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Newsline - June 3, 2005


LAVROV DENIES REPORT OF KYRGYZ TROOP REQUEST, HINTS AT 'CHECHEN' TIES TO UZBEK VIOLENCE
Sergei Lavrov on 1 June dismissed reports that the political leadership of Kyrgyzstan has raised the possibility of expanding Russia's military presence in that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2005), Interfax reported. Lavrov was speaking to journalists in Vladivostok after talks with his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing. Moscow has received no such official request from Kyrgyzstan, Lavrov said. He noted that the "Kyrgyz leadership has a sovereign right to decide how to ensure the security of its territory," Interfax reported. Lavrov also suggested there might have been "Chechen terrorist" involvement in the violence in Uzbekistan's eastern city of Andijon on 13 May (see also Uzbek item below). Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov rejected as unfounded Lavrov's allegation, according to RIA Novosti as cited by yufo.ru. Alkhanov said that while some of the people involved might have been Chechens, they have no ties to his administration or to the Chechen people. VY/LF

HIGHEST COURT BACKS ELECTION COMMISSION'S REJECTION OF NATIONAL REFERENDUM
The Supreme Court on 2 June upheld a Central Election Commission (TsIK) decision to reject a Communist Party proposal to hold a 17-question national referendum on President Vladimir Putin's policies, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 2005). Communist Party spokesman Vadim Solovev told Interfax that the party expected the court's decision and is prepared to appeal it, possibly to the European Court of Human Rights. He claimed that between 80 and 90 percent of the public supports the holding of the referendum. TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told ITAR-TASS that the Communists may still apply to hold a referendum involving versions of four of their proposed questions, although "two of the four will have to be edited in keeping with TsIK requirements." RC

LEADING DAILY CALLS FOR POPULAR BOYCOTT OF 'UNFRIENDLY' STATES
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 2 June urged its readers not to "wait in vain" for the government to impose economic sanctions against neighboring countries that behave in an "unfriendly" way toward Russia, saying the public should instead boycott goods from those countries. The piece appeared under the headline "By Buying Baltic Sardines, You Are Helping SS Veterans." The paper named the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) along with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Poland as countries whose goods should be targeted; "Komsomolskaya pravda" also published the relevant bar-code information to help consumers identify products from those countries. It also identified Russia itself, Belarus, Armenia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Cuba as states that Russian consumers should support through their purchases. CIS Institute Director Konstantin Zatulin reportedly told "Komsomolskaya pravda" that such a boycott could effectively halt entire industries in the Baltics, the agricultural sector in Moldova, and wine production in Georgia. VY

IS GOVERNMENT LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD HACKERS?
At the beginning of this month, announcements began appearing in the specialized press and on the Internet saying that the Interior Ministry is looking to hire former computer hackers, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 June. The daily speculated that the announcement could be connected with the government's concern about a possible "colored" revolution in Russia and its desire to control the spread of oppositionist information via the Internet. It reported that hackers shut down the anti-Putin site Walking Without Putin in January, replacing it with a call to show greater respect for the president. The daily quoted the Federal Security Service's (FSB) Information Security Department director, Dmitrii Frolov, as saying the FSB's authority in the area of Internet control "must be significantly broadened." The Internet, he said, is becoming increasingly influential and could be used "to mobilize political forces against the authorities." In January 2002, the FSB refused to press charges against hackers who violated the Kavkaz-Tsentr website, which supports the Chechen resistance, saying that the hacking did not violate the law and was merely a way for the students to express their views as Russian citizens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2002). RC

CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR WINS TV DEBATE ON YUKOS TRIAL...
NTV hosted a prime-time debate on the verdict in the case of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii on 2 June between conservative Channel One commentator Mikhail Leontev and former Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) co-leader Boris Nemtsov. Leontev, who is reputed to have close ties with the presidential administration and who is an activist for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, agreed that the case was political. "The Kremlin used state coercion against Khodorkovskii not because he bankrolled the opposition, but because he tried to buy control over Russia through the wholesale purchase of political parties and Duma factions," Leontev said. Nemtsov countered that "if the case is political, the state should prosecute Khodorkovskii on political charges and for the crimes it believes he really committed. It is lawlessness to bring a person to court on invented charges and destroy the most efficient company in Russia." Leontev conceded that Khodorkovskii was a victim of "selective justice," but said Khodorkovskii was targeted because he "has more unlimited possibilities and resources to influence the judicial system and public opinion than any of the others." Leontev rejected as "fairy tales" claims about Yukos efficiency and transparency. "You don't have to be a genius to pump more crude [oil] than anybody should and export it," he said. Telephone voting after the debate found that 63,000 viewers thought Leontev had won the encounter, while 42,000 voted for Nemtsov. VY

...AS MODERATOR EMPHASIZES ROLE OF CORRUPT OFFICIALS
Vladimir Solovev, moderator of the 2 June NTV debate, seemed to side with Leontev, but said that both participants correctly noted that the enrichment of the oligarchs was only possible because of corrupt officials. "If we are judging the oligarchs, it would be fair to put corrupt officials [who authorized rigged privatization deals] in the dock as well," Solovev said. He added that he agrees with Nemtsov that the rule of law should prevail, but only laws that are adopted by a Duma and a president who were popularly elected and not those passed by corrupt deputies controlled by the oligarchs. VY

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE CITES COURT 'INCOMPETENCE,' 'DAMAGE' FROM YUKOS VERDICTS
A presidential aide for economic affairs, Andrei Illarionov, told a news conference in Moscow on 2 June that he is "ashamed of my country" in connection with the Yukos verdicts, newsru.com reported. "From my perspective, the court demonstrated a deep incompetence in terms of both economics and jurisprudence," Illarionov said. He also called the Yukos case the single largest event since the August 1991 putsch in Moscow, adding that it is "unclear how much time Russia will need to repair the damage from the Yukos affair." VY

VAST MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS HAVE NO FAITH IN JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE
Just 6 percent of Russians do not believe that the authorities use the law enforcement agencies for political purposes, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 31 May, citing a survey by the Levada Analytical Center. According to the poll of 1,600 respondents conducted in mid-May, before the conviction of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, 13.9 percent of respondents said the authorities use the police and courts for political ends "constantly." Nearly 36 percent said they do so "frequently," and 20.4 percent said they do so, but only "rarely." Eighty-three percent of respondents said the problem of "lawlessness within the law enforcement agencies" is either "very serious" or "fairly serious," while fewer than 10 percent said it is "not very serious." Some 69.8 percent of respondents said they feel that they personally could become victims of corruption within the law enforcement agencies. RC

PROSECUTORS WANT FORMER DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL BACK IN PRISON
Prosecutors have appealed a decision this week to release on parole former Defense Ministry financial officer Georgii Oleinik from prison, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). "Oleinik has not repented his crime and has taken no measures to reimburse the damages caused, and he has violated the rules while in custody," the prosecutors' statement said. Oleinik's lawyer, Mikhail Marov, told the news agency that a Kolomna court released Oleinik, who served half of his five-year sentence, because of his positive characterizations by prison officials and because of his deteriorating health. RC

WHITE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER GRANTED CITIZENSHIP
Marina Denikina-Gray, the 86-year-old daughter of tsarist General Anton Denikin, a leader of the White forces during the Russian Civil War, was officially granted Russian citizenship on 2 June at a ceremony at the Russian ambassador's residence in Paris, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. "Step by step, Russia is restoring the ties of time that were torn apart by the tragedy of 1917, which scattered thousands of Russians around the whole world," Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeev said at the ceremony. President Putin signed the order granting Denikina-Gray's citizenship on 26 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Denikina-Gray was born in Yekaterinodar, now Krasnodar, in 1919 and has lived most of her life in France. She is the author of numerous books on Russian history, and in 2000 she donated her family's archive to the Russian government. General Denikin commanded a White army that in 1919 controlled most of the North Caucasus and much of southern Russia. However, he suffered setbacks in the spring of 1920 and was forced to flee the country through Crimea. He died in France in 1947. RC

RTR JOURNALIST MOVES TO GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE
Yevgenii Revenko, first deputy news director at state-owned RTR television, was named deputy director of the government's press office on 2 June, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported. Revenko is widely known as a former anchor of RTR's "Vesti" news program and its analytical program "Vesti-nedeli." Before that, he worked as a correspondent for NTV but led a group of his colleagues to RTR during Gazprom-Media's takeover of NTV in 1999. RC

'ARGUMENTY I FAKTY,' 'KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA' SAID TO LEAD READERSHIP RACE
TNS Gallup Media Group research suggests that the weekly "Argumenty i fakty" and the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" enjoy the highest readership in the country at 7.5 million and 6.3 million, respectively, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 22, reported. The television weekly "7 Dnei" (4.3 million) was third and the family-oriented weekly "Moya semya" (2.4 million) fourth, followed by television-program guide "TV-Park" (2 million), tabloid "Ekpress-gazeta" (1.6 million), and the daily "Moskovskii komsomolets" (1.6 million). VY

ACCUSED ANTI-SEMITIC BOOBY-TRAPPERS TO BE CHARGED WITH TERRORISM
Two men who allegedly placed a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign on a roadside outside Tomsk in July 2002 will be charged with terrorism, RIA-Novosti reported on 3 June, citing local prosecutors. Two men were injured when they tried to remove the sign, which read "Death to Jews," and a grenade that had been attached to it exploded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). The incident was one in a wave of similar crimes that swept Russia over a period of several months. The two suspects are unemployed local residents identified as Viktor Lukyanchikov and Igor Kirillov. According to investigators, police also suspect the two men of committing more than a dozen serious crimes between 1999 and 2004, including other terrorist acts and murder. RC

SURKOV HOLDS MEETING WITH TATARSTAN PRESIDENT, YOUTH LEADERS
Deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov met behind closed doors on 31 May in Kazan with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and local youth activists, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 June. Local journalists speculated that Surkov was in town to urge the formation of a local chapter of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi. Ildar Berkheev, head of the Young Unity organization in Kazan, participated in the meeting and told the daily that the issue of Nashi was not raised during the talks. He said that Surkov recognized that youth organizations in the republic "live in agreement and friendship with the authorities just like fish in an aquarium." RC

TWO SOUTH RUSSIAN LEADERS ASK PUTIN FOR EXPRESSION OF SUPPORT
Following consultations with presidential envoy to the Southern Russia Federal District Dmitrii Kozak, Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub and Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov both submitted their resignations to President Putin on 2 June, requesting confirmation that he plans to renominate them when their respective terms expire early next year, ingushetiya.ru reported on 3 June, quoting gazeta.ru. Gazeta.ru quoted an unnamed Russian presidential-administration official as assessing the chances of Putin doing so as "very good." But while Chub has proven himself a "strong governor" and was the first regional leader to express support for Putin's proposal last year to abolish elections for the heads of federation subjects, according to gazeta.ru, Zyazikiov is under fire in Ingushetia for turning a blind eye to official corruption. It is nonetheless unlikely that Putin would cave in to the demands of the Ingush opposition and replace Zyazikov, who is a fellow FSB general. To date, more than 1,000 people have signed an online petition (see http://www.zyazikov.ru) calling on Zyazikov to resign. LF

INGUSHETIAN AUTHORITIES DENY DETAINING POLISH JOURNALISTS
Ingushetian Interior Ministry acting spokesman Murad Zurabov denied on 2 June that three Polish television journalists were detained in Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005). Zurabov said all three were invited to Interior Ministry headquarters "for their own safety" after a threat was received to take foreign nationals hostage. According to gazeta.ru, the three men were detained on 29 May in Nazran following an official visit to Chechnya last week during which they shot unauthorized footage of Russian forces. They had hoped to return to Grozny to interview Chechen officials. LF

SLAIN CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S RELATIVES RELEASED
Seven of the eight relatives of Chechen President and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov who disappeared in December have returned to their homes in the village of Pervomayskoe, near Grozny, Russian agencies reported on 2 June, quoting Chechen Deputy Prosecutor Aleksandr Nikitin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2004 and 10 January 2005). It is unclear where the seven have been held for the past six months. LF

ARMENIA, COUNCIL OF EUROPE DISCUSS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Legal experts from the Council of Europe's Venice Commission met in Yerevan on 2 June with parliamentary speaker Artur Baghdasarian and other members of the pro-government parliamentary majority in a bid to persuade them to modify their proposed constitutional amendments to bring them into line with the Venice Commission's recommendations, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Specifically, the Venice Commission has called for increasing the powers of the parliament, limiting the president's authority to appoint and dismiss judges, and introducing elections for the post of Yerevan mayor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). Venice Commission head Gianni Buquicchio rejected Armenian protests that his commission is unfairly penalizing Armenia to counterbalance its criticisms of Azerbaijan. Buquicchio said there will be a further discussion of the revised draft amendments before they are submitted to parliament for final approval. He added that he hopes they can be submitted in October to the planned nationwide referendum. LF

ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN PRESIDENTS MEET
Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian met in Tbilisi on 2 June with his Georgian counterpart Zurab Noghaideli on the sidelines of a meeting of CIS prime ministers, Caucasus Press and Noyan Tapan reported. The topics of discussion included the resumption of rail traffic from Russia via Abkhazia to Armenia, which Tbilisi insists cannot begin before the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons; possible Georgian participation in the Iran-Armenia gas export pipeline; Georgia's state debt to Armenia, which it was agreed to reschedule; demarcation of the border between the two countries; and improving economic and social conditions in Georgia's southern region of Djavakheti, the population of which is predominantly Armenian. LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES WITHHOLD PERMISSION FOR OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION...
Baku municipal authorities rejected on 2 June a request by three opposition parties to stage a rally and march on 4 June in the city center but gave the green light for holding the event at a motorcycle racetrack on the outskirts of the city, Turan reported. Deputy Baku police chief Yashar Aliev summoned the organizers of the planned rally to warn them that police would intervene to prevent it being held in the original venue, but the three parties subsequently issued a statement reaffirming their intention to congregate as originally planned at the 28 May metro station, the site of a similar rally that was broken up by police two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2005). LF

...AS OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS DECRY LACK OF WESTERN SUPPORT
Members of the opposition youth movement Yokh! (No!), several of whom were detained in the run-up to the 25 May ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline, have criticized the United States for its failure to protest those arrests, AFP reported on 3 June. Yokh leader Razi Nurullaev said his group "felt betrayed" when U.S. officials "warmly shook hands" with Azerbaijani leaders during that ceremony. Ilham Huseynli of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, who was similarly detained, complained: "We expected democratic countries to be outright in their criticism. They did nothing to help us get out of prison." LF

RUSSIAN ENVOY SEEKS TO ALLAY AZERBAIJANI CONCERNS OVER ARMS
Russian charge d'affaires in Baku Petr Burdykin handed to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 2 June a response from the Russian Foreign Ministry to Baku's expression of concern at the redeployment to Armenia of weaponry withdrawn from Russian military bases in Georgia, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May and 1 June 2005). Burdykin stressed that the arms in question will remain under Russian control, and he rejected as "an invention" the suggestion that they would be made available to the Armenian armed forces. Also on 2 June, Caucasus Press quoted Azerbaijan's ambassador in Tbilisi, Ramiz Gasanov, as telling Trend news agency that no materiel has yet left Georgia en route to Armenia. LF

GEORGIAN NATIONAL BANK HEAD AGAIN COMPLAINS TO RUSSIAN COUNTERPART
Roman Gotsiridze has written a second time to Sergei Ignatiev, the head of the Russian Central Bank, to protest the alleged illegal involvement of unnamed Russian banks in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported on 2 June. Gotsiridze wrote to Ignatiev on that issue last month, after which Emma Tania, who is acting head of the National Bank of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, denied on 18 May that Russian banks operating in Abkhazia engage in money laundering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2005). Gotsiridze has addressed a similar complaint to Kyrgyz National Bank President Ulan Sarbanov, Caucasus Press reported on 28 May. LF

KAZAKH, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MARK BAIKONUR 50TH ANNIVERSARY...
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev attended a ceremony on 2 June at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to mark that facility's 50th anniversary, Kabar reported. In remarks at the ceremony, Putin thanked Nazarbaev for "a principled, far-sighted policy" that will permit Russia to lease the launch facility until 2050, ITAR-TASS reported. The two also laid the cornerstone for the planned Baiterek space center, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Russia has leased Baikonur for $115 million a year since 1994. DK

...AND AGREE TO FORM JOINT INVESTMENT BANK
Presidents Putin and Nazarbaev reached an agreement on 2 June to create a joint investment bank, Kazinform reported. The two leaders gave their governments up to three months to complete the groundwork for the project, which is intended to support joint ventures. Putin said that the bank will have $1.5 billion in capital, with Russia contributing $1 billion and Kazakhstan $500 million. It will be headquartered in Almaty, Kazakhstan. DK

KYRGYZ BUSINESSMEN PROTEST OVER LOOTING DAMAGES
A group of 30 businessmen who suffered losses in looting on the night of 24 March held a demonstration in Bishkek on 2 June to protest slow government action in paying out compensation, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The men threatened to launch a hunger strike if the government does not take swift action. A demonstrator told akipress.org that many businessmen do not have the necessary tax records to prove their losses, in some cases because looters stole the documents. On 25 May, acting Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said that compensation will be paid out solely on the basis of tax records. About 500 businessmen are claiming compensation for looting-related damages. DK

FORMER HEAD OF KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION DENIES GIVING MONEY TO EX-PRESIDENT
Medet Sadyrkulov, the former head of Kyrgyzstan's presidential administration, has denied that he gave former President Askar Akaev $480,000, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Sadyrkulov said that investigators have questioned him over the removal of $75,000 from a safe in his office, but he denied any wrongdoing. Acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov charged at a news conference on 1 June that Sadyrkulov and National Bank head Sarbanov gave Akaev $480,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005). DK

TAJIK JOURNALIST CONVICTED OF LIBEL
Vahhob Latif, the deputy editor in chief of the newspaper "Nerui Sukhan," was sentenced on 2 June to one year of "rehabilitative work" for libel, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Judge Asomuddin Abdurahimov said that for one year, Latif will have to pay 30 percent of his salary to the state treasury. Latif faced libel charges over corruption allegations contained in an article about a professor at Tajik State University. The judge said the sentence does not impose any limitations on Latif's journalistic activities, but Latif described the verdict as an attempt to pressure journalists. DK

UZBEKISTAN NIXES INTERNATIONAL PROBE OF ANDIJON DEATHS...
Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev told a news conference in Tashkent on 2 June that Uzbekistan will not allow an independent inquiry into events in Andijon on 13 May but that representatives of foreign diplomatic missions can form a working group to monitor the Uzbek government's own investigation, UzA reported. Ganiev said diplomats from the United States, France, Russia, China, and neighboring states could join the working group. In a 2 June press release, the Foreign Ministry noted, responding to an earlier call by the NATO parliamentary assembly, that there is "no ground whatsoever for discussing the issue of forming an international commission to investigate the Andizhan [Andijon] events," Reuters reported. DK

...AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ALLEGES 'CHECHEN' INVOLVEMENT
Speaking in Vladivostok on 2 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "Chechen terrorists" might have been involved in the violence in Andijon on 13 May, gazeta.ru reported. "We have information that a number of Islamic extremists, structures of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, remnants of the Taliban, and certain Chechen terrorists were involved in events in Uzbekistan," Lavrov said, adding that the official Uzbek investigation should examine the issue of foreign involvement. "There must also be an investigation of how a situation developed in which an armed group invaded Uzbek territory and seized people, weapons, and buildings." The comments echo earlier allegations that Lavrov has made about Taliban involvement in events in Andijon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2005). Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov rejected Lavrov's suggestion as unfounded (see Russian item above). DK

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ISSUES TERROR WARNING ON UZBEKISTAN
In a 2 June travel warning posted to the U.S. State Department's official website (http://www.state.gov), the State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. Embassy personnel from Uzbekistan and urged U.S. citizens to leave the country because of possible terror attacks in the near future. "The United States Government has received information that terrorist groups are planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan in the very near future," the warning noted. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NOTORIOUS PROPAGANDIST TO TOP BROADCASTING POST
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has appointed Yury Azaronak to be deputy chairman of the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 2 June. Azaronak, who until recently was a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, is widely regarded in Belarus as the author of films vilifying and tarnishing the opposition. Before the 1995 referendum, Azaronak made a pseudo-documentary film called "Hatred. The Children of the Lie" in which he compared the anti-Lukashenka opposition to Nazi collaborators during World War II. The 2001 presidential campaign in Belarus was preceded by Azaronak's anti-opposition series "The Secret Springs of Politics," while he made another series called "Conspirology" for the 2004 referendum. "His appointment is logical," independent Belarusian filmmaker Yury Khashchavatski told RFE/RL. "He has received good training in the Prosecutor-General's Office, and our television is going to be a chief prosecutor [in the upcoming presidential campaign]. He is a cog in the [state] mechanism. He has been appointed to this post, but tomorrow he may be transferred to head a concrete-mixing plant. That's the principle to which our authorities adhere." JM

MINSK DENIES VISA TO CZECH LAWMAKER
Belarus has refused to issue a visa to Czech lower house Deputy Svatopluk Karasek, prompting the Czech Foreign Ministry to send a diplomatic note, CTK reported on 2 June. Karasek, a communist-era dissident and member of the underground band Plastic People of the Universe, wanted to perform with three other Czech lawmakers -- who were granted Belarusian visas -- at a concert to support the opposition in Minsk on 12 June. Karasek, who is also an Evangelical priest, reportedly wanted to sing his hit "Tell the Devil 'No.'" He is reportedly planning to send a tape with his song to the concert in light of the Belarusian authorities' move. Karasek visited Minsk in October, when he read a message from Vaclav Havel to an opposition rally following the controversial 17 October referendum and parliamentary elections. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATOR PROPOSES FORCED STERILIZATION OF 'ASOCIAL' TYPES
Speaking in the country's lower house of parliament on 2 June, Chamber of Representatives deputy Syarhey Kastsyan suggested the enactment of a law to introduce forced sterilization for individuals "leading an asocial life," Belapan reported. People leading promiscuous sexual lives -- who he claimed make up 1 percent of the population -- breed unhealthy children, "mostly idiots," leading to a gradual "'cretinization' of society," Kastsyan said. "Even animals are selective about mating." Kastyan added: "It is necessary to solve the problem in a drastic way. It is necessary to enact a law providing for forced sterilization, or else the state will not withstand this burden." JM

UKRAINIAN COURT CONFIRMS ILLEGALITY OF KRYVORIZHSTAL PRIVATIZATION...
The Kyiv Appellate Economic Court on 2 June rejected an appeal against an earlier decision by the Kyiv Economic Court to annul the controversial sale of a 93 percent stake in the Kryvorizhstal metallurgical giant in 2004, Interfax reported. The court also froze the controversial stake, which was purchased by Ukrainian oligarchs Rynat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk's Investment-Metallurgical Union for the equivalent of about $800 million despite several higher bids made in the privatization tender. President Viktor Yushchenko said earlier the same day that he welcomes the idea of an amicable deal proposed by the Investment-Metallurgical Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005), provided that such a deal is in line with the court verdict. JM

...AS GOVERNMENT CONTESTS NEARLY 200 OTHER SALES
The State Property Fund of Ukraine (FDMU) is currently challenging in court the privatization of 194 facilities, Interfax reported on 2 June, quoting FDMU Chairwoman Valentyna Semenyuk. The list of those enterprises, together with FDMU allegations, is posted on the FDMU's website (http://www.spfu.gov.ua). Semenyuk told journalists that the FDMU lawsuits are largely based on violations of law during privatization or purchasers' failure to meet investment commitments. Asked to comment on media reports suggesting different numbers of companies slated for re-privatization, Semenyuk said those numbers are "invented." JM

UKRAINE, MOLDOVA APPEAL FOR EU HELP IN MONITORING TRANSDNIESTER BORDER
President Yushchenko and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin met in the village of Yaski in Odesa Oblast, near the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, on 2 June to discuss settlement of the Transdniester conflict, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. Yushchenko and Voronin signed a joint appeal to the European Commission, asking for assistance in monitoring the Transdniester stretch of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. JM

SERBIA 'SHOCKED' BY SREBRENICA VIDEO...
Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Belgrade on 3 June that 10 people were arrested after being identified in a televised video showing Serbian paramilitary police participating in the massacre of Muslim civilians at Srebrenica in July 1995, after being blessed by a Serbian Orthodox priest, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005). Serbian President Boris Tadic said: "Serbia is deeply shocked. Those images are proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion. And the guilty had walked as free men until now," London's "The Guardian" reported. The president added that "the killers had walked freely among us, on our streets, behaving as if they were ordinary, honorable citizens. All those who committed war crimes must be held accountable; only in this way will we be able to have a future. We must not close our eyes to the cruelty that took place." He added that he is ready "to go to Srebrenica to pay tribute to innocent people of another nationality." PM

...WHICH PROMPTED FAST ACTION
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 2 June that "it is important for our public that we reacted immediately, and that based on this shocking and horrible footage several of those who were involved in this crime have been arrested and will be brought to justice," RFE/RL reported. Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in the Serbian capital that the arrests were "a brilliant operation because in [a] few hours [the Serbian authorities] were able to identify the perpetrators." She added that she hopes the authorities will be equally decisive in arresting fugitive indictee and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. Some observers called the video the "smoking gun" that provided irrefutable evidence of Serbian participation in the massacre of civilians. London's "The Guardian" wrote that the video served to "provoke a bout of soul-searching in Serbia, parts of which are still in denial over the horrors of the Bosnian war." But at least one unidentified Belgrade woman had reservations, saying that "I truly doubt that the video will help [alter] public opinion. [Showing it] will cause a further division among the people. I doubt that the film will help the families of the victims. As far as I'm concerned, the film shouldn't be broadcast." PM

EU OFFICIALS SEEK TO REASSURE BALKAN ASPIRANTS TO EU MEMBERSHIP
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels on 2 June that the EU should keep its "commitments" to applicants for membership, the "Financial Times" reported. "I come from a culture where the word and agreements are respected. It would be a bad example not to keep to the commitments," the veteran Finnish politician said. He was responding to fears in several Balkan states that the recent rejection of the proposed EU constitution by French and Dutch voters will put a brake on the enlargement process (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005). Elsewhere, Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service by telephone that no one should succumb to "hysteria" as a result of the French and Dutch votes. He stressed that joining the EU is a "process" that requires a long time to complete. Busek urged the countries of the western Balkans to work all the more "intensively" to promote "Euro-Atlantic integration." He also suggested that the "better Europeans at the moment" are those from the countries that recently joined the EU and those waiting to join. PM

UNMIK HEAD SAYS KOSOVAR-MACEDONIAN BORDER DEMARCATION TO BEGIN BEFORE STATUS TALKS
Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said after a meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski in Skopje on 2 June that the demarcation of the border between Kosova and Macedonia will begin before the future status of the province is decided, the private A1 TV reported. Buckovski said talks between Macedonia, UNMIK, and the elected Kosovar authorities on technical issues will start on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 16, and 17 May 2005). However, Enver Sopjani -- an adviser to Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi -- said the Kosovar government has yet to decide whether it wants the border to be demarcated before or after the talks on the future status of the province, adding that the demarcation cannot be decided without the consent of the Kosovar authorities. UB

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS LABOR INSPECTORS TO FINE BUSINESSES
The Moldovan legislature on 2 June voted 52-38 to approve a bill authorizing labor inspectors to impose administrative sanctions and fines on companies, Infotag reported. Backers reportedly argued that the measure will strengthen labor discipline, while opponents maintained that the legislation will merely facilitate corruption. People's Christian Democratic Party leader Vlad Cubreacov reminded his colleagues before the vote that 23 government bodies are already entitled to impose various sanctions in Moldova. "In other words, the Moldovan hydra of corruption has 23 heads, while we, instead of chopping them off one by one, pass yet another law to make corruption flourish," Cubreacov said. JM

TRANSDNIESTER OFFERS TEXTILE-INDUSTRY 'FLAGSHIP' FOR SALE
The government of Moldova's separatist Transdniester region on 2 June offered Tirotex, described by Infotag as "the flagship of Transdniester's textile industry," for privatization at a starting price of $22.9 million. Tirotex's staff of 6,200 accounts for nearly 20 percent of the employees in Transdniester's industrial sector. The Transdniestrian government has sold 10 industrial companies worth $4.8 million into private hands since the beginning of the year. Chisinau deems Tiraspol privatizations illegal and does not honor the property rights to Transdniester businesses privatized without its approval. JM

RUSSIAN YOUTH GROUP 'NASHI' GATHERS MOMENTUM
The pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi continued to hog the media spotlight this week, following a 1 June report in "Izvestiya" that several of the organization's leaders met behind closed doors in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin the previous day. Although the Kremlin refused to confirm or deny the meeting, Nashi co-leader Vasilii Yakemenko, who says he attended the meeting, provided details to the daily and to other media outlets.

Yakemenko, 34, told "Izvestiya" that all four national commissars, as Nashi's central leaders are called, and Nashi regional coordinators from St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Tula, Bryansk, Tambov, and other cities participated in the meeting with Putin, at which Putin expressed surprise that Nashi was able to bring out 60,000 people to a Moscow rally on 15 May. Yakemenko told grani.ru on 2 June that 12 Nashi activists were at the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

"We discussed a wide circle of issues from within Russia and from beyond its borders," Yakemenko told the daily. "In part, we discussed Russia's position with respect to the Baltic states and Russia's relations with the European Union. Among domestic issues, we discussed issues of youth politics and relations between youth and the state. Of course we discussed the important question 'where are we going?'"

"The president of Russia did us a great honor and demonstrated his solidarity with 'our' [nashi, which means "our" in Russian] patriotic views," Yakemenko told grani.ru. "We hope very much that such contacts will become regular."

The meeting with Putin (and the media attention that accompanied it) and the massive 15 May rally, at which Nashi staged a symbolic passing of the torch from the World War II generation to the Nashi generation, are the latest manifestations of the movement's rapidly growing prominence.

In addition, Nashi announced last week a new program to train young managers at specially created Nashi academies, with the goal of replacing the current "defeatist generation" of bureaucrats over the next few years. "This year our unique educational program will train 3,000 of our commissars," Yakemenko told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 31 May. "In five years, we will have trained 10,000 and in eight, 100,000. These are the people who in reality will carry out the modernization of the country when they occupy key posts at all levels of power. It will be a revolution, not in form, but in content."

At a time when most observers believe the state's persecution of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii has dried up funding for non-Kremlin-sponsored political initiatives, Nashi seems to be thriving financially as well. The meeting with Putin will almost certainly be seen as a signal by Kremlin-friendly businessmen that this is a project to be supported. So far, Nashi has relied heavily on state resources, including holding its founding congress in a facility owned by the Academy of Sciences. On 28 April, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Nashi has had particular support from Tver Oblast Governor Dmitrii Zelenin, who spoke at Nashi's founding congress together with Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko. The daily reported that Nashi activists are being trained at a police training facility in the oblast and are organizing street patrols in Tver.

The 15 May rally in Moscow, however, involved bringing in activists from at least 30 federation subjects, as well as considerable expenditures on promotional materials, signs, entertainment, and the like. Yakemenko has refused to disclose how much the demonstration cost, but he told "Novye izvestiya" on 27 May that it was "very expensive." He told kreml.org on 24 May that it cost "a great deal of money indeed" and "a monstrous amount." The creation of a national network of educational academies, the first of which is already operating in Moscow, will also demand considerable resources.

Some voices have been warning that the Nashi movement could ultimately prove dangerous and uncontrollable. Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov sharply criticized the organization on 19 May and again on 31 May. He told RosBalt on 31 May that "grown-up men" stand behind Nashi. "We need to talk to these men and convince them that although this may seem like an easy path, it could turn out to be very difficult and absolutely incorrect," Mironov said. Instead of protecting Russia from a "colored" revolution, Nashi "could stand at the head of their own kind of revolution." In his earlier comments, Mironov called Nashi "ideological wolves that could become uncontrollable."

UN SUSPENDS DE-MINING IN SOUTHERN AND WESTERN AFGHANISTAN AFTER BOMBING
The UN Mine Action Center for Afghanistan announced in a 2 June press release that the agency is temporarily suspending all de-mining operations on the Kandahar-to-Herat section of the Afghan national ring road in, on, or around connector roads in Helmand and Farah provinces. The decision follows an attack on 1 June against Afghan de-miners from the Mine Detection Dog Center in Helmand in which two people were killed and five were injured. The statement also noted that in Farah in May, de-miners were attacked in two separated incidents -- one of which killed three people. Referring to the de-miners, Dan Kelly, program manager for the UN de-mining center, urged that de-miners not be targeted, saying that these "brave men risk their lives in minefields every day to improve the situation for their fellow Afghans." AT

AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS SUICIDE BOMBER WAS ARAB HELPED BY AFGHANS
Interior Minister spokesman Lotfullah Mashal said a preliminary investigation into the bombing of a mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on 1 June has shown that the bomber was an Arab who had entered Afghanistan from a neighboring country with the help of Afghans, Tolu Television reported on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 June 2005). The bomber was among "people who are secretly trained in some of our neighboring countries" to carry out "destructive activities" against Afghanistan's national interests, Mashal said, without naming the country or countries. In a 2 June report, the official Bakhtar News Agency commented that the bombing, which has killed at least 21, was the work of neo-Taliban fighters and their foreign backers, also without specifying which foreign sides he was referring to. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack and a spokesman for the neo-Taliban has condemned the act. AT

'KABUL WEEKLY' CRITICIZES KARZAI'S RECONCILIATION POLICY
In a commentary on 1 June, "Kabul Weekly" questions whether the Afghan government's policy of pardoning most former Taliban members has been a success. Citing the 29 May murder of Mawlawi Abdullah Fayyaz, head of the clerical Council of Ulema of Kandahar, for which the neo-Taliban have claimed responsibility, the weekly writes that the pro-government cleric was killed as Kabul is "seeking to put an end to Taliban opposition" by offering them amnesty. The commentary says it is "naturally" a welcome step when members of the neo-Taliban abandon armed opposition to the central government. However, "Kabul Weekly" warns that the neo-Taliban are "not a simple group or association that can just abandon their opposition because they are safe or they can run for parliament." The militants have their roots in countries outside Afghanistan and are "part of Al-Qaeda's international network that cannot be persuaded by amnesties or other concessions," the weekly argues. Stating that Afghans are anxious, the daily says that if the current policy does not bring an end to the neo-Taliban activities in "some months," the policy will have "proven to have been a big mistake" and the Afghan government "should then be held accountable for that mistake." AT

RESEARCH GROUP CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN AFGHANISTAN
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a briefing on its website (http://www.crisisgroup.org) on 2 June that the policies of Afghan President Karzai, "accompanied by an inappropriate voting system, are sidelining" political parties in the country. While some Afghans view with suspicion with the emergence of many small democratic parties, the ICG argues, many Afghans, "especially young people, now recognize parties as an essential component of the legal democratic process." In the briefing, the ICG recommends that Karzai's government bring "any political party, regardless of its political leanings, into the legal fold," provided that it works peacefully and democratically. Also, the government "should urgently reconsider" changing the single non-transferable vote system, which the ICG believes "is likely to produce unrepresentative results" in the parliamentary elections scheduled for September. "If the current laws constraining party functioning are not changed, political stability will be illusory," the briefing warns. AT

TEHRAN ACCUSES U.S. OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE
Parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel accused what he called the "U.S. propaganda machine" of encouraging Iranians to avoid voting in the 17 June presidential election, IRNA reported. Speaking at a conference in Tehran, Haddad-Adel said Iranians object to "U.S.-backed puppet regimes." A 28 May Iranian state television program also alleged that there is foreign media interference that is trying to reduce election turnout. Persian-language radio and television programs, it alleged, are trying to exploit minority grievances. The program carried interviews with Kurds, an Azeri, and tribesmen who said, among other things, "The enemies of Iran are afraid and scared of the solidarity and unity of the people of Iran," and, "All tribes will join hands and take part in the elections." Two university lecturers, Ahmad Bakhshayekhi and Hojatoleslam Naqavian, claimed on the program that the United States is hostile to Iran. Naqavian accused Washington of using the Internet, satellites, and the press to wage a cultural battle against Iran. BS

SWEDISH-IRANIAN VIRUS RESEARCH UNDER SCRUTINY
The Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and the Karolinska Institute are cooperating with the Pasteur Institute in Iran, Sweden's "Dagens Nyheter" daily reported on 31 May. One project focuses on the virus for hemorrhagic fever. Sweden's National Inspectorate of Strategic Products has suspicions about the Pasteur Institute's activities, according to general-director Lars-Hjalmar Wide, on the basis of information from many sources in different countries. BS

IRAN CLAIMS INCREASED MISSILE RANGE
Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Admiral Ali Shamkhani announced at a 31 May seminar at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University that the Shihab-3 missile has been tested successfully with solid-fuel engines, IRNA and Fars News Agency reported. "Using solid fuel would be more durable and increase the range of the missile," Shamkhani added. The Shihab-3 medium-range ballistic missile has a 1,300-kilometer range, and Tehran claims it is developing a 2,000-kilometer version. According to a 1 June report in "The Jerusalem Post," solid fuel is more stable than liquid fuel. It also allows a shorter launch time, because liquid fuel must be stored separately. BS

REFORMIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PRESENTS PLATFORM...
Mustafa Moin described his presidential platform on state television on 2 June. "I have repeatedly said that democracy is the one and only answer to threats against Iran," he said. Democracy is essential for sustainable development, Moin said, whereas the opposite of democracy is not sustainable and will eventually result in dictatorship. He said that while economic growth is required to resolve economic problems, this is impossible without democracy and respect for the rule of law. Moin also complained of extensive corruption and said this can only be fought in a democracy, where a free press and civic institutions serve as watchdogs. Moin condemned media censorship, described press freedom as "the foundation of democracy," and called for an end to Internet censorship. Moin also promoted cultural diversity, respect for minority languages and all religious groups, and academic freedom. BS

...WHILE RUNNING MATE DECRIES MIDDLE EAST INTERFERENCE
Mohammad Reza Khatami, secretary-general of the Islamic Iran Participation Party and Moin's running mate, said on 1 June that Iran should not interfere in the Middle East peace process, dpa reported. "We support the Palestinian cause, but Palestine is a sovereign state with a sovereign government and Iran should in no way interfere in their affairs," Khatami said. BS

IRAQ'S INTERIOR MINISTER DISCUSSES OPERATION LIGHTNING
Bayan Jabr told a Baghdad press briefing on 2 June that some 28 terrorists have been killed since the start of Operation Lightning, which is targeting the insurgency in Baghdad, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Jabr added that 700 suspected terrorists have been arrested, as well as some 100 people suspected of taking part in various criminal activities. He estimated that the 18-month insurgency has claimed the lives of 12,000 Iraqis. Authorities estimate based on the location of the attacks that about 10,500 of the victims were Shi'ite Muslims, Jabr said. More than 800 Iraqis have been killed in terrorist attacks since the transitional government assumed power five weeks ago, latimes.com reported on 3 June. KR

CAR BOMBER KILLS 10 IN BALAD
A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a building south of the town of Balad, about 75 kilometers north of Baghdad, on 2 June, killing at least 10 and wounding 12 others, Reuters quoted a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad as saying on 3 June. "We understand that the car blew up in the courtyard of a house," the unnamed spokesman said. Reuters quoted local citizens as saying the victims were Sufi Muslims who may have been targeted because of their religion. Meanwhile, dpa on 3 June quoted a U.S. military statement as saying that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt, adding that the attack occurred in a "makeshift place of worship" for the Kasnazani order, which is a Sufi sect. The Tikrit-based U.S. Coordination Center said that worshippers were singing hymns when the attack occurred. KR

SHI'ITE CLERIC GUNNED DOWN IN AL-BASRAH
Gunmen assassinated Shi'ite cleric Ali Abd al-Husayn in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah on 2 June, RFI reported on 3 June. Abd al-Husayn was reportedly shot outside his home. Meanwhile, the Iraqi National Accord's Al-Najaf representative, Abd al-Wahid al-Issawi, survived an assassination attempt on 2 June when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle at an undisclosed location en route to Baghdad, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 2 June. Al-Issawi was wounded in the shoulder, the party said in a statement. KR

WEAPONS MATERIAL MISSING FROM 19 MORE SITES
UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) head Demetrius Perricos said in a report to the Security Council that biological and chemical weapons material and proscribed long-ranged missiles have disappeared from 19 sites in Iraq, bringing the total to 109 pilfered sites, AP reported on 3 June. A 28 February UNMOVIC quarterly report said that materials and equipment were missing from 90 of the 353 sites analyzed in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 March 2005). The latest report said that analysts have found that 53 of the 98 vessels that could be used for a variety of chemical reactions have disappeared. "Due to its characteristics, this equipment can be used for the production of both commercial chemicals and chemical warfare agents," Perricos said. One-third of the missing chemical items came from Al-Qa'qa State Company, south of Baghdad, which was "among the sites possessing the highest number of dual-use production equipment." UN inspectors are using satellite imagery to monitor the sites once under inspection in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Tracking Inspections," http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraq-inspec/). KR

UNMOVIC SAYS BIOLOGICAL SITES ARE LESS DAMAGED
UNMOVIC head Perricos said in the latest report that his commission believes that biological sites were less damaged than chemical and missile sites, AP reported on 3 June. Two hundred eighty-nine of the 340 pieces of equipment used to produce missiles -- or about 85 percent -- have also been removed from sites that include Iraq's key production sites for solid- and liquid-propellant missiles, the report said. "All equipment and missile components have been removed" from the Al-Kadhimiyah and Al-Sumud factories, where liquid-propellant missile engines and airframes were once manufactured, the report noted. Regarding biological equipment, the report said that 37 of 405 fermenters ranging in size from 2 gallons to 1,250 gallons, which could be sued to produce pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or the warfare agent Anthrax, have been removed. KR

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