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Newsline - October 27, 2003

Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in Novosibirsk on 25 October pulled Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii off his charter plane, which had stopped for refueling en route to Irkutsk, and arrested him, Russian media reported. The officers reportedly burst into the plane, yelling "Federal Security Service," unidentified eyewitnesses told Interfax. Khodorkovskii was then brought back to Moscow, where he was questioned by prosecutors prior to the official filing of charges against him. He is accused of seven counts, including large-scale corporate tax evasion and large-scale embezzlement, according to a press release from the Prosecutor-General's Office. Prosecutors stated that the arrest was necessary because Khodorkovskii ignored a summons to appear on 24 October. However, the tycoon's lawyers said they informed prosecutors that Khodorkovskii was on a business trip. Also on 25 October, a Moscow court ordered that Khodorkovskii, who is reportedly Russia's richest person, be remanded in custody for two months. JAC

On 23 October, FSB officers visited a Moscow school attended by Khodorkovskii's 12-year-old daughter, and "Izvestiya" reported on 23 and 24 October, respectively. The officers told school officials they were checking the school's antiterrorism readiness, but according to raion education officials no other district schools have been subjected to such checks. In addition, both officers who visited the school have reportedly been working on the case against Yukos. An attorney asked to comment on the incident called the visit "pure psychological pressure." JAC

An unidentified analyst close to the Kremlin commented last week that in the light of Khodorkovskii's alleged financial support for Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and the Communist Party and his suggestion that Russia make a gradual transition to a parliamentary system, the authorities had every right to act, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 25 October. "The oligarch should say 'thank you' that he is still alive and free," the analyst said. "In any other country with a similar political regime, we would have seen his funeral long ago." "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 27 October that Khodorkovskii's arrest was hardly surprising from the point of view of the "so-called apparatus." On 21 October, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov declared at a press conference: "I personally would not want Khodorkovskii behind bars. I wo, uld like our entrepreneurs to be the best in the world. But [they] must not cheat or embezzle. They must answer for everything." JAC

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), Business Russia, the Association For Entrepreneurial Organizations of Russia, and the All-Russia Organization of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses have issued statements condemning Khodorkovskii's arrest, "Izvestiya" and Interfax reported on 25 and 26 October, respectively. After an emergency meeting of the RSPP board, RSPP member and Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais told reporters the board believes that the business community's confidence in the law enforcement system has been eroded and that "only a clear and unambiguous statement by Russian President [Vladimir] Putin can stop these extremely dangerous developments." Sergei Borisov, president of the All-Russia Organization of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, commented that business "cannot accept such actions on the part of the authorities." JAC

Both and "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 October compared Khodorkovskii's arrest with actions once taken by Aleksandr Korzhakov, former security chief for Russian President Boris Yeltsin. According to, Korzhakov tried to scare his political opponents in 1996, namely Yeltsin's then-presidential-campaign manager Chubais. The upshot of that event was that Yeltsin dismissed Korzhakov and his comrades-in-arms, FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov and First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, "Kommersant-Daily" noted. Yeltsin made a choice in favor of Russia's "democratic future," according to the daily, while "today the choice before Putin is the same -- strengthen democratic institutions or the KGBization of Russia's system of power." Mark Urnov, president of the Ekspertiza foundation, told "Kommersant-Daily" that the arrest embodies "the culmination of the struggle among the Kremlin clans." "Business has already expressed its lack of faith in the security structures," Urnov said. "And the intelligentsia and the mass media will likely react the same way. The likelihood of a compromise has been reduced." The president, according to Urnov, will have the last word. JAC

Commenting on Mikhail Khodorkovskii's arrest, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said the U.S. government is "concerned about this escalation of legal pressure being exerted on Yukos," "The Moscow Times" reported on 27 October. "We won't comment on the legal basis for Khodorkovskii's detention. It would appear, though, that the law is being applied selectively at the very least," the newspaper quoted Vershbow as saying. He added that the arrest will "send a very negative signal to companies investing in or considering investing in Russia." "The Financial Times" reported on 26 October that merger discussions between Yukos and competing U.S. oil majors ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco have been temporarily halted until Khodorkovskii's fate "becomes clearer." The newspaper cited "people close to the situation." JB

Several Russian commentators predicted that the West's reaction to Khodorkovskii's arrest -- specifically that of the United States -- will be muted. National Strategy Council General Director Stanislav Belkovskii said that while Khodorkovskii had hoped Russian business and the U.S. "Republican elite" would support him, neither group is likely to do so in any significant way, reported on 27 October. "For the United States, the stability of [President] Putin's regime is more important," Belkovskii said. The National Strategy Council published a report in May warning of a possible "oligarchic coup," although Belkovskii subsequently denied any connection between the report's appearance and the moves against Yukos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). Igor Bunin of the Center for Political Technologies predicted that neither the West nor Russian business nor Russian "liberals" are likely to protest forcefully against Khodorkovskii's arrest, "Vedomosti" reported on 27 October. Statements from the West have thus far been "very mild," Bunin said, noting that it is preoccupied with Iraq. JB

Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin told Interfax on 26 October that Yukos head Khodorkovskii is currently being held in one of Matrosskaya Tishina's smallest cells, one in which up to five people are kept on average. Kalinin added that media tycoon Gusinskii, who was briefly jailed in the prison in 2000, has not yet made good on his promise to provide inmates there with 100 television sets and refrigerators. However, Kalinin added, if Khodorkovskii's friend and relatives wish to bring such items for his use, then he could leave them behind as Gusinskii did when he was released. The previous day, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said he would be "glad to bring a package to Khodorkovskii in prison," and called 25 October "the most joyful day for me this fall." JAC

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych met on 24 October to discuss the ongoing dispute over the Tuzla islet, Russian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003). Russia agreed to suspend construction of a dam from the Russian mainland to the islet, which is located in the Kerch Strait connecting the Black and Azov seas, while the Ukrainian side agreed to withdraw its border guards from the island. The two sides will try to resolve the disputed status of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait within the next two-three months. Tensions, however, quickly reemerged, with Russian media accusing the Ukrainian side of reneging on the 24 October agreement. "Ukrainian border guards, who were supposed to leave the Tuzla spit immediately, have not gone anywhere and, it would appear, have no intention of leaving," ORT reported on 25 October. The next day, ITAR-TASS reported that the Ukrainian government has appropriated $1 million to improve "amenities" at its border post on Tuzla. JB

Duma Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy), chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, visited the disputed territory on 25 October, ORT reported. Rogozin declared that no one had the right to "usurp" the Kerch Strait or to "take" the Azov Sea, which, he said, "are the internal waters of both Russia and Ukraine." Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, meanwhile, told that some people in Russia have a "craving for imperial self-assertion." There are, he said, "neocolonial sentiments in Russian society, in the Russian ruling class, among Russian generals," the website reported on 27 October. Duma Deputy Aleksei Arbatov (Yabloko), deputy chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee, highlighted the potential for the dispute to spiral out of control. Arbatov said that he could not rule out the possibility of "armed contacts of a limited character" between the two sides in the disputed area, RosBalt reported on 24 October. JB

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 24 October accused Russian presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin and presidential foreign-affairs adviser Sergei Prikhodko of provoking "nonobjective" media coverage of the 14 October meeting in Moscow of the Higher State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union, RosBalt reported. Following that meeting, Russian media quoted an unidentified presidential-administration source as saying the two countries had failed to agree on introducing the Russian ruble as the union's common currency because Lukashenka is primarily concerned with his own political role within the future union. Since no such role for Lukashenka is envisioned, the source said, the situation has reached a "stalemate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2003). Lukashenka claimed that Prikhodko was the anonymous source and that Voloshin was the leak's "director." He accused them of trying to thwart Russia's merger with Belarus. Russia's leadership, Lukashenka added, fears sharing its powers with the union structures, reported on 26 October. The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, summoned Belarus's ambassador to Russia, Vladimir Grigoryev, on 25 October to protest Lukashenka's "unfriendly" comments, Interfax reported. JB

Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Fedotov told an international donors conference in Madrid that Russian companies might invest up to $4 billion in Iraq's economy, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. Russian investors, he said, are ready to do more if contracts signed under the oil-for-food program that are due to expire on 21 November are renewed. Iraqi reconstruction will be successful if security and honest rules are guaranteed for companies working in Iraq and if economic aid is transparent and stable, Fedotov said. On 17 October, President Putin called the UN resolution on Iraq passed unanimously the previous day a step in the right direction, but said it did not expand the UN's role in Iraq sufficiently to warrant Russia providing either peacekeepers or funds to help the country rebuild, Interfax reported. JB

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told his Iranian counterpart, Gholamali Khoshru, on 25 October that Russia welcomes Iran's readiness to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ITAR-TASS reported. During a meeting between the two officials in Moscow, Kislyak expressed satisfaction at Tehran's intention to sign the IAEA's Additional Protocol, to provide the agency with complete information about its nuclear programs, and to suspend work on the enriching uranium. On 19 October, President Putin said Russia is ready to implement stricter controls over the transfer of Russian nuclear technology to Iran, but wants to avoid pushing Iran's leadership "to extreme decisions." He also charged that while there are Western sanctions against Russian companies engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran, there are no sanctions against Western companies doing the same thing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003). JB

Prices of flour and foods made from flour -- including bread -- are rising across Russia, RTR reported on 24 October. In Omsk, a loaf of white bread cost 6.5 rubles ($0.22) before the harvest, and now it costs 10 rubles. According to the station, Omsk so far has the highest prices, but in Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, and Arkhangelsk, bread prices are also rising quickly, having reached 8.50 rubles, 7.20 rubles, and 9.30 rubles, respectively. The RTR correspondent attributed the rising prices to "the many intermediaries," since it costs only 1.74 rubles to create a loaf of white bread. However, he noted, "this year, in addition to speculation raising the prices, we also have failed harvests." In June, prices were rising in Siberia, and Prime Minister Kasyanov said the government would intervene if bread prices continued to rise more than expected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2003). JAC

Norilsk Nickel trade-union leader Valerii Melnikov won the 26 October mayoral election in the industrial city of Norilsk, reported on 27 October, citing preliminary results. With 71 of 74 districts counted, Melnikov had 51.88 percent of the vote, compared with 34.23 percent for former Norilsk Nickel General Director Dzhonson Khagazheev. Five more candidates ran, but none of them attracted more than 1.5 percent of the vote. Local law requires that a candidate secure more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff, RBK reported. Melnikov won the most votes in the first round of the April mayoral election, but he was disqualified from participating in the second round. That development led the other candidates in the race to withdraw, nullifying that poll and necessitating the 26 October contest. In a column published last month in "The Moscow Times," sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii commented that if Melnikov managed to win despite running in opposition to the local elite, then the trade-union movement "would receive the long-awaited victory it needs to break its downward trend of recent years" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). JAC

A statement by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) official in Yerevan on 24 October revealed that the Armenian economy is expected to suffer a significant slowdown if the government is unable to ensure reliable sources of revenue and funding, Reuters reported. IMF official James Hughes explained that "the key point of the budget is how much it correctly identifies financing sources, and how much it relies on uncertainties." Hughes said that economic growth in 2004 could slow to 7 percent. Although growth would still be fairly high, the 7 percent level would be far below government projections, and considerably less than the 12.9 percent growth recorded in 2002 and the 15.2 percent level achieved during the first nine months of 2003. The primary challenge for the Armenian government is securing the revenue side of the state budget, which is now subject to some uncertainty about external financing. This specific dependency stems from Armenia's strong reliance on investment in small and medium-sized businesses from the Armenian diaspora, as demonstrated by the case of the Lincy Fund, an Armenian-American group that in 2003 granted more than $80 million, nearly one-sixth of the state budget's total revenues. RG

In closing arguments, Armenian state prosecutors called for life sentences on 24 October for the five defendants currently on trial for the October 1999 attack on the Armenian parliament that resulted in the deaths of eight senior government officials, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Yerkir reported. Prosecutors are also seeking prison sentences of 14 and 15 years for two other defendants charged with complicity in the attacks and with assisting the gunmen. The trial of the five defendants -- former journalist Nairi Hunanian, his brother Karen, and the three other alleged conspirators -- has been under way since February 2001, but has been plagued by repeated delays. The indictments allege that the murders of the senior officials, including parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, were carried out by the two Hunanian brothers, with Nairi accused of shooting the parliament speaker and his two deputies, and Karen charged with the murder of five other officials, including the prime minister. Life sentences are the maximum penalty the defendants can receive, as the recently amended Criminal Code has abolished the death penalty in line with Armenia's obligation as a Council of Europe member. RG

Several Russian nuclear-power experts announced on 24 October that they support the Armenian government's decision to continue operating Armenia's sole nuclear-power plant, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. In a statement released on 24 October, Armen Abakian, the director of a Moscow-based nuclear research institute, dismissed concerns that the Medzamor facility poses environmental risks and contended that the plant can safely operate for at least another 13 years. The European Union and several environmental groups have called on the Armenian government to close the aging Soviet-era plant, arguing that the plant's light-water reactor is inherently dangerous and unstable. Despite a preliminary agreement to close the plant by 2004, the Armenian government has reversed its position, and now seeks to keep the plant in operation. After its re-activization following a six-year closure, Medzamor now provides more than 50 percent of the country's energy needs, and the plant's management has been recently ceded to Russia's state-run Unified Energy Systems for five years in lieu of the repayment of some $40 million in arrears for Russian supplies of nuclear fuel. RG

The 15-seat opposition Artarutiun (Justice) bloc, led by People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) Chairman Stepan Demirchian, was seriously weakened on 24 October by a court ruling requiring it to relinquish one of its parliamentary seats, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The loss of the seat stems from the recent death of Sergei Israelian, an Artarutiun deputy elected under proportional-representation system. Under Armenian law, the deputy's seat is to be transferred to the next person in the bloc's electoral list, although in this case, that would be Emma Khudabashian, a longtime member of the HZhK who was ousted from the bloc several days before Israelian's death after strongly criticizing Demirchian's leadership of the bloc. RG

In comments following a meeting with Turkish ground forces commander General Aytac Yalman on 27 October, President-elect and Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev stated that the Azerbaijani military "is capable of fulfilling any task placed before it," Baku Today and AP reported. Aliyev expressed appreciation for Turkish military assistance and vowed to expand bilateral relations with Turkey. He also expressed frustration with international mediation efforts over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and stated that Baku must now search for "new ways" to restore territorial integrity, adding that he is "sure that strengthening the Azerbaijani Army can have a positive influence on the negotiating process on resolving the Karabakh problem." RG

As international criticism of the recent president election and its aftermath mount, Azerbaijani security forces expanded their arrests of opposition activists and supporters on 24 October, the Turan news agency reported. Opposition leaders condemned the Aliyev government as a "repression machine" intent on silencing and intimidating all opposition. The latest wave of arrests targeted the opposition members of local election commissions, with many pressured to certify the government's official voting results from the 15 October presidential election. Opposition leaders assert that the authorities are attempting to use the arrests and harassment of these opposition members as leverage to force them to "confirm the legality of the elections" and certify the "falsified results." RG

According to a report released on 24 October by the United Nations Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment (FDI) in Azerbaijan rose to $1.4 billion for 2002, more than six times the level for 2001, Reuters reported. According to the UNCTAD figures, slightly under $1 billion of total investment was concentrated in the oil sector, and nearly half of the investment came from European Union countries, with British investment leading all EU states. Also significant was the rise in Russian investment, with Russian companies tripling their investment in Azerbaijan to $64 million in 2002, mainly in the oil industry and now reaching a total of $321 million invested in Azerbaijan. Additional foreign direct investment came from the United States, with American firms investing $310 million last year, up nearly three times over 2001, and Norwegian and Japanese companies both investing around $126 million. RG

Vilayet Guliev met with Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ahmad Qazai on 25 October and informed him of Baku's demand that Iran cease its "broadcasting and unauthorized transmission of Iranian Sahar-2 television" into Azerbaijan, ANS reported. Guliev criticized the Azeri-language broadcasts beamed into southern Azerbaijan for containing "anti-Azerbaijani propaganda" aimed at destabilizing the southern regions of the country, and faulted the Iranian government for "interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs." Iranian officials have claimed that the broadcasts are beyond their control, as Sahar-2 is a privately owned station and merely expresses "its own position" in its programs. RG

Although parliamentary elections are less than one week away, the Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on 26 October that it is postponing publication of the finalized voter lists until 30 October, Civil Georgia reported. The official voter lists are crucial to the 2 November parliamentary elections, as thousands of voters in Tbilisi and other areas have reportedly been improperly omitted from the rolls of eligible voters. There are also many deceased voters still listed as eligible voters, CEC Chairwoman Nana Devdariani said during an interview with Rustavi-2 television. Devdariani added that, even with the extended deadline, the CEC expects a 15 percent margin of error in the voter lists, a level significantly higher than accepted international standards. RG

At a congress in Almaty on 25 October, the Asar (All Together) public movement transformed itself into a political party and unanimously elected Darigha Nazarbaeva, eldest daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the party's leader, Interfax-Kazakhstan and ITAR-TASS reported. The congress was attended by 1,300 delegates, who also selected a seven-person leadership council and adopted a party platform. At a news conference following the congress, Nazarbaeva rejected claims that she has presidential ambitions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003). "There is no alternative to [President Nazarbaev]" for the next 10 years, she said, and advised his opponents not to waste resources on presidential campaigns, saying that if they try to unseat him, "they will lose." The next presidential election is due in December 2006. She added that, although she regards pro-presidential parties as Asar's natural allies, her party will actively compete against them in the parliamentary elections scheduled for autumn 2004. AA

Kazakhstan's Supreme Judicial Council has approved a draft state program on reforming the judicial system for 2004-06, Interfax reported on 24 October. The program envisages the creation of a jury system, the introduction of tax courts, improved protection of witnesses from being influenced or intimidated, and strengthening judicial independence. On a pessimistic note, however, the council's chairman, Maksut Narikbaev, reminded the council that the national budget commission has refused to allocate the resources necessary if the Supreme Court is to transform regional courts into jury courts during 2004. AA

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has sent a note to Tashkent protesting recent attempts by Uzbek citizens in the Sokh enclave to block the installation of a Kyrgyz border post, reported on 24 October. About 100 residents of the village of Sharhabad in the enclave, which belongs to Uzbekistan, allegedly piled stones on the Batken-Osh road on 14 October in order to prevent Kyrgyz border guards from restoring a mobile checkpoint at Boz-Adyr that had been temporarily dismantled. The Kyrgyz note accused the Uzbek authorities of prompting the villagers to make the barricade. According to the Kyrgyz newspaper "Obshchestvennyi reiting" on 23 October, the villagers said they acted because the Uzbek-Kyrgyz frontier in that area has not been finalized. The newspaper added that the incident was preceded by an angry exchange of letters between the Uzbek governor of Ferghana Oblast and the Kyrgyz authorities in Batken Oblast, with the former threatening to take unspecified measures after 20 October if the Kyrgyz side did not allow free movement between Sokh and the Uzbek town of Rishton, and the Kyrgyz denying that they were creating any obstacles. AA

In response to a request from the Russian embassy, the Kyrgyz government has allocated two hectares of land to build a recreation center for Russian officers stationed at the Kant air base, reported on 24 October. The base was recently inaugurated by Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who emphasized that, unlike the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition base at Manas airport, Kant will be a "permanent" establishment, (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 24 October 2003). The land, located in the Chon-Kurchak Gorge, has been leased to the Russian Embassy for 49 years. AA

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced a strategic-assistance program to Tajikistan encompassing $100 million in credits and financial assistance in 2004-06, Asia Plus-Blitz and Interfax reported on 24 October. In 2004, $25 million in loans will be directed toward rehabilitating rural infrastructure, including irrigation and transport networks, while $10 million will go toward promoting regional cooperation by modernizing customs services, improving cross-border roads and railways, and increasing the regional energy trade. In addition to loans, technical assistance grants will be disbursed amounting annually to $1.8 million-$2.2 million over the target period. The grants will fund such projects as training officials at the National Bank of Tajikistan, improving water management, and encouraging tourism. AA

In Dushanbe, 270 people have been diagnosed with typhoid, at least one has died, and some 500 others have been hospitalized on suspicion of having contracted the disease, AP and Interfax reported on 24 October. The outbreak, which has prompted the government to request assistance from the local UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, was apparently caused by a failure to chlorinate the city's water supply, which mainly comes from the Varzo River. Over the past few days, radio and television have been transmitting Health Ministry warnings against drinking tap water and eating unwashed fruit. According to the ministry, 617 typhoid cases have been recorded in Dushanbe since the beginning of the year, representing a 64 percent increase over the same period in 2002. AA

Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov received Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 23 October in Dushanbe, where they discussed increasing Turkish investment, technology transfer from Turkey to Tajikistan, and bilateral trade, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The sides also exchanged views on enhancing cooperation in combating terrorism and narcotics trafficking, and promoting peace in Afghanistan. Agreements were signed strengthening ties between their respective chambers of commerce, and waiving visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. On 24 October Erdogan, accompanied by Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, visited the Norak hydroelectric-power plant in central Tajikistan, and promised Turkish investments to help develop the country's hydropower sector, Tajik radio reported. AA

Addressing the seventh Forum of World Turkmen on 24 October in Ashgabat, President Saparmurat Niyazov warned that certain big powers were plotting mischief and "pursuing their strategic interests" in Turkmenistan because of its hydrocarbon wealth and important geographical location vis-a-vis the Caspian and the Middle East, Turkmen television reported. The purported November 2002 attempt on his life was plotted "in another state" and with support from its government, "because of our [natural] riches," Niyazov said. The reference appeared to be to Uzbekistan, whose government Niyazov has accused of aiding and abetting his would-be assassins. Meanwhile, he said his country should maintain strong relations with Russia, despite differences over policy, and with the United States, in view of the modern equipment it sold to Turkmenistan such as tractors and generators. AA

President Niyazov will pardon more than 7,000 convicts on the night of 21-22 November, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Turkmen Television and ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. Niyazov made the announcement at the Forum of World Turkmen, reminding the gathering that his amnesty decrees have become an annual tradition. More than 120,000 Turkmen prisoners have been amnestied since 1991, the television said. AA

An item in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 23 October incorrectly reported the location of the Erk party congress in Tashkent. It was held in a hall belonging to the Society of the Blind in Tashkent's Chilanzar District, not in the local offices of the U.S.-based Freedom House. Freedom House is a nonpartisan organization that does not provide support to any political parties.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a real-time online news conference on Belarusian-Russian relations on his official website ( on 24 October, Belarusian media reported. The site was reportedly inaccessible for much of the duration of the online conference, however, breeding speculation that it was attacked by hackers or that the site was technically ill-equipped for such a conference. Lukashenka reiterated his earlier stance that the Russian ruble will be introduced in Belarus only after both countries adopt a constitution for the Russia-Belarus Union. Lukashenka rejected reports that followed his 14 October meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2003) asserting that there has been a stalemate in bilateral relations. Lukashenka accused Russian presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin and his deputy, Sergei Prikhodko, of disseminating such reports. Lukashenka described his meeting with Putin as "a constructive and very useful conversation," adding that the two sides "made no progress, but did not take a step backward either" (see also "RFE/RL Newsline Part I"). JM

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in the 27 October issue of the Moscow-based "Izvestiya" that the construction of a Russian dam in the Kerch Strait is pushing Ukraine closer to the West, Interfax reported. "The closer the dam is to our shores, the closer we are in our moods to Europe and the West in general," Kuchma said. He suggested that the dam project is nourishing the imperial ambitions of some political forces in Russia. "One cannot help sympathizing with the Russian leadership that sometimes is forced to take into account neocolonial sentiments in Russian society, in the Russian ruling class, and among the Russian generals," Kuchma said (see also "RFE/RL Newsline Part I"). JM

Ukrainian border guards deployed to Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait earlier this month remain on that island, Interfax reported on 27 October, quoting State Border Service spokesman Anatoliy Samarchenko. According to Samarchenko, the Russians have halted construction of the dike some 100 meters from the Ukrainian frontier and are now reinforcing it. Last week, the Ukrainian and Russian prime ministers, Viktor Yanukovych and Mikhail Kasyanov, reportedly agreed that the dam will not be extended any further toward Tuzla in exchange for the removal of Ukrainian border guards from the island. JM

Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the opposition Our Ukraine bloc, said on 24 October that his political opponents are taking measures to kill him, Interfax reported, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. "There are projects under which killers have already arrived and taken appropriate measures that cannot be described as jokes," Yushchenko claimed. He revealed that some 40 criminal cases have been opened against Our Ukraine lawmakers. "I am proud that, the pressure notwithstanding, there are 103 people's deputies in the Verkhovna Rada's [Our Ukraine caucus] who are keeping Ukraine away from a tragic scenario," he added. Moreover, Yushchenko told a forum of democratic forces in Kharkiv on 26 October that a single platform and a single candidate of the democratic opposition for the next presidential election will be discussed at a democratic forum in Kyiv in six weeks' time. JM

The Estonian Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador Konstantin Provalov and delivered him a protest note over a "premeditated attack" against an Estonian consular officer working in Pskov, LETA reported on 24 October, citing the daily "Postimees." The issuing of Estonian visas has been temporarily suspended in Pskov. The diplomat, who was brutally beaten in the hallway of his apartment building on 21 October, is recovering from a concussion at home. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the incident, which is under investigation by Pskov police officials. AB

According to a survey conducted by, about 500 Finnish companies operate in Estonia, providing jobs to 22,000 Estonians, LETA reported on 24 October. Most of the companies are small or medium-sized firms, consulting firms, or subcontractors of state-owned firms Finnair or Fortum. A total of 2,000 Finnish companies are registered to do business in Estonia. AB

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, speaking in Riga at an international conference on the Holocaust, said Russian politicians continue to create problems in Latvian-Russian relations because they refuse to recognize the Soviet Union's nearly 50-year occupation of Latvia, BNS and LETA reported 24 October. "The burden of history and its interpretation has become a vital issue in Latvian-Russian relations," Vike-Freiberga said, causing "such problems [that] concern the large number of noncitizens and their status in Latvia, and evaluation of Latvia's language and citizenship laws." Relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that a meeting of the Latvian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission planned for 27 October was canceled by Moscow, but said Latvia "brought it on itself," BNS and Interfax reported 23 October. AB

The Defense Ministry has been warned by NATO to increase spending on the National Armed Forces, Edgars Rinkevics, the Defense Ministry's state secretary, said during a press conference on 24 October, according to LETA. Rinkevics said NATO expects 40 percent of Latvia's army to be able to participate in NATO-led missions outside the country. It is estimated that this will require an additional 35 million lats ($68 million). AB

Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas submitted the name of Lieutenant Colonel Gintaras Bagdonas to parliament for confirmation as the new director-general of the State Security Department, BNS and ELTA reported on 24 October. Bagdonas, 38, is director of the Defense Ministry's Second Investigation Department and is a career military officer who joined the Lithuanian defense forces in 1991. Bagdonas served in the first group of Lithuanian peacekeepers sent to Croatia in 1994 and is a graduate of the NATO College in Rome. AB

Lithuania's Environment Ministry has released an expert report by ministry staff claiming design flaws in the D-6 oil-drilling project in the Baltic Sea by the Russian firm LUKoil, BNS reported on 23 October. The task force acknowledged that the oil platform at the D-6 site has been built with "up-to-date technologies" but said LUKoil has not prepared adequately to contain oil spills if "waves are more than 2 meters high, [although] such hydrometeorological conditions are common." They also said oil leaks of less than 8 cubic meters per day from underwater pipelines could remain unnoticed for long periods and result in "huge" environmental damage. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas told "Izvestiya" in a recent interview that the Lithuanian government will not interfere with LUKoil's plans to drill in the Baltic Sea because "Lithuania has no right to pressure Russia [over the project], since it is situated on Russian territory," "The St. Petersburg Times" reported 24 October. AB

The National Remembrance Institute (IPN) on 24 October petitioned a court in Katowice, southern Poland, to order the temporary arrest and extradition from Israel of Solomon Morel, who is suspected of committing crimes against humanity in 1945, dpa reported. The IPN suspects that Morel is responsible for the deaths of some 1,500 ethnic Silesians and Germans held at the Swietochlowice concentration camp in southern Poland between February and November 1945. Morel served as the camp's commandant following the defeat of Nazi forces. Morel fled Poland to Israel in 1992 after Polish authorities launched a criminal investigation. In 1998, Israel refused to honor an earlier extradition request, claiming it was not presented with evidence of Morel's alleged involvement in war crimes. JM

The Polish coastal city of Gdansk on 24 October renamed its airport after its world-famous son, former Solidarity leader and former President Lech Walesa, Polish media reported. Walesa, who is living in Gdansk, turned 60 last month. JM

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 25 October that he was ready to take over the premiership this summer when Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's hold on the post was placed in doubt after his three-party coalition apparently lost its parliamentary majority, CTK reported, citing the dailies "Mlada fronta Dnes" and "Pravo." Gross said he was driven by his determination to "continue the work" Spidla had begun, and added that he did not conceal his intention from the premier. He added that he does not dream of taking over the government. Meanwhile, parliamentary deputy Josef Hojdar, who triggered the crisis when he left the Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) parliamentary group in July, costing the ruling coalition its one-seat majority in the lower house, told a Chomutov CSSD regional party conference on 25 October that he is ready to return to the CSSD group if delegates ask him to do so. MS

Premier Spidla said on 24 October that he opposes plans to broadcast live the appeal trial of former Foreign Ministry official Karel Srba, dpa and CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2003). Spidla said broadcasting the proceedings would be "unethical" and could "negatively influence all participants in the hearings." Srba was sentenced in June to eight years in prison for conspiring to murder a journalist. His appeal is to be heard on 30 and 31 October at the Prague High Court. MS

An item in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 20 October titled "Slovak Court Sentences Czechs For Trading Human Organs" incorrectly reported that Slovak authorities detained two men at the border with organic materials in the vehicle in which they were riding. In fact, one of those convicted, Josef Karasek, was not in the automobile at the time. CTK reported that Karasek provided the material from the pathology department at Skalica Hospital. AH

Sergej Kozlik, deputy chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), told journalists on 25 October after a meeting of the party's national leadership in Michalovce that the HZDS will not back in parliament the government's draft budget for 2004, TASR and CTK reported. Noting that budget votes are essentially votes of confidence, he said the cabinet has failed to meet expectations and has lost citizens' trust. "Our clear goal," Kozlik said, "is to change the government." However, he added that the HZDS might support a minority cabinet for a brief transition period if it were to meet three conditions: that it call early parliamentary elections; halt the privatization of state-owned strategic assets; and refrain from approving legislation that would lower living standards. Also on 25 October, Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico told Radio Expres that his party will initiate a no-confidence vote in Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet if it fails to link the upcoming budget vote to a confidence motion. MS

Parliament on 24 October approved a government-sponsored bill stipulating that the restitution of farmland and forests confiscated by the communist regime is to be renewed in 2004, CTK and TASR reported. A restitution bill was approved in 1991 but expired in 1992. The cabinet said that not all those eligible for claims have applied for restitution. The bill stipulates that claimants are to receive compensation in the event that the restitution of confiscated property is no longer possible. Only those with permanent residence in Slovakia are entitled to submit claims. The ownership of land and forests that remain unclaimed by the end of 2004 is to be transferred to local governments. MS

The Slovak Foreign Ministry said on 24 October that it has not received any requests to export military equipment to North Korea in the past five years, TASR reported. The statement came in response to an article published on 23 October in the British daily "The Guardian," which cited South Korean Defense Ministry sources as saying North Korea has imported about $400 million worth of materiel from Slovakia, including used fighter planes, submarine equipment, helicopters, and tanks. The Foreign Ministry said licensing for military exports is granted by the Economy Ministry, but noted that the Foreign Ministry has veto powers over such deals and would have exercised that veto in line with Slovakia's international commitments. Economy Minister Pavol Rusko said he is unaware of the alleged exports and has requested information from the Foreign Ministry and South Korea's Defense Ministry. Rusko said he neither rules out the possibility that such exports took place nor that an "intelligence game aimed at damaging [the reputation of] our country" is being played out. Despite the ban, North Korea has also imported military equipment from Russia, China, Germany, Austria , Belgium, and Japan over the past five years, according to the British daily. MS

A former state-security officer who claims to have been in contact with Hungarian Radio Chairwoman Katalin Kondor between 1979 and 1983 told the "Nepszava" daily that Kondor "was a highly qualified and disciplined agent working to high professional standards," the daily reported on 27 October. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he used to meet Kondor in a "conspiracy flat" that belonged to the security services. He said Kondor, in her capacity as a journalist, helped to blow the cover of an "industrial spy" who wanted to sell documents from strategically important institutions. The former officer said he is willing to testify to his claims in court, if necessary. MSZ

The Jobbik Magyarorszagert Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary) political organization declared its intention to become a political party on 24 October, Hungarian media reported the next day. "We might share a path with FIDESZ [the leading opposition party], but we shall drive in separate vehicles," Chairman David Kovacs said, according to "Nepszabadsag." Kovacs said FIDESZ is nationalist only in its rhetoric. FIDESZ should have stood more firmly against Hungary's EU accession, Kovacs said, and should have opposed Hungary's presence in Iraq. He described FIDESZ as a middle-class ("polgari") liberal party that wants to monopolize the right wing, adding that his new party's main task is to unify nationalist Christian forces. The movement includes several politicians who left the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) and FIDESZ. MSZ

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic told state-run television on 26 October that the arrest and extradition of indicted former army General Vladimir Lazarevic and police General Sreten Lukic to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is "out of the question," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. It is not clear if his statement also applies to the other two men recently indicted by the tribunal, former army General Nebojsa Pavkovic and police General Vlastimir Djordjevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, and 24 October 2003). In Belgrade on 24 October, several thousand police demonstrated against the arrest or extradition of Lukic. Several leading police officials and politicians said over the weekend that the latest indictments have come at a bad time because campaigning is under way for the 16 November presidential election. On 23 October, the parliament suspended deputy Dragan Markovic of the far-right Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) for 90 days for calling on the police to stage a "coup" that would lead to early parliamentary elections. PM

Speaking in Sarajevo on 24 October, Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said the four recently indicted Serbian generals must face trial in The Hague and not in Serbia because they are "highly responsible" for "joint criminal activity" that led to the death of 10,000 and deportation of 800,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1998-99, dpa reported. On 25 October, Florence Hartmann, who is Del Ponte's spokeswoman, said in The Hague that the chief prosecutor will appeal to the UN Security Council if Serbia drags its feet on the arrest and extradition of the four men, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

The deadline expired on 26 October for filing to run in the 16 November Serbian presidential election, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Republican Election Commission has confirmed the candidacies of Dragoljub Micunovic of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, Tomislav Nikolic of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Velimir Ilic of the New Serbia party (NS), and Dragan Tomic of the Socialist People's Party (SNS). Former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), the pro-reform G-17 Plus political party, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), and the late Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan's" Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) are boycotting the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003). Voting will take place at 8,578 polling places in 180 districts, of which 248 polling places and 19 districts are in Kosova. PM

A report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) presented on 24 October immediately sparked controversial reactions in Macedonia, dpa reported. The report suggested that the EU's Concordia military mission should be extended beyond 15 December, when its current mandate expires, because Macedonia still needs security assistance. Presidential security adviser Stevo Pendarovski said the report appeared "too late" because the EU and Macedonia have already agreed on a police mission called Proxima, which will take over from Concordia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June and 5 September 2003). The ICG report warned that "criminals and extremists continue to present a direct threat.... The steps Macedonia and the international community must take are clear, but they require a more sober, less self-congratulatory assessment of the track record." UB

War crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Del Ponte told reporters in Sarajevo on 24 October that Republika Srpska authorities are not meeting their obligations to the tribunal, dpa reported. "Particularly in Banja Luka, we have a lot of problems. [The Bosnian Serb authorities] are not cooperating in arrest of fugitives. Even access to documents or to witnesses is difficult for us in the Bosnian Serb entity," she said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2003). PM

Meeting in Graz, Austria, defense ministers of the seven-member group known as Central European Cooperation in Peace Support Operations (Cencoop) agreed to take an active role in 2004 in Bosnia to improve the administration, promote the democratization of society, and raise living standards, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 25 October. The defense ministers of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, and Switzerland stressed that Bosnia plays a key role in the stabilization of Southeastern Europe. They pledged to commit up to 700 people to the project, the first such effort that Cencoop has undertaken. General Roland Ertl, who heads the Austrian General Staff, said the mission could be placed under either NATO or EU command. PM

Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who is the international mediator in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said in Sarajevo on 25 October that "it is time for the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to move away from dependency on the international community and create their own vision of the future based on their own priorities," RFE/RL reported. "There needs to be closer cooperation among the different levels of government to make sure that priorities are clear and local leaders have the necessary information regarding available [dwindling] resources and how to apply for remaining funds," he said. Schwarz-Schilling stressed that "the state and entity levels need to listen more to the municipal level about their needs," particularly regarding issues involving the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003). PM

Prime Minister Fatos Nano narrowly lost a parliamentary vote on 23 October to secure approval for his nominees to become interior and foreign ministers, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003). He won just 65 of 131 votes because of the defection of an unspecified number of fellow Socialists loyal to former Prime Minister Ilir Meta, who is Nano's archrival. Nano charged the Meta faction with attempting a "palace coup" and pledged to nominate an interim interior minister until the party's 15 December congress. The opposition Democratic Party wants Nano to submit to a vote of confidence or resign, paving the way for early elections in the spring of 2004. PM

President Ion Iliescu began a three-day visit to the United States on 27 October, meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, with members of the Romanian community there, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported. Also on 27 October, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase began a working visit to Brazil, during which he will also participate in the 29 October meeting in Sao Paulo of the Socialist International, Romanian Radio reported. MS

Visiting Estonian President Arnold Ruutel ended on 24 October a two-day visit to Romania, during which he met with Prime Minister Nastase and his Romanian counterpart Iliescu, Romanian Radio reported. Both presidents said after their talks that they are dissatisfied with the low level of trade between their countries and urged businessmen from Estonia and Romania to establish ties and "improve reciprocal knowledge on economic potential." Ruutel also said his country strongly backs Romania's quest for EU membership. MS

The director of Romania's National Health Insurance System (CNSAS), Eugen Turlea, and two executives from the organization, were dismissed on 24 October, Mediafax and Romanian Radio reported. The decision follows an audit of the CNSAS carried out by the Prime Minister's Control Office. The control office has also asked the National Anticorruption Prosecution to investigate the CNSAS. MS

Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Emil Boc was appointed executive chairman of the party on 24 October, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported. The proposal was made at a meeting of the party's National Coordination Council by Chairman Traian Basescu, who said he will not be able to carry out all of the chairman's functions as his time will be taken up with his duties as co-chairman of the alliance recently set up with the National Liberal Party. MS

Representatives of the three mediators of the Transdniester conflict (Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE) have drafted a "basic political document" outlining their proposals for resolving the conflict, OSCE mission spokesman Claus Neukirch told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 24 October. The document is to be submitted to the authorities in Chisinau and Tiraspol. It refers to the structure of the envisaged federalized state, the division of powers among the federation's subjects, and security guarantees that would be extended to the federal state. Neukirch said he hopes the draft will rekindle the negotiation process and bring about the conflict's settlement. MS

The opposition Socialist Party (BSP) and its coalition partners won about one-third of the seats in the 26 October municipal elections, reported, citing an exit poll conducted by the Bulgarian branch of the Gallup International opinion research institute. Elections were held for 236 of the country's 237 municipal councils. The conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) fared second best, winning about 20 percent of the seats. As expected, the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) received only 10 percent of the seats, while its coalition partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) had a similar result. The small Union of Liberal Democrats (SSD) took up to 6 percent of the seats, while a total of 3-4 percent went to the coalition of Gergyovden, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BZNS-NS), and the Democratic Party. First analyses suggest that the BSP received 10 percent more votes compared to the 1999 elections, while the SDS lost about 10 percent. The elections featured a record low voter turnout of about 40 percent. UB

Prime Minister and NDSV Chairman Simeon Saxecoburggotski commented on the preliminary results of the election by saying on 26 October that one cannot compare local and parliamentary elections, reported. He said he believes the results show that the NDSV has managed to overcome the bipolar political model dominated by the BSP and the SDS. BSP Chairman Sergey Stanishev said his party received about 1 million votes -- more than in the 1999 local and the 2001 parliamentary elections. Former Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov (SDS) said the results show that the NDSV failed to convince the electorate that it is capable of governing the country. He said the BSP remains the SDS's main opponent. Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski (SSD) suggested that his party cooperate with the SDS, its former ally. UB

The mayoral races in Bulgaria's two largest cities are heading to a second round, as no candidates Sofia or Plovdiv won a majority in the 26 October election, reported. In Sofia, incumbent Mayor Sofiyanski (SSD) will most likely run against BSP candidate Stoyan Aleksandrov, according to preliminary results reported by BTA. In Plovdiv, incumbent Mayor Ivan Chomakov (SDS) will face Zahari Georgiev (BSP), BTA reported. In Varna, Ruse, and Razgrad, incumbent Mayors Kiril Yordanov (BSP), Eleonora Nikolova (SDS), and Venelin Uzunov (BSP), respectively, won by large margins. UB


At a 9 October press conference in Yekaterinburg that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared that Russia reserves the right to intervene militarily within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in order to settle disputes that cannot be solved through negotiation. At the same press conference, Putin declared that the pipelines carrying oil and natural gas to the West were built by the Soviet Union and it is Russia's prerogative to maintain them in order to protect its national interests, "even those parts of the system that are beyond Russia's borders."

These seemingly new additions to the "National Security Concept" adopted in January 2000 (shortly after Boris Yeltsin handed over his presidential powers to Putin) and subsequently known as the "Putin Doctrine" codified what some observers might consider Russian claims to hegemony in the CIS and an unveiled threat to Georgia. The international media did not comment on Chancellor Schroeder's seemingly silent acquiescence to the declarations by Ivanov and Putin.

It seems clear that Putin and Ivanov both know full well that Russia -- with an economy the size of that of the Netherlands -- is not strong enough at the moment to dictate its will beyond the newly drawn borders of its former empire. But time is on their side. In a decade or two, with petro-dollars flowing into the Russian economy, this will change; but presumably the Putin Doctrine will remain in force and Russian aspirations will continue to grow.

Ivanov also announced that U.S. bases in Central Asia, presently being used in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, will have to be dismantled once that war is over. Ivanov's statement provided few clues as to who might determine when that war is over: Russia or the United States. Furthermore, it was unclear whether Ivanov and Putin had the consent of the presidents of the sovereign states in which those bases are situated to make such a statement, or whether they even bothered to ask. Nevertheless, they placed Washington on notice.

Thirty-five years earlier, in November 1968, a similar "doctrine" was proclaimed by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Czechoslovak reformers under the leadership of Alexander Dubcek had been attempting to implement "socialism with a human face" via reforms that came to be known as the "Prague Spring." Brezhnev declared that the USSR has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of members of the Warsaw Pact if their social system is threatened. This of course meant preserving the totalitarian nature of "advanced socialism" and was cited as justification for the armed invasion of Czechoslovakia that took place in August of that year.

Some observers see the revised Putin Doctrine as pandering -- in the run-up to December's State Duma elections and the presidential elections due in March 2004 -- to the imperial nostalgia of a segment of the Russian population that continues to mourn the loss of empire. But all indications are that Putin's re-election is already virtually assured and there is therefore no need to promulgate such a dangerous "doctrine" merely to win votes. This amended doctrine seems to be the logical extension of a series of recent moves by some in the Kremlin to reassert control over what they consider to be Russia's sphere of influence over a vitally important region.

An agreement signed in September on the creation of the Single Economic Space (EEP) in which Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan relinquish some of their sovereign rights to a supranational body in which Russia has the largest bloc of votes was one such move. Putin's declaration to the European Union that Russia will not give up state control over its oil and gas pipelines was another. This was a further indication that Russia intends to challenge the United States (and China) in the oil-rich Caspian region and in Central Asia, with its enormous natural gas reserves.

Ivanov adopted an even more ominous tone on 2 October, when he reiterated and expanded upon the original Putin Doctrine. Ivanov said the role of nuclear weapons remains a key tenet in Russia's defense strategy, and that Moscow does not exclude the possibility of preemptive strikes -- if need be -- to defend Russia's interests or those of its allies. In the National Security Concept adopted in January 2000, there was no such emphasis on "allies."

Russian officials argue that the newly revised Putin Doctrine will bring greater stability to the region; and stability is the name of the game concerning energy supplies to Western Europe, which currently depends on Russia for 28 percent of its gas supplies, and potentially to the United States. This consideration no doubt figured in the timing of the announcement -- during Chancellor Schroeder's visit to Russia. Germany, which is dependent on Russia for 12 percent of its natural gas and 18 percent of its oil, is vitally interested that the pipelines and stability be maintained.

The stability argument implies that Russia is positioning itself to be the guarantor of regional stability throughout the CIS. But the policies outlined by Putin and his defense minister -- which might or might not represent a general consensus among policymakers in the Kremlin -- are likely to increase suspicion of every Russian move by its neighbors. Suspicion often leads to misunderstandings -- or worse. The ongoing standoff concerning the construction of a Russian dam near the Ukrainian border in the Sea of Azov is a case in point.

If the Putin Doctrine intends to reverse history, not for the sake of ideological purity but as an assertion of its newly discovered energy might, the West and China might find themselves reexamining their relationship with Russia -- sooner or later.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Afghanistan Filippo Grandi said on 27 October that the worsening security situation in Afghanistan is hampering reconstruction efforts, and the country needs more money and troops to achieve economic and political stability, AFP reported. "There are worrying signs in Afghanistan," Grandi told a news conference in Tokyo. Commenting on the UN's 25 October announcement that it has suspended operations in four southern Afghan provinces due to increasing violence, Grandi said it has become to dangerous for UN workers to travel anywhere they want in Afghanistan, as they did prior to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban. Grandi said worrying signs include political divisiveness; the emergence of increasingly independent, low-ranking but rich commanders who have profited from the drug trade; and slow progress in postwar development. Referring to the approximately 4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, Grandi said, "If you ask refugees, they will say they will not come back until the commanders are disarmed." TG

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 26 October responded strongly to a top UN official's criticism of the security situation in Afghanistan, saying the official was mistaken and exaggerated the extent of the Taliban's resurgence, AFP reported. In a recent report to the UN Security Council, Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said "many fundamental, structural causes of insecurity" remain unresolved in Afghanistan. Guehenno on 25 October announced the suspension of UN operations in four provinces (see above) and said the chief sources of insecurity are "terrorist attacks and continued sizeable cross-border infiltration by suspected Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Hizb-e Islami insurgents." Karzai said small pockets of Taliban fighters "carrying out cross-border operations in the border districts" have been disruptive, but are "not capable of posing any significant threat, either in military or political terms, to the administration of government in the relevant areas." "There is not a single district in the areas referred to in the report where the central government does not exercise full control over administration and security," Karzai said. MES

Ali Ahmad Jalali on 26 October dismissed several top Balk Province officials after some of the worst factional fighting since the fall of the Taliban broke out in that northern province, AP reported on 26 October. During a visit to the provincial capital of Mazar-e Sharif, Jalali appointed a new provincial governor and deputy governor, and replaced the city's mayor and police chief, local officials said. The reshuffle is part of unpublished measures passed by Afghanistan's National Security Council aimed at "bringing more security to the north and finding a solution to some of the security problems," presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said. In one of the more startling appointments, ethnic Pashtun Mohammed Akram, a former police chief of the southern city of Kandahar, was named top police official in Mazar-e Sharif, according to Sultanali Sultani, a spokesman for an ethnic Hazara faction. TG

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in an undated interview that appeared in the 26 October issue of Manama's "Al-Ayyam" daily that Iran will sign the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on 20 or 22 November. "The important thing is that our rights and interests have been taken into consideration," Kharrazi added. "We seek to benefit from nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. This is our right, and we will not cede our rights or any of our conditions." The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors will discuss whether Iran has provided the required full accounting of its nuclear program on 20 November. BS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in a 26 October telephone interview with Reuters that Iran has not yet suspended uranium enrichment. "We are discussing and examining how to suspend enrichment," he said, according to the agency. Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian representative to the IAEA, said on 26 October that Tehran is still considering this issue, IRNA reported. "I can just say that Iran is currently holding consultations on the issue with [the] IAEA." The suspension of uranium enrichment is one of the provisos of the agreement reached by Tehran and the visiting foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom on 21 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003). BS

Vilayet Guliev met with Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ahmad Qazai on 25 October and informed him of Baku's demand that Iran cease its "broadcasting and unauthorized transmission of Iranian Sahar-2 television" into Azerbaijan, ANS reported. Guliev criticized the Azeri-language broadcasts beamed into southern Azerbaijan for containing "anti-Azerbaijani propaganda" aimed at destabilizing the southern regions of the country, and faulted the Iranian government for "interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs." Iranian officials have claimed that the broadcasts are beyond their control, as Sahar-2 is a privately owned station and merely expresses "its own position" in its programs. Sahar-2 is run by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), a state entity. RG/BS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi said on 26 October that Tehran has provided the United Nations with the names of 225 suspected Al-Qaeda members that it has repatriated and the names of 2,300 other people who were arrested and repatriated when they tried to enter Iran through Pakistan, IRNA reported. The arrests were made between October 2002 and July 2003. IRIB had reported that this report was released as an "official document" on 23 October. The IRIB dispatch said the Iranian report named 78 Al-Qaeda members who were arrested in Iran and repatriated, and a list of 147 other Al-Qaeda members and suspects who are facing legal proceedings was also provided to the UN. Assefi refused during his 26 October press conference to identify or provide the exact number of Al-Qaeda suspects being held in Iran, AP reported. An anonymous "senior U.S. official" said on 26 October that none of the repatriated Al-Qaeda suspects are top members of the organization, CNN reported. "We have no indication they've turned over any of the big guys," the official said. BS

Speaker of parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi has appointed three legislators from Tehran -- Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, Hussein Marashi, and Davud Suleimani -- to discuss the controversial "twin bills" with the Guardians Council, IRNA reported. The bills -- one of which amends the election law by greatly reducing the Guardians Council's role in vetting candidates and the other of which increases the president's power relative to other governmental bodies -- have been repeatedly rejected by the Guardians Council, which vets all legislation for conformity with the constitution and Islamic law. The three parliamentarians will meet with "Ayatollah Momenzadeh" (presumably, this is Ayatollah Mohammad Daneshzadeh-Momen-Qomi) and "Mr. Alizadeh" (Ahmad Alizadeh and Mohammad Reza Alizadeh are nonclerical members of the Guardians Council) in an effort to facilitate the legislation's approval. BS

National Iranian Gas Company Managing Director Mohammad Melaki said on 25 October that Tehran will not renegotiate its gas-export agreement with Turkey, Mehr News Agency reported. Melaki said Tehran and Ankara signed a long-term contract that cannot be refused for reasons of high prices or questionable quality. Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler said on 23 October that Ankara will review its agreement with Tehran because the natural gas is too expensive, Anatolia news agency reported. Turkey stopped importing Iranian gas from June-November 2002, allegedly due to concerns about its quality, and Tehran had to discount the gas (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 September, 21 October, and 2 December 2002). BS

A car packed with explosives blew up outside the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) Baghdad headquarters on 27 October killing at least 11 people and wounding 23, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. An Iraqi policeman told RFI that an ICRC ambulance packed with explosives crossed a security barrier outside the ICRC building. When Iraqi police fired at the driver, the vehicle rammed into an electricity generator outside the building and blew up. The building itself was not hit. The attack occurred on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims believe that Allah revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. KR

Three Iraqi police stations in Baghdad were also attacked on 27 October, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. In one incident, a sport-utility vehicle packed with explosives detonated near a police station as Iraqi police attempted to stop it. Three to four police officers and an unconfirmed number of civilians were killed in the incident. The explosion caused severe damage to a nearby housing complex, RFI reported. Police thwarted a fourth attack on a Baghdad police station when another sport-utility vehicle carrying three or four passengers attempted to hit the station. When police fired after the vehicle refused to stop, three of the vehicle's occupants escaped. The driver was shot and later transported to a nearby hospital where it was determined that he was of Syrian origin. Police found 17 kilograms of TNT and four small rockets inside the vehicle. At least 30 people were killed and dozens wounded in the attacks on the ICRC and the police stations, CNN reported. KR

On 26 October, militants targeted the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, where U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying. The attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from a trailer near the hotel. One U.S. soldier was killed and 15 people were injured, Reuters reported on 26 October. Wolfowitz said that the quick response of Iraqi security units on the ground may have prevented a larger attack. Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman confirmed that on 26 October one American soldier was killed and two others injured in a mortar attack on the Abu Ghurayb prison in Baghdad, and two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded by a roadside bomb in the capital, Reuters reported on 27 October. U.S. officials also confirmed that a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by an RPG on 25 October near Tikrit, the news agency reported the following day. One soldier was wounded in the incident. KR

The police chief of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah was shot and killed on 24 October, a British spokesman told Reuters on 25 October. Hamid Hadi al-Ay'bi was shot and killed outside a mosque in the city, located some 365 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. "Both ourselves and the Iraqi police are investigating," Lieutenant Commander Richard Walters said, adding, "We don't want to speculate about who was responsible." Militants opposed to Iraqi cooperation with coalition forces have targeted police officials and police stations on several occasions since the United States declared major combat operations over in Iraq on 1 May. The Al-Khaldiya police chief was shot and killed in a drive-by attack on his vehicle on 15 September (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 September 2003). KR

The U.S. military reopened the July 14th Bridge that spans the Tigris River, connecting north and south Baghdad on 25 October, international media reported. The bridge had been closed for security reasons since U.S. forces entered Baghdad in April. "It's steps like this, in the aggregate, that will demonstrate that safety and security has been achieved," said Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division said, as reported by "The Washington Post" on 26 October. The bridge is named after the 14 July 1958 revolution that overthrew the British-installed monarchy in Iraq. It was destroyed by coalition bombing during the 1991 Gulf War and rebuilt by the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein. The U.S.-led administration also lifted a nighttime curfew on Baghdad on 25 October. KR

The 23-24 October international donors conference on Iraq surpassed expectations, raising some $33 billion in aid and loans for Iraqi reconstruction, international media reported on 24 October. That figure includes the estimated $20 billion pledged by the United States. The international funding, which will be available over the next four years, still fell short of the $56 billion that the World Bank and UN estimates is needed for reconstruction through 2007. Iraqi leaders expressed gratitude for the support of the more than 70 countries that attended the conference. Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of October Iyad Allawi told reporters in Madrid, "A little over six months ago Iraq was the black sheep of the international community.... Today I am again proud to be an Iraqi," Reuters reported on 24 October. Even poorer countries unable to offer financial support agreed to contribute toward the reconstruction effort. Vietnam pledged $500,000 worth of rice, while Sri Lanka pledged 100 tons of tea. KR