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Newsline - June 28, 2005

The Russian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to its Estonian counterpart on 27 June saying that Russia is recalling its signature from the Russian-Estonian Border Treaty signed on 18 May and will begin the official procedure of revoking it, international media reported. According to the Russian note, the Estonian parliament inserted into the ratification of the treaty some documents that include "unacceptable" legal wording concerning the Soviet occupation of the country and it forcible inclusion into the USSR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21, and 23 June 2005). Speaking on 27 June in Helsinki, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "Estonia has not fulfilled its obligations, so we are withdrawing our signature from these [land and sea border] treaties. Of course we cannot talk about ratification at this time because there will be no treaties to ratify. In order to resolve border issues between Russia and Estonia, the two sides will have to restart negotiations," RTR reported. VY

Earlier on 27 June in Moscow, Lavrov also made a statement criticizing Estonia and the other Baltic states for "attempts to rewrite history and to equate the victims and the henchmen, the liberators and the occupiers," RTR reported. "It is worth noting that the victory by the peoples of the Soviet Union gave those making such attempts [to rewrite history] an opportunity to play these games...and even to speak freely," Lavrov said. Observers noted that Lavrov was, in fact, only repeating a statement made on 22 June at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg by Duma Foreign Relations Committee Deputy Chairwoman Nataliya Narochnitskaya (Motherland). VY

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said his country is "surprised by the Russian Foreign Ministry statement and finds it regrettable," NTV reported on 27 June. "We hope that the Russian foreign minister will once again read the Estonian parliament document and realize that it contains neither territorial nor financial claims to Russia," NTV quoted Paet as saying. He added that Estonia will not change the text of the treaty, which has already been ratified by its parliament. Eero Raun, the press-secretary of Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, said in an interview with on 27 June that Russia does not want to recognize what is already recognized by the rest of the world. "For example, Russia failed to accept that Estonia became a sovereign state in 1918, but the world did," Raun noted. VY

The chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), said on 27 June that "Estonia needs the treaty more than Russia does." He added that: "Nobody will rush us to sign it, not to mention to ratify it," RTR reported. The logic of Kosachev's words is understandable, RTR commented. Estonia will not be allowed to join the EU's Schengen zone of open borders until it settles all border issues with neighboring countries. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, Mikhail Margelov, said on 27 June that "both Russia and the EU need a stable border, but the law ratified by the Estonian parliament makes the border unstable and we cannot accept that," Ekho Moskvy reported. The deputy chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutskii (Unified Russia), told Ekho Moskvy that "denouncing the treaty with Estonia" is a rare occasion when all deputies, regardless of their political affiliation, will unconditionally support the government. VY

A diplomatic row is simmering between Russia and Poland over Russia's failure to invite representatives from Warsaw to celebrate the 750 anniversary of the founding of Kaliningrad, which is to be marked next month, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 27 June. On 3 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac are due to meet in the city for anniversary celebrations. But no government members from neighboring Poland or Lithuania are slated to come. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said: "We do not understand that. It is more than a mistake," RBK reported on 27 June. Kaliningrad was founded as Koenigsberg in 1255 and was the capital of eastern Prussia in 1945 before being incorporated into the Soviet Union. VY

Political analyst Yegor Kholmogorov said on Radio Mayak on 27 June that the victory in Iran of ultraconservative and "anti-Western" presidential candidate Mahmud Ahmadinejad is beneficial for Russia as it will bring "not only strategic, but commercial advantages." He added that "Ahmadinejad is a convinced supporter of the development of the Iranian nuclear program and, therefore, [of] cooperation with Russia." Kholmogorov added that Ahmadinejad never would have won the election against Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani without the "shadow" support of the Islamic clerics and the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As a result of the election, Iran's old religious elite has managed to transfer power to a new one, embodied by Ahmadinejad, Kholmogorov said. He called the transfer of power the "Iranian variant of [the Russian] operation 'Successor,'" in reference to how President Boris Yeltsin transferred power to Putin in 2000. VY

The leader of the French ultraright National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, met on 27 June in the Duma with Sergei Baburin, the deputy Duma speaker (Motherland party) and leader of the People's Will party, to discuss cooperation between the two parties, RosBalt reported. Speaking at a press conference with Baburin, Le Pen said that "cooperation is crucial for both parties as they have common enemies and common problems." He added that the "demographic decline both in Europe and Russia is a mortal threat to our freedom." Asked about the recent charges of anti-Semitism against Motherland, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005) Baburin said his party is not the same as Motherland. "We are only partners," he noted. At the press conference, Motherland Duma Deputy Nikolai Pavlov said the accusation against Motherland is a provocation. "Jews are our best friends," he said. VY

Speaking in Moscow on 27 June, Leonid Nadirov, the deputy minister of culture and mass communications, said that after the launch of a 24-hour English-language television station, Russia Today, it can extend it language broadcasting with broadcasts in Chinese, Turkish, and Pashto, RIA-Novosti reported. "I think that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania also need broadcasting in their languages," Nadirov added. VY

Russia's former Culture Minister and current director of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinema, Mikhail Shvydkoi, has announced plans to sue current Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Sokolov, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 June. According to Shvydkoi, the agency's lawyers are preparing to sue Sokolov over remarks he made on TV-Tsentr's "Postskriptum" program on 26 June alleging that bribery is flourishing in all departments of the Culture Ministry and the Culture and Cinema Agency. Shvydkoi charged that Sokolov's remarks represent an attempt to get more budget money for his entity. According to the daily, the ministry's press service has not issued a comment. JAC

A political scandal is brewing in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast because its governor, Gennadii Khodyrev, asked President Putin for an expression of his trust on 23 March and has yet to receive an answer, although by law one is due within a week, reported on 27 June. The presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, Sergei Kirienko, has been lobbying for the appointment of either Yevgenii Lyulin, speaker of the oblast legislature, or Viktor Klochai, the former general director of Ulyanovsk Automobile Factory and current director of Volga Motor Works, the website reported. In Samara Oblast, President Putin reportedly did not agree with Kirienko's choice to replace Governor Konstantin Titov and decided to reappoint him. According to the site, Kirienko's political opponents are trying to create the impression that Kirienko's activities in the region are at odds with the interests of the Kremlin and that Kirienko plans to run for president one day. Khodyrev's term expires on 8 August and the deadline to submit the names of candidates to be governor to the local legislature is 4 July. JAC

Election results from 26 June in 11 districts in Bashkortostan have been declared null and void because of insufficient turnout, NTV and reported on 27 June. Municipal elections were held in the capital city of Ufa as well as 53 other municipal formations. Bashkortostan Election Commission head Baryi Kinzyagulov said this is the first time votes in the republic had to be declared invalid. He called the elections atypical for Bashkortostan where the turnout is typically close to 100 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 June. Turnout varied across the republic from 17 percent of all voters to 83 percent in one area. In the city of Ufa, the minimum 20 percent barrier was barely met. Artur Asafev of the nongovernmental organization Golos told the daily that the low turnout was in part due to the fact that the authorities did not explain to voters what the new local organs are supposed to do. In addition, both candidates and independent observers charge that the ballot was marred by widespread infringements and falsification (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005). JAC

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office announced on 27 July that it has three suspects in last year's murder case of 41-year-old journalist Maksim Maksimov, reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2004). The suspects are policemen Mikhail Smirnov, Andrei Bochurov, and Lev Pyatov in the department battling corruption in state organs of the chief directorate of the Interior Ministry for the Northwest Federal District. Maksimov had compromising information about the department where the suspects worked and was going to publish it. The policemen are in custody and expected to be charged with hiring two people to kill Maksimov, according to Interfax. JAC

Members of the supervisory council for "Moskovskie Novosti" have tendered their resignations following the refusal of "Moskovskie novosti" editor in chief Yevgenii Kiselev to reinstate employees that he had earlier fired, Ekho Moskvy reported on 27 June. The council had recommended in early April that all the fired journalists be rehired (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2005). The fired journalists accused Kiselev of "authorizing the practice of publishing political and economic promotional materials under the guise of editorial articles." Kiselev announced on 27 June that he has appointed Mikhail Mikhailin, former editor in chief of "Gazeta," as one of the deputy editors in chief and Vadim Malkin as another deputy. Malkin took part in the launching of and other Internet projects, according to Interfax. Leonid Nevzlin, leading Menatep shareholder and owner of the weekly, said on 27 June that he intends to find a new owner for the weekly, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 June. JAC

Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov issued a decree on 27 June naming First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov to head a commission to clarify the whereabouts of 11 residents of the village of Borozdinovskaya who were detained during a sweep operation on 4 June, Russian media reported. The commission is also to organize the return to Borozdinovskaya of several hundred families who fled to neighboring Daghestan after the sweep operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 20 and 24 June 2005). LF

The Abazin minority in the Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic held an emergency congress on 27 June at which participants adopted an appeal to President Putin enumerating their grievances, kavkaznet.web reported. The Abazins are an ethnic group related to the Abkhaz; they number approximately 30,000 and are the fourth largest ethnic group in the KChR, where they account for some 5 percent of the total population of 440,000. Specifically, the Abazins protested the annulment on 22 June by the Russian Supreme Court of a ruling by the KChR Supreme Court declaring illegal the KChR law revisiting the existing borders between the republic's municipalities. That law deprived the predominantly Abazin populated village of Kubin in Ust-Djegut Raion of some 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The Abazins demanded that law be revoked, arguing that it threatens their economic survival. Delegates also demanded that Putin request that the republic's parliament vote no confidence in President Mustafa Batdyev. The congress further adopted a resolution calling on the entire KChR population to back their demand for Batdyev's dismissal, and instructed local administrators in all 15 of the KChR's Abazin-populated villages to declare unilaterally their secession from their respective districts and their unification into a single Abazin municipal formation that should receive funding directly from the republic's budget, reported. LF

Bowing to pressure from local environmentalists and diaspora lobby groups, the Armenian government has changed the planned route of a key new highway to Iran, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 27 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian said the 96-kilometer highway will now bypass the Shikahogh forest reserve, one of Armenia's last tracts of virgin forest. That detour that will add some 7 kilometers to its length. Manukian said the highway should be completed by the summer of 2006, at a total cost of 9.3 billion drams ($21 million). LF

For the second time within one year, executives at Royal Armenia, one of the country's biggest coffee importers, have accused the State Customs Committee of penalizing the company for rejecting offers to cut illegal deals that would benefit customs officials, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 27 June. Royal Armenia executives accused the Customs Committee of seeking to bankrupt the company by overestimating the value of imported coffee beans. They said they rejected last year an offer from customs officials to underestimate the value of the imported beans in return for a share in the resulting profits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2004). The head of the Customs Committee's investigation department, Gevorg Nersisian, rejected Royal Armenia's allegations at a press conference on 27 June. LF

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian denied on 27 June that Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met last week in Brussels with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov to continue their ongoing discussions of approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Arminfo reported. Azerbaijani media quoted Mammadyarov on 26 June as having told journalists in Baku that such a meeting did take place, and that he and Oskanian discussed elements of unspecified "principles" agreed to by the countries' respective presidents during talks in Warsaw in mid-May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005). LF

Independent defense expert Uzeir Djafarov and Azerbaijani parliament deputy Zakhid Orudj have both argued that Baku would be justified in asking the UN to consider stripping Turkmenistan of its officially recognized "neutral" status, reported on 25 June. Djafarov expressed disquiet at Turkmenistan's ongoing efforts to beef up its military strength by means of contracts with Ukraine to modernize its air force and navy. But Turan on 27 June quoted Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry official Tair Tagizade as saying that while Baku sees no need for an arms buildup in the Caspian region, it will not raise the issue of formally depriving Turkmenistan of its self-proclaimed neutral status. LF

Tofik Zulfugarov, who served from March 1998 to October 1999 as Azerbaijan's foreign minister, has been named ambassador to Latvia, Turan reported on 27 June. Zulfugarov has been unemployed since he resigned over a disagreement with then President Heidar Aliyev concerning the optimum approach to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1999). LF

The Bulgarian office of Interpol denied on 27 June that it was a Bulgarian national who threw a hand grenade in the direction of U.S. President George W. Bush in Tbilisi on 10 May, reported. Earlier on 27 June, the same independent television station reported that Georgian police have identified an unnamed Bulgarian as the prime suspect in that attack. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told journalists last week he knows the identity of the perpetrator but declined to name him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2005). LF

Nino Burdjanadze told journalists on 27 June she considers the draft law providing for the Tbilisi mayor to be selected by members of the municipal council rather than directly elected is an improvement on the current arrangement under which the mayor is appointed by the president, Caucasus Press and reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2005). But opposition Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili called on international organizations on 27 June to condemn the new procedure as undemocratic, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. LF

Some 3,000 people attended a congress in Tbilisi on 27 June of the Samartlianoba (Justice) party headed by former Georgian Security Service chief Igor Giorgadze, Georgian media reported. The congress appealed to President Saakashvili and the Georgian parliament to drop within the next 100 days the charges of attempted murder and terrorism brought against Giorgadze 10 years ago and to permit him to return to Georgia to participate in a preterm presidential ballot. Giorgadze fled Georgia in September 1995 after being accused of masterminding an abortive car-bomb attack on then Georgian parliament speaker Eduard Shevardnadze. His whereabouts remain unknown, and his repeated efforts to register as a candidate in successive Georgian presidential or parliamentary elections have been unsuccessful. LF

Angry residents of the town of Zugdidi in western Georgia broke into the office of the local power distribution company on 26 June to protest a blackout that has left them without electricity or running water for weeks, Georgian media reported the following day. The city administration claims that consumers have not paid their electricity bills for three months, while local residents protest the distributor's demand that every family must pay 90 laris ($49.6) in arrears. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, who met with protesting Zugdidi residents on 24 June, warned them that electricity must be paid for and that once electricity meters are installed in each home it will be easier to determine accurately how much power individual families consume, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Kazakh police have begun a nationwide operation to crack down on illegal migrants, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 27 June. Taldybek Kattaubaev, the head of Almaty's migration police department, told a news conference in Almaty on 27 June that 200 Uzbek citizens were detained in the city on the operation's first day. He described them as Roma engaged in panhandling and said that the city of Almaty will pay for their deportation to Uzbekistan. Kattaubaev said that Kazakh authorities check detained migrants to see whether they are wanted on terrorist crimes in Uzbekistan, adding that "three or four" such individuals have been discovered in Almaty in 2005. Kattaubaev stressed that recent events in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have not sparked an upsurge in migration from those countries. DK

Acting Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva met on 27 June with Kamel Morjane, the UN refugee agency's assistant high commissioner, to discuss the fate of more than 400 Uzbek asylum seekers currently housed at a camp in Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad Province, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Otunbaeva said that the issue must be resolved quickly because the local population views the asylum seekers negatively, suspecting them of involvement in religious extremism. She noted, "Members of the underground party Hizb ut-Tahrir appeared frequently around the filtration camp." Otunbaeva also stressed that Kyrgyzstan's interim government finds itself in a difficult position, with Uzbekistan pressing for the asylum seekers' return and the international community protesting against such a step. She said, "We are now under pressure, in a very complicated situation. We, the new government, want to show the democratic aspirations of this country, but we have a difficult neighbor [in Uzbekistan]." Against this backdrop, Otunbaeva suggested that the transfer of the asylum seekers to a third country could benefit them and reduce tension between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. DK

Acting Foreign Minister Otunbaeva told a press conference in Bishkek on 27 June that 126 asylum seekers of the more than 400 currently housed in a camp in southern Kyrgyzstan have been interviewed to see whether they are eligible for refugee status, Kabar reported. Twenty-nine asylum seekers have been detained in Osh because Uzbek authorities suspect them of having committed crimes; 12 of the detainees have been interviewed. Otunbaeva estimated that the interview process could take up to one and a half months. She stressed that the 29 detained asylum seekers will not be turned over to Uzbekistan. Otunbaeva also said that a criminal case has been opened in connection with the earlier return of four asylum seekers to Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). DK

Kamel Morjane, the UN refugee agency's assistant high commissioner, will examine the possibility of resettling Uzbek asylum seekers from Kyrgyzstan to third countries, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR; reported on 27 June. He also pledged the UNHCR's help in protecting the 444 asylum seekers. The report noted that "Uzbek security forces appeared to have access to the site [of the current asylum seekers' camp in southern Kyrgyzstan]." DK

Kyrgyzstan's Parliament will not examine the issue of stripping ex-President Askar Akaev's son, Aidar Akaev, of his immunity from prosecution until September, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 27 June. Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov had asked legislators to expedite the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2005), but speaker Omurbek Tekebaev said that a commission has not even been formed. Parliament goes into a two-month-long recess beginning on 1 July. DK

Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev signed a decree on 26 June lifting restrictions on companies with suspected ties to former President Akaev provided the companies are not facing criminal charges, reported the next day. As of 1 July, companies that had been under investigation for Akaev ties and do not now figure in criminal cases will once again be able to conduct property transactions. The Kyrgyz government formed a commission in April to investigate the ex-president's alleged business interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2005), and companies that were under investigation were not allowed to conduct property transactions. DK

Tajikistan marked the eight anniversary of the agreement that ended the country's destructive civil war on 27 June, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov used the occasion to call on Tajiks to pray for Said Abdullo Nuri, who signed the 1997 pact as the leader of the United Tajik Opposition and currently heads the Islamic Renaissance Party, Interfax reported. Nuri is in Germany for medical treatment. The majority of current opposition leaders were not present at the ceremony on 27 June, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. DK

Tajik President Rakhmonov has sponsored a new antipoverty initiative in conjunction with the UN Development Program in Dushanbe, Avesta reported on 27 June. An agreement between the Tajik government and the UN aims for a single poverty reduction strategy in compliance with UN Millennium Development goals. Jeffrey Sachs, who heads the UN Millennium Project, told journalists in Dushanbe on 27 June that the project is intended to cut poverty in Tajikistan in half by 2015, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. DK

Russia's Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) announced in a 27 June press release on the company's website ( that it has purchased a 51-percent stake in U.S.-registered Barash Communications Technologies, Inc., the leading cellular operator in Turkmenistan, for $28.05 million. MTS is obligated to purchase the remaining 49 percent of the company, provided "certain conditions" are met, within eight months for a price not exceeding $26.95 million. The press release noted that Barash has 59,100 subscribers, or 97 percent of the market in Turkmenistan, where cell phone penetration remains less than 1 percent of the population. Olga Zhilinskaya, an analyst for Moscow-based investment company Renaissance Capital, told that Turkmenistan is "one of the fastest-growing" markets in the CIS. DK

A 22-percent increase in British development aid has drawn criticism, "The Scotsman" reported on 27 June. Aid for the fiscal year ending in April 2005 was 613,000 pounds ($1.1 million), while aid for the current fiscal year is projected to be 750,000 pounds. Critics questioned the wisdom of the aid in light of the Uzbek government's response to recent unrest in Andijon. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a harsh critic of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, told the newspaper, "For 12 years we have been pursuing this policy, and what advances have we seen? None." DK

Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka said at a meeting with the Chamber of Representatives' International Affairs Committee in Minsk on 27 June that Belarus is preparing to withdraw from the 1992 CIS agreement on visa-free travel, Belapan reported. Four CIS countries -- Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- have already withdrawn from the accord. Herasimenka said Belarus now has bilateral agreements on visa-free travel with all CIS countries except for Azerbaijan and Georgia. According to Herasimenka, Minsk wants to sign a similar agreement with Azerbaijan and has already proposed this to Baku. He added that after the matter is settled, Belarus will be "fully authorized to declare" its withdrawal from the CIS travel accord. Earlier this month, Minsk announced the introduction of visas for Georgians but a few days later backed down on the decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 June 2005). JM

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Kyiv on 27 June that NATO is ready to assist Ukraine on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. "We do know that on the road to NATO many reforms are necessary, and I know the Ukrainian government has embarked on the road of reform, and the NATO allies and myself as NATO Secretary-General will assist Ukraine wherever that is asked or wherever that is necessary," de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference following his meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Speaking at a meeting with representatives of Ukrainian nongovernmental organizations, the NATO head called on them to abandon Cold War-era stereotypes and look at NATO in a new way. He defined NATO's priorities in the modern world as fighting terrorism, thwarting nuclear proliferation, and reacting to regional conflicts. According to a poll held in May among more than 1,200 Ukrainians by the Kyiv-based Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, more than 58 percent of Ukrainians would vote in a referendum against joining NATO. JM

President Yushchenko said at a joint news conference with his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski in Kyiv on 27 June that the two countries need to move toward establishing joint ventures in order to boost trade and economic cooperation, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Both countries are reportedly interested in developing cooperation in the spheres of high-tech machinery, oil and gas pipeline building, and building hydroelectric power stations. The sides signed a number of cooperation agreements, including on railroad transport, tourism, and health. JM

Several leading politicians from Vojvodina told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 27 June that they strongly condemn the gathering of an unspecified number of mainly young fascists and neo-Nazis in Petrovaradin near Novi Sad the previous weekend. The Serbian chapter of the international fascist organization Krv i cast (Blood and Honor) played host to guests from Great Britain and Slovakia at the gathering under the motto of "Serbia 1995-2005: Ten Years of Struggle for the White Race." Nenad Canak, who heads the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, told RFE/RL that the nationalist gathering took place "with the blessing of the government of Serbia...which cannot be regarded as democratic" or as the real leader of society. The broadcast noted that the Serbian government has yet to comment on the rally. Bojan Kostres, who is president of Vojvodina's parliament, called on the police and courts to determine how the meeting came about, why it was not prevented, and how such gatherings can be avoided in the future. PM

Pavel Domonj from the NGO Committee for Human Rights in Serbia told RFE/RL in Novi Sad on 27 June that it does not surprise him that the 10th anniversary celebration of Krv i cast took place in either Serbia or Vojvodina. "Serbia is one of the few countries that is ashamed of its antifascist [traditions], and anything is possible here," he stressed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2004 and 17 February 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April 2005). The broadcast noted that Krv i cast stands for intolerance toward other races and religions as well as toward sexual minorities and virtually all marginalized groups. PM

Croatian President Stipe Mesic, his counterpart from Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marovic, and Borislav Paravac, who holds the rotating chair of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency, agreed in Belgrade on 27 June that their shared goals are Euro-Atlantic integration and the normalization and improvement of relations between their three countries, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April and 13 May 2005). The three leaders were guests of the Igman Initiative, which brings together some 140 NGOs from those three states. Paravac stressed that "we must openly and truthfully communicate to the younger generations the truth about past events." It was Paravac's last major appearance as chairman of the Presidency. The Croat Miro Jovic replaced him in that capacity on 28 June for an eight-month term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2005). PM

An unspecified number of Kosovar Albanian students threw eggs at Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic when he arrived at the headquarters of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) in Prishtina on 27 June, Reuters reported. Draskovic, who was on a private visit to Kosova to mark St. Vitus Day, or Vidovdan, on 28 June, and his party were not hurt. Draskovic attracted media attention before leaving for Prishtina by saying that independence for Kosova would "automatically mean independence" for Bosnia-Herzegovina's Republika Srpska. High Representative Paddy Ashdown responded to Draskovic that "the days when Belgrade brings into question the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina are long gone." PM

The Republika Srpska's Interior Ministry said in a statement on 27 June that police recently arrested 11 people in the eastern Podrinje area on suspicion of involvement in war crimes, Reuters reported. The ministry provided no further information except to say that the 11 are not on a list of 892 Bosnian Serb government employees suspected of links to atrocities during the 1992-95 conflict. PM

A court in Skopje on 27 June sentenced three former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders to seven years each in prison for a series of bomb attacks during the interethnic tensions in 2003, dpa reported. Avdyl Jakupi (aka Commander Jackal), Xhemajl Hyseni (aka Jamie Shea), and Agim Behluli were found guilty of attacking the Belgrade-Skopje railway line and setting off an explosion in Kumanovo. Jakupi and Hyseni are believed to be involved in the shadowy Albanian Liberation Army (AKSh) and have been linked to several recent violent incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2004). PM

Former Moldovan Defense Minister (1997-99) Valeriu Pasat went on trial in Chisinau on 27 June on charges of abuse of office and defrauding the state in connection with the sale of 21 jet fighters to the United States in 1997, Moldovan and international news agencies reported. Pasat, currently an advisor to Russia's Unified Energy Systems, is accused of having sold 21 MiG-29s for $40 million, which according to the Moldovan Prosecutor-General's Office inflicted a loss of $54 million on the state. The judge agreed to a demand by prosecutors to conduct the proceedings behind closed doors on grounds that issues of national security were at stake. Pasat's lawyer, George Amichalakioaye said the trial is not public because "the prosecution has no serious proof of [Pasat's] guilt," ITAR-TASS reported. Testimony is likely to continue until mid-July. JM

The Our Moldova Alliance (MNA) unanimously elected Serafim Urechean as its single leader at a congress held in Chisinau on 25 June, Infotag reported on 27 June. Since its creation in 2003, the MNA was headed by three co-chairmen: Serafim Urechean, Dumitru Braghis, and Vyacheslav Untila. The congress also adopted a new political platform defining the MNA as a "center-right party of the social liberal orientation." In the parliamentary elections on 6 March, Urechean led the Democratic Moldova Bloc, which won 34 mandates in the 101-seat legislature. Urechean resigned as mayor of Chisinau in April to take up his parliamentary seat. JM

Thousands of Serbs were shocked by the 2 June television broadcast of a video proving that the Serbian paramilitary police unit called the Scorpions took part in the July 1995 massacre of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males at Srebrenica in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. The reaction of official Serbia to the "smoking gun" of Serbian involvement in the killings has nonetheless been mixed.

The video showing members of the Scorpions abusing and killing six Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica first came to public attention on 1 June, when it was screened in The Hague at the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In reality, the video already had a long saga behind it. Natasa Kandic of the NGO Humanitarian Law Fund acquired it in December 2004 in a roundabout way with the help of former Scorpions living in Sid, where the group had been based.

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" on 19 June described how former Scorpions contacted her and the difficulties she and they encountered before she actually acquired the video. Even then she did not make its existence public but instead waited until her informants safely left Serbia with, as she put it, "a little bit of help" from unnamed sources.

On 23 May, she gave a copy of the video to the Serbian authorities, asking them to find and arrest the Scorpions shown on it. She let three days pass, during which the authorities apparently did nothing. Kandic then told the audience at a Belgrade podium discussion about the existence of the video, which she promptly made available to the various television stations in the capital. When the liberal broadcaster B92 showed the film on 2 June, the state-run RTS decided to follow suit.

The official reaction was swift, although none of Serbia's leaders apparently admitted that the authorities had a copy of the video as early as 23 May. The day after the broadcast, Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Belgrade that several people were arrested after being identified in the tape. Legal charges were subsequently filed against 10 people, most of whom are in police custody.

"Serbia is deeply shocked," Serbian President Boris Tadic said of the video. "Those images are proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion.... 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."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said, "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." Most observers took particular note of Kostunica's remarks because he has a much more pronounced nationalist profile than Tadic.

In the following days, Tadic stressed his determination to go to Srebrenica for the 11 July commemoration marking the 10th anniversary of the killings despite protests from some families of the victims. Speaking in Bucharest, Romania, on 23 June, he said that "as the president of Serbia and Serbs, I want to pay our respects to the victims of the war crime that took place in Srebrenica." "This vicious circle in the Balkans has to be broken so that the Balkans can become part of Europe and not a European province," Tadic added.

The president noted that the massacre was carried out by some of his fellow Serbs but stressed that "the entire Serbian people cannot be made responsible for it" and that the individuals responsible must be brought to justice. But only a few days earlier, he declined to attend the opening of an exhibit on Srebrenica in Belgrade, at which some of the victims' family members were present.

The government of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, which is far less powerful than the governments of its respective constituent republics, issued a statement on 15 June condemning the massacre. The document said that "the Council of Ministers strongly condemns the war crimes committed against Bosnian prisoners of war and civilians in Srebrenica in 1995." The statement added that "those who committed those crimes and the ones who ordered and organized that massacre did not represent Serbia or Montenegro, but an undemocratic regime of terror and death, which was opposed by the majority of people in Serbia and Montenegro."

Hours before the government of Serbia and Montenegro issued its declaration, however, the Serbian parliament abandoned attempts to pass a resolution on war crimes because the political parties could not agree on a text. In particular, leaders of most parties rejected any version that mentioned Srebrenica without citing specific atrocities committed against Serbs. Milos Aligrudic of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said that "it would have been fail to mention all crimes, because they are equally grave and heinous." He stressed that Serbs were the "greatest victim" of conflicts in former Yugoslavia throughout the 20th century. Many people in Washington and European capitals criticized the parliament for failing to come to grips with Serbia's past and explicitly condemn the massacre.

Then "The New York Times" reported from Belgrade on 24 June that "for the first time, [Serbian] government officials...confirmed that they had sought contact with the secret support network that has helped to keep [the Bosnian Serb commander at Srebrenica and war crimes indictee] General [Ratko] Mladic in hiding for at least eight years."

Serbian government spokesman Srdjan Djuric said that efforts are under way to contact members of Mladic's support network to convince him to surrender. "Considering how highly sensitive this is, the Serbian government does not announce results before they have happened. Any detail could jeopardize the whole process," Djuric added.

The support network reportedly consists of two parts, one of Bosnian Serbs and the other of members of the former Yugoslav intelligence community. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who visited Belgrade recently, told the daily that he believes that the Serbian authorities "want to find [Mladic] for the first time in 10 years."

Reactions to the video also came from outside the government. In the video, a Serbian Orthodox priest is seen blessing the Scorpions and praying for their victory. More than one week after the broadcast, on 10 June, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) issued a statement condemning the killing of the six Muslims. The statement was titled "Our Lord, May It Never Happen Again" and referred to "the cold-blooded killing of unarmed, defenseless civilians." Many Muslims and Croats, and also some Serbs, have charged the SPC over the years with failing to criticize war crimes carried out by Serbs in the conflicts of the 1990s.

Some NGOs prepared for the anniversary in their own ways. Kandic's Humanitarian Law Fund and the local office of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal organized a conference on the massacre on 11 June in Belgrade. The gathering passed without incident and amid heavy police presence, although there had been fears of potential violence at the hands of organized soccer fans and nationalistic Belgrade University students. Kandic stressed that it is no longer possible for Serbs to deny what happened in Srebrenica, adding that the government and not the NGOs must take the lead in arresting Mladic. Most of those in attendance came from NGOs and the international community. Rifat Rastoder, who is the deputy speaker of Montenegro's parliament, and Serbian Agriculture Minister Ivana Dulic Markovic, who said that she came in a private capacity, were the only officials present.

On 23 June, a presentation took place at Belgrade's antinationalist Center for Cultural Decontamination for the book "Srebrenica: From Denial to Recognition." Activist Sonja Biserko, who heads Serbia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said that the political elite's failure to face up to Serbia's role in the massacre has prompted the outside world to assign collective guilt to all Serbs. Historian Latinka Perovic called the massacre "more than a tragedy." She argued that the Srebrenica controversy has split Serbian society into one group that is arrogant and unaffected and a second group that is afraid that the evil could be repeated.

U.S. military officials on 27 June said 77 neo-Taliban insurgents died in clashes last week in southern Afghanistan, AFP reported the same day. Afghan officials had put the death toll among insurgents at 178, a figure U.S. officials disputed. "The numbers that I have this morning, checking through intelligence and operation channels, we've 77 enemy killed in action," said U.S. military spokesman Colonel James Yonts. Yonts said the differing death tolls likely resulted from double counting at the battle scene in the Mian Nisheen district of Kandahar Province. "This is what happens in war. They might have found a leg here and an arm there so they count one or they count two," Yonts said. "What is important is that this operation seized control of this area. The enemy that were in that area no longer exist." MR

U.S. forces pushed deeper into southern Afghanistan on 27 June in search of neo-Taliban fighters, AP reported the same day. American forces swooped by helicopter into several villages in Khakeran Valley, where neo-Taliban guerillas are thought to be active. As many as 300 fighters are believed to be moving through the area, but U.S. forces failed to spot any guerillas. "The enemy has been using the Khakeran Valley as a sanctuary," said Lieutenant Luke Langer, a platoon leader in the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "Without question, I know the Taliban are in the area.... From talking to local people, we know the enemy are very angry with us being here." The U.S. hunt for militants in the valley followed intense battles last week in a nearby area that left dozens of insurgents dead. "The enemy forces are not dumb. So when they get a sense that we're doing an operation in area 'X,' they will move on to area 'Y,'" said U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara. "It is our goal to be in area 'Y' before they set anything up." MR

Afghan authorities have arrested two suspected neo-Taliban commanders in Helmand Province, the Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported on 27 June. The report was unclear whether the arrests were made on 26 June or 27 June. Speaking to the Pakistani-based news agency on 27 June, Haji Mohayoddin, the head of the Administration Department of Helmand Province, said: "Two Taliban commanders have been arrested with weapons and documents in Musa Qala District during mopping up operations which began yesterday in a number of Helmand Province districts, including Washir, Kajaki, Musa Qala, and Dishu." Mohayoddin identified the neo-Taliban commanders as Zia al-Haq and Sher Mohammad. The neo-Taliban has not yet commented on the report. MR

The Afghan government has called on Sri Lanka to help rebuild giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban, Xinhua news agency reported on 27 June. Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Minister Visva Warnapala said the Afghans brought up the issue when he met Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Haider Reza and Deputy Minister of Labor Walmohe Rasooli in Colombo recently. The report did not disclose the date of the meeting. Warnapala said the Afghan officials also sought Sri Lanka's help in developing health care, trade, and education. MR

Masumeh Shafii, the wife of imprisoned dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, told Radio Farda on 27 June that her husband is continuing his hunger strike. Ganji, who has been in jail for five years, was given a furlough in early June so he could get medical attention. He returned to prison on 11 June and resumed the hunger strike he was on before his release. Shafii said the press court's judge Said Mortazavi has ordered the media not to report on Ganji's condition, Radio Farda reported. Publications are afraid of being closed down, she said, so they do not publish information about Ganji, including statements or faxes from his wife. Shafii last saw her husband on 21 June. She said Ganji's health is failing and his weight was down to 60 kilograms at that time, Radio Farda reported, but his spirit is undiminished. Shafii said her husband is in solitary confinement and he is not allowed to telephone. Shafii told Radio Farda that she, their children, and Ganji's mother are very worried and eager for news about him. BS

Sohrab Suleimani, director-general of Tehran Province's prisons, said on 27 June that Ganji is no longer on hunger strike, ISNA reported. Suleimani added that Ganji can have visitors, including his family and lawyers. He also said that he has ordered that Ganji be transferred to a minimum security suite. BS

A statement from the Islamic Iran Participation Front (Jebhe-yi Mosharekat) says that a militaristic party has emerged, but this party is nameless, its members do not wear uniforms, and it does not have a license, Radio Farda reported on 27 June. The statement goes on to accuse this party of using official facilities and funds, and of interfering in the election, Radio Farda reported. One of the unsuccessful candidates in the first round of the election, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, has accused Basij Resistance Force commander Mohammad Hejazi of involving the force in politics and suggested he become the secretary-general of a Basij Party (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 June 2004). BS

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said in Jerusalem on 27 June during a meeting with visiting European officials that the Iranian presidential election reveals the country's conservatism and radicalism, according to the government's press office. He referred to a democratic pretense for dangerous and radical policies. Shalom said on 26 June that the international community must be tough on Iran, Voice of Israel reported. Asked about the Israeli reaction to his election, President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad said at a 26 June press conference, "I think that the situation of the leaders of the regime occupying Quds [Jerusalem] is too well known for me to try to say something to other nations about them," state television reported. He continued: "Those individuals are destroying people's homes above their heads. Those individuals' existence is illegitimate. Those individuals are the root cause of insecurity throughout the Middle East." "They do not have the right to express their views of others," Ahmadinejad concluded. BS

Ahmadinejad described the peaceful use of nuclear technology as a right and something that is required for medical, engineering, and scientific advancement. Ahmadinejad reacted angrily to a reporter's question about EU threats to freeze nuclear discussions if he does not make commitments on human rights and the nuclear issue. "I think that the European side should come out of its ivory tower and stop addressing the Iranian nation with arrogance," he said. "These arguments are banal, outdated, and disgusting." He warned, "They [the EU] should be careful that the Iranian nation is a big and wise nation, which defends its rights seriously." He said negotiations with the EU will continue. Ahmadinejad was vague on his nuclear negotiating team, saying, "The decision on the composition of the team is made by the foreign policy decision makers." As head of the Supreme National Security Council, the president has an important role in foreign affairs, but on the nuclear issue, decisions appear to be made collectively by a group headed by Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani. BS

In the face of rumors that he opposes the stock market, Ahmadinejad said, "we will fully support the idea of using the stock market as an investment market." "The stock market and the investment market are investment tools, which link capital to production and investment." However, Ahmadinejad hinted that there will be some changes, saying, "The stock market will definitely be promoted, but of course there should be some reforms." He also called for greater transparency and the elimination of hidden transactions. BS

Iraqi National Assembly representative Dari Ali al-Fayid was killed in Baghdad on 28 June, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Al-Fayid is the second member of the transitional parliament to be killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2005). Police said that al-Fayid, his son, and three bodyguards were killed in a suicide car bomb attack that targeted their vehicle on the outskirts of Baghdad. Al-Fayid was the oldest member of parliament and assumed the duty of speaker on the opening day of parliament on 16 March. KR

Iraqi security forces backed by some 1,000 U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers launched a new operation in the western Al-Anbar governorate on 28 June, according to the Multinational Forces website ( Dubbed Operation Saif (sword), the operation is being carried out along the Euphrates River between Hadithah and Hit. The operation is the sixth such operation to be launched in the troubled governorate, which stretches from areas west of Baghdad to the Syrian border. The previous operations were Operations River Blitz, New Market, Matador, Spear, and Dagger. KR

Iraqi police opened fire on a group of demonstrators in the southern city of Samawah on 28 June, Reuters reported. Some 2,000 unemployed Iraqis had gathered in the city center reportedly after being turned down for positions in the police, the news agency said. Police opened fire after the crowd threw stones at them, first firing into the air, and later into the crowd, a reporter at the scene said. Seven Iraqis sustained gunshot wounds, and four policemen were injured from the stones. Some 550 Japanese humanitarian troops are stationed in Samawah, which has seen little violence in the two years since the fall of the Hussein regime. Meanwhile, Al-Muthanna Governor Muhammad Ali Hassan al-Hasani reportedly dressed down a visiting delegation of British forces representatives this week for their failure to help reactivate a 60-megawatt power grid in the governorate. The grid has been inoperable because it lacks filters and some basic spare parts, "Al-Dustur" reported on 26 June. KR

Municipalities and Public Works Minister Nasreen Barwari criticized the transitional government for failing to address the problems facing the city of Kirkuk, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) daily "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 27 June. Barwari is a member of the KDP. Barwari contended that the central government is obliged under Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law to address the economic and social situation of displaced Iraqis living in Kirkuk. Constitutional drafting committee members said last week that the issue of Kirkuk will not be taken up until after a permanent constitution is drafted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2005). First deputy chairman of the committee, Fu'ad Ma'sum, told Al-Sharqiyah television in a 27 June interview that 80 percent of the draft has been approved by all parties, while the remaining 20 percent needs time for debate. KR

The U.S. military announced on 27 June that it will expand prisons across Iraq to hold as many as 16,000 detainees, AP reported on 28 June. The number of inmates at three military complexes in Iraq -- Abu Ghurayb, Camp Bucca, and Camp Cropper -- have doubled from 5,435 in June 2004 to 10,002 now, said Lieutenant Gary Rudisill, spokesman for detainee operations in Iraq. "We are past the normal capacity for both Abu Ghurayb and Camp Bucca. We are at surge capacity," he said. A new military compound that can hold 400 detainees was completed at Abu Ghurayb two weeks ago; a second same-size compound will be finished by the end of July, Rudisill said. The United States is also converting a former Iraqi military barracks into a prison near Al-Sulaymaniyah. The barracks, to be renamed Fort Suse and opened on 30 September, will house some 2,000 detainees. KR

A Syrian diplomatic and security delegation left Damascus for Baghdad on 28 June, SANA news agency reported. The delegation, headed by Ambassador Muhammad Sa'id al-Bunni, will reportedly deliver a letter to Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari from his Syrian counterpart Faruq al-Shar'a. The delegation will also "take the necessary steps" to open the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad, SANA reported. KR