Accessibility links

Newsline - June 29, 2005

President Vladimir Putin met on 28 June in Moscow with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss deepening their countries' cooperation in fighting international terrorism and other global threats, both bilaterally and multilaterally, RIA-Novosti reported. They then discussed the violence in Andijon in mid-May. Karimov said that the unrest was incited by Islamist militants who infiltrated from Afghanistan and that "Western journalists knew about the events and arrived in Andijon in advance to occupy convenient positions for reporting," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. "This was a professional, thoroughly prepared operation," Karimov added. "Its scriptwriters and directors have used religious, extremist, and radical forces, which they themselves describe as terrorists, whom they successfully fought in Afghanistan and whom they now fight in Iraq." Putin said that Russian intelligence knew about the infiltration of militants from Afghanistan and warned the countries concerned. "We confirm the information that militants penetrated from specially prepared bases in Afghanistan. They were concentrating on border territories and this is a fact. Our secret services confirm that," Putin said. VY

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller and Naftohaz Ukrayiny head Oleksiy Ivchenko failed at a closed-door meeting in Moscow on 28 June to come to an agreement on what to do about 7.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas stored in Ukrainian reservoirs, which the Russian gas monopoly considers its property (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 10 June 2005), RTR and other media reported. Speaking to journalists after the talks, Ivchenko said that his company asked Gazprom to consider the disputed gas as future export supplies. However, Gazprom Deputy CEO Aleksandr Ryazanov said that his company made a unilateral decision to consider the gas barter payment for the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine at a price of $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. "I think this solution is profitable for Russia and acceptable for Ukraine," RTR quoted him as saying. Ryazanov added that Gazprom experts do not understand what Ivchenko had in mind with his offer, Channel One reported. However, additional gas supplies to Ukraine this year will go at a "European price" of $160 per 1,000 cubic meters, he said. Moreover, beginning in 2006, Gazprom will sell gas to Ukraine only for cash. According to an agreement signed in 2004, this year Russia should transit through Ukraine 128 billion cubic meters, 23 billion of which will be payment for transit, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 June. VY

Andrei Tsygankov, the deputy head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service, announced on 28 June that his agency has approved a request from S.A. Holding, a subdivision of the Base Element group, to buy 80 percent of Silovye Mashiny, Russia's only producer of equipment for hydro-, thermal-, and nuclear-power stations and an important defense contractor, "Vedomosti" and other media reported. Oligarch Oleg Deripaska controls Base Element. On 26 June, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said at a meeting with German businessmen in St. Petersburg that the government has no objections to Siemens buying shares in Silovye Mashiny, providing it is not a controlling stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005). VY

Following President Putin's meeting with U.S. and German business leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 27 June 2005), Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov met on 28 June with the heads of 20 leading Western investment companies including JP Morgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments, Merrill Lynch Asset Management, and Deutsche Bank, "Vedomosti" and other media reported. Fradkov told the Western financiers that Russia has experienced "robust and strong" growth and plans to take advantage of high oil prices to double gross domestic product by 2010. The closed-door meeting was also attended by presidential aide Igor Shuvalov, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatiev, and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. Shuvalov told the Western investors that over the next year or so Russian authorities hope to eliminate the negative psychological effects of the Yukos affair, "Vedomosti" reported. They will then work to improve the judicial system, though this is likely to be a task for the next president and the next government, he said. VY

Speaking to the State Duma on 28 June, Finance Minister Kudrin announced that the government is preparing to submit this fall a bill on amnesty for Russian capital that has fled the country and simplify its repatriation, NTV reported. According to the bill, anyone repatriating capital will be given the opportunity to pay a flat 13 percent tax, deposit the funds into a Russian bank, and invest them in the national economy. The Finance Ministry is also preparing proposals for simplifying legalization of undeclared domestic income, NTV reported, According to these proposals, from 1 January 2006 one can declare any amount of income concealed before 2005 with no repercussions. VY

Airat Vakhitov, a Russian citizen who was kept at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, announced at a press conference in Moscow on 28 June that he has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for allegedly violating his rights during his detention, RIA-Novosti reported. Vakhitov, a former Muslim cleric in Tatarstan, was one of seven Russian citizens released from Guantanamo in 2004 and extradited to Russia. At the press conference, Vakhitov claimed that he served as an imam at a mosque in Naberezhnye Chelny, but was suspected by militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan of collaborating with Russian secret services. He said he was kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan in 2000. In 2001 the new government of Afghanistan handed him over to the U.S. military. Vakhitov said that while detained in Guantanamo, he was tortured physically and psychologically and witnessed the torture of other prisoners. After returning to Russia, Vakhitov and six other Russian prisoners from Guantanamo were acquitted. VY

Members of the Motherland State Duma faction on 28 June voted 26 to seven to expel Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Motherland party and faction leader Dmitrii Rogozin told reporters on 28 June that "I will not tolerate splitters in the faction." "Kommersant-Daily" also quoted Motherland Duma Deputy Mikhail Markelov as saying that Baburin was expelled for undermining the faction's reputation, with the "last straw" being his claim during a recent TV-Tsentr interview that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii finances Motherland. Baburin countered that he said that media financed by Berezovskii are supporting Rogozin. Baburin's People's Will was one of the founding members of the Motherland electoral bloc in 2003, and Baburin vowed to convene an extraordinary congress of that bloc in order to expel Rogozin's Motherland party from its ranks. Members of the Motherland Duma faction will soon attempt to strip Baburin of his title of Duma deputy speaker. Ekho Moskvy and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated on 28 June that expelling Baburin could prompt 14 Duma deputies to leave Motherland, bringing the faction's membership down to just 26. LB

In the latest edition of "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 25, Motherland leader Rogozin claimed that his party has 106,000 members and predicted that it will soon surpass the Communist Party (KPRF), with membership approaching 215,000 by the end of this year and 500,000 by the time of the next parliamentary elections in December 2007. He characterized the typical Motherland member as an educated person between the ages of 35 and 50 and said that regional branches of Motherland are instructed to find at least 30 to 40 donors, primarily representing medium-sized business. He said Motherland is willing to cooperate with the "healthy part" of the KPRF, namely its youth organizations and the "communist intelligentsia" who are educated and do not hail from the Soviet-era nomenklatura. Although Rogozin called for protests against social-benefits reform earlier this year and advocated a "social revolution" at Motherland's recent party congress, he told "Kommersant-Vlast" that he is "categorically against all revolutions" like Ukraine's Orange Revolution and used the word merely to denote a "deep transformation" of economic, social, and crime-fighting policies. LB

The Constitutional Court on 27 June struck down portions of the Criminal Procedure Code that exempted prosecutors and police from investigating certain types of crimes, reported. The disputed parts of the code declared that in criminal cases opened by the victims rather than by law-enforcement agencies, judges are instructed to act on documents filed by the victim. Victims are required to present evidence naming the guilty party and proving the case. The Constitutional Court ruled that the disputed portions do not grant victims access to justice and compensation if they do not know the identity of the perpetrator, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 June. According to the ruling, victims of assault and premeditated attacks that do minor damage to their health may turn to the prosecutors or the police, who must then investigate the charge. In the same ruling, the Constitutional Court upheld the right of courts to open criminal cases launched by victims and to help the parties collect evidence that they may not be able to obtain independently. LB

Lawyers representing members of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) on 28 June filed four separate appeals to the Constitutional Court challenging President Putin's right to appoint governors, reported. The court has already agreed to hear a Tyumen resident's appeal challenging the 2004 law that abolished elections for regional executives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2005). SPS lawyers are confident the court will simultaneously consider their documents, filed on behalf of residents of Bryansk, Moscow, Kursk, and Orel oblasts. One author of the SPS appeals, Boris Nadezhdin, told that the law in question violates at least seven articles of the constitution. Ekho Moskvy and REN-TV noted on 28 June that since the law abolishing gubernatorial elections came into effect, SPS regional branches have sought to call a number of regional referendums demanding that elections be reinstated. However, all such attempts have failed. LB

Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii on 28 June published a "road map" in the daily "Vedomosti," outlining the means by which Russia could double its gross domestic product while making the executive branch more transparent and less corrupt, protecting civil rights and freedoms, establishing a wholly independent judiciary, and promoting social justice. At a Moscow press conference on 28 June, Yavlinskii argued that Russia's "democrats" must unite not in political opposition, but in support of a "positive program," reported. Although Yavlinskii called for expunging the influence of "oligarchs" over the current regime, he also advocated safeguarding private property rights. He said Yabloko (which generally opposed Russia's privatization policies during the 1990s) would recognize privatization results as legitimate in exchange for property owners paying a onetime compensation tax. Asked whether he would follow the example of SPS leaders, who resigned to make way for younger leadership, Yavlinskii argued that many new faces have joined the Yabloko leadership during the last year. commented that Yavlinskii did not propose anything new in his "road map" and is, in effect, simply urging other parties to unite around Yabloko's current party platform. LB

The Foreign Ministry's press department issued a statement on 28 June pointing out that the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus has rejected as "a gross falsification" the "insinuations" broadcast by the Georgian independent television station Rustavi-2 that it was a Russian servicemen who threw a hand grenade at U.S. President George W. Bush in Tbilisi on 10 May, and that a Russian serviceman was subsequently apprehended trying to leave Georgia. The statement expressed "regret" that no Georgian official has denied those allegations. LF

Signing of the power-sharing treaty between Chechnya and the Russian federal authorities has been postponed indefinitely, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 June, quoting Fedor Shcherbakov, press secretary to presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak. "The draft continues to be negotiated by the Southern Federal District and Moscow. There are serious amendments to it," Shcherbakov said. Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov predicted last month that the treaty would be signed during the second half of June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2005). Alkhanov said there are "no points of disagreement" over the treaty, and that the sole unresolved question relates to granting Chechnya the status of a region of intensive economic development. LF

The 4 June "sweep" operation in the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya that triggered the exodus of the village's predominantly ethnic Avar population to neighboring Daghestan demonstrates the lack of "true leadership" in Chechnya, former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantamirov told Interfax on 28 June. It also shows the lack of coordination in Chechnya between police and the Russian military, he added, noting that search operations "have been delegated to God knows whom, but not to those who should be dealing with them." Gantamirov is engaged in a bitter struggle with the pro-Moscow Chechen administration over his intention to participate in the Chechen parliamentary elections tentatively scheduled for November on the Motherland party ticket (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 17, and 20 June 2005). LF

First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists in Gudermes on 28 June that the Chechen police should be granted additional powers to fight terrorism and crime, Interfax reported. He said Chechnya, like the other 88 federation subjects, should have its own full-fledged Interior Ministry. Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov (no relation to Alu) concurred with Kadyrov, saying that the Chechen police are capable of performing their duties effectively, ITAR-TASS reported. But, Alkhanov added, police sweep operations such as the one in Borozdinovskaya discredit the Chechen authorities. LF

A Yerevan court sentenced Russian-born Armenian citizen Sergei Maziev on 28 June to 12 years' imprisonment on charges of spying for Azerbaijan, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Maziev pleaded guilty to those charges. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, who represented the prosecution, said Maziev committed a "particularly severe crime" by helping to plan for an attempt to assassinate President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2005). LF

Vahe Grigorian, who heads a private law firm that represents Armenians who bring legal action against the government for alleged human rights violations, claimed on 28 June that the National Security Service, the successor organization to the KGB, has launched criminal proceedings against him on a fabricated charge of cheating a client, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Grigorian claimed that case was brought in retaliation for his firm's human rights engagement. LF

At its final session before the two-month summer recess, the Azerbaijani parliament approved on 28 June in the second and third (final) readings 43 separate amendments to the election law proposed by President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijani media reported. Those amendments do not include the most important changes called for by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission: changing the composition of election commissions to give the authorities and the opposition equal representation, and abolishing all restrictions on election monitoring by domestic NGOs. The amendments do, however, reduce the deposit a candidate must pay on registering for the ballot, and provide for posting voter lists on the website of the Central Election Commission, and for making public the preliminary results two days after the ballot. LF

Elkhan Guseinov has been summoned from Ashgabat to Baku for unspecified consultations, reported on 29 June, citing an unnamed Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry official. It is not clear whether those consultations relate to Turkmenistan's ongoing military buildup, about which several Azerbaijani experts have expressed profound concern (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2005). Turkmenistan closed its diplomatic representation in Azerbaijan four years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2001). LF

Colonel General Vladimir Kuparadze, who is deputy commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus, warned on 28 June that the Georgian authorities' apparent reluctance to grant entrance visas to 1,320 Russian servicemen may delay implementation of the recent agreement on closing Russia's two military bases in Georgia by 31 December 2007, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 24 June 2005). He said the application for the visas was made in March, and the Georgian authorities have not yet given any explanation for the delay in issuing them. Kuparadze explained that the planned rotation of military personnel cannot begin, and that officers cannot go on leave for fear they will not be allowed to return to Georgia. LF

Several Georgian NGOs addressed a statement to the Georgian government on 28 June expressing their concern at the implications of recent legislation on the composition of election commissions and on the procedure for selecting the Tbilisi mayor, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. They argue that the law passed by parliament in the first reading last week which empowers the Tbilisi municipal council to elect the city mayor is at odds with the Georgian leadership's proclaimed intention of creating a single cohesive democratic concept of local government (see "Georgia: Is The Country Becoming Progressively Less Democratic?", 29 June 2005). LF

Police arrested several senior Georgian tax officials on 28 June on suspicion of soliciting a 150,000-lari ($82,808) bribe from an unnamed foreign businessman to write off $3 million worth of taxes he owed, Reuters and Georgian agencies reported. Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who announced the arrests at a press conference in Tbilisi, said the bribe is the biggest known to have been paid in Georgia. LF

Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the leader of the opposition movement For a Just Kazakhstan, told a press conference in Almaty on 28 June that the movement plans to sue the Justice Ministry after being refused registration for a second time, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Tuyakbai said that the Justice Ministry employed a ruse, refusing For a Just Kazakhstan registration because the movement's draft charter used the phrase "funds" instead of "money," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tuyakbai called the ministry's decision "illegal." But Talgat Manaev, a member of the Justice Ministry's registration committee, said that the movement was informed of the reasons for the denial of registration, adding, "If they fix the problems we have noted and resubmit, then we will revise our decision." DK

Shares of PetroKazakhstan, a Canadian-registered oil company that operates in Kazakhstan, jumped 17 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange on 27 June on news of a possible merger or takeover bid, "The Globe and Mail" reported the next day. Bloomberg cited analysts at Moscow's Aton brokerage as saying that China National Petroleum Corp., India's Oil & Gas Corp., or even Chevron or ENI could be potential buyers. PetroKazakhstan, which has a market value of $2.8 billion, has endured a run of bad news in 2005, including a fight with Russia's LUKoil over a jointly owned company in Kazakhstan, criminal charges against executives in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2005), and a production drop after Kazakh authorities banned the flaring of natural gas earlier this year. DK

Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry has confirmed that Kyrgyz presidential hopeful Urmat Baryktabasov received Kazakh citizenship in 2002, "Kazakhstan Today" reported on 28 June. Kyrgyz authorities are currently seeking Baryktabasov, who was denied registration as a candidate in Kyrgyzstan because of his dual citizenship, on criminal charges in connection with rioting in Bishkek on 17 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005). Baryktabasov has denied that he financed or organized the disturbances in Bishkek. DK

Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 28 June approved an amnesty bill in connection with the 60th anniversary of victory in World War II, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The amnesty, which requires the signature of acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev to become law, would affect 10,000 prisoners, reducing sentences for some 9,000 and setting more than 1,000 free. It would primarily benefit the elderly, military veterans, and those who committed lesser crimes. DK

Russian Emergency Situations Minster Sergei Shoigu met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 28 June for talks that focused on bilateral cooperation, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Shoigu and Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, who are the co-chairmen of the two countries' Joint Economic Commission, signed an agreement on the reprocessing of Russian rocket propellant in Tajikistan, Avesta reported. Shoigu also said that Russia will help Tajikistan with mine-clearing operations and will provide aid to flood victims in Tajikistan, Avesta and RIA-Novosti reported. DK

Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 28 June sentenced Rustam Fayziev, deputy head of the unregistered opposition party Taraqqiyot, to five years and 10 months in prison for insulting the president and fomenting ethnic discord, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Judge Nor Nurov said that Fayziev, who was arrested in August 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2004), had prepared letters to international organizations, including the International Criminal Court at The Hague, accusing President Rakhmonov of genocide. Taraqqiyot leader Sulton Quvvatov condemned the sentence as unjust and political, but said there will be no appeal because Tajikistan's lack of an independent judiciary renders an appeal pointless. DK

In a telephone interview with on 28 June, Qobil Parpiev, a leader in the armed uprising in Andijon on 12-13 May, called for an international investigation into the events. Parpiev, who is reported to have held telephone negotiations with Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov on 13 May, told that the insurgents in Uzbekistan on 13 May have no ties to such extremist groups as Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or the Taliban. "[Uzbek President] Islam Karimov is accusing us of ties to terrorists, but we deny these accusations. Let an independent commission investigate and give its assessment," he said. Parpiev also told that one of the four Uzbek asylum seekers returned from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005) was subsequently tortured and is currently hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. said that Parpiev conducted the interview "from a safe place outside of Uzbekistan." In comments in Moscow on 28 June, President Karimov charged that the person Uzbek authorities negotiated with in Andijon, a man he identified as "Barbiev," is currently hiding in Kyrgyzstan, RIA-Novosti reported. DK

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 28 June met with young people who have been or are being supported from two presidential funds for talented students, Belarusian Television reported. The Belarusian president said the funds have been set up over the past decade to prevent a brain drain from Belarus. "The best graduates from our higher educational institutions and young cultural activists sought to find jobs abroad, and the hunting -- in the full meaning of the word -- for such people was colossal," Lukashenka said. "We have curbed the activity of foreign grant makers who carried out ideological expansion to Belarus under the guise of humanitarian aid [and] organized the departure of our specialists and scientists abroad, essentially stealing the intellectual property of our state." JM

The Minsk City Court on 28 June dismissed an appeal against the restricted freedom sentences handed down to opposition politicians Pavel Sevyarynets and Mikalay Statkevich last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005), RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. Both were sentenced to a three-year restricted freedom term for organizing unauthorized demonstrations to protest the official results of the October 2004 parliamentary elections and national referendum. Their sentences were reduced by one year under this year's amnesty law. Meanwhile, the same court on 27 June upheld damages worth some $27,000 that a district court awarded against the Minsk-based private biweekly "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" and its editor in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2005). The Supreme Economic Court on 27 June also upheld the Information Ministry's warning against the opposition-minded daily "Narodnaya volya." This was the second warning received by the daily within a year, which allows the authorities to suspend its publication for an indefinite period. "Narodnaya volya" has recently lost two libel suits and been ordered to pay more than $53,000 in damages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). JM

Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said in an interview with Interfax on 28 June that the government wants to give those Ukrainian oligarchs who might have made their fortunes under questionable circumstances in the past a chance to live honest lives under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko. "Today we are ready to discuss the conditions for revaluation of [privatized] strategic enterprises," Tymoshenko said. "If you want to legalize your properties, please come and pay the rest for them. Voluntarily, without any coercion, without waiting until your hands and legs are twisted and you are put into prison. Make [amicable] deals, start paying taxes, and build your lives in a normal, legal way. I think you have a chance." She also revealed that the government is in favor of adopting a law listing "several tens of strategic facilities" that could be subject to revaluation and reprivatization. According to Tymoshenko, the current owners of these facilities should be given the right to pay an extra sum to the government in order to fill the gap between what they paid for them and their "real price." Tymoshenko said a relevant bill was prepared four months ago but its passage is being opposed by a "colossal lobby." JM

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told Interfax-Ukraine on 28 June that Ukrainian investigators have opened 726 criminal cases against people suspected of rigging the 2004 presidential election. "We suspect 5,500 people of voting with absentee ballots two times and more," Lutsenko said. He explained that the authorities does not intend to imprison all people who participated in the vote fraud. "We actually need to reveal 10-20 organizers [of the fraud]," Lutsenko said. "I don't rule out that even they will be granted some amnesty, but they should remember that [their behavior] was inadmissible." Lutsenko also said he wants 16 deputies of the Verkhovna Rada to be stripped of parliamentary immunity in order to enable investigators to instigate criminal proceedings against them. He added that these proceedings are not directly linked to the presidential election. JM

Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom has unilaterally decided that 7.8 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas in Ukraine-based storage facilities will be booked as payment for Russian gas transit across Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June, quoting a Gazprom press release. "As for us, we have made a contrary offer, proposing to book this gas volume as Russian exports to Europe across Ukraine," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( quoted Ivchenko as saying. Earlier this month, Gazprom blamed Naftohaz Ukrayiny for the disappearance of 7.8 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, worth nearly $400 million, from Ukraine's underground storage facilities. Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy are currently negotiating the price and volume of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006. JM

An unnamed Athens prosecutor has launched an investigation into any role Greek volunteers might have played in the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian forces killed about 8,000 mainly Muslim males, London's "The Independent" reported on 29 June. The daily noted that "Greece was a staunch ally of the...regime [of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic] in the Yugoslav wars of succession in the 1990s, but the presence of Greek paramilitaries fighting with Bosnian Serbs has not been fully investigated. The part played by the so-called Greek Volunteer Brigade in the assault on Srebrenica was widely reported in Greece at the time but veterans of the brigade have gone to ground since the formation of the war crimes tribunal" in The Hague. The paper also noted that "an article run [in 1995] in the Greek daily 'Ethnos' on the 'heroic' exploits of the volunteers in Srebrenica prompted an overwhelming response from enthusiastic readers wanting to sign up to fight." Greece's role in supporting the Milosevic regime was first exposed by the Greek journalist Takis Michas in his 2002 book "Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005, "RFE/RL Newsline," End Note, 28 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 June 2005). PM

Tomislav Nikolic, who is vice president of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and its former presidential candidate, filed legal charges in Belgrade on 28 June against Natasa Kandic, the head of the NGO Humanitarian Law Fund (FHP) and Veran Matic, the director of the broadcaster B92, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Nikolic charged the two outspoken antinationalists with spreading false information in claiming that he was involved in alleged atrocities committed in August 1991 in the Croatian village of Antin by paramilitaries linked to SRS leader Vojislav Seselj (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Newsline," End Note, 28 June 2005). Kandic told reporters that the lawsuit marks a step forward because it will lead to an investigation of materials in Serbian official files and archives pertaining to Antin. PM

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said at Gazimestan in Kosova on 28 June that he cannot accept independence for Kosova, RFE/RL reported. "As far as the future status of Kosovo is concerned, I am for the human status of Kosovo -- for reconciliation and the European status of Kosovo. [I want a] Kosovo open to all sides, to all neighbors, but a Kosovo in the framework of Serbia," he argued. On 28 June, Serbs traditionally mark St. Vitus' Day, or Vidovdan, which is the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje that saw the defeat of a Serbian-led coalition by one under the Ottoman Turks. Several leading Serbian politicians have visited Kosova in recent months in the run-up to parliamentary elections widely expected later in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 July 2001 and 18 February 2005). PM

Wolfgang Petritsch, who is a former high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina and now Austria's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 28 June that the current crisis in the EU must not lead to Brussels "taking a break" from Balkan issues. He called for extra efforts to find a political solution to the Kosova question, in which "the United States must be clearly involved." Petritsch, who is a trained Balkan expert from Austria's Slovenian minority, acknowledged that the question of Turkish EU membership is "difficult and controversial," but added that "there is no reason why Kosovo should not one day be...a member of the European Union together with Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 17 June 2005). PM

Representatives of the Moldovan Liberal Party and two nongovernmental organizations picketed the Russian Embassy in Chisinau on 28 June to mark the 65th anniversary of the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and North Bucovina, Moldovan news agencies reported. The Soviet troops entered Bessarabia (the bulk of today's Republic of Moldova) and North Bucovina, which were in Romania until 28 June 1940, following the provisions of a secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939. "I regret that Russia has been continuing till now the Soviet Union's occupational policy," Liberal Party Chairman Mihai Ghimpu told BASA. "I think Russia must immediately and unconditionally pull out its troops from Moldovan territory. That's the only way Russia can prove that it does not pursue an expansionist policy any longer." JM

One year has passed since the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) transferred power to Iraqis on 28 June 2004. While the ongoing terrorism against civilians and Iraqi and multinational forces dominates the media coverage, slow but steady progress has been made on the political front. Iraq faces enormous challenges apart from the insurgency; its infrastructure today is arguably worse off than it was one year ago.

One year ago, Baghdad was viewed as one of the only places with a near-functioning infrastructure, a contentious issue in Iraq's southern governorates, which were plagued by years of neglect under the Hussein regime. Today, Baghdad has three hours of electricity on, and six hours off. Targeted terrorist attacks have left many areas of the capital without drinking water for the past two weeks. Other areas of the country are faced with similar problems as terrorists work to cripple already-dilapidated infrastructure. Oil exports from the north have been halted after repeated attacks on pipelines.

The most marked progress has come in political developments. The interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was slow to start, and had to delay the convening of an Iraqi National Conference to elect an interim National Assembly for two weeks in the summer of 2004.

Once off the ground, the government took pains to keep to deadlines imposed on it by the CPA. Allawi also dispatched a delegation to Syria in mid-July to initiate security agreements with Iraq's western neighbor on border control. Iraq regained its right to vote in the UN General Assembly in October and dispatched its first ambassador to the UN in more than a year that month.

Political parties hit the ground running in early fall in an effort to organize their efforts ahead of the January elections. Two Shi'ite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, initiated talks in September aimed at forming a coalition. The coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, was launched on 10 December.

Other parties also sought to form coalitions, the most notable being the two major Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who campaigned in the Iraqi National Assembly election under the Kurdistan Coalition List and in Kurdistan's parliamentary elections under the name Kurdistan Democratic List.

The election season was brief and campaigning was limited to those groups which had the financial wherewithal to campaign through the media. The process was overshadowed, however, by a Sunni boycott of the elections, a decision many Sunni political leaders would later voice regret over.

Nevertheless, the governorate, national, and Kurdish elections can be seen as an achievement. The elections were carried out under incredibly difficult circumstances in a very short period of time, and with little violence. Iraq's Shi'a and Kurds assumed a majority in parliament following 25 years of repression at the hands of the Sunni-dominated Hussein regime.

The ensuing political environment was, however, slow-moving as political groups jockeyed for positions in the transitional government. Islamic Al-Da'wah Party leader Ibrahim al-Ja'fari was named prime minister and PUK leader Jalal Talabani was named president. The al-Ja'fari cabinet was not named until 28 April, and a number of key posts were left vacant for several more days. The Kurdish parliament faced even greater delays, and did not convene until June, as groups negotiated the presidential post and leadership of a planned unified Kurdish administration that could take many more months to unify.

The fracture within the Sunni Arab community has worsened in recent months, leaving Sunnis unable to present a common viewpoint on even the simplest of issues. Sunnis did agree to join the constitutional drafting committee on 13 June after weeks of talks with Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders.

Meanwhile, talks are under way between U.S. officials and supposed insurgent leaders in an effort to negotiate a laying down of arms in exchange for their participation in the political process. The talks, first initiated by Allawi in 2004, have sparked controversy among members of the Shi'ite community, some of whom are opposed to any dealings with terrorists.

The past year has also been marked by ongoing tit-for-tat attacks on community leaders by opposing groups. Nearly every major community in Iraq accuses another community -- and in some cases the government -- of targeting its leaders through arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, or assassinations.

The most marked sign of political development is in the media, where lively debates representing all political viewpoints can be seen on the pages of many Iraqi dailies. Despite all the hardships suffered under a despotic regime, war, and insurgency, Iraqis continue to push forward on the political front, exhibiting political acumen far above what many might have expected of them.

Still, the political arena is fraught with the problems typically associated with developing democracies. Political parties split and regroup, rifts are exposed, and backdoor dealings overshadow the democratic process. Corruption remains an enormous challenge in the local and national governments.

The insurgency appears worse than it did a year ago, though some claim it has lessened. There is no doubt it is more sophisticated, and Islamist groups, most notably Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn and the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, appear to be leading the attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians.

Insurgents have wreaked havoc on infrastructure, driven out most of the limited numbers of foreign aid workers in Iraq, and largely strangled the media's ability to get out and report. Foreign journalists are at such great risk of kidnappings and attacks that they now rely on Iraqi stringers as they sit confined to their hotel rooms. Arab journalists have also been attacked by insurgents as part of the insurgents' campaign of intimidation.

As Iraqi forces continue to grow in skill and numbers, they will assume much of the responsibility for dealing with the insurgency. Much of the insurgency's strength, however, lies in its ability to replenish its numbers, and adapt to accommodate circumstances on the ground. Moreover, the flexibility of insurgent groups in their alliances has aided their ability to function militarily and move throughout the country.

Some Iraqi leaders have speculated in recent weeks that the insurgency will only end once multinational forces withdraw from Iraq. That supposition, however, is highly unlikely. Iraqi and U.S. leaders argued a year ago that the insurgency would dwindle after Iraqi forces took power in June. The argument was made again before January elections, while the insurgency rages on. Why? Because insurgents in Iraq do not represent one single agenda. Hence, there is not one single solution to dealing with the insurgency that will quell it across the board.

The world community and the Arab world in particular has been slow to respond to Iraq's needs in terms of financial aid, offering more promises than action. In the nearly two years since Iraq's first donor conference, the insurgency has obstructed the delivery of much of the aid pledged. Iraq will push for more pledges next month, when donors meet again in Amman, Jordan.

A CH-47 transport helicopter with 17 U.S. service members onboard crashed on 28 June in Konar Province, according to a press release from the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan. The helicopter was involved in Operation Red Wing, aimed at destroying Al-Qaeda influence in Konar, the statement added. According to a 29 June statement released by the U.S. military, initial "reports indicate that the crash may have been caused by hostile fire," AFP reported. The fate of those on board is not known. AT

A neo-Taliban commander in Konar, Mullah Mohammad Ismail, claimed responsibility for downing the U.S. helicopter that crashed in the province, Islamabad-based daily "The News" reported on 29 June. Mohammad Ismail claimed that 35 soldiers were on board the aircraft. "The helicopter caught fire after being hit by rockets fired by the Taliban. No one on board survived," the commander said. Mullah Latifullah Hakimi, speaking for the neo-Taliban, confirmed that the neo-Taliban downed the helicopter, AP reported on 29 June. AT

Unidentified gunmen shot dead three and wounded two Afghan policemen in Dawlat-Shah District of Laghman Province on 27 June, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 28 June. Golistan, an officer with Laghman security command, told AIP that the district security commander was among those wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT

Discussing the recent heavy fighting between the neo-Taliban and the coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has expressed his deep regret over the heavy loss of Afghan lives, the official National Radio of Afghanistan reported on 27 June. In operations that took place in the Mian-Nashin District of Helmand Province, over 100 insurgents were killed, Karzai told reporters. Those killed in Helmand, "although they were against the people and the soil of Afghanistan, they also belong to Afghanistan. It is very sad that Mullah Mohammad Omar and other people like him are hiding in caves and houses but they are sending Afghan youth, Taliban, to fight against their own country," Karzai said. Afghan figures initially placed the neo-Taliban casualties at over 170, but later U.S. estimates reduced the number to about 70 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 June 2005). AT

Vladimir Putin, speaking during a 28 June meeting with visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Novo-Ogarevo, said that Moscow has "intelligence on gunmen infiltrating [the Central Asian region] from Afghanistan," RIA Novosti reported. Putin added that Russia has informed the relevant countries where the alleged intruders are concentrated, but the information may not have been conveyed on time. "I will not dwell on other aspects of the tragic events of 12-13 May [in Andijon, Uzbekistan], but we can confirm gunmen did infiltrate from special bases in Afghanistan," Putin told Karimov. Following the events in Andijon, top Russian officials claimed that neo-Taliban elements from Afghanistan were behind the deadly riots, a charge which Kabul has rejected (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 May 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). Putin did not name the neo-Taliban, instead using the term "gunmen" to describe those who allegedly crossed from Afghanistan. The Russian president did not elaborate on the nationality of these gunmen or where the "special bases" he referred to are located. AT

A conference organized by the Afghan Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism aimed at discussing the role of media in the September parliamentary elections opened in Kabul on 28 June, a ministry statement indicated. The three-day conference brings together "leading journalists and media managers" with government and civil-society organization. AT

President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad will be sworn in on 4 August, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar said on 28 June, IRNA reported. A formal inauguration at the legislature will take place on 3 August, Bahonar added. Meanwhile, speculation about who might serve in the next cabinet is continuing. Among the names that are being considered are Tehran municipal council chief Mehdi Chamran, former Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri, Tehran parliamentary representative Elias Naderan, and Tehran parliamentary representative Ahmad Tavakoli, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 27 June. BS

Masumeh Shafii, the wife of imprisoned dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, told Radio Farda on 28 June that to her knowledge her husband is continuing his hunger strike. She was reacting to a Tehran Province Prisons official's statement the previous day that Ganji has ended his hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2005). Ganji's family has expressed its concern about him in letters to international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, Radio Farda reported. Shafii said she last saw her husband eight days earlier, and at that time he warned her not to believe anything about him unless she sees it for herself. BS

Hojatoleslam Qorban Ali Dori-Najafabadi, the state prosecutor-general, said in Tehran on 27 June that the country is threatened by a tidal wave of drugs that is even more dangerous than the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia six months ago, Mehr News Agency reported. Dori-Najafabadi called on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to provide Iran with greater financial assistance. He was speaking at a ceremony marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, at which time 64 tons of drugs were destroyed in a bonfire. Speaking at a similar ceremony in Kabul one day earlier, Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali thanked Iran for its help in the Afghan war on drugs, IRNA reported. Jalali referred to Iran's creation of border control checkpoints. BS

Sunni political and civil society leaders announced at a 29 June press conference in Baghdad the establishment of the Council of Unity and Reconstruction of Iraq, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samarra'i announced the group's 18-point plan, saying its goal is to "put an end to the skeptical who claim the lack of any legitimate Iraqi resistance." The council will "pool the resources of all the parties under its umbrella for the defense of the rights of Iraqis including their legitimate right to liberate the land of Iraq from the occupation by all means," he said. The plan includes rejecting terrorism in all its forms; support for the separation of powers in government; acting as an opposition to the National Assembly and government; expanding the Independent Election Commission to ensure its neutrality in December elections; rebuilding the Iraqi Army and security services with "honest elements that do not have any political affiliation"; reexamining all decisions issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority and "canceling any law that conflicts with the national interest"; dissolving militias; and enacting a law that guarantees the rights of Iraqis who were harmed by multinational forces, the Iraqi Army, or the Interior Ministry. KR

Jalal Talabani addressed the issue of multinational forces in Iraq during his 28 June speech to the Iraqi people commemorating one year since the transfer of power to an Iraqi government, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on the same day. "Under the current circumstances...we still need their presence, but this presence does not mean occupation," Talabani said. He added that any change in the presence of multinational forces should be reached through an agreement with the UN Security Council on the issue. "We are very eager about seeing the Iraqis assume their own affairs, including security, stability, and the pursuing of the criminal terrorists. Do not think that there is a single person who wants the multinational forces to stay one day after they accomplish their missions and after completing the requirements of our security and stability," he added. KR

Talabani told Spiegel Online ( in an interview published on 28 June that he favors a reduction of multinational forces in Iraq. "I'm in favor of reducing the number of American troops. In return, we should build up the Iraqi Army. If the Americans want to stay longer, they could withdraw to individual bases -- the way it is in Germany. Security in the country is Iraqis' business," he said. Asked about the insurgency, he said, "Saddam's supporters are only active in limited areas, like the Sunni triangle, where they were also based in the past. They're not the greatest danger. Our main problem is Al-Qaeda and all its Islamist offshoots." Talabani said that the insurgency could end this year "if the current government makes the right decisions," adding that neighboring states will need to do more to stop the flow of terrorists into Iraq. Asked about reports that Saddam Hussein still considers himself president, he said: "Those are the delusions of a man who has suffered total defeat and no long has any idea of how isolated he is. Even the sheikhs from his own clan have disassociated themselves from him." KR

The acting director of Kirkuk's anti-insurgency directorate was gunned down in the city on 27 June, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 28 June. Lieutenant Farhan Faysal al-Ajil was shot and killed on his way home from work, the newspaper reported. He is the fourth director of the anti-insurgency directorate to be killed in the past month. The daily also reported that multinational forces in Kirkuk have distributed flyers warning citizens that militant attacks in the city have increased. The flyer lists several guidelines for the safety of civilians, and advises civilians to keep their distance from Iraqi and U.S. convoys. It also addresses procedures to follow when approaching checkpoints. KR

The Industry and Minerals Ministry has announced plans to privatize 10 public companies in Iraq, "Al-Zaman" reported on 28 June. "The ministry is prepared to turn 10 of the public sector companies over to mixed or private ownership," the daily quoted Minister Usama al-Najafi as saying. The privatization will come through an initial public offering on the Baghdad Stock Exchange ( soon, and will include two cement factories, as well as pharmaceutical and iron and steel firms. The daily reported that the sales will mark the first time that the pharmaceutical and cement industries have been transferred to private ownership. Al-Najafi said that while the ministry wants to privatize many other state-owned firms, it will wait until a new investment law is written. A draft investment law that would have privatized most industries was struck down earlier due to heavy criticism, he said. The transitional government is reportedly working on a new draft law. The 10 companies that will be offered will fall under existing regulations. "We will have more projects to privatize once the new investment law is ratified," al-Najafi said. KR

The Kurdistan Referendum Movement issued a request for permission to speak at the Kurdistan Parliament's next session about the movement's demands, "Khabat" reported on 28 June. The movement held an informal ballot outside election centers across Kurdistan on 30 January asking voters if they were in favor of an independent Kurdish state. One of the demands listed in the appeal this week is that the parliament stipulates in the Kurdish constitution the right to hold an official referendum in Kurdistan on secession. The movement also called on Kurdish parliamentarians to seek the same right for Kurds in the Iraqi permanent constitution. The movement further demanded that the Kurdistan Parliament define the borders of the Kurdistan region "on the basis of the historical documents and demographic and geographical truths." KR