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Newsline - April 11, 2005


SENIOR FSB FIGURE GUNNED DOWN IN MOSCOW...
Retired Federal Security Service (FSB) Colonel General Anatolii Trofimov, 65, the former head of the FSB's Moscow branch, was assassinated outside his Moscow home on the evening of 10 April, Russian and international media reported. Trofimov's 28-year-old wife, Tatyana Kopytseva, was also killed in the incident, although their four-year-old daughter escaped without injury. According to Interfax, an unknown gunman attacked the family as they were walking from their car to the building and he fled in a waiting car. According to agentura.ru, Trofimov was a career KGB/FSB officer who specialized in combating corruption. In early 1995, he was named deputy FSB director and head of the FSB's Moscow branch. He was supported by the head of President Boris Yeltsin's security apparatus, Aleksandr Korzhakov. Trofimov headed the investigation into a 1996 incident when two men were arrested carrying $500,000 in cash out of Yeltsin's reelection campaign headquarters. Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais, who escaped harm during a 17 March attempt on his life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2005), was the head of Yeltsin's reelection campaign. Trofimov was dismissed in 1997 after two of his deputies were accused of selling cocaine. RC

...AS INVESTIGATORS TRY TO ESTABLISH MOTIVE
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 April that Trofimov had been threatened shortly before the attack, according to a neighbor who claims to have spoken with Trofimov about it. Former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, who has political asylum in the United Kingdom, told Ekho Moskvy on 11 April that he believes Trofimov's murder was politically motivated because no businessman in Russia would dare attack such a powerful figure from the security organs. Litvinenko added that he knew Trofimov personally and that he "never met such a high-class professional among FSB generals." He added that Trofimov was a behind-the-scenes critic of the Kremlin's policies in Chechnya and that he had opposed the 1998 appointment of Vladimir Putin as FSB director. An unnamed FSB official working on the investigation into Trofimov's murder told RIA-Novosti on 11 April that investigators are looking into Trofimov's commercial activities. Interfax reported that Trofimov was the deputy general director of an unspecified "major company." RC

KHODORKOVSKII, LEBEDEV AWAIT 27 APRIL VERDICTS...
Verdicts in the cases of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev will be announced on 27 April, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 April, citing the Meshchanskii Raion Court's press office. Khodorkovskii made his closing statement to the court, saying "I was not a proper oligarch. I don't have a yacht or racing cars." He added that: "The house that was photographed for a story in 'Komsomolskaya pravda' is not mine. Mine is much smaller and they apparently didn't notice it. I do not have any property abroad. You can ask the secret services." He said that the case against him was created by "those who dreamed of moving up the career ladder." "I am proud of my 15 years of work," Khodorkovskii said. "I sincerely tried to work for the good of my country, and not for my own pocket. All that I have left is an awareness that I was right, my business reputation, and the power of my will." RC

...AS FORMER PARTNER PLEDGES TO REVEAL ALL IF KHODORKOVSKII IS CONVICTED
Menatep shareholder Leonid Nevzlin, who is living in Israel and is wanted on tax evasion charges in Russia, told the German weekly "Focus" that he will publicly reveal all that he knows about the business and personal affairs of Kremlin personnel if Khodorkovskii is convicted, inopressa.ru reported on 11 April. "I have been silent at the request of my friends who have been arrested," Nevzlin said. "But if my partner Khodorkovskii is convicted, I will tell everything: about corruption in the Kremlin, about their connections with business, about how Kremlin officials get money and on which yachts they spend their vacations." Nevzlin predicted that Yukos will be bankrupt by summer. He added, however, that he personally still controls about $1 billion, much of which is invested in Eastern Europe. "We are also considering some investments in the Baltic countries," he said. RC

RUSSIA MOVING AHEAD ON ELECTRONIC VOTING
Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told journalists on 8 April that Russia might introduce paperless voting before the 2007 parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Veshnyakov said that electronic-voting technologies are being developed in Russia and will be ready for testing by the end of this year. At the same time, the TsIK is drafting legislation that would enable authorities to introduce the new technologies if the tests are successful. In an interview in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 7 April, Veshnyakov said that the government is analyzing recent events in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in order "to learn from others' mistakes and in no event to allow such a thing to happen in our state." RC

SAMARA SCHEDULES REFERENDUM ON DISMISSING MAYOR
The Samara Oblast legislature on 8 April set 19 June as the date for a municipal referendum in Samara on dismissing Mayor Georgii Limanskii, RTR reported. According to the report, a rowdy group of Limanskii's supporters attempted, but failed, to disrupt the legislative session. Samara First Deputy Mayor Valerii Troyan told RTR that the city administration views the referendum as "absolutely unlawful" and plans to contest the matter in the courts. RC

SEVEN POLICE OFFICERS TO FACE TRIAL IN BLAGOVESHCHENSK CASE
The investigation of seven Blagoveshchensk police officers in connection with a controversial December police operation in the city has been completed and charges of exceeding authority have been filed against all seven, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 April. A representative of the prosecutor's office told the daily that the investigation into the December operation is continuing and further charges might be filed. Human rights activists say that hundreds of people were illegally detained in the operation and that dozens of men were beaten and women raped while in police custody. RC

ADMINISTRATION CHIEF MEETS WITH PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS
Presidential administration head Dmitrii Medvedev met behind closed doors in Magnitogorsk on 7 April with six of the seven presidential envoys to the federal districts, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 April. According to the report, the subject of the meeting was the creation of the new Public Chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2005) and the implementation of the government's reform to convert in-kind social benefits to cash payments. Among the envoys, only Far East Federal District envoy Konstantin Pulikovskii did not attend the meeting. Citing an unidentified source, the daily reported that Medvedev told participants in the meeting that the Kremlin will nominate Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel for another term. RC

WARRANT ISSUED FOR FORMER SARATOV GOVERNOR'S WIFE
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Olga Sergeeva, wife of former Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported on 11 April. Sergeeva is accused of violating an earlier pledge not to leave the city of Saratov without informing the authorities and of tampering with a witness in connection with an extortion case against her. According to an unnamed source in the prosecutor's office, the case against Sergeeva was filed on 11 October and since then the defense has allegedly been dragging out the process of studying the case materials. A press release from the prosecutor's office said that Ayatskov, who recently announced that he will be named Russia's ambassador to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2005), is doing everything he can to prevent Sergeeva's case from coming to court. RC

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA READY TO HELP IN KYRGYZSTAN
Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Moscow following an 11 April meeting with interim Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva that Moscow "is sincerely concerned about events in Kyrgyzstan and we hope this friendly people will be able to stabilize the situation in their country," strana.ru reported. "We hope that our efforts will be of assistance to Kyrgyzstan," Lavrov said. Otunbaeva reportedly told Lavrov that the new Kyrgyz government is committed to improving ties with Russia. RC

TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS PROVING COSTLY
As much as 2.5 percent of Russia's gross domestic product is wasted each year as a result of traffic accidents, First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin said on 8 April, according to strana.ru on 11 April. He said there are about 570 traffic accidents in Russia each day, killing an average of 95 people. Last year, 34,700 people were killed in traffic incidents. Chekalin said that up to one-quarter of all accidents are caused by people who have had their driver's licenses for less than one year. He added that many accidents are caused by the poor condition of Russian roads, up to one-third of which require repairs. He said that more than 40 percent of Russian road signs fail to meet international standards and up to 80 percent of the country's traffic signals have completed their expected service life. RC

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON DELAYED CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
Robert Kocharian issued a statement on 8 April stressing the "need not to slow down the process of constitutional reform," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A special parliamentary commission headed by Deputy Speaker Tigran Torosian is currently revising a package of constitutional amendments that seek to make the document conform to Council of Europe standards. Parliamentary consideration of the proposed changes has been stalled by disagreements within the three-party governing coalition. Although constitutional reform is an important part of Armenian membership in the Council of Europe, the required national referendum on the new constitution seems unlikely to meet the Council of Europe's June target date, and may be delayed to coincide with local elections in October. An initial set of constitutional amendments were defeated in a May 2003 national referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2003). RG

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST REPRESSION OF AZERBAIJANI MEDIA...
Several hundred Azerbaijani demonstrators marched on 9 April to protest state repression of the media, Turan reported. Addressing the demonstration, the chairman of the Azerbaijani Confederation of Journalists, Azer Hasrat, also called on the government to update the public on the status of their investigation of the slaying of opposition journalist Elmar Huseinov, a crime which he linked to a pattern of journalists being targeted by authorities. The protestors demanded that the Aliyev government "put an end to court cases against newspapers, end the policy of fines, and guarantee the constitutional right to hold political gatherings." Comprised of opposition supporters and journalists, the demonstrators marched from central Baku to the grave of Huseinov, the editor of the opposition journal "Monitor" who was shot dead in front of his home last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2005). As the demonstration ended, police moved in and arrested seven demonstrators for illegally distributing leaflets, Turan reported. RG

...WHILE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CANCELS PLANNED RALLY
The leader of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front, Ali Kerimli, announced on 9 April that a planned rally scheduled for the following day has been canceled, Turan reported. The announcement was made after talks between Kerimli and the leaders of the opposition Musavat and Democratic Parties failed to reach an agreement on the details of the rally. RG

AZERBAIJAN NARROWS DIFFERENCES OVER BORDER DEMARCATION WITH RUSSIA
A meeting of the Azerbaijani and Russian border commission on 8 April narrowed the remaining differences in the demarcation of the Azerbaijani border with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The meeting, held in Daghestan, concluded with an agreement covering nearly 90 percent of the border area and identifying three outstanding border sections to be resolved in the next round of negotiations. RG

GEORGIA COMMEMORATES ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET CRACKDOWN
Hundreds of Georgians participated in a commemoration on 9 April marking the anniversary of the Soviet crackdown of pro-independence demonstrators in 1989, Rustavi-2 TV and the Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Patriarch Ilya II and President Mikheil Saakashvili led the pre-dawn commemoration, held in central Tbilisi, as people lit candles and placed flowers outside the parliament building in remembrance of the 21 unarmed citizens who were killed when Soviet forces moved to disperse a demonstration for Georgian independence. Association for the Protection of Human Rights in Georgia head Giorgi Kervalishvili called on the government to bring criminal charges against former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was Soviet foreign minister at the time of the incident, for complicity in the attack. A spokesman for Saakashvili responded that the former president was immune from any such prosecution, in accordance with a personal pledge Saakashvili made to Shevardnadze. RG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
President Saakashvili met on 9 April with visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, Civil Georgia and ITAR-TASS reported. Saakashvili welcomed Lithuanian support for Georgia's effort to pursue greater integration in Europe and noted the emergence of a new "Baltic-Black Sea rim of cooperation." Following the meeting, Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili announced that Lithuania was prepared to participate in the international monitoring of the Georgian-Russian border, according to the Caucasus Press. Georgia is seeking a new international effort to monitor its border with Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Daghestan following a December 2004 move by Russia to oppose the extension of an OSCE mission patrolling those sections of its border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). The European Union's Special Representative to the South Caucasus, Heikki Talvitie, revealed on 8 April that a small EU delegation of technical experts will be deployed to observe the security situation along the Russian-Georgian border within three months. RG

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS CONCLUDE IN GENEVA
Two days of UN-brokered talks between Georgian and Abkhaz officials concluded on 8 April, Civil Georgia and the Caucasus Press reported. The talks, chaired by UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno, were held in Geneva under the auspices of the UN Friends of Georgia Group, which consists of France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Although the talks marked an important resumption of negotiations, the two sides remained split, with the Georgian delegation focusing on the return of refugees and the Abkhaz stressing economic issues. The chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, Irakli Alasania, who participated in the talks as the Georgian presidential representative for Abkhaz issues, stated that he was "satisfied" by the talks and announced that a conference will be convened in Berlin later this year or in early 2006 to discuss economic projects in Abkhazia, according to RFE/RL's Georgian Service. RG

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW CHANGES BANNING RALLIES
A joint session of Kazakhstan's parliament on 8 April passed amendments to the country's election law, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The amendments, which still need President Nursultan Nazarbaev's signature to become law, will require presidential and parliamentary candidates, and their spouses, to declare income and property and will ban political demonstrations in the period between the end of election campaigns and the announcement of official results. Kabdygali Akhmetov, a delegate to the upper chamber of parliament, called the ban on demonstrations -- which critics have described as limiting voters' rights -- useful for "objective" vote counting, Kabar reported. Akhmetov said that the ban will cover roughly 10 days so that "election commissions can provide an objective vote count and reach a decision." DK

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS OUSTED PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION...
Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted on 11 April to accept the resignation petition that ousted President Askar Akaev signed in Moscow on 4 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2005), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK

...AND SETS NEW ELECTION FOR 10 JULY
Also on 11 April, parliament voted to set 10 July as the date for a new presidential election, akipress.org reported. An emergency session of the outgoing parliament's upper chamber on 24 March had set a preterm election for 26 June, but the new parliament annulled that decision on 7 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2005). Before the fall of the Akaev government on 24 March, the presidential election had been slated for October 2005. DK

COURT CLEARS KYRGYZ POLITICIAN ON CHARGES...
Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court issued a ruling on 11 April clearing Feliks Kulov, leader of the Ar-Namays party, of a corruption conviction and 10-year prison term, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The decision follows another Supreme Court decision to annul a prior conviction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2005). The two rulings clear the way for a possible presidential bid by Kulov, who was freed from prison at the request of antigovernment demonstrators on 24 March. DK

...WHO URGES A PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC BE ESTABLISHED...
Kulov addressed a wide range of political issues in an interview with Russia's "Argumenty i fakty" on 8 April. As quoted by akipress.org, Kulov supported the recent call by Constitutional Court Chair Cholpon Baekova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2005) for a conference to make changes to the country's basic law. Calling Kyrgyzstan's recent shift from a bicameral to a unicameral parliament a "big political mistake," Kulov spoke out in favor of increasing the legislature's powers at the expense of the executive. He said that a parliamentary republic in Kyrgyzstan would allow for "more effective coordination of regional and subregional interests." DK

...AND SAYS HE'S NOT SURE HE'LL RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Kulov announced at a press conference in Bishkek on 11 April that he has not yet decided whether or not to seek the presidency, Kabar reported. He said, "This is a very complicated issue for me. It is connected primarily with the need to preserve stability and the unity of the nation, and all the peoples of our country." Kulov, who had told Deutsche Welle in a 4 April interview that he would seek the presidency if his Akaev-era criminal convictions were annulled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2005), said that he will make a final decision on his presidential bid after consulting with acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev. DK

LAND SEIZURES PLAGUE KYRGYZ CAPITAL
A rash of illegal land seizures has hit the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, with 3,000-5,000 people marking off plots of land in the city's outskirts to build homes, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 10 April. The squatters have ignored local authorities' demands to give back the land, which city planners had intended for other uses. With many who are seizing plots hailing from Kyrgyzstan's south, and Bishkek residents' ire rising, the standoff has raised fears of regional strife. On 9 April, the Bishkek City Council asked acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev to intervene in the situation, since local authorities have been unable to resolve the conflict, akipress.org reported. On 10 April, protestors held a demonstration in the center of Bishkek, accusing the central authorities of encouraging the land seizures through their inaction, RFE/RL reported. Acting President Bakiev addressed the demonstrators, promising to resolve the issue within days, although his promises failed to appease protestors. DK

EU PLEDGES ELECTION AID TO KYRGYZSTAN
Michael Leigh, the European Commission's deputy director of external relations, told a news conference in Bishkek on 9 April that the European Union will provide 25 million euros to help Kyrgyzstan overcome its current political crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. The money will go toward conducting upcoming presidential election, reforming the judiciary, and fighting corruption. Leigh commented: "The sooner a date is set for presidential elections, the sooner it will be possible to solve other problems," the BBC reported. DK

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER TO SEEK PRESIDENCY
Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy head of Tajikistan's Democratic Party, told a news conference in Dushanbe on 8 April that party leader Muhammadruzi Iskandarov plans to run for president, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Iskandarov, who was recently released from detention in Russia after Russian authorities refused to extradite him to Tajikistan to face embezzlement and weapons charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2005), is now looking for a way to return to Tajikistan legally, Avesta reported. But Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov said that his office will submit new materials to Russian authorities and attempt once again to obtain Iskandarov's extradition, RFE/RL reported. DK

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS COMING IN 2009
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov announced at a cabinet meeting on 7 April that his country will hold presidential elections in 2009, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported the next day. Niyazov said that the People's Assembly, which meets on 25-26 October 2005, should pass a resolution "that a presidential election should take place in 2009 and, in this election, at least two or three candidates should participate." The president said that other government officials, such as provincial governors, should face elections as well, turkmenistan.ru reported. Although Niyazov said that he will not take part in future presidential elections, he promised that he would not retire from affairs of state, the BBC's Uzbek Service reported. DK

BELARUSIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ELECT NEW LEADER
A conference of Belarusian social democrats on 10 April created the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) by merging two opposition parties, the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly (BSDH) and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party-Popular Assembly (BSDP-NH), Belapan reported. The conference elected Alyaksandr Kazulin, former rector of Belarusian State University, as the new party's chairman. "I'm firmly determined to change the situation in Belarus for the better," Kazulin pledged. Kazulin, who has stepped into the political arena only recently, is widely regarded as a possible contender for the post of president in 2006 (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 11 March 2005). Shortly before the conference, 36 delegates of the BSDH dismissed their leader, Stanislau Shushkevich, and decided to dissolve the BSDH and join the new party that was founded on the basis of the BSDP-NH. Shushkevich has reportedly protested the merger, arguing that the decision was taken against the BSDH statute. The 10 April conference was held in the open air in the village of Sennitsa in Minsk Oblast in front of a local cultural center. The delegates were not let inside the building despite having already paid rent for the space. JM

POLL SAYS BELARUSIANS SEE NO MATCH FOR LUKASHENKA IN 2006
A survey conducted by the Minsk-based Independent Institute for Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) in March found that 46.7 percent of respondents would vote for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a presidential election, Belapan reported on 8 April. Two top-ranking opposition politicians, United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka and former dissident lawmaker Valery Fralou, trailed far behind Lukashenka with 1.4 percent backing each. Nearly 70 percent of Belarusians polled by NISEPI were unable to name a politician who could defeat Lukashenka in the 2006 presidential election. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DAILY SUED FOR LIBEL
Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP), has sued the only opposition daily "Narodnaya volya" in Belarus. He claims he was defamed by the newspaper's report alleging that the BLDP cooperated with and received financial assistance from the former regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Belapan reported. Haydukevich demands some $93,000 from the newspaper in damages. In its 1 March issue, "Narodnaya volya" published a photocopy of a fax that it claimed was sent from Iraq to the BLDP office on 16 June 2002. The message read: "We are still waiting for you to meet your liability under the above-mentioned contract. We persist in our request that you pay the amount of $996,798.060 due to us." Haydukevich told Belapan the document was false. Meanwhile, "Narodnaya volya" Editor in Chief Iosif Syaredzich said the newspaper can make public three more documents to prove the BLDP's involvement in illegal trade in Iraqi oil during Hussein's rule. JM

PROTESTS CONTINUE OVER ARREST OF UKRAINIAN REGIONAL POLITICIAN
Some 500 people, mainly from Donetsk, held a rally in Kyiv on 9 April protesting the arrest of Donetsk Oblast Council head Borys Kolesnykov, who was detained on 7 April on charges of extortion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2005), Ukrainian media reported. The following day, Kolesnykov's supporters pitched a tent camp in a Kyiv park. A similar camp was set up last week in Donetsk. A district court in Kyiv ruled on 8 April that Kolesnykov be kept in custody for investigation for two months. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said on 8 April that the arrest of Kolesnykov constitutes a "punishment for dissent" and is politically motivated. "If the witch hunting organized by the authorities is not stopped in proper time, Ukraine may find itself on the brink of another revolution," Yanukovych said in a statement publicized on 11 April. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER COMPLAINS OF SURVEILLANCE
Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists in Kyiv on 8 April that he possesses evidence that he is being shadowed and his telephones are being bugged, Ukrainian media reported. "What country are we living in if such things are allowed with regard to the Verkhovna Rada chairman?" Lytvyn said. "What's happening, I mean the bugging, is a political outrage, because some want to prove their innocence and avoid responsibility for what they have done," he added without elaborating. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS DECIDE TO RUN INDEPENDENTLY IN 2006 ELECTIONS
The Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) on 9 April decided that it will take part in the parliamentary elections in 2006 on its own without seeking political coalitions, Interfax reported. "We need 70-75 mandates in the [450-seat] Verkhovna Rada as a minimum," SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz commented. "This translates approximately into 12-15 percent support [that our party needs to obtain] in the elections." JM

TWO TOP INDICTEES REPORTEDLY SLIP THROUGH SERBIAN GOVERNMENT'S FINGERS...
The Belgrade dailies "Blic" and "Danas" reported on 11 April that Serbian authorities have allowed two leading war crimes indictees to flee while several others have yielded recently to government pressure and gone voluntarily to The Hague to stand trial before the tribunal, dpa reported. The unconfirmed reports suggested that former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was under the protection of the Serbian military as recently as October 2004 but that his "friends in the military" have since enabled him to move on into Bosnia-Herzegovina and perhaps beyond (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 February and 5 and 6 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 November 2004). The reports also noted that indictee and former General Nebojsa Pavkovic quickly went underground or left Serbia recently from what had been a high-profile existence. He disappeared before police could deliver a summons for him to appear in a special Serbian court in connection with the 2000 abduction and murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and an assassination attempt on Serbian politician Vuk Draskovic, who is now foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March and 4 April 2005). The tribunal has indicted Pavkovic in connection with his role in the 1998-99 Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosova. Draskovic said recently that the intelligence services certainly know the whereabouts of indictees like Mladic and Pavkovic. PM

...AS SERBIA AWAITS A KEY EU REPORT
On 8 April, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal announced that former Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Captain Milorad Trbic had arrived there recently from Belgrade to face charges stemming from his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males were killed, Reuters reported. If former VRS Colonel Vujadin Popovic also goes to The Hague shortly, as the Serbian government has said he will, former General Mladic will be the only Srebrenica indictee still at large. Trbic was a deputy intelligence chief in the VRS Zvornik Brigade, while Popovic was in the Drina Corps. A Serbian government statement released on 8 April said that "Popovic made the decision [to turn himself in] because he did not want the entire nation to be held hostage because of him and was convinced that in this way he would be able to help the state fulfill its international obligations." The EU is expected to release shortly a feasibility study on launching talks aimed at a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia and Montenegro. PM

STILL MORE LOCAL ELECTIONS IN MACEDONIA
Macedonia's voters went to the polls on 10 April for repeats of district council elections and second rounds of mayoral races in 19 of the country's 84 administrative districts and in Skopje, MIA and other Macedonian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," End Note, 18 March 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 April 2005). The State Election Commission subsequently announced that the elections are now over in 17 of the 20 districts, while the results are still open in two districts. In Skopje, incumbent Mayor Risto Penov recently withdrew from the contest between the first and the second rounds, thus acknowledging what amounted to a first-round victory for Trifun Kostovski, who ran as an independent candidate with the support of several opposition parties. No major irregularities were reported on 10 April. Initial results suggest that the governing Social Democratic Union and its allies won the mayoral elections in five districts, MIA news agency reported. Its junior coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, took five districts; the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization three; its offshoot, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- People's Party one; and independent candidates three. Results have yet to be announced in two districts. UB

POLICE BREAK UP PEOPLE-SMUGGLING RING IN MOLDOVA
Police have discovered a people-smuggling ring led by a 70-year-old woman in Moldova, international news agencies reported on 9 April citing Interior Ministry spokesman Andrei Slutu. The woman, who posed as a staff member of Moldova's National Federation for Sports and Gymnastics, ran the ring with her son and a female friend, Interfax reported. The group obtained the necessary travel documents at diplomatic missions in the Romanian capital Bucharest. The suspects, who face up to five years in jail if convicted, earned about 2,500 euros ($3,225) for each person they sent abroad, Slutu said. BW

OFFICIALS HOLD TALKS ON TRANSDNIESTER CUSTOMS DISPUTE
Officials met in Tiraspol on 9 April to settle a dispute over unauthorized Transdniester customs and border controls near Dorotcaia, a Moldova-controlled village in the secessionist region, BASA reported the same day. The talks included representatives from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). "It is premature to speak about a breakthrough," Moldova's Integration Minister Vasili Sova said. Sova added that he and Valery Litskai, the Transdniester "foreign minister," had agreed earlier to replace a customs post near Dorotcaia with a task force of peacekeepers and a mixed group of Moldovan police and Transdniester militia. Transdniester officials' habit of setting up customs and border posts near villages that have remained loyal to Moldova has been a point of contention between Chisinau and Tiraspol since 1998. BW

EU ENVOY ARRIVES IN MOLDOVA
Adrian Jacobovits , the European Union's Special Representative for Moldova, arrived in Chisinau on 11 April for his first official working visit and with the Transdniester conflict high on his agenda, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. European Union (EU) foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana said Jakobovits' appointment confirms the EU's interest in its closest neighbors, ITAR-TASS reported. Jacobovits' main task, Solana said, will be to assist Moldova's leadership in reaching a settlement to the Transdniester conflict. Moldova's president has requested that the EU, the United States, and Romania engage in talks over the disputed region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2005). The negotiations have previously included only Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. BW

MOLDOVA'S PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE PLEDGES TO MAKE QUICK APPOINTMENTS TO STREAMLINED CABINET
Vasile Tarlev has pledged to form a new government "in the nearest time," Infotag reported on 8 April. "We have no time for a warm-up...I will try to bring the cabinet list to parliament as soon as possible," Tarlev said. Tarlev declined to comment on specific names but said many members of the previous government have good chances of staying on. Voronin has ordered a restructuring of the government with the aim of reducing its staff size by 70 percent by 14 November 2005. In place of 16 ministries and 14 departments, the government will be streamlined to 17 ministries, AP Flux reported on 8 April. BW

RUSSIAN MEDIA'S AIDS AWARENESS CAMPAIGN OFF TO SLOW START
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov created something of a media sensation on 30 March when he appeared at a Moscow conference and acknowledged that the spread of HIV/AIDS in Russia has become a threat to the country's security and development. The theme of the conference was public-private initiatives to combat the epidemic and one of the main projects discussed was a $200 million, three-year, public-service campaign by Russian media to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

Gazprom-Media Chairman Aleksandr Dybal told the conference on 30 March that his company and other media outlets, including REN-TV, Muz-TV, MTV, and the radio stations of Russian Media Group are donating $200 million in cash, airtime, and print space to the effort.

Gazprom-Media controls NTV, NTV-Plus, TNT, Ekho Moskvy, and other media properties and is wholly owned by the state-controlled natural-gas giant Gazprom. Gazprom played key roles in the de facto nationalization of the empires of former oligarchs Vladimir Gusinskii and Mikhail Khodorkovskii.

Russian Media Group is controlled and headed by Kremlin-connected businessman Sergei Arkhipov. He told "The Moscow Times" on 18 March, "I do have friends in the Kremlin," although he denied that he discusses his business with them. In 2004, the company staged a free concert for people who could prove that they had voted in the presidential election, a move that was viewed as part of the Kremlin's effort to boost turnout in an election in which President Vladimir Putin faced minimal competition. The company's plans to turn its flagship station, Russkoye Radio II, to a largely news and information format has been viewed by analysts as part of a Kremlin effort to consolidate its control over the information sphere in the run-up to the 2007 and 2008 Duma and presidential elections, respectively.

Despite Dybal's "announcement" of the public-service effort on the heels of Zhukov's speech, the campaign was actually launched at a 29 November press conference at state-owned RIA-Novosti, to considerable media fanfare in connection with the 1 December World AIDS Day event. At that time, RIA-Novosti was also named as a participant, "Vechernyaya Moskva" reported on 9 December. Interfax reported on 29 November that the newspapers "Komsomolskaya pravda," "Izvestiya," and "Vedomosti" would also participate, but Dybal did not mention them in March.

At that press conference, participants also announced that the "Stop AIDS" campaign would mostly include a new, locally produced series featuring people living with HIV. Dybal did not mention this project at the 30 March conference.

In November, it was announced that "technical and financial" support would be provided by a number of Western foundations, including the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, Dybal said at that time that he expected the state media to join the effort. "You might say that we consider this our patriotic, humanitarian duty," Dybal said, according to "Vechernyaya Moskva." "We have already signed up nearly 30 large companies and, of course, we certainly expect ORT and RTR to join our ranks -- [and we] hope that they will join our project. We are also talking to regional companies, whose support is very important to us." Dybal added that he expected the "active participation" of American actor Richard Gere in the campaign.

The online newspaper vsluh.ru reported on 2 December that the "Stop AIDS" campaign will include not only public-service announcements, but also the development of information resources and briefings for journalists.

Zhukov's appearance at the AIDS conference and recent calls by President Putin and other administration officials for businesses to do more to help the country give some reason to believe that "Stop AIDS" might gain some traction now.

NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM KILLING OFFICIAL IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, speaking on behalf of the neo-Taliban on 9 April, claimed responsibility for killing the head of the Agriculture Department of Zabul Province, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The official, identified as Sarajuddin, was kidnapped on 6 April. Referring to Sarajuddin, Hakimi told AIP that he "was an official of the American administration. We will kill anyone who works for the American administration." For the neo-Taliban "American administration" refers to the government of President Hamid Karzai. Activities by the neo-Taliban have risen considerably in southern Afghanistan recently (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 4 April 2005). AT

'SENIOR' NEO-TALIBAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES U.S. BASES IN AFGHANISTAN...
In an extensive interview with AIP on 8 April, Mullah Abdul Hayy Motma'en, describing himself as "a senior official" in charge of cultural activities, claimed that the neo-Taliban will not hold talks with the Afghan administration as long as the United States has its forces in Afghanistan. If the United States wants to hold discussions with the neo-Taliban, it should "declare when" its forces are going to leave Afghanistan, otherwise "it is impossible to hold talks with" the United States. Motma'en also told AIP that "according to reports," Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is "signing an agreement" that would allow the United States to maintain military bases in Afghanistan for 50 years. Motma'en said, "God forbid, if this happens," adding that such an agreement "will be very dangerous because many governments and systems will be changed in 50 years." Claming that the aim of the neo-Taliban is not to "rule Afghanistan against the will of the people," Motma'en said that their aim was to "expel the foreign forces and achieve independence." AT

...AND THE CONTROVERSIAL AFGHAN-PAKISTANI BORDER ISSUE
Asked during his 8 April interview with AIP whether a Taliban-led government would accept the current border between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- known as the Durand Line -- Motma'en responded: "This is a very sensitive issue. I cannot comment any further on this." Speaking earlier about the possibility of the United States establishing military bases in Afghanistan, Motma'en had compared it with the Durand Line which, he said, "remains unresolved" because it was signed by an Afghan ruler in 1893. While the Durand Line is the de facto and internationally recognized border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, no Afghan government has ever officially accepted this border, including the Taliban regime despite the fact it was backed militarily and politically by Islamabad (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 7 August 2003). AT

AFGHANISTAN TO IMPOSE INCOME TAX
The Afghan Finance Ministry has announced that it will impose an income tax on the earnings of government and private-sector employees, Tolu Television reported on 9 April. According to the proposal, anyone earning more that 12,000 afghanis (approximately $250) per month will be taxed at a rate of 10 percent. The policy is to go into effect at the start of the Afghan-calendar month of Hamal, which began on 20 March. According to the report, a number of local merchants and economic analysts have expressed their disagreement with the new plan. Since the Soviet invasion and the subsequent civil wars, Afghans have not been taxed and have became accustomed to not paying taxes. If the Karzai administration can impose taxation on its citizens, it would not only earn much-needed funds from domestic sources, but would help bind the citizens to their state and country. AT

IRANIAN CORRESPONDENT GETS JAIL SENTENCE
A Tehran court has upheld the sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 10 million rials ($1,265) for "Donya-yi Film" (World of Film) magazine correspondent Amir Ezati for acting against national security, ISNA reported on 9 April, citing his unnamed lawyer. Ezati is free on a bail of 50 million rials ($6,329) while the lawyer appeals the verdict. BS

NUCLEAR WORKERS STAGE PROTEST
Bushehr House of Labor official Issa Mohammad Kamali said on 9 April that workers from the Bushehr nuclear facility are protesting the sacking by plant managers of 25 of their colleagues, ILNA reported. The managers say the sacked workers can work at affiliated service companies for up to two months, but it is possible that another 28 workers will be sacked soon. The House of Labor has contacted the provincial governor-general's office to seek assistance. At a subsequent meeting, the governorate's director-general for political and security affairs promised to look into the matter. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES INTERACTING WITH ISRAELI COUNTERPART
Mohammad Khatami denied on 9 April reports from the previous day that he and Israeli President Moshe Katsav chatted and shook hands at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, state television reported. "No such meeting took place," he said. "As the world knows, we have a clear position with respect to Israel." Khatami said the subject of Israel came up during his discussions with European leaders, and that he told them: "We cannot recognize Israel's legitimacy for ethical and logical reasons...[because] Israel has been formed based on bullying and occupation and recognizing it means approving of bullying and occupation as the basis for legitimacy." Khatami said that Iran will not interfere in Middle East peace plans but added that such plans are destined to fail because of alleged Israeli intransigence and lack of consideration for Palestinian rights. Khatami also said the designer of the plans is unreliable. "America is by no means trustworthy," he added. "Neither the Palestinian nation nor the freedom-seekers in the world consider America as an impartial broker. They consider America as a true supporter of Israel. That is why we recommended that a more serious presence of other countries, Europe in particular, can improve this improper process." BS

IRAN FACES BLACKOUTS
Masud Hojat, deputy chief of the state power-generation and transmission-management company TAVANIR, said on 9 April that Iran faces "vast blackouts" in the coming year because the budget for power plants, transmission lines, and related infrastructure is too small, Mehr News Agency reported. Hojat said TAVANIR does not have enough money, and he cited a Management and Planning Organization estimate that the budget shortfall could be in the range of 8 trillion to 12 trillion rials (about $1 billion-$1.5 billion). Given the increasing demand for electricity, Hojat said, 3,000 megawatts a year of electricity should be added to the grid. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OPPOSES FACTIONALISM
Prospective presidential candidate Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former chief of the national police force, said in Khorasan on 9 April that he is determined to stand in the election and said that although he believes in fundamentals, he is not a right-winger, ILNA reported. He called for a clean campaign and said he would not resort to mudslinging. He said factionalism should be avoided in national policy-making and management. BS

IRANIAN STUDENTS CONDUCT INTERNET POLL
Former speaker of parliament and prospective reformist presidential candidate Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi has netted 38 percent of the almost 16,000 votes cast in a poll on the Tabriz Medical University students' website (http://www.tarhefarda.org) as of 10 April. Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani received 31 percent, former state broadcasting chief Ali Larijani got 13 percent, former Education Minister Mustafa Moin 9 percent, and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati 7 percent. The first stage of the poll will continue until 20 April, and a new poll will begin on 21 April and end on 5 April. BS

IRAQ'S TRANSITIONAL PRESIDENT SAYS HE HAS 'PROBLEMS' WITH EXECUTING SADDAM HUSSEIN...
Jalal Talabani said that personally he has problems with the possibility of Saddam Hussein being sentenced to death, international news agencies reported 10 April. Talabani said that as a lawyer he was a signatory to an international appeal to stop capital punishment worldwide. "I have no right to issue an amnesty for Saddam Hussein," Talabani said in an interview with "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," published on 9 April and cited by dpa the next day. "However, being a signatory against capital punishment will cause many problems for me personally," Talabani said, adding that granting amnesties was the authority of the transitional government, Presidential Council and National Assembly. "Saddam Hussein and members of his regime will receive an honest, just, and public trial and will have the right to defend themselves," Talabani said. BW

...AND SAYS U.S. TROOPS WILL STAY TWO MORE YEARS
Talabani said two years should be sufficient time for Iraqi forces to rebuild and secure control of the country as well as take over the job currently being performed by U.S. troops, CNN reported on 10 April. "We are trying to build, as soon as possible, our military forces. I think within two years, we can do it, and at the same time, we will remain in full consultation and coordination, cooperation with our American friends," Talabani said in an interview broadcast on CNN. Talabani's comments came in the aftermath of protests in Baghdad against the U.S. military presence to mark the two-year anniversary of Hussein's overthrow. Tens of thousands of followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, many chanting "no, no to the occupiers," marched in Baghdad on 9 April to denounce the U.S. presence and demand a speedy trial for Hussein, Reuters reported the same day. BW

FORMER IRAQI PRIME MINISTER'S PARTY WILL JOIN TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT...
Iraq's outgoing prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has agreed that his parliamentary bloc will join the country's transitional government, Reuters reported on 10 April. "Iyad Allawi decided that his bloc will take part in the new government because he believes in making the political and democratic process in Iraqi successful," Allawi spokesman Thaer al-Naqib told Reuters. Naqib added that Allawi's bloc wanted four cabinet posts, including one of the main ministries, as a condition for participation in the government. Allawi's bloc, the Iraqi List, has 40 seats in the 275-member transitional National Assembly. His supporters had previously said they would not join the government. The bloc's decision to participate is a major step toward creating a national unity government and would calm the fears of some secular Iraqis that the Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance would seek to impose Islamist policies, Reuters reported. A secular Shi'ite, Allawi has forged ties with leading Sunni politicians. BW

...AS NEW CABINET BEGINS TO TAKE SHAPE
Leading Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians have revealed the emerging shape of Iraq's transitional government, AFP reported on 11 April. The cabinet's size will be reduced to 31 ministries from the 33 in the outgoing government. Maryam Rayes, a lawmaker from the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) and Kurdish politician Hoshyar Zebari, the outgoing foreign minister, said the UIA would get 16 to 17 cabinet positions, including the oil, interior, and finance portfolios. The Kurds would keep the Foreign Ministry and take over the Ministry of Planning, while Iraq's Defense Ministry would be one of four posts to go to the country's Sunni minority. Transitional Prime Minster Ibrahim al-Ja'fari is expected to announce the full cabinet within two weeks. BW

PAKISTAN EMBASSY EMPLOYEE KIDNAPPED IN BAGHDAD
Kidnappers seized a Pakistani embassy employee after evening prayers on 9 April, international news agencies reported. A group calling itself the Omar Khattab group kidnapped Malik Mohamed Javed in Baghdad's western Amariya District, Reuters reported on 11 April. "We appeal to the kidnappers of Malik Mohamed Javed to release him immediately," said Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid, adding that one of the kidnappers had contacted Pakistan's charge d'affaires in Iraq by telephone on 10 April and told him that Javed, who has no diplomatic status, was in their custody. BW

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