MOSCOW COURT REJECTS KHODORKOVSKII'S APPEAL...
After considering his appeal, the Moscow City Court on 22 September upheld the conviction of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, although it reduced his prison sentence from nine to eight years, Russian news agencies reported. The sentence of Khodorkovskii's co-defendant, Menatep head Platon Lebedev, was also reduced by one year. The court rejected an appeal to delay considering Khodorkovskii's appeal for eight weeks. One of Khodorkovskii's attorneys, Genrikh Pavda, also argued that the 10-year statute of limitations on the charge of embezzling a 44 percent stake in an agricultural institute expired on 21 September, according to Interfax. The court also rejected this argument after prosecutor Dmitrii Shokhin argued that the deadline was in fact the evening of 22 September, RIA-Novosti reported. According to "Vremya novostei" on 23 September, the court's ruling means that Khodorkovskii will not be eligible to run in the 4 December State Duma by-election in Moscow. JAC
...AS ONE OF HIS LAWYERS IS EXPELLED
Hours after Khodorkovskii's appeal was rejected, Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam's entry visa was annulled and he was ordered to leave the country, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 September. Fellow defense-team lawyer Karina Moskolenko told the station that law-enforcement officers arrived early in the morning of 23 September at Amsterdam's hotel room, took his passport, and later returned the document with his visa cancelled. "They said that I had violated visa regulations. I denied that and they then told me that I had 24 hours to leave the country," Amsterdam told Reuters on 23 September. "If I'm not on a plane by 5 p.m. today I'll be arrested." Amsterdam was a vocal critic of the Russian judiciary throughout the trial. Following the Moscow City Court ruling on 22 September, he said: "This court in one day has demonstrated, has proved eloquently, everything we have said about political control. This is institutionalized bias," AP reported. "We've said this is a political trial, this is a political case. Yesterday's marathon cassation (appeal) trial and then arresting me, or harassing me, last night only confirms everything we've said," he told Reuters on 23 September. VY
RUSSIA REJECTS EU'S DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM...
During a closed-door session of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors in Vienna on 22 September, Russia and China rejected an EU-proposed draft resolution on Iran's nuclear program, international media reported. The EU offered in the revised draft to delay, but not give up, its initiative to refer Iran to the UN Security Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). Speaking to journalists after the board meeting, Russian IAEA representative Ambassador Grigorii Berdennikov said the resolution was "a plane that cannot fly." Russia, China, and some developing states in the 35-member board have opposed referring Iran to the UN. During a press briefing in Washington on 22 September, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack reiterated U.S. calls for Iran to resume negotiations with the so-called EU-3 (France, Britain, Germany) regarding the country's nuclear program. VY
...AND SAYS IT WILL WEAN ITSELF OF U.S. ASSISTANCE IN SECURING NUCLEAR FACILITIES
Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumantsev said in Moscow on 22 September that Russia has decided to refuse some of the financial aid the United States has offered to help secure Russian nuclear facilities, RIA-Novosti reported. The United States has provided funds to Rosatom and the Defense Ministry to maintain inventory and safety controls for nuclear material in Russia since the early '90s. Rumyantsev said that the assistance has been very substantial, but that the situation has changed. He said that Russian nuclear materials are safely out of reach of terrorists. "Knowing how they are protected, I imagine that those who would like to get them [could do so] only after full-fledged battles," he said. Rumyantsev also said that if six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program continue to make progress and the country again recognizes the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Russia is prepared to help build a nuclear power plant in North Korea. VY
FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON U.S. TO CONSIDER 'RUSSIAN INTERESTS' IN CIS
During a speech at California's Stanford University on 21 September, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for the United States to adopt a "transparent policy" in the CIS that takes into account Russia's interests in the region, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 September. "It is apparent to all that development in the post-Soviet space is impossible without Russia and bypassing Russia," he said. Lavrov said he believes the United States faces the temptation to reshape the entire world according to its own ideals. "In the past we [the USSR] also faced the same temptation, and now we know very well where attempts to mix ideals and practical policy lead," Lavrov said. He also said that the main problem Russia faces is its "underdeveloped civil society, and our opponents do not understand that." VY
DUMA ADOPTS 2006 DRAFT BUDGET
The 2006 draft budget presented by Finance Minster Aleksei Kudrin was approved on 22 September by the Duma on first reading by a vote of 337-92, Russian news agencies reported. The budget predicts revenues of more than 5 trillion rubles ($178 billion), of which about 1.2 trillion will be spent on national security and defense. The country's gross domestic product is expected to grow by 5.8 percent, inflation by 7.5-8 percent, and the average price of Urals-type crude is estimated to be $40 per barrel. The budget plans for the country to have a surplus of 770 billion rubles, which will be used to fund the ambitious social programs announced by President Vladimir Putin this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2005). Members of the Motherland faction and the Communist Party (KPRF) voted against the draft. Economist Sergei Glazev, one of the leaders of Motherland, described the document as a "typical budget of a 19th-century bureaucratic police state," in which the lion's share of funding goes to the 'siloviki' and only a fraction goes to support social needs, NTV reported. Ivan Melnikov (Communists) described it as a "dead budget that has a lot of money that is not feeding the national economy," polit.ru reported. He added that "instead of a tumultuous river, our economy looks more like a marsh, on the surface of which appear small bubbles." Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that although his party voted for budget, it was because of the party's "marriage with the government" and was "driven by force, not by desire," strana.ru reported. VY
CABINET APPROVES PLAN TO DEVELOP AVIATION INDUSTRY
Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko said at a 22 September cabinet meeting that discussed ways of overhauling the country's aviation sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2005) that the industry is decaying and backward in comparison to the competition, RTR reported. He said that while Boeing and Airbus each produce one aircraft per day, the Russian aviation industry as a whole manufactures only one aircraft a month, and that buyers are difficult to find even domestically. Khristenko proposed at the meeting that all of the Russian aircraft producers be merged into a single corporation, with the aim of producing one aircraft every three days by 2015. The cabinet approved the plan, with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov commenting that while "long-term plans are good...something should also be done today." Fradkov noted that the Russian aviation industry is in such bad shape that even the IL-96 that President Putin uses as his presidential jet is grounded because of problems with that model of aircraft. He said civil aviation is not only important for transportation but also for defense and the country's image abroad. He predicted that if the sector fails to overcome its shortcomings by 2010 it will lose its competitiveness completely. VY
NEW SIBERIAN REGION MOVES CLOSER TO FRUITION
State Duma deputies voted on 22 September to approve a bill in its third and final reading on the unification of Krasnoyarsk Krai with the Taimyr and Evenk autonomous okrugs, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 417 in favor, according to RIA-Novosti. At least 300 votes were needed, because the bill is a constitutional law. The bill now heads to the Federation Council, which will consider it on 5 October, according to strana.ru. The new entity will be called Krasnoyarsk Krai and will be fully formed as of 1 January 2006. President Putin has to nominate a candidate to serve as governor for the new krai no later than 35 days after 1 January. Krasnoyarsk Krai legislative assembly speaker Vyacheslav Novikov told strana.ru on 22 September that he believes that current krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin has an excellent chance of being reappointed. According to newsru.com, the krai's current population is 2.9 million, compared to 18,000 in Evenk and around 40,000 in Taimyr. JAC
PRIME MINISTER PROMISES TO BRING GOVERNORS INTO THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
Prime Minister Fradkov announced on 22 September that the government has begun forming a new commission to improve cooperation between federal and regional organs of executive power, lenta.ru reported. According to Fradkov, regional governors will be appointed to the new commission, and the cabinet planned to confirm the names of commission members and plan the commission's first steps for organizing its work on 22 September. President Putin suggested the creation of such a commission earlier this month. JAC
PROSECUTOR TAKES OVER PREPARATION FOR THE WINTER IN URALS REGION
Kurgan Oblast's prosecutor's office has assumed control over preparations for the upcoming heating season in that region, RTR reported on 22 September. Workers from the prosecutor's office are inspecting heating mains and boiler plants no less than twice a week to ensure that work is going according to plan and that money earmarked to prepare the communal-services sector for the winter is being spent as designated. According to the station, Kurtamyshkii Raion head Nikolai Sytnik insists that most of the funding earmarked to purchase coal for this winter has been spent to pay off last year's heating bills. Oblast prosecutor Valerii Machinskii said that "we have completed a criminal case in relationship to the head of one raion, who spent part of the budget money that should have gone toward preparations for the winter and instead built himself a villa." JAC
MAYORAL RACE NOT SO CROWDED IN VOLGA CITY
Four candidates have been registered to run in the 16 October mayoral elections in Nizhnii Novogorod, strana.ru reported on 22 September, citing oblast Election Commission Chairman Stanislav Bisin. Among the candidates are incumbent Mayor Vadim Bulavinov, State Duma Deputy (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) Aleksandr Kurdyumov, Communist Party oblast branch director Nikolai Ryabov, and lawyer Nikolai Klyuko. Bulavinov was nominated by Unified Russia. The city's last mayoral election was very contentious and featured 12 candidates. Bulavinov was not expected to make it to the second round in that race, but the last-minute court cancellation of former Mayor and convicted felon Andrei Klimentev's candidacy cleared the way for Bulavinov's razor-thin victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 30 September 2002). JAC
ARMENIAN COALITION PARTNER FEARS REJECTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...
Armen Rustamian, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), told journalists in Yerevan on 22 September that voters' rejection of the government's proposed constitutional amendments, which are to be put to a nationwide referendum on 20 November, would leave Armenia in an "unpleasant and ridiculous situation," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He explained that the rejection of the amendments, which must be approved by no less than one-third of the country's estimated 2.4 million registered voters, would suggest to the Council of Europe and the European Union that Armenia is unwilling to espouse "European values." Rustamian further argued that the present constitution, adopted in a controversial referendum 10 years ago, constitutes a serious obstacle to further democratization. The HHD is one of the two junior members of the ruling three-party coalition. LF
...DEPLORES KARABAKH'S EXCLUSION FROM PEACE TALKS
Rustamian told the same 22 September press conference in Yerevan that talks between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict cannot be considered full-fledged negotiations, but only consultations, insofar as they exclude the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan reported. Rustamian argued that Azerbaijan's steadfast refusal to acknowledge the NKR as a party to the conflict is tantamount to a deliberate rejection of peace talks and shows that Baku aspires to resolve the conflict militarily. LF
AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTER ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF PREPARING FOR POSTELECTION VIOLENCE
Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 22 September, Ramil Usubov claimed that radical opposition parties are "secretly" creating "mobile forces" and preparing caches of stones and sticks for use "when necessary," by which he presumably meant in clashes with police and security forces in the wake of the 6 November parliamentary ballot, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 22 and 23 September, respectively. Usubov warned that police will intervene to prevent the opposition from staging rallies for which they have not obtained prior permission, noting that 185 locations across the country have been earmarked for preelection campaign rallies. The opposition Azadlyq election bloc has announced plans to stage a rally in central Baku on 25 September despite the municipal authorities' refusal to grant permission. He also stated that Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman and former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev will be arrested if he returns from self-exile in the United States to participate in the elections, as Guliev's supporters say he plans to do so no later than 15 October. Guliev faces criminal charges of large-scale embezzlement dating back to the early 1990s, when he headed Azerbaijan's largest oil refinery. LF
U.S. CONDEMNS MORTAR ATTACK ON SOUTH OSSETIA
In a 22 September press release (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2005/53844.htm), the U.S. State Department condemned the "unjustifiable" 20 September mortar attack on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and called on the Georgian government to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible. The press release further called on "all sides" to "show restraint" and work for a peaceful solution to the conflict, and on the Russian Federation to refrain from providing support to the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and to help avoid further provocations on both sides of the South Ossetia conflict. Also on 22 September, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov rejected the suggestion by Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava and Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili that the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone was responsible for the mortar fire, which was launched from Georgian-populated villages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 September 2005). LF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS ON GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA TO DISARM
In Strasbourg, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis appealed on 23 September to both sides in the South Ossetian conflict to lay down their arms and start peace talks. In a statement posted on the Council's website (http://www.coe.int/T/E/Com/Press/News/NoteRedac2005/20050923_georgie.asp), Davis said neither the people of Georgia nor Europe want a new war. Davis said he spoke by telephone on 22 September with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and is convinced of the latter's commitment to talks. LF
GEORGIA ACCUSES RUSSIA OF SUPPORTING 'SEPARATIST REGIMES'...
The Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 22 September accusing Moscow of supporting the "separatist" regimes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and thereby deliberately undermining Georgia's territorial integrity, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported. Noting the presence of Russian heavy armored vehicles at a 20 September parade in Tskhinvali to mark the 15th anniversary of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia's unilateral declaration of its independence from Georgia, the statement demanded an end to supplies of Russian weapons to the South Ossetian leadership. LF
...AND CONTINUES TO QUESTION NEED FOR RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 22 September that Russia must demonstrate that its peacekeeping forces serve a useful purpose and their continued presence in South Ossetia is needed. On 23 September, Caucasus Press quoted Khaindrava as claiming that the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone are training illegal armed units. But on 22 September, Caucasus Press quoted Russia's ambassador to Tbilisi, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, as predicting that the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers from South Ossetia would only lead to an escalation of violence there. LF
GEORGIAN MINISTERS REJECT OPPOSITION ALLEGATIONS OF BUDGET IRREGULARITIES
Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli rejected on 22 September as unfounded allegations by the opposition Republican party that the government broke the law in drafting its amendments to the 2005 budget, Caucasus Press reported. Those amendments provide for a 26 million lari ($14.4 million) increase in spending. Republican party leader David Usupashvili argued on 22 September that the money has in fact already been spent and the government is attempting to legalize the expenditures after the event. Finance Minister Aleksi Aleksishvili rejected that allegation as "absurd," rustavi2.com reported. Noghaideli offered on 22 September to organize a seminar for the opposition to explain to them the rudiments of finance and economics, Caucasus Press reported. Speaking at a 23 September cabinet session, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili similarly branded the opposition "incompetent," and proposed that Economy Minister Kakha Bendukidze conduct the seminar Noghaideli has proposed, Caucasus Press reported. LF
TBILISI MAYOR DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR BUILDING COLLAPSE
Gigi Ugulava was quoted on 23 September by the daily "Rezonansi" as saying no one is to blame for the collapse the previous day of a decrepit residential building in Tbilisi's Isani Raion, and there will be no investigation into the causes, Caucasus Press reported. Two women died when the five-story building collapsed, and one man is missing and believed to be trapped in the debris. Fifteen families have been left homeless. Koba Davitashvili, chairman of the opposition Conservative Party, told journalists on 22 September that Ugulava should accept responsibility and resign. He noted that residents of the building repeatedly alerted the municipal authorities to its ramshackle condition, but that rather than undertake urgently needed repairs, the city council gave priority to repainting facades in the runup to U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Tbilisi in early May. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERS RAISE PRIVATIZATION, PROPERTY ISSUES
At a news conference in Almaty on 22 September, two prominent figures in the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan raised the issues of 1990s privatization deals and the impending sale of PetroKazakhstan to China National Petroleum Corporation, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. For a Just Kazakhstan Chairman and presidential hopeful Zharmakhan Tuyakbai said that the 1996-97 privatization of the Balkhashmys copper smelter and the Zhezkazgan power station involved numerous violations of Kazakh law. Meanwhile, For a Just Kazakhstan leader Oraz Zhandosov said that the expected sale of Canadian-registered PetroKazakhstan to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2005) should take place only if national oil company KazMunaiGaz buys out the downstream company PetroKazakhstan Oil Products (PKOP), formerly known as Shymkentnefteorgsyntez (ShNOS), and acquires a controlling stake in PetroKazakhstan. DK
KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT HOLDS EMERGENCY SESSION AFTER KILLING OF DEPUTY...
Kyrgyzstan's parliament held an emergency session on 22 September following the assassination of businessman and parliamentary deputy Bayaman Erkinbaev on the night of 21 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. By a vote of 53 in favor, legislators passed a resolution noting the "sharp decline in the crime situation in the country," tasking acting Prime Minster Feliks Kulov with creating a special group to combat organized crime, and asking security and law-enforcement agencies to report within a week on progress in the Erkinbaev investigation, akipress.org reported. Legislators also asked President Kurmanbek Bakiev to consider dismissing National Security Service head Tashtemir Aitbaev and First Deputy Interior Minister Sherkozidjan Mirzakarimov. DK
...AS PRESIDENT DECRIES CORRUPTION
President Bakiev, who attended the emergency session of parliament, told deputies it is too early to dismiss any ministers, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "If they don't cope with the tasks before them, then it will be necessary to dismiss them," he said. Bakiev criticized both deputies and law-enforcement agencies for involvement in corruption, however. "Among you, too, unfortunately, there are people who are at odds with the law, who evade taxes," he said. "Among you, too, unfortunately, there are people who bribe law-enforcement personnel who accept it from you and cover you up. Or is this not true? It is true. I know it." He added: "The fact that criminal elements have merged with law-enforcement agencies is not news to anybody. You all know this perfectly well too. Among those sitting here are people who know well about it, who know who is connected to whom and how they are connected." Bakiev did make one personnel change on 22 September, issuing a decree to remove acting Justice Minister Erkinbek Mamyrov and replace him with Marat Kayipov, Kyrgyz Television 1 reported. DK
ANDIJON DEFENDANTS REJECT TORTURE CLAIMS ON THIRD DAY OF TRIAL
As the trial of 15 defendants accused of organizing violence in Andijon in May entered its third day on 22 September, the accused testified that they were not subjected to torture, and admitted to ties with Chechen militants, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Azizbek Yusupov told the court that "despite the terrorist acts I committed, as [members of the alleged extremist movement] Akramia have explained, there was no torture during the investigation. Law enforcement officers treated me with proper attention to human rights." A recent report by Human Rights Watch detailed widespread use of intimidation, torture, and forced confessions in the Uzbek criminal justice system in the wake of violence in Andijon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). Defendant Abdulhafiz Ghoziev testified that a Chechen militant provided military training to Akramia members in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, before the violence in May. Ghoziev told the court that the militants, not government forces, were responsible for the violence on 13 May. "I didn't see any soldiers firing," he said. "Quite the opposite, our brothers showed that they didn't know how to use weapons and didn't have any experience. We shot [each other] as a result of indiscriminate firing." DK
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER COMMENTS ON UZBEK DECISION TO EVICT U.S. BASE
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Samarkand on 22 September that the recent Uzbek request that the United States vacate its air base in Karshi-Khanabad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005) "can be understood unambiguously as a sovereign state's decision," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov, who is in Uzbekistan to meet with the heads of Uzbekistan's Defense Ministry and National Security Service, as well as to observe the first-ever joint Russian-Uzbek military exercises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005), called Tashkent "the antiterrorist capital within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Interfax-AVN reported. DK
BOMBING IN BELARUS INJURES 50
A homemade bomb exploded in downtown Vitsebsk, a city in northern Belarus, wounding about 50 people on the evening of 22 September, Belarusian media reported. The Emergency Situations Ministry said 36 people were hospitalized. Belapan quoted a source from the Belarusian Security Council as saying that there were no signs that the blast was a terrorist attack. A detonation of a similar explosive device in downtown Vitsebsk on 14 September wounded two passersby. At that time the bombing was officially ascribed to "malicious hooliganism." JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST BEGINS SERVING HIS NEW SENTENCE...
Andrey Klimau arrived on 22 September in Krupki, a district center in Minsk Oblast, to serve his "restricted freedom" sentence at a local correctional institution, Belapan reported. In June, a Minsk court sentenced Klimau to 18 months in prison for staging an opposition demonstration in Minsk in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2005). He was found guilty of "the organization of group actions disturbing the public peace and active participation in them." Klimau already spent four years in prison from 1998-2002 on charges of embezzlement and forgery, which were widely believed to be politically motivated. JM
...AS ANOTHER DONATES HIS PRISON SALARY TO ORPHANAGES
Valery Levaneuski, an imprisoned opponent of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has donated $6.6 -- the salary that he earned in two months as a cleaner at a correctional facility near Ivatsevichy, Brest Oblast -- to two orphanages located nearby, Belapan reported on 22 September. Levaneuski, a leader of small traders in Belarus, was sentenced along with his associate Alyaksandr Vasilyeu in September to two years in prison after the court found them guilty of defaming Lukashenka in a leaflet they distributed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2004). Vasilyeu was released in July under a recent amnesty law. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH OPPOSITION LEADER
Before the parliamentary approval of Yuriy Yekhanurov as Ukraine's new prime minister on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005), President Viktor Yushchenko signed a memorandum of understanding with Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych, his main rival in the 2004 presidential election, Ukrainian media reported. The memorandum stresses the need for a constructive dialogue between the opposition and the government and lists 10 key political tasks for the country. In particular, the signatories agree that it is necessary to implement political reform; stop political repressions against the opposition; urgently adopt laws on the opposition, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the president; form the cabinet on the principles of separation of the government from business; and conduct the parliamentary and local elections on 26 March 2006 without the government's interference and use of "administrative resources." The memorandum was also signed by Yekhanurov. All 50 deputies from the Party of Regions parliamentary caucus voted for Yekhanurov. JM
UKRAINE'S ORANGE REVOLUTION SAID TO HAVE CONCLUDED WITH 'POLITICAL ROTATION'
Mykola Tomenko, former deputy prime minister in the recently sacked cabinet of Yuliya Tymoshenko, told journalists in Kyiv on 22 September that the memorandum signed earlier the same day between President Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Yanukovych marks the beginning of a new stage in Ukraine that "will definitely not be linked to the Orange Revolution," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported. "A political rotation took place in Viktor Yushchenko's team, in consequence of which the place of Yuliya Tymoshenko was taken by [former President] Leonid Kuchma and [former Prime Minister] Viktor Yanukovych," Tomenko said. "The presidential team, because of moral and ethical considerations, should now eliminate references to the values of the revolutionary Maydan [Kyiv's Independence Square] from its public vocabulary, inasmuch as the key slogan on the Maydan was 'Down with Kuchma and Yanukovych!' not 'Yes for Kuchma and Yanukovych!'" Tomenko added. JM
NEW UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROMISES PRAGMATIC CABINET
At a news conference following his approval as prime minister in the Verkhovna Rada on 22 September, Yuriy Yekhanurov said he will announce the composition of a new cabinet from Dnipropetrovsk next week, Ukrainian media reported. "It will be a powerful signal for large, medium, and small businesses as well as for our partners abroad," Yekhanurov pledged. "At least one-third of the government will be made up of people who have nothing to do with politics. These people will be able to pragmatically resolve the problems that are facing Ukraine." According to Yekhanurov's income declaration that was made public in parliament on 21 September, he earned 154,500 hryvnyas ($30,600) in 2004. His predecessor, Yuliya Tymoshenko, declared an income of 60,700 hryvnyas in 2004. JM
CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW PREMIER, TOO
The Crimean Supreme Council on 23 September voted by 90 to two, with seven abstentions, to appoint Anatoliy Burdyuhov as the new prime minister of the autonomous republic, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Burdyuhov heads the Crimean branch of the Ukrainian National Bank and the Our Ukraine People's Union group in the Crimean legislature. He will replace Anatoliy Matviyenko who resigned earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). JM
BOSNIAN SERBS TO OFFER ALTERNATIVE POLICE REFORM
The Republika Srpska government announced on 22 September that it will soon publish its own proposals for reforming the police in Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 22 September 2005, and End Note). The statement said that the plan will be acceptable to Serbs, Muslims, Croats, and the EU but did not provide any details. The EU and the Muslim-Croat federation back a plan that has been repeatedly rejected by the Serbs, which calls for subordinating the police to the central Bosnian authorities and setting up administrative districts not based on ethnic criteria. High Representative Paddy Ashdown says that the EU proposal is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and warned the Serbs on 22 September that they risk poverty and isolation if they do not accept it. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO REPORTEDLY SET TO BEGIN EU TALKS
Cristina Gallach, who is spokeswoman for EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Brussels on 22 September that the EU will start talks with Serbia and Montenegro on a Stabilization and Association Agreement on 10 October in the Serbian capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 July 2005). She stressed that Brussels will not involve itself in the ongoing dispute between Montenegro and Serbia over a scandal allegedly centering on the sale of unnecessary military equipment to the joint state's Defense Ministry at inflated prices (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 September 2005). Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, has called on Brussels not to start talks with Belgrade until the Serbian authorities find and arrest leading war crimes fugitive and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. PM
MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The Macedonian parliament on 22 September defeated an opposition motion of no confidence in the government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The opposition called for the vote to pave the way for early elections on the grounds that the government has allegedly mismanaged the economy. Prior to the legislative vote, Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said that his government is working hard to promote Euro-Atlantic integration, reduce unemployment, and improve the climate for foreign investment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April and 6 May 2005). PM
CROAT CHARGED IN BRITISH EMBASSY BOMBING
The Croatian authorities on 22 September charged Damir Rovisan, an employee of the British Embassy who is believed responsible for recently setting off an explosive device there, with unauthorized possession of explosives and endangering lives and property, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Rovisan, who is in police custody, faces up to five years in prison if convicted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 September 2005). In London, "The Guardian" reported on 23 September that "British Foreign Office officials are urgently investigating how a convicted Croatian criminal, employed as a security guard at its embassy in Zagreb for four years, carried in a hand grenade and detonated it in the building." The daily added that "the incident raised questions about British security practices, especially amid terrorist alerts." PM
TRANSDNIESTER LAUNCHES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN
The unrecognized Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic on 22 September inaugurated a campaign for the 11 December legislative elections, Moldovan news agencies reported. Transdniestrians are to elect deputies to the 43-seat Supreme Soviet in 43 single-mandate constituencies by casting votes at 278 polling stations. The Transdniestrian authorities allocated 1.2 million Transdniestrian rubles ($150,000) for the campaign. On 21 September, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his Moldovan counterpart, Vladimir Voronin, appealed to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to organize democratic elections in Transdniester as part of the so-called Yushchenko plan to settle the Transdniester conflict(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005). OSCE Mission in Moldova head William Hill commented on 22 September that the preparation of parliamentary elections in Transdniester by the OSCE would require eight months at a minimum. The OSCE will not monitor the 11 December ballot in Transdniester. JM
'THE 11TH HOUR' FOR BOSNIAN SERBS
International representative Paddy Ashdown said in a statement in Sarajevo on 22 September that the Bosnian Serb leadership must rethink its opposition to police reform or face "consequences that come with isolation," his website reported. He made it clear that this is a final warning before he takes unspecified steps that will affect ordinary Bosnian Serbs as well as their leaders.
He stressed that that the Bosnian Serbs' governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) is to blame for blocking the EU-sponsored police reform, as a result of which Bosnia-Herzegovina will not be able to start negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Brussels in 2005. Ashdown argued that police reform poses no danger to Bosnian Serbs. He stressed, however, that the isolation they risk by adhering to the SDS's present course means "fewer jobs, more poverty, no chance of visa-free travel, and no question of joining the rest of the region on the road to Europe."
Ashdown said that Belgrade and Podgorica want European integration for themselves and are unlikely to help the Republika Srpska out of a bind it has created for itself. He warned Bosnian Serbs that they must choose "Belarus or Brussels," isolation or integration. He concluded by saying that the Republika Srpska's "government now has an urgent choice to make -- this is the 11th hour -- police restructuring that meets EU principles, or to condemn their people to isolation and to suffer the consequences. The choice is theirs, and theirs alone. It needs to be made now. I hope they make the right choice."
Failure to reform the police along nonethnic administrative lines is the main obstacle to Bosnia's integration into the EU. The Bosnian Serbs consider the proposed a police reform unconstitutional and a threat to the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska because the proposed police administrative boundaries will cross entity lines and deny each entity control of its own security forces. Among each of the three ethnic groups in Bosnia, a legacy of the 1992-95 conflict is a close interrelationship between the worlds of politics, business, the security forces, and often organized crime.
Ashdown has previously hinted at taking unspecified steps against the SDS. Some observers suggested that he might ban the party at some point, but others have noted that Bosnians before and after communist rule generally cast their ballots along ethnic lines and that one could expect a banned SDS to reemerge under a new name.
In any event, in the days running up to Ashdown's 22 September statement, speculation was rife in the Bosnian media that he would announce major steps, possibly including the banning of the SDS or the sacking of Borislav Paravac (SDS), who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency, on corruption charges. All Ashdown said in that respect in his statement, however, was: "There has been much speculation about what I will announce today and in the coming weeks, some of it accurate, some of it less accurate. I will not dwell on that aspect today." The media, however, will certainly raise the issue of why he used his 22 September appearance to issue one more warning rather than announce the long-expected draconian measures.
Ashdown's latest statement reveals once again the basic paradox in the international community's role in Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton agreement. On the one hand, the foreigners are there to promote the growth of Western democratic institutions and practices. On the other hand, they sometimes find themselves forced to rule by fiat in a country where voters elect nationalist officials who generally cannot agree with nationalists from other groups and who often refuse to modify their behavior in response to appeals from Brussels, Washington, and other international centers.
It has thus been left to the high representative over the years to make such basic decisions as the selection of national symbols or car license plates, and to sack errant nationalist officials or threaten more serious steps, as his latest statement seems to indicate.
He has zeroed in on probably the two most important issues affecting the majority of former Yugoslavs, namely poverty and isolation. Most people over 30 remember a time when their country was relatively prosperous and their passport alone in Europe was good for visa-free travel to both East and West. It is against these standards that most people in the region measure their present fate.
OFFICIAL AFGHAN VOTER TURNOUT ANNOUNCED...
The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced on 22 September that 53 percent of Afghanistan's 12 million registered voters participated in the 18 September elections, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. The JEMB's chief of operations, Peter Erban, said that a total of 43 percent of female and 57 percent of male voters exercised their right to vote, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 22 September. Ballot boxes have been collected in 32 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, Erban added. The only exceptions are the mountainous provinces of Badakhshan and Nuristan in the country's northeast. Turnout in Kabul was exceptionally low at 36 percent. Earlier, Erban had predicted that turnout would be slightly above 50 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2005). While the JEMB is scheduled to announce the final results of the votes on 22 October, preliminary results are expected as early as 5 October. AT
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM LOWER NUMBERS
A statement provided by neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi said that only 14 percent of Afghanistan's population of 25 million participated in the 18 September elections, the Rawalpindi daily "Jang" reported on 22 September. The "low turnout is proof that Afghan people gave a positive response to the Taliban's call to boycott the elections," the statement added, according to the daily. The statement also questioned the legitimacy of the elections, claiming that the polls were held "in the presence of foreign occupational forces" and have no "legal or religious status and backing." The neo-Taliban's threats to disrupt the polls were largely ineffective. AT
VOTE COUNTING SUSPENDED IN TWO AFGHAN PROVINCES DUE TO PROTESTS
After complaints and demonstrations by agents of several candidates, ballot counting has been suspended in Takhar and Badghis provinces in northern Afghanistan, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 22 September. Election officials were allegedly writing erroneous figures on the counting lists in Takhar, parliamentary candidate Pir Mohammad Khaksar told Pajhwak. "The officials are writing 19 in place of nine by adding a single digit to the tally," Khaksar said. JEMB officials rejected the charges of miscounting and said that they are ready to discuss the allegations with those concerned so that the counting can go on. In Badghis the number of observers was limited to one, leading to disagreements and a suspension of the counting. Abdul Karim, a polling agent for an unidentified candidate from Badghis, told Pajhwak that his side would not accept the results of the count unless it was held in his presence. AT
U.S. STILL SEES NEED FOR MILITARY ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN
U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Rodman told a congressional hearing on 22 September that Washington believes that there is still a need for military action in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. Responding to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for the United States to scale back military activity in his country as there is no use for such actions, Rodman said that "he does not fully" understand the "intent behind Karzai's remark" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). Rodman refused to say when U.S. combat troops will be leaving Afghanistan, but he said that they will be needed there for "another few years." As for Karzai's comments, Rodman speculated that perhaps he was "speaking to his people, who would like to see the violence subside." AT
TWO AFGHAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN CLASH WITH NEO-TALIBAN IN SOUTHEAST...
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi said on 22 September that two Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in a clash with suspected neo-Taliban forces, Pajhwak News Agency reported. According to Azimi, the clash took place in Shikin District of Paktika Province, near the border with Pakistan, after enemy forces attacked a police post. AT
...WHILE NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM KILLING OF THREE SOLDIERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi said on 22 September that in an attack on a security post in Sia Sang area of Helmand Province on 21 September, neo-Taliban forces killed three Afghan government troops, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 22 September. Hakimi also claimed that neo-Taliban forces fired 12 rockets at a U.S. military facility in Shinkay District of Zabul Province, all of which "hit their targets." There has been no independent confirmation of Hakimi's claims. AT
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES REJECT REFERRAL OF IRAN TO SECURITY COUNCIL...
The EU-3 (France, Germany, and Great Britain) withdrew on 22 September a slightly amended draft resolution for the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would have referred Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions in the future, instead of immediately, Reuters reported. The EU-3 and the United States want Iran taken before the Security Council due to its inadequate cooperation with the IAEA and its history of clandestine nuclear activities. Moscow and Beijing, which have veto power in the council, and other less-developed countries opposed the compromise resolution. "We are decisively opposed to an artificial exacerbation of the situation, including the transfer of the question to the UN Security Council," Russian Ambassador to the IAEA Grigorii Berdennikov said, according to Reuters on 22 September. In the face of this opposition, the Europeans have opted for continued negotiations until the next IAEA meeting in November. Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh said in Vienna, "There is no consensus whatever to [refer Iran to the Security Council], and I believe that that's a message, that if there is to be a solution, that it is to be through a consensus." BS
...AS WASHINGTON FORESEES DIFFICULTIES ON IRAN
These disagreements were apparent on 21 September, with State Department spokesman Adam Ereli noting, "I think that as we go forward, obviously, you know, as part of the diplomatic process you're going to have different countries with different positions on different aspects of the issue," Radio Farda reported. Ereli continued, "But I think looking at it as a whole, looking at it in the broad sense, Iran is finding itself more and more isolated as a result of its own actions." BS
INTERPOL CANCELS WARRANTS FOR IRANIANS
A ballot of delegates at the annual Interpol conference in Berlin on 21 September determined that arrest and extradition notices for 12 Iranian officials should be cancelled, Reuters reported. Argentina sought the Iranian officials for their alleged roles in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 86 people. The wanted individuals are former Intelligence and Security Minister Ali-Akbar Fallahian-Khuzestani; former Ambassador Hadi Suleimanpur; former Deputy Chief of Mission Ahmad Reza Asghari; former cultural attache Mohsen Rabbani; former official Ali Akbar Parvaresh; former diplomatic courier Ali Balesh-Abadi; and several other diplomatic couriers. Interpol's president, Jackie Salebi of South Africa, explained that the Argentinian judge who issued the warrants was removed for misconduct relating to this case, so Interpol could not honor his warrants. The new judge in the case, Rodolfo Canicoba, said there is evidence implicating the Iranians and Tehran is not cooperating in the investigation, Reuters reported. In February, Canicoba asked Italy, Lebanon, and Paraguay for information regarding the case, and he contacted Interpol to ask Brazil, Israel, Lebanon, Paraguay, Syria, and the United Kingdom to supply the same (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 February 2005). BS
IRAN COMMEMORATES WAR WITH IRAQ...
A military parade marking the beginning of Holy Defense Week, which commemorates the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, took place in Tehran on 22 September, state television reported. Hardware on display included: Mobarez, Zolfaqar, and T-72 tanks; M-113 and BMP-2 armored personnel carriers; and artillery pieces. The missiles on display included: Hawk, Shihab-3, Tondar-69, Zelzal-1 and -2, as well as antiship and antiarmor missiles. Among the personnel participating in the parade were handicapped veterans, a brass band, cadets, paratroopers, commandos, military police, air-force personnel, and sailors, as well as Revolutionary Guards from infantry, naval, and armored units. Basij members also participated in the parade. BS
...AS IRANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS ENEMIES, OFFERS FRIENDSHIP
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad gave a speech before the military parade began, state television reported. Twenty-five years ago, he said, "a front comprised of arrogant powers and some of the regional countries started the most widespread attack on the Iranian nation." Iran, he said, "humiliated and embarrassed its enemies." Ahmadinejad said Iran wants friendly relations with other countries, and history shows a powerful Iran is the "best friend" of its neighbors and the region. Those who test Iran should know that "the flames of the Iranian nation's wrath are very destructive." He attributed continuing insecurity in Iraq to its occupation, adding, "We want a popular government, security, and peace to be established in oppressed Iraq and we want the occupation to end so that the way is paved for progress and development." Ahmadinejad also called for the departure of foreign forces from the Caspian Sea. BS
TEHRAN DENIES ROLE IN IRAQI UNREST
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said on 22 September in London that he is unaware of Iranian involvement in recent violence in Al-Basrah, Al-Alam television reported. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said British allegations of Iranian involvement in the recent Iraqi unrest are "categorically baseless" and "superficial," IRNA reported. BS
OFFICIALS IN IRAQI CITY STOP COOPERATION WITH BRITISH...
Al-Basrah officials said on 22 September that they will cease cooperation with British forces due to a raid to free two special-forces soldiers, international news agencies reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21, and 22 September 2005). "The governing council...decided to stop all cooperation with the British until they meet three demands," Al-Basrah Governor Muhammad al-Waili told Reuters. "To apologize for what happened, to guarantee that it does not happen again, and third, to provide some compensation for all the damage they did during the operation," he added. Al-Waili said he expects to meet with British officials on 23 or 24 September. Al-Waili told AP on 22 September that any Iraqi government official who cooperated with the British would be punished. "We want the two British soldiers who were freed to be turned over to Iraqi authorities," al-Waili told AP. British troops have reduced their presence on Al-Basrah's streets, AP and Reuters reported on 22 September. BW
...AS TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TAKE DIFFERENT POSITIONS
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari continued to insist on 22 September that there is no rift between the United Kingdom and Iraq, but National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i sharply criticized the British for the 19 September raid, AP reported. "I do not think that this will be an obstacle that cannot be overcome," al-Ja'fari said in Baghdad after returning from talks in London with U.K. Defense Minister John Reid. But in an interview with AP Television News in Baghdad on 22 September, al-Rubay'i accused the British of committing "a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty." According to a 21 September report in the daily newspaper "Al-Mada," cited by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Iraq government ministers severely criticized al-Ja'fari's handling of security issues during a cabinet meeting when the prime minister was in London (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005). BW
IRAQI PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES SYRIA OVER BORDER
Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said on 22 September that Syria is doing too little to control its border with Iraq, international news agencies reported the same day. Washington and Baghdad have repeatedly criticized Syria for allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq and for giving sanctuary to insurgents. "The restoration and improvement in Iraqi-Syrian relations depends specifically on Syria's commitment and cooperation in securing the border," al-Ja'fari said in remarks reported by AP. Syria has repeatedly claimed it is doing everything it can to secure the border and denies charges it is sheltering insurgents. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reported on 23 September that hundreds of Iraqi civilians, including children, are stranded on the Syrian side of the border after being denied entry by Iraqi security services. BW
IRAQI COMMANDER DECLARES TAL AFAR CAMPAIGN SUCCESS
The Iraqi commander of a three-week joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive against Sunni insurgents in the town of Tal Afar, General Abd al-Aziz Muhammad, said on 22 September that the operation has successfully ended, Reuters reported the same day. Muhammad said during a briefing in Baghdad that 157 insurgents were killed and 683 were captured in the operation. Six Iraqi soldiers and six Iraqi police were killed, he said. The figures could not be independently verified. Located in northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border, Tal Afar is believed to be a transit point for insurgents entering the country from Syria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 15, 16, and 19 September 2005). BW
ELECTION COMMISSION PLANS TO DISPLAY 3 MILLION EDUCATIONAL POSTERS
Iraq's Independent Election Commission plans to print 3 million posters that will be displayed around the country to inform and educate voters about the 15 October constitutional referendum, London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 22 September, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. The posters will be printed in Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Turkoman. "The posters were printed to assure an inclusive campaign nationwide in order to educate people and give them accurate information on voting," Farid Ayar, a media expert for the commission, said. BW
SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS AT LEAST FIVE IN BAGHDAD
A suicide bomber killed at least five people and wounded seven on a bus in central Baghdad on 23 September, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. The blast occurred when the vehicle was parked at a busy bus station in Baghdad's Al-Tayaran Square, police Major Muhammad Yunis said. In other violence, a U.S. soldier was killed and one wounded by a roadside bomb on the road from Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi, Al-Jazeera reported. Also, the U.S. military has confirmed that U.S. soldiers shot an Iraqi prisoner who attacked them during an interrogation, dpa reported on 23 September. The man was arrested in Al-Fallujah on 20 September on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. BW