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Newsline - June 18, 2004

President Vladimir Putin told a news conference in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on 18 June that Russian intelligence agencies obtained information on a number of occasions that suggested ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's secret services were preparing terrorist attacks on U.S. targets, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Putin added that such information was passed on to U.S. authorities. "I can confirm as well as that President [George W.] Bush personally thanked the chief of one of the Russian intelligence agencies, as he considered this information very important," Putin said. Putin noted that information suggesting the Hussein regime was planning such acts does not mean that they were carried out. VY

Interfax quoted a "very reliable" anonymous source within the Russian intelligence community on 17 June as saying that his unspecified agency disagrees with conclusions reportedly drawn by the independent U.S. commission investigating the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States. The source said that the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein must be viewed in context. "These conclusions and generalizations [were] made in isolation from other aspects of the Iraq issue and cannot be seen as objective," he said, according to Interfax. In early 2002, the source claimed, Russian intelligence obtained information suggesting that Hussein's secret services planned terrorist acts targeting U.S. territory, which it then transmitted to Washington in both oral and written form. VY

President Putin said on 18 June that the countries of the CIS "are now working to restore what was lost with the fall of the Soviet Union but are doing it on a new, modern basis," RTR and ORT reported. He was speaking at a conference of international experts at Lev Gumilev University in the Kazakh capital Astana on 18 June devoted to Eurasian integration and globalization. Putin said the ideas of Gumilev, who founded neo-Eurasianism based on the idea of a united Eurasia in opposition to the trans-Atlantic West, "are beginning to move the masses." He added, "Of course destroying is not the same as building, but there is a common understanding that protection from external threats and increasing global competition is possible through common intellectual potential and united efforts." Putin said chauvinism, nationalism, the personal ambitions of leaders, and foolishness hinder Eurasian integration. "But we are intelligent people, so let me conclude with an appeal: Intelligent people of the world, unite!" Putin claimed a leading role for Russia in Eurasian cooperation, saying, "Russia is the very center of Eurasia." He also warned of the dangers of extremism in implementing controversial Eurasianist ideas. Putin's visit to Astana is part of a major diplomatic swing through Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has been promoting the concept of a "Eurasian Union" for the past decade. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has been promoting the concept of a "Eurasian Union" for the past decade. VY

President Putin met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on 17 June to discuss bilateral relations and Russia's hopes for joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. Putin said after the meeting that relations between their countries are encouraging "the highest form of trust in the political, military-technical, and economic spheres." Mutual trade has increased by 37 percent in 2004, Putin said. Putin also discussed his planned trip to China in the fall and explored common positions ahead of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit scheduled to take place in Chile later this year. VY

President Putin told a news conference in Tashkent on 18 June that his administration in not interested in seeing embattled oil major Yukos bankrupted, ORT, NTV, and other Russian media reported. He stressed that he differentiates between the fate of the company and the fates of former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev. "The government of the Russian Federation must make an effort to avoid ruining Yukos," he said. Khodorkovskii and Lebedev are currently on trial for alleged tax evasion and fraud, among other charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). Putin said their fates are "a different story." VY

Yukos shares rose some 34 percent on the Russian stock exchange following Putin's statement on 17 June, prompting the market to suspend trading in Yukos shares at around midday, RBK reported. Yukos CEO Semen Kukes also announced the same day that he is prepared to negotiate with Sputnik Investment Fund President Boris Jordan, who has offered to represent minority-shareholder interests, to seek a settlement of possible Yukos debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2004), Russian media reported on 17 June. A U.S. citizen who featured prominently in the bankruptcy proceedings of Sidanko and in Gazprom-Media's 2001 takeover of NTV television, Jordan is perceived by some as reflecting the interests of the Kremlin. Yukos management initially rebuffed Jordan's offer. In an interview with BBC's Russian service on 17 June, Jordan called for new management at Yukos to replace a leadership "that compromised itself in the eyes of the state and was unable to settle its debt arrears in an arbitration court." VY

Lengthy public humiliation and an exhausting trial await Khodorkovskii and Lebedev, predicted on 17 June, citing views expressed by Western and Russian observers. One should not doubt that the trial's outcome has been predetermined by the Kremlin, it added. "Komsomolskaya pravda" the same day quoted anonymous court sources saying the trials will last until the end of the year. Meanwhile, visiting Delaware State University professor Sergei Lopatnikov in an interview published in "Argumenty i Fakty," No. 24, accused Khodorkovskii of betraying Russian economic interests in favor of the United States. Lopatnikov suggested that Khodorkovskii lobbied transnational energy-export and merger projects that contravene Russian interests. "Russia set to become a raw-materials province of the USA," a headline accompanying the interview suggests. Khodorkovskii's lawyers and supporters meanwhile announced the launch of a website ( to present information concerning his case. VY

President Putin has acknowledged the group of aides who drafted his 26 May address to the Federal Assembly, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 June. Putin signed a special decree thanking presidential aides Vladislav Surkov, Igor Shuvalov, Simon Kordonskii, Arkadii Dvorkovich, Dzhakhan Pollyeva, and Andrei Illarionov, as well as Strategic Planning Center President Elvira Nabiullina for their "active work" in preparing the speech. According to the daily, these people are not merely speechwriters, but represent Putin's "brain trust" for determining the state's strategic plans. The constitutionally mandated address to the federal assembly is effectively the Russian president's state-of-the-nation address. RC

Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin lashed out at the police on 16 June, saying that "the most important and urgent questions are the state of human rights in the law enforcement organs," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. Lukin said that the greatest number of alleged violations by police have been reported in Moscow, Tver, Leningrad, Vladimir, and Irkutsk oblasts and in Stavropol and Krasnoyarsk krais. He said the most frequent accusations involve illegal searches, planting evidence, illegal detentions, beatings, or torture. "The most impermissible means of influence are used in temporary holding cells and police offices," Lukin said. He said his agents found violations during all 32 of the inspections they carried out at Moscow police precincts in recent months. Lukin also criticized the Justice Ministry's Main Corrections Department for "trying to offload blame" for problems in the country's prisons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2004). ITAR-TASS reported the same day that Lukin and Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin met on 17 June and agreed to regular meetings and exchanges of information concerning human rights violations. The ministry pledged to work out a plan of concrete measures to address Lukin's concerns, and it will work with the ombudsman's office to design human rights training for police officers and cadets. Lukin was much less critical of the Interior Ministry in comments he made in April following talks with Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2004). RC

The Justice Ministry on 17 June asked a Moscow court to liquidate the Moscow branches of the Liberal Russia party and the Popular Republican Party of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Ministry official Aleksandr Buksman commented only that the parties should be closed down because they failed to correct unspecified legal violations about which the ministry had informed them previously. RC

The Federal Tax Service on 17 June released the results of the latest tax-declaration period, "Finansovye izvestiya" reported on 18 June. The service reported that one Moscow resident declared that he made $3 billion last year, on which he paid $416 million in taxes. Of the 2.5 million Russians who filed declarations, about 11,000 declared incomes greater than 1 million rubles ($33,300). According to the report, Moscow leads the country in terms of declared income, with Chukotka Autonomous Okrug coming next and Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug in third place. RC

A new law came into effect on 18 June under which Russians are now allowed to open bank accounts in some foreign countries, "Gazeta" reported. Under the law, which was adopted last fall, Russian citizens may open bank accounts in the 33 countries that are members of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering. As of 18 June 2005, Russians will be able to open hard-currency accounts in those countries without informing the Central Bank. The new law also allows Russians to purchase hard currency at exchange points without presenting their passports and to take hard-currency sums of less than $10,000 out of the country without proof of its origin. RC

A national campaign among journalists to compel pop star Filipp Kirkorov to apologize for obscene and offensive comments he made to a journalist in Rostov-na-Donu during a 20 May news conference continues to gain momentum, Russian media reported on 18 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2004). The website has created an online petition ( that has garnered 37,000 signatures calling on Kirkorov to apologize for his behavior. More and more regional media outlets are signing up to a national boycott of Kirkorov's music. The Tyumen-based website reported on 18 June that two local radio stations -- RadioS-Avtoradio and Krasnaya armiya -- have joined the boycott, while Regnum reported the same day that Kamchatka's Radio-SV has also signed on. reported on 18 June that radio and television stations in Altai Krai, Novosibirsk, Chuvashia, Kirov, and Ukraine have also declared a ban on Kirkorov's music. RC

Meanwhile, the journalist who was insulted, Irina Aroyan, told on 16 June that she does not insist that Kirkorov make a public apology. She said she would be satisfied with a private communication. Ekho Moskvy reported on 18 June that Kirkorov's lawyers have informed Aroyan that Kirkorov is touring in the United States at present and will not be able to make a decision regarding the matter until 1 July. The radio station cited Aroyan's lawyer as saying that that will be too late, since they intend to file their complaint on 29 June. RC

The staff of the municipal-housing office in Valdai is threatening to sell the statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin that graces their courtyard if the city does not give them money to prepare the city's housing stock for the coming winter, reported. The residents claim that they have already had several offers for the 20-year-old statue, including one for $15,000. "For the businessmen, buying the statue could be some kind of lark, but for us, selling it could help avert serious accidents this winter," an unidentified housing-office worker told the website. RC

Shamil Basaev convened a council of war in southern Chechnya on 13 June at which he warned that his men are preparing acts of terrorism that will inflict considerable military and political damage on federal forces, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 June, quoting the website ( Basaev again claimed that his fighters were responsible for planting the bomb that exploded on 9 May at Grozny's Dynamo stadium, killing pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and five other people. He praised the skill and accuracy of those responsible for the blast. On 16 June, a senior member of the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, Taus Dzhabrailov, claimed that Basaev has been undergoing medical treatment in Western Europe since last fall. Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Russia federal district Vladimir Yakovlev told journalists in St. Petersburg on 17 June that he has no evidence that would either corroborate or disprove Dzhabrailov's claim, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Yakovlev did not exclude the possibility that Basaev was indeed behind the 9 May bombing. LF

The Armenian government adopted on 17 June a three-year fiscal plan that will increase tax revenues by almost 17 percent this year, and by a further 14 percent in 2005, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Announcing the new program, Deputy Finance Minister Pavel Safarian said it would make it possible to increase the salaries of public-sector employees, including doctors and teachers, by 50 percent by the end of 2005. LF

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) appealed in a 16 June statement ( to Vasif Talybov, chairman of the parliament of Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhichevan, to take measures to halt official harassment of two journalists. The two are Malahat Nasibova, a correspondent for Turan and for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, and Mohammed Rzaev of the opposition daily "Azadlig." The two say they and members of their families have been systematically threatened over the past two months whenever they report police reprisals against local opposition activists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). A senior health official in Nakhichevan has brought a libel suit against Nasibova for quoting in a program aired by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service on 4 April statistics he divulged on the incidence of drug abuse among young people in Nakhichevan. Nasibova filed a countersuit on 10 June. LF

The trial of seven prominent Azerbaijani opposition politicians charged with participating in the clashes in Baku on 15-16 October between police and opposition supporters following the disputed presidential ballot resumed on 17 June, but was again adjourned due to the refusal of the seven accused to appear in court, reported on 18 June. Public prosecutor Nazir Bayramov warned that it is the duty, not simply the right, of the accused to appear in court, and that the law provides for the accused to be brought to the courtroom by force. Lawyer Samed Panakhov, representing Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," challenged that assertion, claiming that the law permits only persons who have not been remanded in pretrial detention to be brought to the courtroom by force. Panakhov also rejected as untrue and libelous Bayramov's allegation that the accused want to turn the trial into "an arena for political struggle." LF

Mikheil Saakashvili traveled to Batumi on 17 June and will remain in Adjara until the results of the 20 June ballot for a new republican parliament are known, Georgian media reported. Nine parties and one bloc are contesting the 30 mandates, 18 of which are to be allocated according to the party-list system and the remaining one in single-mandate constituencies. Votes cast for the Green Party will not be tallied because the party committed a minor infringement of the electoral law, a local election-commission official told Caucasus Press on 17 June. The Green Party has for years been lobbying against the construction of a dam in neighboring Turkey that its members claim could cause major damage to the Georgian Black Sea coast. Eight representatives of the Council of Europe will monitor the ballot together with representatives from other unnamed international organizations. LF

Georgian Central Election Commission Chairman Zurab Nonikashvili traveled on 18 June to Batumi to deliver 250,000 ballot papers for the 109,000 registered voters to use in the 20 June election, Caucasus Press reported. Potential voters who have not yet registered may still do so. On 17 June, Aslan Chanidze, who heads the Adjar chapter of the Young Lawyers' Association, told journalists that additional polling stations have been opened in mountain districts of Adjara -- purportedly to permit shepherds in summer pastures to cast their ballots -- and there is no mechanism to prevent repeat or multiple voting there, Caucasus Press reported. The Republican Party, which for most of the past decade constituted the only opposition force to Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze, has accused Saakashvili's National Movement-Democrats of seeking to secure the votes of 50,000 former supporters of Abashidze's All-Georgian Revival Union, Caucasus Press reported on 18 June. The agency quoted Republican Murman Dolbadze as claiming that all representatives of that party have been excluded from local election commissions. LF

The opposition Labor Party has written to the U.S. president, State Department, and Congress and to the European Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe protesting the policy of "censorship and dictatorship" of the mass media, especially television, implemented by the new Georgian leadership, Caucasus Press reported on 17 June. The protest notes that since the 28 March parliamentary elections television companies have been forbidden to broadcast any information on the activities of the Labor Party. It appeals to addressees to "protect freedom of speech and democratic principles" in Georgia. LF

Caucasus Press on 17 June quoted Abkhaz Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba as denying that First Deputy Prime Minister Astamur Tarba has resigned. Tarba was said to have submitted his resignation, together with Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba and State Security Service head Givi Agrba, to protest the assassination last week of Garri Ayba, a leading member of the opposition movement Amtsakhara (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 16 June 2004). Also on 17 June, Caucasus Press quoted Agrba as rejecting Shamba's call for the entire government to resign and for the formation in its place of a new government of national accord. LF

Amtsakhara and the opposition movement United Abkhazia, which was founded two months ago, have merged and set up a Coordinating Council, Apsnipress reported on 17 June. The Council issued a statement at its first session on 16 June backing Shamba's call for the government to resign. LF

The Central Electoral Commission announced on 17 June that the formation of electoral commissions at all levels is complete, Kazinform reported. Pro-presidential parties gained a commanding presence on the 67 district electoral commissions for 19 September parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. In all, the commissions have 469 members, with the pro-presidential Otan, Asar, and Auyl parties each fielding 67 representatives. Other pro-presidential parties are heavily represented as well. Opposition parties Ak Zhol and the Communist Party will field, respectively, 18 and 11 representatives. Kazinform reported that not all parties managed to advance candidates for the commissions. DK

The pro-presidential Civic and Agrarian Parties of Kazakhstan announced on 17 June that they will form a bloc for parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Representatives of the two parties signed a memorandum at a 17 June news conference to take part in elections as a single bloc. The bloc is the first of the parliamentary campaign. DK

Maksut Narikbaev, leader of the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (DPK), told a 17 June news conference that the Justice Ministry officially registered the party on 14 June, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. DPK held its constituent assembly on 29 April, reported. The party's platform is based on strengthening the state, inculcating a law-based culture, and improving the country's legislation. DPK brings to 11 the number of officially registered political parties in Kazakhstan. An advocate of legal reform, Narikbaev is the rector of the Kazakh State Legal Academy. DK

The Assembly of Representatives (Majlisi Namoyandagon) passed amendments to Tajikistan's law on elections on 16 June, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The amendments, which won the support of a large majority, would reduce the deposit for candidates wishing to contest parliamentary elections in single-mandate constituencies from $3,300 to $450, Avesta reported. Political parties will likewise be required to pay the same $450 deposit for each candidate included on a party list, rather than pay a lump sum for the party list regardless of the number of candidates. The law also tightens regulations to prevent interference in the work of election commissions. DK/LF

Asia Plus-Blitz on 17 June quoted Democratic Party of Tajikistan Chairman Mahmadruzi Iskandarov as expressing disappointment that deputies refused to amend the election law to provide for the inclusion in precinct electoral commissions of representatives of all registered political parties. He predicted that President Imomali Rakhmonov will refuse to sign the bill into law and will return it to the legislature. Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan Deputy Chairman Shokirdjon Hakimov assessed the amended law as less democratic than before, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He said deputies should have approved the proposal that candidates who collect the required number of signatures in their support be exempt from paying a deposit. But Shavkat Ismoilov, chairman of the lower chamber's Committee on Law, Security, and Defense, told Avesta on 17 June that the new law adopted more than 80 percent of the 30 suggestions offered by lawmakers. LF

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's (SCO) member states concluded their summit in Tashkent on 17 June with the signing of the "Tashkent declaration," Interfax reported. The summit's agenda focused on the fight against extremism, the threat of drug trafficking, efforts to increase economic cooperation, and the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Participants condemned terrorism and called for a concerted push to gain the upper hand in the fight against terrorism. Tajik President Rakhmonov stressed that Afghanistan and Tajikistan are not the only states affected by the drug problem, Uzbek Radio reported. For its part, China offered to provide member states with $900 million in loans and trade credits, while Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the creation of an SCO-Afghanistan contact group to aid Afghan reconstruction, Radio Rossii reported. Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, who attended the summit as Karimov's guest, expressed a desire to cooperate with the SCO and called on member states to stem the flow of illegal narcotics. "Drug money, terrorism, and extremism go hand in hand," Uzbek Television quoted him as saying. The SCO admitted Mongolia as an observer. The SCO comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. DK

The SCO's Regional Antiterrorism Structure (RATS) opened in Tashkent on 17 June, Uzbek Television reported the same day. Tajik President Rakhmonov said at a news conference the same day that RATS will be charged with the task of combating terrorism, extremism, separatism, and the illegal narcotics trade, Uzbek Radio reported. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said the structure will act as a "databank" and a coordinating body for cooperation between special services and law enforcement. Nazarbaev also suggested the possibility of cooperation with the UN and OSCE. Uzbek President Islam Karimov stressed similar themes. "We are confident that RATS will help in the near future to gain access to specific programs of cooperation with other well-known international and national antiterrorism structures," he said. DK

Thousands of Belarusian vendors, outdoor-market traders, and small-business proprietors went on strike throughout the country on 17 June to demand democratic changes to the Election Code and the release of opposition figure Mikhail Marynich, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The action was also a manifestation of support for the three Belarusian lawmakers, Syarhey Skrabets, Valery Fralou, and Uladzimir Parfyanovich, who have been on a hunger strike since 3 June with similar demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). Anatol Shumchanka, one of the organizers of the 17 June protest, told journalists that some 80,000 people took part in the strike in Minsk, oblast centers, and other Belarusian cities. "The Belarusian people must clear themselves of the mud they have been dragged through over the last decade," Belapan quoted Shumchanka as saying. JM

The Verkhovna Rada on 17 June passed a bill increasing the 2004 budget revenues by $4.5 billion hryvnyas ($845 million) and spending by 7.9 billion hryvnyas, Interfax reported. The budget-revenue revision was primarily connected with the government's recent sale of the Kryvorizhstal steelmaker (see End Note). The 2004 budget adopted in November projected revenues at 60.7 billion hryvnyas and spending of 64.2 billion hryvnyas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2003). JM

The Verkhovna Rada on 17 June rejected a bill by the opposition Our Ukraine bloc on the "redistribution of hidden revenues" in the 2004 budget law, Interfax reported. The bill proposed increasing the minimum monthly wage to 240 hryvnyas ($45) and recalculating all budget indicators linked to the minimum-wage level. This bill was supported by 122 lawmakers, while 226 votes were necessary for approval. Our Ukraine believes that the estimated revenues in the 2004 budget were underestimated and that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet is concealing 10 billion hryvnyas ($1.9 billion) in budget revenues and 5 billion hryvnyas of pension-fund revenues. JM

President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree detailing Ukraine's military doctrine, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 17 June. The current doctrine replaces the old one adopted in 1993. Under the new doctrine, Ukraine sees NATO as the basis of the European security system and pledges to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration in order to join the Atlantic alliance eventually. The document states that Ukraine currently does not consider any specific state a military threat. JM

Ukraine's Central Election Commission has made public its resolution of 7 June on the schedule of this year's presidential-election campaign, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 17 June. The detailed schedule is available at the commission's official website ( The election campaign will officially start on 3 July. Prospective presidential candidates should be nominated no later than 27 July and documents for their registration filed with the commission no later than 1 August. The commission is to conclude the registration of candidates on 6 August. Foreign observers of the election should register with the commission no later than 25 October. The voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on 31 October. JM

Sultan and Prime Minister of Brunei Hajji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah arrived in Ukraine on 17 June for a four-day official visit, Ukrainian media reported. Following a meeting of the Brunei official with President Leonid Kuchma on 18 June, the two sides signed accords on mutual protection of investment and cooperation in tourism. Kuchma visited Brunei in March. JM

A source within the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) denied reports that Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party (DS) had agreed to hold early general elections, but confirmed they did agree on adopting a new constitution as soon as possible, BETA reported on 17 June. The agreement to hold general elections by the end of the year was reported by "Blic" as part of a deal made by the DSS's Kostunica and Tadic at a meeting on 17 June that also includes the DSS and Kostunica's support for Tadic in the 27 June second round of Serbia's presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 June 2004). The DSS source told BETA that, by law, the election date cannot be changed. DW

At an EU summit being held in Brussels, Croatia was officially given candidate status on 18 June and will begin negotiations to join the EU in early 2005, Reuters and Hina reported. In a draft communique released the day before, the EU said that Croatia must improve in a number of areas, including minority rights, the right of return for refugees, judicial reform, cooperation in the Balkans, and intensifying the fight against corruption. The EU also called for Croatia to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Zagreb has said it wants to join the EU together with Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, but many analysts say this is more likely to happen in 2009, Reuters noted. DW

International prosecutors in Kosova charged three Kosovar Albanians and a Serb man on 17 June with serious crimes committed during ethnic violence in the province in mid-March, Reuters reported. UN police spokesman Neeraj Singh said the ethnic Albanians were charged with arson, inciting riots, and attacking police officers. The Serb was charged with attacking peacekeepers in Mitrovica with a grenade. Some 270 people have been arrested since the two days of rioting, which led to 19 deaths and hundreds of homes being set ablaze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2004). PB

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in Brussels on 16 June that Romania is likely to close two more chapters in its accession negotiations with the EU in July, Mediafax reported the next day. That would bring the number of chapters closed by Bucharest to 26 out of the 31 chapters of the acquis communautaire. Also on 17 June, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said in Brussels that he is not worried about the "safeguard clause" that the EU intends to introduce in the accession agreements with Romania and Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, and 17 June 2004). Geoana said the clause is intended to improve the monitoring of candidate countries' progress towards accession, which, he said, is not satisfactory now. "I believe that for us [the clause] could be a guarantee that we may successfully conclude accession negotiations in 2004," he said. Geoana also said he believes Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU together in 2007. MS

State Property Fund head Mykhaylo Chechetov announced in Kyiv on 14 June that the Investment-Metallurgical Union has won the tender for the sale of a 93.02 percent stake in the Ukrainian steelmaker Kryvorizhstal, which accounts for some 20 percent of the country's steel output. Chechetov said the union paid 4.26 billion hryvnyas ($800 million) for the stake at a starting price of 3.8 billion hryvnyas ($715 million). The Investment-Metallurgical Union represents the interests of the Interpipe corporation -- owned by Viktor Pinchuk, President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law and a parliament deputy -- and the System Capital Management company, which is controlled by Donetsk-based businessman Rynat Akhmetov, reportedly the richest man in Ukraine and a longtime crony of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

In the past few weeks, Ukrainian opposition lawmakers made several unsuccessful attempts to block the sale of Kryvorizhstal -- a giant steelmaker employing some 52,000 people -- which was widely seen as yet another privatization, at a price well below the real value of the privatized company, intended to enrich the already-rich circle of pro-government oligarchs. On 3 June, the legislature fell just eight votes short of the 226 needed to approve a resolution halting the Kryvorizstal tender.

The terms of the tender were formulated in such a way that it was clear to everybody that Kryvorizhstal was poised to become the property of Pinchuk and Akhmetov. In particular, the tender's qualifying conditions announced in May included the provision that any bidder must have a history of producing 1 million tons of coke and 2 million tons of steel in Ukraine annually in the past three years. Of the six bidders that submitted purchase offers, only two meet this condition -- Pinchuk's and Akhmetov's Investment-Metallurgical Union and the Industrial Union of Donbas, another Donetsk-based oligarchic holding. The Industrial Union of Donbas offered $750 million for the stake, just slightly over the starting price of $715 million but below the Investment-Metallurgical Union's bid.

It is noteworthy that the Anglo-Dutch concern LNM and U.S. Steel, which made a joint bid, offered to pay $1.5 billion for the stake and add another $1.2 billion in an investment package. A higher bid than that of the Investment-Metallurgical Union was also made by Russia's Severstal steelmaker ($1.2 billion). LNM and U.S. Steel have reportedly called on Ukrainian President Kuchma and Prime Minister Yanukovych to revise the tender. "By limiting the privatization this way, the Ukrainian economy is being deprived of a competitive tender," LNM and U.S. Steel said in a statement.

The Kryvorizhstal sale -- which many Ukrainian commentators have said is a large improvement on previous dishonest privatizations -- nevertheless highlights Ukraine's notoriously clannish organization of the state power branches. Not only did the executive and legislative branches not see anything objectionable in such a tender, but even the judiciary expressed its approval. Socialist Party lawmaker Valentyna Semenyuk on 8 June lodged a complaint against the Kryvorizhstal sale with the Holosiyivskyy District Court, arguing that the tender terms do not sufficiently protect Kryvorizhstal employees against layoffs. In theory, any court complaint should automatically suspend the privatization in question. Later the same day, however, the documents of the case were transferred to the Pecherskyy District Court, whose jurisdiction was deemed by judicial authorities more appropriate for the State Property Fund, which managed the privatization on behalf of the government. The Pecherskyy District Court -- which is famous in Ukraine for many cases of ruling in favor of the authorities -- rejected Semenyuk's complaint and said the privatization may continue.

More curious still, trade-union bosses at Kryvorizhstal have organized a petition among employees saying that they want a domestic investor for their enterprise. The petition was signed by more than 30,000 people, of whom the overwhelming majority, if not all, were reportedly completely unaware of not only the sums offered for their enterprise but also of the tender's provisions regarding guarantees for the Kryvorizhstal workforce.

Kryvorizhstal is a juicy privatization morsel -- it reported net sales of $1.4 billion on production of 7 million tons of steel last year. Therefore, some Ukrainian media assert, it should be expected that the 93 percent stake will unavoidably, even if inconspicuously, be resold in the future, partly or completely, and with a hefty profit for the Investment-Metallurgical Union. Why the state did not want to put this profit in its coffers is, of course, a different question.

Commander Mawlawi Abdul Salam on 17 June captured most of Chaghcharan, the provincial capital of Ghor Province, Reuters reported on 18 June. Ghor police chief Mohammad Zaman told Reuters that his forces are concentrated in the northern parts of the city and are planning to recapture the lost territory. He asked for Kabul to dispatch reinforcements to Ghor. According to Mohammad Zaman, there were 18 casualties in the attack, though he did not specify the nature of the casualties. U.S. warplanes circled above Chaghcharan but did not attack. On 11 June Mohammad Zaman had indicated that between 20 to 30 armed men under the command of Mawlawi Abdul Salam, whom he had described as a local mullah, had attacked a government post in Tolak District of the province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June 2004). AT

Ghor Province Governor Ebrahim Malikzadah said on 17 June that he has taken refuge in Herat Province, west of Ghor, Reuters reported on 18 June. The tensions in Ghor are apparently related to the refusal by Abdul Salam to disarm his militia under the UN-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program unless he was offered a government post. According to Reuters, Afghan Defense Ministry sources have indicated that there are no plans to send troops to Ghor to restore Governor Malikzadah to his post. The crisis in Ghor marks the third incident in recent months where a Kabul-appointed governor has been ousted by a local warlord and thus far none of these governors have been restored to their positions. Loyalists of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, head of the Junbish-e Melli party, in April ousted Faryab Governor Enayatullah Enayat and earlier in June, prevented Abdul Haq Shafaq from assuming his post as the new governor of Sar-e Pol Province in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 April and 18 June 2004). AT

A U.S. federal grand jury in North Carolina on 17 June indicted David Passaro in the beating of an Afghan prisoner in June 2003, "The New York Times" reported on 18 June. The Afghan, named Abdul Wali, had voluntarily given himself up to U.S. authorities at the Asadabad base in eastern Afghanistan after he was accused of involvement in attacks against the base. Passaro, who was employed as a contractor by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), allegedly "brutally" beat Abdul Wali during interrogations lasting two days. Abdul Wali died the next day. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that his country "will not tolerate criminal acts of brutality and violence against detainees such as those alleged in this indictment." Passaro's lawyer said that his client is innocent. In May, the U.S. military in Afghanistan said that Brigadier General Charles Jacoby will visit some 20 secret detention facilities across Afghanistan and deliver a report on conditions there by mid-June and will look into allegations of prisoner abuse ("RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 May 2004). AT

The offices in Kandahar of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) came under rocket and small-arms fire on 17 June city, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 18 June. The attack resulted in damage to the building, but no casualties. Afghan security forces and the UNHCR could not comment on the identity of the attackers, who managed to get close enough to the building to be able to target it with assault rifles. On 15 June, unidentified assailants shot dead a senior official in the Kandahar Province refugee department (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2004). AT

Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 17 June that Hungary will increase its military presence in Afghanistan to 151 soldiers, AFP reported. Kovacs said 120 soldiers will go to Afghanistan to reinforce the 31 Hungarian troops currently stationed there as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). "The task of the contingent will be to boost security by providing reconnaissance in Kabul and its surroundings, including Kabul international airport," Kovacs told journalists after a cabinet meeting. MS

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (aka the 9/11 Commission; on 16 June raised questions about Al-Qaeda's presence in Iran, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 17 June. The commission said in a report that there were "strong indications that elements of both the Pakistani and Iranian governments frequently turned a blind eye" to the transit through their countries of Al-Qaeda personnel prior to the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States, the daily reported. The commission also said Al-Qaeda operational planners considered launching poison gas or cyanide attacks on Jewish areas in Iran. Syrian-Spanish jihadist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar is one Al-Qaeda associate in Iran, according to the "Los Angeles Times" on 23 May. Spanish police believe Nasar is the Al-Qaeda mastermind behind the 11 March train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people, and they say his stature in the network compares with that of Abu Mu'sab al-Zarqawi. Other Al-Qaeda members who are allegedly in Iran are military commander Saif al-Adel and second-in-command Ayman-al-Zawahiri. BS

Iranian officials continue to say that Al-Qaeda suspects they are holding will face trial soon. Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian told reporters in Vienna on 16 June that the middle-ranking suspects will be tried after questioning is completed, Reuters reported. Musavian said the suspects were "plotting against the national security of Iran and they have planned for terrorist activities inside Iran." He went on to say that Iran might hand the suspects over to their countries of origin after their trials. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on 12 June that Iran turned detained Taliban personnel over to Saudi Arabia, IRNA reported. Tehran initially rejected U.S. assertions that Al-Qaeda or Taliban personnel had entered the country, but in February 2002 Iran conceded that some Arabs had entered the country illegally (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 February 2002). BS

QUESTIONS SURFACE ABOUT IRANIAN RESEARCH SITE reported on 16 June that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has received commercial satellite imagery of another possible nuclear-research facility in Iran. The site is in Lavizan-Shian, a northeastern Tehran neighborhood. Imagery from August 2003 reveals large buildings inside a secure perimeter, while imagery from March 2004 shows that the buildings have been dismantled, the rubble removed, and the earth scraped, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reported ( ISIS and ABC report that the National Council for Resistance in Iran, which according to the U.S. State Department is another name for a terrorist group known as the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (, first described the Lavizan-Shian Technical Research Center as a biological-weapons research facility associated with Malek Ashtar University and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. According to ABC, the IAEA has not inspected the site yet. BS

The IAEA board of governors on 18 June approved a resolution that criticizes the extent of Iranian cooperation with the nuclear watchdog, international news agencies reported. An anonymous diplomat cited by Reuters said that the resolution urges Iran to behave more cooperatively. France, Germany, and Great Britain submitted the resolution on 17 June. "Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely, and proactive as it should have been," the resolution says, according to on 18 June. The resolution also refers to outstanding questions about Iran's centrifuge program, its technology sources, and uranium contamination. Hussein Musavian, spokesman for the Iranian delegation to the IAEA board of governors meeting, said on 17 June that Tehran is not happy with the final draft resolution, IRNA reported. Nevertheless, he said, Iran will continue to cooperate with the agency. BS

The Japanese government has approved a plan for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to join the multinational force in Iraq, international media reported on 18 June. The decision to join the U.S.-led mission was a much-debated topic in Japan, as many feared that such participation might draw Japanese troops into combat situations, Reuters reported. Soldiers are banned from participating in combat on foreign soil under the Japanese Constitution. Japanese troops stationed in Iraq have been acting in a strictly humanitarian capacity. Japanese leaders say that the mission of SDF troops won't change under the multinational force. "It is extremely important for the Self-Defense Forces to continue with their mission as part of our country's support for the reconstruction of Iraq," Reuters quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda as saying. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said that "even though we are to operate within a multinational force, nothing substantial will change" regarding the soldiers' mission, Kyodo World Service reported. KR

A Turkish and an Egyptian truck driver taken hostage in Iraq were released on 17 June after several days in captivity, Anatolia news agency reported. The men were abducted in Al-Fallujah while they were transporting supplies for the U.S. military. CNN Turk reported that the two men were turned over to journalists from Turkey's Ihlas News Agency in Al-Fallujah, according to Reuters. The Turkish hostage, Bulent Yanik, said he was treated well while in captivity, but warned would-be contractors: "Whoever is thinking of coming here, don't work in Iraq," Reuters reported. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said in Cairo on 17 June that "the release of [Egyptian hostage] Victor Tawfiq came to crown continued efforts Egypt had made with Iraqi officials and influential individuals in the country from the start of his abduction," MENA reported. KR

Iraqi imam Sheikh Abdallah al-Janabi has denied reports by AFP that he ordered the execution of six Shi'ites in the city, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 15 June. The men were arrested by militants and police forces in the city for unknown reasons on 5 June. Al-Janabi denied in a 15 June interview with the satellite news channel that he was involved in the incident. "There was an arrest and murder. I do not know who the sides that carried out the arrest and murder were," he said. The imam then claimed that the men may have participated with the coalition in battling militants in Al-Fallujah in April and implied that they deserved to be killed. Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir has condemned the murders, Al-Jazeera reported on 17 June. Al-Yawir called the killings a desperate attempt to distort the image of the citizens of Al-Fallujah, Al-Jazeera reported. KR

A day after an independent commission investigating the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington announced that contacts by Iraq and Al-Qaeda officials in the 1990s "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," U.S. President George W. Bush on 17 June reiterated his belief that links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al-Qaeda existed, international media reported. "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam [Hussein] and Al-Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," Bush told reporters in Washington following a cabinet meeting, reported on 18 June. Bush said that Iraqi intelligence operatives met with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his representatives several times over the years. Bush said that Hussein "was a threat because he was a sworn enemy to the United States of America, just like al-Qaeda. Now, he was a threat because he had terrorist connections, not only Al-Qaeda connections but other connections to terrorist organizations," RFE/RL reported. KR

A roadside bomb on 17 June killed a Hungarian soldier and wounded a Hungarian civilian driver, international news agencies reported. The explosion occurred some 70 kilometers northeast of Al-Hillah, where 300 Hungarian troops are serving as part of a multinational force under Polish command. This is the first fatality suffered by Hungary in Iraq. Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said in Brussels that Hungary will not pull its troops out of Iraq, AP reported. Istvan Simicsko, who is the main opposition FIDESZ spokesman on military affairs, however, said in reaction to the incident: "We have to think long and hard about when to bring our soldiers home." MS