PUTIN DOWNPLAYS UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CRISIS...
President Vladimir Putin said during a visit to Germany on 8 September that he does not wish to dramatize the government crisis in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yushchenko sacked Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko's government over allegations of corruption, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "I'm convinced that the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leadership will find a right decision," Putin said during a news conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, adding that he had spoken to Yushchenko by telephone. "I've talked with Viktor Yushchenko, and I believe that the situation in Ukraine is under his control," said Putin, whose overt support for Yushchenko's rival in the run-up to Ukraine's Orange Revolution put a strain on initial dialogue with the new administration. "Ukraine is surviving a difficult period. There is nothing ordinary of the resignation of the Ukrainian government ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections." BW
...WHILE DUMA DEPUTIES LOB ACCUSATIONS AGAINST TYMOSHENKO
Luybov Sliska, deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma, said she suspects that Tymoshenko orchestrated the government crisis herself as the first step toward winning the country's presidency, mosnews.com reported on 8 September. "Yulia Tymoshenko is not one who surrenders easily and can give up power in cold blood," Sliska said. adding that the ex-prime minister can try to gain a majority in parliament and eventually make herself president. "Tymoshenko appears before the nation as offended and aggrieved because of the struggle with oligarchs and corrupt officials from the former government." Sergei Baburin, another deputy speaker in the Duma, agreed that Tymoshenko will attempt to use her dismissal to strengthen her political position. BW
RUSSIAN, GERMAN LEADERS ENDORSE PIPELINE DEAL
President Putin and Chancellor Schroeder expressed approval on 8 September for plans to construct a pipeline that would ship Siberian gas from Russia to Germany, Russian and international news agencies reported the same day. The deal, between Russia's state gas monopoly Gazprom, the German utility company E.ON, and BASF subsidiary Wintershall, is worth approximately $5 billion. The pipeline is expected to be finished in 2010, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. BW
PUTIN SUPPORTS GERMAN BID FOR SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT...
President Putin, meanwhile, said on 8 September that Russia will support Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. "Russia will support Germany's eagerness to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council," Putin told a news conference in Berlin following talks with Schroeder. Putin said he and Schroeder also discussed UN reform and preparations for that world body's summit in New York in mid-September. BW
...AND SAYS GERMAN ELECTIONS WILL NOT AFFECT BILATERAL RELATIONS
At a meeting with German opposition leader Angela Merkel, Putin stressed that Moscow's relations with Berlin will remain good regardless of who wins the country's 18 September election, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. Merkel, who has been much more critical of Russia than has Schroeder, is heavily favored to become Germany's chancellor after the poll. "Irrespective the results of the elections in Germany, our countries will be committed to the positive development of relations," Putin said. Merkel also stressed her desire for good relations: "We're interested in developing good relations with Russia. Whether or not my party wins a victory we'll continue to pursue this policy." BW
PRIMORE LEGISLATORS ASSAIL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OVER OUTBREAK OF FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE
Legislators in the Primorskii Krai have accused federal officials of responding too slowly to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the region and have called for the prosecutor-general to investigate, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. The "slow reaction of...federal structures" and the fact that officials ignored "alarming signals from the region...resulted in serious consequences," the Primore legislature's press service claimed in a statement released on 9 September. The main problem, according to the lawmakers, was the untimely delivery of vaccine to Primorskii Krai when the disease broke out in the neighboring Amur region. BW
DUMA SPEAKER CALLS ON UN TO CLEARLY DEFINE 'TERRORISM'
Boris Gryzlov called for a comprehensive international definition of terrorism that would not allow for double standards, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. Speaking at the second World Conference of Parliament Speakers at the United Nations in New York, Gryzlov urged the UN General Assembly to adopt a convention on terrorism "that would give such a determination of terrorism that would exclude the possibility of the use of double standards." BW
EDUCATION MINISTRY REPORTEDLY SEEKS TO RESTRICT TIME ABROAD FOR SCIENTISTS
The Education and Science Ministry might link higher salaries for scholars to strict limits on the time they can spend abroad, "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 September. President Putin recently promised to allocate more budget funds for salaries for academic specialists, particularly in the sciences (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2005). The higher wages are expected to reach 30,000 rubles ($1,000) per month. Dmitrii Livanov, head of the Education and Science Ministry's department on state scientific, technical, and innovative policies, has advocated providing the higher salaries only to scholars who sign multiyear contracts that oblige them to spend at least nine months of the year in Russian laboratories. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Livanov as saying at a recent Moscow seminar that he was only expressing his personal opinion, which is not yet official policy. But, according to "Izvestiya," the Education and Science Ministry has already prepared a document elaborating the policy and is just waiting for the right time to release it. "Izvestiya" argued that restrictions on foreign study and research would be counterproductive; for many scientists, important research is only possible abroad because of the outmoded equipment in many Russian laboratories. LB
PROSECUTOR SAYS MOST FOREIGN ADOPTION AGENCIES BREAK THE LAW
Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii announced on 8 September that foreign adoption agencies that break the law will face sanctions, including having their accreditations revoked, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Fridinskii, the Prosecutor-General's Office has uncovered evidence of unlawful activities by more than 30 of the 52 foreign adoption agencies accredited in Russia. He said prosecutors are drafting a report on the matter to send to the Education and Science Ministry. In recent months, the deaths of several Russian-born orphans placed in families abroad have received substantial attention in Russia, and some politicians have called for a moratorium on foreign adoption. However, officials in the Education and Science Ministry have not taken as hard a line on the issue as their counterparts in the Prosecutor-General's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July and 11 August 2005). LB
COMMUNIST PARTY NAMES CANDIDATES FOR MOSCOW DUMA...
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has selected its candidates for the Moscow City Duma election scheduled for 4 December, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 September. The top three candidates on the party's list will be Ivan Melnikov, first deputy chairman of the KPRF Central Committee; film director Nikolai Gubenko, a former USSR culture minister who later chaired the State Duma Culture and Tourism Committee; and Vladimir Ulas, who heads the KPRF's Moscow organization. The KPRF's candidates in single-mandate districts include Yelena Lukyanova, a lawyer for the party who is also the daughter of former State Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 9 September that the KPRF has consistently won a smaller proportion of the vote in Moscow than in most other regions. The Communists' best showing in the capital was 14.3 percent of the vote in the 1995 State Duma elections. In the 2003 State Duma elections, however, the KPRF gained just 7.7 percent in Moscow, behind Unified Russia, Motherland, Yabloko, and the Union of Rightist Forces. The KPRF won no seats in the last elections to the Moscow City Duma, which involved only single-mandate districts. LB
...AS DOES PARTY OF LIFE
The Moscow branch of Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov's Russian Party of Life on 7 September held a conference to select candidates for the Moscow City Duma, Regions.ru reported the next day. The Party of Life has nominated 46 candidates, 14 of whom are running in single-mandate districts. The top three candidates on the party list are Moscow City Duma Deputy Irina Rukina, who heads the party's branch in the capital; retired Army General Vladimir Shuralev, who chairs the Moscow Oblast Committee of Veterans of War and Labor; and Yana Poplavskaya, a once-famous child actress who now hosts the show "Vremechko" on the Moscow-based network TV-Tsentr. The Party of Life could face an uphill battle to clear the 10 percent threshold for the 20 Moscow Duma seats that will be distributed to political parties according to proportional representation. Sociologist Oleg Savelev of Yurii Levada's Analytical Center has said that opinion poll data suggest that only the pro-government Unified Russia and Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia will clear the 10 percent barrier in Moscow, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 2 September. LB
FEDERATION COUNCIL BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SWITCHES REGIONS
Federation Council Budget Committee Chairman Yevgenii Bushmin, who has represented the administration of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast in the upper house of the parliament since 2001, will now represent the administration of Rostov Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 September. Rostov Governor Vladimir Chub appointed Bushmin on 8 September. The two men have been well acquainted since early in Chub's tenure as governor in the mid-1990s, when Bushmin was deputy finance minister and handled the federal government's contacts with the North Caucasus regional association. Bushmin's mandate in the Federation Council expired in August along with the term of Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev. Sources close to new Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Valerii Shantsev told "Kommersant-Daily" that Shantsev twice asked Bushmin to stay on as a senator. But Bushmin was rumored to have doubts about working with Shantsev. In addition, unnamed sources in the upper house told "Kommersant-Daily," switching regions will allow Bushmin to become a deputy speaker. An "unwritten rule" of the Federation Council prohibits having more than one deputy speaker from a single federal district, and the position from the Volga Federal District (which includes Nizhnii Novgorod) is already occupied by Aleksandr Torshin, who represents the Marii-El Republic. LB
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY HAILS END OF OPPOSITION BOYCOTT
Two leaders of pro-government factions in the Armenian parliament expressed satisfaction on 8 September at the announcement the previous day by the opposition Artarutiun bloc and the National Accord Party of their intention to end their 18-month boycott of legislative proceedings, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). Artur Rustamian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun argued that the opposition presence will make parliamentary discussions "more comprehensive," while Samvel Balasanian (Orinats Yerkir) said it will contribute to the adoption of "better laws." LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PLANS TO PREVENT PASSAGE OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Leaders of two parties aligned in the opposition Artarutiun bloc told journalists on 8 September that they plan a nationwide campaign to persuade voters to reject the draft constitutional amendments to be submitted to a national referendum in November, Noyan Tapan reported. At least one-third of all registered voters must cast ballots for the plebiscite to be valid, and more than 50 percent must vote in favor for the amendments to pass. Viktor Dallakian said Artarutiun will explain to voters the current Armenian leadership's rationale for proposing those amendments, which he said is to "legalize its illegal authority" and create the constitutional foundation to enable incumbent President Robert Kocharian to serve a third presidential term. Meanwhile, Union of National Democrats Chairman Arshak Sadoyan said on 8 September that Artarutiun members will monitor the plebiscite to ensure that the authorities do not rig the outcome, Noyan Tapan reported. Sadoyan predicted that any such attempt to falsify the results of the referendum would trigger a popular uprising that would force the current leadership to resign. LF
INTERNATIONAL MONITOR HOPES FOR FAIR BALLOT IN AZERBAIJAN
Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, who is head of the OSCE's Election Observation Mission for the 6 November parliamentary ballot in Azerbaijan, told journalists in Baku on 8 September that Azerbaijani authorities have failed to implement in their entirety a number of "important recommendations" contained in OSCE assessments of previous Azerbaijani ballots, zerkalo.az reported on 9 September. Ahrens added, however, that given the requisite political will, it is still possible to hold democratic elections under the current Election Code. Ahrens, who headed the OSCE Observation Mission during last winter's Ukrainian presidential ballot, warned that drawing comparisons between the pre-election situation in Ukraine and Azerbaijan is inappropriate and could lead to "undesirable consequences." LF
TOP AZERBAIJANI ELECTION OFFICIAL RULES OUT FURTHER CHANGES TO ELECTION LAW
Also on 8 September, Azerbaijani Central Election Commission Chairman Mazahir Panahov told Trend news agency on 8 September that he considers it impossible for the outgoing parliament to enact the additional changes to the election law proposed by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, zerkalo.az reported on 9 September. Those changes include increasing opposition parties' representation on election commissions and marking voters' fingers with indelible ink after they cast their ballots in order to preclude repeat voting. Panahov argued that it would be "ridiculous and unusual" to make further changes to the election law just two months before the ballot. The parliament approved sweeping changes to the election law in late June, but those amendments did not include the most important changes called for by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2005). Speaking on 9 September in the southern district of Masally, President Ilham Aliyev warned that any local officials who seek to rig the outcome of the elections will immediately be dismissed from their posts, Turan reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI COURTS REJECTS APPEALS BY TWO OPPOSITION PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES
The Sabail and Nasimi raion courts in Baku rejected on 8 September appeals by lawyers representing former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev and former President Ayaz Mutalibov against the decision by the Prosecutor General's Office to strip both men of the immunity from prosecution accorded to registered parliamentary candidates, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August and 7 September 2005). The Nasimi Raion Court refused to give Mutalibov's lawyer a copy of that ruling. Sardar Djalaloglu, first deputy chairman of Guliev's Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, told day.az on 9 September that the party will appeal the court ruling to the Appeals Court and, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights. Djalaloglu added that regardless of the outcome of those appeals, Guliev will return to Baku from the United States, where he has lived since leaving Azerbaijan in 1996. Guliev faces criminal charges of embezzlement. LF
GEORGIA, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON TIMETABLE FOR BASE CLOSURES
During talks in Tbilisi on 8 September, Georgian and Russian government delegations reached preliminary agreement on the timetable and route for the withdrawal of the remaining Russian military personnel in Georgia, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. That draft must be approved by Russia prior to its signing by both countries' foreign ministers, according to Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze. But a senior Russian officer in Tbilisi told "Kavkazskii uzel" that the Georgian side insists on adding to the draft a provision unacceptable to Russia stipulating that either side may give the other six months' warning that it intends to renounce the agreement, according to kavkaz.memo.ru as cited by kazkazweb.net. LF
NOMINATION PERIOD BEGINS IN KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL RACE...
Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission announced in an 8 September press release that the nomination period for candidates for the 4 December presidential election will last from 8 September until 3 October, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. National organizations may nominate candidates, and individuals may nominate themselves if they collect 90,000 signatures, Khabar reported. The period for registering candidates will last from 3 October to 24 October. Three people have already announced their intentions to run -- incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev, For a Just Kazakhstan leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, and Senate deputy Ualikhan Kaisarov. DK
...AS PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES GEAR UP FOR RACE
Darigha Nazarbaeva, head of the Asar Party, and Bakhytzhan Zhumagulov, acting chairman of the Otan Party, told a news conference on 7 September that the two pro-presidential parties plan to create a "popular coalition" to support President Nazarbaev in the upcoming election, "Kazakhstan Today" reported the next day. Darigha Nazarbaeva, who is the daughter of the president, commented, "The moment of truth has arrived, when all political parties that have a constructive position and support the policy of the acting president must cast aside their personal ambitions, petty grudges, and objections, and unite to win." At a news conference in Almaty on 8 September, Nazarbaeva downplayed the opposition's chances in the upcoming poll, saying, "Sociological research and experts' analyses show that [the opposition's] position is weak and it has fewer chances to win," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Otan will hold a party conference on 9 September; Asar will do the same on 14 September. DK
KYRGYZ TOP BANKER LASHES OUT AT PROSECUTORS
Ulan Sarbanov, the head of Kyrgyzstan's central bank, told a news conference in Bishkek on 8 September that his current confinement under house arrest is "absurd" and will undermine the National Bank's work, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Sarbanov, who is currently under house arrest in connection with charges that he gave then President Askar Akaev $480,000 in 1999, said he wants his criminal case tried in the courts as soon as possible. Sarbanov also denied that he gave the sum in question to Akaev, explaining that the National Bank simply complied with an order to transfer the funds to the deputy director of the central treasury. In a statement on 8 September, the Prosecutor-General's Office responded, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The statement noted that Sarbanov's house arrest is not affecting work at the bank, since Sarbanov has named an acting chairman. The Prosecutor-General's Office called Sarbanov's other remarks an attempt to "deceive public opinion in the lead-up to a criminal trial on this matter." DK
KYRGYZ PREMIER'S PRESS SERVICE CLARIFIES ANDIJON COMMENT
The press service of Prime Minister Feliks Kulov issued a statement on 8 September clarifying Kulov's recent comments to the BBC on the possibility that armed militants used southern Kyrgyzstan as a staging ground before the mid-May violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan, akipress.org reported. The statement stressed that Kulov's concern over lapses in the work of Kyrgyzstan's security services "does not constitute grounds for asserting that destructive forces underwent training in our country." In its own clarification, akipress.org said that in his recent BBC interview, Kulov "noted only the probability [that training took place], without asserting that it actually did." Kulov's original comments came in response to allegations by the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office that armed militants used Kyrgyzstan as a staging ground before the violence in Andijon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). DK
WARSAW, MINSK EXCHANGE HARSH WORDS OVER ETHNIC CONVENTION
Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ruslan Yesin said on 8 September that the Polish government is trying to provoke a "new split" within the Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB) by extending support to the old SPB leadership that was replaced last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 August 2005), Belapan reported. Yesin was commenting on the Polish Foreign Ministry's statement earlier this month, in which Warsaw charged that the election of a new SPB leadership in August took place at a convention orchestrated by Belarusian special services. The Polish ministry said that Warsaw will back the SPB's leaders elected at a convention in March and will devise ways of efficient cooperation with the Polish ethnic community in Belarus. "It is unclear how a governmental agency, moreover that of a foreign country, may recognize or not recognize the leadership of a nongovernmental organization in a neighboring country," Yesin noted. Meanwhile, former SPB leader Andzelika Borys, who was replaced in August, met with EU officials and lawmakers in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 8 September. Borys was accompanied by Donald Tusk, deputy speaker of the Polish parliament and a frontrunner in Poland's presidential race. JM
EU HOLDS ANOTHER TENDER FOR RADIO BROADCASTS TO BELARUS
In November, the European Commission is going to announce a winner of its tender for organizing radio broadcasts to Belarus as of 1 January 2006, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 9 September. The winner is to obtain 2 million euros ($2.5 million) for organizing and sending radio programs to Belarus during two years. European Parliament Deputy Speaker Janusz Onyszkiewicz told RFE/RL that a bidder for the EU tender is required to have no less than 1 million listeners in former Soviet countries and report no less than 3 million euros in its yearly turnover. "This means that the tender will be decided in a circle of such giants as Deutsche Welle, BBC, Radio France International, and Euronews," Onyszkiewicz said. "Polish Radio, which has had a Belarusian-language service for a long time, or Radio Racja in Bialystok [broadcast in Belarusian to Belarus on shortwave from 1999-2002] will remain outside this tender," Onyszkiewicz said, adding that the EU-sponsored broadcasts to Belarus will most likely be in the Russian language. Earlier this year, the European Commission awarded Deutsche Welle 138,000 euros ($169,000) annually for three years to organize a Russian-language program to Belarus. The move provoked vociferous protests among Belarusian intellectuals and supporters of the Belarusian native cultural and linguistic identity (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 24 August 2005). JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DISSOLVES CABINET...
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on 8 September signed a decree "on terminating powers of Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and on the dismissal of the Cabinet of Ministers," according to the president's official website (http://www.president.gov.ua). The president named Yuriy Yekhanurov as acting prime minister, and decreed that members of the cabinet continue to serve until a new one is formed. The resignations of National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) Secretary Petro Poroshenko, who has been involved in a public feud with Tymoshenko, and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Issues Mykola Tomenko were also accepted on 8 September. Yushchenko said at a press conference the same day that his decision to dissolve the government was prompted by constant infighting. "Every day I had to intervene in conflicts between the cabinet and the [RNBO], between the [RNBO] and the state secretary, between the cabinet and parliament. These conflicts became the main item on the agenda," Kanal 5 television quoted Yushchenko as saying. "The president should not have to work as a nanny to settle relations between these people. My colleagues have lost their team spirit and their faith. I say this with sadness, because these people remain my friends." MS
...AND NAMES ECONOMIST AS ACTING PRIME MINISTER
Acting Prime Minister Yekhanurov said on 8 September that his first task is to ensure that "government members continue their work, and there should be stability," Interfax reported, citing his press secretary. "Therefore, my goal now is to set up a government and start working efficiently." Yekhanurov was reportedly traveling to Kyiv from Odessa to begin negotiations with former government members and party leaders on 9 September. Yekhanurov, who was serving as Dnipropetrovsk Oblast governor, has worked with Yushchenko since 1999. Yekhanurov played a key role in Ukraine's early privatization efforts, chairing the State Property Fund from 1994-97. He also worked briefly as first deputy head of former President Leonid Kuchma's cabinet after then-Prime Minister Yushchenko's government was dismissed in May 2001. Yekhanurov left that position in November of that year to serve as deputy head of the campaign headquarters of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, and is a prominent figure in the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People's Union (NSNU) that was formed in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2005). Yekhanurov supports Ukraine's membership of the Single Economic Space with Russia and is considered to be a liberal economist. MS
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT LEADERS URGED TO SUPPORT NEW PRIME MINISTER
President Yushchenko met with leaders of parliament factions on 9 September in an effort to convince them to support acting Prime Minister Yekhanurov, international media reported. "Nobody wants conflict and misunderstanding," he said in a closed-door meeting, according to his website (http://www.president.gov.ua). "If this happens, I am sure we should face things honestly and courageously and give an absolutely balanced and calm answer." Observers are closely watching the reaction of Tymoshenko, who campaigned side by side with Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution and whose support is considered key to the success of the president's decision to dissolve the government. Tymoshenko was quoted as saying on Ukrainian television that her dismissal was "very unfair," but that Ukrainians' lives will continue to improve, Reuters reported. She left a note in her office wishing Yekhanurov success as her successor, according to Interfax. MS
WORLD LEADERS DOWNPLAY UKRAINIAN POLITICAL CRISIS
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently accused Ukraine's government of corruption, said during a joint press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that "I would not dramatize the events taking place in Ukraine now," ITAR-TASS reported. "Ukraine is going through a complicated stage of its development," Putin said, adding that Russia will continue to "contribute to stabilizing a country to which we are linked with many bonds." U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at a press briefing on 8 September that "this is a matter for the Ukrainian people. Young democracies sometimes have changes in government, but as long as those changes are made in a constitutional manner, in a peaceful manner, that's all part of the democratic political process." Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose Rose Revolution preceded Yushchenko's Orange Revolution, said on 8 September that the Ukrainian president's "main quality" is "knowing exactly at the decisive moment what must be done," AP reported. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that Ukraine's political crisis is a symptom of the country's democratic transition, and that "Polish-Ukrainian relations will not suffer as a result of these changes," AP reported. MS
NEMTSOV PRAISES UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT'S DISMISSAL
Boris Nemtsov, the former leader of Russia's liberal Union of Rightist Forces who now advises Ukrainian President Yushchenko, hailed the Ukrainian government ouster, mosnews.com reported on 8 September. "Tymoshenko's government has led Ukraine to an economic crisis," Nemtsov told Rosbalt news agency the same day. "Sustained recession has been seen in all the economic spheres over the last few months, the outflow of foreign capital has become stronger...[and] an extremely hostile investment climate has emerged. There is a need to take responsibility for such a policy." BW
SERBIA AND MONTENGERO'S DEFENSE MINISTER OFFERS HIS RESIGNATION...
Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Prvoslav Davinic said in Belgrade on 8 September that he has given his resignation to President Svetozar Marovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 September 2005). The minister added that he informed the president and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that initial investigations into a corruption scandal allegedly involving the purchase of unnecessary equipment for the army at inflated prices from the Mile Dragic company in Zrenjanin have revealed no criminal wrongdoing. The Defense Ministry meanwhile announced that it is forming its own commission to investigate the allegations. The Serbian government agreed at a meeting that the Mile Dragic affair must be investigated completely, adding that the matter is now in the hands of a special prosecutor whose findings are expected soon. Meanwhile in Podgorica, the Montenegrin governing coalition reiterated its position that it will not take a stand until more information is known. PM
...BUT WILL IT BE ACCEPTED?
The resignation of Defense Minister Davinic was not discussed at the 8 September meeting of the government of Serbia and Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Before the resignation can take effect, the cabinet must accept it and nominate a successor. Parliamentary speaker Zoran Sami then has between five and 15 days in which to place the matter on the legislature's agenda. If the parliament approves the change with a majority among both Serbian and Montenegrin legislators, it takes effect. Until it does, Davinic remains in office. He previously suggested that he would resign under certain conditions but later withdrew that offer. There appears to be no consensus among the leaders in Belgrade and Podgorica regarding a successor. Speculation in Belgrade suggests that the Mile Dragic affair is part of a much larger picture involving not only corruption in the arms trade but also jockeying among Serbian politicians in anticipation of elections later in 2005 and rivalry between the leaderships in Montenegro and Serbia. PM
ALBANIA GETS A NEW GOVERNMENT
Albanian Prime Minister-designate Sali Berisha and his 14-member cabinet are scheduled to begin work on 11 September and focus on fighting corruption, Reuters reported on 8 September. Most of the ministers are in their 30s and have a high degree of professional training, although not necessarily in the same field as their new jobs. Members of Berisha's Democratic Party hold 10 of the ministries, while each of the remaining four has gone to one of his four smaller coalition partners. Foreign Minister-designate Besnik Mustafaj from the Democrats is a soft-spoken writer and former ambassador to France who will focus on attracting foreign business to Albania. The defense portfolio has gone to Fatmir Mediu of the Republican Party. Democrat and former journalist Sokol Olldashi heads the Interior and Local Self-Government Ministry. Democrat Ridvan Bode first exposed the pyramid investment schemes that led to unrest that cost Berisha his presidency in 1997. He will now head the Finance Ministry. Democrat and Dutch-educated lawyer Lulzim Basha is scheduled to take over the Transport and Telecommunications Ministry with a mandate to review the sale of Albtelecom by the previous Socialist-led government to a single Turkish bidder. Western-educated Genc Pollo of the Reformed Democrats will head the Education Ministry. PM
TRANSDNIESTER COMMISSION TO MEET AGAIN AFTER FIVE-MONTH HIATUS
The Joint Control Commission (JCC) overseeing the peacekeeping operation in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester will meet again on 9 September for the first time in five months, Russian representative to the JCC Viktor Shanin told ITAR-TASS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2005). The commission comprises representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Moldova, and Transdniester. Shanin said the Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian representatives have agreed to hold an "urgent meeting," "at which we plan to solve organizational issues -- appoint new military observers from Russia and Moldova, and a new member of the commission" from Transdniester. He added that resuming talks "is a complicated process and it demands time, but it is better to move by small steps than to sit in trenches." DW
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SACKS GOVERNMENT, OFFERING MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
President Viktor Yushchenko on 8 September dismissed the cabinet of Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and accepted the previous day's resignation of National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko. A few days earlier, Yushchenko accepted the resignation of his chief of staff, Oleksandr Zinchenko. Thus, three of Yushchenko's closest allies and brothers-in-arms from the November-December 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine have found themselves outside the government and are not likely to return to it before the March 2006 parliamentary elections. The Orange Revolution, in accordance with a well-known saying, has started to devour its children.
The dismissal of the Ukrainian government took place amidst allegations of corruption in the president's inner circle, which were publicly voiced by Zinchenko and Tymoshenko's closest aide, Mykhaylo Brodskyy. Both Zinchenko and Brodskyy pointed to Poroshenko as the main backstage operator in Ukrainian politics, who allegedly obstructed the government's activities and pursued private interests in his official position. Yushchenko, in explaining his decision to sack Tymoshenko's cabinet and Poroshenko, said his colleagues in the government have "lost the team spirit" and "concentrated on PR activities" instead of working toward implementing Orange Revolution ideals.
According to most Ukrainian commentators, Yushchenko's radical move on 8 September has temporarily strengthened his position as the top arbiter in the Ukrainian political arena and the guarantor of the country's stability. Both the government and the president have been steadily losing popularity in recent months among the public, while the Orange Revolution pledge to return dishonestly privatized properties to the people has been perceived by an increasing number of people in Ukraine as just a slogan covering the redistribution of those properties among oligarchic clans. In the short run, Yushchenko appears to have gained a lot in the eyes of those Ukrainians who still believe that the Orange Revolution was about more democracy and less corruption in their country than about bestowing government posts and benefits upon revolution heroes.
However, Yushchenko may well find it problematic to achieve any further progress in pushing the Orange Revolution program. Without doubt, Yushchenko has made a very prudent move by appointing Yuriy Yekhanurov as caretaker prime minister. Yekhanurov, who has extensive experience in many government posts, is widely seen as a technocrat and is therefore expected to form a government of experts and economists rather than revolutionary combatants. And Yekhanurov stands a very good chance of being approved by the Verkhovna Rada. But it is very unlikely that he will be allowed by parliament to pursue any radical reforms prior to the March 2006 parliamentary elections.
As testified by a number of abortive votes in the Verkhovna Rada in July on government-proposed bills to facilitate Ukraine's joining the World Trade Organization, Yushchenko cannot count on a reliable parliamentary majority to support his reformist agenda. Now, after Tymoshenko's dismissal, the chances of forging a lasting parliamentary alliance for the government are even slimmer. The best that can be expected from the new cabinet is to maintain macroeconomic stability in the country in the run-up to and during the 2006 parliamentary election campaign, and to secure supplies of Russian gas for 2006 at a tolerable price.
While Tymoshenko was prime minister, it was understood that Yushchenko's Our Ukraine People's Union and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc would form a parliamentary election coalition, preferably together with the People's Party headed by parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, to counter the forces that in the Orange Revolution supported Yushchenko's presidential rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Now the probability of such a coalition seems to be virtually nil. On the contrary, many expect a bitter election confrontation between pro-Yushchenko and pro-Tymoshenko forces. Such a development might lead to a serious political disorientation among adherents of the former Yushchenko-Tymoshenko revolutionary duet and add to their further disillusionment.
Yushchenko's political position may also be considerably undermined by the political reform that is going to take effect on 1 January. The reform, which was adopted as a compromise to overcome the presidential-election standoff in 2004, will shift the center of political power in Ukraine from the president to the cabinet and parliament. Some in Ukraine speculated that Yushchenko might somehow cancel this reform to prevent a curtailment of his prerogatives. Now that Tymoshenko has become Yushchenko's political rival and will almost certainly fight for the post of prime minister against the pro-Yushchenko forces in the upcoming parliamentary elections, she will have little incentive to cancel the political reform to preserve Yushchenko's political clout. In any event the stakes in the 2006 parliamentary elections in Ukraine will be very high and that the elections themselves will be a political fight with no rules.
AFGHANISTAN NEEDS MORE MONEY FOR ELECTIONS
Afghanistan is short $4.6 million in funds for the upcoming parliamentary elections, AFP reported on 8 September. "The gap has now closed to $4.6 million," said UN spokesman Adrian Edwards. "It will not jeopardize the elections. At this time what we are mainly talking about is the need to [promptly] pay bills and settle accounts." The elections, slated for 18 September, are expected to cost $148 million, the majority of which international donars are paying for. "$115.7 million is now received and committed, $23.7 million pledged, and $14.9 million is being carried over from last year," Edwards said. "We're hoping to see the remaining funding gap closed very quickly." MR
AFGHAN REFUGEES RIOT ON PAKISTANI BORDER
Protesting repatriation delays, hundreds of Afghan refugees turned violent against a UN office outside the border city of Peshawar, Pakistan, AFP reported on 8 September. A crowd of demonstrators sacked an office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) near Peshawar, smashing computers and breaking furniture. The head of the office that came under attack, UNHCR official Yaris Khan, said the rioters offered no explanation for the unrest. "They did not give us any reason," Khan said. But witnesses said the refugees, numbering up to 600, turned riotous because of the slow repatriation process, which has left many in lines outside the center for several days. Refugee Jalat Khan said the rioters had come from a nearby camp at Kachha Garhi to help those in line outside the UN office. "They reacted because they had seen their compatriots waiting for travel documents in hot weather for the past several days," Khan said. Pakistan has ordered all of the Afghan refugee camps on in its territory bordering Afghanistan closed, effectively forcibly repatriating thousands of refugees who have settled in Pakistan over the years. MR
MILITANTS KILL SIX AFGHAN SOLDIERS
Suspected neo-Taliban militants killed six Afghan soldiers in fighting in central Afghanistan, AP reported on 8 September. Two guerrilla fighters also died in the clash, which took place in Ghazni Province on 6 September, according to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammed Saher Azimi. Separately, U.S.-led coalition forces said they have uncovered guerrillas' weapons caches in several sites in southern and eastern Afghanistan. A roadside bomb was found near a coalition base in eastern Paktika Province. And another bomb detonated apparently by accident near a coalition airfield in Kandahar. No one was hurt in the explosion. MR
BOMBS FOUND STASHED IN KANDAHAR CEMETERY
Afghan intelligence officials have found a stash of explosives in a Kandahar cemetery, Pajhwok Afghan News reported on 8 September. Provincial intelligence chief Saadullah Khan told the Afghan news agency that the bombs were stored in a graveyard next to a high school in the center of the city, which is a former Taliban stronghold. "Had they been detonated, the devices would have caused a large number of casualties and widespread damage," said Khan. Khan added that an investigation into who put the bombs there is under way. MR
IRANIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES U.S. VISA FOR UN VISIT
The State Department announced that the United States has waived regulations banning suspected terrorists from entering its territory and given Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad a visa to attend the UN General Assembly in New York, RFE/RL's Radio Farda and the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 8 September. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington on 7 September that Iran's UN mission applied for a visa on 5 August, allowing Ahmadinejad to attend events around the opening of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly on 13-18 September, and the U.S. consulate in Berne, Switzerland, issued the visa on 6 September, the State Department website reported. McCormack added that while Ahmadinejad would have been refused a visa for what the U.S. suspects are past terrorism-related activities, in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, his ineligibility has been waived by the Department of Homeland Security at the request of the State Department. The visa "in no way indicates a change of U.S. views or policy toward the Iranian government," McCormack stressed. U.S. officials believe Ahmadinejad might have been among a gang of radical students who took U.S. diplomats in Tehran hostage in November 1979, a charge Iran rejects. VS
IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER TELLS ELITES TO BACK GOVERNMENT
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in Tehran on 8 September that senior clerics and politicians must support the government and end outstanding rivalries that stem from the June presidential polls, given what he described as foreign hostility to Iran's government, ISNA reported the same day. Khamenei told the Assembly of Experts, a body of clerics ostensibly charged with supervising Khamenei's performance, that the primary duty of politicians is to preserve "unity and cohesion" and end "the disagreements and offenses" of the elections. He added that "this duty pertains above all to those with a higher status in society, and those who work against society's unity cannot be the friends" of Iranians and their government, ISNA added. The election results upset some candidates, including Expediency Council Chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who alleged he was the victim of a campaign of vilification, and Mehdi Karrubi, who denounced malpractice at polling stations. Former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami has also recently warned that unspecified reactionaries and religious bigots are returning to positions of power. Khamenei said the government should not be undermined "for certain expectations or grudges," while "religious elites" must counter the "organized effort" of "the enemies of the revolution" to weaken Iran's religion and political system. VS
IRANIAN DIPLOMAT CALLS NUCLEAR DOSSIER A MATTER FOR TEHRAN, IAEA
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said in Tehran on 7 September that Iran "is not trying to expand" the number of parties negotiating over its nuclear program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains its formal negotiating partner, ISNA reported on 8 September. He said on his return from Pakistan that while third-party proposals "can be useful or helpful," "Iran's conduct is that everything should be in its place, and we face the [IAEA] in this case," ISNA reported. In meetings with Pakistani officials, Larijani said, they stated their acceptance of Iran's "natural right" to have a peaceful nuclear program. "I have no doubt that brotherly and Muslim Pakistan is by our side," he said. But Larijani also conveyed "concern" to Pakistani officials over their recent contacts with Iranian foe Israel. "I stated my concern" at the contacts, Larijani said according to ISNA, and "stated my reasons, and I think they have taken on board our perspective." The foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel met in Istanbul on 1 September in the first high-level meeting since those two states emerged in the mid-20th century, AFP stated on 7 September. VS
IRANIAN BUS DRIVERS ARRESTED, JOURNALIST JAILED
An unspecified number of Tehran bus drivers have been arrested after driving on 7 September with their lights turned on to protest against unpaid or insufficient wages, Radio Farda and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 8 September. Company managers said they have paid wages owed to drivers and blamed the drivers' union for fanning discontent, Radio Farda reported. Union member Mansur Hayat-Gheibi told the broadcaster that managers have had some protesting drivers arrested and others sacked. Separately, a journalist is in jail in Arak, central Iran, for charges relating to previous press activities even though the plaintiffs have withdrawn their original complaint, Radio Farda reported on 8 September. Masud Bastani is being kept in the general criminal population, and the Arak judiciary has rejected his request for transfer to a Tehran jail where political and press prisoners are kept, Radio Farda reported, quoting Tehran-based journalist Muhammad Reza Ruhbakhsh. Ruhbakhsh said the Arak judiciary has also convicted Bastani of violating an earlier conviction, which carried a five-year ban on press activities, by recently reporting on a Tehran protest, and the court is expected to hand him another sentence. This conviction and Bastani's detention are illegal, Ruhbakhsh claimed, but he currently has no attorney. VS
IRAQ'S LEADING SHI'ITE SEMINARY CALLS FOR ECONOMIC BOYCOTT AGAINST NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
In a statement posted on ebaa.net on 8 September, the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary in Al-Najaf called for an economic boycott on Iraq's neighboring states that continue to "sponsor terrorism" by allowing insurgents to cross Iraq's borders. "It is no longer possible for the Iraqi people to remain silent.... They are seeing with their own eyes that their killers are Arab takfiris and suicide-seekers that are crossing the borders of fraternal countries in ones and in hordes armed with explosive charges of hatred and fanaticism, undeterred by anyone," the statement said, adding: "If these [neighboring] countries wanted to prevent these murderers from crossing the border they could have done so." The seminary called on the National Assembly to pass a law placing economic sanctions on countries that support terrorism, including a halt on imports as well as a ban on tourist travel to these countries. It also encouraged citizens to boycott imported goods from these states. Jordan was the only country singled out in the statement, on the grounds that it provided safe haven to Saddam Hussein's family as well as former members of Hussein's regime. KR
ARAB FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING OPENS IN CAIRO
The 124th session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers Council opened in Cairo on 8 September, MENA reported the same day. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi addressed the session, stressing the need to preserve Iraqi unity, stability, and Arab identity. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa made similar statements, and praised the Iraqi draft constitution, describing it as an important step. Musa criticized the draft last week, but apparently changed his mind after he suggested, and Iraqi Kurds accepted, a change in the draft's text citing Iraq's connection to the Arab world. "For us there is no difference between Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'ites because they are all Iraqis and Iraq will remain part of the Arab world," Musa told the session. KR
UN MISSION SAYS IT IS STILL AWAITING DRAFT CONSTITUTION
The United Nations Mission in Baghdad announced on 8 September that it is still awaiting the final draft of the constitution before it begins printing and distributing the document, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. The report contradicted an earlier report by the television channel on 8 September, which cited an official from the Independent Electoral Commission as saying the document was currently being printed. Nicholas Haysom, the UN official in charge of constitutional support, said the text will be ready on 11 September, adding that Iraqi political officials were still discussing the draft and amendments are expected. (see http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/09/9212367a-c0dd-469e-af22-fdc7bd7aa394.html). KR
UN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ
UN Special Representative Ashraf Qazi said on 8 September there is continuing concern over the lack of protection of basic human rights in Iraq, as the world body released its July-August "Report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq" (http://www.uniraq.org). The UN said security operations in northern and central areas of the country are resulting in the displacement of populations and the inordinate suffering of innocent civilians. It also cited the "flagrant disregard for human life demonstrated by armed opposition groups"and noted mass detentions without warrants in operations carried out by Iraqi police, Interior Ministry special forces, and the U.S.-led multinational force. In addition, the report expressed concern over the "high number of persons detained across the country during security operations." KR
U.S. GENERAL DISCUSSES TAL AFAR OPERATION
Major General Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at an 8 September Baghdad press briefing that U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing for a major offensive in Tal Afar (http://www.mnf-iraq.com). Lynch did not say when the offensive will begin. "As we speak, operations are ongoing to evacuate civilians from the neighborhoods targeted by the insurgents. To assist the evacuees, several nongovernmental organizations and other aid agencies...are prepared to provide humanitarian assistance," Lynch told reporters. He added that tribal leaders are assisting in the evacuation of citizens. Asked about the estimated number of insurgents in the city, he said: "We believe that the insurgency inside of Tal Afar is comprised of terrorists and foreign fighters and local insurgents. And the magnitude of the insurgency is something that we are working through now, and I'm not at liberty to discuss [it]." He estimated about 20 percent of the insurgents are foreign fighters. Lynch said the Third Iraqi Army Division will remain in Tal Afar following the operations to maintain order. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army announced that it has arrested 200 suspected insurgents in the city, 75 percent of whom were foreign fighters, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on 8 September. KR