SECURITY OFFICIALS WARN OF MORE BOMBINGS IN MOSCOW AND REGIONAL CITIES...
Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators probing the 5 July suicide bombings at a rock concert in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2003) have warned that that attack is just the first in a series of actions planned by "Chechen terrorists" in a number of cities, including St. Petersburg, Saratov, Rostov-na-Donu, and Volgodonsk, vesti.ru and gazeta.ru reported on 9 July. The investigators said that, according to information they have uncovered, it is possible that female Chechen suicide bombers have already arrived in these cities. The FSB is reportedly taking all possible measures to forestall any bombings. Salambek Maigov, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's personal representative in Russia, told polit.ru on 9 July that Maskhadov is outraged by the 5 July bombing and has offered his condolences to the victims and their families. Maigov reiterated that Maskhadov has disavowed such tactics and has called on Chechen fighters to refrain from using them. He noted as well that rock musicians have generally always opposed the war in Chechnya, so bombing a rock concert makes no sense. VY
...AS MILITARY EXPERT DOUBTS ROCK-CONCERT EXPLOSIONS WERE SUICIDE BOMBINGS
Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 10 July, military expert Pavel Felgenhauer wonders whether the two rock-concert explosions in Moscow on 5 July were really the work of suicide bombers. He points out that neither radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev nor anyone else has claimed responsibility for the attack, and that unlike the suicide bombings in Grozny in December 2002 and in Chechnya in May, which Basaev claimed to have masterminded, the rock-concert bombings targeted civilians, not the Russian military or pro-Moscow Chechen officials. Felgenhauer drew a comparison with the apartment-building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in the late summer of 1999, noting that no firm evidence has ever been produced to substantiate official Russian claims that Chechens were responsible for those blasts. LF
ANOTHER MOSCOW EXPLOSION KILLS FSB OFFICER...
An FSB major was killed on Moscow's main street, Tverskaya ulitsa, on 10 July as he tried to disarm an explosive device found in a woman's backpack, Russian media reported. Patrons reportedly called police after noticing the woman behaving suspiciously in a posh restaurant. According to an FSB spokesman, the woman, who was identified as 22-year-old Zarima Muzhikhoeva, a resident of Chechnya, was arrested and is being questioned. The spokesman added that the agency expects to charge the woman with terrorism. He also said that the explosive devise used in this incident was identical to those used during the 5 July rock-concert bombings. FSB agents also arrested a man, who was identified as 26-year-old Zurab Dadaev, a resident of Chechnya, whom they believe was the woman's accomplice. VY
FSB EAVESDROPPING ON MOBILE PHONES...
At the request of security officials, the Communications Ministry has asked Moscow's cellular-telephone operators to stop scrambling their signals in order to allow law enforcement officers to eavesdrop on mobile-phone conversations, RTR reported on 9 July. FSB agents have requested the measure as part of their investigation into the 5 July rock-concert bombing. According to investigators, the female suicide bombers in that attack spoke to someone by mobile phone seven times in the hours preceding the attack, apparently receiving instructions from an unknown accomplice. The Communications Ministry stressed that this is a temporary measure and is not likely to last more than 24 hours. The same step was taken in St. Petersburg in late May and early June in connection with the arrival of dozens of heads of state because of the celebration of that city's tercentennial. VY
...AS INTERIOR MINISTER URGES TOUGHER MEASURES TO COMBAT TERRORISM, ORGANIZED CRIME
Speaking to a gathering of law enforcement officials from the Central Federal District on 10 July, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov proposed extending the length of time that people suspected of involvement in terrorism can be held without charge from two days to 30, RIA-Novosti reported. He said that the necessary amendments to the Criminal Procedural Code could be introduced in the Duma when the fall session opens in September. Gryzlov also sharply criticized his own ministry for failing to cope with organized crime. He said that it is a cliche within the ministry to say that "criminal organizations are under our control," but added that it is not enough to "control" such organizations. Instead, they must be broken up and destroyed, Gryzlov said, particularly because of the dangerous links between organized crime and terrorism. He proposed assigning senior Interior Ministry officials to be personally responsible for combating known organized-crime groups. VY
PROSECUTORS TO LOOK INTO TAX-EVASION CHARGES AGAINST YUKOS...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 9 July announced that it has launched a criminal investigation into possible tax evasion by embattled oil giant Yukos, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported on 9 July. The investigation was launched at the request of State Duma Deputy Mikhail Bugera (Russian Regions), who alleged that Yukos paid 30 million rubles ($3 million) in taxes in 2002 while receiving 2 billion rubles in budget funds. At the same time, Yukos paid several hundred million rubles in dividends to its shareholders, Bugera alleged. Yukos press spokesman Aleksandr Shchadrin told journalists that Bugera is proceeding "from absolutely incorrect figures." Shchadrin said that Yukos paid 101.7 billion rubles in taxes and other payments to the state in 2002. He added that he does not understand why Bugera is "wittingly disseminating false information." VY
...AS OLIGARCHS TURN TO PUTIN TO INTERVENE...
At a session of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), the so-called oligarchs' union, on 9 July, members approved a letter to President Putin about the proliferating criminal investigations launched against Yukos and its top managers, "Gazeta" reported the next day. According to the daily, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii attended the session for just 20 minutes and asked that no appeal be sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office. He said that Putin is the only person to whom it made sense to direct an appeal. RSPP Executive Secretary Igor Yurgens told the daily that "reexamining the results of privatization" against the background of an election campaign is having "an extremely negative impact on the country's investment climate." JAC
...AND DUMA SPEAKER CALLS FOR WIDER INQUIRY INTO THE OLIGARCHS
Gennadii Seleznev said on 9 July that the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Duma's Audit Chamber should investigate how Russia's billionaires acquired their fortunes over the last eight or nine years, RBK and fcinfo.ru reported. Speaking to journalists in Rotterdam, where he is attending a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Seleznev said that some European politicians have asked him why the Russian authorities have not paid attention to this question. "It seems that for Russian billionaires it is not enough to make enormous fortunes and buy luxury real estate abroad," Seleznev said. "They want something more." He charged that the oligarchs are seeking to play a role in politics and to place their own representatives in the organs of Russian government, and criticized oligarch and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich for his recent acquisition of Britain's Chelsea soccer club. He noted that some 39 million Russians currently live below the poverty line and said "this number should serve as a warning to the oligarchs." VY
FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN FLOATS ANOTHER IDEA...
Sergei Mironov told journalists in Kaluga Oblast on 9 July that he considers it necessary to introduce government control over the flow of information, RBK reported. According to the agency, Mironov believes that a separate government structure should be created for this task. In Mironov's opinion, the federal airwaves carry too much news that doesn't have federal significance. On radio and television, there is "simply too much negative information, when in various regions of Russia there is much that is good," Mironov said. Mironov claimed that in the United States, strict limitations were placed on mass media outlets following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks there. However, if similar measures were adopted for the Russian media, then "a great deal of noise would be raised." JAC
...AS LEADING LIGHT IN COMMUNIST PARTY WANTS 'PATRIOTIC' TV CHANNEL
At a media forum in Moscow on 9 July, Communist Duma Deputy and co-Chairman of the National Patriotic Union of Russia Sergei Glazev called for left-patriotic forces to create their own television channel, at which journalists would be able to "work free from the pressure of oligarchic capital and bureaucratic commands," lenta.ru reported. He also expressed the hope that the "patriotic mood of entrepreneurs" will result in support for such a proposal. A number of analysts have predicted that Glazev will occupy one of the top three slots on the Communist Party's party list in the 7 December Duma elections. JAC
SOCIOLOGIST CONCLUDES GROUNDWORK FOR AUTHORITARIANISM ALREADY IN PLACE...
In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," No. 26, noted sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya said that "preparations for a transition to an authoritarian model have already been made." "And at the first signal, the mechanism will go into motion," she said. The capability of this mechanism to work is evident, according to Kryshtanovskaya, in the "vertical system of the federal districts." In these districts, there are the so-called public-reception offices and "organs that resemble legitimate agencies." Security councils have been created in each district, and regional law enforcement officials are now subordinated to district structures rather than to regional governors. Kryshtanovskaya also estimated that an active reserve of officials from the intelligence agencies make up around 13 percent of the federal government apparatus and are particularly concentrated in the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. JAC
...AS ANTI-OLIGARCH STRUGGLE NOT ABOUT CURRENT ELECTION CYCLE BUT THE NEXT
Asked to comment on the situation involving oil giant Yukos, Kryshtanovskaya argued that what is really going on is a struggle for power in 2007-08, since President Putin has declared that he will not seek a third term. Whoever "wants to have a chance in five years must immediately reserve a place so that they can now work on ensuring their success," she continued. "[Yukos head] Khodorkovskii has such ambitions, and the current elite understands this." She said that Khodorkovskii is "dangerous for the current elite, which automatically defends its own group interests." JAC
RUSSIA, GEORGIA DISCUSS ANTITERRORISM MEASURES
Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministry representatives met in Moscow on 8-9 July to discuss ways to prevent "subversive activities" by Chechen gunmen on the Russian-Georgian border, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Also on 9 July, General Makhmut Gareev, who is president of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, deplored the demonstration flight in Tbilisi earlier that day of a U.S. E-3 AWACS aircraft, ITAR-TASS reported. The general role of the AWACS aircraft is to carry out airborne surveillance, and command, control, and communications functions for both tactical and air-defense forces, according to the U.S. Air Force. Gareev described the flight of an AWACS aircraft close to the Russian border as "even more alarming" than earlier U.S. reconnaissance flights near the Georgian-Russian border. LF
COURT REFUSES BAIL REQUEST FOR SENIOR POLICE CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION
The Moscow Municipal Court on 9 July rejected a request for bail by the lawyers of the seven senior law enforcement officials who were arrested on charges of corruption on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June and 3 July 2003), Russian media reported. The court also denied a defense request that the case be turned over to a military court in view of the fact that all the defendants are servicemen. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gryzlov said that police in the Republic of Komi have arrested two more people in connection with the investigation into the 17 April slaying of Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003). That brings the total of those arrested in the case to six, including Mikhail Kodanev, the co-chairman of a Liberal Russia splinter group that supports self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, and his aide, Aleksandr Vinnik. Both of those men have already been indicted on charges of ordering Yushenkov's murder. VY
IS OPPOSITION TO MANAGED ELECTIONS BUILDING IN ST. PETERSBURG?
"Serious forces" including "representatives of the departing elite [of the administration of former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev]" and "political players at the federal level" are planning to oppose presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Valentina Matvienko in the 21 September gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg, "Moskovskie novosti," No. 26, reported. According to the weekly, several Moscow-based political consultants have arrived in St. Petersburg to prepare a campaign to encourage voters to vote "against all." An RFE/RL St. Petersburg correspondent reported on 8 July that several well-known representatives of the city's intelligentsia have signed an open letter protesting the Kremlin's purported attempt to make the city's gubernatorial election "alternative-less" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 4 July 2003). Among the signatories are composer Leonid Desyatnikov, film director Aleksandr Sokurov, and television journalist Sergei Sholokhov. JAC
PARTY OF POWER BACKS SVERDLOVSK LEADER FOR THIRD TERM
The Sverdlovsk Oblast election commission this week registered an initiative from the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party nominating incumbent Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel for the region's 7 September gubernatorial election, regions.ru reported on 9 July, citing Novyi region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2003). Although, the official campaign is not supposed to start until 7 August, it is already well under way. Andrei Vikharev, Federation Council representative for Kurgan Oblast, has not yet officially declared his candidacy, but posters advertising a charitable fund established in his name can be seen on all the major streets of Yekaterinburg. Vikharev, who recently resigned as deputy chairman of the Federation Council, is also reportedly planning to hold free concerts in the city. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 July, another candidate in the race, Yurii Kuznetsov, the head of the local Yabloko branch, is not running because he believes he has any chance of winning. He instead wants to get an early start on Yabloko's local campaign for the 7 December State Duma elections. JAC
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION TO APPEAL ELECTION OUTCOME AT EUROPEAN COURT
The opposition Artarutiun election bloc will appeal the official results of the 25 May parliamentary election in the European Court of Human Rights, Noyan Tapan reported, quoting Artak Zeynalian, a leading member of the Hanrapetutiun party, speaking to journalists in Yerevan on 9 July. On 7 July, the Armenian Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by Artarutiun to annul the results of the party-list vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). Artarutiun claimed that the official results were falsified to give the bloc only 14 percent of the party-list vote, whereas in fact it garnered over 50 percent of the party-list vote. LF
During the 8 July meeting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border between the two countries' defense ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003), the Azerbaijani side handed over to the Armenian contingent an Armenian who inadvertently crossed into Azerbaijani territory on 29 June, according to RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Mediamax on 9 July, as cited by Groong. LF
AMBASSADOR SAYS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FEELS FINE
There are no grounds for concern about the health of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Turkey Mamed Aliev (no relation to the president) told Interfax on 9 July. The ambassador said the president's departure on 8 July for Ankara to undergo unspecified medical tests was planned in advance, as he will have a "very busy schedule" in the run-up to the 15 October presidential election. The ambassador also said that during his stay in the Turkish capital, Heidar Aliev is likely to meet with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer and with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In Baku, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov similarly told journalists on 9 July that the president "feels fine" and that there are no problems with his health, zerkalo.az reported on 10 July. Aliev, who is 80, was hospitalized in Turkey in early May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 May 2003). LF
THREE MORE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES REGISTERED IN AZERBAIJAN...
Meeting on 9 July, the Central Election Commission (CEC) formally registered three more presidential candidates, raising the total number to 15, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 9 and 10 July respectively. The three are Abutalyb Samedov, chairman of the pro-government Alliance in the Name of Azerbaijan; Elshad Musaev, who was nominated by the Great Azerbaijan group of voters; and Hafiz Hadjiev, head of the Modern Musavat party. Musaev's application was initially rejected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). The CEC rejected the application of self-nominated Hadji Abdul on the grounds that the documentation he submitted in support of his candidacy contained errors. The CEC also accepted three other presidential nominations -- from architecture professor Kamran Rustamov; Vahdat Party leader Tahir Kerimli; and Musa Tukanov, who was nominated by a group of voters as his United Communist Party has not yet been formally registered by the Justice Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). LF
...AS OPPOSITION ACCUSES ELECTION BODY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS
Vidadi Makhmudov, a member of the opposition Musavat party and one of the five opposition representatives on the 15-member CEC, protested on 9 July that the registration of Hafiz Hadjiev as a presidential candidate is a blatant example of double standards, zerkalo.az reported on 10 July. Makhmudov pointed out that Hadjiev was registered despite having two criminal convictions, whereas independent candidate Zakir Tagiev was denied registration on the grounds that he was once convicted of petty hooliganism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION
Eduard Shevardnadze met in Tbilisi on 9 July with the so-called Ago Group of Council of Europe experts to discuss the upcoming parliamentary election, the ongoing reform of the police, and efforts to combat corruption and crime, Caucasus Press reported. The experts expressed concern that Georgia has not yet passed legislation on the Prosecutor General's Office or a new Criminal Procedure Code, or submitted to the relevant Council of Europe commission a report detailing anticorruption measures. Ambassador Pietro Ercole Ago, after whom the group is named, said the Council of Europe will send observers to monitor the 2 November parliamentary election. LF
TURKISH BUSINESSMAN ABDUCTED IN WESTERN GEORGIA
Turkish businessman Iren Neki Digi was abducted in broad daylight in the center of the west Georgian town of Zugdidi during the afternoon of 9 July, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Digi was forced into a BMW, which drove off toward the border with Abkhazia. He arrived in Georgia two months ago and had opened a sawmill. LF
PROMINENT GEORGIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDERER SENTENCED
A Tbilisi District Court handed down a 13-year prison sentence -- as demanded by the prosecution -- to Grigol Khurtsilava, who has confessed to killing prominent journalist Giorgi Sanaya two years ago, Georgian media reported on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001). Khurtsilava said he shot Sanaya after the latter made sexual advances toward him. Sanaya's widow, Khatuna Chkheidze, dismissed Khurtsilava's trial as "a farce," and claimed that her husband was murdered by an unknown person because of his investigative journalism. LF
OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS SOUTH OSSETIA
Jan Kubis met in Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, on 9 July with President Eduard Kokoyty and Emergency Situations Minister Boris Chochiev, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Kokoyty said he fears Tbilisi is planning to deploy the crack forces trained by the United States within the parameters of the Train and Equip program against his breakaway republic. He also accused Georgia of failing to allocate $800,000 it has pledged for the restoration of South Ossetia's economy. Meeting with Kubis in Tbilisi two days earlier, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze argued that the format for talks on resolving the conflict with South Ossetia should be simplified, but did not specify how, Caucasus Press reported. At present, Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and the Republic of North Ossetia -- which is a subject of the Russian Federation -- are participating in the conflict-resolution process. LF
OSCE CHAIRMAN ASKS KYRGYZ PRESIDENT TO EXTEND DEATH-PENALTY MORATORIUM
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman-in-Office and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told journalists in Bishkek on 9 July that during his talk with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, he asked the Kyrgyz leader to extend an existing moratorium on use of the death penalty, Interfax, RIA-Novosti, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, and other media reported. Scheffer also called on Kyrgyzstan to sign the Additional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture. On the controversial issue of the 3.6 million-euro ($4.09 million) OSCE program to train and equip Kyrgyz law enforcement officers, Scheffer said that Akaev promised that nongovernmental organizations will be allowed to observe the implementation of the program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003). A group of NGO representatives opposed to the program demonstrated in front of the OSCE Center in Bishkek. Asked to assess the political situation in Kyrgyzstan, Scheffer said that the country has made some progress in democratization, but it needs to ensure the rule of law and to protect human rights, as well as to ensure freedom of the media. BB
KYRGYZ DEFENSE MINISTER ASKS THAT BASES OF ANTITERRORISM COALITION AND RUSSIA NOT BE SEEN AS RIVALS
Colonel General Esen Topoev told a news conference in Bishkek on 9 July that the public should not think that the air base of the U.S.-led international antiterrorism coalition at Manas Airport and the Russian air base being set up near Kant are adversaries, ITAR-TASS reported. Topoev said that the two installations have different functions. The Manas base exclusively supports coalition operations in Afghanistan, while the Kant air base is intended to protect the security of the Central Asian signatories to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, by serving as the base of the air component of the CIS rapid-reaction force. The minister added that Manas is used by international forces and is not a U.S. or NATO base. He said the two bases are an example of cooperation, rather than rivalry. Russian observers are speculating that NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson's 9-10 July visit to Kyrgyzstan is a prelude to a NATO takeover from the United States of the leadership role at Manas. BB
UN INDEX OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT SHOWS DECLINES IN THREE CENTRAL ASIAN STATES
The UN Development Program's Index of Human Development for 2003 shows declines for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, akipress.org reported on 9 July. The declines have been attributed to lower life expectancy, lower literacy rates, reduced incomes, and poorer education. Indicators from some of the post-Soviet states -- in addition to the three Central Asian states, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine showed declines -- put them at the same level as many underdeveloped countries. Akipress.org noted that the index ranked Turkmenistan 82nd among the 175 countries assessed, while Kyrgyzstan ranked 102nd and Tajikistan ranked 113th. BB
RUSSIAN-TURKMEN TALKS IN ASHGABAT END...
The Russian-Turkmen intergovernmental commission set up to resolve problems resulting from the revocation of dual citizenship ended two days of negotiations on 9 July, with both sides giving upbeat assessments of the progress made, RIA-Novosti, ITAR-TASS, and other Russian media reported. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Fedotov, who headed the Russian delegation, told journalists that the Turkmen side has officially promised that the rights of Russian citizens living in Turkmenistan and holding dual citizenship will not be infringed, which he said was the main Russian objective in the talks. The previous day, Interfax quoted Fedotov as saying the negotiations were "difficult." Fedotov said on 9 July that the results of the commission session should fully satisfy the interests of Russian citizens. The two sides reportedly signed a protocol declaring that the 10 April agreement between Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin on revoking dual citizenship will be implemented in accordance with the laws of both countries after it is ratified. Another member of the Russian delegation, State Duma Foreign Relations Committee Deputy Chairman Sergei Apatenko, told journalists that the Russian delegation saw nothing that would confirm media stories of Russian citizens being driven from their homes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 30 June 2003). Apatenko noted, however, that the delegation is concerned about the unavailability of publications from Russia, the lack of education in Russian, and the poor job prospects for Russian speakers. According to turkmenistan.ru on 9 July, Niyazov joined the negotiations several times by telephone. BB
...AS TURKMEN PRESIDENT INVITES RUSSIANS TO OBSERVE SITUATION OF RUSSIAN CITIZENS IN TURKMENISTAN
President Niyazov invited a delegation of government officials, parliamentarians, and media representatives to visit Turkmenistan in the next two months and see for themselves whether the rights of Russian citizens are being protected, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 July, quoting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Fedotov. Fedotov reportedly complained of a lack of facts about the situation of the Russians in Turkmenistan, rejecting as "rumors" the necessarily anecdotal evidence that their rights are being violated by Turkmen authorities. He said that such rumors should not interfere with the work of government agencies or sow distrust. Russian Duma Deputy Apatenko also complained about the lack of information and said that citizens of both Turkmenistan and Russia should get information from reliable sources, not foreign ones. BB
WORLD BANK PUBLISHES ANALYSIS OF UZBEK LIVING STANDARDS
The World Bank office in Tashkent has published the first analysis of living standards in Uzbekistan, Deutsche Welle reported on 9 July. The study found that more than one-quarter of the population is poor, with one-third of those are living in extreme poverty. A sharp decline in foreign investment was reported to be a major factor contributing to increased poverty. According to the World Bank experts, Uzbekistan now has one of the lowest rates of foreign investment in the CIS. The government is relying on small business to boost the economy, but reportedly 66 percent of small enterprises have been compelled to pay bribes. The World Bank study also found that one of the main problems of the Uzbek population is health care because of reductions in government spending. BB
MUSLIM WOMEN PROTEST AT UZBEK SUPREME COURT
Some 60 Muslim women who said they are mothers and wives of men imprisoned for their religious beliefs staged a protest in front of the Uzbek Supreme Court building on 9 July, centrasia.ru reported, quoting the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan. The women were quickly surrounded by police, but after Initiative Group members intervened, 18 of the protesters were allowed to enter the building and to hand over a written appeal for the release their imprisoned relatives and put a stop to the harassment and torture of Muslims. At the same time, 15 human rights activists were reported to be picketing the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office demanding an end to human rights violations. BB
OSCE ASSEMBLY URGES SWEEPING REFORMS IN BELARUS
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on 9 July calling on Belarus to reform its electoral code and enable free, fair, and transparent elections, Belapan reported. The resolution condemned the persecution of civil-society groups, independent media and journalists, as well as attempts to repress, discriminate, or press politically motivated charges against members of the Respublika caucus and other lawmakers. The resolution urged the Belarusian government to investigate politically motivated slayings and disappearances, end restrictions on trade unions, appoint an ombudsman, draft new media legislation, and ensure equal and fair treatment of all political parties and their free access to the state-run media. AM
BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CLOSE IREX OFFICES
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has notified the Minsk office of the Washington-based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) of its decision to deny IREX an extension on its accreditation, which expires on 7 August, Belapan reported on 9 July. The news agency was quoting an 8 July statement issued by IREX. Officials have cited irregularities discovered by the State Control Committee during its inspection of the office's activities. Belarusian cabinet ministers also struck IREX off their list of government-approved U.S. assistance programs, the ministry said. The government removed IREX from the list without explanation, according to IREX representatives. The State Control Committee's findings are "wrong in their facts and wrong as a matter of law," the IREX statement charged. IREX said the ministry's decision was politically motivated and added that it should be regarded as a continuation of the government's policy of restricting access to independent and unbiased information in Belarus. IREX is a nonprofit group "specializing in higher education, independent media, Internet development, and civil-society programs" in the United States and abroad, according to its website (http://www.irex.org). AM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BOOSTS FARM SUPPORTS IN 2003 BUDGET
The Verkhovna Rada amended the 2003 budget on 9 July, providing for an additional allocation of 760 million hryvnyas ($142 million) to buy grain from Ukrainian producers and compensate Ukrainian farmers for losses in this year's crops, Interfax reported. The parliament authorized the government to raise duties on sugar imports and borrow $112.5 million to cover outlays connected with the budget changes. AM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS NOT TO PROLONG TERM...
President Leonid Kuchma declared on 10 July that he is not going to extend his term in office "under any circumstances," Interfax reported. "My ultimate task is [to make the next presidential elections] transparent and in line with the constitution," he said. Kuchma called on lawmakers "to stop speculation" about his alleged intention to prolong his tenure. He called the recent parliamentary standoff over the constitutional-reform bill he proposed "cynical" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). AM
...AND SEEKS TO ALLAY FEARS OVER GRAIN SHORTAGE
President Kuchma on 9 July said there are no grounds for "panic" in connection with the recent price hikes for grain products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003), Interfax reported. "We have enough grain for four months in the state reserves," Kuchma said. He ascribed the current problems on the food market to "mismanagement by officials." AM
LITHUANIA TO ISSUE KALININGRAD TRANSIT DOCUMENTS FOR AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL
The Lithuanian Consulate in Kaliningrad will begin issuing travel documents for Russian citizens traveling between Kaliningrad Oblast and mainland Russia via Lithuania by automobile or other private vehicles, ELTA reported on 9 July. While similar documents for train travel are free of charge, auto travelers will pay 5 euros ($5.70) for multi-entry travel documents that will be valid for three years. Auto travelers must complete their trip across Lithuania within 24 hours. After visiting the Lithuania-Belarus border region, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov told BNS on 9 July that the rights of Russian nationals transiting Lithuania are not being violated. He acknowledged that Russian citizens who were unaware of the new transit regulations that were implemented on 1 July encountered some problems, but said that the system is working well now. SG
ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER SIGNS COOPERATION MEMORANDUM WITH BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS
Juhan Parts signed a cooperation memorandum in Tallinn on 9 July with Estonia's two largest business organizations, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Estonian Employers Central Association, LETA reported. The memorandum calls for cooperation in developing Estonia's business environment, in promoting vocational training, in boosting Estonia's export capabilities, and in preparing bills regulating enterprises. Parts said the memorandum places obligations on both the government and the business organizations, and that their representatives will be meeting at least once every three months to exchange information to ensure the cooperation is successful. SG
MOSCOW DELEGATION CALLS FOR MORE TALKS ON LATVIA'S EDUCATION REFORM
A delegation from the Moscow city government, headed by the head of its International Relations Department Georgii Muradov, completed a two-day visit to Riga on 9 July with a press conference at the Russian Embassy, LETA reported. Muradov said his trip included discussions with Education Ministry officials about Latvia's plans to make Latvian the main language of instruction in all schools by September 2004. He expressed his opinion that there is already enough Latvian-language instruction in Russian schools in Latvia and he called for further talks so a mutually satisfactory solution can be found. Muradov also met with Riga Deputy Mayor Sergei Dolgopolov and the heads of the three leftist parties that comprised For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February and 7 June 2003). He also visited the construction site of the future Moscow Culture and Business Center in Riga and distributed benefits to World War II veterans and several student scholarships on behalf of Moscow's mayor. SG
'RYWINGATE' COMMISSION SEEKING TO QUESTION POLISH PROSECUTORS
The parliamentary commission probing what has been dubbed the "Rywingate" scandal (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 18 February 2003) wants to question prosecutors involved in the alleged bribery case, Polish Radio reported on 9 July. The commission presidium approved the proposal, the report added. Deputies Jan Rokita and Zbigniew Ziobro put forward the proposal following a 9 July report in the "Zycie Warszawy" daily suggesting that film producer Lew Rywin did not act alone. The daily, quoting prosecutor Wanda Marciniak, reported that there is pressure at the Justice Ministry to conclude the investigation as soon as possible. "If it is true that [Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Grzegorz] Kurczuk dealt with Lew Rywin's case, this raises questions about the veracity of his statements before the investigative commission," Ziobro said. Kurczuk declared that he has not intervened in the probe. AM
CZECH CABINET RULES OUT NEW FIGHTER JETS -- FOR NOW
Government ministers on 9 July accepted a recommendation from Defense Minister Miroslav Kostelka against the early purchase of new supersonic fighter jets, opting instead to explore the leasing of used aircraft, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 10 July. The decision caps two years of intense political debate over replacement of the Czech Republic's aging fleet of Russian MiGs, including an abandoned tender that had awarded the deal to a BAE Systems/Saab consortium. The Czech government is exploring leasing options with its counterparts in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, France, and Canada, according to CTK. Kostelka called leasing a "compromise" to buy time before a tender for roughly 24 new aircraft sometime after 2008, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes." "We would announce a public tender before that time," Kostelka said. AH
SENIOR CZECH LEADERS DISCUSS 'HISTORICAL WRONGS'...
The leaders of the Czech government and both houses of parliament met on 9 July with President Vaclav Klaus to discuss ways to maintain what Klaus described as the "hard-won political consensus over an approach to resolving certain historical wrongs," "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported the next day. Participants included Klaus, Premier Vladimir Spidla, Chamber of Deputies speaker Lubomir Zaoralek, and Senate President Petr Pithart. The discussions come amid lingering tension over the expulsion and expropriation of ethnic Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians from postwar Czechoslovakia and the accompanying Benes Decrees, heightened by the recent court victories of Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky, who sought the return of property confiscated by the Czechoslovak state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 7 July 2003). Czech politicians fear those and other looming decisions threaten to "break" the Benes Decrees and set loose a flurry of restitution claims. AH
...AND SEEK TO PROTECT FOREIGN RELATIONS
Klaus said the 9 July talks did not address specific bilateral relations or individual cases, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes." "We truly dealt with the general question of the consensus that arose at the start of the 1990s with respect to our history," he said. Klaus stressed that the meeting was not an attempt "to form political pressure on the courts or to prepare any legislative changes." Parliamentary speaker Zaoralek said the meeting was aimed at "the creation of a unified path to resolving the whole issue," "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. "Just so that each political force does not proceed independently and no separate proposals arise that could damage the Czech Republic abroad," Zaoralek added. AH
CZECH AUTHORITIES SAY EXTREMISM ON THE WANE
The Czech Interior Ministry claims in its annual report approved by the government on 9 July that extremism is declining despite a slight rise in the number of extremist crimes last year, CTK reported. Authorities registered 470 crimes stemming from extremism in 2002, 21 more than in the previous year. Still, the report concludes that extremism is receding for the first time since the end of the 1990s, the news agency said. The Interior Ministry credits concerted police efforts to combat fringe right-wing groups such as neo-Nazis, along with careful monitoring and infiltration by law-enforcement authorities and the secret services of groups on the extreme right and left, in curtailing extremist activities. The study notes that extremist ideologies and paraphernalia continue to spread virtually unchecked on the Internet, CTK reported. The government's human rights commissioner, Jan Jarab, recently noted that Czech police frequently fail to attribute crimes to racism or other forms of extremism, even when warranted. AH
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP DECRIES CZECH ENERGY PROPOSALS
Representatives of Friends of the Earth said on 9 July that the group strongly disagrees with the proposed energy strategy unveiled the previous day by the Industry and Trade Ministry, CTK reported. The environmental group says the proposal relegates the effort to reduce so-called greenhouse-gas emissions to the lowest priority and assumes villages will be leveled to make way for coal-mining projects. The plan also assumes the construction of three new atomic reactors to meet energy needs, CTK reported. "The new version of the energy policy is even worse than the previous one. It proposes that the Czech Republic remain a European record-holder in pollution, renew the razing of villages because of coal mining, and build new atomic reactors," said the Friends of the Earth's Vojtech Kotecky. Industry and Trade Minister Milan Urban reportedly is seeking to reevaluate a 1991 governmental pledge not to destroy further villages to pursue coal deposits, the group said. "The [proposed] policy wants to 'reevaluate' this possibility, but it counts the coal under municipalities into its calculations for consumption." AH
CZECH KFOR TROOPS CONVICTED OF VANDALISM
A court in the Czech city of Chrudim fined two paratroopers 5,000 crowns ($180) each on 9 July for acts of vandalism while they were on leave from duty in the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosova, CTK reported. The two sparked an incident at a restaurant in Thessaloniki while under the influence of alcohol, CTK reported, and subsequently were taken into Greek police custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003). AH
SLOVAK, ITALIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS MILITARY REFORMS
Visiting Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino and his Slovak counterpart Ivan Simko agreed on 9 July that their countries' respective military reforms are confronting similar problems, CTK reported. "As far as the reforms' content is concerned, they are very similar to each other. Both in Slovakia and in Italy, the ongoing reforms are aimed at increasing the efficiency, professionalism, and specialization of our armed forces, and thus also at their ability to face world threats," Simko said at the meeting in Bratislava. Martino said Slovakia could play a significant role in the EU and NATO. He pointed to the role of peacekeeping forces as a priority task for armies. Asked whether he and Simko discussed Slovakia's possible purchase of Eurofighters to replace its fleet of aging Russian-made MiG-29s, Martino said he did not come to promote the aircraft. Italy is part of the European consortium that produces the Eurofighter. Simko said the possible jet purchase was not addressed at the meeting. DW
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES DROUGHT AID
Premier Peter Medgyessy announced on 9 July that the Hungarian government has earmarked 60 billion forints ($260 million) in relief for drought-stricken farmers, Hungarian Television reported. Fifty billion forints will be available through medium-term, low-interest loans for farmers whose crops suffered at least 20 percent damage. Farmers who can demonstrate that they lost more than 30 percent of their harvest may receive the remaining 10 billion forints in direct aid. Agriculture Minister Imre Nemeth added that those who qualify for direct aid may also apply for subsidized loans. Medgyessy and Nemeth visited several farms near Budapest earlier the same day. Several farmers' associations said the aid is welcome but does not fully solve farmers' problems stemming from the drought, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. ZsM
FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN K&H EQUITIES EMBEZZLEMENT CASE
The opposition FIDESZ party's parliamentary caucus deputy chairman, Antal Rogan, said on 9 July that the Interior Ministry cannot objectively investigate either the Pannonplast or the K&H Equities cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 30 June 2003), "Nepszabadsag" reported. Rogan said Interior Minister Monika Lamperth's husband, lawyer Andras Jegesy, had contractual relations to K&H Equities, which is currently at the heart of a case of suspected embezzlement. Government spokesman Zoltan Gal denied Jegesy has ties to K&H Equities. In related news, Attila Kulcsar, chief investment consultant at K&H Equities, who has been charged with embezzling client funds, previously assumed sole responsibility for the scandal but has now retracted that declaration and accused senior executives at parent company K&H Bank. Bank officials denied involvement in any wrongdoing. ZsM
FRANCE DENIES DEAL OVER BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL
Former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic said at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague on 9 July that French President Jacques Chirac in 1995 offered immunity from extradition to the tribunal for Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic in return for the freeing of an unspecified number of French pilots captured by Serbian forces in Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lilic added that he and Milosevic called Mladic a "cretin" in their talks with General Momcilo Perisic in 1995 about the Bosnian Serb commander. In Paris, Chirac's office said in a statement later on 9 July that the French pilots were freed in Bosnia during the conflict without any deal between Paris and the Serbs. PM
PROCESSION HONORS BOSNIAN MUSLIM MASSACRE VICTIMS
In Sarajevo on 9 July, several thousand people accompanied a procession of cars carrying the remains of about 200 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian forces killed up to 8,000, mainly Muslim, males, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The remains will be buried at the new memorial site in Potocari near Srebrenica on 11 July. Among those taking part in the procession were Sulejman Tihic and Dragan Covic, who are the Muslim and Croatian members of the Bosnian Presidency, respectively. Their Serbian colleague, Borislav Paravac, did not take part. PM
EU REBUFFS SERBIAN CRITICISM OF KOSOVAR-ALBANIAN PACT
A spokeswoman for EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana told the Serbian private Beta news agency in Brussels on 9 July that the recent UN-sponsored trade pact between Kosova and Albania is purely technical in nature and without political significance. Belgrade charged that the pact violates international agreements on Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S MEDIA SET UP NEW ORGANIZATION
Some 40 print and electronic-media organizations, including most of the major Serbian ones, founded the Alliance of Publishing Houses and Electronic Media of Serbia and Montenegro in Belgrade on 8 July to protect and expand the freedom of the press and the right of journalists to carry out their work without political interference, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The alliance called on all other media organizations in Serbia and Montenegro to join it. PM
BIG DELEGATION FROM SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO IN SLOVENIA
Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic and a delegation of 200 businessmen arrived in Ljubljana on 9 July for two days of meetings with Slovenian political and business leaders, dpa reported. Both sides described bilateral relations as excellent, adding that Slovenia will help Serbia and Montenegro in "moving closer" to the EU. PM
MONTENEGRIN LEADER SAYS NO DECISION REACHED ON AGREEMENT WITH U.S.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 8 July that the government has not reached a decision on whether to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). He added that the government will seek to coordinate its decision with Serbian authorities. Djukanovic denied recent media reports linking him to cigarette smuggling, saying the charges are part of a politically motivated smear campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 July 2003). PM
FIVE KILLED IN MACEDONIAN SHOOTOUT
Five people died and several others were injured in a gang-style shootout in the Macedonian capital Skopje on 9 July when masked men opened fire and tossed a hand grenade at a teahouse, Macedonian media reported. Among the victims was Ridvan Neziri, a former commander of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK). An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the incident was criminal in nature. Representatives of the major political parties condemned the incident as "urban terrorism." UB
ROMANIAN PSD'S NATIONAL COUNCIL SETS NEW OBJECTIVES
The ruling Social Democratic Party's (PSD) National Council meeting in Bucharest on 9 July set new objectives for the party in the run-up to next year's local and parliamentary elections, Romanian media reported. In a two-hour speech, PSD Chairman and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase presented the party's program, called "The New Political Offensive," that sets out three major objectives: solving social problems, completing the country's negotiations for EU accession, and preparing for next year's elections. Nastase also announced a set of social-protection measures that some analysts believe are intended to ensure the party's success in the elections. The council named former Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon as PSD General Secretary Cosmin Gusa's replacement. Gusa recently resigned from the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). The meeting also named six new deputy chairmen and eight new executive secretaries, and expanded the number of members of the Executive Bureau and the National Council. ZsM
ROMANIAN PREMIER BLAMES PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS FOR EU-ACCESSION DELAY
Speaking at the PSD's National Council meeting on 9 July, Prime Minister Nastase blamed current opposition parties for Romania's failure to be among the 10 countries invited in April to join the EU. He attributed the situation to previous governments' "lack of interest and [lack of] professionalism." Nastase also rejected criticism of the ruling party's work that comes from opposition parties whose governments created "political chaos" when they held power from 1997-2000. National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan rejected the accusations, saying the PSD is to be blamed. He argued that Romania was a latecomer to negotiations with the EU as a result of the 1993-96 PSD government's inaction. He noted that the EU in 1999 invited Romania -- together with Slovakia, Lithuania, and Latvia, which have received EU invitations -- to begin negotiations because of the reforms initiated by the rightist coalition governments after 1997. Stolojan argued that all Romania had to do to ensure its EU future was keep pace with those countries' reforms, but that it failed to do so. ZsM
ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY PRESENTS EDUCATION-REFORM PROGRAM
Andrei Marga, chairman of the National Liberal Party's (PNL) Education Commission, presented at a 9 July press conference an education-reform program aimed at restarting education reform, Mediafax reported. Marga, a former education minister, accused the ruling PSD of having adopted measures that "destroyed" education-reform. The program aims at "correcting the mistakes" and continuing the reforms begun under Marga's leadership, which offered schools and universities greater autonomy. ZsM
DEMOCRATIC PARTY SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH ROMANIAN COMPANY OWNERS
The Democratic Party and the National Union of Romanian Company Owners (UNPR) on 9 July signed a cooperation agreement for next year's elections, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. Both parties promised to work in order to remove "barriers" to business development. UNPR Chairman Marian Petre Milut said the agreement is "the first proper protocol" signed between a company-owners organization and a political party, as it defines principles rather than functions and advantages. Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu said he hopes the cooperation will be long-term. The UNPR offered logistics and financial support for Democratic Party candidates. ZsM
PRIME MINISTER DISAGREES WITH MOLDOVA'S HUMAN-DEVELOPMENT RANKING
Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev on 9 July said he does not agree with the low human-development ranking Moldova received in the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) annual Human Development Report, in which Moldova received the lowest ranking among all European countries, the BBC reported. He admitted, however, that following the Soviet Union's disintegration living conditions in Moldova severely worsened, primarily as a result of the country's subsequent dependency on Russia. Moldova was ranked 108th out of the 175 countries listed in the report's Human Development Index. UNDP Deputy Director Jean Fabre told RFE/RL on 9 July that several countries, including Moldova, require international support to recover. ZsM
ROW OVER BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR CONTINUES
The opposition Socialist Party (BSP) on 9 July walked out on talks with the governing coalition over the election of a new National Bank governor, Bulgarian media reported. The conservative opposition party United Democratic Forces (ODS) left the talks last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 9, and 11 June 2003). The BSP is protesting plans by the Finance Ministry to invest large amounts of the country's fiscal reserve in commercial banks, arguing that the part of the reserve set aside for foreign-debt regulation should not be used for this purpose. Two weeks ago, the Finance Ministry in a separate issue admitted it invested some $108 million without informing parliament and the International Monetary Fund. UB
BULGARIAN GOVERNING PARTY'S PARLIAMENTARY GROUP LEADER PLEDGES TO ADJUST AGENDA
Stanimir Ilchev, the newly elected leader of the governing National Movement Simeon's II (NDSV) parliamentary group, said on 9 July that he plans to revamp the party's agenda by concentrating on social issues, bnn reported. He said the changes will be "reflected primarily through a rearrangement of the legislative program so that laws that are in maximum harmony with public expectations have a chance of being discussed," Ilchev said. Ilchev, who is a journalist by education, also pledged to improve the party's relations with the media by appointing a new spokesman for party's parliamentary group. UB
POLITICAL FOOTBALL IN RUSSIA
It started out as one of those lightweight, double-hook stories that revolve around an intriguing combination, as in "heavy-metal group Iron Maiden completes $30 million bond issue" (which actually happened in 1999). The headlines on 2 July matched "Russian oligarch" and "English football club" as oil tycoon, metals magnate, and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich paid $233 million of his give-or-take-$5 billion fortune to purchase London's Chelsea soccer club ($130 million for the club's debts and the rest for the team itself, RFE/RL reported on 3 July).
The press had a field day. British newspapers tried to figure out whether "rich," "Russian," and "reclusive" boded ill or well for what is most important, which is to say Chelsea's chances at a national championship. Russian newspapers tried to figure out whether the pleasing prospect of Russian ownership of a big-name European soccer club outweighed the somehow unpatriotic act of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in another country.
More importantly, the news gave everyone a chance to tut-tut over the sorry state of the game itself. A 3 July op-ed by William Langley in the "Sunday Telegraph" dismally averred, "Football parodies everything that is gross, ugly, and inadequate about modern Britain." "Football is rotten to the core," Langley thundered, blaming the "spivs and shysters who control English football." Pity the poor Abramovich, who "says he is buying Chelsea for the fun of it, in which case he has got a big shock coming."
In Moscow the same day, the editors of "Izvestiya" one-upped Langley as they explained why Abramovich scorned Russian teams in favor of Chelsea: "Because football in Russia remains a criminal, or semi-criminal, business. And it doesn't bring investors money; it takes it away." In Russia, the editors wrote, "You can spend millions on good players and coaches, build stadiums and training camps, and then have it all destroyed by two whistles from a referee who was bought or bullied." Abramovich wisely chose to become a club owner "in a country where being a 'football oligarch' is an honor, not a crime. Where people who invest their money and energy into football are respected members of society, not camouflaged or made-over gangsters."
But the lighthearted banter came to a clattering halt on 7 July in St. Petersburg, when Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin lashed out at Abramovich and his new toy. Speaking at a seminar for the Audit Chamber's regional subdivisions, Stepashin announced that Abramovich's oil company, Sibneft, stiffed the taxman to the tune of 10 billion rubles ($330 million) in 2001, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. "That's where the extra money for Chelsea came from," Stepashin fumed, calling the purchase a "politically demonstrative challenge to the entire country." Lest anyone miss the message, Stepashin summed up, "The money from oil companies should go not to buy football teams, but to drill new wells and to develop the Russian economy."
Stepashin's remarks raised eyebrows less for their content than their context. Recent days have seen a spate of official and semi-official anti-oligarchic statements and actions.
First, in June, a group of political scientists from the Moscow-based Center for National Strategy issued a report full of dark mutterings about a "creeping oligarchic coup." "Ekspert," No. 25 reported that "everyone is saying that the report was ordered up by the 'Petersburg' faction of the presidential administration."
Second, Platon Lebedev, a top shareholder in oil major Yukos and a long-time business associate of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, was arrested last week on charges stemming from a 1994 privatization deal. The case is one of at least five that involve Yukos, adding up to what many see as the groundwork for a possible anti-Khodorkovskii campaign.
Third, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev announced on 7 July that the FSB should oversee issues of industrial privatization, especially where defense facilities are involved, Interfax reported. Patrushev added significantly, "We are concerned about a number of deals."
Finally, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev treated journalists in Rotterdam on 8 July to a tirade on oligarchs and ill-gotten gains, ABN reported. "I think the prosecutor and the Audit Chamber should examine the phenomenon of where dollar-denominated billionaires came from in Russia over the last eight-nine years," Seleznev said. "In nine out of 10 cases, these billions appeared because Russian law was broken."
Threat, innuendo, bluster, and even a whiff of prison gruel have always been a part of the Kremlin's standard repertoire for communicating with its citizens, even the richest among them. And with elections looming on the horizon -- to the State Duma on 7 December and to the presidency in March 2004 -- an anti-oligarch salvo comes as a well-timed warning shot aimed at those who might consider making mischief in the upcoming electoral reshuffle.
Will the potential mischief-makers agree to lie low? Will they decide to fire back with a salvo of their own? The longest, hottest days of summer are still ahead of us.
AFGHAN MINISTER CONFIRMS PAKISTANI INCURSION
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, quoting a report by a senior government delegation sent to investigate reports that Pakistani militias have entered Afghan territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003), said on 9 July that Pakistani "militias" moved 200 meters across the Pakistani-Afghan border near Lalpur in Nangarhar Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. Jalali also mentioned Goshta as another area where Pakistani militias entered Afghan territory in the past week. He said the Afghan Transitional Administration is awaiting a report from a second delegation sent to the area before it makes its position "clear and firm." Jalali confirmed reports that two Afghans were injured in the area of Yaqubi in Mohmand tribal regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). However, he added that the situation along the border with Pakistan is not bad enough to declare a state of emergency. The village of Lalpur is situated about 8 kilometers from the Pakistan border and about 60 kilometers southeast of Jalalabad. Goshta is situated 30 kilometers from the Pakistani border and 30 kilometers east of Jalalabad. It is unclear from the reports whether the Pakistani militias actually entered these villages or were operating in their vicinity. AT
ANTI-PAKISTAN MARCHES CONTINUE AFTER ATTACK ON EMBASSY...
A day after violent demonstrators on 8 July ransacked the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 July 2003), Afghan police blocked streets near the embassy and turned away protestors who again managed to get close to the compound, AP reported. The demonstrators reportedly said Pakistan is infringing on Afghanistan's sovereignty. Afghan authorities claimed the mob that attacked the embassy was composed primarily of students from a nursing school and that the director of the school has been arrested. Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan Rostam Shah Mohmand said the fact that only one person has been arrested thus far is "totally unacceptable," AP reported. AT
...AS ANOTHER MARCH IS REPORTED IN LAGHMAN PROVINCE
About 300 people staged a rally in Mehtarlam, capital of Laghman Province, on 9 July, chanting anti-Pakistan slogans and demanding that Pakistani militias stop intruding on Afghan territory, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Sayyed Malang, head of a tribal council in the area, said that "we condemn Pakistan's incursions" and that the protesters gathered to "express our anger." The 9 July demonstration was the first in Laghman since a rally was held there on 24 March to protest the war in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2003). AT
AFGHAN TRIBES ISSUE STATEMENT SUPPORTING KARZAI'S STANCE ON PAKISTAN
Representatives of the Mandozai, Gorbaz, and Mangal tribes living in southeastern parts of Afghanistan issued a statement on 9 July supporting statements Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai made in his speech at the inauguration of the International Press Center in Kabul on 6 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003) and expressing support for Karzai's strong stance on the issue of Afghan sovereignty, Radio Afghanistan reported. In his speech, Karzai condemned Pakistani militias' incursions inside Afghan territory (for an analysis of Karzai's speech, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 July 2003). AT
NORTHERN AFGHAN WARLORD REJECTS FEDERALISM, EMPHASIZES ROLE OF ISLAM IN FUTURE CONSTITUTION
General Ata Mohammad, commander of Army Corps No. 7, said at an 8 July meeting at Mazar-e Sharif's Balkh University to discuss the draft of the future Afghan constitution that his side "wants a united Afghanistan" and for the time being "rejects having a federal government" in the country, Balkh TV reported. Ata Mohammad, who is the strongman of Jamiat-e Islami party in northern Afghanistan, said that the issue of establishing a federal system could be brought up in a decade or so, when the country will have established a powerful central government and national army. He said now is not the time because the central government's control has not been established throughout the country and "optimum peace is not secured." Ata Mohammad emphasized that his side will only accept a democracy that is set up "according to rules of Islam, not against Islam." Afghanistan should not "mimic or copy some meaningless or nonsensical actions of some foreign countries," he said. "Our country is an Islamic country and only Islam can run the government in this country." Ata Mohammad's main rival, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, special adviser on security and military affairs to Chairman Karzai, favors a federal system for the country, which would presumably allow him to retain control his northern fiefdom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January, 10 and 24 April 2003). AT
CLASHES ERUPT IN TEHRAN
Clashes erupted in Tehran in the early hours of 10 July, according to Western news agencies, but the extent of the clashes is unclear. "The Wall Street Journal" reported that "thousands of protesters clashed with police and Islamic vigilantes near Tehran University." "The Washington Post" described "leaderless, expectant crowds" outside Tehran University that were facing "riot police, plainclothes security officers on motorbikes, and helicopters circling overhead," and it said police broke up clashes between hard-line vigilantes and bystanders and dispersed other groups with tear gas. In other parts of the city, members of the Basij militia established checkpoints and searched automobiles. The "Financial Times" reported that "hundreds of people" clashed with about 2,000 riot police and vigilantes, with witnesses saying that " police beat and arrested dozens of youths." There were reports that demonstrators threw unspecified explosive devices and stones at police. People also chanted anti-regime slogans and criticized President Mohammad Khatami, and honked their car horns. Reuters on 9 July cited an anonymous witness who described sporadic street battles between vigilantes, police, and "pro-democracy youths." The witness claimed the police fought the vigilantes to prevent them from fighting the youths. BS
OPPOSITION MEDIA REPORTS MAJOR CLASHES ACROSS COUNTRY
Channel 1 TV from Los Angeles took calls from Tehran that described clashes between the public and the Basij at Inqilab Square and at Tehran University, during which concussion grenades, fire hoses, and tear gas were used. Callers from other parts of Tehran claimed that some demonstrators and Basijis were killed. A rather enthusiastic caller claimed that people would storm a prison to free detained protesters if they are not released by 13 July. Websites described clashes at Laleh Square in Tehran. Websites and television stations described clashes in Ahvaz, Isfahan, and Kurdistan, and in Mashhad Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilantes allegedly used mustard gas against demonstrators. BS
IRANIAN REGIME IMPOSES NEWS BLACKOUT
As of 7:30 a.m. Tehran time on 10 July, domestic Iranian broadcasting carried no news of the previous night's events. Moreover, the broadcasts of Los Angeles-based Persian-language satellite-television stations, such as Pars TV, Channel 1 TV, NITV, and Azadi TV, were being jammed and could not be received in Iran. Mobile-telephone service in parts of Tehran allegedly was shut down, too. The websites of the news agencies ISNA, Baztab, Mehr, and Fars were not updated during the night, and although it was updated regularly the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) carried no news about the unrest. The reformist Iranian print media complained that it was acting on a government directive that forbade reporting about the events of the previous day. A 10 July editorial in "Yas-i No" apologized because it could not mention "a single word about the 9 July anniversary of that regrettable and criminal event." It said that "every reference to 9 July, except the date of publication, had to be removed because of the imposed restrictions." BS
DETAINED CANADIAN JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY IN COMA IN IRAN
The Iranian government has agreed to permit an independent physician to examine Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, "The Toronto Star" reported on 10 July. Her son said Kazemi is in a coma and shows signs of having been severely beaten after being taken into custody last month and accused of espionage. Kazemi's family said she was taken into custody on 23 June after photographing Evin Prison. Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron said that as of 9 July the Iranian government had not responded to an official demand for an explanation. Canadian officials who went to Baghiatollah Hospital in Tehran were only allowed to view Kazemi through a plate-glass window, "The Globe and Mail" reported on 9 July. "We couldn't tell whether she was just plain unconscious, or in a coma, or sleeping," Doiron said. BS
NORWEGIAN CONTINGENT HEADS FOR IRAQ...
Some 104 soldiers from the Norwegian Army's Telemark Battalion are on their way to Al-Basrah, "Aftenposten" reported on 9 July. Their stated mission includes mine-clearance, road-building, and humanitarian activities. The first batch of 15 Norwegians left for Iraq on 26 June, according to "Aftenposten" the same day, and at that time the Norwegian Defense Ministry acknowledged that their duties would be military as well as humanitarian in nature. State Secretary Gunnar Heloe said it is important that Norway does not appear to be part of the occupation forces. Vegard Hansen of the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI) told "Aftenposten" that "Norwegian soldiers in Iraq risk being exposed to popular unrest and protest, and to planned attacks by remaining resistance groups." Henrik Thune of NUPI added that "this is intended as a peacekeeping mission, but it could easily turn into a peacemaking assignment." Norwegian special-operations forces and military aircraft were active in Operation Enduring Freedom. BS
...AND MORE ON THE WAY?
The Scandinavian airline SAS has applied to the Coalition Provisional Authority to operate passenger flights to Baghdad, "Aftenposten" reported on 7 July. SAS spokeswoman Siv Meisingseth said the airline would like to run two flights a week from Copenhagen. British Airways, KLM of the Netherlands, and Germany's Lufthansa also have applied for routes to Baghdad. BS
DANISH TROOPS IN IRAQ FACE MALNOURISHMENT
The approximately 50 Danish soldiers at Camp Niebuhr near Al-Basrah are facing malnourishment, "Jyllands-Posten" reported on 6 July. This is because the Danes were forced to eat prepackaged rations for almost a month after their kitchen ovens, refrigerators, and freezers broke down, and they had limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Camp doctor Knud Thomsen is hoping that providing the troops with better access to fruits high in potassium -- such as bananas -- and the substitution of some of the large quantities of water they must drink with orange juice will alleviate the problem. The first Danes suffering from dehydration to be sent to the British field hospital in Al-Basrah were found to have dangerously low levels of potassium, which is rare in Denmark for anybody other than alcoholics, according to "Jyllands-Posten." Camp commander Major Kent Gjedsoe said the general situation has improved recently, and that new air conditioners purchased in Kuwait are better able to operate in the extreme heat. "It's just wonderful," he added. BS
U.S. TROOPS ATTACKED IN FOUR IRAQI TOWNS OVERNIGHT...
U.S. forces came under attack in four Iraqi towns in the early morning hours of 10 July, international media reported. Militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, located approximately 150 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, Reuters reported. According to CNN, one soldier was killed and another injured in the incident. Militants also attacked U.S. troops in three separate mortar attacks in Al-Ramadi, located 100 kilometers west of Baghdad, including the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's base, AP reported. South of Tikrit in Balad, a mortar was fired at a U.S. logistics base. Militants also fired rocket-propelled grenades at an Iraqi police station and a municipality building in Al-Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad. Tikrit, Balad, and Al-Ramadi form what U.S. forces have nicknamed the "Sunni Triangle" -- an area of land that spans the Tigris and Euphrates rivers north and west of Baghdad known to be a stronghold of support for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. KR
...AS IRAQI POLICE IN AL-FALLUJAH ASK U.S. TROOPS TO LEAVE
Iraqi police trained by U.S. forces have asked coalition troops to pull out of Al-Fallujah following the string of attacks by militants, Reuters reported on 10 July. Some 100 members of the police force have launched a protest against U.S. forces after the overnight attack on their police station and municipality building. "We have the ability to protect these sites," local police chief Riad Abd al-Latif told Reuters. "The presence of Americans endangers us. We asked the Americans more than a month and a half ago to leave Al-Fallujah." Protesters reportedly handed a petition to the town's mayor and the local U.S. commander in which police officers threatened to resign in 48 hours if U.S. forces do not leave. Al-Fallujah remains a hotbed for anti-U.S. militants since the declared end to major combat activities in Operation Iraqi Freedom. KR
IRAQI HEALTH MINISTRY LAUNCHES RADIATION SURVEY IN AL-TUWAYTHAH
The Iraqi Health Ministry launched a two-month study on some 5,000 residents near the Iraqi town of Al-Tuwaythah on 10 July to gauge possible effects from the looting of the Al-Tuwaythah Nuclear Research Center during the waning days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, "The Christian Science Monitor" website (http://www.csmonitor.com) reported the same day. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought reentry into Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 May 2003) after reports of widespread looting in which barrels containing radioactive "yellow cake" uranium power were emptied and sold to local residents by looters, according to international media reports. Residents used the barrels for washing and water storage, csmonitor.com and international news agencies have widely reported. The Al-Tuwaythah residents will be transported daily to a local hospital in groups of 75-100 to undergo a battery of tests. Doctors told "The Christian Science Monitor" that the study also seeks to raise awareness and allay popular fears about radiation poisoning. "Iraqi families are very afraid,... but the people are ignorant and don't believe it is harmful," Sayyid Mutar al-Musawi, a local religious leader, said. "Having water is much more important than [the dangers of] something that doesn't touch them. Some people have drunk from [the] barrels and washed with them." U.S. forces bought back many of the 500 or so "yellow-cake" barrels that were looted, but at least 150 are thought to remain in circulation, according to Greenpeace. KR
U.S. ARRESTS IRAQI NEWSPAPER EDITOR IN CHICAGO
U.S. authorities arrested a Chicago-area newspaper editor on 9 July on charges that he worked as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi government under deposed President Hussein, "The Washington Post" reported on 10 July. Prosecutors said that Khalid Abd al-Latif Dumaysi, 60, produced bogus press passes for Iraqi intelligence agents and reported to Hussein's government on the activities of Iraqi opposition leaders in the United States. He also reportedly traveled to Iraq to attend birthday celebrations for the deposed leader and received thousands of dollars for his assistance. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, said that while Dumaysi's actions did not constitute espionage against the United States, "Those who gather information in the United States about people living in America for the purpose of providing the information to hostile governments should understand that the FBI will pursue them vigorously. We cannot tolerate people doing that." Court documents related to a citizenship application filed by Dumaysi in December 2001 indicate that he holds Jordanian citizenship, according to "The Washington Post." His application for U.S. citizenship was denied due to a lack of proper documentation, the daily reported. KR