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Newsline - April 19, 2005


SECRETARY OF STATE VISITS MOSCOW IN PREPARATION OF BUSH VISIT
The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow on 19 April for a two-day visit and meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, agencies reported. U.S. President George W. Bush will visit Moscow on 9 May to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe. Rice's agenda includes international security and bilateral relations, including security at Russian nuclear installations. Addressing a conference of U.S. newspaper editors on 17 April, Rice said her message to Russian leaders will be "that a democratic, vibrant and prosperous Russia is in everyone's interest," Reuters reported. She added that she wants to bring Russia closer to the West with trade incentives. Rice also will bring up U.S. concerns about the state of democracy in Russia. Rice -- who is a Russian expert and speaks Russian -- will appear live in an Ekho Moskvy studio to answer listener's questions. VY

RUSSIA WANTS U.S. SUPPORT FOR JOINING WTO...
The chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), said that in addition to preparing for President Bush's visit, Rice will discuss Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the RTR TV station reported on 19 April. Kosachev said the United States is the only major country that has not given its consent to Russia's joining the WTO and such approval depends upon how Moscow and Washington resolve complicated economic issues. In particular, he said, the U.S. and Russia should agree on the possibility of exporting of U.S.-made Boeing airplanes and automobiles in a way that does not hurt Russian producers; look into the possibility of opening the Russian banking sector to U.S. banks and insurance companies; and find a way to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, which suffer badly from Russian-made counterfeit multimedia and computer software products. VY

...AND HOPES FOR POLITICAL BOOST FROM BUSH'S VISIT
The attendance of U.S. President Bush at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the end of World War II in Moscow on 9 May is of vital importance for Russia, Kosachev noted. "Those who will be there on that day will be in the march of history, and those not there will not [be a part of it]," he said. "No less important are the trips to Bush will make to Georgia and to Latvia. Our relations with these countries are complicated and we hope that the U.S. president's visit will help to improve them," Kosachev said. VY

COURT FREEZES YUKOS ASSETS...
The Moscow Arbitration Court on 19 April froze all assets of oil giant Yukos at the request of Yuganskneftegaz, Russian media reported. Yuganskneftegaz was Yukos's main production subsidiary until it was sold off by the state in December in partial payment of Yukos's tax arrears. Yuganskneftegaz is now controlled by state-owned Rosneft, and its lawsuit alleges that Yukos stripped Yuganskneftegaz production assets and is seeking some $11 billion in damages, Interfax reported. Rosneft officials claim that Yuganskneftegaz's tax arrears and debts stem from allegedly illegal schemes by Yukos to avoid taxes. Yukos shares fell by 8 percent upon news of the court order. "Vedomosti" reported on 19 April that if Rosneft wins its suit it will become Yukos's main creditor and be in a position to take control of more Yukos assets. Deputy presidential administration head Igor Sechin is chairman of Rosneft's board and has long been seen as one of the main instigators of the cases against Yukos. RC

...AS KHODORKOVSKII, LEBEDEV COULD FACE MORE CHARGES
The Prosecutor-General's Office is preparing to file new embezzlement and money-laundering charges against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 April, citing Lebedev's defense lawyers. Prosecutors believe the two men illegally sold $4.5 billion worth of oil through a chain of brokers, defrauding Yukos of its profits. The two men are already on trial on fraud and tax-evasion charges and face up to 10 years' imprisonment. A verdict in that case is expected on 27 April. RC

YUKOS OWNER SAYS HE WILL SUE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION AND GOVERNMENT...
Leonid Nevzlin, the main owner of the Gibraltar-based Menatep Group, which owns 61 percent of Yukos shares, said that he considers the head of Russia's presidential administration, Dmitrii Medvedev, and Finance Minster Aleksei Kudrin to be mainly responsible for the destruction of the Russian oil giant and that he will sue them, "Vedomosti" 18 April reported. Nevzlin, who lives in Israel and is wanted by Russian authorities, said that Medvedev and Kudrin co-opted tax and law enforcement agencies in their activities against Yukos and its shareholders. Nevzlin said he has proof that Kudrin instructed tax authorities to conduct a campaign against Yukos and that he has other evidence concerning Medvedev's participation in the affair. Nevzlin said total damages in the suit against Russian officials could be $33.1 billion. He added that the co-owner of Sibneft, Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich, also took part in the plot against Yukos. VY

...AS KREMLIN, GOVERNMENT SHRUG OFF CHARGES
Russia's presidential administration refused to comment directly on Nevzlin's statement but said that Nevzlin's motives were purely political, "Vedomosti" reported on 18 April. Valerii Tutykhin, a senior partner in the law firm John Tyner and Partners, said a possible Nevzlin lawsuit creates "zero risk" for Kudrin and Medvedev. Meanwhile, Kudrin's press secretary Gennadii Ezhov said: "Let Nevzlin bring his suit and a court will find out whether Kudrin is guilty or not," the newspaper reported. VY

DUMA DEPUTIES TO CONSIDER CUTTING BACK THEIR BENEFITS
The State Duma on 20 April will consider in their first reading amendments to the law on the status of deputies and Federation Council members, "Vedomosti" reported on 19 April. The daily reported that the bill could be considered in its second and third readings as early as 22 April. The amendments would introduce new, unspecified restrictions on expenses for which deputies may claim reimbursement with the goal of reducing overall costs by 100 million rubles ($3 million) per year. Under current law, deputies are entitled to 48 days of paid vacation each year; a health-care allowance worth the equivalent of two monthly salaries; free medical and sanatorium treatment; discounts for communal services; free use of all forms of transportation, including the use of state automobiles in Moscow and in their regions; free domestic and international telephone use, and other benefits. RC

MORE RETIRED OFFICERS SEND COMPENSATION PAYMENTS BACK TO PUTIN
About 50 retired military officers and World War II veterans from Primorskii Krai have sent their pension supplements back to President Putin, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 19 April. The veterans attached a note to the money saying: "We don't need handouts. Please index our pensions according to the law." The action comes days after a similar protest by veterans in Ulyanovsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2005). RC

POLITICIANS COMMENT ON TELEVISION AS A 'STRATEGIC RESOURCE'
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 April surveyed leading Russian politicians to ask whether they believe the political opposition can gain access to state-controlled national television. First Deputy Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) said: "The opposition does have a chance to gain access to television. Certainly more than just two parties will go into the [2007 Duma] elections, so there will be competition." Duma Deputy Sergei Glazev (Motherland) commented that state television now broadcasts only "disgusting lies that can only arouse repulsion and hatred for those who order such news." "People are beginning to understand that everything they are told in prime time on the state channels is intolerable," Glazev said. Yabloko deputy head Sergei Ivanenko said his party is working "to develop an intolerance in society for a situation in which the main national television channels are controlled by a single Kremlin office." Communist Party Central Committee First Deputy Chairman Ivan Melnikov said state television is "a means of state propaganda and the manipulation of public opinion and, as a result, it is really the main method of retaining power." Independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said "there are just two strategic resources for keeping power in this country -- oil and television." RC

PETERSBURG GOVERNOR'S SON WINS CITY TENDER FOR POWER-PLANT SHARES
The city of St. Petersburg has sold a 7.5 percent share package in the Northwest electricity-generating plant to a firm controlled by Sergei Matvienko, son of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko, "Vremya novostei" reported. The firm, International Trade Consultants, purchased the shares for the starting price of 101 million rubles ($3.37 million). Sergei Matvienko is also a vice president of the state-owned Vneshtorgbank. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that the first effort to auction the shares was invalidated because no other companies participated, but that a second auction was organized in which a second company participated but did not submit a bid higher than the starting price. RC

ELECTION HEAD SEES NEXT MERGER INVOLVING KAMCHATKA AND KORYAK
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 18 April that the regions most likely to merge following the successful merger referendums in Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Evenk and Taimyr autonomous okrugs are Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2005), Radio Mayak reported. "The economic and political ties between Russian regions should be restored in places where they were severed artificially," Veshnyakov said, adding that Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Republic of Khakasia should also be merged. "I am skeptical about various exotic projects on mergers between Russian regions that have been separate entities," he added. "I think that they have no serious prospects." RC

U.S. AND RUSSIAN MILITARIES CONDUCTS MISSILE AND NUCLEAR TERRORISM EXERCISES
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on 18 April, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that 75 U.S. military officers are in Russia to conduct joint missile defense exercises, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. Meanwhile, 10 Russian generals responsible within the Russian Defense Ministry for nuclear weapons arrived in the U.S. for nuclear terrorism exercises at secret U.S. nuclear warhead storage facilities, "Izvestiya" reported 18 April. VY

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WILL NOT PROMOTE CONDOM USE
Speaking in Moscow on 18 April at an international conference on AIDS/HIV problems, Russian Orthodox Church representative Mikhail Prokopenko said that his church is ready to cooperate with the state to combat AIDS but that it is against the promotion of using condoms, newsru.com reported. "The promotion of [the use] of condoms induces a dangerous illusion that the sinful way of life can be a safe one," he said. VY

CAR BOMB KILLS ONE IN DAGHESTAN
One man was killed and a second seriously injured in a car bomb in Makhachkala early on 19 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Police have not released the names of the victims, whom they have identified as wanted for contract murders and car thefts. AP quoted Interfax as reporting that the two men may have been planning an attack on a local prosecutor who lives close to the site of the blast, and their explosive device may have detonated prematurely. LF

ARMENIAN ARMS SMUGGLING SUSPECT EXTRADITED TO U.S.
Armen Barseghian, who is suspected of involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle arms to the U.S., was extradited from Armenia to the U.S. on 15 April and will appear before a New York court later this week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 18 April, quoting the U.S. embassy in Yerevan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 21 March 2005). Law enforcement sources in Yerevan identified Barseghian as a U.S. citizen who was born in Armenia and returned there in the mid-1990s to avoid prosecution in the United States. LF

ARMENIA TAKES ISSUE WITH OSCE STATEMENT
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian said on 18 April that the "cautious criticism" expressed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen of the recent violations of the Armenian-Azerbaijani cease-fire is unlikely to deter Azerbaijan from further "sabre-rattling and bellicose statements," Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. In their 15 April statement, the co-chairmen appealed to both sides to reinforce the cease-fire along the Line of Contact that separates Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and to refrain from further bellicose rhetoric (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). Gasparian said that since Armenian politicians do not make such aggressive statements, the Minsk Group statement was clearly addressed to Azerbaijan. He added that Armenia has written to the OSCE chairman in office and to the foreign ministers of the three countries that co-chair the Minsk Group (France, Russia, and the U.S.), arguing that the fundamental reason why Azerbaijan continues to violate the cease-fire is that the international community is reluctant to censure Azerbaijan for doing so, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRISON OFFICER IMPLICATES AUTHORITIES IN EDITOR'S MURDER
In a letter forwarded on 18 April to Azerbaijani human rights activists and selected editors, an anonymous prison officer employed at the Bailov pretrial isolation facility alleged that Elmar Huseinov, editor in chief of the opposition journal "Monitor," was killed by a man currently serving a jail sentence for murder, zerkalo.az reported on 19 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2005). The man in question, who is identified as Dayanat Kerimov, was convicted of the murders in 1994 of Parliament Deputy Speaker Afiyaddin Djalilov and senior security official Shamsi Ragimov and, according to his anonymous accuser, he also killed prosecutor's office official Rovshan Aliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002) and former police colonel Fatulla Guseinov. Those two killings and that of Elmar Huseinov were allegedly committed at the behest of unnamed senior officials. Most journalists who attended a meeting on 18 April to evaluate those allegations were inclined to write them off as a falsification or the product of a sick imagination, but did not totally exclude the possibility that they are genuine, zerkalo.az reported. LF

ABKHAZIA BEGINS SPRING MILITARY MANEUVERS
Over 3,000 men -- regular troops and reservists -- are participating in war games near Sukhum that began on 18 April and will last for four days, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Abkhazia holds such maneuvers every year in the spring, but this year's are reportedly the most extensive ever, and include ground, naval, and air forces. Representatives of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone will observe the exercises, UN special envoy Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini told journalists on 18 April. The Abkhaz defense minister, Lieutenant General Sultan Sosnaliev, denied on 15 April that Russian instructors are training Abkhaz air force pilots. Sosnaliev's predecessor, Vyacheslav Eshba, is a trained fighter pilot. LF

GEORGIA RELOCATES RESERVISTS' CAMP FROM CONFLICT ZONE
The Georgian Defense Ministry has dismantled a training camp for reservists located at Dzevera, 50 kilometers from Tskhinvali, capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, and redeployed the reservists undergoing training there, Chief of General Staff General Levan Nikolaishvili told journalists on 19 April, Caucasus Press reported. Nikolaishvili explained that during his visit to Georgia last week, Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis expressed concern over the siting of a reservists' training camp close to the South Ossetian conflict zone. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity similarly told journalists last week that the existence of the camp in Dzevera called into question the sincerity of Georgia's commitment to demilitarizing the conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported on 14 April. LF

OSCE HEAD MEETS WITH KYRGYZ ACTING PRESIDENT
OSCE Chairman in Office and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel met with Kyrgyz acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev in Bishkek on 18 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The two discussed a joint OSCE-Kyrgyz plan to maintain stability in Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE reported in a press release on 18 April. The press release quoted Rupel as saying, "The workplan we have developed together with the Kyrgyz authorities focuses on such short-term priority areas as maintaining law and order, election assistance, media freedom, and business development. In the longer-term, we aim to concentrate on the rule of law, education, borders, and cross-border cooperation, as well as economic development." Addressing the issue of upcoming 10 July presidential elections, Rupel said, "I am confident that Kyrgyzstan will hold fair and transparent elections, and that the OSCE will further this process," akipress.org reported. But Omurbek Tekebaev, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, sounded a different note during his meeting with Rupel, commenting, "We fear that the presidential elections will be extremely uneasy and the source of significant unpleasantness," RFE/RL reported. DK

RUSSIAN ENVOY IN KYRGYZSTAN CAUTIONS AGAINST 'PANIC'
Yevgenii Shmagin, Russia's ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, issued an appeal on 18 April to ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan to remain calm in the face of reports of anti-Russian propaganda, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The appeal noted, "Rumors of incitement to the division of property and ethnic strife have recently sparked concern among the population of Bishkek and the entire country.... I appeal to you, respected fellow countrymen, to remain calm and resist panic. We are confident that the amicable Kyrgyz people, with their natural wisdom and farsightedness, will deal honorably with these temporary difficulties." The Russian Embassy confirmed that recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan has led many ethnic Russians to consider emigration. The embassy's migration department processed 50-70 people a day in early March, but now processes 250-270 people a day, RFE/RL reported. DK

GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN...
Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 18 April in the course of an official visit to Uzbekistan, Uzbek Television reported. Their talks focused on trade issues. Noghaideli said, "we discussed such economic issues as transport corridors between Uzbekistan and Georgia and trade. Trade between the two countries doubled in 2004 compared with 2003." According to Uzbek TV's second channel, 2003 bilateral trade volume was $10 million, rising to $22.3 million in 2004. DK

...BUT CUTS VISIT SHORT
Noghaideli cut short his two-day visit to Uzbekistan, flying home ahead of schedule on the night of 18 April, RIA-Novosti reported. Before departing, he told journalists that Uzbekistan will not take part in the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) summit in Moldova on 22 April. Noghaideli noted, however, that "this will not in any way influence Georgian-Uzbek relations." DK

ANTITERROR TRIAL STARTS IN UZBEK CAPITAL
Twenty defendants went on trial in Tashkent on 18 April on various terror-related charges, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. The defendants, most in their early to mid-20s, were arrested in September 2004. They face charges ranging from membership in banned extremist organizations to murder, the latter charge coming in connection with alleged indirect involvement in terror attacks in 1999 and 2004. Farida Rahimova, a lawyer for the defendants, called the charges baseless. Although the trial is officially open, no journalists were allowed into the courtroom, RFE/RL reported. DK

OSCE HEAD IN BELARUS REGRETS CLOSING OF INDEPENDENT POLLING INSTITUTE
The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Minsk, Ambassador Eberhard Heyken, has expressed regret over the 15 April decision by the Belarusian Supreme Court to close the Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI), Belapan news agency reported on 18 April. NISEPI was closed down for administrative violations of the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). "It is extremely regrettable that the NISEPI has been forced into liquidation.... The founders of the institute have always attached great importance to scientific independence and, until the liquidation, a certain freedom from censorship has guaranteed the professional objectivity of the surveys," Heyken said. RK

BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HITS BACK AT EU
Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau told reporters in Minsk on 18 April that the European Union is conducting a policy of double standards towards his country, Belapan reported. Martynau was referring to a strongly worded statement issued by the EU's Luxembourg presidency on 16 April condemning Belarus's slide into "dictatorship"(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). Martynau said the policy pursued by the EU regarding Belarus since 1997 has "proved inefficient," and the EU should stop looking at Belarus "through a distorted lens." Instead of teaching Belarus how to live, the EU should better focus its attention on certain member states where "25 percent of the population are not citizens," and where pro-Nazi sentiments are encouraged, he added, apparently referring to the Baltic states. RK

UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY MIGHT CALL IN KUCHMA FOR QUESTIONING...
Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko is considering calling in former President Leonid Kuchma for questioning if Russia confirms that Ihor Bakay, the former head of the presidential property office, held Russian citizenship while serving in the post, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.ua.com) reported on 18 April. According to Ukrainian law, only a Ukrainian citizen can hold such a position. Bakay is accused of large-scale misuse of government funds and of illegally selling state property. On 17 April, Lutsenko told Channel 5 that Bakay has been summoned to appear for questioning at his office but did not appear. Bakay is said to be living and working in Russia. RK

...AS NEW LIST OF OFFICIALS WANTED FOR QUESTIONING ISSUED
The Interior Ministry press service has announced that an additional list of former high-level government officials wanted for questioning has been compiled, "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 18 April. The list includes, among others, former Central Election Commission head Serhiy Kivalov, former Transcarpathian Oblast Governor Ivan Rizak, former Sumy Oblast Governor Volodymyr Shcherban, and Kherson Oblast council head Volodymyr Khodakovskyy. All are being asked to testify in connection with cases of suspected large-scale fraud in their regions. RK

NATO GIVES BOSNIAN SERB MILITARY AN ULTIMATUM...
U.S. Brigadier General Steven Schook, who heads NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, said on 18 April that Republika Srpska Defense Minister Milovan Stankovic has 48 hours to give NATO a "complete report" on an incident at the Manjaca and Bileca barracks on 16 April, in which an unspecified number of army inductees took an oath to the Republika Srpska rather than to Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Stankovic subsequently asked the General Staff in Banja Luka to identify those responsible for the incident and consider appropriate punishment, including discharges from the army. He said, however, that the army "cannot influence the emotions of the families and friends of young soldiers." Several people attending the induction ceremony wore T-shirts with pictures of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, both of whom are fugitive war crimes indictees. The opposition League of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) led by Milorad Dodik said in a statement that Stankovic should resign and the draft be abolished. PM

...AND A WARNING
General Schook said in Sarajevo on 18 April that "the act of breaking a law of the state, particularly by a military organization, is one of the worst things that can happen within an institution within government," dpa reported. He added that he is "extremely disappointed that obstructionist elements within the [Republika Srpska] are still able to influence the military of the entity." The general warned that the incident could affect whether Bosnia-Herzegovina is admitted to NATO's Partnership for Peace program at the 20-21 April NATO meeting in Vilnius. Bosnia's membership in that program has been held up by the refusal of some of the Bosnian Serb security forces to join Bosnia-wide bodies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2005). NATO says it will deal only with unified military and security structures. Of all countries in the western Balkans, only Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro have not been admitted to the NATO program (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002 and 28 May 2004). PM

BOSNIAN SERB INDICTEE PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' IN THE HAGUE
Former Bosnian Serb Colonel Vujadin Popovic told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 18 April that he is "not guilty" of any of the charges against him stemming from his alleged role in the 1995 massacre of up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2005). PM

EU WARNS SERBIA THAT IT MUST STEP UP COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Belgrade on 18 April that Serbia and Montenegro must make "significant progress" in the coming weeks in cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if it hopes to begin negotiations with the EU leading to a Stabilization and Association Agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 April 2005). Rehn apparently sought to warn Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other leaders against complacency following the recent publication of a European Commission report recommending that such talks begin. PM

MACEDONIAN ROMA PROTEST EXPECTED ARREST OF LEADER
Supporters of Amdi Bajram, who is the mayor-elect of the overwhelmingly Romany district of Suto Orizari in Skopje, blocked a major road intersection outside the Supreme Court in the capital for a second day on 18 April, the private A1 TV reported. Bajram's followers demanded that the Supreme Court review the verdict of a lower court, which sentenced him to four years in prison in connection with a large-scale theft in 2003. Shortly after his election as mayor, the Justice Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Bajram, which effectively bars him from taking office. In light of the protests, police have apparently hesitated to arrest Bajram (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January and 19 March 2003 and 14 April 2005). By blocking this particular intersection, the Roma managed to paralyze much of the traffic in Skopje. UB

UN FORENSICS TEAM INVESTIGATES CAVE IN KOSOVA
An unspecified number of members of a UN forensics team began excavating a cave 60 kilometers west of Prishtina on 18 April, Reuters reported. The cave is believed to hold a mass grave of Serbs killed by ethnic Albanian insurgents during the 1998-99 conflict. Some 3,000 people are still classified as missing from that war, 2,400 of whom are Albanians, including several hundred who were taken to Serbia for burial in mass graves there. PM

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADER RESIGNS AS CHISINAU MAYOR TO TAKE PARLIAMENTARY SEAT
Serafim Urechean resigned as mayor of Chisinau on 18 April, choosing instead to take up his seat in the newly elected parliament, ITAR-TASS and Infotag reported the same day. Moldovan law prohibits him from holding both positions simultaneously. "I decided to leave the mayor's post and head the opposition, as I believe I will thus do more good for the voters and for all the citizens," Urechean said. In parliament, Urechean will head the Our Moldova Alliance, the largest opposition faction with 23 seats in the 101-member parliament. Urechean did not rule out running for Chisinau mayor in the future. "I will take citizens' advice, as no one can prohibit me running for the mayor's post again," said Urechean, who had held mayor's post from 1995. Urechean's Democratic Moldova Bloc (BMD) won 34 seats in Moldova's 6 March elections, but 11 of its members have since defected. BW

MOLDOVAN DEPUTY AGRICULTURE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN MEAT BAN WILL NOT HARM ECONOMY
Anatol Spivacenco said Moscow's ban on Moldovan meat imports will not affect his country's economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005), Infotag reported on 18 April. Moldova has not been exporting poultry to Russia, exports very little pork, and just some 3,000-4,000 tons of beef a year, "so Moscow's restrictions will not tell on us in any way," Spivacenco said. He also denied that Moldova had been exporting meat to Russia from third countries. He added, however, that officials in the breakaway Transdniester region, which is governed by pro-Moscow authorities, might be involved in such activities. "I guess the Russian side regards Transdniestrian meat exporters as Moldovans as well," Spivacenco said. "Transdniestrian companies use all kinds of dubious ways to illegally export meat on behalf of Moldova." BW

MOLDOVAN COURT EXTENDS EX-DEFENSE MINISTER'S DETENTION
A Chisinau court extended the pretrial detention of former Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat for an additional 25 days, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. Pasat's initial period of pretrial custody was scheduled to end on 21 April. Pasat's attorney Gheorghe Amihalachioaie said his client is in poor health and should be released after signing a pledge not to leave Chisinau. On 18 March, prosecutors filed abuse-of-office charges against Pasat over the 1997 sale of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States. They filed additional charges on 22 March related to the sale of Uragan rocket systems for a price less than their market value (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 March 2005). BW

REGIME CHANGE ON THE CHEAP
A persistent impression in the non-Western media is that the U.S. government along with a group of Western foundations financed the recent revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Georgia by funneling money to the revolutions' most activist element, young people. In many cases, the press has exaggerated the level of direct foreign funding available to youth movements such as Serbia's Otpor, Georgia's Kmara, and Ukraine's Pora. Western organizations such as the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and International Republican Institute did provide direct funding to youth organizations -- though the amounts were not tens of millions, but tens of thousands of dollars.

Of all the youth groups, Serbia's Otpor was perhaps the biggest beneficiary. Writing in the book "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict" (Palgrave: 2001), Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall conclude that Otpor managed to do what previous Serbian opposition groups could not, tap into financial or material support from the international community by professing a philosophy of nonviolence. The U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the authors, provided the bulk of financing for Otpor's ubiquitous stickers and T-shirts bearing the message "He's finished," among others. The Soros Foundation also provided monies to Otpor.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded by the U.S. Congress through the State Department authorizations bill, granted Otpor more than $282,000 directly in the year 2000 alone, according to NED records. This money was earmarked to establish new Otpor branches and offices in towns and cities throughout Serbia and for a bus tour to encourage voter participation in the September 2000 presidential elections. Also in 2000, the International Republican Institute received $74,735 from NED to assist Otpor in establishing a central office in Belgrade and offices in three other Serbian cities, according to the NED.

Two earlier grants worth almost $125,000 to the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe on behalf of the Student Union of Serbia also likely benefited Otpor indirectly. They were designed to "encourage greater student involvement in the nationwide anti-Milosevic movement by organizing a university protest campaign," according to an NED project description. By the end of October 2000, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was out of power, and even if no direct link could be established between stickers, T-shirts, new offices, and regime change.

In the run up to the Georgian parliamentary elections in November 2003, Western foundations and the U.S. government decided to put their money into upgrading the country's election system rather than channeling it directly to youth groups, such as Kmara. After the toppling of Milosevic, the Russian and Georgian press had heightened suspicions about the role the United States and international financier/philanthropist George Soros might play in Georgian politics. The Georgian newspaper "Tribuna" in two articles on 5 and 12 May 2003 claimed that Soros was financing Kmara. A month later, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze lashed out during a weekly radio interview at an "international organization" for providing support for "antigovernment forces." According to Rustavi-2, Shevardnadze aides later confirmed that the president was referring to the Open Society Georgia Foundation. Soros telephoned Shevardnadze soon after that to reassure him that he was not interfering in Georgia's democratic process.

Nevertheless, the belief that Soros bankrolled Kmara has persisted. "Novye izvestiya" reported on 28 November 2003 that its sources confirmed that "Soros invested $5 million in Kmara." However, the Soros Foundation's entire budget for all of its programs in Georgia that year amounted to only $4.6 million, and none of that money went directly to Kmara, according to Laura Silber, senior policy adviser for the foundation. The foundation's programs in Georgia that year included projects on education, public health, legal reform, and media support. Voter education, voter participation, and exit-polling projects were a key focus, and some of these efforts included things like holding get-out-the-vote soccer games, which drew young participants.

In 2004, during Ukraine's presidential election campaign the supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko accused each other of receiving money from other countries, Yanukovych from Russia and Yushchenko from the United States. The youth movement Pora, which opposed Yanukovych but did not formally support Yushchenko, was accused not only of accepting U.S. financing but of being created by Western intelligence services. In an interview with the "2000" newspaper on 21 January 2005, Vladyslav Kaskiv, a Pora coordinator, denied that international organizations had anything to do with the process of providing training or education to Pora members. Kaskiv also categorically denied that the Soros Foundation gave them any money. "If there had been Western support, I personally would not have seen anything bad about it," he said "And Pora would have accepted it with great delight." But he said the Soros Foundation in Ukraine categorically refused. For its part, the NED provided more than $240,000 for projects "to mobilize Ukrainian youth to greater political participation" from 2001-04, according to NED records, but it also did not contribute money directly to Pora. Another program to encourage young people to vote netted more than $100,000 in 2004 alone.

Shortly after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, the Russian weekly "Itogi," No. 51, in 2004 asked NED Director for Central Europe and Eurasia Nadia Diuk what role her organization played in the recent events in Kyiv. She answered: "We have been working in Ukraine since 1989. As in Russia, our programs there have a limited character. In the current situation in Ukraine we are occupied with monitoring the election, conducting parallel vote counts and exit polls. But you know, neither our modest organization nor all of the Western foundations together could bring a million people out on the streets. Ukrainian freedom like any other has a local origin. You can't import freedom and the struggle for it. Would hundreds of thousands of Muscovites really come out for a meeting with Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Sakharov for money?"

Despite the perception of the losers of regime change in CIS countries that Western governments and foundations have been distressingly successful in their countries, the trend for spending in the area of democracy promotion is downward. For example, the NED's funding, except in the Middle East, has remained flat for the past two years, while separate democracy-building programs have been slashed by 38 percent in Eastern Europe and 46 percent in the former Soviet Union under the current U.S. administration, according to "The Washington Post" on 18 March. Similarly, U.S. Agency for International Development spending on democracy and governance programs was virtually unchanged from two years earlier, if you take away spending on Iraq and Afghanistan. While the pace of regime change in Eurasia may have picked up speed in the past two years, it's not clear that U.S. funds were the accelerating force.

AFGHAN OPPOSITION LEADER DISCUSSES POLITICAL OBJECTIVES
Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, the leader of newly formed National Understanding Front (Jabha-ye Tafahom-e Melli, JTM), told the "Kabul Times" on 17 April that the opposition alliance is "aiming to bring better socioeconomic, political, and cultural life" for the Afghan people (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 April 2005). The JTM intends to win the "majority of seats" in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Qanuni told the Kabul daily. Calling the formation of political parties a "positive sociopolitical step," Qanuni said that moving his country toward a civil society would not be possible without the existence of political parties. Afghan President Hamid Karzai does not belong to a political party and has not held such institutions in high regard. Qanuni said he hopes that the parliamentary elections will be free of a "repetition of signs of fraud" and the "bitter experiences" of the October presidential election. Qanuni, who came second to Karzai in the presidential race, lodged protests afterward about improprieties in the election (for more on the Afghan elections, see http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/). AT

NORTHERN AFGHAN POLITICAL PARTY OFFICIALLY REGISTERED
Junbish-e Melli-ye Islam-ye Afghanistan (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) was officially registered on 17 April with the Afghan Justice Ministry, Jowzjan Aina TV reported. Junbish, as the party is best-known in Afghanistan, was founded by former Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who led the party until 17 April when he resigned to officially assume his post as Karzai's chief of staff of the high command of Afghanistan's armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). Party spokesman Fayzollah Zaki said that until Junbish convenes its congress, First Deputy Chairman Sayyed Nurollah will act as chairman, Kabul daily "Arman-e Melli" reported on 18 April. Dostum, running as an independent candidate in the presidential elections, received 10 percent of the vote and finished fourth. The party, which had its own militia, has officially declared itself disarmed but still unofficially maintains a considerable number of military and paramilitary units, armed mostly with small arms and light weapons. AT

NEO-TALIBAN COMMANDER REPORTEDLY KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Oruzgan Province Governor Jan Mohammad Khan said on 18 April that government forces have killed a "prominent" neo-Taliban commander while arresting another, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Jan Mohammad identified the slain commander as Mullah Sardar Mohammad and the one arrested as "Malollah." He said that two soldiers were wounded in the incident. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifollah Hakimi told AIP on 18 April that four government solders and two militiamen were killed in the Oruzgan clash but he did not elaborate on the identities of the neo-Taliban members killed in action. AT

OPPOSITION COMMANDER SURRENDERS TO GOVERNMENT IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Commander Mohammad Aref on 18 April vowed to stop antigovernment activities and surrendered to the authorities in Konar Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. Konar Governor Asadollah Wafa said that Mohammad Aref contacted him after another commander identified as Najmoddin decided to stop his antigovernment activities. Mohammad Aref was affiliated with Mohammad Yunos Khales' Hizb-e Islami, one of the mujahedin parties that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. After his disavowal of violence, he was released, the report added. AT

HUNDREDS ARRESTED IN IRAN FOR RIOTING, ARAB TV BANNED...
Iranian authorities have arrested more than 360 people in southwestern Khuzestan Province, bordering Iraq, after riots on 15 April by ethnic Arabs killed between three and 20 people, news agencies reported on 18 and 19 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). Unconfirmed reports cited on 19 April by Radio Farda have cited 20 dead and hundreds injured in riots the Iranian government has blamed on unnamed opponents. It has temporarily banned broadcasts by the Arabic-language satellite-television station Al-Jazeera, which is popular among local Arabs, accusing it of fanning the unrest, AP reported on 18 April. Al-Jazeera was the first to report the violence, AP reported. The riots were apparently triggered by a letter, allegedly signed by a former vice president, urging provincial relocations potentially detrimental to the local Arab population, though the official concerned has denied he signed the letter. A local observer, Yusif Azizi Beni Teif, told Radio Farda on 19 April that locals were already resentful of "national and class injustice, and poverty around Abadan and Ahvaz, which are mainly Arab." The situation is now calm, AP quoted Jahanbakhsh Khanjani of the Interior Ministry as saying on 18 April. VS

...AS INTELLIGENCE MINISTER WARNS OF PLOTS
Iranian Intelligence and Security Minister Ali Yunesi said at a gathering of district governors in Tehran on 18 April that unspecified enemies and domestic opponents are using many methods, in vain, to undermine the Iranian state, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 19 April. He accused "some people" of turning ethnic dissatisfaction into "political demands, as has happened in Khuzestan." Unnamed opponents are making false allegations about the government, and "presenting political problems as intractable." Certain "people try and get arrested in order to become famous. The Intelligence Ministry...is aware of [their] motives...and will not be trapped. False revelations, spreading rumors, and encouraging people" not to vote in the June presidential elections are "other ways of toppling a system, though this does not work" in Iran, he said. "We have separatist and suspect moves under observation, and can confidently say, do not worry. The enemy has no power to provoke a crisis in collaboration with domestic opponents." Presidential elections, he vowed, will be held amid "maximum security," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. In Ilam Province, near Khuzestan, prospective reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi warned supporters on 18 April that "hidden hands," are threatening Iranian unity and territorial integrity, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 19 April. VS

IRANIAN STUDENTS COMPLAIN OF RENEWED CRACKDOWN
Sa'id Habibi, a member of the Office for Strengthening Unity (DTV), an umbrella student group, was recently arrested, and reportedly charged with making statements hostile to Iranian government officials, Radio Farda reported on 19 April. The DTV's public relations chief, Reza Delbari, told Radio Farda this is intended to put pressure on potentially disaffected students before the June presidential election. The government, he said, wants "elections with maximum turnout" and intends "to respond to those it feels may cause problems in that respect." Akbar Atri, another DTV member, said more arrests might follow, Radio Farda reported on 19 April. The DTV issued a statement in Tehran on 19 April calling the June polls a mere "display" and "undemocratic," Radio Farda reported. Voting, it stated, would merely "legitimize" the "exclusive" conduct of Iranian "power centers." Iranian politicians have urged Iranians to vote and unite in the face of international pressures. But the student group said that elections that "do not lead to democracy" will "not only not prevent foreign interference" but destroy domestic hopes for change, and make people look "outward." VS

EU LAWMAKERS DISCUSS RIGHTS IN TEHRAN
A three-member delegation from the European Parliament is in Tehran to discuss international affairs and rights-related issues with Iranian officials, apparently with few significant results, Radio Farda and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 19 April. Angelika Beer, a German Green party member of the European Parliament, said in Tehran on 18 April that the team asked Iranian officials questions on detained web-based writers and dissidents, "but we received no reply in that respect. We are to receive replies through correspondence with Iranian officials," "Aftab-i Yazd" quoted her as saying. Regarding press restrictions, she said, "We hope there will be changes in the future, but we are not so optimistic at present." The lawmakers "referred to specific people, and we wanted to meet with them in prison, but this did not happen," she said, though she said the talks were "very good." The EU cannot ignore human rights while negotiating with Iran over nuclear power and its joining the World Trade Organization, she said. The EU is trying to talk with Iran on human rights "cautiously and with sensitivity," she added. VS

IRAQI MILITANT ATTACKS KILL AT LEAST NINE PEOPLE
Insurgent attacks on Iraqi forces on 19 April killed at least nine people and wounded 42, international news agencies reported, citing police and hospital officials. In the town of Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, militants fired on Iraqi National Guard members, killing at least five people and wounding four. In Baghdad's Athamiyah district, a suicide car bomb killed four Iraqi National Guardsmen and wounded at least 38 people. On 18 April, Major General Adnan Midhish Kharagoli, an adviser to Iraq's defense minister, was killed together with his nephew when gunmen burst into his home in Baghdad, Reuters reported the same day. Also on 18 April, twin blasts struck an oil pipeline near the city of Kirkuk. BW

IRAQI OFFICIALS ACCUSE SHI'A OF EXAGGERATING HOSTAGE CRISIS
Iraqi government officials accused Shi'ite leaders of exaggerating the scale of a three-day hostage crisis in the city of Mada'in in an attempt to gain political leverage over Sunni rivals, Reuters reported on 18 April. "The number of hostages has been greatly exaggerated," Major General Adnan Thabet said. "Mada'in was just blown out of proportion. It's a mixed community with problems that are tribal matters. But you've got outside forces, some of them on the political side, who were exploiting the situation," he added. Sabah Kadhim, an adviser to the interior minister, said it was possible some people had been held hostage in Mada'in, noting that criminals and insurgent groups were active there, but he said it is extremely unlikely that 150 were ever abducted. A three-day crisis ensued following reports that Sunni gunmen took as many as 150 hostages in Mada'in on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). BW

MAIN IRAQI SHI'ITE BLOC SAYS SADDAM MUST BE EXECUTED
The United Iraq Alliance (UIA), Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite bloc, wants former President Saddam Hussein put to death if he is convicted of war crimes by a special tribunal, AP reported on 18 April. "We feel he is a criminal. He is the No. 1 criminal in the world. He is a murderer," Ali al-Dabagh, a UIA deputy and spokesman, said. "He deserves a trial, and he should be subjected to the law and the court. Whatever the decision, everyone should follow it, even if the president says he cannot sign it." In an interview with the BBC on 18 April, President Jalal Talabani said he would not sign a death warrant for Hussein, but conceded that he would not be able to block an execution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005). Al-Dabagh said Talabani "is now the president, and he should follow the law. If he doesn't want to sign it, then he should resign the presidency." BW

REMAINS OF 43 KUWAITIS FOUND IN IRAQ
The remains of at least 43 Kuwaitis captured during the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait have been found in Iraq, dpa reported on 18 April, citing Kuwait's KUNA news agency. The remains of 13 other people thought to be Kuwaitis are also being examined for identification. The remains of 41 Kuwaitis were found in three mass graves in Al-Amarah, and remains of two others were found in graves in Al-Basrah, Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin said. Forensic experts had previously identified the remains of 190 Kuwaiti prisoners of war. An estimated 400, including third-country nationals who were working in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion, remain unaccounted for. BW

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