Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - June 22, 2004

Speaking at an international investors' conference in Moscow on 21 June, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said there is a political element to the Yukos case but it is not crucial to the events surrounding the oil giant, and other Russian media reported. "One cannot deny that, as the company itself has declared many times, it took part in the political process," Gref said. He added that the crucial issue is that the company is being held accountable administratively and legally for alleged violations of the tax law. Gref insisted that law-abiding companies have nothing to fear. commented on 21 June that the Kremlin is not trying to conceal its genuine interest in accepting a stake in Yukos in exchange for back taxes allegedly owed by the company. The website suggested that the presidential administration would in turn seek to sell the stake to a Russian state-run company or a foreign investor. VY

The Moscow Municipal Court on 21 June dismissed a new request by former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii's lawyers to release him from custody during his trial on tax-evasion and fraud charges, RosBalt reported. One of Khodorkovskii's lawyers, Anton Drel, said his client does not wish to leave Russia regardless of the outcome of the trial. suggested that Khodorkovskii is more concerned with the fate of his brainchild, Yukos, than his financial well-being. The website quoted Khodorkovskii's mother saying that while her son is not very optimistic about the outcome of his trial, he does not regret not leaving Russia. VY

Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev told journalists on 21 June that the government will consider on 24 June whether to revoke the licenses to develop 10 major oil and gas fields, Prime-TASS reported. Trutnev said that the licensees have failed to meet production deadlines. The sites in question include two fields in Nenets Autonomous Okrug controlled by LUKoil; the Salymskaya field in Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug, controlled by Royal Dutch/Shell; Sakhalin-1, controlled by Rosneft; two fields in Irkutsk Oblast that are controlled by TNK-BP; and the Tersko-Kamuvskii field in Evenk Autonomous Okrug, which is controlled by Yukos. RC

President Vladimir Putin told cabinet ministers on 21 June that he is satisfied with the results of his tour of Central Asia, as well as with the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the other regional forums that took place during the same trip (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, 17, and 18 June 2004), ORT and RIA-Novosti reported. "All of the objectives Russia had for those summits were reached," Putin said. He also praised the members of the cabinet who paved the way for agreements and other achievements during the trip. Putin stressed the signing of an accord on a "strategic partnership" with Uzbekistan. Speaking at the same cabinet meeting on 21 June, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reported that Russia recently signed agreements with France and Italy to facilitate the issuance of multiple-entry visas for Russian nationals, ORT reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2004). As a result, some categories of travelers -- including businesspeople, athletes, and students -- will qualify for five-year visas to those countries. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin meanwhile predicted that the recent lifting of restrictions on hard-currency transactions will have a negative short-term effect as speculative capital skews the balance of trade and boosts inflation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2004). VY

In a telephone conversation on 21 June, President Putin gave Russian backing to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Israeli troops from Gaza and evacuate settlements from the disputed territory by the end of 2005, reported. ITAR-TASS reported that the Israeli side had requested the telephone discussion, which came the same day that Sharon survived a confidence vote in the Knesset. Putin reportedly noted that Sharon's Gaza plan was endorsed earlier this month at the Group of Eight summit at Sea Island, Georgia, but added that the initiative can only be effective as part of the "road map" informally adopted by the UN, European Union, the United States, and Russia in late 2002. VY

Speaking on his arrival in Ussuriisk on 22 June, Sergei Ivanov told journalists that the two Russian military bases in Georgia cannot be closed until alternative facilities are built in Russia for the troops who are to be withdrawn, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Ivanov estimated the cost of building those new facilities at $300 million and said the required funds will be allocated from the Russian budget only after an agreement on the withdrawal is signed with the Georgian government. Ivanov also said the question of closing the two Russian bases in Georgia should be addressed separately from the recent Georgian proposal to establish a joint Georgian-Russian antiterrorism center in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. He stressed that at present that center "is nothing but an idea." LF

RTR broadcast a documentary on 19 June about the activities of the top secret Vympel ("Pennant") task force, including its efforts to combat potential nuclear terrorism. Created in the 1970s as an elite unit of the KGB's foreign-intelligence wing, Vympel was originally tasked with the destruction of key strategic sites in NATO countries in the event of a major conflict. Its officers were effective at penetrating the West, the documentary film reported. The film reported that Vympel agents surprised KGB generals and the Soviet leadership when they "captured" the Kalinin nuclear power station during a 1988 exercise. During the 1993 confrontation between then President Boris Yeltsin and the parliament, the unit refused to carry out an order to storm the White House, which was then the seat of the Russian legislature, resulting in the Vympel's dissolution. It was re-formed as part of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) antiterrorism effort in the mid-1990s, specializing in combating nuclear terrorism. VY

During hearings on 21 June, committee chairmen in the State Duma heavily criticized a government-backed bill that would replace in-kind social benefits with cash payments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2004), and other Russian media reported. Andrei Isaev (Unified Russia), the chairman of the Labor and Social Policy Committee, said the bill would affect the lives of about 35 million retirees and handicapped people, and effectively eliminate federal guarantees on minimum labor payments. Isaev said he is concerned that the government's proposed compensation figures are insufficient to cover the cost of prescription medicine for such people. The chairman of the Veterans Committee, Nikolai Kovalev (Unified Russia), said adoption of the bill would lead to the elimination or amendment of about 155 pieces of legislation. Veterans Committee Deputy Chairman Valentin Varennikov (Motherland) suggested that recipients should have a choice between in-kind and cash benefits. The chairwoman of the Duma's Women, Family, and Youth Committee, Yekaterina Lakhova (Unified Russia), said she opposes provisions of the bill that would relegate child-assistance payments to the regional level. VY

Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov told a roundtable at the State Duma on 21 June that he will resign if the government's proposed plan to replace in-kind benefits with cash payments fails to improve the situation regarding affordable medicines, Interfax reported. Zurabov said that prices for some basic medicines currently vary by as much as 40 percent from region to region, which is unacceptable. "I'm ready to resign if this is not improved," he said. "I am ready to resign immediately." RC

Human rights activist and former political prisoner Sergei Kovalev on 21 June accused the government of trying to shift the economic burden onto the poorest segment of the population in its draft bill to overhaul benefits payments, Ekho Moskvy reported on 19 June. Kovalev added that he hopes "this monstrous bill will fail." He said that while it is preferable to have decent salaries and pensions in place, the current situation makes that impossible. However, the proposed compensation levels do not make up for benefits that would be withdrawn, he said. The deputy chairman of the Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee, Oleg Shein (Motherland), said the bill offers cash benefits only to certain categories of retirees, while all categories will lose benefits. The bill devolves the payment of cash benefits to regional authorities, Shein said, but 71 of the federation's 89 subjects are dependent on federal funds. VY

President Putin honored retired Pepsi-Cola President and CEO Donald Kendall at the Kremlin on 21 June, awarding him the Order of Friendship medal for promoting trade between the United States and Russia, RTR and international media reported. Pepsi-Cola was the first U.S. consumer product to be manufactured in the former Soviet Union through a deal worked out in 1972, AP noted. Kendall, 83, pointed out that Putin was just 7 years old when Kendall came to Moscow to work out the deal that broke the ice in U.S.-Soviet commercial relations. Putin hailed his own relations with George W. Bush in his speech, saying he and the U.S. president enjoy "mutual trust and respect" that positively affects bilateral relations and global affairs. RTR in its report described Kendall as a strong supporter of the Republican Party. VY

Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Presidium Secretary Boris Nadezhdin told journalists on 19 June that his party is considering a merger with the "right wing" of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party to contest the 2007 Duma elections as a single electoral bloc, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 June. Nadezhdin says the SPS faces two possible paths of development. It can emphasize human rights, as former SPS co-leader Irina Khakamada did during the March presidential campaign, and possibly form an opposition bloc with Yabloko; or, the SPS can emphasize property and economic freedom, as former SPS co-leader Anatolii Chubais has urged, and merge with Unified Russia. Khakamada spoke positively about the proposed merger with Unified Russia. "Other than the right wing of Unified Russia, I don't think there are any democrats who are loyal to the authorities," she told Ekho Moskvy. However, Politika foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov told the radio station that "it is difficult to talk about the existence of a serious liberal flank in Unified Russia; it is not a liberally oriented party." RC

Former SPS co-leader Boris Nemtsov told "Izvestiya" on 22 June that he is considering running again for governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast in 2005. Nemtsov served as governor there from 1991 to 1997, when he was appointed deputy prime minister. However, he said, first he would need the blessing of the presidential administration. "I understand that in order to decide whether to participate in elections, it is not enough to know what the public feels about you," Nemtsov said. "In the new Russia, not everything depends on public opinion. A great deal depends on the federal authorities." RC

The Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 21 June refused to confirm a new chairman of the republican election commission in Bashkortostan, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. The TsIK expressed dissatisfaction with the composition of the commission and said that none of its members is suitable to serve as chairman. TsIK member Nina Kulyasova told the news agency that the TsIK has repeatedly insisted that former Bashkortostan Election Commission Chairman Baryi Kinzyagulov be removed from the commission, but he remains. "The election commission of Bashkortostan and its leader, Kinzyagulov, did not ensure a proper level of control over [the republic's December 2003 presidential] election," Kulyasova told "Gazeta" on 21 June. During that campaign, the TsIK overturned three rulings by the republican election commission to bar candidate Sergei Veremeenko from running against incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2003). TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told ITAR-TASS that if the Bashkir commission does not comply with the TsIK demands, it will be dissolved just as the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission was dissolved in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2003). RC

The Moscow Municipal Court on 21 June overturned the March convictions of former Aeroflot First Deputy General Director Nikolai Glushkov and former Aeroflot Marketing Director Aleksandr Krasnenker and sent the case back to the Savelovskii Raion Court for a new trial, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. The two men were convicted on 12 March of embezzlement and money laundering. Glushkov was sentenced to three years and three months in prison but was immediately released since he had already served nearly that time in pretrial detention. Krasnenker was sentenced to 2 1/2 years' imprisonment and was immediately amnestied. The Moscow Municipal Court ruling came in response to an appeal by prosecutors. A defense motion that the convictions be overturned and the case dismissed was denied, RBK reported. The court upheld Glushkov's conviction for attempting to flee justice. Tycoon Boris Berezovskii, who has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, is wanted on charges related to the Aeroflot case. RC

RTR television is filming a 10-part serial based on Mikhail Bulgakov's classic 1930s novel "The Master And Margarita" in St. Petersburg, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 22 June. The choice of St. Petersburg is surprising because "The Master And Margarita" is considered the quintessential Moscow novel, with the city being so prominently featured that it virtually becomes a character. "Moscow has gone through a series of massive reconstructions since the novel was written, and the landscape has very much changed. Much to our regret, Bulgakov's Moscow of the 1930s is easier to find in central St. Petersburg because it has been much better preserved," director Vladimir Bortko told "The St. Petersburg Times." Some crucial scenes will be filmed in Bulgakov's Moscow neighborhood of Patriarch's Ponds, which were spared from massive redevelopment in 2002-03 by public outrage and demonstrations. RC

Eighteen Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office personnel and 28 civilians were killed in fierce gun battles in several locations in Ingushetia overnight on 21-22 June, Reuters reported. The dead included acting Ingushetian Interior Minister Colonel Abubakar Kostoev, his deputy Zaudin Kotiev, and two local prosecutors. According to the independent website, the fighting began at approximately 10 p.m. local time when a band of fighters attacked the Interior Ministry building in the former capital Nazran. Further attacks on two police posts in Sunzha Raion and local police stations in Karabulak and Ordzhonikidze were repulsed. Some of the assailants in Nazran reportedly subsequently announced they were heading for the new capital, Magas, but no fighting was reported there. The attackers retreated from Nazran at around 3 a.m. local time using transportation they had commandeered, according to the website. LF

The fighters in Nazran reportedly spoke among themselves in Chechen and Ingush and, when asked, identified radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev as their leader, according to But Basaev's website ( reported on 22 June that the attackers, who numbered several hundred at minimum, were for the most part Ingush, not Chechen. That site further claimed that the attackers in Nazran occupied and set fire to the Interior Ministry building there; and that the death toll was considerably higher than 46. It claimed that 30 Ingush police were killed in Nazran alone, and that the dead also included Russian military and Federal Security Service (FSB) troops. Basaev threatened last week to launch a new offensive that would inflict both military and political damage on federal forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2004). Speaking in Primorskii Krai on 22 June, Defense Minister Ivanov said that additional Interior Ministry forces have already been deployed to Nazran, but that at present he sees no need to send additional regular army troops to Ingushetia. President Putin said on 22 June that the militants "must be found and destroyed," Russian media reported. LF

The claim by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in his 13 June responses to questions from RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that his fighters kill 10-20 Russian servicemen every day is a downright lie, an unnamed Russian military spokesman told Interfax on 21 June (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 17 June 2004). The spokesman added that there have been no "direct clashes" between Maskhadov's men and federal forces "for a long time," and that Maskhadov "is unable to control" all Chechen fighters. In Grozny, Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov told Interfax on 21 June that Maskhadov no longer exerts any influence on the situation in Chechnya and that consequently there is no point in holding talks with him. LF

Viktor Dallakian, a leading member of the opposition Artarutiun alliance, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 21 June that the bloc will decide on 23 June on proposals from its supporters both in Yerevan and elsewhere to collect signatures in support of its demand for the resignation of President Robert Kocharian. He argued that collecting 2 million signatures would demonstrate that the current leadership "does not enjoy popular trust." The total Armenian population is 3,211,400. At the same time, Dallakian admitted that any such campaign would be largely symbolic, as the Armenian Constitution does not provide for the holding of a referendum of confidence in the head of state. Attendance at opposition rallies in Yerevan to demand Kocharian's resignation has dwindled since police used force in mid-April to disperse demonstrators. Last week, Artarutiun leaders announced that they would switch to other, unspecified tactics to achieve that objective (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004). LF

Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov, together with the French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, met in Prague on 21 June to discuss various aspects of and the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict, reported the following day. RFE/RL's Armenian Service quoted Oskanian as saying that the meeting -- his third with Mammadyarov within 10 weeks -- was "useful" and that the overall course of their talks is "positive," even though no "concrete agreements" have been reached. He said the "nature of the ongoing talks is such that one should really opt for a synthesis" of the Armenian and Azerbaijani positions. At the same time, that synthesis should not depart radically from the Armenian side's insistence that a settlement must address the issue of the future status of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Oskanian also repeated his 18 June denial of persistent rumors that the United States is pressuring Yerevan to agree to withdraw Armenian forces from three occupied districts of Azerbaijan bordering on Karabakh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004). LF

Irakli Paghava, the acting chairman of the Adjar Supreme Election Commission, told journalists in Batumi on 21 June that the Mikheil Saakashvili -- Victorious Adjara party won 75 percent of the party-list vote in the previous day's pre-term parliamentary ballot and "almost all" the 12 single-mandate constituencies, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian parliament deputy Giorgi Arveladze predicted in Batumi the same day that the party will win 28 of the total 30 parliament mandates. But Interfax on 21 June quoted the NGO Fair Elections as estimating that the ruling party polled 68.5 percent of the vote, while the Republican Party, which for years was the only active opposition in Adjaria, garnered 13.6 percent rather than the 9.9 percent suggested by the official returns. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 June quoted Republican Party Chairman David Berdzenishvili as claiming that but for the "total falsification" of the vote, especially in the mountain districts of Adjara, his party would have won 20 percent of the vote. LF

A small delegation from the Council of Europe that monitored the 20 June Adjaran ballot released a statement the following day saying that while voting proceeded smoothly, the electoral process "fell short of international standards in some regards," Caucasus Press reported on 21 June. The statement stressed that the electoral climate was "quite free" and for the first time voters were provided with a real choice of candidates. At the same time, it noted that "the...delegation got the impression that the campaign was dominated by the party in power." It noted procedural violations during the casting of ballots and on the part of the Supreme Election Commission during the process of counting and tallying of vote counts from local polling stations. LF

The gravestone has been stolen from the grave in Batumi of Maguli Gogotidze, former Adjaran leader Aslan Abashidze's wife, who died in June last year, Caucasus Press reported on 21 June. Also on 21 June, three friends of Abashidze's son, former Batumi Mayor Giorgi Abashidze, were arrested en route to the cemetery where Gogitidze is buried to pay their respects on the first anniversary of her death. Staff from the Adjar prosecutor's office questioned Abashidze's daughter Diana briefly on 21 June, but did not disclose the nature of the questions they posed, according to the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 21 June. LF

A session of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone that was scheduled to take place in Moscow on 21-22 June has fallen through because the South Ossetian representatives announced that they are suspending their participation in the work of the commission, on which Russia and North Ossetia are also represented, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 21 June. The session was originally scheduled for 15-16 June in Tbilisi, but in the wake of mounting tensions between the Georgian government and the South Ossetian leadership the latter requested that it should held "on neutral ground." It may now be switched to the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz. On 18 June, Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said he intended to raise at the session the question of amending the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia to limit their deployment. In a statement posted on its website the same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry rejected as "groundless" Georgian criticism of the Russian peacekeepers, noting their contribution to the safety and security of the local population, Interfax reported. LF

A Chinese Communist Party delegation led by Politburo member Li Changchun met with President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Almaty on 21 June, Kazakh TV reported. The delegation arrived in Kazakhstan at the invitation of the pro-presidential Otan party. Talks with the Kazakh president focused on bilateral relations. Li said that the agreements reached during Nazarbaev's visit to China in May will "create a stimulus" to raise relations to "a new level," Kazinform reported. The delegation also met with Otan Chairman Amangeldy Ermegiyaev, who said that relations between Otan and the Chinese Communist Party have been "developing dynamically" for five years. Throughout, the emphasis was on the two countries' friendly relations and strong economic ties. Trade volume between China and Kazakhstan in 2003 topped $3 billion, according to Kazinform. DK

Party leader Vladislav Kosarev told Kazakhstan's parliament on 21 June that the People's Communist Party of Kazakhstan (KNPK) has been officially registered, Khabar television reported. The party, which claims 70,000 members, emerged from a split with the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, which is headed by Serikbolsyn Abdildin. Twelve percent of KNPK members are younger than 25, and 34 percent are younger than 40, Kazinform reported. The party plans to take part in fall parliamentary elections. The registration of the KNPK brings to 12 the number of officially registered political parties in Kazakhstan. DK

Meeting on 21 June with President Askar Akaev, Bhaswar Mukhopadhyay, the outgoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative for Kyrgyzstan, praised the country's economic progress, Kyrgyz Television reported. Mukhopadhyay cited falling inflation, a stable exchange rate, and growing currency reserves as evidence of a positive trend. If reforms work to support business and stabilize the macroeconomic situation, Kyrgyzstan can look forward to increased foreign investment and a bright future, cited Mukhopadhyay as saying. Mukhopadhyay, who served as the IMF representative for Kyrgyzstan three years, will be replaced on 1 July by Michael Mered, who previously served as the IMF representative in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. DK

Boris Poluektov, deputy chairman of the National Security Service, told a committee of the upper house of parliament on 21 June that the banned Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir has 3,000 members in Kyrgyzstan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Although most members live in the south of the country, the organization is becoming more active in Bishkek and the northern Issyk-Kul region as well, Poluektov warned. He also said women are playing an increasingly prominent role in the organization. Poluektov called the rise of radicalism a threat to Central Asian stability and urged lawmakers to "toughen the punishment for disseminating extremist views." DK

Navruz Jafarov, deputy head of the Sanitary and Epidemiology Center, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 21 June that the number of HIV-positive individuals in Tajikistan nearly doubled in the first half of 2004, although the overall number remains small. At the end of 2003, 119 HIV cases were registered. Today, that number stands at 228. DK

Turkmenistan on 21 June celebrated the 12th anniversary of Saparmurat Niyazov's inauguration as president, and Turkmen TV reported. The celebrations took the form of a nationwide wave of adulation, with political and cultural figures reading long tributes to Niyazov against a backdrop of festive concerts. The first secretary of the country's ruling Democratic Party described the president as "a prophet," while the head of a veterans' organization dismissed the idea of presidential elections and said that Niyazov must remain Turkmenistan's "permanent" president. A bronze statue of the Turkmen president was unveiled in front of the country's parliament before an audience of ministers and deputies, although the president himself did not attend the ceremony. The statue depicts Niyazov taking his inauguration oath on 21 June 1992. DK

The Israel-based Merhav Group has developed plans to construct a production facility for polypropylene biofilm in Turkmenbashi, reported on 21 June. The project will cost $60 million and could be finished in the near future. The Merhav Group previously served as the operator on a $1.5 billion refinery-modernization project in Turkmenistan. Underscoring the firm's close ties in the country, Merhav CEO Yosef Maiman visited Niyazov on 21 June to congratulate the Turkmen president on the 12th anniversary of his inauguration. The two discussed the polypropylene biofilm project, as well as other avenues of cooperation. DK

Three lawmakers ended their hunger strike on 21 June, Belapan reported. Valery Fralou, Uladzimir Parfyanovich, and Syarhey Skrabets, members of the Respublica caucus in the Chamber of Representatives, began the protest on 3 June to call for changes to the country's Election Code and the release of jailed politician Mikhail Marynich (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 June 2004). "We believe we have achieved certain results," Fralou told reporters, saying the protest helped consolidate opposition groups and focus public attention on a possible referendum that could extend President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's time in office. He also cited as a success the Chamber of Representatives' decision to debate on 22 June the Respublika caucus' proposed amendments to the Election Code. AM

Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko on 21 June called on the opposition to put forward a single candidate in the October presidential election, Interfax reported, citing the party's press service. Yushchenko noted that Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party are currently holding talks on fielding such a candidate. He also stressed that Our Ukraine's stance on the need for constitutional reforms remains unchanged, and that reforms should be implemented after a new parliament is elected. AM

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Brussels on 21 June that Bosnia-Herzegovina will not be invited to join the Partnership for Peace program at the Atlantic alliance's June Istanbul summit, citing what he called Bosnia's insufficient cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 7 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). NATO officials have stressed that the Bosnian Serb authorities must do more to catch indicted war criminals and bring them to justice before Bosnia can join the Partnership for Peace. In Banja Luka on 21 June, Bosnian Serb police chief Radomir Njegus told reporters that the two most-wanted indicted war criminals, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, are not in the Republika Srpska. In Brussels, EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana said on 21 June that Bosnia has made such progress in implementing unspecified reforms that the NATO mission in that country can be transformed into one for the EU at the end of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). PM

Boris Tadic, who is the candidate of the pro-reform forces and the Democratic Party in the 27 June Serbian presidential runoff, told EU officials in Brussels on 21 June that he is confident of victory over ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. EU foreign- and security-policy chief Solana said that Serbia's European integration is very important for the EU, adding that he hopes Serbia will soon draw closer to the EU under what he called strong democratic leadership. PM

Nenad Canak, who is speaker of Vojvodina's parliament, said in Novi Sad on 21 June that Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic should resign because of the recent failures of police to protect members of ethnic minorities and their property from attacks by Serbian nationalists, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Canak referred specifically to the destruction of the historic Bajrakli Mosque in Belgrade and another mosque in Nis at the time of the March violence in Kosova, as well as to a series of violent incidents in Vojvodina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 March, 5 April, and 13 May 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 January 2004). He nonetheless criticized as interference recent remarks by Hungarian Interior Minister Monika Lamperth that Hungary may complain to the Council of Europe if nationalistic attacks on members of Vojvodina's large Hungarian minority do not stop. PM

Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Prishtina on 21 June that he hopes that the reconstruction of Serbian homes damaged or destroyed in the 17-18 March violence will be repaired by late October or early November (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 8 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). Rexhepi added that work will soon begin on renovating or preserving religious buildings as well. He noted that many people expected the reconstruction work to proceed quickly, although the government feels that the pace of the work should have been faster. PM

Austria's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's former high representative in Bosnia, the EU's former envoy for Kosova, and a trained Balkans expert, said that the 17-18 March violence in Kosova was a wake-up call to the international community, the private Beta news agency reported from Prishtina on 21 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). He stressed that time has come for decisive moves toward resolving the issue of Kosova's political status, noting that Kosova's European integration will come as a result of compromises between Albanians and Serbs. Petritsch argued that dangerous uncertainty will continue until the status question is resolved. PM

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 21 June that Serbia and Montenegro can make better progress toward integration in Euro-Atlantic structures if they become independent countries. He said that the joint institutions between the two republics are insufficient or dysfunctional, which hinders their progress. Djukanovic added that he has no doubt about the outcome of a possible referendum on Montenegrin independence. PM

President Ion Iliescu said on 21 June that voters in the 6 and 20 June local elections had "sent a message" to politicians and those politicians who are "politically mature would understand that message," Mediafax reported. Iliescu said he does not want to comment on the political outcome of the vote before political parties "clean up their own house." He said that a "bipolar political system" seems to be emerging in Romania, with one large center-left and one large center-right formation, though "two or three smaller political parties are likely to play the role of arbiter" (see End Note, below). MS

Visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in Cluj on 21 June that the struggle against corruption in Romania must be waged at "all levels" and no one should benefit from "immunity," Mediafax reported. "I expect to see results more visible than is now the case," Verheugen said. He also said Romania might be granted the status of a "functional market economy" by the EU in 2004. Verheugen urged the Romanian government to finalize accession negotiations by the end of this year, emphasizing that "no one knows what the political situation might be like next year." MS

The European Parliament's rapporteur on Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, praised on 21 June what she described as the Romanian authorities' decision to "put an end to trafficking in children," Mediafax reported. Baroness Nicholson was referring to the recently approved bill that makes international adoptions of children very difficult. The bill was criticized by the U.S. authorities and by prospective adoptive parents from several countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004). MS

At a meeting symbolically held halfway across a bridge over the River Danube on 20 June, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxecoburggotski announced that work on a planned new bridge over the river will start in July and the project will be finalized in 2008, Mediafax reported. The current "Friendship Bridge" was inaugurated in 1954 and is the only one to link the two countries over the Danube. The new bridge will link the towns of Calafat in Romania and Vidin in Bulgaria. MS

Visiting Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi met in Chisinau on 21 June with President Vladimir Voronin, Flux reported. The talks focused on ways of solving the Transdniester conflict and on Voronin's own Stability and Security Pact for Moldova initiative, launched on 1 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Pasi reiterated the readiness of the OSCE to contribute to a final settlement of the conflict with the separatist region. MS

Ninety-six applications for refugee status were received by Moldova's Migration Department in the first five months of 2004, Infotag reported on 18 June. This is more than the total of 87 applications received the whole previous year. Since independence, Moldova has granted refugee status to 77 people and 189 are registered as asylum seekers. Most of them come from Chechnya, Palestine, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria. MS


The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) suffered an embarrassing defeat in local elections held on 6 and 20 June. This can be viewed as a bad omen for the PSD ahead of the November parliamentary and presidential elections.

While it is true that local elections have their own rules, and that the several electoral systems employed in this ballot are different from that which will be used in the parliamentary elections, a trend is obvious and the PSD would be foolish to ignore it. Mayors are elected in Romania on a winner-take-all basis, with runoffs taking place between the best-placed first two candidates if no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round. In parliamentary elections, on the other hand, a proportional system is employed. But the winner-take-all system is used in the presidential elections.

Viewed from either of these angles, the result of the local elections carries a threatening message for the PSD. For while the party managed to get the largest number of mayors elected (1,695 out of 3,138), it lags behind its chief rival, the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance, in the number of votes garnered nationwide: with some 99 percent of the vote officially counted so far, the PSD has 40.67 of the runoff vote and the alliance has 43.40 percent. In other words, in a presidential runoff in which PNL-Democratic candidate Theodor Stolojan would likely be facing incumbent Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, the opposition would win the presidency.

The prospects are no better for the ruling party in the parliamentary elections. In order for the comparison between local and legislative elections to be valid, one should look at the outcome of the elections to the county councils, where -- as in the parliamentary elections -- a proportional system is applied. Were the November parliamentary elections to produce the same ratio of votes, the opposition alliance would have a very slight edge (38.57 percent) over the PSD (37.81 percent). That means that the three smaller parties that would cross the 5 percent electoral threshold (the Greater Romania Party, with 8 percent; the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, with 7.7 percent; and the Humanist Party with 5 percent) would have the final say in the composition of the next government. But even more decisive would be turnout, which is likely to be higher than the 54 percent registered in the first round of the local elections and the somewhat lower turnout registered in the runoff.

There are several conclusions to be drawn from this situation. First, the introduction of a 5 percent threshold in the local elections has practically eliminated the smaller parties from Romania's political map, and they are unlikely to perform any better in the parliamentary elections, where the threshold has been in place since 2000. This is likely to produce in Romania a "2+2" or a "2+3" political system, with two major formations and two or three smaller ones, and in which the latter exert an influence out of all proportion to their actual strength. The next government could equally well be headed by the PSD as by the PNL-Democratic Party alliance, or it could be a coalition with either of these two formations playing the role of the senior partner.

Second, the opposition alliance performed impressively, particularly where it ran on joint lists rather than separately. Its major victory in Bucharest, where PNL-Democratic Party co-Chairman Traian Basescu won a second mayoral term in the first round and alliance candidates carried four out of the city's six sectors, speaks for itself. But in Cluj, too, where PNL-Democratic Party candidate Emil Boc won the runoff against the PSD candidate, former Interior Minister Ioan Rus, the outcome underscores the advantage of the joint-lists formula. As the alliance will use this formula in the parliamentary elections, its chances look brighter than in the local elections, where -- Bucharest and Cluj excepted -- the separate lists were preferred.

Third, it should be noted that the alliance also made inroads into the heartland of PSD support, winning the Moldavian mayoralties of Suceava, Piatra-Neamt, Falticeni, and Botosani. But the PSD nonetheless continues to govern Romania's least-developed counties, where a large proportion of the population lives. Moreover, it controls the electronic media, which is very influential in determining electoral outcomes. The Romanian Academic Society (SAR), a Bucharest-based independent NGO, noted after the first round that one is dealing here with "a typical Third World pattern, which functions successfully in more than one-third of Romania today."

Finally, it should be noted that the PSD was not the only loser in the local elections. Not only did Gheorghe Funar of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) fail in his bid for a fourth term as mayor of Cluj, but the PRM scored a meager 8 percent in the county-council elections. In the parliamentary elections of 2000, the extremist party won some 19 percent of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies and some 21 percent of the vote for the Senate and its leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, received 28.37 percent in the first presidential round, losing in the runoff with 33.17 percent against Ion Iliescu. Tudor is, however, known to be a skilled populist orator and his party may again improve its showing in the 2004 parliamentary ballot.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zaher Azimi said on 21 June that a battalion of the Afghan National Army will be sent from the western Afghan city of Herat to Chaghcharan, the provincial capital of Ghor Province, immediately east of Herat, Radio Afghanistan reported. Renegade commander Mawlawi Abdul Salam captured most of Chaghcharan on 17 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 June 2004). In March, Kabul sent around 1,500 troops to Herat to deal with a crisis there (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 March 2004). Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan has expressed his unhappiness at the presence of national troops in his province. The crisis in Ghor and the fact that Kabul has very few troops at its disposal may provide an opportunity for Ismail Khan to see the end of the symbolic presence of Kabul's authority in his domain. AT

Clashes that have been going on since 14 June in Balkh Province between rival commanders have been resolved, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 21 June. General Abdul Sabor, deputy to General Ata Mohammad, the commander of Military Corps No. 7 in Balkh Province, said on 14 June that if tensions in Sholgara District between his Jami'at-e Islami party and its rival Junbish-e Melli party are not resolved, there is the possibility of bloodshed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2004). Qari Qodrat, a spokesman for Military Corps No. 7, said that with mediation from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the British-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Balkh, a truce has been established between rival commanders. The clashes were over narcotics, Qodrat added, without elaborating. The drug problem in Afghanistan has dramatically worsened since the fall of the Taliban regime and with the focus of the international forces on the war on terrorism; warlords-turned-drug barons are beginning to fight over territory (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 18 June 2004). AT

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager, said on 21 June that the review of detention centers in Afghanistan under U.S. control has been completed, Hindukosh News Agency reported. Brigadier General Charles Jacoby has presented the finding of his investigation to the commander of the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Barno. After reports about the deaths of at least five Afghans in U.S. custody, Barno ordered an investigation in May into the allegations and assigned Jacoby to the task (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 May 2004). In June, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency contractor was indicted for beating an Afghan prisoner who later died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2004). AT

A policeman was killed on 21 June in an ambush of a UN vehicle in Kandahar Province, AFP reported. The UN vehicle was carrying three Afghan police officers when it was attacked by unknown assailants on motorcycles. The vehicle was being used to transport Afghan security forces for protection of voter-registration sites. AT

Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television service reported on 22 June that eight British sailors detained the previous day in the Shatt al-Arab waterway were armed special-forces personnel who had "spying cameras" and detailed maps of the region, and it cited anonymous Iranian sources who said the British sailors will be tried for illegally entering Iranian waters. Tehran's domestic television service on 22 June cited Mike O'Brian, described by Al-Jazeera television as a British government adviser, as saying that the United Kingdom intends to discuss this issue with Tehran in order to avoid a crisis. BS

British military spokesman Major Ian Clooney explained on 21 June, "They were doing a routine patrol, as has happened for many months now, as part of the support and training offered to both the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the River Patrol Department, so there was nothing unusual in what they were doing," RFE/RL reported. British spokesman Captain Hisham Halawi told Alhurra television on 21 June: "The British vessels were not aware of the river borders.... One cannot see where exactly are the borders. Meanwhile, the weather was not helping." The British armada consisted of two Boston Whalers and a British Army Combat Support Boat, the BBC reported, and the boats were unarmed but the crewmen had personal weapons. The Shatt al-Arab is referred to as the Arvand Rud in Iran, and in mid-April Iranian news agencies reported that Iraqis shot at Iranian vessels. Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor Dr. Afqah said that there had been "repeated clashes" during the previous month, mainly over fishing, ISNA reported on 16 April. Afqah said the army and police are working together to restore order in the area. BS

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Iran on 21 June, the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs reported ( Powell said that he is "satisfied, very satisfied" with the IAEA's work on the 18 June resolution addressing Iran's nuclear program ( That resolution uses relatively strong language and notes "with concern" that verification of enrichment and reprocessing activities was delayed and the decision to generate uranium hexafluoride is at variance with previous understandings. There also is "concern" that questions about uranium enrichment and P-2 centrifuges remain unanswered. There is "serious concern" that information on the P-2 centrifuges "in some cases has been incomplete and continues to lack the necessary clarity." The resolution "deplores" that "Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely, and proactive as it should have been." Powell expressed the hope that Iran will address these concerns in the coming weeks and months. He added, "We will have a chance to examine their response in September and at that time judgments can be made as to what action might be appropriate." BS

Habibullah Asgaroladi-Mosalman, who heads the hard-line Islamic Coalition Party, said on 22 June that there is no need for Iran to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because it has no intention of making a nuclear bomb, Fars News Agency reported. He said there are hundreds of scientific fields in which nuclear science is used, including medicine and agriculture, and he asked why the United States and Europe ignore this. Asgaroladi-Mosalman said the Americans have the worst record of using nuclear weapons, and they must dispose of their nuclear arsenal. Some legislators are calling for withdrawal from the NPT. Abadeh parliamentary representative Mahmud Mohammadi, who serves on the National Security and Foreign Relations Committee, said on 20 June that the committee's review of the Additional Protocol of the NPT would be announced "in the near future," Mehr News Agency reported. The two areas of concern, he said, are securing Iranian national interests and continuing international cooperation. He added that nuclear energy must be utilized for industrial and economic development according to the Fourth Development Plan. BS

The South Korean government has yet to confirm the fate of hostage Kim Sun-il, whom militants threatened to behead on 22 June if his country did not withdraw its troops from Iraq and reverse a decision to send additional troops there, international media reported on 22 June. Seoul sent a team of negotiators to Iraq on 21 June to try to negotiate Kim's release. Yonhap News Agency said that an Iraqi negotiator who met with the militants requested more time for talks. "We are receiving a lot of information through various channels, and it seems that Kim Sun-il is alive," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Yonhap on 22 June. The group holding Kim hostage is known as Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad (Unification and Jihad Group). It is reportedly led by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, and often posts statements by al-Zarqawi on jihadist websites (see RFE/RL's web page, "A Survey of Armed Groups in Iraq," KR

Layla Abdallah Sa'id, the dean of the Mosul University College of Law, was killed in the night of 21-22 June along with her husband in their home, Al-Jazeera television reported on 22 June. Both Sa'id and her husband, Munir al-Khayru were shot and killed, and Sa'id's throat was slit. Police said there were no signs of a burglary at the home, and a motive was not immediately clear. Family members told Al-Jazeera that Sa'id received death threats three days prior to the killings, as well as two months earlier, but had brushed them off as mere intimidation. A number of Iraq academics have been assassinated since the fall of the Hussein regime. KR

Five security officers working with U.S. troops in Iraq were killed and two were wounded when an explosive charge went off in Al-Qayyarah, located some 50 kilometers south of Mosul, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 22 June. Meanwhile, one U.S. soldier was killed and nine injured in three separate incidents in Iraq on 21 June, AP reported on 22 June. Four U.S. Marines were also killed by militants in Al-Ramadi on 21 June, U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a Baghdad press briefing the same day. The Marines were stripped of their flak jackets following the killings, AP reported. KR

Unidentified Iraqi security sources have claimed that Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi has paid large sums of money to notables and tribal chiefs in central Iraq to carry out attacks against government buildings, "Al-Nahdah" reported on 21 June. The Baghdad daily, which is affiliated with former Foreign Minister and Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi, reported that the INC head has paid off a few thousand people to carry out the attacks. "Al-Nahdah" reported on 20 June that the coalition has obtained an arrest warrant for Chalabi on unspecified charges. The daily also cited AFP as reporting that U.S. forces are investigating allegations that Chalabi's offices took money from former Ba'athists in exchange for removing their names from lists that would preclude them from assuming positions in the new Iraqi government. Chalabi and the INC have been criticized in recent months for reportedly feeding inaccurate intelligence information to the United States in the months leading up to the war in Iraq. He has also been accused of providing Iran with information on U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities. Chalabi was not afforded a position in the interim Iraqi government. KR

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman Dan Senor told a 21 June Baghdad press briefing that Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has not been invited to participate in a national conference to form a provisional national council comprising 100 members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004). Senor said U.S. officials will not have a say on al-Sadr's participation, since the conference will be held after the 30 June transfer of power. "As far as Muqtada al-Sadr's broader role in Iraq's political process, please understand that, under Iraqi law, Muqtada al-Sadr is still being pursued for an arrest warrant that has been issued against him related to a brutal murder," Senor told reporters. "I don't see how he would have a role in pursuing public office before that matter is resolved. He is the head of an illegal militia, and again I don't know how he could pursue public office before that matter is resolved." KR