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Newsline - June 8, 2004

President Vladimir Putin made the first-ever visit by a Russian head of state to Mexico on 7 June, holding private talks with Mexican President Vicente Fox, Russian and international media reported. The two presidents agreed to work to promote multilateralism in global affairs. "We are geared to creating the kind of international relations that consider the opinions of every participant," Putin said, according to ITAR-TASS. The leaders also issued a statement pledging to make "further concrete results in the sphere of disarmament, specifically with regard to weapons of mass destruction" their "top priority." They urged all countries to adopt and adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Putin noted that Mexico and Russia both "went through serious trials and dramatic social transformations in the 20th century," but said they are now both ready for increased cooperation. The presidents discussed a range of bilateral economic issues, including energy cooperation, investment, high-technology cooperation, and military and military-technical cooperation. RC

Speaking to journalists in Mexico City on 7 June, President Putin said the situation in Afghanistan "remains quite difficult" but is "developing in a positive way," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the drug threat emerging from Afghanistan has worsened since the overthrow of the Taliban there, and he urged the international community to work constructively with the Afghan leadership to cope with the problem. Putin also expressed support for the elections to be held in Afghanistan later this year. "I hope that they will yield positive results. Russia will support them," Putin said. RC

During his 7 June news conference in Mexico City, President Putin said that a draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom "has undergone considerable changes" that "have been for the better," ITAR-TASS reported. The Security Council was expected to vote on the resolution on 8 June. "The United States is taking active steps to normalize the situation [in Iraq]," Putin said. He added that the goal of the current process is to "create conditions to allow [occupation authorities and troops] to leave the occupied state, to create conditions for the Iraqi people themselves to determine their future and dispose of their national wealth, including oil." He concluded that the sooner the country can hold direct elections, "the sooner we can say that the final stage in the Iraq settlement has arrived." Acting Russian UN Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin told ITAR-TASS on 7 June that the draft resolution has undergone "very substantial changes" and that most Security Council members have praised the revised text and accompanying letters of clarification. He said that UN special adviser on Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi and the Iraqi interim government have backed Russia's proposal to hold an international conference to discuss the Iraq situation. RC

The Mobility-2004 military training exercise began on 7 June, "Vremya novostei" reported on 8 June. The exercise, in which 50 military transport planes will move an 800-man motorized-infantry regiment and all its equipment from western Russia to the Far East, is the largest such exercise conducted since the fall of the Soviet Union. In addition to the military aircraft, long-distance jets from the Transport Ministry will participate in the exercise. At the landing zone, local border-guard and Interior Ministry units will also take part. The exercise is being overseen by Chief of the General Staff Army General Anatolii Kvashnin and will be completed on 30 June. RC

More than 180 military personnel were killed in the first five months of this year as a result of accidents, crimes, and suicide, reported, citing military-justice officials. The figures do not include casualties from military operations. According to figures released earlier by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, 337 servicemen were killed in such incidents in 2003. Of those, 35 percent were suicides, 23 percent resulted from violations of safety procedures, and 10 percent resulted from road accidents. The Defense Ministry also reported that almost 1,800 servicemen are currently considered absent without leave and are being sought by the authorities. RC

The authorities have launched a probe of the British Council, a U.K.-funded institution that promotes British culture and organizes English-language courses, Reuters and "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 June. According to the daily, police have visited all 15 British Council offices in Russia, apparently in order to investigate the revenues the organization generates through its language courses. "There is no agreement now between Britain and Russia over the activity of this organization," police Lieutenant General Sergei Verevkin-Rokhalskii told the daily. A spokesman for the British Embassy told "The Moscow Times" that such an agreement has been drafted, but the Russian government has not yet signed it. He added that President Putin praised the British Council's work during a visit to the United Kingdom last year. The council has operated in Russia since 1994. RC

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev will attend the 11 June funeral of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., Russian media reported on 7 June, citing a spokesman for Gorbachev. "I will forever remember the years of joint work with President Reagan, which put an end to confrontation between our two countries," Gorbachev said in a statement addressed to Reagan's widow, Nancy Reagan. Former Soviet Ambassador to the United States Yurii Dubinin told ITAR-TASS on 7 June that Reagan "was an outstanding president of the United States who did very much to overcome the Cold War." Professor Eduard Ivanyan, the author of a Russian biography of Reagan, said that "without Reagan, our relations would have been more complicated," the news agency reported. President Putin and former President Boris Yeltsin also extended their condolences, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has opened a condolence book for the public, "The Moscow Times" reported. RC

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko said on 8 June that she will withdraw a slander suit against former St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova after Markova apologized for her remarks, reported. Markova ran unsuccessfully against Matvienko during the gubernatorial election last year, and during a televised campaign debate, she made statements that Matvienko regarded as defamatory of her and her family. "Markova explained [her comments] by citing the emotional strain of the election campaign and assured [Matvienko] that she did not intend to make personal attacks on Matvienko. She expressed regret that this happened and made the appropriate apologies, which were accepted," read a statement issued by Matvienko's press office, Interfax reported. The statement said that Matvienko regards the matter as closed and intends to withdraw her lawsuit against Markova. RC

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June that after KreditTrast bank put itself into liquidation on 4 June, the "mood" on the Russian interbank market is increasingly reminiscent of the 1995 banking crisis. Suspicion is rife among banks -- not just small and medium-sized institutions but even among the 10 largest banks -- and banking officials are reportedly starting to close mutual lines of credit. According to "Vedomosti," turnover on the interbank market has fallen by a factor of two or three. Orgresbank First Deputy Chairman Igor Bulantsev told the daily that the "situation is clearly panic." JAC

Meanwhile, a blacklist of dozens of banks that the Central Bank and Federal Financial Monitoring Service are planning to audit is circulating in the Russian banking sector, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June. Interior Ministry official Verevkin-Rokhalskii countered on 7 June that the Interior Ministry has no list of banks suspected of laundering criminal funds, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Bank suspended the license of Sodbiznesbank last month on suspicions of money laundering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2004). KreditTrast's reputation had been "hugely tarnished by its association with Sodbiznesbank," according to Andrew Keeley, banking analyst at Renaissance Capital, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 June. James Longsdon of Fitch Ratings told the daily that the two banks had not been connected for some time, but the "market and treasury desks made the link and a rumor does not need to be true." JAC

Valentin Kuptsov, first deputy chairman of the Communist Party's Central Committee, announced on 5 June that he intends to resign from the party at next month's 10th party congress, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June. According to the official explanation, he is resigning to make room for new people and so he can concentrate on his lawmaking activities as a State Duma deputy. Kuptsov intends to give up his post on the Central Committee at the 3 July party congress, which he predicts will be "one of the most difficult in the history of the Communist Party," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Kuptsov predicted that there will be significant cadre changes in the leadership of the party. Oleg Kulikov, secretary of the party's Central Committee, told "Kommersant-Daily" that other members of the party's presidium might follow Kuptsov's example so the Communist Party can carry out a generational leadership change as soon as possible. JAC

However, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 June that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov still enjoys popular support. An opinion survey conducted by the Center for Research into the Political Culture of Russia at the end of May found that 70 percent of respondents believe Zyuganov is the best leader for the party and will insist on his re-election. JAC

The Urals Federal District prosecutor's office is undertaking a check of all enterprises that currently owe their employees back wages, RFE/RL's Yekaterinburg bureau reported on 7 June. Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov ordered the check, which has uncovered 4,500 violations, of which Sverdlovsk Oblast has the highest number. At one factory in Yekaterinburg, workers have reportedly not been paid for 18 months. According to the correspondent, checks are taking place at those enterprises where workers have complained. For this year alone, the prosecutor's office has already received 800 complaints. According to Radio Rossii the same day, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel promised that some 223 people will be prosecuted in the near future for not paying wages on time. JAC

State Duma Deputy and Vladivostok mayoral candidate Viktor Cherepkov (independent) was struck in the face by a homeless man during a meeting with voters on 5 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June. Cherepkov charged that the krai authorities have close ties with the criminal world, which is creating the conditions necessary for the victory of krai legislator Vladimir Nikolaev in the 4 July mayoral election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004). Nikolaev headed the krai campaign headquarters for Unified Russia, and Cherepkov claims that party supports Nikolaev. Last month, two activists from the campaign headquarters of incumbent Mayor Yurii Kopylov were severely beaten, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 27 May. One of the activists, who came to the area from the Moscow-based Russian School of Public Relations, wound up in the hospital. Both campaign workers blamed the attack on Nikolaev. JAC

U.S. talk show doyenne Oprah Winfrey has announced that she has selected Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" for her book club this summer, "The New York Times" reported on 7 June. Oprah's website ( provides viewers with a "character cheat sheet" and "relationship map" as well as other tools for reading the classic by what it calls the "infamous" Russian writer. Winfrey selected a version of "Anna Karenina" translated by a husband-and-wife team, Larisa Volkhonskii and Richard Pevear. The couple lives in France and had never heard of Oprah Winfrey. They did not immediately understand when their publisher called to say that they were increasing the print run to 800,000 copies. Volkhonskii told the paper: "I didn't understand what it could possibly mean. We're glad if we sell 20,000 copies of a book in a year." Because "Anna Karenina" is in the public domain, no royalties will flow to the author's estate, but plenty should go to the translators. JAC

Speaking on local television on 7 June, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov warned Chechen resistance fighters that if they do not surrender and lay down their arms within three days, they will be killed, Interfax reported. He argued that the militants were offered an amnesty last year and have had ample time to take advantage of it. "Terror tactics against the public are not to be tolerated any longer," he added, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 June. The same paper quoted Aleksandr Potapov, deputy director of the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service, as saying that he was not informed in advance of Kadyrov's ultimatum. "I don't think everyone will surrender within three days.... I hope Ramzan knows what he is doing," the paper quoted Potapov as saying. LF

Prominent Armenian opposition politicians have accused Jerzy Jaskiernia, a Polish parliamentarian who is one of two Armenia rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's Monitoring Committee, of accepting favors from Armenian authorities, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 7 June. The oppositionists claim that the translation into Armenian and publication at the expense of the Armenian Parliament of Jaskiernia's book about the PACE constituted "a bribe" intended to influence the content and tone of a report that Jaskiernia and his fellow rapporteur, Rene Andre of France, are to submit to the PACE summer session later this month. The Armenian edition of Jaskiernia's book was launched last week during his visit with Andre to Yerevan. Jaskiernia sponsored a PACE resolution in April criticizing the Armenian authorities' vicious reprisals against participants in a peaceful demonstration to call for the resignation of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004). LF

Dozens of tenants who depend for their livelihood on the sale of fruit from a large orchard in central Yerevan congregated on 7 June outside the presidential palace to protest plans endorsed by the government in late March to sell the land in question to a property developer, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Some 2,000 families signed leases in 1994 for plots in the19th century Dalma gardens, which they cleared of rubble and transformed into flourishing orchards. President Kocharian's aide, Garnik Isagulian, assured the protesters he will look into their complaint. LF

Vilayat Guliev, who served as foreign minister from October 1999 until April 2004, has been named ambassador to Poland, Turan reported on 7 June. The daily "Baki khabar" reported on 12 May that the appointment was pending. On 8 June, the online daily quoted Guliev, who is 52 and a philologist by training, as saying that he considers his new appointment "normal" and proof that the traditions of Azerbaijani statehood are becoming stronger. He pointed out that one Moldovan, one Uzbek, and four Kazakh ex-foreign ministers also serve as ambassadors abroad and added that he was offered a choice of postings and chose Warsaw. Guliev also dismissed as misplaced speculation that he was fired because of his harsh criticism of the OSCE Minsk Group, which seeks to mediate a political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He characterized his successor as foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, as an educated and capable diplomat. LF

Mikheil Saakashvili suggested on 7 June that the parliament should schedule a vote of confidence in the cabinet within six days in the wake of the reshuffle of the "power" ministers announced by Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania two days earlier, Georgian media reported (see "Georgian Premier Reshuffles Power Ministers,", 8 June 2004). Interfax on 7 June quoted parliament deputy speaker Mikheil Machavariani as predicting that deputies will approve the work of the cabinet as they have "no complaints about its performance so far." LF

Under Zhvania's proposed redistribution of government portfolios, Giorgi Baramidze, a former parliament Defense and Security Committee chairman who has served since November as interior minister, will become defense minister, replacing Gela Bezhuashvili, who will take over as National Security Council secretary from Vano Merabishvili. Merabishvili was named minister for state security, replacing Zurab Adeishvili, who in turn succeeds Irakli Okruashvili as prosecutor general. Okruashvili will replace Baramidze as interior minister. Zhvania said that he also plans to appoint Merabishvili deputy prime minister responsible for security issues, according to the webpage of independent television station Rustavi-2 ( Zhvania was quoted by Caucasus Press as predicting that "We are sure that the reshuffling will allow us to make our policy more targeted." But the opposition Labor Party on 7 June dismissed the reshuffle as pointless, and branded all the officials involved as corrupt, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Aleksandr Dzasokhov arrived in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, on 6 June and met with the unrecognized republic's president, Eduard Kokoity, and with parliament speaker Znaur Gassiev, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. Their talks focussed on the socioeconomic integration of the two Ossetian republics. Dzasokhov also met with representatives of the local population. Republic of South Ossetia Foreign Minister Murad Djioev told Caucasus Press that Dzasokhov pledged to intervene if the Georgian leadership continues to pressure the South Ossetian leadership and may dispatch humanitarian aid to the region. On 4 June, Georgian Agriculture Minister David Shervashidze tried to distribute mineral fertilizers to farmers in South Ossetia as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Georgian government, but local residents' hostility proved so palpable he was able to visit only one village, Caucasus Press reported. On 5 June, the government and parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania (which is part of the Russian Federation), together with local NGOs, issued a statement criticizing the Georgian authorities for fueling tensions in the region and thus imperiling peace and stability in the Caucasus. The statement expressed gratitude to Moscow for its efforts to defuse those tensions, Caucasus Press reported. LF

The parliament of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia adopted an appeal on 5 June to the Russian State Duma to recognize South Ossetia as an independent state and take unspecified measures to protect the region's population, many of whom have opted for Russian citizenship, Georgian media and reported on 7 June. The appeal notes that South Ossetia has enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia for 12 years, during which time it relied on Russian assistance and support. It characterized Russia as the sole guarantor of the security of the region's population. On 5 June, Russian Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) proposed inviting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to attend a Duma session to discuss the possibility of Russia imposing economic sanctions on Georgia in retaliation for its pressure on South Ossetia. LF

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry provided details on 7 June of Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev's trip to the United States last week, KazInform reported the same day. According to the Foreign Ministry statement, at his meeting with Toqaev, U.S. deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley praised Kazakhstan's "wise economic policy over the last 10 years" and promised continued U.S. support for Kazakhstan. Senator Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Toqaev that democracy-building in Kazakhstan has paved the way for significant progress in bilateral relations. Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, noted that U.S.-Kazakh cooperation is on the upswing. Toqaev also met with the leadership of the Council on Foreign Relations on 4 June in New York, as well as with UN officials. DK

Nikolai Tanaev met on 7 June with a group of international experts to discuss the achievements of Kyrgyzstan's National Council on Good Governance, Kyrgyz radio reported the same day. Noting that the council is the first body of its kind in the CIS, Tanaev cited it as an example of Kyrgyzstan's commitment to democratic reforms and asked international organizations to support it. The mission of international experts included Benjamin Allen, a policy adviser for the UN Development Program; Stian Christensen, the CIS program officer at Transparency International; and Macedonian Interior Ministry official Slagjana Taseva. During their visit, the international mission will analyze existing Kyrgyz legislation and submit recommendations for a more effective anticorruption strategy, the Kabar news agency reported. DK

Kyrgyzstan's Civil Society Against Corruption announced on 7 June that it has appealed to the head of the country's National Security Service (SNB) to give human-rights advocates access to files the SNB has been keeping on them, reported the same day. More specifically, Civil Society asked for SNB dossiers on Natalya Ablova, Tursunbek Akunov, Tolekan Ismailov, and Ramazan Dyryldaev. The appeal cites constitutional and legal justifications for citizens to demand access to such information. The existence of the dossiers came to light during 21 May parliamentary hearings on allegations the SNB planted eavesdropping devices in the offices of lawmakers. DK

New details emerged on 7 June about the agreement on military cooperation that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov signed at their 4 June meeting in Sochi, Asia-Plus Blitz reported the same day. A source in the Tajik presidential administration told the news agency that Russia will write off $250 million of Tajik debt in exchange for the space-surveillance center in Nurek. Russia will use the remaining $50 million of Tajik debt to invest in projects inside Tajikistan. The source said that a "political decision" has been made on a permanent Russian military base in Tajikistan, with only "a few technical issues" to be resolved. Moreover, Russia will join an international consortium to build the Sangtuda hydroelectric power station. Finally, the two countries will work together to conclude an agreement on labor migration. DK

Richard Hoagland, U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, denied on 7 June media reports that the United States had offered Tajikistan $12 million to ensure the withdrawal of Russian guards from the Tajik-Afghan border, Avesta reported the same day. Hoagland said, "The visit by the U.S. and EU delegation headed by the State Department Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs Officer John Fox is not a game with respect to Tajikistan." Hoagland stated that the delegation arrived in Dushanbe at the request of the Tajik president to discuss aid for the training of border protection specialists. Some published reports had suggested that the delegation intended to counterbalance ongoing Tajik-Russian negotiations over military cooperation. DK

Uzbeks who win gold medals at the summer Olympic Games in Athens will receive $100,000 from their government, Uzbek TV reported on 7 June. According to a government resolution, silver-medal winners will receive $50,000, and bronze medallists $25,000. The report noted that 71 Uzbek athletes will be competing in 15 different sports at the 2004 Olympics. DK

The ambassadors of Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Germany, France, and Great Britain on 7 June visited three Belarusian lawmakers, Uladzimir Parfyanovich, Syarhey Skrabets, and Valery Fralou, who have been on a hunger strike for five consecutive days, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The deputies are demanding changes to the Election Code and the release of their associate, Mikhail Marynich. They are also protesting a possible third term for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2004). French Ambassador to Belarus Stephane Chmelewsky reportedly told the protesters that their demands "entirely coincide with European expectations" regarding the building of a democratic Belarus. "I think that what we are doing makes some sense," Fralou said during the meeting. "There was too much talk, so it was time for action." Four activists of the opposition United Civic Party have joined the protest of the three lawmakers, which is taking place at Fralou's apartment in Minsk. JM

NATO and Ukraine on 7 June signed a "Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Airlift," under which the alliance will be able to use Ukraine's Ruslan planes for transporting NATO troops, equipment, and supplies to distant operation areas, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The signing took place at NATO-Ukrainian consultations in Warsaw, which were attended by Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Scheffer called for more democratic reforms in Ukraine on its declared path toward NATO membership. "Strengthening of democratic institutions, development of civil society, and guarantee of the rule of law are all crucial preconditions for bringing Ukraine closer to the fulfillment of its legitimate Euro-Atlantic integration [goal]," Scheffer said in Warsaw. JM

Four nationalist organizations in Ukraine -- the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the All-Ukrainian Association Freedom, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (revolutionary) -- have pledged to support jointly Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko as a presidential candidate in the 31 October presidential election, Interfax reported on 7 June. "We call on members of our organizations to join the work of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc in a more vigorous way," leaders of the four organizations wrote in a joint statement. JM

President Leonid Kuchma has signed into law a bill passed in May that allows conscripts objecting to regular military service to choose an alternative service of a nonmilitary nature, Interfax reported on 7 June. The bill stipulates that such alternative service is to last 1.5 times longer than the regular military duty. The compulsory military service in Ukraine normally lasts 27 months, although university and college graduates serve for 18 months. JM

A court in Hildesheim, Germany, on 7 June sentenced former Ukrainian lawmaker Viktor Zherdytskyy to five years and 10 months in prison, finding him guilty of embezzling some $2.5 million from the German government's compensation fund for Ukrainians who were forced by the Nazi regime during World War II to perform slave labor, dpa reported. Zherdytskyy, who was arrested in Hannover in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000), was originally charged by prosecutors with embezzling some $38 million in 1995, when he was in charge of Hradobank, which managed the German slave-labor compensation fund in Ukraine. The court also sentenced Ukrainian businessman Ihor Didenko, Zherdytskyy's accomplice, to four years and three months in prison. Both defendants said they will appeal the verdict. Didenko, who has already spent two-thirds of his term in pre-trial detention, walked free from the court after the verdict, while Zherdytskyy remains in custody, facing additional charges that he incited witnesses to perjury. JM

Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 8 June that the situation in Kosova affects the entire region and hence must be dealt with quickly. He said that someone must soon be appointed to succeed Harri Holkeri, who recently resigned as head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK). Second, Busek called for the EU to take the lead in "Europeanizing the problem," by which he apparently means proposing a solution for the political and economic issues affecting Serbia as well as Kosova, especially since the EU expects Serbia to join the Brussels-based bloc in the long term. Third, the EU must give Belgrade an unspecified "clear sign" even before the second round of the Serbian presidential elections, which presumably will follow soon on the heels of the first round scheduled for 13 June. Fourth, Busek wants UNMIK's mandate "tightened." He did not go into details on any of the four points, but it is clear that he believes that time is of the essence and that Brussels must offer the region specific pledges and conditions regarding eventual EU membership ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2003 and 21 May 2004). PM

Representatives of southeastern European countries belonging to Busek's EU-led Balkan Stability Pact are scheduled to meet in Portoroz, Slovenia, on 8 June with officials from donor countries to mark the pact's fifth anniversary, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The Stability Pact is a clearing house for a wide variety of aid development projects to promote peace, stability, and cooperation in the region with the backing of the EU, United States, Russia, Japan, and foreign NGOs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2004). It has achieved a high degree of cooperation between the countries of the region, more so than most people in the region realize, the Frankfurt-based daily wrote. The pact helped conclude 21 free trade pacts within the region to promote self-help and end dependency on countries outside the Balkans. Busek nonetheless warns against complacency and tendencies to see the role of the state as paramount in building a better future. The pact prides itself on being small and efficient, employing just over 30 full-time employees with an annual budget of $2.3 million. PM

EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana said in Prishtina on 7 June that "a society where kids of 16 years old are killed is not a healthy society. That society does not belong to Europe," RFE/RL reported. He was referring to a recent incident in which unidentified gunmen killed a Serbian teenager (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). Referring to Kosova's government's efforts to repair damage from the 17-18 March unrest, Solana said in Fushe Kosova that "the commitment of the government to September cannot be postponed. If they do postpone it, we will take care of the situation," Reuters reported. He did not elaborate, but stressed that it is important to have communities fully functioning before winter, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April and 4 June 2004). Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi suggested that the government's original September target date to reconstruct over 800 Serbian homes was too optimistic, adding that "we will be very satisfied if reconstruction is finished by mid-November." PM

Solana stressed in Prishtina on 7 June that the international community continues to insist that the standards it has set for Kosova must be sufficiently met before the province's final political status can be discussed, dpa reported. "The standards are fundamental. There will not be serious entering into the definition of the status until the standards are worked out in the manner that the international community is willing to accept," he added. All parties representing the ethnic Albanian majority support independence as the only acceptable solution to the status question. At a recent session of the UN Security Council, Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram said the international community should promote a "status with standards" program lest the "standards before status" be transformed into a dogma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2004). Belgrade and the Serbian minority stress the need to implement standards regarding minority rights, security, and freedom of movement. PM

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told Bosnia's High Representative Paddy Ashdown in Belgrade on 7 June that respecting the 1995 Dayton peace agreement is the key to stability in Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kostunica stressed Serbia's readiness to cooperate with Bosnia, especially in fighting organized crime. Ashdown also met with Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, with whom he agreed that cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is a basic condition for the integration of Bosnia and of Serbia and Montenegro into Euro-Atlantic structures. PM

The Macedonian government decided on 7 June to release some $1.4 million to cover the worst damage caused by heavy floods in the southern and western parts of the country, MIA reported. In addition, the government mandated a solidarity contribution worth one day's pay from all its officials. "Water and electricity supply has been restored, as well as the phone lines. Rail and cargo traffic between Macedonia and Greece has also been reestablished," Minister Without Portfolio Vlado Popovski told a press conference. Meanwhile, the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) demanded that the government declare a state of emergency, according to "Utrinski vesnik." UB

Economy and Trade Minister Dan Ioan Popescu, who is also the head of the Bucharest branch of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), said on 7 June that the PSD received a "clear, explicit and unequivocal message" from voters in Bucharest on 6 June, Mediafax reported. Popescu said the party "understands that message and assumes" its implications (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2004). He said: "We have probably distanced ourselves from people, being more preoccupied by political disputes and lost track of the fact that what really counts is people." Partial official results in Bucharest released by the Central Electoral Bureau on 8 June show incumbent Mayor Traian Basescu leading with an absolute majority of 54 percent over the PSD candidate, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana (30.3 percent), according to Mediafax. The opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance has a slim (50.2 percent) absolute majority on the municipal council, followed by the PSD (31.4 percent) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM), which garnered 6.9 percent. According to those partial results, runoffs are to take place in five out of Bucharest's six sector mayoralties. In all five sectors, the PNL-Democratic Party alliance candidates are ahead of PSD candidates. MS

Final counts of about half of the votes cast in the 6 June local elections show that thus far the PSD has won 69.78 percent of mayoral posts, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) won 12.48 percent, the PNL 7.75 percent, the Democrats 5.52 percent and the Humanist Party (PUR) 0.79 percent, Mediafax reported on 7 June. The German Democratic Forum (FDG) and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) have 0.53 percent of mayoral mandates, the PRM 0.39 percent, while the Party of Romanian National Unity and the Popular Action Party have 0.13 percent of those mandates. Fourteen mayoral mandates were won by independents. Most of the counted votes for mayor are from small- and medium-sized settlements. Runoffs are to take place on 20 June in 942 localities, of which 18 are municipalities (cities), 41 are towns, and 883 are villages. The PSD is leading in mandates won for county councilors (33.50 percent), followed by the PNL (17.19 percent), the Democrats (13.87 percent), the PRM (7.71 percent), the UDMR (6.19 percent), and the PUR (5.77 percent). In the voting for local councils, the PSD is ahead with 37.82 percent of counted votes, followed by the PNL (16.96 percent). The Democrats have 15.05 percent of local councilors, the UDMR 7.16 percent, the PRM 6.17 percent, and the PUR 6.15 percent. MS

Incumbent Mayor Klaus Johannis won a second mandate in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, garnering close to 89 percent of the vote in the 6 June local elections, Mediafax reported. His FDG has an absolute majority of over 60 percent on the municipal council. MS

The parliamentary group leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), Victor Stepaniuc, said on 5 June that "the building of communism remains our party's objective, but this is a rather theoretical postulate, an ideal we should all strive for," Infotag reported. Speaking on the Moldovan television's First Channel, Stepaniuc said that the PCM has scheduled a regular congress for 11 December to discuss the party's strategy in the parliamentary elections slated for February 2005. That forum, he said, will also debate amendments to the PCM's program, which must be brought up to date as it was adopted 10 years ago and "subsequent changes" must be mirrored in the document. Asked whether the PCM has misled the electorate by promising to join the Russia-Belarus Union and make Russian an official language, Stepaniuc responded that "politics is the art of the possible." He said the language issue would find a solution within the settlement of the Transdniester conflict. MS

History will remember Chechnya's late leader, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, as playing a critical, and partially constructive, transitional role. Chechnya needed a way out of the catastrophe in which it was mired in 2000 following the onset of the second Chechen war in the fall of 1999. Soon after his appointment as Chechen administration head in June 2000, Kadyrov pointed the republic in the only realistic direction. Employing methods that were harsh and sometimes brutal, he succeeded in restoring the rudiments of social order to a people sorely in need of a respite from war.

Kadyrov's personal evolution was emblematic of many of his fellow Chechens' rejection of Islamist and nationalist radicalism in favor of pragmatic realism. Yet Kadyrov was also an unfortunate combination of great personal courage with limited political vision. Having willed Chechnya to the threshold of stability and the rule of law, he proved incapable of passing through the door. Along with Kremlin officials, he manipulated the presidential election held last fall and sacrificed the rule of law to the expansion of his personal control.

The current North Caucasian drama is a consequence of the stage-managed presidential ballot in October, and the most recent twist of its plot has been a disaster for those who bore the greatest responsibility for the electoral result: high-ranking Kremlin officials and Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov himself. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been hoping from the outset that Chechnya would be Kadyrov's problem and that Kadyrov would be Chechnya's problem. But along the way, Putin's Chechnya policy grew so heavily dependent upon Kadyrov that the recent assassination of the latter might undermine the former. Yet Putin's Chechnya policy would have encountered problems in any case, since Kadyrov had already recognized the Kremlin's dependence upon him and was beginning to pressure Putin with the hope of further expanding his power.

The Kremlin painted itself into a dangerous corner when it failed to recognize Chechnya's presidential election as an opportunity to balance Kadyrov's rapidly expanding power. The victory of any of his prospective electoral challengers would not have deprived Kadyrov of effective power, since Kadyrov had thousands of armed supporters and none of his challengers had any. Yet such a victory would have provided the Kremlin with an opportunity to push Kadyrov toward a power-sharing arrangement. Such an arrangement might have forestalled Kadyrov's assassination, and it certainly would have left both Moscow and Chechnya with an alternative to the current power vacuum. The irony of the events of recent months is that Moscow weakened its own hand in Chechnya when it countenanced the manipulation of the Chechen presidential election.

The Kremlin intended Chechnya's presidential election, and the constitutional referendum that preceded it, to initiate a political process for the stabilization and reconstruction of Chechnya. Outside observers have frequently called for a political solution to the conflict, and this was the only political process that was realistically feasible. Chechnya is currently engulfed in a civil war in which there are not two, and not even three sides, but rather a fluctuating multiplicity of conflicting groups. Caught within the maelstrom are many people who are alienated from all of these groups, and who are primarily interested in efforts to stabilize their own lives. This mix provides no realistic opportunities for a negotiated end to the conflict. Because the conflict is multifaceted, and because many of those facets are fluid and shifting, there is no one who controls forces sufficient to guarantee its resolution on any terms. Neither the administration in Moscow nor any militant leader (including President Aslan Maskhadov), nor any conceivable administration in Grozny, is currently in a position to end the conflict, regardless of concessions that might emerge from the other sides. Indeed it appears that Maskhadov currently controls little more than 50 fighters. For these reasons, Kremlin leaders saw electoral politics as the only viable political process for the resolution of the Chechen conflict.

There were, however, two problems with the Kremlin's implementation of this strategy. First, Chechnya's traditionally fragmented social structure is not structured to accommodate the presidential system that was imposed by last year's constitutional referendum. The problem is that a presidential system must assign power to an individual leader who inevitably will be seen as favoring some segments of the society over others. A particularly strong and clever leader just might make the system work, and Kadyrov might have become such a leader, but the institution of the Chechen presidency is more likely to undermine his successors. Second, having settled upon this course, the Kremlin immediately undermined itself by failing to relinquish control and thereby permit the process to become truly political. By manipulating the outcomes of both the constitutional referendum and the presidential election, the Kremlin prevented precisely the kind of political process that might have spared it from its present conundrum.

A second presidential election, scheduled for 29 August, will give Moscow another chance to get it right. Sooner or later, the Kremlin will have no alternative but to allow the Chechen people a genuine opportunity peacefully to determine their future. One simply cannot force the people of this region to do anything that they do not wish to do. The trick is in finding a way to offer them what they want.

This has been an especially difficult trick for Moscow, given the horrific economic, political, and moral failures of Chechnya's de facto independence from 1996 to 1999, not to mention similar failures in Chechnya's earlier period of autonomy from 1992 to 1994. Yet most people in Chechnya are now prepared to recognize the difficulties involved in Chechen independence. Among most Chechens, there is now a tripartite consensus: first, that they must find the means to stabilize their personal lives; second, that they will not achieve stabilization through the auspices of Islamists, militants, or terrorists; and third, that some form of reintegration with Russia is therefore inevitable.

When people want peace badly enough, they generally get it. Unfortunately, they do not always get it on terms that are consistent with democracy and self-determination.The author is an associate professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement released on 8 June, called on the United States and other G-8 countries to protect the integrity of the general elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September. "There's been too much doubletalk on Afghanistan," said Sam Zarifi, deputy director of HRW's Asia Division. "It's time for the United States and its NATO allies to honor their pledges to provide aid and ensure security in Afghanistan before things deteriorate even further." Specifically, HRW cited a funding shortfall for the upcoming elections. Donors have not yet supplied any of the $101 million needed by the UN and Afghan government to administer the elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2004). U.S. President George W. Bush has invited Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai to the G-8 summit scheduled for 8-10 June in the United States. The G-8 comprises the United States, Russia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2004). AT

Afghan officials say that at least four fighters loyal to rival Afghan factions have been killed in a clash that occurred on 7 June in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh, Reuters reported on 8 June. Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said that the clash reflected rising tensions between Hizb-e Wahdat, a minority Shi'ite Muslim faction, and the Sunni Muslim Jami'at-e Islami group, led by Ata Mohammad. "Three fighters from Wahdat died in this fighting and one person from Jamiat," Mashal told reporters, adding that security forces managed to bring the situation under control. The clash was triggered by a land dispute, Mashal added. AT

One U.S. solider was killed and two others were wounded on 7 June in Oruzgan Province, AP reported the following day. The vehicles in which the soldiers were traveling apparently hit a land mine. Oruzgan Governor Jan Mohammad Khan said that U.S. troops sealed off the area after the incident and were not allowing Afghans into the area. AT

In a 7 June commentary, the Kabul-based daily "Hewad" mourned the death of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan who died on 5 June. While Reagan was respected in many countries for his role in the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, "Hewad" writes that Reagan has a special place in the hearts of Afghans. "He assisted Afghans and voiced support for our campaign when Afghanistan was going through unpleasant times. Not only did he prompt the U.S. to support the Afghan campaign [when Soviet troops were in Afghanistan, 1979-89], but he also encouraged peace-loving countries to back the Afghan mujahedin," the commentary said. According to "Hewad," Reagan played a major role in the victory of Afghans over the Soviets, a deed that Afghanistan "can never forget." AT

New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report on 7 June denouncing Iran's "systematic abuses [of] political detainees...arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, torture...prolonged solitary confinement, and...psychological abuse," its website ( stated the same day. The report observes that reforms in Iran have not ended torture, but rather Iran's government has intensified the suppression of dissent since April 2000, when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced critical newspapers as "enemy bases." The wave of press closures following his remarks has reduced scrutiny over government actions, the report stated, and allowed more abuse to occur with impunity. Parallel and "plainclothes intelligence agencies" work with the judiciary in "detaining and torturing those who criticise the government," the website stated, while Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi is one of "a number of judicial authorities" who, ignoring their judicial duties, "are known for ordering the torture of political detainees." The HRW report criticizes the European Union's "weak response" to abuse in Iran and observes that three years of EU-Iran human rights dialogue have "failed to achieve any tangible results" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 May 2004). VS

Iran's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Shafei, said in Moscow on 7 June that Iran and Russia will continue to cooperate over nuclear energy and arms purchases "in accordance with international laws and agreements," Mehr News Agency ( reported the same day, citing an Interfax interview with Shafei. Such cooperation, he said, is in keeping with the "natural right of countries to meet their needs," adding that "with nuclear weapons, we have stressed many times that we have no inclination to move in that direction and to access [them]." Military cooperation with Russia, he said, is entirely "within [Iran's] defensive doctrine." Shafei said that one reason Iran is expanding relations with Russia is because Russia does not have "double standards" in its foreign policy, reported. Russia is helping to build a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, southern Iran. VS

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) confirmed on 6 June that it detained the crew of an Iranian fishing boat in the Persian Gulf on 2 June, for allegedly sailing into U.A.E. territorial waters, AFP reported on 6 June, citing an unnamed U.A.E. coastguard official. The crew was reportedly "referred to judicial authorities" in the U.A.E., the official told AFP. On 6 June in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said the arrest was "unacceptable," but added that Iranian and U.A.E. diplomats are discussing the matter "so we can arrange for the release of these people as soon as possible," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 7 June. "We have asked for an explanation," Assefi said, but he rejected claims that this may be a possible move to pressure Iran as part of an ongoing dispute with the U.A.E. over three Persian Gulf islands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2004). The Iranian fishermen were reportedly arrested near Abu Musa, one of the disputed islands, AFP reported. "This also happened last year. Such matters may arise in [territorial] waters and are nothing new," Assefi said. VS

Members of the UN Security Council appeared to have reached agreement on the wording of a proposed resolution on Iraq and were expected to bring the U.S.-U.K. draft to a vote on 8 June, international news agencies reported. The revised draft -- the fourth revision in a two-week span -- states that the U.S.-led administration in Iraq "will cease to exist and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty" with the 30 June handover, according to a copy of the document circulated by Reuters. The document urges support for the newly formed interim Iraqi government and calls on the Security Council to create a multinational force with authority to take "all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq," dpa reported. The United States and United Kingdom reportedly rebuffed an effort by the French to introduce explicit language in the draft concerning Iraqi control over some U.S.-led military operations. AH

During his 7 June news conference in Mexico City, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq originally proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom "has undergone considerable changes" that "have been for the better," ITAR-TASS reported. "The United States is taking active steps to normalize the situation [in Iraq]," Putin said. He added that the goal of the current process is to "create conditions to allow [occupation authorities and troops] to leave the occupied state, to create conditions for the Iraqi people themselves to determine their future and dispose of their national wealth, including oil." He concluded that the sooner the country can hold direct elections, "the sooner we can say that the final stage in the Iraq settlement has arrived." Acting Russian UN Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin told ITAR-TASS on 7 June that the draft resolution has undergone "very substantial changes" and that most Security Council members have praised the revised text and accompanying letters of clarification. He said that UN special adviser on Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi and the Iraqi interim government have backed Russia's proposal to hold an international conference to discuss the Iraq situation. RC

UN inspectors said in a report released on 7 June that weapons-related and dual-use equipment from Iraq has disappeared, some of it turning up in a Dutch scrapyard, according to Reuters. "A number of sites which contained dual-use equipment that was previously monitored by UN inspectors have been systematically taken apart," Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman for the inspectors, said, according to the agency. The authors show before and after satellite images of a missile-related site in Iraq, as well as photos of a missile engine discovered in a Rotterdam junkyard, Reuters reported. AH

A senior court official quoted by Reuters on 8 June said an Iraqi tribunal preparing the case against ousted President Saddam Hussein plans to indict an unspecified number of individuals who served in that regime by the end of this year. The court's top administrator, Salam Chalabi, said the body is looking into 14 "major crimes" allegedly committed by those individuals, Reuters reported. Authorities are expected to seek testimony during those trials that might be used to help convict Saddam Hussein, who is being held at an undisclosed location by U.S. forces, when he faces trial at a later date. Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has "taken a personal interest and will help" ensure fair but rapid justice in such cases, the agency quoted a government spokesman as saying. AH

A car bomb detonated in heavy traffic near a forward U.S. base north of Baghdad on 8 June, killing at least four Iraqis and one U.S. servicemen and wounding about 16 other Iraqis and 10 American soldiers, Al-Arabiyah television and international news agencies reported. Hundreds of Iraqi nationals who work at the base, in the city of Ba'qubah some 30 kilometers north of the capital, were standing in line awaiting security checks at the time of the incident, AP reported. Also on 8 June, at least one explosion tore through a downtown area of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least three and wounding dozens. The Mosul attack appeared to have targeted the motorcade of Mosul security chief and district head Major General Salim al-Hajj Isa, according to Al-Jazeera, which reported that al-Hajj Isa was slightly wounded. Al-Jazeera initially reported that at least three people died in the Mosul incident and 30 others were wounded, although Reuters suggested that roughly 100 were wounded. AH

Three Slovaks, two Poles, and one Latvian were killed in a weapons-disposal operation roughly 50 kilometers southeast of Baghdad on 8 June, international news agencies reported, quoting a Polish military spokesman. "The soldiers were working on destroying ammunition stocks from Saddam Hussein's army," said Polish Colonel Zdzislaw Gnatowski, a spokesman for the Polish General Staff. Gnatowski added that other soldiers were injured in the mishap. AH