PUTIN ACCUSES GEORGIA OF STATE TERRORISM...
In his first public comments on the crisis with Georgia, Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 1 accused the southern neighbor of "state terrorism with hostage taking," Reuters reported. The crisis was sparked by Georgia's arrest on September 27 of four Russian military officers on spying allegations. The presidential website kremlin.ru quoted Putin as saying as he opened a meeting of Russia's Security Council --including armed forces chiefs, top ministers, and the heads of intelligence services-- that the Georgian leadership had been encouraged by unidentified foreign sponsors. "They [Georgian authorities] clearly want to pinch Russia in the most painful way, to provoke it. This is evident. They clearly believe that the anti-Russian vector of their foreign policy is in the interest of the Georgian people. I do not agree with this view. These people think that under the protection of their foreign sponsors they can feel comfortable and secure. Is it really so?" Putin said in remarks that were later broadcast on Russian television. Commentators noted Putin's harsh language and said it suggested a possible tough response from Russia. FF
...BUT ORDERS DEFENSE MINISTRY TO CONTINUE TROOP PULLOUT...
Following his remarks on October 1, Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to continue a long-planned withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, Interfax news agency reported. General Aleksandr Baranov, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, said on September 30 that Moscow was suspending plans for further withdrawals because of the four officers' arrests. But Putin spokesman Aleksei Gromov said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies that the pullout will continue "despite the current situation." Russia maintains some 2,500 peacekeepers in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and has between 3,000 and 4,000 troops at two military bases in Georgia. Under a deal signed in 2005, Russia pledged to withdraw the troops by the end of 2008. FF
...WHILE COMMANDER PUTS TROOPS ON HIGH ALERT
General Andrei Popov, the commander of Russian military forces in Georgia, said on October 1 that his troops have been put on high alert and given "shoot to kill" orders to defend their bases, Interfax news agency reported. He noted that if the crisis surrounding the arrest of the four officers further worsens, "it would become physically impossible" to implement the troops' pullout from the Batumi and Akhlkalaki bases. Popov said he believes Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's words that Russian citizens and military personnel are not in danger in Georgia. However, Interfax quoted him as saying also that "we are ready to face any provocation and thwart any possible attempts to penetrate our facilities using all means." FF
RUSSIA ENDS POSITIVE ROUND OF TALKS ON WTO ADMISSION
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on September 30 that he positively assessed the last round of talks on Russia's World Trade Organization (WTO) admission, held in the United States, RIA Novosti reported. Russia so far has completed bilateral talks with 55 of the 58 members of the world's largest trade body. Negotiations are continuing with the United States, Moldova, and Georgia. It was reported earlier that Russia and the United States would settle all contentious issues by late October. FF
'KOMMERSANT' EDITOR STEPS DOWN, FORMER EDITOR RETURNS
The editor of the daily "Kommersant" quit the newspaper on September 29 and the newspaper's previous longtime editor, Andrei Vasilyev, resumed his post the same day, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. The changes at one of Russia's main daily newspapers took place a month after a deal was announced to sell it to Alisher Usmanov, a steel magnate with ties to state gas monopoly Gazprom. Former shareholder Boris Berezovsky sold his stake to partner Badri Patarkatsishvili earlier in 2006. Patarkatsishvili then sold the stake to Usmanov, who owns the Urals Steel company, iron mines, and is president of Gazprominvestholding, a 100 percent subsidiary of state-controlled Gazprom. Prior to the sale, the daily's editorial line had widely been considered more independent than most other major Russian dailies. FF
CHECHEN PRESIDENT PROMOTES, REDEPLOYS FIELD COMMANDERS
Doku Umarov issued a series of decrees on September 24 that were posted on September 30 on chechenpress.org. Umarov subdivided the existing Northern Front into a Northwestern and a Northeastern front, and redesignated the existing Eastern Front the Southeastern front. He named Colonel Tahir Batayev to command the Northeastern Front; Sulieman Imurzayev (Khayrulla) to command the Southeastern Front; Colonel Abubakar Elmurayev to command the Northwestern Front; Colonel Abubakar Basayev to command the Central Front; Akhmed Evloyev (aka Magas) as commander of the Caucasus Front; Abdurakhman Kamalutdinov (Djundulla) as commander of the recently created Volga Front; and Mikhail Zakharov as commander of the Urals Front. It is not known whether Abubakar Basayev is related to slain former Vice President Shamil Basayev. Tarkhan Gaziyev and Rappani Khalilov were confirmed as commanders of the Southwestern and Daghestan fronts, respectively. Imurzayev, Khalilov and Evloyev were promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general. Also on September 30, the pro-resistance website kavkazcenter.com posted a video of addresses by Umarov, Sharia Court Chairman Amir Mansur, Umarov's aide Seyf Islam (in Arabic); and Abuzar, commander of the Osman subdivision of Turkish resistance fighters (in Turkish). In that video, filmed during a meeting last month with the commanders of the various fronts, Umarov reaffirmed the Chechens' God-given right "to defend our honor and freedom," and appealed to the world Muslim community for help. "I am not talking of money alone," he said. "We need your prayers as well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 14, 2006). LF
VOLGA FRONT COMMANDER CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR PIPELINE EXPLOSION
In a statement posted on September 29 on kavkazcenter.com, Amir Djundulla affirmed that it was his men, who "with the help of Allah," successfully blew up the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline in Volgograd Oblast in the early hours of September 28. He further warned that his men plan to stage further attacks on Russia's energy complex. Russian officials have said the pipeline exploded "for technical reasons," but an expert quoted by "Komsomolskaya pravda-Volgograd" reportedly cast doubt on that claim. The blaze from the burning gas was reportedly visible up to 200 kilometers away. LF
POLICE IN INGUSHETIA URGED TO STAGE PROTEST
Leaflets were posted in towns in Ingushetia during the night of September 29-30 calling on police officers to participate in a demonstration in Magas on October 5 against official corruption, regnum.ru reported on September 30. The leaflets were signed by "despairing present and former police employees" who urged their fellow officers to "fear Allah, and not the authorities." They also deplored the corrupt practice whereby senior officers routinely withhold between 30-50 percent of overtime payments earned by their subordinates. Also on September 30, Ingushetian oppositionist and former parliament deputy Musa Ozdoyev again criticized President Murat Zyazikov for distributing land and material benefits to his subordinates, ingushetiya.ru reported. Ozdoyev said that following Zyazikov's election as president in 2002, Ingushetia has mutated from a zone of stability to a "hot spot." "If the federal center does not want to lose control over the entire North Caucasus, it should remove Zyazikov from power immediately," Ozdoyev warned. LF
OSSETIAN YOUTH DEMONSTRATION THWARTED, LEADER ARRESTED
Special Interior Ministry detachments (OMON) in Vladikavkaz intervened on October 1 to prevent an unsanctioned demonstration planned by the unofficial youth organization Sons of Ossetia and arrested its chairman, Chermen Tedeyev, the Chechen website kavkazcenter.com reported. Tedeyev was quoted by ingushetiya.ru on October 1 as saying he planned to appeal at the meeting to the leaders of the Republic of North Ossetia to schedule a referendum on transferring back to Ingushetian jurisdiction the disputed Prigorodny Raion and a part of Malgobek Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 16, 2006). Those districts were part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR until that territorial unit was abolished in the wake of the deportation of both ethnic groups in 1944; when the Checheno-Ingush ASSR was reconstituted in 1957, those districts remained part of North Ossetia. LF
BALKARS DEMAND REVISION OF REDISTRICTING LAW
Some 300 Balkars attended a demonstration in Nalchik on October 1 convened by the Council of Elders of the Balkar people to demand amendments to the republican laws on administrative-territorial administration, Interfax reported. The participants argued that those laws violate the rights of Balkar residents of rural areas by depriving them of the right to use grazing lands. Council of Elders member Ruslan Batayev also deplored the authorities' failure to implement federal programs intended to redress the injustices the Balkars suffered during the 1943 deportation, and he further pointed out that only three members of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic government, and only 20 of the 110 parliament deputies, are Balkars. Kabardians account for 55.3 percent of the republic's population, Russians 25.1 percent, and Balkars 11.6 percent. LF
FRENCH PRESIDENT WRAPS UP STATE VISIT TO ARMENIA
French President Jacques Chirac on October 1 ended a two-day state visit to Armenia, international media reported. He was accompanied on the trip by a large delegation that included three government ministers and prominent singers Charles Aznavour and Michel Legrand, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and ITAR-TASS reported. After a ceremonial visit to a memorial to the 1915-17 massacre of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces, Armenian President Robert Kocharian held a private meeting on September 30 with Chirac that included talks on bilateral relations and the mediation of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The two leaders held a press conference later that day, in which Chirac promised that France is ready to help Armenia become a "rule-of-law state that guarantees public liberties." RG
ARMENIA SIGNS ENERGY AGREEMENT WITH VISITING GEORGIAN AND IRANIAN MINISTERS
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Gegam Garibdzhanyan announced on September 29 that a new trilateral agreement on energy cooperation was signed in Yerevan, Arminfo reported. Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gilauri, Iranian Energy Minister Parviz Fattah, and Armenian Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstyan signed an agreement to "synchronize" and link the electrical power grids of the three countries. They also discussed joint border projects and the Iranian and Armenian ministers reviewed a bilateral agreement for the Armenian import of electricity from Iran. Fattah announced that a section of a transmission line currently being constructed by the Iranian Sanir company in Armenia is expected to become operational by the end of the year. RG
CHIEF OF ARMENIAN GENERAL STAFF DISMISSES REPORTS OF RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPANSION
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan, the chief of the Armenian military's General Staff, General Mikheil Harutiunian, dismissed on September 28 reports that Russia will expand its military presence in Armenia, according to Yerkir and RIA Novosti. In comments following a meeting with Russian Embassy official Igor Gromyko, Harutiunian explained that "there are no plans to increase the number of personnel and military equipment" at the Russian military base in Gyumri. The Russian base, located about 120 kilometers from the capital Yerevan, serves as an integral element in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) joint air-defense system and is equipped with S-300 (SA-10 Grumble) air-defense systems and a squadron of MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, as well as roughly 5,000 personnel. A significant proportion of the military equipment being withdrawn from Russian bases in Georgia is to be transferred to the base by the end of 2008. RG
GEORGIAN COURT APPROVES DETENTION OF RUSSIAN OFFICERS
A Tbilisi court issued a ruling on September 29 approving the detention of four Russian military officers held on suspicion of espionage, RFE/RL's Georgian Service and Civil Georgia reported. The court ruled that the Russian officers are to be remanded in custody for another two months and formally charged seven Georgian nationals with high treason in connection with the case. Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili declared that he has "proof" that the officers were part of a spy network enlisting Georgian citizens to obtain "secret information." The Russians, who are reportedly officers of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), were detained on September 27 along with more than 10 others in the Georgian capital Tbilisi and the Black Sea port of Batumi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 29, 2006). RG
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS URGE CAUTION...
Speaking at a news conference in Slovenia after meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer issued a statement on September 29 calling for caution and moderation in the escalating espionage case between Georgia and Russia, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin further echoed on September 29 the call for moderation, adding that both sides must avoid actions that could heighten tensions. RG
...AS EU STATES CALL FOR DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION
The European Union said in a statement issued on September 30 that Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, has encouraged Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili during a telephone conversation to find an early solution to the escalating row, Reuters news agency reported. The presidents of Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania have also called for a diplomatic solution. FF
GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSES RUSSIA OF SUPPORTING SEPARATISTS...
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili charged on October 1 that Russian President Putin met the previous day with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergei Bagapsh, and Eduard Kokoity, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Reuters reported, adding that a Kremlin spokesman declined to confirm or deny the information. The two separatist regions broke away from Tbilisi in bloody conflicts in the early 1990s, but their proclaimed independence remains unrecognized internationally. Russia has played an official mediation role in the conflict and has deployed its peacekeepers to both regions. Bezhuashvili said that "Russia's open support for the separatists clearly shows that it is not a neutral mediator." He added that Georgia objects to Russia's dominant role in settling the conflicts and intends to see the situation change. Georgian President Saakashvili, speaking at the United Nations last month, accused Russia of "gangster occupation" of both provinces. Russia has said that the peacekeepers' withdrawal is impossible without the consent of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. FF
...AND CHARACTERIZES MOSCOW STATEMENTS AS THREATS
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili on October 1 said that Moscow's terrorism allegations are "absurd" and called statements from Moscow officials "an explicit threat to use military force," AP reported. He said Georgia expects Russia to honor the pullout agreement and added that the Russian military has already met its obligations on the number of weapons it was to withdraw from the two bases this year. However, Bezhuashvili also accused Russia of trying to punish Georgia for its independent course. FF
SHEVARNADZE: GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS HAVE REACHED CRITICAL POINT
Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on October 1 that relations between the two former Soviet republics have reached what he called a "critical point," Ekho Moskvy radio reported. Shevardnadze, who also served as the Soviet Union's last foreign minister, added that in order to avoid a further escalation of the crisis, Presidents Putin and Saakashvili should be involved personally in a high-level attempt to find a solution. Georgia's relations with Russia have soured since Saakashvili came to power in the Rose Revolution in 2003 with promises of closer ties with the United States and European Union, and a drive to join NATO. FF
ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER LINKS ESPIONAGE CASE TO BROADER GEORGIAN STRATEGY
Sergei Shamba accused Georgia on September 29 of seeking to escalate the espionage case as part of a broader strategy to confront Russian interests in the region, according to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. Commenting on the recent arrest of several Russian military officers for alleged espionage, Shamba argued that "these actions are interconnected and well planned" and contended that it is linked to a Georgian plan to force the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia. Russian Defense Minister Ivanov also linked the arrest on September 29, adding that "it is absolutely clear to us that Georgia has chosen a military way of resolving the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia" and accusing "younger NATO members" of arming Georgia. RG
GEORGIAN ENERGY MINISTER REPORTS ON RECENT AGREEMENT WITH ARMENIA AND IRAN
Commenting on the previous day's signing of a new energy agreement with Armenia and Iran, Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gilauri stated on September 30 that "in case of necessity" Georgia seeks to diversify its energy imports by obtaining electricity from Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran during the coming winter, Civil Georgia reported. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi, Gilauri explained that the recent trilateral meeting in Armenia resulted in the conclusion of an agreement enabling Georgia to import electricity from Armenia and Iran. He further added that, starting from this November, Georgia will also be able to receive 300 million cubic meters of gas through the Shah-Deniz project, instead of the 60 million cubic meters originally planned, citing "intensive negotiations with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijani Republic" (SOCAR). The minister said that although Russia's Gazprom remains Georgia's major gas supplier, "we will do our best to strengthen our energy security and be ready for any possible surprises." RG
BUSH-NAZARBAEV MEETING AFFIRMS U.S.-KAZAKH STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP...
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on September 29 in a visit that affirmed the 2001 strategic partnership agreement between Kazakhstan and the United States, the White House said in a press release. Bush called Kazakhstan a "free nation," "The New York Times" reported, while Nazarbaev stressed that "Kazakhstan will always be a friend of the United States," "Kazakhstan Today" reported. A Kazakh-U.S. joint statement on September 29 declared "commitment to a shared vision of stability, prosperity, and democratic reform in Central Asia and the broader region." In the statement, the United States lauded Kazakhstan's "efforts in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and called the two countries "steadfast partners in the international war on terrorism." DK
...WITHOUT FIRM U.S. COMMITMENT ON KAZAKH OSCE BID...
The Kazakh-U.S. joint statement on September 29 did not mention Kazakhstan's bid for the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told Interfax-Kazakhstan that Nazarbaev raised the issue in his talks with Bush. "I would not say that the American side is skeptical about the idea of Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the OSCE," Toqaev said. "The American side welcomes our country's chairmanship of the OSCE, but the question is when it is going to happen." DK
KAZAKH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. OIL EXECUTIVES...
In his remarks to reporters during his September 29 meeting with President Bush quoted in a White House transcript, President Nazarbaev noted that the United States is the major foreign investor in Kazakhstan. The bulk of those investments are in Kazakhstan's oil sector. Nazarbaev met with the heads of U.S. oil companies ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Halliburton on September 29, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The heads of ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips both announced after the meeting that they hope to pursue new projects in Kazakhstan in the future, although they did not provide details. DK
...AND AGREES TO DOWNGRADE HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM
Kazakhstan will downgrade its remaining stocks of highly enriched uranium in a program financed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, UPI and ITAR-TASS reported on September 29-30. The fuel will be reprocessed in Kazakhstan but could be used later to generate energy at U.S. nuclear power facilities. DK
STEELWORKERS JOIN STRIKING KAZAKH MINERS FOR PROTEST
Steelworkers joined striking miners for a 6,000-strong demonstration in front of the offices of Mittal Steel Temirtau in Temirtau, Kazakhstan, on September 30, AP reported. Miners at eight Mittal mines are now striking for better pay and improved working conditions after a September 20 accident killed 41 of their colleagues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 21, 2006). Steelworkers want a 40 percent raise on current wages of $300 a month, AP reported, while miners want the equivalent of $11.85 per hour instead of the current $350 a month. Mittal has reportedly agreed to raise coal miners' wages, but a company spokesman said that slumping sales make it impossible to give steelworkers a pay hike. DK
CHINA DONATES $1.8 MILLION WORTH OF CARS TO KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT
China will donate $1.8 million worth of automobiles to the Kyrgyz government, Kyrgyz Television reported on September 28. The cars will be used for official purposes. DK
KYRGYZ COURT ACQUITS DAUGHTER OF UZBEK ISLAMIC GROUP'S IMPRISONED LEADER
A court in Osh acquitted four defendants on September 29 of charges of preparing terrorist acts, news agency 24.kg reported. The defendants, two Kyrgyz and two Uzbek citizens, included Gulmira Maqsutova, the daughter of Akram Yuldoshev, who is imprisoned in Uzbekistan on terrorism charges and believed by Uzbek authorities to be the leader of the so-called Akramiya group allegedly responsible for May 2005 unrest in Andijon. "Thanks to God, justice prevailed," Maqsutova told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. She was arrested in Osh in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 20, 2006). DK
TAJIK SPLINTER PARTY TO PARTICIPATE IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Tajikistan's Justice Ministry has recognized Masud Sobirov as the leader of Tajikistan's Democratic Party, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on September 30. Sobirov emerged six months ago as the leader of the party's Vatan wing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 6, 2006). Jumaboy Niyozov, leader of the Sughd section of the Democratic Party, which recognizes the jailed Muhammadruzi Iskandarov as its leader, called the Justice Ministry's decision illegal. The Sobirov-led party has nominated Tabarali Ziyoyev as its presidential candidate and begun gathering signatures in his support. Six candidates are now poised to run in the November 6 presidential election: incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov (People's Democratic Party), Amir Qaroqulov (Agrarian Party), Olim Boboyev (Economic Reform Party), Abduhalim Ghafforov (Socialist Party), Ismoil Talbakov (Communist Party), and Tabarali Ziyoyev (Democratic Party). DK
UZBEKISTAN RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO TAJIKISTAN
Uzbekistan has resumed gas supplies to industrial facilities in Tajikistan after Tajik national gas company Tojikgaz paid $2 million of $4.5 million in arrears (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 21, 2006), Asia Plus-Blitz reported on September 29. A Tojikgaz spokesman also noted that repairs have been completed on a pipeline segment in Uzbekistan where an accident recently caused a shutoff of supplies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 29, 2006). The report noted that Uzbek gas should begin flowing to residential customers on the evening of September 29. DK
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS RUSSIA OVER PLANNED GAS PRICE HIKE
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on September 29 threatened to break ties with Russia if Moscow abruptly increases the rate it charges Belarus for gas, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka's comments came during a nearly four-hour-long news conference in Minsk for more than 80 representatives of Russia's provincial media outlets. "Do you know what gas price we have been offered? Higher than that for Germany. Who could imagine half a century ago that you would sell gas to the Germans cheaper than to the Belarusians?" Lukashenka said, without naming a specific figure. "A price hike to such levels would unambiguously mean full severance of all ties. As regards the economy -- it's for sure," Lukashenka stressed. The Belarusian president also noted that an increased gas price for Belarus would mean a loss of 10 million jobs in Russia. "At present we buy from you not only resources and raw materials, we buy from you components...from plants that employ 10 million Russians. If you raise the gas price, 10 million Russians will immediately be left without jobs," Lukashenka warned. JM
ITALY RETURNS ORPHAN GIRL TO BELARUS
Italian authorities have returned to Belarus a 10-year-old orphan whose case has strained relations between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 21, 2006), Belarusian and international news agencies reported on September 30. The Italian couple who hosted Viktoryya Moroz during the summer refused to return her, saying they believed she had been abused at an orphanage in Belarus. They hid the girl, but police found her and on September 29 she was flown back to Belarus. The girl had spent summers with the Italian couple for the past four years. She was one of thousands of Belarusian children who receive treatment and holidays abroad under a program for children suffering the long-term effects of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Belarusian authorities have denied the allegations of abuse in the orphanage, and formally complained to Italian authorities regarding what they called a "deliberate abduction." JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS MORATORIUM ON GAS TARIFFS WOULD KILL ECONOMY
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has asked the Verkhovna Rada to withdraw its bill of September 22 overriding the presidential veto on a moratorium on utilities-payment hikes in 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 22, 2006), Interfax-Ukraine reported on September 29. "We must admit that the decision by the Verkhovna Rada was first, unconstitutional; second, unrealistic, because it will destroy the system of payments inside the country, [it] will destroy the economy and the fuel and energy complex," Yanukovych said, adding that the execution of the bill will lead to "economic collapse." According to estimates voiced by some Ukrainian politicians, the implementation of the moratorium would cost the budget an extra 8 billion hryvnyas ($1.6 billion) in 2006. Parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz said he will not sign the moratorium bill, arguing that its adoption violated parliamentary procedure. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SPOKESWOMAN
President Viktor Yushchenko has appointed Iryna Vannykova as his press secretary, Interfax-Ukraine reported on September 29. Vannykova has pursued a telejournalism career since 1995. She will replace Iryna Herashchenko. JM
EARLY RETURNS IN BOSNIA SHOW DIVIDED PRESIDENCY
In Bosnia-Herzegovina's October 1 general elections, Haris Silajdzic and Nebojsa Radmanovic hold strong leads in their races to become the respective Muslim and Serbian members of the tripartite presidency, international news agencies reported the same day. With about 40 percent of the votes counted, Silajdzic polled 38 percent of the vote against 18 percent for incumbent Sulejman Tihic in the election for the Muslim seat on the presidency, virtually assuring his victory, Reuters reported. Radmanovic, a member of Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), leads the race for the Serbian seat with 56 percent of the vote. Incumbent Croatian member Ivo Miro Jovic is slightly ahead of his opponent, Zeljko Komsic, AP reported. Silajdzic has advocated abolishing Bosnia's ethnically based entities, Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, and unifying the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline, September 22, 2006). Dodik has threatened to call a referendum on independence in Republika Srpska if Bosnia's entities are threatened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 14 and 15, 2006). Further results are scheduled to be announced on October 2. BW
SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW CONSTITUTION, SETS REFERENDUM DATE...
The Serbian parliament on September 30 unanimously approved a new constitution that claims sovereignty over Kosova, international news agencies reported the same day. Parliament also set October 28-29 as the date for a referendum to ratify the constitution. If it passes, Serbia can call for new general elections 45 days later. Most observers in Serbia expect new elections in mid- to late December. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the new constitution guarantees "Serbia will defend Kosovo with all democratic and legal means," Reuters reported. "Kosovo is ours," he told parliament. The new constitution, which replaces the socialist-era basic law of former Yugoslavia, defines Serbia as a single unified republic. "I am sure that all this will go very fast. The government is bringing its mandate to a close," Kostunica said. "I am convinced the people will confirm at a referendum that Serbia needs a new democratic constitution and that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia." BW
...AS LIBERAL PARTY RESIGNS FROM CABINET, DEMANDS ELECTIONS BY DECEMBER 17
Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic and other members of his G17 Plus party formally resigned from Kostunica's government on October 1 and called for new elections, B92, Beta, and international news agencies reported the same day. Dinkic said he and other G17 Plus ministers will continue to perform their governmental duties until they are formally replaced. The widely expected move followed a longstanding threat by G17 Plus to leave the government if negotiations with the European Union for a Stabilization and Association Agreement were not resumed by October 1 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 22 and September 29, 2006). Dinkic also said that G17 Plus will insist that new general elections be held no later than December 17, B92 and Beta reported. BW
KOSOVAR RIGHTS GROUP ACCUSES SERBIAN MEDIA OF BIAS
A report by a Kosovar human rights organization has criticized the Serbian media for biased reporting about the breakaway province, B92 and Beta reported on September 30. According to the Initiative of Young People for Human Rights, a majority of Serbian media outlets report about Kosova from Belgrade, rather than doing their own on-the-ground reporting in the region. "These media companies are broadcasting misinformation; they are taking facts out of context, serving readers with incomplete information and regularly using stereotypes of Kosovar Albanians, especially when reporting on their political elite," said Nikola Tomic, one of the report's authors. Uljpijana Ljama, a spokeswoman for Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku, agreed with the report's findings. "Unfortunately, Serbs who live in Kosova are getting an unrealistic picture of the situation and events in Kosova, and that is a situation that must be changed," she said. BW
MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION LEADER RESIGNS PARTY POST
Montenegrin opposition leader Predrag Bulatovic resigned on September 30 as chairman of the Socialist People's Party (SNP), B92 and Beta reported. Bulatovic made his announcement at a meeting of the pro-Serbian SNP's Senior Council, in which the party also named its parliamentary list. The SNP, which formed a coalition with smaller parties for Montenegro's September 10 elections, fared poorly and could end up with just eight seats in the new parliament, B92 reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 12 and 14, 2006). BW
RUSSIA'S MONARCHIST NOSTALGIA REMAINS POWERFUL
The recent reburial of the remains of Maria Fyodorovna, the Danish princess who married the future Tsar Aleksandr III of Russia in 1866, is the latest episode in a long-standing effort to cultivate the idea of restoring the monarchy in Russia.
The idea gained currency under President Boris Yeltsin in 1997, when his close circle, alarmed by the Russian president's ailing health, started to think about a possible successor. Some of them turned their attention to the living descendents of the Romanov dynasty. That same year, renovation work began at the Kremlin to restore the coronation hall and the tsar's throne. In 1998, Yeltsin attended a state ceremony to bury the remains of the last Russian emperor, Nicolas II, and his family, who were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Interest, however, in the monarchy idea waned as Yeltsin's circle realized that no living Romanov, for various reasons, had a legitimate claim to the Russian throne and the project was abandoned.
But under President Vladimir Putin interest in Russia's imperial and monarchical past grew legs once again. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicolas II and his family. Since that time, Russia has seen a boom in the number of monarchist organizations. Recent years have seen the release of hundreds of books and films about the monarchy.
At various times, politicians from across the political spectrum have endorsed constitutional monarchy for Russia, including the former Union of Rightist Forces co-Chairman Boris Nemtsov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko.
Many intellectuals and cultural icons have also jumped on the monarchy bandwagon. Two of Russia's most popular filmmakers, Nikita Mikhalkov and Stanislav Govorukhin, have paraded their monarchist colors. Stanislav Belkovsky, the founder of the National Strategy Institute, said in February 2005, "I believe that the restoration of the monarchy, either formally or informally, is the only choice for Russia, since it is the only way to restore the sanctity of the supreme power."
The amount of television coverage certainly suggests the Kremlin's involvement in -- or, at the least, tacit approval -- of monarchist revivalism. And the state's hand has been revealed in other places. In 2005, a book called "Project Russia," by unnamed authors, appeared on the website of a state security veterans organization in St. Petersburg. The book argues that Russia was a monarchy for 1,000 years and, even after 1917, it became a republic only nominally.
The book harshly criticizes Western-style electoral systems and advocates the gradual revival of Russia's monarchy between 2008 and 2016. It suggests a new monarch could be chosen from among the country's prominent citizens. The author saw Putin's 2004 abolition of gubernatorial elections as a first step in this direction. The book suggests using the media -- movies, documentaries, talk shows, lectures, and newspapers -- to sell the monarchy to the Russian people.
According to Russian media reports, "Project Russia" originated as a series of lectures delivered to the cadets at the Federal Security Service (FSB) and military intelligence (GRU) academies. It was later published in a special edition for members of the presidential administration, the government, the army's General Staff, the Duma, top clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian business leaders.
Over the last 10 years, the number of Russians supporting monarchist ideas has risen threefold. A September poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) indicated that 19 percent of Russians agreed with restoring the monarchy, but only if an acceptable candidate can be found. Support is higher in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But only 6 percent of those who favor the monarchy wanted the future guardian of the realm to be a Romanov. The majority thought a monarch should be a prominent public figure chosen in a referendum. In this way, the poll reveals less the prevalence of monarchist ideas than a traditional Russian desire for strong leadership.
The idea of monarchy is intrinsically tied up with the notion of succession, which makes it of special interest to Russia's current political elite, for whom that issue is a perpetual problem. Many Putin supporters would relish the idea of an anointed successor rather than have to bother with a presidential election.
There is also an international dimension. Many monarchists believe that reviving the monarchy would bolster Russia's historical ties with Europe. And reviving the monarchy goes hand in hand with the rejection of the 1917 February and October revolutions in Russia. Because those revolutions paved the way for the independence of the Baltic states, Georgia, and Ukraine, among others, revanchists could use the opportunity to revive territorial claims on parts of the former Russian Empire.
But others worry that the monarchist fervor might not stop at mere territorial issues. One Russian humorist quipped recently that the "new Russians," surely the aristocrats of their age, "want to restore the monarchy only in order to restore serfdom."
SUICIDE ATTACKER KILLS 12 IN AFGHAN CAPITAL...
A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded pedestrian alley outside of the Interior Ministry in Kabul on September 30, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens, AP reported on October 1. The blast occurred near a busy security gate surrounded by shops and street photographers around 8 a.m. local time, as ministry officials arrived at work. The BBC reported that police challenged the attacker and began chasing him before he detonated the explosives as he tried to flee. A Health Ministry spokesman said that 54 people were injured in the blast, including two policemen, while an Interior Ministry spokesman put the casualty figure at 42. The blast is the second major attack in Kabul in September despite increased security in the Afghan capital. A Taliban spokesman has claimed responsibility for the attack. JC
...SPARKING KARZAI'S CONDEMNATION OF ATTACK, 'SANCTUARIES,' AND FOREIGN-LED ATTACKERS
In a reaction to the blast that killed 12 and injured scores more outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul on September 30, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai released a series of statements denouncing the attack, AP reported on October 1. "I condemn it in the strongest terms and call on the international community to work with Afghanistan in stopping sanctuaries that raise, train, and brainwash young people to become suicide attackers," Karzai said. He suggested that "suicide attackers come from outside Afghanistan and target the most devoted and the poorest Muslim people of the world." Karzai said that he and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will jointly lead a series of tribal meetings along the Afghan-Pakistani border to suppress attacks on Afghanistan by Pakistan-based Taliban rebels. JC
NATO TO COMMAND 12,000 U.S. TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
NATO spokesman Mark Laity said on October 1 that the alliance has agreed to take control over most military operations in Afghanistan, a move that will place 12,000 U.S. troops under its control, AP reported the same day. The move, expected to take place within "a few days," will consolidate military command under top NATO leader British Lieutenant General David Richards while phasing out the role of U.S. Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry. Just 8,000 U.S. troops -- those involved in tracking Al-Qaeda suspects or involved in air operations -- will remain outside of NATO control in Afghanistan. NATO's expanded authority will increase the total number of troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to 32,000. The announcement came as the U.S. military said that militant attacks near the Pakistani border have tripled in some areas as international troops have clashed with a resurgent Taliban, BBC News report on October 1. JC
AMERICAN HELD IN TORTURE CASE FREED FROM AFGHAN JAIL
Brent Bennett was released from an Afghan prison on September 30 and flown out of the country after having served two years for running a private prison and illegally detaining and torturing people in a freelance hunt for terrorists, Reuters reported on 1 October. Bennett, 29, and two other Americans, Jonathan Idema and Edward Caraballo, were initially convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2004 after Afghan security forces raided their residence and discovered eight Afghan men whom they said had been abused. A judge later reduced their sentences. Idema insisted his operations were coordinated with the U.S. Defense Department and Afghan authorities, a claim that both governments denied. AP reported that it is not clear whether Bennett was free or is in U.S. custody following his release from prison. Caraballo was released in April. Idema remains in detention at Kabul's Pul-e Charkhi prison. JC
U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN STRENGTHENED...
U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the Iran Freedom Support Act on October 1 to discourage major investments in the Iranian energy sector, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. The law was passed by the Senate on September 30 and the House of Representatives earlier in the week, and is based on the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The act authorizes the imposition of sanctions on firms or individuals responsible for proliferating weapons of mass destruction. "My administration is working on many fronts to address the challenges posed by the Iranian regime's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism, efforts to destabilize the Middle East, and repression of the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Iran," Bush said. BS
...PROMPTING AN IRATE REACTION IN TEHRAN
The Iranian legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee denounced the U.S. Iran Freedom Support Act on October 1, IRNA reported. The committee's statement said the new U.S. law is in violation of the UN Charter and the so-called Algiers Accord of 1975. The statement did not explain what the recent U.S. legislation has to do with a 1975 agreement between Iran and Iraq that was meant to resolve border disputes, demarcate river boundaries, and arrange for noninterference in domestic affairs. Kazem Jalali, rapporteur for the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on October 1 that Iranian Foreign Ministry officials will discuss the new U.S. law with that committee on October 3, IRNA reported. Jalali described the Iran Freedom Support Act as a sign of U.S. hostility, and he added that Iran's legislature will make it a priority to approve a law for fingerprinting Americans who seek to visit Iran. BS
FREEDOM HOUSE CALLS IRAN 'NOT FREE'
Freedom House assigned Iran "not free" status -- with scores of 6 (7 is worst) in the "Political Rights" and "Civil Liberties" categories -- in its annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties in 192 countries on September 29, called "Freedom in the World 2006." In the subcategories for political rights, Iran rated 3 in the categories of "Electoral Process," "Political Pluralism and Participation," and "Functioning of Government." In the civil-liberties subcategories, Iran rated 5 for "Freedom of Expression and Belief," 4 for "Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights," 3 for "Associational and Organizational Rights," and 3 for "Rule of Law"; Freedom House said these ratings represent a person's ability to participate in the political process unhindered, to vote in legitimate elections, and to have accountable political representatives. The ratings also are based on an individual's right to express him/herself freely, assemble or associate with others freely, participate in an equitable legal system, and enjoy equal access to economic opportunities. BS
IRAN EMPLOYS NEW MEASURES IN ANTISATELLITE CAMPAIGN
Brigadier Nabiullah Heidari, chief of police in Iran's Markazi (Central) Province, announced on October 1 that helicopters will be used in the campaign to spot and seize satellite-reception equipment in the city of Arak, ILNA reported. Satellite receivers have been illegal since the 1990s, and the regime recently renewed its effort to confiscate the equipment and block Iranians' access to outside media. Heidari said that in the year beginning March 21, police have seized more than 2,000 satellite dishes in the province; this is almost three times as many as in the previous year. Heidari said satellite television leads to "decadence," including divorce and extramarital relations. BS
IRAQ'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER PRAISES AL-ANBAR INITIATIVE
National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i praised the decision by Al-Anbar tribal leaders to crack down on Al-Qaeda fighters in their governorate, vowing that the government will give them the utmost assistance (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," September 29, 2006), RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on October 1. Al-Rubay'i told reporters at a Baghdad press briefing that Al-Qaeda leader Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri) is trying to win back the support of Al-Anbar chieftains now that the "noose is being tightened on him." Al-Rubay'i said Al-Qaeda has turned Iraq into an arena for settling scores, which is far different from the group's claims that it came to Iraq to fight foreign forces. Addressing the chieftains, al-Rubay'i said: "We, the Iraqi government, will provide you with money, men, and weapons. We will support you with all our strength." Addressing al-Muhajir, al-Rubay'i said the terrorist leader's fate will be the same as that of previous Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, whom U.S. forces killed in June. KR
IRAQI GOVERNOR CLAIMS POLICE TRIED TO ASSASSINATE HIM
Al-Basrah Governor Muhammad al-Wa'ili claimed he escaped an assassination attempt by the governorate's Major Crimes Directorate on September 30, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day. Al-Wa'ili said his convoy was attacked while traveling from Karbala to Al-Basrah by men driving cars belonging to the directorate. Three of his bodyguards were wounded in the incident. Asked why he would be targeted by the directorate, al-Wa'ili said that the police unit is one of many rogue units comprised of militias that carry out assassinations in the governorate. Al-Wa'ili called on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to take action by dismantling the unit and building a new police force. Iraqi and British forces launched Operation Sinbad last week to bring security to Al-Basrah; part of the operation aims to weed out corrupt and criminal police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 27, 2006). KR
IRAQI BA'ATH PARTY ACCUSES U.S., ARAB INTELLIGENCE SERVICES OF DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN...
The formerly ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in Iraq has claimed in a statement that the U.S. and Iraqi intelligence services have launched a campaign to spread their claim that certain resistance groups have aligned with their vision of the future of Iraq, London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on September 30. The party claims the campaign falsely links former officers and Ba'ath Party officials to efforts by the UN, Arab League, and U.S. government toward reconciliation among Iraq's political groups. The statement further claims that the campaign attempts to misrepresent the resistance and "infiltrate the ranks of party strugglers in the service of the U.S. administration's scheme that is obviously facing defeat." It warns Iraqis against being duped by the alleged campaign, adding, "There can be no negotiations until the U.S. administration accepts the terms of the resistance, especially the total and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq, full compensation to its sons, and the establishment of an authority in the name of the resistance and under its actual command." KR
...AND CLAIMS ASSASSINATION OF ANFAL TRIAL JUDGE'S RELATIVES
A statement attributed to a group identifying itself as the Ba'ath Party-affiliated Dhi Qar Organization claimed responsibility for the assassinations of the brother-in-law and nephew of Muhammad al-Uraybi, the chief judge in the Anfal trial of Saddam Hussein and six others, Al-Arabiyah television reported on September 30. The men were gunned down in the Al-Ghazaliyah district of the capital on September 29. The statement, which was reportedly circulated on the Internet, vowed to punish al-Uraybi and anyone else who offended Hussein. Al-Arabiyah reported that the Dhi Qar Organization is linked to the Ba'ath Party's military wing; the news channel said it could not independently verify the statement. KR