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Newsline - June 2, 2006


RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DISMISSED 'AT HIS OWN REQUEST'
The Federation Council voted 140-0, with two abstentions, on June 2 to remove Vladimir Ustinov as prosecutor-general "at his own request" after President Vladimir Putin proposed such a vote, RIA Novosti reported. Putin also met with Ustinov and "thanked him for his work." Ustinov held his post since 2000 and acquired a reputation for hounding Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other oligarchs who refused to toe the Kremlin line. First Deputy Prosecutor-General Yury Biryukov was named Ustinov's successor on an acting basis, Interfax reported. Several Russian news agencies reported that the sacking seems to have come as a surprise even to some Putin loyalists. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said only that "there must have been good reasons to do this." It is not clear who will ultimately replace Ustinov or what his next job will be, news.ru noted. Putin recently criticized corruption in high places, and some of the blame for the extent of the problem fell on the allegedly ineffective Prosecutor-General's Office. Critics argue, however, that the entire system is thoroughly corrupt and that the campaign has tended to target those persons who have run afoul of Putin and the Kremlin politically. PM

REGIONAL GOVERNOR TO REMAIN UNDER ARREST
The Arkhangelsk Oblast Court ruled on June 2 that Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksei Barinov must remain in custody pending the outcome of an investigation into corruption charges, RIA Novosti reported. Prosecutors are also investigating Sergei Goryayev, Barinov's deputy, and accountant Sergei Gavrilov. Barinov was arrested in Arkhangelsk on May 23 in connection with a criminal case allegedly involving large-scale embezzlement, but many suspect that the authorities' real motivation was political (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 26, 2006). Until 2003, Barinov headed the LUKoil subsidiary ArkhangelskGeologDobycha and then became the last regional governor to be directly elected. Also on June 2, President Putin suspended Barinov from office and named Valery Potapenko, who is the chief federal inspector for the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, as acting governor. PM

GOVERNMENT OF KHAKASIA UNDER INVESTIGATION
The Interior Ministry and prosecutors have launched an investigation into the government of Khakasia in Siberia for alleged improper use of budgeted funds, regnum.ru reported on June 2. Long-serving Governor Aleksei Lebed said that the investigation could have unspecified "huge consequences for the entire country." The legislature of Khakasia recently defied a demand by Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov to recall Senator Arkady Sarkisyan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 28, 2004, April 4, 2005, and May 25, 2006). PM

GERMANY PROBES INCIDENT AT MOSCOW GAY-RIGHTS MARCH
The German authorities have launched an investigation into an incident at the May 27 Moscow gay-pride demonstration, in the course of which German parliamentarian Volker Beck from the Greens was slugged by a young Russian, the Moscow daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on June 2, citing the German Foreign Ministry Press Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30, 2006). The daily noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel takes the matter very seriously and may raise the issue with President Putin personally. She reportedly regards the incident as unacceptable in a country based on the rule of law. The daily added that the matter might have unspecified "consequences" for bilateral relations. PM

'RUBLE LAW' TO FIZZLE?
Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said in Moscow on June 1 that the government will not support proposed legislation providing punishment for government ministers who use the word "dollar" or "euro" when "ruble" would also do, RIA Novosti reported. The State Duma voted on May 24 to give initial approval to the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 25, 2006). Supporters of the measure say it will help draw a line under the immediate postcommunist era, when a high rate of inflation made it impractical to calculate many prices in rubles. Critics say the draft legislation is a political ploy and will be difficult to put into practice. PM

INGUSH HEALTH MINISTER ESCAPES ASSASSINATION
Unidentified persons opened fire at midday on June 1 in Nazran on the car of Health Minister Magomed Aliskhanov, regnum.ru and ingushetiya.ru reported. Neither Aliskhanov nor his driver were injured. The perpetrators escaped in a car without license plates. LF

CHECHEN PREMIER DENIES DEAD MILITANTS ENTERED INGUSHETIA FROM CHECHNYA
Ramzan Kadyrov denied on June 1 that the militants killed the previous day in the Ingush village of Nesterovskaya by members of the seventh brigade of the Chechen Interior Ministry's Akhmad Kadyrov regiment entered Ingushetia from Chechen territory or had any links with Chechnya, regnum.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 1, 2006). Kadyrov claimed that they traveled to Ingushetia after spending a lengthy vacation in Turkey. Also on June 1, ingushetiya.ru quoted the website Kavkazsky uzel as reporting that the Chechen forces surrounded the home in Nesterovskaya of the Khaykharoyev family after two unknown men entered the yard, and tried to apprehend them. When the two men opened fire, the Chechens took Rizvan Khaykhoroyev and retreated, then opened fire on the building. They subsequently executed Khaykharoyev by shooting him in the back of the head, according to a member of the Nazran section of the human rights group Memorial. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER
Tigran Torosian, a senior member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, was elected parliament speaker in a secret ballot on June 1, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Torosian, who is 50, an engineer by profession and a former newspaper editor, succeeds Orinats Yerkir (OY) party Chairman Artur Baghdasarian, who stepped down last month following a policy disagreement with President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 12 and 23, 2006). Baghdasarian said prior to the June 1 vote that he and the remaining eight OY deputies would vote for Torosian, whom he described as "one of the few professionals in our parliament." Torosian previously served as Baghdasarian's deputy. The opposition Artarutiun and National Accord Party factions abstained from the vote, in which 94 of the total 131 parliamentarians approved Torosian's candidacy and one voted against it. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TAJIKISTAN SIGN MILITARY-COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The defense ministers of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, Colonel General Safar Abiyev and Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, respectively, met in Baku on June 1 following the previous day's meeting of CIS defense ministers, day.az reported. The two ministers signed an agreement under which their respective countries will cooperate in the military-technical sphere and in training officers, and hold joint maneuvers. Abiyev predicted that such cooperation will contribute to security and stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Tajikistan is a member of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization, as is Armenia, but Azerbaijan is not. LF

RUSSIA REJECTS GEORGIAN RECRIMINATIONS OVER PEACEKEEPERS...
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on June 1 expressing "bewilderment" at Georgia's allegations that the recent rotation of Russian peacekeeping forces in the South Ossetia conflict zone was illegal because the servicemen in question did not have valid Georgian visas and entered Georgian territory via the Roki tunnel from North Ossetia rather than at the Verkhni Lars border crossing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 1, 2006). The Russian statement, which was posted on the Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.mid.ru), further noted that the use of the Roki tunnel to transport Russian peacekeepers to the conflict zone was formalized under an agreement concluded by the Joint Control Commission (JCC) that monitors the situation in the conflict zone. That commission comprises representatives from Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, North Ossetia and the OSCE. The Russian statement further noted that Moscow twice informed the JCC -- on April 24 and May 11 -- of its intention to carry out the rotation. LF

...SUGGESTS GEORGIA MAY BE PLANNING NEW OFFENSIVE
Speaking on June 1 at the Istanbul headquarters of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized recent Georgian attempts to thwart the planned rotation of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia as "gross provocations" and an attempt to exacerbate the situation, and possibly even to resolve the conflict with the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia by force. Lavrov said that any such recourse to military force would be "an egregious error." Lavrov's comments were posted verbatim on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/25AE991D1AC9C80EC32571800061F900). LF

GEORGIA RESPONDS WITH COUNTERACCUSATIONS
The Georgian Foreign Ministry responded on June 1 by accusing Russia of carrying out an "anti-Georgian campaign," of seeking to mislead the international community, and of attempting to sabotage the planned donors' conference in Brussels at which it is hoped to raise some 10 million euros ($12.8 million) for rehabilitation of the South Ossetian conflict zone, regnum.ru and Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian statement said that Russia's pronouncements, specifically its questioning of the inviolability of Georgia's territorial integrity, testify to its lack of objectivity and disqualify it from the role of an impartial mediator in the South Ossetian conflict. In a separate commentary posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website on June 1, an unnamed spokesman argued that while Russia respects Georgia's territorial integrity, that integrity at present is largely hypothetical, and can be restored only by "complicated talks in which the South Ossetian side's position...is based on the principle, equally recognized by the international community, of the right to self-determination." LF

SOUTH OSSETIA DENIES PREPARING FOR NEW HOSTILITIES...
Speaking in Tbilisi on June 1, Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava claimed that the South Ossetian armed forces "have been building fortifications [and] digging trenches," and are on combat alert, and that Russia has transported additional weaponry to South Ossetia via the Roki tunnel, Caucasus Press reported. He warned of unspecified "provocations." Givi Targamadze, who chairs the Georgian parliament Defense and Security Committee, similarly told parliament on June 1 that Russia has 1,000 servicemen in the conflict zone and that 30 military trucks arrived there from Russia the previous night, rustavi2.com reported. In Tskhinvali, South Ossetian Interior Minister Mikhail Mindzaev and Defense Minister Lieutenant General Anatoly Barankevich separately denied on June 1 that any troop or arms buildup is under way in the conflict zone, regnum.ru and Interfax reported. LF

...APPEALS TO RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT
The parliaments of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and the Republic of North Ossetia (which is a subject of the Russian Federation) adopted a joint appeal on June 1 to Sergei Mironov and Boris Gryzlov, the chairmen respectively of the Russian Federation Council and State Duma, regnum.ru reported. Referring to the arrest by Georgian police on May 27 of several dozen Ossetians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30, 2006), the statement affirmed that "there is no longer any doubt" that Georgia has finally opted for destabilization of the situation in the conflict zone and for resorting to force to bring South Ossetia back under its control. The statement affirmed that the Ossetians "chose long ago to link their fate with Russia" and "do not intend to retreat from the historic choice made by our distant ancestors." LF

ABKHAZIA REJECTS GEORGIAN 'ROAD MAP'
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told journalists in Sukhum (Sukhumi) on June 1 that the "Road Map" for resolving the Abkhaz conflict presented to the Abkhaz side in Sukhum on May 24 by Georgian special envoy Irakli Alasania does not contain "a single provision acceptable to Abkhazia or that could narrow the differences between the two sides," apsny.ru reported. Shamba proposed that the peace plan drafted by Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh and entitled "Key to the Future" should serve as the basis for future peace talks (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," May 12, 2006). Shamba presented that plan to the Georgian side in Tbilisi on May 15. Shamba also said at his June 1 press conference that initially Georgian displaced persons should return only to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Prior to the 1992-1993 war, Georgians accounted for some 90 percent of Gali's population. Shamba added that until Georgia succeeds in reassuring Abkhaz public opinion that it does not intend to launch new hostilities, it would be folly to permit Georgians to return to other districts of Abkhazia to live side by side with Abkhaz. LF

RUSSIA DENIES DEPLOYING MISSILES TO ABKHAZIA
Colonel Nikolai Baranov, who is deputy head of the Russian Defense Ministry's press service, issued a statement on June 1 denying that Russia has deployed an S-300 air-defense system at the former Russian military base in Gudauta, regnum.ru reported. He said that there is no need for such a system in Abkhazia and dismissed as "fantasies" the allegation made the previous day by Georgian parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Targamadze and reported by the independent television station Rustavi-2 that Georgia has radar data confirming the installation of an S-300 air defense system at Gudauta. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SETS UP ANTICORRUPTION COMMISSION
In the course of a June 1 meeting of Kazakhstan's Security Council, President Nursultan Nazarbaev ordered the creation of a commission to investigate high-profile corruption cases, the president's official website (http://www.akorda.kz) reported. Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin will head the commission, which will also include National Security Committee head Amangeldy Shabdarbaev, deputy head of the presidential administration Berik Imashev, and Sarybai Kalmurzaev, chairman of the Agency to Combat Economic Crime and Corruption. DK

KYRGYZ-U.S. BASE TALKS CONTINUE
Kyrgyz-U.S. negotiations to hammer out a new agreement for the U.S. air base at Manas continued on June 1 and will apparently continue beyond the June 1 deadline Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev earlier set for reaching such an agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 20, 2006), AP reported. The news agency 24.kg reported that the U.S. delegation headed by State Department senior adviser Robert G. Loftis would return to the United States on June 2 for consultation in anticipation of a second round of talks. "In the first round of negotiations, a certain amount of progress was achieved in discussing this extremely complex issue, which needs to be resolved," Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry source told the news agency. Kyrgyzstan wants to increase the United States' annual lease payments for the base from $2 million to over $200 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 16, 2006). "The Americans are unlikely to give $200 million," a Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry source told ferghana.ru. "This amount needs to be asked for not entirely in cash, but rather divided into material and technical assistance, covering expenses for personnel exchanges and so forth." DK

KYRGYZ DEPUTIES REJECT PRIVATIZATION LIST
Kyrgyz legislators voted on June 1 to send the 2006-07 program for the privatization of state property back to committee for reworking, akipress.org reported. Deputies felt that the program, and especially the section on the sales of energy-sector facilities, was insufficiently thought through. The program is slated to be presented to deputies a second time on June 5 after review by committee. The sale of state-owned stakes in various enterprises in 2006-07 is set to bring in roughly 400 million soms ($9.9 million). DK

UZBEKISTAN CLOSES NGO
An Uzbek court on June 1 ordered the closure of the American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS) office in Uzbekistan for repeated violations of Uzbek law, the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported. The judge said that ACCELS sent more than 100 students to study in the United States in 2005 without informing the Uzbek government. Russia's Regnum news agency reported that ACCELS has 20 days to appeal the decision. IRIN reported that two other international NGOs -- France's COFUTIS, which pursues environmental and agricultural projects; and a Hungarian religious charity -- are under scrutiny by the Uzbek government at present. Over the past year, such scrutiny has commonly led to court proceedings and closure. Foreign NGOs expelled from Uzbekistan in recent years include the Open Society Institute, Eurasia Foundation, Freedom House, IREX, Counterpart International, and the American Bar Association. RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau lost its accreditation in Uzbekistan in December 2005, and in April the UN High Commissioner for Refugees left Uzbekistan at the request of the Uzbek government. DK

MORE BELARUSIAN YOUTH ACTIVISTS JOIN HUNGER STRIKE
Two activists on June 1 joined a hunger strike launched originally by four youths in Salihorsk who demand an end to what they call the politically-motivated criminal prosecution of their associates (see RFE/RL Newsline," May 31, 2006). The number of hunger strikers has now increased to 27. Meanwhile, the same day a court in Brest issued warnings to three young people for taking part in a 24-hour sit-in at a central square to show solidarity with several activists of the unregistered organization Youth Front facing criminal prosecution. The sit-in reportedly involved 50 people who read the Bible on the square in hourly shifts. JM

JAILED BELARUSIAN BUSINESSMAN CONTINUES DRY FAST
Mikalay Autukhovich, a jailed businessman who is on trial in Hrodna for alleged tax evasion, fainted on May 30 and was moved to the medical unit in the detention center in which he is staying to receive intravenous therapy, Belapan reported on June 1. Autukhovich, who has refused food for some 40 days, decided on May 23 to stop taking water as well, in protest against what he considers official harassment. Tax authorities accused Autukhovich, an operator of private taxis in the city of Vawkavysk, of failing to pay 679 million rubles ($32,000) in taxes and violating cash-handling regulations. Autukhovich was arrested in October and placed under house arrest in December. He disappeared from his home in February and was captured by police in April. Autukhovich reportedly attended a court hearing on June 1 despite a medical report that his health is in danger. JM

UKRAINIAN PARTIES REPORTEDLY ON SCHEDULE ON COALITION ACCORD
Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus head Roman Bezsmertnyy told journalists on June 2 that his party has already agreed on a program of action and procedural issues with the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and the Socialist Party in preparing a coalition accord to form a new government, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported. Bezsmertnyy added that the three parties are now tackling "the sharing of responsibility spheres," which seems to be a euphemism for the distribution of government portfolios. Bezsmertnyy pledged that the coalition talks will be completed by June 7, when the Verkhovna Rada resumes its first session inaugurated on May 25 (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," June 2, 2006). JM

CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES AUTONOMY CABINET
The Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on June 2 appointed Viktor Plakida as prime minister of the autonomous government on the peninsula, UNIAN reported. The Crimean legislature also approved a cabinet, which comprises three first deputy prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers, and 11 ministers. The 100-seat Supreme Council is headed by Anatoliy Hrytsenko, leader of the For Yanukovych parliamentary bloc, which has 44 deputies. JM

NATO TO REOPEN BASE IN NORTHERN KOSOVA...
NATO announced on June 1 that it plans to reopen a military base in the predominantly ethnic Serbian north of Kosova, Reuters reported the same day. "For operational reasons, we see the need to reuse this installation," spokesman Colonel Pio Sabetta said. Sabetta said the last base in the north was closed "a long time ago" but the NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers have maintained "mobile facilities," or patrols. Sabetta said KFOR plans to reopen an old Belgian base in the north, on a strip of land adjoining central Serbia, possibly within the month. He denied any direct link to ongoing talks on Kosova's future, but concern is mounting over how Kosova's Serbian minority will react if -- as appears likely -- the province is granted independence. The United Nations has reportedly drawn up contingency plans for as many as 70,000 refugees pouring into Serbia and Montenegro if there is unrest following independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 31, 2006). BW

...AS UN PLANS TO DOWNSIZE ONCE STATUS DECIDED
The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is preparing to significantly reduce its presence in the province as a decision on its final status nears, dpa reported on June 1. "I think that the destiny of Kosovo is clear, it is in the hands of the political leaders and the people of Kosovo," UNMIK head Soren Jessen-Petersen said after meeting with Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku in Prishtina. "I think that our role is changing rapidly -- which is good. UNMIK has been engaged in downsizing, now for almost one year. This is logical, because we are preparing for exit when the Security Council defines Kosovo's status," he added. BW

THREE WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN BOSNIA
Police in Bosnia-Herzegovina's Republika Srpska announced on June 1 that they have arrested an ethnic Serbian man wanted for war crimes committed during the country's 1992-95 war, AFP and dpa reported the same day. Borislav Berjan, 56, has been sought by Sarajevo's county court since 2001. Bosnian Serb police arrested him late on May 31 in the eastern town of Visegrad, AFP reported, citing an unidentified police official. Court officials said Berjan was wanted for genocide and crimes against prisoners of war, but did not elaborate, dpa reported, citing the SRNA news agency. On June 1, meanwhile, police arrested two more Serbian men, Momir Pandurevic and Djoko Staka, suspected of war crimes, AFP reported. The two were arrested on Sarajevo's outskirts, although the details of the charges against them have not been made public. BW

NEW ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR FORMER YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER
The Serbian Interior Ministry issued a warrant on June 1 for the arrest of Marija Milosevic, daughter of late Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, dpa reported the same day. Marija Milosevic, who currently lives in Niksic, Montenegro, is accused of disturbing the peace and unauthorized possession of a firearm. The charges stem from an incident in which she fired several shots in the air when her father was being arrested in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 2, 2001). She was initially sentenced to two years' probation, but the sentence was overturned on appeal. Attempts to hold a new trial have been postponed more than 10 times due to Milosevic's failure to appear in court. BW

OSCE CHIEF CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN TRANSDNIESTER
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) chairman in office, said on June 1 that Russian peacekeepers in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region should be replaced by an international contingent, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. De Gucht, on a two-day visit to Moldova, said a new international force could monitor the Transdniester portion of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, as well as munitions dumps in the region. ITAR-TASS quoted De Gucht as saying that the OSCE is ready to provide 10 million euros ($12.8 million) to finance the pullout of Russian troops, equipment, and ammunition within a three-month period. De Gucht is scheduled to hold talks with Transdniestrian authorities and visit peacekeepers on June 2. Also on June 1, De Gucht said new customs rules in place on the Transdniestrian portion of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border are important for transparency, Interfax reported the same day. BW

U.S. NAVY STOPOVER SPARKS ANTI-NATO PROTESTS IN UKRAINE
Ukrainian opposition lawmakers have demanded the dismissal of the foreign and defense ministers, blaming them for allowing a U.S. naval ship to enter the port of Feodosiya in Crimea last week without the required parliamentary authorization. Feodosiya residents have blockaded the port, protesting what they see as an unwelcome NATO intrusion into Ukrainian territory.

The U.S. cargo ship "Advantage" anchored in Feodosiya on May 27, bringing what Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko described as U.S. "technical aid." Seamen offloaded construction materials to build barracks for Ukrainian sailors at a training range near the town of Staryy Krym, not far from Feodosiya.

Two days later, Feodosiya residents, mobilized by local chapters of the pro-Russia Party of Regions, the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc, as well as the Russian Community of Crimea, began to picket the port. Displaying anti-NATO slogans written in Russian, they are continuing to block the U.S. cargo from getting to its destination. The BBC reported that several hundred people were present at the demonstration.

"Advantage" has also reportedly left a group of U.S. servicemen in Feodosiya to guard the unloaded cargo, but their presence has not been officially confirmed.

The situation has angered many Ukrainians. According to the constitution, the deployment of foreign troops on Ukrainian territory must be approved by the parliament for each individual case. The Party of Regions, led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, has said in a statement that the disembarking of the U.S. naval ship in Feodosiya was an example of "brutal contempt" for the constitution manifested by the government. A group of opposition deputies has drafted a resolution to dismiss the Ukrainian defense and foreign ministers over the Feodosiya incident.

But Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on May 31 denied that the government breached the law. "The authors of this political provocation claim that there has been a violation of the law about foreign military units crossing into Ukrainian territory," he said. "But there are no such units."

The government is planning to hold six separate military exercises in Ukraine in 2006 with the participation of foreign troops, including the multinational Sea Breeze 2006 exercise with a sizable NATO contingent. However, an authorization of these exercises by the Ukrainian parliament is still pending. In February, the previous Verkhovna Rada rejected a presidential bill on allowing foreign troops to take part in the maneuvers planned for 2006.

Tarasyuk assured journalists on May 31 that the government will obtain permission from parliament. "The government will do everything necessary to ensure that the parliament, when it resumes its work, considers a bill allowing foreign troops into the country for taking part in military exercises," he said.

The newly elected Verkhovna Rada will resume its work on June 7, when the three allies in the 2004 Orange Revolution -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party -- are expected to come up with a coalition accord to form a new government. A potential parliamentary debate over the Feodosiya incident will most likely complicate the formation of a ruling coalition. It could create additional hurdles to approving the planned multinational military exercise in 2006, and exacerbate political divisions within the new legislature.

There are commentators in Ukraine who clearly see a "Russian hand" behind what is taking place in Feodosiya. Historian Mykhaylo Kyrsenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service earlier this week that people in Feodosiya have been lured into anti-NATO protests by pro-Russian political forces to further Russian interests in Ukraine. "Those who reject or block this [U.S.] aid are opposing Ukraine's interests and serving another country. Which country? It is not difficult to guess, once you see in what language they write their posters with," Kyrsenko said. "Therefore, I would make a distinction between these hapless, deceived people and the organizers of this provocation."

Foreign Minister Tarasyuk suggested that the anti-NATO demonstration in Feodosiya may be a cover for problems connected with the deployment of a Russian naval force in another Crimean port, Simferopol. "I have one piece of advice for the initiators of this provocation -- they should turn their attention to the disgrace of the free use of land plots and buildings by units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in violation of Ukrainian law and bilateral agreements," Tarasyuk said.

In a broader perspective, the Feodosiya protest may impair Ukraine's chances for a significant advance this year on its path toward NATO membership. Some officials in Kyiv, including Tarasyuk, hope that, at the NATO summit in Riga in November, Ukraine will be offered a Membership Action Plan. Such plans are usually the last step before receiving an official invitation to join the alliance. The outburst of anti-NATO sentiments in Feodosiya will hardly make NATO members more supportive of this advancement idea.

Sociological surveys in recent years show that Ukraine's official aspirations to join NATO are firmly supported by some 15-20 percent of Ukrainians and firmly opposed by some 55-60 percent of them. There seems to be an informal consensus at present between the administration of President Viktor Yushchenko and the opposition that Ukraine's potential NATO entry should be approved in a nationwide referendum. But opinions differ on when such a plebiscite should be held.

The Russia-leaning opposition forces would like to stage it as soon as possible, when Ukrainians are more likely to say "no" than "yes." Yushchenko says the referendum should be held in "due course" but does not specify any date.

Moscow, which officially does not object to Ukraine's NATO aspirations, would hardly remain unmoved if Kyiv was actually accepted by the alliance. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin was quite explicit about this on May 30. "When a neighboring country becomes a member of the North Atlantic military bloc, then, I'm sorry -- then this strategic partnership [with Russia] should be viewed from a different angle and [it should be reviewed] whether this strategic partnership relationship should continue to exist at all," Chernomyrdin said.

Making Ukrainians like NATO rather than fear it seems to be only a part of the tricky job Yushchenko has to do in order to fulfill his ambitions of Euro-Atlantic integration. A no less tricky task will be to persuade his compatriots that NATO membership for their country does not necessarily mean a disastrous break with Russia.

AFGHAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS COALITION FORCES' FIRING ON PROTESTERS
President Hamid Karzai said in a televised speech to the country on June 1 that he "strongly condemn[s] the coalition forces' firing" on his countrymen after some people tried to block the path of U.S. vehicles involved in a deadly traffic accident in Kabul on May 29, official Radio Afghanistan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30 and 31 and June 1, 2006). Colonel Tom Collins, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said in Kabul on May 31 that the U.S.-led coalition troops opened fire in "self-defense" after the crowd that had surrounded the U.S. military convoy "became increasingly hostile, throwing rocks and threatening U.S. forces." Collins added that people in the crowd also fired at the troops. Karzai said that the rioters who subsequently wrought havoc on the city "destroyed some of our achievements in a matter of hours." While the Afghan National Assembly has called for the criminal prosecution of the U.S. driver of the truck involved in the accident and Collins said the soldier in question has not been charged with any wrongdoing, Karzai did not comment on whether his administration will seek to prosecute the soldier. AT

SUICIDE BOMBER KILLED IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
A suicide bomber died in Farah Province when his vehicle detonated near a convoy of U.S.-led coalition forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA) on June 1, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Farah security commander General Sayyed Aga Saqeb told AIP that while authorities do not know the identity of the attacker, they "arrested a man after the attack" who was trying to escape from the scene in a "burga veil." Farah Governor Ezatullah Wasifi said on June 1 that the suicide bomber exploded his car while being chased by police, AFP reported. The official Bakhtar News Agency reported on June 1 that the attack was targeting an ANA convoy belonging to a Herat-based division. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AIP called the attack the first suicide bombing in Farah Province. AT

ELDERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN URGE GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE LAW AND ORDER
Elders from Kandahar Province meeting with members of the Provincial Council in Kandahar on May 31 said the security situation in the province has worsened, and urged officials to restore law and order, Kandahar TV reported. Ahmad Wali Karzai, head of the Provincial Council of Kandahar and President Karzai's brother, called on the Taliban to join the government if they are interested in governing Afghanistan. Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, remains a stronghold of the neo-Taliban. AT

GERMAN GENERAL WARNS OF TALIBAN INFILTRATION OF NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
General Markus Kneip, the new commander of German troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told a news conference in Mazar-e Sharif on June 1 that Taliban elements are infiltrating northern Afghanistan with the goal of disrupting peace and security, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Kneip assumed ISAF command in northern Afghanistan on June 1. Germany is constructing its largest foreign military base in Mazar-e Sharif, provincial capital of Balkh Province, dpa reported on May 31. Germany plans to transfer 1,700 of its 2,850 troops in Afghanistan to Mazar-e Sharif by the end of the year. AT

AFGHANISTAN WELCOMES U.S. OFFER TO TALK WITH IRAN
The Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement on June 1 welcoming the statement the previous day by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Washington might be willing to join European talks with Iran over the latter's nuclear activities, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 31, 2006). The statement added that Afghanistan is confident the U.S. proposal will prove helpful in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. AT

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DISMISSES U.S. NUCLEAR PROPOSAL...
Tehran has reacted unenthusiastically to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's May 31 proposal to participate in nuclear discussions between Iran and the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2006). Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki on June 1 rejected Rice's proposal as nothing new, state television reported. He suggested she has ulterior motives, saying, "It may be that these ramblings are an attempt to cover up their crimes in Iraq," according to Radio Farda. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on June 1 in Tehran that there are no obstacles to such talks if they take place without any preconditions, IRNA reported. Rice's proposal, he continued, contains nothing new and does not respect Iran's rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Rice also mentioned a desire to discuss alleged Iranian support for terrorism and interference in Lebanese and Iraqi affairs, to which Assefi replied that the terrorism issue turns the spotlight on U.S. relations with Israel and how Washington reacts to alleged Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. BS

...AS OFFICIAL MEDIA VOICE DOUBTS
Ahmad Khademolmelleh, director of the government's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), said on June 1 that "U.S. officials are playing games in an effort to divert world public opinion from the realities of Iran's peaceful nuclear program through their influence over the global media," IRNA reported. A state television commentator identified only as Enadi said the U.S. setting of conditions shows that it is not serious about negotiations. Washington, he continued, "is trying to convince others that it has shown flexibility." BS

IRANIAN MEDIA COMMENTARY OVER U.S. PROPOSAL LIMITED
Expediency Council member Mohammad Hashemi said Iran's insistence on the peaceful use of nuclear energy is "good and admirable," "Aftab News" reported on June 1, "but we should also pay attention to the principle of negotiations and bargaining." Iran can both bargain and maintain its rights, he said. Hashemi is one of the few government officials to discuss Secretary Rice's proposal publicly. Repeated meetings of the 5+1 group (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) reveal the group's inability to reach a conclusion on how to deal with Iran, he added. An editorial in the June 1 "Aftab-e Yazd" noted that the Iranian consensus on using nuclear technology has had an influence on outside powers and led them to change their approaches. Nevertheless, the editorial warned, excessive optimism should be avoided, and Iranians should not retreat in the face of "empty threats." Iranian commentators and political officials are likely to be waiting for the Tehran Friday Prayers sermon of June 2, which will be the occasion for expressing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's view, before they formulate their responses. BS

PACKAGE OF 'CARROTS AND STICKS' READY FOR IRAN
The 5+1 group, meeting in Vienna, agreed on June 1 on a package of "carrots and sticks" intended to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment, Western news agencies reported. "We believe [the proposals] offer Iran the chance to reach a negotiated agreement based on cooperation," British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said, according to Reuters. If Iran complies with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, Beckett continued, "we would also suspend action in the Security Council." Beckett said an Iranian failure to take such measures would result in "further steps," without expanding. Possible sanctions listed by AFP on May 30 include an embargo on goods relating to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, travel restrictions for associated individuals, and a ban on Iranians studying these fields. There also could be travel freezes for Iranian officials and the freezing of assets belonging to the regime and its officials. BS

U.S. OFFER DOWNPLAYED AT TEHRAN FRIDAY PRAYERS
Substitute prayer leader Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami said during his sermon at the Tehran Friday Prayers on June 2 that Washington's proposal to participate in nuclear talks with Iran is not very significant, state radio reported. Khatami (who is no relation to former President Mohammad Khatami) noted the U.S. call for Iran to cease its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, although he characterized the offer as "the U.S. would sit at the negotiating table if Iran were to stop all its nuclear activities." Khatami went on to say the abandoning of Iran's nuclear activities has been a long-standing U.S. objective. "This has been their wish for the past 27 years - a wish that has been continuously unfulfilled," he said. BS

MARKETPLACE BOMBING KILLS FOUR IN IRAQI CAPITAL
At least four Iraqis were killed and 50 wounded when two bombs exploded at a popular outdoor animal market in central Baghdad on June 2, Reuters reported. A witness told the news agency that the bombs detonated about three minutes apart. The bombs were hidden in bags at the entrance and center of the Al-Ghazil Market, AP reported. Some minutes later, a bomb exploded near a shelter across the street from the Shi'ite Husayniyat Al-Abbas Mosque in eastern Baghdad, killing two and wounding five others, police Lieutenant Ali Abbas told AP. In another incident, a roadside bomb killed two and wounded four in the New Baghdad district of the capital. KR

IRAQI PREMIER CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO AL-HADITHAH MASSACRE
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on June 2 that he will demand the U.S. military's files from the investigation of allegations that U.S. Marines massacred 24 civilians in Al-Hadithah in November, Reuters reported. Al-Maliki announced on June 1 that the Iraqi government will carry out its own investigation into the incident, AFP reported the same day. Speaking to reporters following a cabinet meeting in Baghdad, al-Maliki criticized the behavior of U.S. forces in Iraq. "These forces do not respect the citizens, some of whom have been crushed by tanks and others shot. We must speak with [the United States] and fix a definition of the obligations of foreign forces," he said. The cabinet called for better coordination with multinational forces and said steps should be taken to prevent such abuses in the future. Coalition forces spokesman Major General Thomas Caldwell said on June 1 that anyone found committing violations against civilians "will be punished as appropriate." The U.S. military announced that all military forces will go through an ethics and moral training review. KR

IRAQI PREMIER UPBEAT ON NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
Nuri al-Maliki told reporters at a June 1 press briefing in Baghdad that national reconciliation will play a positive role in confronting terrorism, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. "We adopted national reconciliation as a means to absorb those who become convinced that they cannot overthrow the new regime or derail the political process," he said. "We are thus giving [the resistance] a chance to return and review things. We also adopted the principle of political reconciliation so that there will be a broad-based front, especially since all factions and sectors of the Iraqi people participated in the elections and the government." Al-Maliki said that he has asked State Minister for National Dialogue Akram al-Hakim to "finalize the reconciliation plan and the methods and measures needed" to implement it. "Once there is national reconciliation, it will be possible to provide good security; there will then be no need for the presence of militias," al-Maliki added. He also announced that he will present the interior and defense ministers to parliament at the next session, slated for June 4. KR

U.S. SOLDIER CONVICTED OF ABUSING DETAINEE AT ABU GHRAIB
A military jury has convicted U.S. Army Sergeant Santos A. Cardona of dereliction of duty and aggravated assault after Cardona used a dog to unlawfully threaten an Iraqi detainee at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad sometime between late 2003 and early 2004, international media reported June 2. The detainee, Kamal Mizal Nayil, is described as a former high-ranking military man and Ba'ath Party member. Cardona could be discharged and forced to forfeit his pay and sentenced to some 3 1/2 years in military prison. He is the 11th soldier to be prosecuted in connection with the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse scandal. He was acquitted on conspiracy charges, as well as on charges of lying to investigators, and maltreating detainees, "The Washington Post" reported on June 2.

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