RUSSIA, CHINA, AND INDIA AGREE ON CLOSER FOREIGN POLICY AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following his talks in Vladivostok on 2 June with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh that the three sides have agreed to strengthen cooperation on a wide range of international and regional issues, ptv.ru and other Russian media reported. "We are increasing the practical cooperation of the three states in combating new threats and challenges, including international terrorism, drug trafficking, and other forms of organized crime," RIA-Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying. "We also agreed to back the political dialogues by increasing economic cooperation, especially in the energy, transport, and hi-tech [sectors]." Singh noted that Russia is one of the largest global producers of oil and gas, while India and China are two of the largest consumers of energy in Asia. On 1 June, Lavrov met separately in Vladivostok with Li to discuss Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Russia this summer, Xinhua news agency reported. VY
RATIFICATION OF CHINESE-BORDER AGREEMENT COMPLETED
President Vladimir Putin on 1 June signed off on the legislature's ratification of a border agreement with China that was signed on 14 October 2004, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. China's national legislature approved the agreement on 30 May, the agency reported. The agreement establishes the border between the two countries in the area near Khabarovsk, ending a decades-long dispute. RC
LAWMAKER SAYS G-8 NEEDS RUSSIA MORE THAN RUSSIA NEEDS G-8
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia) said on 1 June after meeting with a U.S. Congressional delegation that if the Group of Eight (G-8) leading industrialized countries expels Russia, "it will lose more than Russia will," RTR reported. Kosachev criticized U.S. Representative Tom Lantos (Democrat, California), one of the initiators of a recent drive in Congress to expel Russia from the G-8 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). "Russia's membership in the G-8 is not an award for its achievements, but reflects recognition by the world's industrialized nations that the solution of global problems is impossible without Russia," Kosachev said. VY
U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY PUSHES TRADE WITH RUSSIA
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said on 31 May in Moscow that Russia must establish clear regulations and apply them consistently if it wants to attract foreign investment, mosnews.com reported. Gutierrez was addressing U.S. and Russian businessmen following his talks with Russian officials about the expansion of bilateral trade, especially in the energy sector. Gutierrez said U.S. exports to Russia increased by 20 percent last year but could be even greater. Gutierrez said 80 percent of all business software in Russia is pirated and stressed the need to crack down on violations of intellectual-property rights. "Violators need to face prohibitive financial penalties and real jail time," he said. Meanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev said on 31 May that U.S. oil-and-gas majors Chevron and ExxonMobil will have priority over other potential bidders for a 49-percent stake in the new Sakhalin-3 oilfield-development project off the coast of Sakhalin, mosnews.com reported. VY
ANALYST SAYS KHODORKOVSKII POISED TO BECOME CENTRAL OPPOSITION FIGURE...
Stanislav Belkovskii, former director of the National Strategy Institute, said during a 31 May interview with Rosbalt that the harsh sentence handed down to Mikhail Khodorkovskii has completely transformed the Yukos founder into a political figure. "Khodorkovskii's position is unique as he is completely independent from the Kremlin and its political network and, therefore, can be a uniting, central figure for genuine opposition, " Belkovskii said. VY
...SAYS KREMLIN MAY BARGAIN OVER KHODORKOVSKII PARDON...
In the same interview, analyst Belkovskii said he does not believe any sanctions will be imposed on Russia regardless of support for Khodorkovskii in the West. However, he said President Putin understands that his image abroad has been damaged by the Yukos affair, and this will likely lead him to pardon Khodorkovskii eventually. Belkovskii also said he believes that the harsh sentence against Khodorkovskii was a tactical move by the authorities, reasoning, "If Khodorkovskii received a milder term, he would have less stimulus to ask for a pardon." Meanwhile, Genrikh Padva, one of Khodorkovskii's lawyers, said in a 1 June interview with Ekho Moskvy that a pardon is not an option for the defense team. "We have never even raised this issue with Khodorkovskii," Padva said. After the verdict, Khodorkovskii said through his lawyers that he considers himself innocent. VY
...AND DISCUSSES HIS OWN ROLE IN YUKOS AFFAIR
Belkovskii, who in 2003 published a report alleging that the country's oligarchs -- including Khodorkovskii -- were organizing a coup that would consolidate their political position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May and 30 July 2003), answered questions on 1 June regarding the impact the report may have had on the Yukos case. "I just formulated what could happen based on the facts available to me, and had Yukos's management listened to this prognosis, Khodorkovskii's case might never have happened," he said. Belkovskii added that he is convinced that the Yukos affair has more to do with property redistribution than politics, because politically the case has brought nothing but harm to the Kremlin. VY
PUTIN SIGNS LAWS ON STATE LANGUAGE, PRIME MINISTER'S CITIZENSHIP
President Putin on 2 June signed a new law establishing Russian as the state language throughout the territory of the Russian Federation, Russian media reported. The law was passed by the Duma on 20 May and by the Federation Council on 25 May. It is a revised version of a bill that has been working its way through the legislature since February 2003, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin the same day signed into law an amendment to the law on the formation of the Russian government that makes it illegal for the prime minister to be a citizen of any country other than Russia. RC
BUDGET SEES HUGE JUMP IN REVENUES
Federal budget revenues for the first quarter of this year exceeded predictions by 50 percent, an unidentified government source told ITAR-TASS on 1 June. Total revenues in the period were nearly 1.2 trillion rubles ($40 billion). The source said the reasons for the jump in revenues include improved revenue collection by tax authorities, the payment of tax arrears by Sibneft and several unspecified enterprises in Bashkortostan, and the collection of 267.3 billion rubles in penalties from Yukos. The news agency's source said that 76 percent of the excess revenues will be earmarked for social spending, including 8 billion rubles that will be allocated for increasing salaries for state-sector workers. RC
GOVERNOR SAYS POOR INFRASTRUCTURE HAMPERS DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
Lipetsk Oblast Governor Oleg Korolev met on 1 June with President Putin and told him that infrastructure problems are hampering his region's efforts to achieve the president's stated goal of doubling GDP by 2010, ITAR-TASS reported. "We can double GDP, but insufficient infrastructure pulls us backward," Korolev said. He said the need to improve highways, railroads, and energy efficiency is particularly acute. RC
NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK MEMBERS TO FACE TERRORISM CHARGES
An unspecified number of activists of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) in Novosibirsk are facing charges of illegally keeping explosives and of preparing terrorist acts, the local Federal Security Service (FSB) office revealed on 2 June, Interfax reported. According to earlier media reports, two NBP members were arrested in the Siberian city on 12 May after a cache containing four artillery shells and other explosives was discovered on 9 May. Additional explosives were reportedly found at the homes of the suspects. Authorities have declined to specify whether more suspects have been arrested since that time, but a police press release said charges have been filed against "a group of people." According to the FSB, the suspects have confessed that they assembled the explosives themselves and were conducting tests of them. Officials allege the activists intended to commit a series of terrorist acts, including explosions at government and law enforcement installations, including the local headquarters of the FSB. According to RIA-Novosti on 2 June, the local branch of the NBP has denied that any of its members have been arrested and described the FSB statements as "a provocation." RC
YABLOKO OFFICIAL LASHES OUT AT NASHI
Yabloko deputy head Sergei Mitrokhin on 1 June responded to media reports that leaders of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi had met secretly in the Kremlin with President Putin by saying the state is "playing with fire," Ekho Moskvy reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). "The Nashi movement has nothing to do with youth policy," Mitrokhin said. "It's about creating an army along the lines of the Red Guards formed by Mao Tse-tung in his time. The Nashi movement is very dangerous. It is a case of the state creating a neofascist movement and playing with fire, because with time this movement can simply come to power and settle accounts not only with the authorities' current political opponents, but with those people in power who are feeding it today." Nashi co-leader Vasilii Yakemenko told the radio station that the meeting with Putin did indeed take place and said, "I think and I hope that this will not be our last meeting with the president." RC
GAZPROM TO SWALLOW UP PRESTIGIOUS DAILY?
Gazprom-Media is in talks with Prof-Media, the media holding arm of oligarch Vladimir Potanin's Interros group, to purchase a controlling stake in the daily newspaper "Izvestiya," "Vedomosti" and other Russian media reported on 2 June. According to gazeta.ru, the talks involve a 50.17 percent stake in the newspaper and they are nearly completed. The website further reported that if Gazprom-Media takes over "Izvestiya," Oleg Kuzin will be named its editor in chief. Kuzin is currently the editor of "Tribuna," a daily owned by Gazprom-Media. Gazprom-Media is one of Russia's largest media groups, controlling the NTV and TNT television stations, Ekho Moskvy, and numerous other media properties. RC
RUSSIA HAS HIGHEST NUMBER OF ABORTIONS, HOMELESS CHILDREN IN EUROPE
Vladimir Kulakov, director of the Obstetrics Center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, told journalists on International Children's Day on 1 June that Russia's abortion rate is among the highest in the world and exceeds abortion rates in other European countries by several times, inforos.ru reported. There are nearly 2 million abortions performed in Russia every year, while there are only about 1.5 million births, he said. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev told the Duma on 1 June that Russia is currently experiencing the largest rise in its number of homeless children since the civil war of 1918-24 and World War II, NTV reported. Even by conservative estimates, Russia has 700,000 homeless children, 2 million illiterate teenagers, and 6 million juveniles in troubled families, Nurgaliev said. VY
BESLAN HOSTAGE TAKER TESTIFIES
At his ongoing trial at North Ossetia's Supreme Court, Nurpasha Kulaev, the only one of the Beslan hostage takers to be taken alive, said on 1 June that the hostage takers' commander, whose nom de guerre was "the Colonel," had orders to release 300 of their captives if the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, Aleksandr Dzasokhov and Murat Zyazikov, had come to negotiate with them as requested, izvestia.ru reported. Kulaev also told the court that the 3 September explosion in the school gymnasium that gave rise to the storming of the building was triggered by a sniper shooting one of the hostage takers, not by negligence on the part of the latter. LF
CHECHEN FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER, FORMER GROZNY MAYOR TRADE ACCUSATIONS
Beslan Gantamirov, who from 2000 to 2003 occupied a series of senior leadership posts in Chechnya, has appealed to the Russian leadership to protect him and his relatives from blackmail and reprisals by the security police regiment loyal to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, kavkazweb.net reported on 31 May, quoting "Kommersant-Daily." Gantamirov said he believes the pressure exerted on him and his family is intended to dissuade him from participating in the parliamentary ballot tentatively scheduled for late November. On 1 June, Kadyrov responded by accusing Gantamirov of helping Chechen resistance forces to leave Grozny in early 2000. He said Gantamirov has maintained contact with the resistance ever since, and added that a criminal case has been opened against Gantamirov, who is accused of stealing four automobiles while serving as press and information minister. LF
NEW CHECHEN MUFTI ELECTED
Chechnya's imams elected Sultan Mirzaev on 31 May to succeed Akhmed-hadji Shamaev as Chechnya's mufti, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Mirzaev, who is 41, previously served as Shamaev's first deputy. Shamaev resigned last week, promising to explain his rationale for doing so at a later date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2005), but he has not yet done so. Chechen government officials say he did so for health reasons, but at the same time hinted that many people do not respect him. Interfax on 27 May quoted Shamaev as saying some people think he should have intervened more forcefully with the pro-Moscow Chechen government to prevent reprisals against the civilian population. LF
POLISH JOURNALISTS DETAINED IN INGUSHETIA
FSB officials detained three Polish journalists in Ingushetia for 14 hours before releasing them, but have not returned 18 videocassettes with footage of Ingushetia, AP reported on 1 June, quoting the Polish Embassy in Moscow. The journalists all had valid visas and accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry. LF
AZERBAIJANI RULING, OPPOSITION PARTIES RESUME TALKS
Representatives of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) and four prominent opposition parties resumed on 1 June the talks they started on 4 May, Azerbaijani media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 May 2005). Opposition representatives told journalists after the meeting, which lasted between two and three hours, that their interlocutors refused to discuss either of the two main issues on the agenda: amending the election legislation to give the opposition greater representation on election commissions, and guaranteeing freedom of assembly. They said the YAP leadership proposed raising the first of those issues in parliament (where the opposition has only a handful of the 125 mandates), and the second with the Baku municipal authorities, which have not yet responded to the opposition's request for permission to stage a mass rally in the city on 4 June. LF
U.S. SENATOR MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT
Senator Charles Hagel (Republican, Nebraska) met in Baku on 1 June with President Ilham Aliyev to discuss domestic political, economic, and security issues, Trend News agency reported on 1 June. Hagel told journalists after the meeting that he impressed upon Aliyev the need to ensure that the parliamentary ballot in November is free, fair, and transparent, Turan reported. He stressed that all peoples have the right to freedom of assembly, and expressed the hope that the Azerbaijani authorities will give the green light for the Baku rally planned by the opposition on 4 June, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REVIEWS CANDIDATES TO SERVE ON CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION
Opposition parliament deputies from the Republican and Conservative parties and the Rightist Opposition all announced on 1 June that they will not approve President Mikheil Saakashvili's nominees to the Central Election Commission, Georgian media reported. The Rightist Opposition declined to participate in the vote on those candidacies on the grounds that they all represent the ruling National Movement-Democrats, rustavi2.com reported, while Levan Berdzenishvili (Republican) predicted that if those candidates are confirmed, "future elections will be rigged." The CEC consists of a chairman and six members selected from a shortlist of 12 proposed by President Saakashvili. LF
LEADER PREDICTS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR REPUBLIC OF SOUTH OSSETIA
Speaking on 1 June at a press conference at Interfax headquarters in Moscow, Eduard Kokoity, who is president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, said he believes the region will obtain international recognition de facto and de jure by 2007, RIA Novosti reported. He said after that happens, South Ossetia may merge with North Ossetia and thus become part of the Russian Federation. Kokoity said representatives of South Ossetia and three other unrecognized republics -- Transdniester, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh -- will meet later this month to "coordinate" their future actions, but he added that he thinks holding joint military maneuvers would be counterproductive. Kokoity also said on 1 June that the four Ossetians who died on 29 May when Georgian police opened fire on their car were military officials, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005). Georgian reports on 30 May identified one of the four Ossetians as a wanted criminal. LF
KAZAKH NEWSPAPER SAYS LIBEL DAMAGES PAID
The Kazakh opposition newspaper "Soz" announced in a 1 June press release that it has paid a $38,000 libel judgment with the help of the Journalists in Distress Foundation, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The release noted, "On 31 May, the public association Journalists in Distress transferred 2,077,800 tenges ($15,692) to the National Security Committee (KNB). This is the last transfer under the campaign entitled 'We will not allow the intelligence services to close down Soz!'" A court imposed the libel judgment in late January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2005). DK
KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR-GENERAL WARNS HIGH OFFICIALS
Acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov told a news conference in Bishkek on 1 June that the arrests of high-ranking officials on corruption charges are imminent, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Beknazarov also announced that an arrest warrant has been issued for Adil Toigonbaev, son-in-law of former President Askar Akaev. He also charged that National Bank head Ulan Sarbanov and Medet Sadyrkulov, former head of the presidential administration, gave Akaev $480,000 before the latter's departure in March. Beknazarov said that prosecutors hope to interrogate Akaev, who is currently residing in Russia. The acting prosecutor-general also said that the Kyrgyz government has engaged an international law firm to investigate alleged financial machinations involving the ex-president and his associates. Beknazarov said that one lawyer will receive $500,000 for his services, while another will get 5 percent of whatever pilfered funds he succeeds in returning to the Kyrgyz treasury. DK
RUSSIA, CHINA SAY NO NEW BASES PLANNED FOR KYRGYZSTAN
Speaking after a meeting in Vladivostok on 1 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing denied reports of plans to open a new Russian or Chinese military base in Kyrgyzstan, Kabar reported. Lavrov said that Russia has received no request from Kyrgyzstan to open a new base there, newsru.com reported. Li called reports of a possible Chinese base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 1 June 2005) "paradoxical," Interfax reported. "As concerns a Chinese military contingent, today is the first time I've heard this," Li said, adding, "We never interfere in the internal affairs of other states." DK
RELATIVES OF CONVICTED 'BAYAT' MEMBERS DEMONSTRATE IN TAJIKISTAN
About 50 relatives of seven individuals recently convicted of crimes connected with the Bayat group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2005) held a protest in Chorkuh, 130 kilometers to the east of Khujand, on 1 June, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Two demonstrators who chose to remain anonymous told journalists, "They've falsely claimed that our children are members of Bayat, which is a falsification. There is no Bayat. They invented the Bayat group and put our children in jail." Jurabek Sanginov, the judge who presided over the Bayat case, told RFE/RL that the defendants have appealed their conviction and requested a new investigation into the charges against them. DK
FORMER TURKMEN DEPUTY PREMIER FACES EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES
Turkmen Prosecutor-General Gurbanbibi Atajanova told a cabinet meeting on 31 May that former Deputy Prime Minister Yolly Gurbanmuradov has been charged with embezzling $68 million, turkmenistan.ru reported. The report noted that Gurbanmuradov acquired $23 million in ill-gotten property, including 20 homes and apartments, 18 automobiles (including a Toyota Landcruiser, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler), 450 kilograms of antique Turkmen gold and silver jewelry, 300 items of antique Turkmen women's clothing, 4,580 sheep and goats, and 28 head of cattle. RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported that Atajanova said, "While holding high office, Gurbanmuradov abused his authority through his illegal dealings with corrupt individuals, foreign companies, and the Erko factory. He had criminal ties with these groups, paid large bribes, and used government money for his own purposes. We have opened a major criminal case against him." DK
UZBEK RIGHTS DEFENDERS APPEAL TO UNITED NATIONS
In a statement dated 31 May and published on centrasia.ru on 1 June, the leaders of several human-rights groups in Uzbekistan appealed to the United Nations, OSCE, and the European Union for help against government repression. The statement noted that violence in Andijon on 13 May has been followed by "widespread repressive measures against rights defenders, members of opposition parties, and politically active Uzbek citizens." It said that more than 100 people have been targeted with arrest and harassment, adding that 6,000 people are already in prison for their religious beliefs "on trumped-up charges -- including opposition party members, journalists, writers, and businessmen." The signatories charged President Islam Karimov with responsibility for the repressive policies. Signatories included Surat Ikramov, chairman of the Initiative Group of Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan; Tolib Yakubov, chairman of the Uzbekistan Human Rights Society; Vasila Inoyatova, head of the Ezgulik rights group; and others. DK
WASHINGTON DECRIES SENTENCES AGAINST BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk expressed "grave concern" on 1 June over the sentencing the previous day of Belarusian opposition leaders Mikalay Statkevich and Pavel Sevyarynets to three years of restricted freedom and corrective labor for their roles in protests that followed October's "deeply flawed election and referendum" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005), according to the embassy's website (http://minsk.usembassy.gov). The embassy recalled that Statkevich and Sevyarynets have already been convicted and served jail terms for the same offenses. "Convicting Statkevich and Sevyarynets a second time for exercising their internationally acknowledged rights of expression and assembly is a travesty of justice and a clear abuse of the courts for political purposes," the embassy said, calling on Belarusian authorities to release both convicts immediately. EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said in a statement the same day that "even by the standards of Belarus, this is an excessive penalty" for "nonviolent democratic activity." JM
NEW ASPIRANT SEEKS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION FOR 2006 RACE
Alyaksandr Kazulin, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, has announced his intention to seek democratic forces' nomination to compete in next year's presidential election, Belapan reported on 1 June. In a letter to the Permanent Council of Democratic Forces, Kazulin suggests forming a broad national movement for democratic change by October, conducting an independent poll in November to assess public support for opposition presidential bidders, and holding what he calls a "Belarusian people's assembly" in December to elect a single democratic candidate to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Kazulin said he wants to discuss his proposals with the leaders of "the real political parties," which in his opinion are the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic Party, and the Belarusian Party of Communists. Belarus's major opposition parties originally intended to select a joint presidential nominee by October. Eight others have already declared their intentions to vie for the nomination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005). JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REQUESTS DISMISSAL OF REGIONAL PROSECUTOR OVER BEATING OF LAWMAKERS
The Verkhovna Rada on 1 June adopted a nonbinding resolution recommending that Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun dismiss Transcarpathian Oblast prosecutor Yuriy Bents for the latter's role in the beating of three opposition lawmakers by a police squad in Uzhhorod on 20 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2005), Interfax reported. The same resolution urges law-enforcement authorities to punish all those responsible for the beating of Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) legislators Tamara Proshkuratova, Nestor Shufrych, and Volodymyr Voyush, who tried to prevent the transfer of hospitalized former Transcarpathian Oblast Governor Ivan Rizak to a prison cell. The resolution followed a parliamentary hearing on the Uzhhorod incident. Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, who is leader of the SDPU-o parliamentary caucus, said during the hearing that President Viktor Yushchenko's government is failing to pass a "test of democracy." "Had I known in 1991 that lawmakers would insult each other in the session hall...and that there would be permissiveness rather than democracy, I wouldn't have signed the Belavezha agreement [on the dissolution of the Soviet Union]; I would rather have cut my hand off," Kravchuk said. JM
GOVERNMENT OFFERS $123,000 TO STOP 'GONGADZE VERSUS UKRAINE' LAWSUIT
The Ukrainian cabinet intends to settle amicably the "Gongadze vs Ukraine" case that is being considered by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is offering to pay 100,000 euros ($123,000) to Myroslava Gongadze, the wife of slain journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported on 1 June. Myroslava Gongadze claims in the case that the death of her husband in 2000 was the result of a forced disappearance and that state authorities failed to protect his life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 2005). According to Interfax, the Ukrainian government on 31 May adopted a resolution pledging to bring to justice all those responsible for the journalist's murder and offering the money to the widow in exchange for her waiving the right to make any complaints against Ukraine concerning the facts described in the current lawsuit in Strasbourg. JM
PROSECUTOR SAYS $1 BILLION LEFT UKRAINE DURING ORANGE REVOLUTION
Prosecutor Anna Tsyhanenko, head of the Prosecutor-General's Office's department to combat money laundering, told journalists in Kyiv on 1 June that some $1 billion was illegally transferred "through banks and other financial institutions" from Ukraine in November-December 2004 -- that is, during the period of the Orange Revolution, Interfax reported. Tsyhanenko said the illegal capital outflow involved "well-known people" as well as budgetary and private funds. She added that the Prosecutor-General's Office has already opened six criminal cases connected with those transfers. JM
MACEDONIAN AND CROATIAN PRESIDENTS PUT ON A BRAVE FACE OVER EU MEMBERSHIP BIDS
Croatian President Stipe Mesic and his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski said in Zagreb on 1 June that the recent French vote against the proposed EU constitution will not affect their respective countries' bids to join the Brussels-based bloc, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "We must meet the standards [the EU has set for us] and fulfill the preconditions awaiting our attention, and I hope that we will succeed in this," Mesic said. Crvenkovski commented that his country hopes for progress in its aspirations to join the EU and wishes Croatia the same in its endeavors, adding, "It is not in our interest that countries of the region stagnate or stop in the process of [European] integration." PM
HAGUE VIDEO REPORTEDLY LINKS SERBIAN POLICE TO BOSNIAN MASSACRE...
Geoffrey Nice, who is the lead prosecutor at the war crimes trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague, showed the court a video on 1 June that reportedly depicted a group of bloodied Bosnian Muslims held by an armed unit at Srebrenica in July 1995 and driven in trucks to an area where they were shot by their captors amid a torrent of verbal abuse, London's "The Guardian" reported. The daily quoted Nice as saying that "the executioners were part of the infamous Scorpions unit, under the command of the secret services, or DB, of Serbia's Interior Ministry, and within...Milosevic's chain of command and control." The video was shown as part of the cross-examination of defense witness Obrad Stevanovic, who was a top Interior Ministry official under Milosevic. Stevanovic told the court that his men were not involved in the massacre and that he would have known had they taken part, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The London-based daily wrote that "if the tape's authenticity can be proved, it could help the charge against...Milosevic for the only legally established genocidal episode of the war," namely the massacre of up to 8,000, mainly Muslim, males after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. PM
...AS SERBIA PROMISES ACTION
Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Belgrade on 1 June that the government will take legal action against any Serbian citizens involved in the Srebrenica massacre, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that any guilty parties will be identified and punished. Ljajic argued that it is in Serbia's interest to "react decisively" to the charges in anticipation of an upcoming "strongly worded resolution" on Srebrenica in the U.S. Congress. PM
DID SERBIA'S EX-PRESIDENT STRIKE A POLITICAL DEAL FROM THE HAGUE?
Former Serbian and Yugoslav President Milosevic was instrumental in securing a recent decision by the Serbian government to drop an arrest warrant against his wife, Mira Markovic, thereby enabling her to visit him in prison in The Hague, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 2 June, citing Belgrade media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). According to the German daily, Milosevic is enjoying a new wave of popularity in Serbia and used his standing to pressure his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which provides parliamentary backing for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's minority government, to offer to remove a vote of no confidence from the parliament's agenda in return for the government's lifting the arrest warrant against Markovic. In response to the Belgrade media reports, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said that he is "not surprised," adding that many unspecified characteristics of the Milosevic era are reemerging. A spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party called the story of Milosevic's involvement in the reported deal "scandalous," adding that it is not the business of politicians to deal in arrest warrants. Elsewhere, Dragana Kuzmanovic, who heads Markovic's United Yugoslav Left party, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that Markovic will return to Belgrade in September. PM
FIRST BOSNIAN MILITARY CONTINGENT LEAVES FOR IRAQ ASSIGNMENT
A team of 36 de-mining experts from Bosnia-Herzegovina left Sarajevo on 1 June for Kuwait, from which they will depart for the Al-Fallujah region of Iraq in 10 days' time, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Army of the Croat-Muslim federation has provided 24 of the soldiers, and the remaining 12 come from the Army of the Republika Srpska. Before the troops departed, General Sifet Podzic, who heads Bosnia's General Staff, called on the 35 men and one woman to do their jobs well and show respect for the Iraqi people and their "culture and customs." He noted that the mission provides an excellent opportunity for Bosnian forces to display the progress that they have made in recent years in meeting NATO standards. Borislav Paravac, who heads the Bosnian Presidency, noted that the 36 soldiers will be able to show what Bosnian forces can achieve and promote their country's reputation abroad. PM
MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT CLOSES DAILY'S PUBLISHER
The Moldovan government decided on 1 June to liquidate the state-run company Moldova Suverana, publisher of a Moldovan-language daily by the same name, local news agencies reported. The government approved a similar decision in mid-May to liquidate the state-run publisher of the Russian-language daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova." "Moldova Suverana" wrote in its 2 June issue that the previous day's decision means the government ceases to be founder and publisher but that the newspaper will continue to appear under the same banner. "We are looking for sponsors in order to capitalize the enterprise and to gradually turn it into a genuine business," the daily added. JM
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT WANTS COMPATRIOTS TO HAVE MORE CHILDREN
President Vladimir Voronin said on 1 June that each Moldovan family should aim at having three children as a minimum in order "to help the country develop and to create a favorable economic situation," Infotag reported. According to the CIA's "World Factbook," the estimated total fertility rate in Moldova in 2005 is 1.81 children per woman. JM
LUKASHENKA'S REPRESSION MACHINE TIGHTENS THE SCREWS
The convictions on 31 May of opposition leaders Mikalay Statkevich and Pavel Sevyarynets represent the latest episode of what appears to be a constantly expanding series of repressive steps the Belarusian regime has aimed at opponents in the wake of the October 2004 votes and ahead of the presidential election slated for 2006.
The regime has apparently decided that repression, including imprisonment and intimidation, is the best method to pave the way for yet another "elegant" victory by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Statkevich and Sevyarynets were punished for their roles in staging Belarus's largest antigovernment protests in recent years. On 18 October, the opposition drew thousands of people to downtown Minsk to protest the official tallies, which were widely believed to have been rigged in favor of Lukashenka (the referendum conferring on him the right to run for the presidency an unlimited number of times) and of pro-government candidates to the country's lower house, the Chamber of Representatives. Police on 18 October detained only a few people in an apparent effort to avoid using force in the presence of foreign journalists and election observers in the Belarusian capital that day. But a similar rally on 19 October was brutally dispersed by riot troops, who arrested some 50 people and beat United Civic Party head Anatol Lyabedzka, who was hospitalized with broken ribs. Several smaller protests over the next few days were dispersed by the authorities, and those detained were immediately punished with jail terms of up to 15 days.
The Belarusian opposition has no other avenue for venting dissatisfaction with the government than leading people into the streets. No opposition politician was allowed into the country's bicameral National Assembly in 2004. No opposition politician is allowed to appear on state-controlled radio or television, while private radio stations remain silent over opposition activities as well as most political topics out of fear that they might lose their broadcast licenses. There are still several independent newspapers in which opposition views may be presented, but as a rule the circulation of such periodicals in small and limited to the capital and a few other major cities. The authorities' primary tactic now appears to be silencing and intimidating those who are not yet afraid to take to the streets and speak openly against the regime. That effort has intensified since Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
The regime closed the year 2004 by sentencing opposition politician Mikhail Marynich to five years in prison after finding him guilty of stealing computers and other office equipment that was leased to his organization by the U.S. Embassy in Minsk. Marynich claimed the bizarre case against him was fabricated by the KGB in order to prevent him from participation in the 2006 presidential election. (He was prevented from taking part in the 2001 presidential election after the Central Election Commission refused to register him as a candidate, arguing that he failed to collect the required number of 100,000 signatures -- a claim that Marynich denied.) The Statkevich verdict -- and Statkevich had already announced plans to compete in the 2006 presidential election -- eliminates him as a potential challenger to Lukashenka in 2006 or as an organizer of the opposition's election campaign.
In March, Belarusian retailers protested for more than a week against an 18 percent import duty on goods from Russia by staging rallies and refusing to work at their stalls and kiosks. It is noteworthy that the government declined to take any retaliatory measures against those vendors, whose demands were of a purely economic character, apart from jailing their leader for several weeks. The only other person punished severely in connection with those protests was Maryna Bahdanovich of the opposition United Civic Party, who was fined $2,200 for political statements made at vendors' rally in Minsk. Bahdanovich was also fined some $1,800 for organizing and participating in an antigovernment demonstration in Minsk on 26 April. Court officers have already confiscated a dozen household items from Bahdanovich in lieu of payment for the fines. "Anyone who wants to engage in politics, especially in this country, must be aware of the potential consequences," Bahdanovich commented. It is evident that the authorities do their utmost to instill fear of political dissent.
In what appears to have been another effort to demoralize the opposition, police on 15 May arrested former dissident lawmaker Syarhey Skrabets, charging him with attempted bribery of a regional official. Skrabets and two other lawmakers staged a hunger strike in June 2004, demanding liberalization of the country's Election Code. In April, Belarusian Television aired a report alleging that law-enforcement agencies have detained a Lithuanian citizen who reportedly delivered $200,000 to finance Skrabets' political activities. Skrabets commented that the report was stage-managed by the KGB to embroil him into a trumped-up criminal case. The story relating to Skrabets' alleged foreign funds appears to have waned, presumably because authorities in the meantime managed to build a bribery case against him.
The opposition's access to print media, however insignificant and ineffective, seems to be a thorn in the regime's side as well. In mid-May, the Information Ministry issued the second warning this year to the only opposition daily, "Narodnaya volya." (Two official warnings in one year can be sufficient grounds for authorities to close it.) The ministry said the daily released false information by publishing the names of five people under a manifesto of the opposition movement Will of the People, which was launched in February. Simultaneously, the five people in question have sued the daily for libel, saying they did not sign the manifesto and demanding an exorbitant sum of 250 million Belarusian rubles ($116,000) in damages. Will of the People leader Alyaksandr Kazulin suggested that the authorities might have used pressure to make the five people revoke their signatures. "People supporting [our manifesto] are pressured to withdraw their signatures by way of threats and blackmail," he said. Irrespective of the reasons behind the suit, if "Narodnaya volya" loses, it will likely have to close down because it will not be able to pay the damages.
"We do not expect that what is to take place in Belarus in 2006 will be an election -- it is going to be a political campaign with no rules," Lyabedzka, who is among the prospective challengers to Lukashenka from the opposition camp, told Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv last week. "We have strong political will, and we are determined to fight until we win. If the election proves undemocratic, we are ready to take to the streets." That the 2006 election might prove undemocratic comes as no surprise to most observers of the Belarusian political scene; but few of those pundits would argue that Belarusians are likely to take to the streets en masse following an undemocratic vote.
On 29 May, some 100 representatives of the Belarusian intelligentsia who wanted to propose their own presidential hopeful were forced to gather in a forest outside Minsk because no one in Minsk dared provide them a venue for the forum out of fear of official retaliation.
Belarusians are still a long way from being prepared for any Orange Revolution of their own making.
SUICIDE BOMBER IN AFGHAN TRAGEDY SAID TO HAVE BEEN FOREIGNER...
Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali announced that the suicide bomber who targeted a mosque in southern Afghan city of Kandahar on 1 June "is believed to have been a foreigner, not an Afghan," RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 1 June. A 2 June report by Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) suggested that 25 people, including Kabul security chief General Akram Khakrezwal, were killed in the bombing, although RFE/RL reported 21 confirmed deaths. The blast occurred at a mosque during a funeral service for slain Islamic cleric Mawlawi Abdullah Fayyaz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 1 June 2005). Kandahar Province Governor Gul Agha Sherzai told reporters on 1 June that documents found on the bomber's body suggest that he was from an Arab country, AP reported. The director of Public Health Department of Kandahar, Mohammad Hashem Alikozay told Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) on 1 June that the suicide bomber seemed to be Arab, adding that his "features found at the site of explosion indicated that he is an Arab." AT
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CONDEMN ACT...
Purporting to speak for the neo-Taliban, Mufti Latifullah Hakimi told AIP by telephone on 1 June that his group was not involved in the Kandahar mosque bombing. "This shouldn't have occurred. We strongly condemn this act," Hakimi said. Hakimi previously claimed responsibility for the death of Fayyaz and said clerics who sympathize with the neo-Taliban decreed that anyone who supports the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai or the presence of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan is guilty of un-Islamic acts and therefore liable to be killed, the Islamabad daily "The News" reported on 30 May. AT
...WHILE PAKISTANI SOURCE CLAIMS NEO-TALIBAN INVOLVEMENT
Commenting on the Kandahar suicide blast, Pakistani journalist and expert on the Taliban Rahimullah Yusofzai told Dubai-based Geo TV on 1 June that the "Taliban have claimed the responsibility" for the mosque bombing. "In my view, the Taliban is now carrying out attacks of all kinds, because we have heard for the first time that there has been an attack inside a mosque," Yusofzai said, adding that the militia has now lost its "principles." According to Yusofzai, neo-Taliban elements are increasingly targeting Afghan civilians as they are unable to attack the well-guarded foreign forces in Afghanistan. While Yusofzai has had close contact with the former Taliban regime, he did not provide any evidence for his claim that the militia was responsible for the Kandahar bombing. AT
KANDAHAR GOVERNOR REJECTS REPORTS THAT WARLORD WAS AMONG THE DEAD
Gul Agha Sherzai on 1 June rejected reports that Mullah Naqibullah, a commander associated with the Jamiat-e Islami party who was instrumental in securing Kandahar's handover from the Taliban regime in December 2001 and for granting amnesty to former Taliban leaders, was among those killed in the 1 June mosque bombing, AIP reported. AIP had reported that "well-informed sources" reported that Naqibullah was among those killed in the blast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). AT
DDR TO COVER ALL ARMED GROUPS IN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lotufullah Mashal said the country's Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program will collect illegal weapons from all armed groups, not just those that registered for disarmament, Kabul-based Tolu Television reported on 31 May. In what Mashal referred to as the second phase of the DDR program, "all rogue armed people living inside Afghan territory will be disarmed." The initial DDR program, which is nearing completion, is jointly supervised by the Afghan Defense Ministry and United Nations, however, according to Mashal, the second phase of the program "is launched by the Interior Ministry under the supervision of a state-run commission," led by Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili. The initial DDR program has been criticized for overlooking an estimated 850 militia units with close to 70,000 members and for concentrating on the collection of heavy weapons. AT
IRANIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS URANIUM ENRICHMENT TO RESUME
A 1 June letter signed by 175 of the 290 Iranian parliamentarians calls on President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami to resume uranium enrichment, Mehr News Agency reported. The letter suggests that continuing negotiations with the European Union is a waste of time. In late May, the Guardians Council approved a bill calling on the government to resume nuclear activities and master the fuel cycle. In their letter, the legislators say they postponed passage of the law in an effort to show the international community that Iran's intentions are peaceful, IRNA reported. The letter goes on to note that the process is not fruitful due to alleged pressure from Washington. BS
CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE CALLS FOR INDIGENOUS IRANIAN NUCLEAR CAPABILITY
Presidential candidate Ali Larijani said during a 1 June gathering at the Hafizeh Mosque in Yazd that the failure to achieve an indigenous nuclear capability is tantamount to treason, Fars News Agency reported. Larijani claimed that the United States intends to replace Islamic culture with its own cultural model, and he said withstanding that effort requires technological and economic improvements in Iran. Larijani also pledged to double teachers' salaries. The conservative Islamic Associations of the Bazaar and Guilds of Tehran (Anjumanha-yi Islami-yi Bazaar va Asnaf-i Tehran) endorsed Larijani's presidential bid on 1 June, ILNA reported. That group also advised all conservative candidates to get in step and warned of the possible damage caused by divisions within the conservative camp. BS
WOMEN PROTEST IN TEHRAN OVER DISQUALIFICATIONS
The Islamic Women's Society demonstrated in front of the presidential office in Tehran on 1 June to protest the disqualification of all 89 females who applied to compete in the presidential election, Radio Farda reported. In an interview with Radio Farda, women's rights activist Mahbubeh Abbasqoli said that because of the way the Guardians Council interprets the word "rejal" in the phrase "rejal-i mazhabi-siasi" (religious-political individual), women are excluded from bids for the presidency. As long as this situation persists, Abbasqoli told Radio Farda, one should not expect women to participate fully in elections. She said many prominent female activists, such as Azam Taleqani, Fatemeh Rakei, and Shadi Sadr, spoke at the demonstration. BS
GENDER DISCRIMINATION TAINTS IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The disqualification of all 89 female presidential hopefuls means that, as spokeswoman for the campaign headquarters of reformist candidate Mustafa Moin, Elaheh Kulyai is the most prominent female involved in the 17 June presidential election. It is noteworthy, therefore, that her counterparts from the campaign headquarters of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Ali Larijani, and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani refused to join her in a televised debate because of her gender, "Etemad" reported on 30 May. State television then rescinded its invitation to Kulyai, "Eqbal" reported. In light of this stance, Kulyai asked, how will these candidates fulfill their pledges to female voters, "Iran" reported. BS
IRANIAN CANDIDATES PLEDGE INTEREST IN WOMEN'S ISSUES
Reformist presidential candidate Moin said in a 1 June statement that the Guardians Council's elimination of any female aspirants for the presidency violates the principal of gender justice, Mehr News Agency reported. Moin noted that competent women are active in politics and other areas. Conservative candidate Larijani announced in a 1 June letter to Iranian women that he respects them, Mehr News Agency reported. He said their role in society should improve, and he referred to plans to address women's rights and employment. BS
REFORMIST CANDIDATE: IRAN-U.S. RELATIONS CAN BE SALVAGED
Mohammad-Reza Khatami, secretary-general of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party and Moin's running mate, said at a 1 June news conference that Iran-U.S. relations are not beyond repair, IRNA reported. "One of the major challenges facing Iran's foreign policy is relations between Iran and the U.S.," Khatami said. "The relations are presently critical with a record of complicated problems; the possibility exists for their settlement, although the problems are enormous." He said that cooperation, dialogue, and social contacts between Iranians and Americans, particularly among scholars, journalists, and undefined "elites," will contribute to resolving disputes. BS
REFORMIST DARK HORSE WINS ENDORSEMENTS
The Association of Iran's Positive Thinkers (Jamiyat-i Mosbatandishan-i Iran) has endorsed reformist Mohsen Mehralizadeh's presidential bid, "Etemad" reported on 1 June. In a speech to the underprivileged in Ardabil Province, Mehralizadeh said the country needs to revise its welfare and medical-insurance system so people do not endure poverty. Rather than stressing ethnic uniformity, he told youngsters and athletes in Islamshahr the same day, minorities' linguistic and cultural issues should be addressed so they feel that they are part of the country. Mehralizadeh said he has seven rivals in the presidential race, but he does not plan to engage in negative campaigning. Five thousand Azeri students and lecturers at Tehran University have endorsed Mehralizadeh, ILNA reported on 29 May, as have residents from Taleqan, which is west of Tehran. BS
CLERIC KARRUBI SECURES PRO-REFORM GROUP'S BACKING
The pro-reform organization called the Forces Following the Imam's Line has endorsed Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi's presidential bid, ILNA reported on 1 June. Young Journalists Society Secretary-General Vahid Abideh announced on 29 May that his organization backs Karrubi, ISNA reported. Abideh said Karrubi can resolve the country's problems because of his extensive experience. BS
SUICIDE BOMBERS TARGET IRAQI OFFICIALS IN STRING OF ATTACKS
A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a restaurant where bodyguards for Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways were dining, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 2 June. The attack, which killed 12 and wounded 37, took place in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, southeast of Kirkuk. Shaways was not in the restaurant at the time of the attack. A suicide car bomb attacked a convoy carrying Diyala Deputy Governor Husayn Alwan al-Tamimi on 2 June, killing al-Tamimi and four of his bodyguards, RFI reported. The attack took place in Ba'qubah, the capital of the volatile governorate. Three other bodyguards and five civilians were injured in the attack. Al-Tamimi escaped an assassination attempt in 2004, when he was serving as the Al-Muqdadiyah civil administrator. Insurgents have routinely targeted Diyala officials in attacks in recent months. Meanwhile, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the gate of the North Oil Company in Kirkuk on 2 June, killing one and wounding 12 others, police officials said. KR
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY ISSUES WARNING TO IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS...
Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at a 1 June press briefing at the Pentagon (http://www.dod.gov) that the United States will take note of any country that gives shelter to a member of Al-Qaeda. "Any country that decides it wants to provide medical assistance or haven to a leading terrorist, Al-Qaeda terrorist, is obviously associating themselves with Al-Qaeda and contributing to a great many Iraqis being killed, as well as coalition forces, in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. His comments followed unconfirmed reports last week that Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi had sought medical treatment in a neighboring country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2005). KR
...AND SAYS IRAQ'S BORDERS REMAIN A PROBLEM
Secretary Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the 1 June briefing that Iraq's borders remain a problem. Asked about reports suggesting that many of the foreign fighters in Iraq are Saudi, Myers said Saudi Arabia is acutely interested in preventing any cross-border activity, whether terrorists crossing into Iraq or terrorists infiltrating Saudi territory, adding, "It's a reasonably well-protected border from the Saudi perspective, for sure." "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 1 June quoted an "informed source" as saying that a number of Ansar Al-Islam cells together with four Syrian Mukhabarat officers entered Kurdistan in order to carry out terrorist attacks. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari on 31 May called on Syria to do more to prevent terrorist border infiltration during an address to the United Nations Security Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). KR
KDP HELPS PUK MARK 30TH ANNIVERSARY
PUK head and transitional Iraqi President Jalal Talabani praised the attendance of his onetime rival, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani, at the 30th-anniversary celebration of the PUK's founding in Al-Sulaymaniyah, broadcast live on KurdSat on 1 June. Talabani was a member of the KDP but left the party in 1966 and founded the PUK in 1975. The groups spent the next 20-plus years locked in a bitter armed conflict. "His attendance at this celebration not only shows his virtue, not only indicates that he will be a just and fair president for the region, his attendance also shows his national sense of responsibility for strengthening ties between the Kurdistani forces, particularly between the KDP and the PUK," Talabani said of Barzani. The two parties are working on forming a unified administration for the Kurdish region. KR