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Newsline - June 2, 2004

Leonid Parfenov, one of the most popular and respected journalists in Russia, was fired by NTV on 2 June in the wake of a controversy over the channel's decision not to air an interview with the widow of former acting Chechen President Zemlikhan Yandarbiev on Parfenov's show "Namedni," Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004). NTV also announced that "Namedni" would be closed down. Following NTV's decision not to air the interview, Parfenov released the written order from NTV Deputy General Director Aleksandr Gerasimov to the press and gave numerous interviews criticizing the move. According to a statement released by NTV, Parfenov was dismissed for violating his employment agreement, which obligated him "to support the company leadership." Parfenov was one of the few journalists to stay with NTV following the station's 2001 takeover by the state-controlled natural-gas monopoly Gazprom. Parfenov told Interfax on 2 June that he has been offered other work but that he has not made any decisions. RC

Many journalists and other observers commented that Parfenov's dismissal is a sign of increasing state control over the mass media, Russian media reported. Union of Journalists General Secretary Igor Yakovenko called the move the culmination of the events surrounding the takeover of NTV. "This is the first time in the history of the new Russia that the best representative of television journalism was fired for reasons of censorship," Yakovenko told "This is an event of enormous significance." Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov, however, placed some of the blame with Parfenov himself and said that he would not offer Parfenov a job with his station. "If Leonid was fired for not obeying an order [to cut a story], then I would definitely offer him a job," Venediktov told Interfax. "But he was fired for something else, and I always hold corporate ethics in high regard." RC

Sergei Ivanov met in St. Petersburg on 1 June with German Defense Minister Peter Struck to discuss a wide range of bilateral military-cooperation issues, Russian and Western media reported. Ivanov said that "of all the countries [in NATO], we have the closest cooperation with Germany" in combating terrorism. "We are cooperating in matters of exchanging intelligence, countering the drug threat, and other areas," Ivanov said, according to Interfax. The defense ministers noted that a bilateral agreement allowing German military units to pass through Russia for deployment in Afghanistan will go into effect in the near future. Germany is already using Russian airspace for such missions. The two countries also announced other cooperation plans, including the joint development of unspecified military equipment and vehicles. RC

Yukos shares fell by 12 percent on 1 June following a court ruling nullifying a 2003 share issue that was part of the company's planned merger with Sibneft, dpa and other media reported. "Izvestiya" reported that state-controlled natural-gas monopoly Gazprom intends to purchase some unspecified Yukos assets, if they become available. Gazprom intends to discuss the matter at its scheduled 25 June shareholders meeting, the daily reported. Gazprom's strategic-development manager, Vlada Rusakova, confirmed that Gazprom is interested in some Yukos assets. Zenit bank analyst Sergei Suverov told the daily that analysts believe "that if Yukos is sold off, the main purchasers will be companies with a large degree of state participation, most likely Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz." RC

Former Novorossiisk Mayor Valerii Prokhorenko was given a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence on 2 June for negligence leading to the deaths of people during flooding in August 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October and 26 November 2002), Russian media reported. After hearing testimony from 150 witnesses, the court ruled that Prokhorenko did not take the necessary measures to protect residents from the flooding and that, as a result, 65 people were killed and five are still considered missing, reported. Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Prokhorenko to five years in prison. Prokhorenko maintains his innocence and has stated that he will appeal his conviction. RC

On 1 June, new regulations went into effect in Russia introducing stricter labeling requirements for genetically modified foods, REN-TV and "Vremya novostei" reported. Under the old law, food products consisting of more than 5 percent genetically modified ingredients had to be labeled, while now that figure is 1 percent. The new requirements bring Russia into conformity with EU standards, "Vremya novostei" reported. Federal Health and Social Development Inspectorate Director Gennadii Onishchenko was quoted by the daily as saying that the labeling requirements were being introduced "in order to make consumers our ally, so that there would be informed consent to the consumption of such products." The Russian branch of Greenpeace criticized the new regulations, noting that the requirements are vague and that most producers did not follow the old ones and are unlikely to follow the new ones either. The organization on 31 May issued a pamphlet entitled "How To Avoid The Use Of Products With Genetically Modified Ingredients," which tells which of more than 300 Russian companies use genetically modified ingredients. According to REN-TV, several companies accused by Greenpeace of using such ingredients plan to sue the organization. "Vremya novostei" reported that the cultivation of genetically modified plants in Russia is still prohibited. RC

The State Council met on 1 June to discuss improving the mechanisms for cooperation between federal and regional authorities, reported. According to "Izvestiya," this is the third time that the State Council has taken up this subject, and this time the concept is that "the center should give the regions several of its powers and as a result, the number of federal officials and federal organs working in the regions should be reduced." Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, who addressed the session, suggested that the ranks of regionally based federal officials should be cut by 30 percent. According to the daily, the list of responsibilities that will be transferred is still being drafted. JAC

However, "Gazeta" reported the same day that members of the State Council's working group on the issue submitted proposals to President Vladimir Putin on 31 May for transferring five powers to the regions. These included the rights to transfer land, such as forest or agricultural land, from one category to another; to manage deposits of some common resources, such as sand; to oversee employment issues; to conduct an inventory of real estate; and to resolve labor disputes. Sobyanin, a member of the working group, explained, "Currently, the decision to transfer Siberian forests from one category to another is made by people at the federal level of government who are not in a position to make the decision correctly." He continued, "To get a license for water use, one must seek permission from six or seven state bodies -- [the process] can take years and thousands of bureaucrats." JAC

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov suggested at the State Council session that regional governors take part in Russian cabinet sessions, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that 15 places would be set aside for this purpose. He said the choice of governors participating in each session would depend on the subject being discussed, RIA-Novosti reported. JAC

Prime Minister Fradkov signed a decree on 1 June setting the period for alternative civil service at between 18 and 42 months, Russian media reported. Conscripts without a higher education performing alternative service in organizations belonging to the armed forces and other military agencies will have to serve for 36 months, while those with a higher education must serve 18 months, according to Those conscripts without a higher education who perform their service for an organization controlled by federal or regional authorities must serve 42 months; those with a higher education will serve 21 months. The same day, Defense Minister Ivanov told reporters that his ministry plans to reduce the period of service in the armed forces to one year starting in 2008, RIA-Novosti reported. In April, former Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said that only 12 young men in Moscow had selected alternative civil service, despite "an enormous choice" of jobs in 300 occupations, "The Moscow Times" reported on 2 April. JAC

Members of the Federal Protection Service on 1 June beat up a journalist from "Kommersant-Daily" and took film away from reporters from NTV and Moskoviya outside of the White House, the main government building in central Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 June. The journalists were covering an unapproved demonstration by 10 members of the "radical" organization Avant-Guard Red Youth (AKM) to commemorate the International Children's Day, according to on 1 June. The group tried to present a letter to Prime Minister Fradkov demanding that he improve the situation of Russian children. "Kommersant-Daily" reporter Oleg Kashin reported that he was knocked down face first into the asphalt and the officers kicked him in the face several times. Kashin said they seemed to understand that he was a journalist but they didn't stop. Kashin, together with the protesters, was detained for a while and then released. JAC

Interfax reported that the protesters were chanting "Capitalism Kills Children" and had managed to block one of the gates along the building's fence. The agency also reported that the officers promised the NTV and Moskoviya reporters that they would return their film after examining it. However, Kashin told Ekho Moskvy that the officers forced all people who had taken pictures of them beating protesters to erase them. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the Federal Protection Service stopped answering all of its official phones after the incident, and neither it nor NTV nor Moskoviya was able to get an official comment. Last month, journalists from Ekho TV were detained while covering a protest by the National Bolshevik Party at the Bolshoi Theater (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2004). JAC

The Central Election Commission's (TsIK) Scientific-Methodological Council will study the method for forming the Federation Council, TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced on 1 June, Russian news agencies reported. Veshnyakov said: "We have the experience of forming the [Federation] Council according to three different models. Comparing these models, we will analyze the pluses and minuses and we can develop a concept for forming the upper legislative chamber in the optimal manner in full correspondence with the constitution," Interfax reported. commented that although the constitution does not accord the TsIK any right to draft legislation or introduce it to the State Duma, one idea after another keeps coming out of the commission. Most recently, Veshnyakov suggested electing the entire Duma according to party lists rather than just one-half (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 10, and 21 May 2004). JAC

More than 300 workers in the State Duma's apparatus will be dismissed by the fall, State Duma Regulations Committee Chairman Oleg Kovalev (Unified Russia) announced on 1 June, RIA-Novosti reported. The number of workers will be reduced from 1,994 to 1,550. Kovalev said the cuts are connected with the ongoing administrative reforms and the optimization of the work of the lower legislative chamber. "We will try to suggest places for the hard-working among our former colleagues, but outside of the walls of the State Duma," Kovalev said. JAC

The Yerevan municipal authorities formally refused permission on 1 June for a mass opposition demonstration in the city scheduled for 4 June, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Opposition spokesmen said they will appeal that ban in court and will stage the demonstration, whose participants plan to demand the resignation of President Robert Kocharian, even if the ban is upheld. Also on 1 June, Dustrik Mkhitarian of the opposition Artarutiun alliance told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that eight opposition activists were arrested in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia in the last day on charges of disrupting public order or insulting police. Five of those detained were sentenced to between five and 10 days of administrative arrest, while the other three were fined and then released. Two members of the opposition National Accord Party (AMK) were similarly sentenced in the central town of Gavar on 1 June, according to AMK Chairman Artashes Geghamian. More than 100 opposition activists have received similar short sentences over the past two months. LF

The preliminary hearing in the trial of seven oppositionists charged for their role in clashes last October in Baku between police and opposition supporters protesting the outcome of the presidential election ended on 2 June, Turan reported. The presiding judge accepted the defendants' collective written statement forgoing the right to futher legal representation. The seven men announced earlier that they will no longer attend the proceedings on the grounds that the judge routinely rejected all protests by themselves or their lawyers against procedural violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May and 1 June 2004). LF

Police in Nakhichevan forcibly removed six members of the Nakhichevan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party from the party's headquarters on 2 June and returned them to their homes, Turan reported. The six men started a hunger strike on 31 May to protest police harassment and reprisals, including the beating by police on 29 May of two members of the Center for Democratic Development, who were among the participants in a demonstration in the city the previous day to mark the anniversary of the proclamation in 1918 of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. LF

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania announced in Tbilisi on 1 June that Kakha Bendukidze, chief executive officer of Russia's United Motor Works, has accepted the post of Georgian economics minister, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported. Bendukidze, 49, was born in Tbilisi and graduated from the Biology Department of Tbilisi State University. He worked in the 1980s in Moscow as a researcher before entering banking and then heading a series of major industrial enterprises. Bendukidze, whom Zhvania described as a "world-class economist," told journalists on 1 June he advocates radical deregulation of the economy and shifting the tax burden as much as possible from businesses to individual taxpayers. LF

The authorities of the breakaway unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia refused on 1 June to permit the wife of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to enter the republic by road to visit a Georgian-populated village, Georgian and Russian media reported. She was forced, then, to make the journey by helicopter. Also on 1 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Georgian counterpart Salome Zourabichvili that the dispatch of additional Georgian troops to the former South Ossetian conflict zone constituted a violation of unspecified international agreements, Interfax reported, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004). South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity told Interfax on 1 June that citizens of his republic and of the neighboring Republic of North Ossetia might decide to impose an economic blockade on Georgia by blocking motor traffic along the main highway linking Georgia and Russia. South Ossetia refused to send a representative to Tbilisi on 2 June to attend a previously scheduled session of the Mixed Control Commission comprised of Russia, Georgian, and Ossetian representatives that is responsible for security in the conflict zone. LF

Georgian Foreign Minister Zourabichvili met in Washington on 1 June with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Georgian media reported. Topics discussed included the process of democratization in Georgia, relations between the central Georgian government and the republics of Adjara, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and the Russian military bases in Georgia, which Powell reportedly said no longer serve any useful purpose. LF

The League for the People's Protection has collected 12,000 of the minimum 30,000 signatures needed to introduce into parliament a draft bill on recalling Georgian peacekeepers currently serving in Kosova and Iraq, Caucasus Press reported on 1 June. The League is headed by Soviet-era dissident Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, who was a prominent member of the For a New Georgia Alliance created last year by supporters of then President Eduard Shevardnadze to contest the 2 November parliamentary election. On 24 May, Interfax quoted Georgian Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili as saying that Georgia will not pull its peacekeepers out of Iraq but, on the contrary, will increase the size of its contingent from 156 to over 500 men. LF

Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told a joint session of parliament on 1 June that Kazakhstan needs to launch its own satellite, KazInform reported the same day. Noting that Kazakhstan spends $26 million-$28 million annually to rent satellite channels, Akhmetov explained that the country would recoup the one-time $65 million cost of launching a satellite within three years. According to Akhmetov, negotiations with Russia's space agency have produced a tentative December 2005 launch date, although Akhmetov would like to see the process expedited. DK

President Askar Akaev met on 1 June with a delegation from Saudi Arabia's Majlis al-Shura, or parliament, reported the same day. Majlis chairman Sheikh Bin Abdallah Bin Humayd led the delegation. Akaev and the Saudi legislators discussed economic cooperation. Akaev expressed his condolences to the people of Saudi Arabia in connection with recent terror attacks and invited Saudi crown Prince Abdallah Bin Abd-al-Aziz, to visit Kyrgyzstan. Altai Borubaev, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's Assembly of People's Representatives, also met the Saudis to discuss bilateral cooperation. DK

Bojidar Dimitrov, the head of the OSCE field office in Kulob, Tajikistan, told Asia-Plus Blitz on 1 June that he is "surprised" at the difficulties the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) is encountering in Khatlon Oblast. A regional branch of the opposition party had hoped to hold a constituent conference in the oblast on 30 May, but problems with local authorities prevented IRP members from gathering. Abdusamad Ghayratov, chairman of the IRP regional branch, told Asia-Plus Blitz that his party acted in accordance with the law; he added that the opposition party faces frequent harassment at the local level. Dimitrov said that the problems "surprised" him because a district-level official had told the head of the OSCE center in Dushanbe that the IRP meeting would take place without incident. Dmitirov said, "In a law-governed state, which Tajikistan is, the law must not be interpreted in such a way." DK

A delegation of industry representatives from Iran concluded a two-day visit to Tajikistan on 1 June, Asia-Plus Blitz reported. The delegation included officials from the Industry Ministry, an automobile company, and a tractor company. Tajik officials told the news agency that meetings focused on the possibility of creating Tajik-Iranian joint ventures to produce tractors and other agricultural equipment, as well as the feasibility of importing Iranian-produced agricultural equipment to Tajikistan. Iranian specialists are to visit Tajikistan in the coming weeks to conduct feasibility studies on joint-venture tractor production. DK

Major General Sergei Chernomordin, commander of the CIS Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF), told journalists in Dushanbe on 1 June that the CRRF could cooperate with the U.S.-led antiterror coalition in Central Asia, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Noting that Russia, the United States, Great Britain, and France are doing "the same job of countering the terrorist threat," Chernomordin suggested that the CRRF could cooperate with coalition forces stationed in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. For now, however, there is no direct liaison between the CRRF and the U.S.-led coalition. DK

Turkmenistan's embassy in Russia issued a press release on 1 June to counter reports that Turkmen state employees with foreign diplomas will be dismissed as of 1 June. According to the press release, which was also published on, Russian media have spread "false" reports about the impending dismissals. The press release explains that Turkmenistan's Ministry of Education will verify and validate diplomas in response to petitions filed by other state employers. The press release criticizes press reports that "damage friendly Turkmen-Russian relations." ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June that most foreign diplomas held by Turkmen state employees were obtained in Russia and other CIS countries, and more than 650 employees stand to lose their jobs if the diplomas are invalidated. Turkmen Embassy Press Attache Grigorii Kolodin told ITAR-TASS that the "verification of not a move directed in particular against Russia. It is a normal procedure practiced in the majority of countries in the world." DK

Foreign Minister Sodiq Safoev and U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Jon Purnell signed two cooperation agreements on 1 June for the U.S. government to provide Uzbekistan with $1 million for judicial reforms and improved investigations into drug smuggling and terrorism, Uzbek TV reported the same day. Ambassador Purnell noted that the United States has already provided Uzbekistan with $4 million to implement similar programs and praised the projects for "yielding results." DK

President Islam Karimov issued a decree on 1 June removing Toshmirzo Qodirov from his post as governor of Surkhandarya Oblast, the official Uzbek news agency UzA reported the same day. Speaking at an unscheduled meeting of the regional council, Karimov lashed out at Qodirov for "serious shortcomings," Uzbek TV reported on 1 June. Karimov cited specific instances of embezzlement and nepotism to justify Qodirov's removal. Abduhakim Eshmurodov, a district head from the same region, was picked to replace Qodirov. Qodirov is the second governor to be fired in a week; the governor of Andijan was sacked on 25 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2004). DK

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly agreed on 1 June at the end of its five-day spring session in Bratislava to call on NATO members to increase their military presence in Afghanistan, TASR and CTK reported. Assembly President Doug Bereuter has specified that member states should send aviation equipment to Afghanistan, warning that the organization's mission in that country might otherwise be threatened. Bereuter said NATO members have failed to deploy promised reinforcement units to Afghanistan and that helicopters, transport planes, and infantry must be sent to Afghanistan before the planned elections there, which have been tentatively slated for September. MS

Bereuter also said on 1 June at the close of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's spring session in Bratislava that the organization should start planning its next enlargement summit at its forthcoming June NATO summit in Istanbul, CTK reported. Bereuter added that the next enlargement summit should be held no later than 2007. He also said the next wave of expansion should include Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. Bereuter also said the results of the October presidential election in Ukraine will greatly affect the future chances of that country becoming a member of the military alliance. Whether this happens or not will to a large extent depend on how democratic that election is, and who is the winner, he said, as well as on Ukraine's ability to implement political and military reforms. MS

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka published a decree on 1 June that increases customs duties on some types of imported motor vehicles, domestic appliances, television and video equipment, computers, furniture, and other goods from July, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. Import fees on imported motor vehicles that are three to seven years old and with engines smaller than 2,500 cubic centimeters will remain at the present rate of 0.35 euros ($0.43) per cubic centimeter. Fees on newer vehicles increase to 0.60 euros per cubic centimeter, while duties on those older than 14 years rise to more than three times that rate. The duty on imported domestic appliances, television and video equipment, and computers will amount to 30 percent of their value, while importers of furniture will have to pay a tax equal to 50-100 percent of its value. JM

The Verkhovna Rada on 1 June rejected a proposed resolution saying an investigation by the Prosecutor-General's Office into allegations of vote rigging in a mayoral election in Mukacheve on 18 April is unsatisfactory (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 April 2004), Ukrainian news agencies reported. The resolution was backed by 206 of 414 deputies present (226 votes were necessary for approval). The vote followed reports on the Mukacheve case presented by Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Halomsha (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004), representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Security Service, and Ukrainian Ombudswoman Nina Karpachova. JM

Ombudswoman Karpachova read a statement by policeman Mykola Zhumel, who was responsible on 19 April for guarding the room with protocols from polling-station election commissions following the mayoral election in Mukacheve on 18 April, in the Verkhovna Rada on 1 June, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Zhumel said superiors ordered him and his colleagues to leave their post at the room with protocols for two hours. After Zhumel returned, he said, he saw that the room had been burglarized. Zhumel, who was present in the session hall when Karpachova read his statement, confirmed that version of events. The Our Ukraine bloc alleges that authorities in Mukacheve substituted falsified polling-station protocols for the originals in order to award the victory to Ernest Nuser, a candidate supported by the Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) led by presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk. "Today, this man is defending democracy in Ukraine," Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said of Zhumel's confession in parliament. JM

The leadership of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party is planning to hold a conference to discuss the possible fielding of a joint presidential candidate in the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled for 31 October, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 1 June, quoting Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz. Last week, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said he has proposed fielding a joint presidential candidate and forming a coalition for the subsequent parliamentary elections to Moroz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2004). JM

Lawmaker Mykhaylo Dobkin has left the Center group in the Verkhovna Rada and joined the SDPU-o parliamentary caucus, Interfax reported on 2 June, quoting parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. "[After Dobkin joined Center], he and his father were subjected to repression, and his father was even arrested," Our Ukraine lawmaker Volodymyr Yavorivskyy told journalists regarding Dobkin's defection. "As soon as he signed a request to join the SDPU-o faction, his father was released. Don't you see yourselves what is going on in the Verkhovna Rada?" The current structure of the Verkhovna Rada is reportedly as follows: Our Ukraine, 100 deputies; Ukraine's Regions, 63; the Communist Party, 59; the SDPU-o, 39; Democratic Initiatives-People's Power, 28; Labor Ukraine, 29; the Socialist Party, 20; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, 10; Center, 18; the Popular Democratic Party and the Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, 17; Soyuz, 17; and the Agrarian Party, 16. JM

Prior to leaving Belgrade for Russia, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told ITAR-TASS on 1 June that he wants bilateral economic relations to become as vibrant as their "friendly and close" political ties. He specifically thanked Moscow for its diplomatic support on questions relating to Kosova. Meanwhile in Sochi, an unnamed "source in the administration" of Russian President Vladimir Putin told ITAR-TASS on 2 June that Moscow wants to "strengthen" the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro and promote social and economic stability in Serbia. Kostunica and Putin will meet in Sochi on 3 June, and Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic will visit Russia on 9-10 June. Serbian critics of relations with Moscow say that Russia offers warm words and symbolic gestures but drives a hard bargain in business deals. Even nationalist Serbian public opinion generally recognizes that Serbia's economic future lies in joining the EU and not in some special relationship with Russia. PM

Police from the special Serbian unit fighting organized crime (UBPOK) briefly held and questioned Nemanja Kolesar in Belgrade on 1 June about his role in the 2003 sale of the Smederevo-based Sartid steel company, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Kolesar was the late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's chief of staff and head of a state agency dealing with troubled banks. The possible linking of a top figure in the former reformist government to corruption charges seems likely to add to voter cynicism in the run-up to the 13 June Serbian presidential election (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March, 9 May, and 12 December 2003). In related news, police are continuing their search for Miodrag Kostic, who is wanted for fraud in connection with sugar dealings during Djindjic's rule. The fraud caused Serbia to run afoul in 2003 of the EU, which had granted Serbia generous conditions for its sugar exports to the bloc. As a result of the scandal, Serbia lost millions of dollars' worth of trade with and benefits from the EU. PM

Effective 1 June, NATO-led forces in Bosnia were reduced from 12,000 to 7,000 troops, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Sarajevo. They will be regrouped into three Multinational Task Force units, each with approximately 1,800 troops, based respectively in Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Mostar. NATO will decide at its June Istanbul summit about the possible replacement of SFOR with the EU's EUFOR peacekeepers (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). PM

The first Serbian-language newspaper to appear in independent Macedonia, "Pogled," was launched on 1 June, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. For the time being, "Pogled" will be issued as a monthly with a circulation of 5,000 copies, but the founders hope that it will soon become a weekly. "'Pogled' is a newspaper that writes about the life of [all] Macedonian citizens, but it will focus on the everyday existence and problems of the Serbs and Montenegrins in that country," according to Mile Radenkovic, "Pogled's" editor in chief. UB

A Tirana court refused on 1 June to grant bail to Albert Xhani, the head of the Partizani Tirana soccer club, who is charged with misappropriating $5.1 million from the collapsed Vefa pyramid-investment scheme, Reuters reported. Xhani argued that his sale of an unspecified number of firms back to Vefa shortly before its demise in 1997 were legitimate business deals, adding that the refusal to grant him bail will damage the business climate in Albania. The collapse of Vefa and some other pyramid schemes led to massive unrest and the fall of the government of President Sali Berisha in 1997. Mihal Delijorgji, who heads the rival Dinamo Tirana soccer club, is free on a record $1.2 million bail for failing to pay tax on scrap iron exports. PM

Adrian Nastase said in Iasi on 1 June that Romania might register stronger economic growth in 2004 than the 5.5 percent forecast at the beginning of this year, Mediafax reported. Nastase said growth in the first three months of 2004 has been larger than in any first trimester since 1989. He said that economic performance in real terms was 6.1 percent higher in January-March 2004 over the same period last year. Nastase also said that in the first trimester of 2004, investment was 7.2 percent higher than in the same period last year. MS

According to a 2 June report in the daily "Ziua," all public opinion polls indicate that the incumbent Bucharest mayor, Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu, will win a second term in the local election slated for 6 June. The report says that at least one poll predicts Basescu will win in the first round. Most other polls foresee a runoff between the mayor and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who is the candidate of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD). The polls also predict that PSD candidates will win most of Bucharest's district mayoralties. "Ziua" also reports that polls in Cluj show PSD mayoral candidate Ioan Rus (39 percent) ahead of National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance candidate Emil Boc (32 percent), whereas ultranationalist incumbent Mayor Gheorghe Funar of the Greater Romania Party trails them with 22 percent. MS

Vladimir Voronin invited foreign ambassadors in Chisinau on 1 June to sign a Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM), Infotag and Mediafax reported. Voronin said the plan should be signed by Moldova and Russia, the United States, the European Union, Romania, and Ukraine, and a meeting of the signatories' foreign ministers should be convoked for this purpose. He said the new plan would not replace the current five-sided negotiations on settling the Transdniester conflict but would facilitate a speedier conclusion of those negotiations. Voronin also said the SSPM should be anchored on five principles that all signatories would pledge to respect: Moldova's territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders; full participation of society in Moldova's democratization process; acknowledging, respecting, and promoting Moldova's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity; Moldova's neutrality; and the settlement of the Transdniester conflict on the basis of a federal solution. MS

The Moldovan Center for Independent Journalism and the Center for Sociological, Political, and Psychological Investigations announced on 1 June that they will monitor the broadcasts of Moldovan Radio and Moldovan Television's First Channel between 1-30 June, Flux reported. The monitoring will focus on legal stipulations providing for free access to information, objective reporting on social and political events, freedom of expression, and the promotion of democratic values. The monitors will compare media coverage of government officials to that given to opposition politicians to see if there is any bias in the coverage. The project is financed by the OSCE mission to Moldova and by the Swiss government. MS

One of the few controversial moments in President Vladimir Putin's unsurprising 26 May annual address to the Federal Assembly came when he turned his attention to the country's nascent civil society. "There are thousands of citizens' associations and unions working constructively in our country, but far from all of them are geared toward defending people's real interests," Putin said toward the end of his speech. "For some of these organizations, the priority is rather different -- obtaining funding from influential foreign or domestic foundations. For others it is servicing dubious groups and commercial interests."

This statement, which seems to imply that only the state's agenda is "constructive" and seems to resent the "influence" of nonstate groups, points directly to a key paradox that has bedeviled Putin's entire term in office -- building a vibrant society with the active participation of the public at all levels without giving up control of where that society is going. Putin concluded his speech by noting: "I believe that the creation of a free society of free people in Russia is our most important task, as well as the most complex one. It is the most important because an individual who is not free and not independent is incapable of taking care of himself, his family or his motherland. It is complex because freedom is not always valued, and even rarer is the ability to use it."

Putin's remarks, incidentally, contained an eerie echo of a recent comment by Vladimir Kraev, first deputy head of the Justice Ministry's Corrections Department. Kraev on 7 May said that "some so-called human rights groups have been given financial support from criminal groups," apparently in response to complaints from such organizations about conditions in Russian prisons. Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin later rebuked Kraev for his unsubstantiated allegations and urged him rather to focus on responding substantially to the human rights activists' reports.

The dilemma reaches far beyond the human rights community, touching economic life, science and education, political parties, and more. The Kremlin seems to be seeking a way around the old maxim that the one who pays the fiddler calls the tune; that is, it would like to get others to foot the bills, but seeks to keep fairly tight control over the agenda.

Many observers have charged that the Putin government has spent much of its time and energy reining in the freedoms of those who, in the Kremlin's eyes, don't have "the ability to use" them. The assault on Media-MOST, the drive to bring the regions to heel, various efforts to manipulate local and national elections, the taming of the Federal Assembly, the charges against oil giant Yukos and oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskii, and other events have frequently been viewed in these terms.

Putin's administration has labored hard to develop semi-state/semi-private institutions to resolve this paradox, but these efforts have generally been viewed merely as thinly veiled government control. For instance, the private NTV of former oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii has been replaced by the quasi-private NTV owned by state-controlled natural-gas monopoly Gazprom. Political parties that are reputed to have links to the Kremlin have emerged on the left and the right sides of the spectrum, in both cases edging out genuine opposition parties. Independent organizations within the Muslim and Jewish communities have been supplanted by ones with the Kremlin's ear, and so on.

Asked by journalists to comment on Putin's remark about the funding of NGOs, Lukin said on 27 May that "this is a very serious issue that needs a serious discussion." He said that many organizations are wholly dependent on grants and that "the role of foreign grants is growing seriously."

However, he noted that the alternatives might be even less palatable. "But what do we get if we eliminate the grants?" Lukin said. "Oligarchs? Small and medium-sized business, which is underdeveloped? We get monopolies at the federal, regional, and municipal levels. This leads not to the creation of a civil society but to something else."

As might have been expected, Putin's speech was immediately followed by calls for the state to take control of the funding of NGOs. Political consultant and Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii told reporters on 27 May that the government must "create the conditions for raising funds domestically." He alleged that "chasing after Western grants is distracting human rights activists from the fundamental task of defending citizens' rights." It is worth noting that Pavlovskii's comments, which were covered on state-controlled media such as RTR television and the ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti news agencies, were presented in the offices of a little-known NGO called Unity in the Name of Russia, an unsubtle echo of the name of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party.

Pavlovskii went still further, naming Kremlin-friendly areas where human rights advocates should be more active, presumably instead of looking into Russian prisons or the situation in Chechnya. Pavlovskii argued that activists could have done more to help Moscow resolve the recent crisis in the Georgian autonomous region of Adjara and to bring pressure to bear on the Latvian government to improve conditions for ethnic Russians in that country.

Since a leading function of human rights organizations in general is to protect citizens from their government, it is natural to wonder whether the concern of Putin, Kraev, Pavlovskii, and others was provoked because these groups are not effective enough or because they are too effective.

The discussion of NGOs parallels similar debates concerning the funding of science and education. On 18 May, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov addressed the Russian Academy of Sciences and urged scientists to do more to attract private funding for their projects. He lauded an initiative of the academy and oligarch Vladimir Potanin's Norilsk Nickel to study hydrogen-powered engines.

However, many Russian scholars and scientists in recent years have been hounded by the government for their ties to foreign and commercial interests. One of the earliest initiatives of Putin's administration was to adopt a decree compelling all scientists to report to the Federal Security Service (FSB) their contacts with foreigners. The government has used vague and secret laws and decrees on state secrets to prosecute scientists who stray from the state's research agenda. A court recently convicted Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada researcher Igor Sutyagin of espionage even though the judge refused to allow the jury to rule on Sutyagin's contention that all of the information he shared with foreign colleagues was publicly available.

Just this week, Russian media reported that the FSB is investigating oil giant TNK-BP on the grounds that the foreign managers of the high-profile joint venture have gained access to Russian state secrets regarding the extent and location of oil and natural-gas reserves. If that probe gathers steam, it will most certainly have a chilling effect on foreign investment in Russia generally.

Clearly, if Russia is to be a fully competitive modern state, the government cannot control and drive all aspects of political, economic, and social life. Putin and his administration so far seem uncomfortable allowing the level of private initiative in key areas of public life that is necessary to achieve the president's goal of creating "a free society of free people." Overwhelmingly, the thrust of Kremlin policy over the last four years has been to channel and control private initiative, but the ultimate effect of that policy could be to kill such initiative off altogether.

A spokesman for Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said on 1 June that Karzai has not joined in any coalition with former leaders of mujahedin parties, Radio Afghanistan reported. Spokesman Jawed Ludin maintained, however, that discussions between Karzai and some of those leaders are under way (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 June 2004). The aim of such discussions, Ludin added, is to strengthen national unity and prepare the proper conditions for elections scheduled for September. Ludin rejected recent reports that Karzai has offered government posts to some of the former mujahedin leaders. Former Afghan President and Jami'at-e Islami party leader Burhanuddin Rabbani on 31 May confirmed negotiations between Karzai and the United Front (Northern Alliance) leadership, according to Radio Afghanistan on 31 May, but he said no final agreement has been reached. Rabbani stressed that United Front would support any candidate for presidency who accepted its list of 25 preconditions, which he did not enumerate. AT

Chairman Karzai is reportedly continuing negotiations with some former leaders of the ousted Taliban regime in order to include them in a postelection government in Afghanistan, "The Sunday Times" of London reported on 30 May. According to the report, two former Taliban foreign ministers, Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil and Mullah Ghaws, are at the center of negotiations in which former Taliban leaders are purportedly being offered cabinet-level positions in the future Afghan government in return for their help in persuading their more militant colleagues to abandon the ongoing insurgency. Frontier and Tribal Affairs Minister Aref Nurzai said excluding "these people [former Taliban leaders] has only created problems." Karzai's idea "is to have a broad-based government in which these forces can participate so they can't be used by other countries or interests," Nurzai said. Conflicting reports about Karzai's relations, particularly with Mutawakkil, have circulated since the former Taliban minister was reportedly released from U.S. detention in October (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July, 18 September, 9,16, 23, and 30 October 2003 and 4 March 2004). AT

Tajik Drug Control Agency first deputy head Rustam Nazarov said on 1 June that Afghanistan is expected to produce 4,000 tons of opium in 2004, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Nazarov, opium production in Afghanistan is expected to increase by 500 tons compared to 2003, representing 40 percent annual growth. "Dozens of heroin-making factories are located on the Afghan territory in the direct proximity to the Tajik border. Each of them can make up to 20 kilograms of narcotic drugs a day," Nazarov claimed. According to the estimates by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan farmers produced 3,400 tons of opium in 2002 compared to 185 tons the preceding year. In 2003, when three-quarters of the global opium supply is believed to have originated in Afghanistan, production increased by another 6 percent to 3,600 tons. The UNODC projected that cultivation will increase yet again in 2004 (for more on the Afghan drug issue, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003 and 12 February and 2 June 2004). AT

U.S. President George W. Bush on 1 June added 10 individuals to a list of overseas drug barons targeted by special sanctions, AP reported. The list includes an Afghan named Haji Bashir Nurzai, bringing the number of individuals under the 1999 Drug Kingpin Act to 48, the news agency reported, although the relevant White House press release on 2 June does not identify Nurzai among the recent additions to the list; in fact, the press release indicated that Bush has decided to add to the Kingpin Act four individuals and three armed groups, mostly from Colombia and Mexico ( AT

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in the Slovak capital Bratislava on 1 June that it is "premature to make a judgment" on whether or not Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, as Iran insists, Reuters reported. El-Baradei added that IAEA inspectors have no "concrete proof of a military program." The United States suspects Iran will someday attempt to use its nuclear program to make bombs. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Seoul on 1 June that Iran has not received nuclear technology from North Korea, AP and ISNA reported the same day. "Our atomic programs are Iranian, though certain equipments were purchased from foreign dealers," ISNA quoted him as saying. AP reported that recent IAEA investigations suggest North Korea as a possible source of nuclear weapons know-how for other countries. But unlike Libya, Kharrazi said, "Iran's...program is native and is a source of national pride," ISNA reported. "We have voluntarily and temporarily suspended uranium enrichment while there is a two-way and constructive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA," Kharrazi added. VS

A confidential IAEA report shown to news agencies in Vienna on 1 June observes that the IAEA has yet to be given convincing explanations on two suspect aspects of Iran's nuclear program, the presence and origins of traces of highly-enriched uranium found on sites in Iran, and evidence of Iran's interest in advanced P-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, international news agencies reported the same day. The report indicates the discovery of highly enriched uranium traces in a third site in Iran, named Farayand, AFP reported. Unnamed diplomats told AFP that the IAEA is now unable to verify Iran's claim that similar traces found elsewhere in Iran came with contaminated equipment Iran bought from Pakistan. The report, to be presented to the IAEA governing board, which is to meet on 14-18 June to reach a conclusion on Iran's nuclear dossier, shows that Iran also imported parts for the P-2 centrifuges, contrary to its earlier assertions that these were homemade, Reuters and AP reported. The report states that the IAEA wants these matters clarified before it can declare Iran is running a peaceful nuclear program. VS

Iranian Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Reza Imani told AP on 1 June that Iran is building its first stealth missile, a rocket that can evade radar detection, although he did not give a range. Parts of the missile, known as Kowsar, are currently on show at a Tehran fair showing Defense Ministry products to government officials, AP and "Keyhan" reported on 1 June. The missile, designed "for defensive purposes" and compared to the Cruise missile, is built by the Aerospace Industries Organization, part of the Defense Ministry, IRNA reported on 31 May, quoting the Defense Ministry's public-relations department. It can be launched from land, ships, or the air, to strike ships, IRNA added, and is designed with the geography of the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea in mind. The missile can sink "small and medium-sized naval vessels" should it strike them, "Keyhan" added. Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said on 26 May that Iran currently manufactures 1,700 types of armament-related products (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 May 2004). VS

Judicial spokesman Gholamhussein Elham said in Tehran on 1 June that the Iranian Supreme Court has overturned a controversial death sentence against dissident Hashem Aghajari for apostasy, ISNA reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 May 2004). Aghajari was sentenced to death in 2003 after criticism directed at the Iranian clergy. Elham said the sentence was overturned because the sentencing court in Hamedan, in western Iran, did not satisfactorily "complete the investigations and correct the flaws" in the initial sentence, to which the Supreme Court had objected, ISNA reported. Elham added that the case has been sent to the Tehran judiciary for a further review. Elham added that Aghajari, currently in prison, "is eligible for pardon but until the pardon can be implemented, he serves his sentence," ISNA reported. VS

The appointment of Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir as Iraq's interim president on 1 June and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's subsequent naming of his cabinet was met with mixed reviews. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, one of the newly named interim vice presidents and spokesman for the Shi'ite Al-Da'wah party, told Al-Jazeera television on 1 June that while he recently expressed reservations about the transparency of the selection process, he is "now looking toward the future and how to...take more advanced steps than those made by the Governing Council." Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani said that despite the naming of seven Kurds to top positions, including one vice presidency (Rowsch Shaways, Kurdish Democratic Party), "the rights of Kurds are not completely met," reported. "We have to struggle to establish our [Kurdish] rights clearly in the next Iraqi constitution." Meanwhile, an Al-Jazeera broadcast said "the citizens of the south did not hide the hopes that they are hanging on the new president" and were reacting positively to his tribal background. Al-Arabiyah aired footage of Mosul residents celebrating the appointment of al-Yawir, who was born in the northern city. MES

U.S. President George W. Bush said during a 1 June press briefing that the naming of the interim government "brings us one step closer" to establishing a "fully sovereign nation with a representative government." However, he added that "I believe there will be more violence, because there are still violent people who want to stop progress" (for full text, see UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the same day in New York that the announcement marks "a new beginning," the UN News Center reported. While noting that the process of choosing the government "wasn't perfect," he said that "now that the new government is installed, we all need to look forward and work for the handover of sovereignty and power to the Iraqis on 30 June." UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who oversaw the establishment of the government, said in Baghdad that "I very much hope that [the Iraqi people] will see that even though this government may not reflect everything they had hoped for, it was the best outcome that was possible at this time." MES

A revised resolution submitted to the UN Security Council by the United States and Britain on 1 June opens with a statement that looks forward to the "end of the occupation and the assumption of authority by a fully sovereign interim government of Iraq by 30 June 2004," according to AP, which obtained a copy of the proposed resolution. It states the Security Council's willingness to terminate the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq "if requested by the elected transitional government," which is slated to be elected by 31 January 2005. In addition, the mandate "shall expire upon the completion of the political process," a reference to the election of a new government under a new constitution that is expected in late December 2005 or early 2006. A previous U.S.-U.K. resolution proposal was criticized by some Security Council members for not granting enough authority to Iraqis. The revised version "welcomes efforts by the incoming interim government of Iraq to develop Iraqi security forces," adding that those forces will operate under the authority of that government and its successors and will "ultimately assume responsibility for the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq." MES

An explosion in or near a vehicle in the northern Aadamiya neighborhood of the Iraqi capital on 2 June killed at least four people and wounded about 20 others, according to police officers on the scene, Reuters and AP reported. Aadamiya is a predominantly Sunni district of Baghdad, Reuters added. AH

Fighting between U.S. troops and militants loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr erupted in the streets near a mosque in the Shi'a holy city of Al-Kufah on 2 June, Al-Arabiyah television and international news agencies reported the same day. AP reported that explosions shook the industrial sections of the city and gunfire echoed through the streets, where a reported cease-fire has given way to occasionally intense fighting. AH

"The New York Times" reported on 1 June that U.S. support for the activities of the Iraqi National Congress and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, collapsed following intelligence suggesting that Chalabi informed an Iranian official that Washington had broken a sophisticated Iranian spy-service code. The daily reported that "several senior American officials...said the leak contributed to the White House decision to break with [Chalabi]." The report noted that "Chalabi and his aides have said he knew of no secret information related to Iran and therefore could not have communicated any intelligence to Tehran." AH

Two Polish nationals were abducted in Baghdad on 1 June, and while one managed to escape, the other apparently remains in the hands of kidnappers, Polish media reported on 1 June, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Boguslaw Majewski. "I confirm that in the afternoon [on 1 June], local time, there was an attack on an office in Iraq and as a result a kidnap of employees of the Opta and Wroclaw Jedynka companies," Majewski told PAP. Majewski added that the two Poles, employees of the Wroclaw Jedynka construction company, were part of a larger group of individuals who were kidnapped. (It was unclear who the other abductees were, although a Polish Radio report suggested the other kidnap victims were Iraqi nationals.) One of the Poles reportedly managed to jump from the kidnappers' car and reach the nearest coalition checkpoint, where he reported the kidnapping. The investigation into those abductions has been taken over by U.S. forces, according to Polish Radio. Poland has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq, behind the United States and United Kingdom. JM