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Newsline - July 28, 2005

Speaking at a promotion ceremony for a group of army and security-service officers in the Kremlin on 27 July, President Vladimir Putin said that the armed forces should be ready "to repel any attempts to apply military-political pressure on Russia," RTR and Channel One reported. Putin noted that "the military and security components of the state structure have always played an important role, and in the current situation their importance has increased significantly." Putin noted the recent terrorist attacks in Great Britain, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey and said that Russia plays an important role in the international fight against terrorism and called on the Interior Ministry to be ready for preemptive strikes on terrorists. He also called on Russia's special services to confront attempts to destabilize Chechnya and the entire North Caucasus. At the Kremlin ceremony, Lieutenant General Yevgenii Lazebin was introduced as the new commandeer of the Joint Federal Forces in the North Caucasus. VY

Addressing the security and intelligence services, President Putin said that the main priority of the Federal Security Service (FSB) is to protect the southern borders and to provide security in the North Caucasus. He called on the FSB to raise its efficiency in combating foreign intelligence services and protecting Russia's economic interests. Putin also said that the security services should intensify their fight against drug trafficking and he demanded that they create drug-free "security belts," not only on the Russian border, but along the borders of the CIS, reported. "It must be made clear that the drug business is not only a segment of the 'shadow economy' but also a financial base for terrorist, extremist, and other kinds of criminal activity aimed at undermining civil, social, and religious harmony in Russia," he added. Putin also said he expects the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to increase its analytical potential and provide more topical and objective information about the situation in the world. VY

Writing in "Trud" of 27 July, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia) said that despite some antiterrorist measures and legislation adopted by Russia since the Beslan hostage taking in September 2004, the country has no reliable defense against terrorism. One of the reasons for this is that no country has a 100 percent guarantee against terrorism, shown by recent terrorist attacks in Britain and Egypt. Countries continue to fight terrorism in the traditional way, infiltrating agents into terrorist networks, a method the tsars used against revolutionaries. "Terrorism has spread globally in our time. Guerillas use the most up-to-date weapons and explosives, and the most advanced military hardware. They are well paid," he said. So to defeat terrorism, the civilized world should also use the most modern technological and informational methods and create a coordinated international program. As for Russia, it should make its immigration laws more transparent, as they currently provide a convenient infrastructure for terrorism, Gryzlov noted. In today's Russia it is much easier to remain an illegal resident than to register. It is necessary to facilitate the registration of immigrants and to improve security checks, Gryzlov concluded. VY

Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev said on 27 July that Russia should invite foreign companies to explore for oil and gas on its continental shelf because it has neither sufficient experience nor technology to explore and extract those resources, RBK-TV and other media reported. Russia needs foreign investment to develop its continental shelf because "it is a global project that requires foreign technologies and investments," quoted Trutnev as saying. He added that any foreign companies can take part in exploration "without preference." Finally, Trutnev said that Russia should maintain its present level of oil extraction with a slight increase "because demand on the Asian market, especially in China and India, is growing," RIA-Novosti reported. VY

Nikolai Sevastyanov, the general designer of the Energiya aerospace corporation, told journalists on 27 July that mankind is approaching a new phase in space exploration, "in which we will set up industrial space facilities in near space, at near-earth orbits, and on the moon," RBK and other Russian media reported. Sevastyanov said that Energiya has elaborated a program for building an industrial power station on the moon for production of Helium-3 (He3), which is a prospective fuel for future thermonuclear reactors. Energiya plans to fund the program by organizing two-week tourist flights over the moon at a cost of $100 million. Federal Space Agency Deputy Director Nikolai Moiseev announced on 26 July that his agency is studying Energiya's proposed project for commercial fights to the moon, RIA-Novosti reported. The United States and China have already announced plans to build permanent bases on the moon in the next decade. VY

The Motherland party's Duma faction leader, Dmitrii Rogozin, told journalists on 27 July that his party is in talks with the national-patriotic weekly "Zavtra," published by Aleksandr Prokhanov, about "an agreement on cooperation for the next five years," and other media reported. Rogozin said he doesn't want to take control of "Zavtra," but "to create a pool of independent patriotic media, the epicenter of which will be 'Zavtra.'" An accord with "Zavtra" will allow the newspaper to preserve its independence and Motherland to regulate the publication of its materials in the weekly, he added. A flagship of the national-patriotic media with a strong pro-imperial and anti-Western stance, "Zavtra" was created by Prokhanov in October 1993, after the weekly "Den" was banned for supporting the Russian parliament disbanded by President Boris Yeltsin. VY

Sergei Naryshkin, the new head of the government Commission on Administrative Reform, told reporters on 27 July that a regulation on introducing a new position of third deputy prime minister with the rank of state secretary in federal ministries will be issued in the next several weeks, reported. According to the website, Naryshkin made the announcement after saying that no rollback of the reform carried out last year, in which the maximum number of deputy ministers was reduced to two across the federal government, would take place (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 2 April 2004). Naryshkin replaces Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, who stepped down as head of the commission on 19 July because of his heavy workload. According to RIA-Novosti, the new "third" minister or state secretary will be responsible for legislative work and relations with parliament. JAC

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" examined on 27 July the presidential administration's record over the past six months with regard to appointing regional governors. According to the daily, of the 26 regional governors appointed since the law abolishing gubernatorial elections came into force, only in seven regions has the official procedure for appointing regional leaders been observed. In most cases, the incumbent governors asked for an expression of confidence from President Putin, who has reappointed the incumbent in 22 cases out of 26. Aleksei Makarkin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technology explained: "Everything is coordinated beforehand. Only when everything is coordinated does a regional leader appeal for an expression of confidence." He added that the reason for the formalization of the process is because Putin does not want to be held accountable. "If a governor makes some mistakes, then the one who appointed him will be held responsible," Makarkin said. "And at present, one can say that he was elected, while the president agreed with society." JAC

"Izvestiya" reported on 27 July that the leadership of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) has ordered its regional editors to sharply reduce the number of news items devoted to their respective regional governors. According to the daily, this new policy came into being shortly after President Putin's recent trip to Krasnodar Krai during which he had the opportunity to watch local television. According to local tradition, every regional edition of RTR's "Vesti" begins with a story about the activities of krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev. When asked by "Izvestiya" in February whether he appears too often on TV, Tkachev commented: "I am like Putin. What federal television station really doesn't report on the activities of the head of the government?" JAC

Yevgenii Zabarchuk, director of the Justice Ministry's Department for State Policy, told reporters in Moscow on 27 July that the departmental order on the basis of which a special police operation was conducted in Blagoveshchensk in early December 2004 was legal, reported. According to Zabarchuk, the problem was not with the order itself but its application, which "was far from ideal." According to human rights workers, hundreds of residents of the city were illegally detained and beaten during the multiday operation. So far, eight police officers have been charged with exceeding their authority and misusing their position. At a 20 July meeting of human rights officials with President Putin, Ella Pamfilova, chairwoman of the Council for Promoting the Development of Civil Society, commented that "there is a danger that several [criminal] cases might collapse.... They, the victims, are being put under pressure. Local people are increasingly losing faith in our [ability to] help." JAC

Some local residents in Kazan are complaining about "religious" profiling, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 26 July. A Kazan-based listener, Ruslan Aysin, told a bureau correspondent that he was recently pulled over by a special-forces patrol that claimed that a Tatar-language book the officers found in his car was extremist Islamic literature, although none of the officers could read or speak Tatar. The officers threatened Aysin with arrest for religious extremism, but the police car driver, originally from Kazan, told the officers that the book did not address religious issues. Another listener told the bureau that he was recently stopped and questioned by FSB officers for having a "Muslim-looking" beard. Additional police from other parts of Russia have recently been deployed to Kazan. JAC

A 42-year-old Ingush man has been killed in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, from which the Ingush population fled or was forcibly expelled during fighting in November 1992, reported on 27 July. The victim failed to return home on 23 July after visiting a friend. Of the 35,000-65,000 Ingush who fled North Ossetia in 1992, all but some 10,000 have returned. In early May, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak unveiled a plan for repatriating the remaining displaced families by the end of 2006. LF

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov condemned on 27 July the repeat exodus to Daghestan of Avar families from the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2005). Several hundred families left the village in mid-June and established a tent camp in neighboring Daghestan after unidentified armed Chechens searched the village on 4 June, killing one man and abducting a further 11, whose fate remains unclear. Pro-Moscow Chechen officials persuaded the villagers to return, promising compensation for damage to their homes during the 4 June sweep. Abdurakhmanov said the families who have left Borozdinovskaya for Daghestan a second time did not suffer in the sweep operation, but are nonetheless trying to obtain from the government of Daghestan refugee status and land plots near the Caspian Sea. He said the pro-Moscow Chechen government will not undertake any further efforts to persuade them to return to Chechnya. LF

Seven Armenian media associations, including the Yerevan Press Club, released a joint statement on 27 July criticizing the 21 July statement by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission positively evaluating the latest version of draft constitutional amendments proposed by the Armenian government, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The seven organizations affirmed that "the Venice Commission's proposals on the freedom, independence, and diversity of mass media are flawed and cannot put in place the necessary guarantees of freedom of speech in Armenia." The draft amendments provide for the president and the parliament each to name half of the members of the National Commission on Television and Radio, the body responsible for issuing and revoking broadcasting licenses. But while the Venice Commission urged that the ruling come into force immediately, the draft amendments stipulate that it will take effect only after the current members of the commission complete their six-year terms. The draft amendments also empower the president to appoint all members of the oversight board of Armenian Public Television and Radio, prompting the Venice Commission to advise that the relevant legislation be amended "in accordance with applicable European standards." LF

Opposition Hanrapetutiun party Chairman and former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian told party activists in Yerevan on 27 July that Hanrapetutiun will stage a nationwide rally "soon" and is ready to launch a democratic revolution at the slightest pretext, Noyan Tapan reported. Sargsian appealed to the other eight parties aligned in the Artarutiun bloc to "consider the need for decisive steps," but he added that Hanrapetutiun will act alone if necessary in shouldering "responsibility for future changes." Addressing the same gathering, Hanrapetutiun board member Gegham Harutiunian said Hanrapetutiun will on principle reject the proposed constitutional amendments, which he dismissed as "a joke" and "a trap set for the opposition" by the country's leadership, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

Armenia's GDP grew by 10.2 percent during the first six months of 2005, largely due to an upswing in the construction and service sectors, according to data released on 27 July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Growth in the construction sector during that period was 43 percent, in industry 5.3 percent, and in agriculture 10.2 percent, Arminfo quoted Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian as telling journalists. Armenia registered double-digit economic growth every year between 2001 and 2004. Chshmaritian also said external trade has more than doubled over the past four years, while exports have nearly tripled. LF

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky met in Baku on 27 July with eight leading Azerbaijani oppositionists to discuss the ongoing campaign for the 6 November parliamentary elections, Turan and reported on 27 and 28 July, respectively. Dobriansky affirmed, as have numerous other U.S. politicians, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that Washington very much hopes that the ballot will be free, fair, democratic, and transparent. She said she hopes the Azerbaijani authorities will implement proposals by the OSCE and other international organizations to that end, including allowing an independent organization to conduct exit polls. Dobriansky later met with President Ilham Aliyev, whose press service characterized their talks as "a good opportunity to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation," including in the oil and transport sectors. Dobriansky also met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who is to pay a working visit to Washington next week. LF

The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 27 July expressing the hope that Russia will cooperate in securing the arrest of all those who organized the 1 February car bombing in Gori and other, unnamed terrorist acts on Georgian territory, reported. Meeting on 26 July with law enforcement officials, President Mikheil Saakashvili said Tbilisi has proof of Russian involvement in preparing those attacks but does not plan to use that evidence to force a "confrontation," Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili said he hopes for cooperation with Russia in the fight against "terrorism." On 28 July, Caucasus Press quoted Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava as saying the Georgian government has invited the Russian, North Ossetian, and South Ossetian co-chairmen of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone to send representatives to Tbilisi to study the Georgian evidence of involvement by Russian military intelligence in the Gori bombing. Also on 28 July, Caucasus Press quoted unnamed South Ossetian sources as claiming that Red Cross representatives have been denied access to Giorgi Zasseev, one of the South Ossetian suspected "terrorists" who is being held in a Tbilisi prison where, the South Ossetians claim, he has been subjected to torture. LF

Mikhail Mindzaev, interior minister of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, rejected on 27 July Georgia's allegations that residents of South Ossetia recruited by Russian intelligence were responsible for the Gori car bombing and other terrorist acts, Georgian media reported. Mindzaev added that the South Ossetian authorities have information that the hostage taking at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September was planned in Tbilisi, reported. Nika Rurua, deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, rejected that accusation the same day as the ravings of a madman, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's spokeswoman Irina Gerashenko told Georgia's Imedi television station on 27 July that an article published on 27 July in the independent newspaper "Rezonansi" alleging that Yushchenko postponed a visit to Georgia originally scheduled for 26 July due to fears that his plane could be shot down is untrue, Caucasus Press reported. On 26 July, Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili claimed that "terrorists" in South Ossetia have four Igla portable ground-to-air missiles capable of downing civilian or military aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2005). LF

Economy Minister Kairat Kelimbetov told a cabinet meeting in Astana on 27 July that Kazakhstan's economy posted year-on-year GDP growth of 9.1 percent in the first half of 2005, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Industrial production notched a 7 percent year-on-year increase. A ministry press release ascribed the overall growth to increases in industrial and agricultural production, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The forecast for Kazakhstan's GDP in 2005 is 6.4 trillion tenges ($47 billion), or 8.8 percent real growth as compared to 2004 figures, the news agency noted. DK

Carlos Zaccagnini, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mission in Kyrgyzstan, announced in Bishkek on 27 July the beginning of an operation to transfer 451 Uzbek refugees from a camp in southern Kyrgyzstan to the country's Manas international airport in preparation for transport to a third country, Kabar reported. Zaccagnini declined to disclose the refugees' final destination for security reasons. He said all 451 refugees would be removed from the camp, with the final 100 arriving at Manas airport on 29 July. Zaccagnini told RFE/RL that he believed all the refugees would be taken to the same country. But Astrid van Genderen Stort, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Geneva, told RFE/RL that it was "not sure whether they are going to one country or whether they are going to two or three." Various reports listed Canada, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine as possible final destinations. A spokesperson for the Czech Republic's Interior Ministry confirmed to RFE/RL that "the Czech Republic is one of the countries being considered as a host for some of the Uzbek refugees." Canadian officials said that Canada could accept up to 50 refugees, Reuters reported. DK

The fate of 29 refugees detained in Osh remained unclear on 27 July, as UNHCR officials said that they hoped to include them in the humanitarian operation and Kyrgyz rights activists expressed concern at the possibility of repatriation, agencies reported. Uzbek authorities have asked for the handover of 12 of the 29 detainees, and Edil Baisalov, the head of the nongovernmental Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, told that vehicles with Uzbek license plates were parked outside the detention center in Osh. But UNHCR mission head Zaccagnini told a news conference in Bishkek that 25 of the 29 would be evacuated from Kyrgyzstan, Kabar reported. UNHCR spokeswoman van Genderen Stort confirmed the presence in Osh of two vehicles possibly belonging to Uzbek security forces, RFE/RL reported. But she added, "We have an agreement [with the Kyrgyz authorities] for 25 of the 29 [detainees], and these other four are not part of the 12 that the Uzbeks asked for. We are still discussing the other four that are remaining." DK

Rejep Saparov, who was deputy prime minister in Turkmenistan from 1992 to 2002, has received a 20-year prison term on corruption charges, reported on 27 July. More recently, Saparov had occupied the post of property manager for the presidential administration. He was dismissed from that post on 2 July, when President Saparmurat Niyazov told him, "Since you've worked alongside me for 20 years, I'm not going to arrest you or put you in jail, although you could be arrested today and sentenced to any amount of time," RIA-Novosti reported. reported that Saparov pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, from accepting bribes to storing weapons. The report noted that investigations are ongoing into "the criminal activities of citizens who were appointed to management positions with the aid of Rejep Saparov." DK

All 11 Belarusian and foreign journalists who were detained on 27 July in Hrodna during a police raid on the office of the Union of Belarusian Poles were released early on 28 July, Belapan news agency reported. Those detained included an AP correspondent and two correspondents of Poland's "Gazeta Wyborcza." "The Union of Poles has been cynically humiliated. The Poles were thrown out of the house they had built with Polish money. We will not only appeal to Belarusian courts, but we also will appeal to the international community with information about the incident," Union of Belarusian Poles leader Anzhelika Borys told reporters. RK

Amadeu Tardio, the spokesperson for external relations of the European Commission, expressed concern about the ongoing conflict between Poland and Belarus, Belapan reported on 27 July. "We are concerned by the situation of all minorities and of civil society in Belarus. We will continue to monitor the situation closely," Tardio said on 27 July. "The commission considers that this is a bilateral matter between Belarus and Poland," he added. RK

Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, upon returning from a 24-26 July visit to Israel, told reporters in Kyiv that he met with the management of the Israeli company Elbit and discussed a feasibility study on modernizing Ukraine's fleet of MIG-29 fighter jets, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 27 July. Hrytsenko said that it will be necessary to include the Russian company that originally built the fighters in the project. According to, Ukraine presently has 237 MiG-29s, of which 62 are operational. RK

The sentencing of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in the Federal District Court in San Francisco has once again been postponed, Interfax reported on 28 July. The sentencing, which was due to take place on 27 July, was postponed till 2 December. According to Lazarenko's attorney, he might be fined $4.5 million-$5 million and might not be sentenced to prison. However, the court rejected the defense's request for a new trial and ordered Lazarenko to appear for sentencing on 2 December. He was found guilty on 14 charges related to money laundering and fraud, each carrying a term of imprisonment of 20 years. RK

Viktor Yushchenko has signed into law amendments to the Criminal Code that prohibit CD piracy, Interfax reported on 28 July. The law was passed on 6 July by parliament and sets responsibility for operations involving the production, export, and import of CDs and, equipment for their production. According to the amendments, the import of stamper disks and specialized equipment for CD production shall be licensed as a form of economic activity. RK

Montenegrin Agriculture Minister Milutin Simovic and his Croatian counterpart Petar Cobankovic signed an agreement in Cavtat on 27 July according to which Montenegro will pay Croatia about $450,000 for 650 cows taken by Montenegrin paramilitaries and reservists from a farm in Konavle near Dubrovnik in 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. President Stipe Mesic of Croatia and his Montenegrin counterpart Filip Vujanovic watched the signing of the document, which is the first compensation agreement between two former Yugoslav republics dealing with damages from the conflicts of the 1990s. In June 2000, Milo Djukanovic, who was then Montenegrin president, apologized to "all citizens of Croatia and especially of Dubrovnik...for all the pain and suffering and material losses inflicted by Montenegrins" during the Belgrade-led campaign against Croatia in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2005). At that time, Montenegrin irregulars burned and looted properties in the Konavle, Cavtat, and Dubrovnik areas. A well-publicized photo appeared in newspapers around the world showing apparently drunken Montenegrin fighters carrying photos of their national heroes and enjoying the proceeds from looting the duty-free shop at Dubrovnik airport. PM

Slobodan Jankovic, who heads Serbia's public prosecutor's office, announced in Belgrade on 27 July that Slobodan Radovanovic will replace Jovan Prijic as special prosecutor for organized crime cases, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Prijic, whose term expired on 23 July, will remain as Radovanovic's deputy. Several political parties slammed the decision not to extend Prijic's term, which Jankovic did not explain. The Liberal Democrats called the move an effort by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to politicize the work of the prosecutor's office and provide encouragement to well-known gangsters like Milorad Lukovic-Ulemek (aka Legija) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March 2003). The Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) dubbed the decision "scandalous" and an effort aimed at derailing the investigation into the March 2003 assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. The GSS statement added that Kostunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) bear the "greatest political responsibility for the murder of Djindjic." The G-17 Plus party, which belongs to Kostunica's government, called for an explanation of Jankovic's decision. Christian Democratic Party leader and former Justice Minister Vladan Batic said that Prijic's removal will "destabilize" the cases currently before the special criminal court. PM

Serbian Orthodox Bishop Jovan arrived at a prison in Skopje on 26 July to begin serving a two-year sentence for allegedly inciting religious and ethnic hatred, the private Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June and 20 July 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 6 August 2004). Spokesmen for the Serbian government and Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) condemned the Macedonian authorities' decision to make Jovan serve his sentence, saying that it will contribute to tensions in the region. But Marjan Djurovski, who is an adviser to Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, said the Jovan affair "will not influence the good-neighborly relations between Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Jovan, who became a central figure in the long-standing dispute between the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) and the Serbian Orthodox Church when he switched allegiance from MPC to the SPC in 2003, was sentenced in August 2004. The central problem is deeply rooted in what historians call the Macedonian Question and interrelated issues involving the traditional Balkan tendency to equate one's nationality with one's religion. In 1967, the communist Macedonian authorities recognized a MPC separate from the SPC and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which has a much smaller number of Macedonian adherents than the other two. The SPC and other Orthodox churches do not recognize their Macedonian counterpart, regarding it as schismatic. PM

Killian Kleinschmidt, who heads the department dealing with refugee returns in the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 27 July that his office needs over $25 million immediately to do its work, Reuters reported. He suggested that Western governments have been discouraged from donating funds by unspecified reports from Prishtina and Belgrade, arguing that it is too early for refugees to go home or that there is nothing for them to return to. Kleinschmidt added that even Kai Eide, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Kosova, "listens to the message" from Prishtina and Belgrade. The Kosovar authorities are under pressure from the international community to implement a set of standards, including increasing refugee returns, as a precondition for talks about Kosova's final status (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). Only about 13,000 Serbian and other minority refugees have gone home out of a total of about 180,000 who fled after the 1998-99 conflict. Many Serbs feared retribution from their Albanian neighbors for the local Serbs' role in assisting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosova. PM

A solution to the Transdniester conflict depends greatly on Moscow, Mircea Snegur, the first president of Moldova, told the Russian newspaper "Argumenty i fakty" on 27 July. "The Transdniestrian conflict must be settled at any cost, but not through federalization.... However, I am sure of one thing: it is very hard to negotiate with the Transdniestrian leaders," Snegur said. "It will be good if the Ukrainian plan helps us solve the problem. However, I think that Moscow keeps a great interest for the region. It means that the settlement of this conflict depends on Russia a lot," he concluded (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2005). RK

Ten years have passed since former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his former military commander General Ratko Mladic were indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for genocide and other war crimes. The two fugitives remain at large, despite the obligation of NATO-led peacekeepers and the various governments in the region to arrest the indictees and send them to The Hague. Many people wonder why the most powerful military alliance in history and a host of governments seeking Euro-Atlantic integration remain unable to catch the two.

It is the Balkan equivalent of Loch Ness Monster stories. Reports pop up in the regional press from time to time, especially when news is slow in the summer, about a reported sighting of Karadzic, Mladic, former Croatian General Ante Gotovina, or some other fugitive indictee. In a related genre, articles appear in the media speculating on which local politician or commander will be the next one to be indicted by the tribunal. Whichever the case, the reports tend to be short on hard facts but long on speculation by "informed intelligence sources" or the like.

What is certain is that Karadzic and Mladic were indicted on 26 July 1995 -- while the 1992-95 conflict was still raging -- but remain on the run. The anniversary of the indictments attracted media attention, especially in the region. The Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" published a long article about the reported sightings with the headline: "They're Everywhere But Not In The Hague Tribunal." RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service stressed that the two men have managed to hide successfully for a decade without anyone being able to catch them. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service noted that there is a $5 million international reward out for the two fugitives, but even such a princely sum does not appear to have prompted anyone in an impoverished region to turn one or the other man in.

Radovan Karadzic was born on 19 June 1945 in the Niksic region of Montenegro, which is more generally known for its beer. His father was a craftsman, and the family had its role in continuing the Montenegrin tradition of epic folk poetry. Radovan has also demonstrated a literary bent, but his chosen profession is psychiatry. His studies included a stint in the United States, and his fluent English reportedly made him a favorite of foreigners in communist-era Sarajevo who sought the services of his profession. He allegedly was known for favoring drug therapy over counseling, and one of his patients recalled years later that she walked into his office on her visits but later "flew" home.

Karadzic made his mark on public life by helping found the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in 1989 and became its first president. The SDS is one of the three nationalist parties that have dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina's political life since the collapse of communism in a reversion to a pre-communist tradition of strong ethnically based parties. In the parliament in 1992, Karadzic warned Muslim and Croatian deputies that any move aimed at declaring independence from a rump Yugoslavia dominated by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would be a step "on the highway to hell on which Slovenia and Croatia have already embarked." He added that the Muslim people would not survive such a conflict.

His record as a war criminal from April 1992 is based on the Bosnian Serb "ethnic-cleansing" campaigns, especially in eastern Bosnia and in the Banja Luka region, as well as on the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, crimes in which Mladic allegedly shares responsibility. Following the conclusion of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, Karadzic gradually withdrew from public life and eventually disappeared from view altogether. He is believed to move about in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Montenegro, where clan traditions remain strong. Some reports have suggested that he has cut his trademark bushy hair and retired to a Serbian Orthodox monastery, but this and other accounts are pure speculation. What seems certain is that he has a solid and reliable network of supporters who have helped him avoid capture for a decade.

Mladic also seems to have friends and supporters, but they are most likely military men. He was born on 12 March 1943 in the village of Bozanovic near Kalinovik, which is south of Sarajevo and west of Foca. Kalinovik was traditionally a center of cattle breeding but developed as a garrison town during the Austro-Hungarian occupation from 1878 to 1918. Mladic's father was killed by the Ustashe during the war, so Ratko never knew him. The boy proved intelligent in school and eventually went to a military academy, where he finished first in his class in 1965. He rapidly rose through the ranks and had postings in Skopje, Kumanovo, Ohrid, and Stip.

The breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 found him first in command of the Prishtina Corps in Kosova, and then in Knin, Croatia, which had just declared independence. Mladic commanded Bosnian Serb forces from May 1992 until the end of the war in 1995. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic removed him from his post in October 1996, after which he retired.

Subsequent Mladic "sightings" center on his former command center at Han Pijesak and at various places in Serbia, including Belgrade and its Topcider military complex. He appears to have been on the Bosnian Serb military payroll until 2002. As is the case with Karadzic, virtually all of the reports about him are speculation and might contain an element of disinformation, especially as regards the size and strength of the alleged bodyguard contingents protecting each of them.

The question remains as to how Karadzic's regional network and Mladic's military friends could be so effective in thwarting the intelligence-gathering and striking capabilities of NATO. Indeed, there have been some well-publicized NATO operations over the years, which presumably were aimed at catching one or the other of the fugitives, but all have come up empty-handed. The failure to apprehend the two men appears all the more embarrassing whenever an official of the tribunal or of a Western or regional country tells the press that he or she is "sure" that Karadzic or Mladic will be in The Hague by a certain date, which then comes and goes without any arrest having taken place.

Many people inside and outside the region have put forward various explanations for the apparent failure of the strongest military alliance in history to catch two men, some of which center on the alleged reluctance of some NATO forces to take casualties by trying to arrest presumably well-guarded fugitives, while others suggest that French, British, or perhaps other NATO officers are protecting one or both of the men as a matter of unstated policy. Some theories even hold that the Western powers and perhaps some Muslim and Croatian politicians would prefer not to have Karadzic or Mladic appear before the tribunal, where they might make some delicate wartime secrets public. As to the Serbian and Bosnian Serb authorities, it is generally assumed that they have either no desire to arrest the two men or no willingness to take the political risks that would arise if they did so.

In any event, until the two fugitives are in The Hague, they will be a source of embarrassment to NATO and of anger for Muslims and Croats. But one person from Sarajevo took a different approach and told RFE/RL that it is perhaps best that the two are not caught "so that they will have to go on living on the run like animals."

Police in Afghanistan said the U.S. military has handed over a group of Afghans detained following a 26 July protest outside the main U.S. base at Bagram in Parwan Province, north of Kabul, RFE/RL reported on 27 July. At least 1,000 Afghans demonstrated to demand the release of the locals, whom the U.S. military said were arrested in an anti-insurgency operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2005). The U.S. military claimed that improvised bombs of the sort used by Taliban and allied Islamist insurgents against U.S. and government forces were discovered during the raids. Parwan police chief Abdul Rahman Sayyedkhayl said all of the detained men were handed over to Afghan police custody, while U.S. authorities promised not to search houses without government approval. According to initial reports, Afghan forces accompanied their U.S. counterparts during the arrests, which included a local commander formerly associated with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's radical Hizb-e Islami. AT

Literature in the name of the Taliban has appeared in eastern Afghanistan in which the militia is purportedly demanding funds from individuals or groups to further their activities, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 27 July. Mawlawi Abdul Rahman Deobandi, described by Pajhwak as a senior figure in the movement, acknowledged the existence of a fund-raising campaign by neo-Taliban elements. "Despite Taliban's unflinching belief in Allah's help, they are also reliant on people's support for resolving their cash problems," Abdul Rahman told Pajhwak, who added that such requests have been made from Afghans in different parts of the country. AT

The Afghan Defense Ministry claims that internal disputes have arisen within the leadership of the neo-Taliban leadership, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported on 27 July. No details were disclosed on the nature of the purported dispute. AT

Ottawa has decided to operate the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar Province starting in August, international news agencies reported. Canada is expected to dispatch 250 troops to Kandahar in addition to around 800 Canadian troops currently serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. Fearful of losing their reputation for neutrality, however, many Canadian nongovernmental aid organizations have expressed reservations about working with the PRT, "The Toronto Star" reported on 27 July. "Most of the NGOs I've been talking to are saying, 'We're not going near this thing [PRT] with a 10-foot pole," Erin Simpson, a policy officer at the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, said. AT

President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said during a 27 July news conference in Tehran that activities at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility could resume in days, state television and state radio reported. He said this depends on the European proposal at an upcoming Iran-EU meeting. If the Europeans do not agree on a date for Iranian nuclear activities to resume, he said, "the system has already made its decision to resume Isfahan's activities." Khatami continued, "The deadline will depend on the Europeans and their proposal. That is the deadline." Raw uranium is processed into uranium hexafluoride at the Isfahan facility. BS

French President Jacques Chirac told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Iran should be referred to the UN Security Council if it does not provide "objective guarantees" that it has stopped sensitive nuclear activities, AFP reported. Chirac's spokesman, Jerome Bonnafont, added that France seeks "objective guarantees on Iran renouncing all activities in the area of fissile-matter production, under the control of the IAEA." French Foreign Ministry deputy spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said in Paris earlier in the day that "Iran knows the consequences of any resumption of activities currently suspended, which can only be negative for Iran," AFP reported. BS

U.S. officials have shared intelligence with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's effort to develop a missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 27 June. The briefing took place in Vienna in mid-July. The intelligence was secured the previous year and purportedly it appears to reveal Iranian efforts from 2001 to 2003 to adapt the Shihab-3 missile to deliver a "black box"; U.S. experts have suggested they are fairly certain that this box is a nuclear warhead. "The Wall Street Journal" first described this "compelling" but "circumstantial" data in March (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 March 2005). At that time, Washington had shared the information with Berlin, London, and Paris, but it was wary of making it public and had rejected an IAEA request for a briefing. BS

An unnamed spokesman from the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology said on 27 July that provision of radioactive isotopes -- nickel-63 (Ni-63) and the hydrogen-based tritium -- to Iran in 2004 was legal, Yonhap news agency reported. "The company, engaging in intermediary trade, adhered to the law and rules when it sold 300 Ni-63 isotopes," the spokesman said. "The company conducted the transfer after receiving a pledge from the Iranian buyer that the substance would only be used for nondestructive testing, such as checking pipes at refineries for oil leaks." The company in question served as the middleman in a deal between Iranian and Russian firms. BS

Amid speculation about the cabinet of President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani indicated to reporters attending a 26 July graduation ceremony at Malek Ashtar University in Tehran that he is unsure of his professional future, ISNA reported. Shamkhani said that he will not remain in the cabinet, and he recommended choosing somebody from the Defense Ministry as his successor. Shamkhani said the difference between him and other ministers is that they make professional choices themselves, but because he is in the military his duties are assigned to him. In his speech to the graduates, Shamkhani said, "The Defense Ministry needs innovation and knowledge in order to meet its needs and this can be achieved by creating a link between universities and industry." Shamkhani said the Defense Ministry has managed to establish a linkage with the academic sector and defense projects are under way in the universities. BS

Five Iranian security officers were killed and four were wounded in a clash with PKK affiliates (PJAK, Free Life Party of Kurdistan) in Siahkuh in the early morning hours on 27 July, a mountainous area between Oshnovieh and Piranshahr, Baztab reported. The Kurds were armed with mortars, heavy machine guns, and light machine guns. The "Milliyet" newspaper from Turkey reported one day earlier that Iran has launched a major operation along its border with Iraq and Turkey. According to the Turkish daily, 16 Iranian soldiers and four Kurds were killed in battles "in the Kelaresh and Milgever areas along the Turkish border and in the Gaddare areas near the town of Shino, near the border with Iraq." Iranian personnel reportedly are operating in the areas near Marivan and Baneh, Piranshahr and Mahabad, and Sardasht. BS

Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn claimed it has killed two Algerian diplomats taken hostage in Iraq one week ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2005) in a statement posted to the Internet, international media reported on 27 July. Algerian Foreign Minister Muhammad Bedjaoui condemned the killings on state television ENTV on 27 July, calling them a "savage crime." "These people consider themselves revolutionaries but have no humanity or anything," Bedjaoui said. "It seems that these people have no policy as they attack a state such as Algeria and citizens such as the Algerians." Meanwhile, Iraqi police reportedly arrested a man identified as Sayyid al-Tantawi, who is described as the right-hand man of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, KUNA reported on 27 July. Al-Tantawi is an Egyptian national; he was captured in Al-Yusufiyah, Babil police commander Captain Muthanna Abd al-Harith said, adding that al-Tantawi "made dangerous confessions regarding the terrorist groups and their actions in Iraq." KR

Insurgents in Iraq attacked a train transporting oil derivatives south of Baghdad on 28 July, international media reported. An Interior Ministry official said the train struck a bomb just outside the Al-Durah Oil Refinery, but railway workers said the explosion might have been cause by a rocket-propelled grenade, AFP reported. Reuters quoted Iraqi police as saying one person was killed and four injured in the attack. KR

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told reporters at a 27 July press briefing in Baghdad with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that they discussed a number of security issues and the role of U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq (MNF-I) during meetings the same day, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Asked by RFI whether there was any discussion of a possible reduction of U.S. forces in the cities and on the streets, given the rash of inadvertent killings of innocent civilians by multinational forces in recent weeks, al-Ja'fari said: "[U.S.] General [George W.] Casey has addressed a letter to me that he is investigating this matter, and I think there is no disagreement at all on this issue because the MNF-I and the U.S. forces have come here to preserve and defend Iraqi lives, and we hope that these events will not be repeated." Casey told reporters in Baghdad on 27 July that the Pentagon could make "some fairly substantial reductions" in troops by next spring if the political process remains on track, RFI reported. KR

Prime Minister al-Ja'fari also told reporters on 27 July that he and Rumsfeld discussed plans for a draw down of multinational forces from Iraq during their meeting the same day, RFI reported. Asked about the specifics regarding a possible draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq, the prime minister told reporters: "We have not [determined] a schedule, but we confirm and we desire speed in that regard, and this fast pace has two aspects: the picking up the pace of the training of Iraqi forces in terms of training and equipment, and the other aspect is planning with the MNF-I that the withdrawal of the MNF-I will happen as much as the Iraqi forces take hold of the land." Rumsfeld spoke briefly at the news conference, telling reporters: "We had a good discussion about the progress being made with respect to Iraqi security forces, and our common interests in seeing them develop to the point where they can take over full responsibility for security in Iraq." KR

A Kurdish delegation met with leaders from the Shi'ite-led Islamic Al-Da'wah Party in Baghdad on 27 July to discuss the issue of federalism and the incorporation of Kirkuk into the geographical boundaries of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Satellite TV reported on 27 July. The deputy speaker of the Kurdistan parliament, Kamal Kirkuki, told the television channel that Kurds will insist that their fundamental rights be enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, adding that areas of dispute such as Kirkuk "must be addressed on time without delays" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 March 2005). "There have been many tricks and attempt to delay [resolving the issue of Kirkuk]. And [Kurds] in turn have shown that it cannot be compromised and there is no going back," Kirkuki contended. "It is therefore necessary to come up with a mechanism for implementing the work on time as referred to in the Transitional Administrative Law. Any delays will be considered a deception." The deputy speaker added that the Kurds "have been deceived throughout history...[and] their affairs were postponed with sweet promises only to find themselves in the Anfal and chemical bombardment" leading to mass graves. Kirkuki called delaying the issue of Kirkuk a "red line" for Kurds. KR