groups opposed to Kremlin policies. "This alliance should be based on the principle: march sperately, but strike together," he said. In practical terms, it means the exchange of information and coordination of activities, but no "organizational unity," he added. VY

BUSH POLLS HIGH SUPPORT AMONG RUSSIANS
According to an opinion poll conducted in Russia in September, 52 percent of Russians would prefer to see George W. Bush reelected as president of the United States, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 October and RTR on 24 October. This is the highest rating for Bush among the 10 countries polled, including major European countries and Israel. "Izvestiya" attributes Russians' preference for Bush to the economic benefits Bush's policies could bring both to Russian business and society. According to analysts at Renaissance Capital, the Russian energy sector would profit most from a Bush victory because oil prices would likely remain high, the daily notes. In the political field, the Bush administration's complicated relations with some European countries and possible hard line toward China are facilitating Russia's own political maneuvering. On the other hand, Russia should be wary of a victory by Democratic Party challenger Senator John Kerry, whose political views on the former Soviet Union are defined by his staff, which includes immigrants from Eastern Europe who favor curtailing the political and economic expansion of Russia, "Izvestiya" adds. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by the Levada Analytical Center among 1,600 respondents on 15-18 October, about 70 percent of Russians are not interested in the U.S. election, Interfax reported on 25 October. Some 22 percent said they have some interest and only 6 percent they are "very interested." VY

MINISTER TELLS PUTIN OF PROGRESS ON IMPROVING LOCAL LEGISLATION
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika met in the Kremlin on 25 October with President Vladimir Putin and reported that just 1 percent of local laws contradict the federal constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that before the government began to crack down on such laws in 2000, up to 40 percent of local laws violated federal norms. Of the laws that still need to be worked out, Chaika said about 30 percent violate federal human rights standards. He said that the ministry has developed a national database of legislation that now contains about 190,000 entries. RC

ONLY 6 PERCENT THINK GOVERNMENT TOLD TRUTH ABOUT MOSCOW THEATER HOSTAGE DRAMA
Russia on 26 October marked the second anniversary of the conclusion of the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage drama that left some 130 people dead, Russian and international media reported. A poll by the Levada Analytical Center found that 56 percent of Russians blame corruption among police and bureaucrats for the incident, Interfax reported. Only 6 percent said they believe the government has told the entire truth about the incident, while 25 percent believe the government is deliberately withholding the truth. Dmitrii Milovidov, a spokesman for the former hostages, told "Izvestiya" on 26 October that many of them have developed long-term health problems including heart problems, chronic fever, and kidney problems. The Health Ministry has refused to issue any documentation linking the heath complaints with the hostage crisis, Ekho Moskvy reported. RC

PUTIN PROMISES JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERAL SUPPORT
President Putin met with the chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, in the Kremlin on 25 October, discussed the problems of the Jewish communities with him, and promised federal help in solving them, ORT and RTR reported. Lazar told Putin about the congress of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) that opened the same day in Moscow. Lazar told Putin that FEOR, which unites mainly Orthodox Jews, decided to begin working with the country's other large Jewish organization, the Russian Jewish Congress (REK), which comprises mainly liberal, conservative, and nonreligious Jews. The two organizations have been rivals since FEOR's creation in 2000. Speaking at the FEOR congress earlier on 25 October, Lazar said that although the 2002 nationwide census said there are 230,000 Jews in the country, there may in reality be 10 times as many. He announced plans to conduct an independent census of the Jewish population in Russia. VY

PETERSBURG ACTIVISTS OUTRAGED BY GOVERNOR'S 'RACIST' STATEMENT
Human rights advocates in St. Petersburg on 26 October called for the resignation of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko over comments that she made in a recent interview that they view as racist and insulting, newru.com reported. In an interview with "Itogi," No. 43, Matvienko said that Russia does not need a republican form of government. "No, for us that will never do!," she was quoted as saying. "We are not ready for an experiment like that. The mentality of the Russian person demands a lord, a tsar, a president." The For Human Rights organization on 26 October issued a press release saying, "We are extremely offended by this statement, which rudely and publicly insults our country and the national virtue of the Russian people." The group charged that Matvienko's statement that Russians are not capable of parliamentary democracy is "racist" and violates Russia's antiextremism laws. RC

POLICE LAUNCH ANOTHER CRUSADE AGAINST POLICE CORRUPTION
The Interior Ministry on 26 October launched what it described as a major anticorruption operation in the Moscow region, Interfax and other Russian media reported. More than 300 officers were involved in searches of 30 locations in a bid to root out corruption within the police, an Interior Ministry spokesman told the news agency. The searches began at 6 a.m. and no further details were available. RC

BURYATIA OFFERS CASH FOR GUNS...
The government of the Republic of Buryatia has instituted a buy-back program for illegal weapons and explosives, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 October. Police are offering 3,000 rubles ($100) for an antiaircraft missile or for each kilogram of explosives. So far this year, 21 criminal cases on charges of illegal weapons possession have been filed in the republic. RC

...WHILE POLICE IN ASTRAKHAN FIND ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES IN SCRAP HEAP
Police in Astrakhan on 25 October found three shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles in a scrap heap near the city's port, ITAR-TASS reported. One of the systems was reportedly assembled and ready to be fired. Prosecutors investigating the incident said the missiles were found among scrap metal that was intended to be shipped by sea out of the country. RC

SUTYAGIN LAWYERS CHARGE THAT JUROR WAS SECRET-SERVICE AGENT
Defense attorneys for Igor Sutyagin, a former researcher who was convicted in April of revealing classified information to a British company that was alleged to be a CIA front organization and sentenced to 15 years in prison, have charged that one of the jurors in the trial concealed the fact that he worked for the security services during the 1990s, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 October. The lawyers say that juror Grigorii Yakimishen worked as an undercover intelligence officer in Poland in the 1990s, and that information about his work there has been published in a new book in Poland. In an earlier, unsuccessful appeal of Sutyagin's conviction to the Supreme Court, defense lawyers pointed out that Yakimishen had been added to the jury pool by the Moscow Military District Court and therefore should have been ineligible. On the basis of the new information about Yakimishen, the defense team is preparing a new appeal to the presidium of the Supreme Court. RC

MAIN SUSPECT IN NORTH CAUCASUS MURDERS APPREHENDED
Police in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia have arrested Ali Kaitov, the son-in-law of President Mustafa Batdyev and the primary suspect in the disappearance and presumed murder on 11 October of seven shareholders in the Caucasus Cement Company of which he is general director, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 October 2005). Kaitov is the ninth person arrested in the case. Also on 25 October, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak traveled to the republic's capital, Cherkessk, to discuss with senior leaders the implications of the case. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS
Addressing the fifth congress of his People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) on 23 October, Stepan Demirchian said the present Armenian leadership is "bogged down in lies and falsifications" and constitutes an obstacle to further democratization in Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. He also described Armenia as a "banana republic" with limited scientific and economic potential. Demirchian said the HZhK has drafted alternative constitutional amendments to those prepared by the present leadership and specifically supports the election of all parliament deputies according to the proportional system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 21 October 2004). He said the ongoing opposition boycott of parliament will continue, noting that "dialogue with the authorities is possible only when they act within the framework of the law," AP reported on 23 October, as cited by Groong. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO GEORGIA
On a three-day visit to Tbilisi from 22-24 October, President Robert Kocharian met with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanadze to discuss transportation and various aspects of bilateral relations, Armenian media reported. Kocharian and Saakashvili also discussed coordinating their respective countries' efforts to expand cooperation with the EU within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy, and the potential for cooperation between the three Baltic states and the three states of the South Caucasus. At a joint news conference on 22 October, Saakashvili expressed the hope that additional funding will be found for the planned new highway from Tbilisi to the predominantly Armenian-populated region of Djavakheti in southern Georgia. The World Bank has agreed to provide half the cost of that project. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES RUMORED ARREST OF CHECHEN 'TERRORISTS'
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Seiran Shakhsuvarian denied on 23 October media reports the previous day that three Chechens had been apprehended in Yerevan on suspicion of preparing a terrorist act, Arminfo reported, as cited by Groong. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S SENIOR MUSLIM CLERGYMAN ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF 'INTERFERENCE'
The creation of a Forum of Religious Communities under the aegis of the State Committee for Work with Religious Bodies constitutes interference by the state into religious life, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade argued on 25 October, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Pashazade, who is head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, said that an atmosphere of religious tolerance already exists in Azerbaijan and the new body could endanger that tolerance if individual confessions try to use it as an instrument for fighting "traditional faiths." LF

FORMER GEORGIAN COMMUNIST LEADER ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT
Djumber Patiashvili, who in 1985 succeeded Eduard Shevardnadze as first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, was elected to parliament on 24 October from a constituency in Gori (the birthplace of Josef Stalin), Caucasus Press reported. Patiashvili heads the pro-Russian Ertoba (Unity) party. Rival candidate Giorgi Mchedlishvili said he will appeal the outcome, alleging irregularities during voting and pressures exerted on voters by members of the local election commission. The Gori by-election was one of four held on 24 October, all of which were deemed fair by the NGO Fair Elections, while the opposition Labor party alleged "numerous" violations, "Akhali taoba" reported on 25 October. Candidates from President Mikheil Saakashvili's National Movement won in Zestafoni, western Georgia, and in a Tbilisi constituency. Voter turnout was only 30 percent, compared with 86 percent in the preterm presidential ballot in January and 65 percent in the repeat parliamentary election in March. LF

RELATIVES DEMAND RELEASE OF FORMER GEORGIAN AUDIT CHAMBER HEAD
The Georgian Supreme Court extended on 22 October for a further month the pretrial detention of former Audit Chamber Chairman Sulkhan Molashvili, who was arrested in April and charged with misappropriating some 3 million laris ($1.39 million), Caucasus Press reported. Parliamentary Human Rights Committee Chairwoman Elene Tevdoradze condemned that decision as a gross violation of the law, noting that neither Molashvili, who is seriously ill, nor his lawyers attended the court session. Relatives of Molashvili had gathered outside the court to demand his release. On 25 October, David Gamkrelidze, leader of the opposition New Rightists, demanded permission from the parliament to meet with Molashvili, Caucasus Press reported. On 18 October, Prosecutor-General Zurab Adeishvili said an investigation into allegations that Molashvili was tortured while in pretrial detention proved inconclusive, as too much time had elapsed since the alleged mistreatment, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT BEGINS SWEDEN VISIT
President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson in Stockholm on 25 October to begin a two-day visit to Sweden, Khabar TV reported. Their discussion focused on international affairs. Ministers from the two countries signed agreements on the protection of investments and international cargo and passenger transportation. Trade volume between Kazakhstan and Sweden was $72.3 million in 2002, Kazinform reported. DK

KYRGYZ LEADER BLASTS CORRUPTION...
President Askar Akaev told a session of the National Security Council on 23 October that Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov needs to try harder to eliminate corruption among law-enforcement officials, akipress.org reported on 25 October. Akaev said: "I demand that Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov take far-reaching measures to put his house in order.... I am confident that as a result of reforms, Interior Ministry bodies will be strengthened in terms of personnel and cleansed of the dubious types who damage the reputation of police officers." Akaev stressed that the most dangerous form of corruption occurs in law enforcement and the judicial system. He said that the presidential administration has received over 8,000 complaints from citizens about corruption since the beginning of 2003. DK

...AND WARNS OF EXTREMIST DANGERS
President Akaev warned the National Security Council that various forms of extremism threaten Kyrgyzstan's national interests, akipress.org reported on 25 October. The president singled out the banned organization Hizb ut-Tahrir as one of the most dangerous examples of "ideological terrorism." Noting that the movement's aim is to establish a caliphate in the Ferghana Valley, Akaev decried "so-called human rights advocates who try to pass off any prosecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir members who have broken the law as the persecution of dissidents." Akaev also criticized the domestic opposition for "ideological extremism," adding, "Some print publications that call themselves opposition newspapers use the first possible opportunity to exacerbate the situation in order to turn their pages into instructions for destabilization." DK

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES REPORT ON TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry denied on 25 October a report that the country is planning to send troops to Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Salohiddin Nasriddinov told RFE/RL's Tajik Service, "There are no Tajik military forces in Afghanistan and Tajikistan has no plans or intentions to send forces to Afghanistan." The remarks came in response to a report on an Afghan website that NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov had allegedly agreed that Tajikistan will send troops to Afghanistan. DK

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECLINES AWARD, ELECTIONS...
As Turkmenistan's People's Council wrapped up its session on 25 October, President Saparmurat Niyazov declined a Hero of Turkmenistan award but accepted a proposal to dispense with presidential elections, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov had initially suggested holding presidential elections in 2008-09. But Saparmammet Veliev, head of the Turkmenneft state oil company, quickly rose to reject the proposal. The 2,507-member council enthusiastically followed his lead, chanting "Glory to the great leader!" Niyazov assented and the council session ended. DK

...AND PLANS UZBEKISTAN VISIT TO RESOLVE DISPUTED ISSUES
President Niyazov told the People's Council that he will meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, on 19 November, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov said: "I had two or three [telephone] discussions with Karimov this month because there are some misunderstandings between us over such issues as the Karshi pumping station, the Dostluk reservoir, and the Amu-Bukhara reservoir, as well as a minor problem with oil extraction along the border [at the Kokdumalok oil field].... We have finally reached an agreement, and it is due to be signed." DK

BELARUSIAN POLICE THWART PROTEST AGAINST POLL RESULTS
Police arrested eight of nine protesters in Minsk on 25 October, thus foiling a demonstration against the officially announced results of the 17 October parliamentary elections and referendum, Belapan reported. Protests against the 17 October polls, which the opposition believes to be fixed by the authorities, have been staged in Minsk for the past eight days by an increasingly smaller number of people from the original . JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO INCREASE PAY FOR STATE WORKERS
Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a government conference on 25 October devoted to a planned pay hike for state workers, Belarusian Television reported. Wages at government-funded organizations are expected to rise by an average of 27 percent as of 1 November, while civil servants' pay will increase by 20-22 percent as of 1 December. "The conceptual thing...is that our salaries should not exceed the average national pay by such a degree that could cause dissatisfaction among our people," Lukashenka said. "We need to tie our incomes to the average incomes in the country." Lukashenka has promised Belarusians that the average monthly income at the end of the year will be the equivalent of $195. JM

UKRAINIAN TV CHANNEL JOURNALISTS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE OVER OFFICIAL PRESSURE
A group of Channel 5 journalists went on a hunger strike in Kyiv on 25 October, protesting what they claim to be official pressure on their station in the ongoing presidential election campaign, Ukrainian news agencies reported, quoting Channel 5. The journalists demand the reversal of a court's recent ruling freezing the channel's bank account, a move widely believed to herald the imminent closing of the channel which supports the presidential bid of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). The journalists also demand that the National Council for Radio and Television allow Channel 5 to broadcast in Ukraine's regional cable network in accordance with terms stipulated in its license. JM

OPPOSITION CAMPAIGNER IN UKRAINE ATTACKED WITH INFLAMMABLE LIQUID
Two unidentified men threw bottles with some combustible substance at the car of lawmaker Volodymyr Bondarenko, chief of Yushchenko's presidential election staff in Kyiv, in a Kyiv suburb on 25 October, the Our Ukraine website (www.razom.org.ua) reported. Bondarenko escaped the attack unscathed, his driver obtained a slight burn, while the car was completely burned out. JM

UKRAINIAN YOUTH GROUP ANNOUNCES WEEK OF PROTESTS
The youth organization Pora on 25 October announced at its website (pora.org.ua/) a "wave of student strikes and actions" from 25-30 October to protest what it calls the official repression of the youth movement in Ukraine. "The repression by the authorities has acquired a nationwide character," Pora says. "Explosives, military cartridges, forged money, and stolen things are surreptitiously placed with the youth activists whose views do not coincide with official ones, and criminal cases are being opened against them. This can't go on any longer!" JM

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT UKRAINE
Vladimir Putin is due to start a visit to Ukraine on 26 October, five days ahead of the presidential ballot on 31 October, Ukrainian media reported. At 8 p.m. local time Putin is scheduled to take part in a question-and-answer session that will be broadcast live on Ukraine's three television channels, UT-1, 1+1, and Inter. Putin and other CIS leaders are expected on 28 October to participate in official celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from Nazism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). JM

RESULTS IN KOSOVA SUGGEST FORMATION OF COALITION GOVERNMENT...
Pascal Fieschi, who heads the OSCE mission in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 25 October that President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) won 45 percent of the votes in the 23 October general elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. According to these official results, which include only the votes from polling stations in Kosova, Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party (PDK) garnered 28 percent, Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) received 8 percent, and the new ORA party of publisher Veton Surroi got 6 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). Voter turnout was just over 51 percent. The results mean no party will be able to form a government on its own, and could lead to lengthy coalition talks. Fieschi said such talks could start soon. Under the 2001 constitutional framework for the province (see http://www.unmikonline.org/constframework.htm), 10 parliamentary seats and two government positions will be reserved for members of the Serbian minority. After the first parliamentary elections in Kosova in 2001, it took the LDK several months to form a coalition government. UB

...AS U.S. AND EU WELCOME PEACEFUL ELECTIONS BUT DISAPPOINTED WITH SERBIAN BOYCOTT
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on 25 October that the U.S. regrets that some politicians discouraged people from voting, according to www.state.gov. "We are deeply disappointed that many Kosovo Serbs chose not to vote," Ereli said. "It is our view that...that decision is self-defeating. Taking part in Kosovo's institutions is the best way for all communities in Kosovo to advance their legitimate interests." EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana said on 25 October that he welcomed the fact that the elections were conducted in line with international standards, www.europa.eu.int reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). "The newly elected provisional institutions will have to continue the work on the reconstruction of buildings damaged in the March violence," Solana said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 and 26 March 2004). He added that he was disappointed with the very low turnout of Kosovar Serbs. UB

...AS DO UN AND NATO
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated the people of Kosova on the elections. "The turnout and good management of the electoral process, for the first time by [Kosovars] themselves, demonstrate their understanding of the importance of making their voices heard and taking a direct hand in shaping Kosovo's future," the UN's official website (http://www.un.org) reported. Annan, too, expressed his disappointment with the low turnout among the Kosovar Serb community, but also congratulated "those who voted and those who stood as candidates for their courage in the face of severe contrary pressure." NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called the elections an "important milestone" for the province but also added that he regrets the very low participation of Kosovar Serbs in the electoral process, NATO's official website (http://www.nato.int) reported. "I call on the incoming Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to represent the full spectrum of Kosovo society, as we approach next year's assessment of Kosovo's progress in meeting the standards set out by the international community," de Hoop Scheffer said. UB

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT REITERATES IDEA OF FORMING 'UNION OF TWO INDEPENDENT STATES' WITH SERBIA
Speaking after a meeting with his Albanian counterpart Alfred Moisiu in Tirana on 25 October, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic said he would like to see the state union of Serbia and Montenegro be transformed into a union of two independent states, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Reacting to Vujanovic's statement, Serbian President Boris Tadic said that same day that the key political issue between Serbia and Montenegro is to find a solution within the framework of the state union, Tanjug reported. Tadic added that if there is a political will in Belgrade and Podgorica, Serbia and Montenegro can join the EU as a state union. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Bar on 25 October that any talks on unblocking the process of Serbia and Montenegro's EU-integration will inevitably also touch the disfunctional relations between the two entities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September and 1 October 2004). UB

EU NAMES HEAD OF BOSNIAN MILITARY MISSION
NATO and the EU announced on 25 October that the EU-led military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be led by British General Sir John Reith, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The 7,000-strong EU mission is called Althea and is to replace the NATO-led SFOR mission on 2 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 July and 17 September 2004). UB

MACEDONIA SENDS EXPERTS TO IRAQ TO FIND BODIES OF SLAIN WORKERS
Macedonian Interior Minister Siljan Avramovski announced in Skopje on 25 October that his ministry will send an expert team to Iraq to find the bodies of three Macedonian contract workers who were killed by their kidnappers, MIA news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September, 14, 19, 20, 21, and 25 October 2004). Avramovski stressed that the hostage takers demanded neither a ransom nor any political concessions for the release of Dalibor Lazarevski, Zoran Naskovski, and Dragan Markovic. UB

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY LASHES OUT AT RIVAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest on 25 October that Traian Basescu, his chief rival in next month's presidential contest, is "a sad and cynical figure," Mediafax reported. Nastase, who is the candidate of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) in the election, said that his National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance rival is on record as being a "terminator of governments" because he has triggered several governmental crises between 1996-2000. He also said Basescu has "brought nothing but impertinence and a fickleness of character to politics." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who would inherit Nastase's position if the PSD wins the November parliamentary elections, said the PSD-Humanist Party (PUR) alliance is "extremely worried" by Basescu's repeated attacks on Romania's Western "partners and allies." He said Basescu has opted for "playing the populist and anti-Western card" in his presidential campaign, in the hope of taking over the "nationalist and populist space" that used to be occupied by Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Basescu recently accused the cabinet of "servility" towards the West (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). MS

ROMANIAN ARMY HAS NEW CHIEF OF STAFF
Lieutenant General Eugen Badalan was appointed by presidential decree on 25 October as the new chief of staff of the Romanian Army, Mediafax reported. He replaces Major General Mihail Popescu, who went into retirement in order to run on the PSD lists in the November parliamentary elections. MS

ROMANIAN ELECTORAL WATCHDOG GIVES THUMBS DOWN TO HUNGARIAN CIVIC UNION
The Electoral Bureau ruled on 25 October that the Hungarian Civic Union (UCM) does not meet the legal requirements for registering as a party in the November parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. The bureau said that supporting signatures submitted by the UCM in Arad and Timis counties had to be eliminated from the lists due to irregularities. A police investigation concluded that 41 persons figuring on the UCM lists as supporters deny they had signed on, two of the alleged signatories are dead, and one is a minor. Dozens of signatories in the Salaj County claimed they were told they were signing a petition in favor of dual Romanian and Hungarian citizenship. The current electoral legislation requires that parties submit 300 signatures of county-supporters gathered in at least 15 of Romania's 41 counties (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004). MS

RUSSIAN ENVOYS VISIT MOLDOVA
Valerii Nesterushkin, who is Russian special representative for Transdniester negotiations, and Igor Savolskii, special envoy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, met in Chisinau on 25 October with President Vladimir Voronin, Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova, and other officials, Flux reported. They discussed bilateral relations and the Transdniester conflict, including the framework of negotiations for settling the conflict. Moldova has recently called into question the five-sided framework, which includes the two belligerents alongside Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as mediators. It has also suspended participation in negotiations. The two Russian envoys are to visit Tiraspol as well. Sova said after the meeting that "negotiations for the sake of negotiating are a thing of the past.... solutions must be sought to render positive results." According to Infotag, a visit to Moldova by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this month was cancelled as "unexpedient due to the continuing confrontation between Chisinau and Tiraspol." MS

U.S. AMBASSADOR EXPLAINS WASHINGTON'S INTEREST IN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS
Addressing a forum of Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies alumni on 23 October in Chisinau, U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges said elections are a domestic issue, but a country's capability to hold free and fair elections is an indication of democratization that increases the credibility of elected officials abroad, Infotag reported. This, she said, is why the U.S. takes an interest in the manner in which the early 2005 elections in Moldova are being prepared and will be conducted. MS

PPCD TARGETS MORE MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS FOR DISMISSAL
The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 25 October asked Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev to dismiss four officials for failing to meet the constitutional provision stipulating they must have working knowledge of the country's official language (Moldovan), Flux and Infotag reported. The four are Border Troops chief Igor Kolenov, Privatization Department Director Alexander Bannikov, Information and Technology Department Director Vladimir Molojen, and Miron Gagauz, head of the national railroad. Earlier this month, the PPCD demanded the dismissal of two presidential advisers on similar grounds. President Voronin rejected the demand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). MS

THREE MYTHS ABOUT RUSSIAN FEDERALISM
Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to reduce the number of territorial units in the Russian Federation and the debate around it reflect the continuing influence of three myths about the nature of Russian federalism. Both individually and collectively, these myths not only have detracted attention from the core problems of the Russian political system but have also made the resolution of these problems even less likely.

That is the conclusion offered by Russian social scientist Mikhail N. Afanasev in an essay entitled "The Russian Federation: A Weak State and the 'Presidential Vertical.'" His article, posted on the polit.ru website this week, is featured in a new two-volume collection, "The Country After Communism," issued by Moscow's Institute of Law and Public Policy.

In his wide-ranging essay, Afanasev argues that Russian federalism has been described and defined over time largely in terms of three competing and distorting myths, all of which are the products of "conscious political mythmaking" by self-interested elites.

The first of these myths is that federalism is a means of resolving the country's nationality problems. That myth arose in the Soviet period, but Afanasev says, "In the framework of the Soviet system, ethnic federalism was deprived of its own content and subordinated to the logic of the functioning of the communist nomenklatura."

When the Soviet system collapsed, he continues, local elites attempted "to breathe life into the imaginary forms of a federation of national states." But these efforts simply underscored the absence of any logic of ethnic federalism in Russia.

On the one hand, this myth contributed to the elevation of the idea of national self-determination to a central role in state building, thereby turning the Russian Federation into one where treaty relationships rather than constitutional principles predominated. Not surprisingly, Afanasev says, non-Russian elites used this as a cover to advance their power.

But on the other hand, the asymmetrical quality of the post-Soviet federation not only created tensions between the so-called national republics and the "Russian" oblasts and krais, but also led to a situation in which some constituent elements of the federation were subordinate to other elements in a matryoshka-doll-like fashion.

To a certain extent, this myth began to be dispelled by Moscow's actions beginning with the 1993 Constitution and running through the 1996 federal law on national-cultural autonomies. The latter document, Afanasev says, "marked a departure from Soviet ethno-political particularism" and from the "ethnocratic" principle some nationalist elites had attempted to use to build their power.

The second myth, Afanasev says, is that federalism is "a synonym and equivalent of democracy" itself. Two groups propagated that idea in the late 1980s and early 1990s -- the ruling elites of the regions who saw this myth as making a contribution to their power and democratic activists who believed that Russia could only become a democracy if it became a federation.

Afanasev suggests that everyone looking at Russian political development should remember that "the democratic movement in the USSR unified not only liberal elements but also all possible opponents of the central 'imperial' power who were struggling for local 'sovereignty''' -- but not necessarily for democracy.

But it soon became obvious that the arguments about local sovereignty were arguments "not about the rights of citizens but rather about the division of power" between local rulers and Moscow. Consequently, "decentralization and localization of power were not accompanied by the consolidation of civil society," but rather created conditions in which local elites could oppose the institutionalization of democratic norms coming from the center.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Russian government simultaneously began to recognize what was really going on, Afanasev writes, and Moscow moved to counter the trend via legislation that reaffirmed the primacy of central law. Also, at about the same time, Russian liberals recognized that federalism does not necessarily produce democracy and began to support the center against the regions.

The third myth, Afanasev suggests, is that "the primary cause" of the weakness of Russia is "the asymmetric and treaty-character" of its federal relationships. Of course, he continues, neither the existence of asymmetrical relationship nor the treaty-like nature of ties between the center and the regions is entirely a myth.

But, Afanasev insists, the content and meaning of these relationships far more often has been the subject of myth making than of analysis. And this myth making, he suggests, has been part of "the revenge of the central ruling elite" against regional elites whom the former believe have too much power.

From the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovskii in the early 1990s through Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov at the end of that decade to President Vladimir Putin now, it has been an article of faith in Moscow that asymmetrical federalism weakens the state and that the federal units need to be reduced in number through consolidation.

Afanasev calls attention to one aspect of Putin's biography that he implies may help to explain the vehemence of the current Russian president on this point: Putin is the first ruler in Moscow since the death of Stalin who did not spend at least part of his career as someone in charge of a region or republic.

However that may be, Afanasev continues, "no one has explained" just how the abolition of asymmetrical federalism will contribute to "the development of a democratic federation." What it will do, however, is quite obvious, he says. In addition to creating administrative chaos and political confusion, it will be the occasion for the elimination of elections in the regions.

Putin's proposal to end direct elections of governors has sparked a great deal of controversy, but as Afanasev points out, the link between consolidating regions and ending gubernatorial elections has been a staple of such proposals again from Zhirinovskii through Primakov.

Suggestions that consolidating regions and ending elections will also consolidate democracy should be recognized for what they are, a cover for something else, Afanasev argues. And consequently, he says, "it is better to listen to Zhirinovskii" -- who has linked those two steps to "the restoration of an imperial state system" -- than to others who act as if there is no connection.

Confusion about that, Afanasev concludes, has kept Russians from focusing on what Russian Federalism really is and what the reforms now on offer fail to acknowledge.

"Our practical federalism arose as a historical form of the decentralization of the Soviet nomenklatura," he writes. And the myths about it, he says, have had the effect of detracting attention from what Afanasev calls "the unbearable weakness of the state," a weakness rooted not so much in the Soviet past as in Russian cultural traditions.

Consequently, any efforts to overcome the weaknesses now being blamed on the nature of Russian federalism will be do little to help. Indeed, Afanasev concludes, "they will be the equivalent of dousing a fire with kerosene."

(Paul Goble, former publisher of "RFE/RL Newsline" and a longtime Soviet nationalities expert with the U.S. government, is currently a research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia.)

AFGHAN ELECTION PANEL SUBMITS ITS RECOMMENDATIONS
Sultan Ahmad Bahin, spokesman for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), said on 24 October that the UN panel of experts established to investigate the complaints of irregularities in the electoral process has submitted its recommendations to the JEMB, Afghanistan Television reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004). According to Bahin, the recommendations of the panel are that except for 12 ballot boxes, all other confiscated boxes should be made available for counting. According to JEMB, with 97.2 percent of votes counted by 25 October, Karzai was in first place with 55.5 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, had the second-largest number of votes with 16.2 percent of the total (see more at: http://www.afg-electionresults.org/). AT

AFGHAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS OSCE'S ALLEGATION OF INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION
The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, on 25 October rejected an allegation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the high court had interfered in Afghanistan's presidential election, Radio Afghanistan reported. Shinwari said that at a meeting held in September, the High Council of the Supreme Court instructed all courts to refrain from interfering in the election process. In its recommendation to the Afghan government after observing the 9 October election, the OSCE claimed that the "Supreme Court breached...[the] division of powers in seeking to intervene without any Constitutional or statutory authority in the course of the Presidential elections" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004; for more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/). AT

DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES DDR COMPLETION BY JUNE
In a messages released on 24 October, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim pledged that the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program in Afghanistan will be completed by June 2005, Radio Afghanistan reported. Fahim's message was to commemorate the first anniversary of the DDR program, which began in an experimental phase on 24 October 2003 in the northern Konduz Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 October 2003). AT

COALITION FORCES REPORTEDLY BURN SHOPS TRADING OPIUM IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN...
Afghan and the U.S.-led coalition forces are alleged to have set fire to 150 shops in the Shadal area of Achin District in Nangarhar Province, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on 24 October. According to the report, opium was being sold in the market where the shops were located. A local resident told Radio Afghanistan that many of the shops were selling food. An unidentified security commander of Nangarhar confirmed the report but declined to give details. Since 2001, Afghanistan's production of opium has surged dramatically, however, both NATO and the coalition forces have maintained that dealing with the drug problem is not a priority for them (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 18 June 2004). AT

...A CLAIM THAT IS DENIED
Major Scott Nelson, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan "strongly rejected" on 25 October any involvement by U.S. forces in setting fire to the markets suspected of selling opium in Nangarhar Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. Lutfullah Mashal, an Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman, confirmed the seizure of narcotics in Achin but did not comment on the fires, which Radio Afghanistan described as an "arson attack." AT

IRAN CAN PRODUCE CLADDING FOR NUCLEAR FUEL RODS
The head of Isfahan's Research and Fuel Production Center, Mansur Habashizadeh, said on 25 October that Iranian scientists can produce cladding for uranium rods, state television reported. He added that zirconium will be used as the casing for nuclear fuel in reactors, and then threw in that Iranian scientists can make 99.99 percent pure "manganese." Either Habashizadeh did not explain the connection between all these developments clearly, or state television did not provide his explanation. Zirconium, which will be made at the Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP), is necessary in nuclear installations as fuel cladding, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization's vice president for nuclear fuel production, Mohammad Ghannadi-Maragheh, reported in his paper for the World Nuclear Association's Annual Symposium 2003 (http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2003/ghannadi.htm). He added that high-purity magnesium is required for making zirconium sponge, so a magnesium production unit has been built next to the sponge unit. BS

KHATAMI ADVISER MEETS WITH HIZBALLAH LEADERSHIP
Presidential adviser Mohammad Sadr arrived in Beirut on 25 October and later met with Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and Lebanese President Emil Lahud, Al Manar television and the Lebanese National News Agency reported. Sadr reportedly told Nasrallah and his deputy, Naim Qasim, that Iran always has and always will support what Al-Manar referred to as "the Lebanese people and their resistance." Lahud told Sadr that UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and international pressure will not sway Lebanon and Syria, LNNA reported. Lahud vowed to continue efforts to determine the whereabouts of four Iranian officials who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982, as well as Imam Musa Sadr, an Iranian cleric resident in Lebanon who disappeared while visiting Libya in 1978. Sadr is scheduled to meet Lebanon's new prime minister, Omar Karami, and National Assembly President Nabih Berri during his three-day visit, according to IRNA. BS

IRAN'S PROVINCIAL PUBLICATIONS ENCOUNTER DIFFICULTIES
Mohammad Ali Radi, managing editor of the Yazd weekly "Sayehban," announced in a letter faxed to the local Islamic Culture and Guidance Department on 24 October that he has decided to stop publishing, IRNA reported. Radi said he had unintentionally reprinted an Internet report that claimed alcohol consumption improves longevity. The authorities did not accept his explanation, he added, so he will not publish again until the situation is resolved. An appeals court in Isfahan has upheld the conviction of Faezeh Sharif, editor of the weekly "Seda," IRNA reported on 23 October. Sharif was charged with publishing indecent pictures, and her sentence includes a cash fine of 1.5 million rials and 5 million rials as a substitute for 50 lashes. "Asia" business daily has ceased publication due to technical difficulties, editor Iraj Jamshidi said on 23 October, ILNA reported. Publication will resume when the difficulties are resolved, he said. BS

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER CONTINUES PUSH FOR IRAQI 'OPPOSITION' CONFERENCE
Michel Barnier issued a call in Paris for a parallel conference to be held next month that would include members of the Iraqi "opposition," French media reported on 25 October. Barnier has said that he wants "another conference" to be held alongside or following the 22-23 November international conference on Iraq in Sharm Al-Shaykh, Egypt, to take into account what he identified as "Iraqi political forces," AFP reported. "If one is speaking about the democratic and political process in Iraq...this particular signal must be useful, and be used so that forces and groups which have used violence reject that violence. So that all the groups, communities, and Iraqi political forces feel involved in some way or another," Radio France International quoted Barnier as saying. French officials first demanded in early October that Iraqi "resistance" forces be allowed to participate in the Sharm Al-Shaykh conference (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 October 2004). Some Iraqi officials and media have contended that the French demand was made to help secure the release of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq in late August (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 10 September 2004). KR

UN OFFICIAL SAYS IRAQ CAN HOLD CREDIBLE ELECTIONS ON TIME
United Nations elections adviser Carlos Valenzuela in Baghdad told Reuters on 25 October that national elections in Iraq, slated for January, "can be credible," the news agency reported on the same day. Valenzuela reiterated claims by UN officials last week that the Iraqi Electoral Commission is on track in its preparations for the elections. "It is a very tight time frame...but the commission has already done enormous work," he said. Valenzuela has worked on elections in the Palestinian territories and in East Timor. He disputed criticism that the UN has not done enough to help lay the groundwork for elections. "From the very beginning, in February when we first came, the UN said this should be an Iraqi-led process. Now people say you are letting the Iraqis do this all by themselves, but it was always meant to be like that." Valenzuela contended that the elections would only be slightly affected by the absence of international observers. "If there were international observers here that would be all the better. If there aren't, it is not a dramatic setback," he said. KR

CAR BOMB IN NINAWAH KILLS TRIBAL LEADER
A car bomb was reportedly planted in the car of an Iraqi tribal leader and detonated as it reached the Ninawah Governorate headquarters in Mosul on 25 October, Reuters reported on the same day. Sahir Khudhir, who led the National Assembly of Iraqi Tribes, was killed along with two of his aides. Al-Jazeera reported that Khudhir was the target of the bombing. A second booby-trapped car detonated near the former presidentical complex in Mosul on 25 October. That blast reportedly targeted a convoy transporting an Iraqi security forces liaison officer, according to Al-Jazeera. Three of the officer's guards were wounded in the attack. KR

ARAB LEAGUE SAYS IT WILL MONITOR ELECTIONS IF SECURITY SITUATION PERMITS
Hisham Yusuf, the director of Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa's office, told Baghdad's "Al-Dustur" in a 24 October interview that the regional organization is willing to send a delegation to monitor national elections in Iraq in January if the security situation improves. Yusuf pointed out that the league has experience in such matters, having monitored elections in other member states. He added that the Arab League is also willing to send Arab experts to Iraq to help draft a constitution. "There are Arab and international experts on the drafting of constitutions regardless of the adopted system, be it the American system, British system, or French system. It is up to the Iraqi group in charge of drafting the constitution to choose the system it sees as fitting after holding constructive and direct deliberations with its fellow Arabs," he contended. "The issue will then be a matter of Iraqi choice." KR

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