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Newsline - July 12, 2004

Paul Klebnikov, the chief editor of the Russian edition of "Forbes" magazine, was killed by an unknown gunman on 9 July as he left the publication's offices in Moscow, news agencies reported. According to Vladimir Yudin, the deputy Moscow City prosecutor, the assassin shot Klebnikov four times from a car, RTR and NTV reported on 10 July. He added that investigators believe "it was a paid killing linked with his professional activity." An American investigative journalist of Russian descent, Klebnikov made his name in 1997 when he wrote a critical book on tycoon Boris Berezovskii. Klebnikov, 41, pioneered the Russian edition of "Forbes" magazine and in March published for the first time in Russian the "Forbes" list of the 100 richest people in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 2004). Aleksandr Gordeev, the editor of the Russian-language "Newsweek," spoke with Klebnikov after he was shot and said he told Gordeev he knew nothing about who shot him or why. ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti on 10 July reported that Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov will personally oversee the investigation and said the Foreign Ministry has informed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow about the case. U.S. law enforcement has also joined the investigation, reported. VY

Steve Forbes, the publisher of "Forbes," said in the U.S. that Klebnikov was "a superb reporter -- [a] courageous, energetic, ever-curious" journalist who "knew Russia well" and "loved it deeply," reported. Klebnikov's family said in a statement that it expected Russia to bring the assailants to justice and urged "U.S. and international authorities" to make sure that happens. Speaking on 11 July at the funeral service at St. Yekaterina's Church in Moscow, Irina Silaeva, the general director of the Axel Springer publishing house (a partner of "Forbes" magazine in Russia), said the Russian edition of the magazine will continue despite Klebnikov's death, EKHO Moskvy reported. And Boris Jordan, former director of Russia's NTV television who now heads the Sputnik investment bank, said Klebnikov's killing may have a political motive, RTR reported on 11 July. But the self-exiled Berezovskii, speaking from London on 10 July, told RIA-Novosti that Klebnikov was a victim of his own "lack of accuracy" in reporting. VY

State Duma Deputy (independent) and Vladivostok mayoral candidate Viktor Cherepkov, 62, was seriously injured on 9 July when a tripwire connected to a grenade went off outside his election headquarters, Russian news agencies reported. According to Interfax on 10 July, Cherepkov sustained a concussion and several contusions and is having trouble hearing and speaking. An aide to Cherepkov, Andrei Selyutin, told NTV that Cherepkov had received threats for some time and was offered several million dollars to withdraw from the mayoral race, the second round of which is scheduled for 18 July. On 10 July, a local court postponed a hearing on the city election commission's appeal to eliminate Cherepkov as a candidate because he allegedly used his position as a State Duma deputy while he was campaigning for mayor, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

On the morning of the attack on Cherepkov, incumbent Mayor Yurii Kopylov, who came in third during the first round, held a joint press conference with Cherepkov at which they said that they have joined forces to prevent a criminal from coming to power, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July. Kopylov said that he would urge his supporters to vote "against all" if Cherepkov's candidacy is withdrawn. Both Cherepkov and Kopylov have accused the front-runner in the race, krai legislator and local businessman Vladimir Nikolaev, of having criminal ties. Nikolaev allegedly used the moniker "Winnie the Pooh" during his days as a mid-level gangster in the krai (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 7 July 2004). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 10 July, the duty officer for the Interior Ministry in Primorskii Krai said that nothing but traces of dirt were found at the crime scene. According to the daily, he said directly that Cherepkov's staff initiated the assassination attempt so that Cherepkov would not have to go to court. Selyutin, however, told that two minutes after the explosion an ambulance arrived, even though no one had yet called for help. Selyutin also speculated that the trip wire was set up in such a way that it was intended to intimidate rather than kill Cherepkov. JAC

Andrei Kosogov, first deputy chairman of the board of Alfa Bank, said on 9 July that the "hysteria" among the bank's depositors has dropped considerably, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to the station, the bank also announced that it is going to reduce its 10 percent surcharge for early withdrawals to the usual level. Also on 9 July, Alfa Bank President Petr Aven announced that the bank's shareholders were ready to provide $800 million in case the wave of early withdrawals has not yet subsided. Federal authorities also took measures to calm the population's fear regarding the banking system. The state-owned Vnestorgbank obtained 86 percent of the shares in the troubled Guta Bank on 9 July, according to "Vremya novostei" on 12 July. The State Duma passed a law on 10 July guaranteeing deposits up to 100,000 rubles ($3,400) (see story below), and President Vladimir Putin met Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatev to discuss a series of measures to stabilize the banking sector, RIA-Novosti reported. JAC

State Duma deputies finished the last day of their spring session on 10 July by adopting a number of new bills in their third and final readings, Russian news agencies reported. Deputies voted on 10 July to approve in its first, second, and third readings a bill protecting bank customers if their bank becomes insolvent. Depositors in any bank have the right to receive up to 100,000 rubles ($3,400) of the money in their account if the bank fails. Support for the bill was unanimous with 403 deputies voting in favor, according to The bill had been proposed by Central Bank Chairman Ignatev to bolster consumer confidence in the Russian banking system following the runs at Guta Bank and Alfa Bank last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 July 2004). According to "Vremya novostei" on 12 July, the new law resembles an old law that came into force at the end of last year on insuring bank deposits; however, Duma Banking Committee Chairman Vladislav Reznik believes the new law is necessary because the panicked mood of the population must be quieted. JAC

Also passed in its third and final reading was a bill amending the law on the Audit Chamber, which changes the process for appointing the head of that body, RosBalt and RIA-Novosti reported. The bill was supported by 334 deputies. Under the bill, both the State Duma and Federation Council have the right to confirm or dismiss the head of the Audit Chamber and his or her deputy. The amendments are supposed to make it easier for the legislative chambers to dismiss the leadership of the Audit Chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2004). JAC

Deputies also approved in their second reading on 10 July a total of 18 bills from a 28-bill package of legislation reforming the housing sector, RosBalt reported. Other bills in the package, such as the Housing Code and the Town Planning Code, which have already been passed in their first reading, will be considered in the fall session. Legislators also rejected a number of bills before adjourning. Deputies rejected on 9 July a bill that would have made the use of Nazi symbols in public a crime, a bill that would have allowed direct elections to the Federation Council, and a declaration that would have supported a call in the German Bundestag to provide financial compensation to Romany communites for the suffering they endured during World War II, Interfax reported. JAC

Finance Minister Kudrin said that the embattled oil company Yukos will not receive any deferment for its debt payments as "the company has enough assets, the sale of which will allow it to pay the bills," "Izvestiya" reported on 10 July. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said, in regard to the Yukos request to delay their payments, that "one should have no doubts that the company would manage to conceal or hide something," the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, said that Yukos "will not go bankrupt but its owners, in all probability, will be replaced," EKHO Moskvy reported on 9 July. "Yukos is a really strong company where some 70,000 people work, so let us hope that the company will be profitable, work transparently, and pay taxes to the country," Stepashin noted. VY

Vladimir Zhirinovskii, the leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and deputy Duma speaker, said on 10 July that because Russian President Putin has begun his second presidential term he should not be bothered by drops in his approval rating and make tough policy decisions. In an interview on the TV Tsentr program "Postscriptum," Zhirinovskii said: "Now he should think [about] what people will say about him 15 years after he leaves office." He added that, "next year will mark 20 years since economic reforms began in the Soviet Union and I believe Putin's administration is in a hurry to finish the transformation to a market economy." Zhirinovskii said it is true that the monetarization of benefits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004) and reductions in the social safety net are unpopular because the constitution says Russia is "a socially oriented state." But, he said, Russia is now a country without a socialist economy and the government is trying to abolish the remnants of Soviet laws and have legislation that reflects the new market economy. VY

Speaking on RTR on 11 July, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the situation in South Ossetia is "in many cases provoked by the Georgian side, which illegally brought its military units there." Lavrov said Moscow seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict and would like to "remind that the command of the peacekeeping troops in the region has the right to stop the activity of any uncontrolled military formations, to disband them and take any other security measures in the zone of conflict and adjoining territories," he added. Lavrov discussed the South Ossetia situation by phone on 10 July with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in London at the start of a three-day visit to Britain that Moscow is demanding that Georgian officials immediately return Russian military equipment that was confiscated by Georgia security forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004), ITAR-TASS reported. He said the equipment was "stolen" and demanded that it be delivered to Russian troops "at the place where it was stolen" (see "Transcaucasus And Central Asia" section). VY

Savik Shuster, the moderator of NTV's popular political talk show "Svoboda slova" (Freedom of Speech), confirmed on EKHO Moskvy on 11 July that he is leaving the program to be NTV's deputy director for documentaries. He said it does not mean the end of "Svoboda slova," but that it and some other programs will be suspended as the new management revises programming (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004). Meanwhile, on 9 July a Communist Party Duma deputy said during Shuster's program that his faction in the Duma along with Yabloko and individual opposition deputies proposed a resolution calling for the government to keep Shuster's program on the air. But the act was easily defeated by the votes of the pro-Kremlin factions, with 112 votes for and 248 against. VY

The Internal Affairs directorate of the Moscow metro raided on 7 July the office of the Moe Pravo NGO, which had been researching cases of alleged police brutality, particularly by metro police, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 July. Police seized documents and computer hard drives without making a list of the items that they were confiscating, which is a violation of police procedure, according to Moe Pravo Chairman Mikhail Anshakov. Among the cases the group was investigating was an attack on German Galdetskii on 25 March at a Moscow metro station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2004). Galdetskii, 19, had been collecting evidence of metro police harassing and illegally detaining women. In June, the offices of a human-rights group in Tatarstan were ransacked by men in masks hours after a book alleging police torture in Tatarstan was released, RenTV reported on 13 June. JAC

The State Duma Motherland faction reported on 9 July that they have selected TV-3 broadcaster Mikhail Markelov to replace Viktor Gerashchenko in the State Duma, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 July. Gerashchenko gave up his seat in the Duma in order to become chairman of the board of directors of Yukos. According to the daily, Markelov is not a member of the Motherland party but considers himself "close to its values and ideas." JAC

Acting pro-Moscow Chechen leader Sergei Abramov and Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov, chairman of the Chechen Central Election Commission, have sent invitations to the OSCE, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and other international organizations to send observers to monitor the preparations for the 29 August ballot to elect a successor to slain pro-Moscow republic head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. (The Council of Europe was not invited as it monitors only national, not regional elections.) Meanwhile, the number of people who have declared their intention to register as candidates in the 29 August ballot has risen to 19, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 August. The deadline for registration is 14 July. Speaking on 12 July in Nalchik, capital of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said elections for a new Chechen Parliament, which had been tentatively scheduled for this fall but have been delayed due to Kadyrov's murder and the need to elect a successor, should take place no later than March, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

Suren Sureniants, who is a leading member of the opposition Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told Noyan Tapan on 9 July that the HHK and its fellow opposition parties will not abandon their six-month boycott of parliamentary proceedings, as doing so would be "incompatible" with their ongoing campaign to force the resignation of the present Armenian leadership. Meeting on 3 July with visiting Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Secretary-General Bruno Haller, Armenian parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian had said he considers opposition participation in the legislative process "important," according to Noyan Tapan on 6 July. On 10 July, the Armenian daily "Haykakan zhamanak" as cited by Groong reported that the opposition Artarutiun bloc, of which the HHK is a member, and the opposition National Accord Party (AMK) are at odds over future tactics. The paper claimed that while Artarutiun and the HHK advocate highlighting individual cases of corruption among government ministers and pro-government legislators, the AMK wants to maintain the focus of opposition criticism on President Robert Kocharian and his perceived closest associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. LF

Senior prosecutors and police investigators argued on 9 July at a Yerevan seminar on criminal justice that the three-day period envisaged by the Criminal Code for either formally charging or releasing a person detained on suspicion of committing a crime is too short, and should be extended to 10 days, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Senior investigator Tatul Petrosian argued that as a result of rushed and superficial investigations, many suspects who might otherwise have been released pending trial are remanded in pre-trial detention. LF

Russian Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin arrived in Baku on 9 July for talks with senior Azerbaijani officials, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Stepashin said his agency together with its Azerbaijani counterpart will prepare a report on bilateral trade and economic cooperation focussing primarily on issues related to the Caspian Sea, including the oil and gas sector, fishing, and ecology. Caucasus Press on 12 July quoted Stepashin as saying that Moscow might reduce the present $15.67 per metric ton tariff levied on Azerbaijani crude exported via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. President Ilham Aliyev had complained that Azerbaijan incurs annual losses totaling $50 million by using that pipeline rather than the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa pipeline, for which the tariff charged is less than $3 per metric ton. LF

A senior Muslim cleric told Turan on 9 July that the Djuma Mosque in Baku has been closed for extensive repairs to both the interior and exterior of the building, which was built in 1899-1901 and is classified as a historical monument. The congregation were informed earlier this month that they may no longer use the building for worship; police have briefly detained numerous believers who sought to defy that ruling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 7 July 2004). In a statement released on 9 July, the opposition Musavat Party condemned the country's leadership for allegedly violating the rights of the Djuma congregation and demanded the release of all those detained, Turan reported. Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, the mosque's former imam, was quoted by on 10 July as saying that approximately 3,000 people attended Friday prayers the previous week. LF

Georgian and South Ossetian government representatives agreed in Tskhinvali on 11 July to "cease shooting and other provocative actions," Ambassador Lev Mironov, who represented Moscow at the talks, told ITAR-TASS. The agreement was made at a meeting of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone. Several exchanges of fire were reported on 9 and 10 July between South Ossetian forces and Georgian Interior Ministry troops deployed to South Ossetia as part of the Georgian peacekeeping contingent; one South Ossetian and eight Georgian peacekeepers were reportedly injured, according to Interfax on 10 July. LF

Mironov also met in Tskhinvali on 11 July with Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. Mironov said that among the issues they discussed was the continued detention by South Ossetia of a group of three Georgians, said to be Interior Ministry troops, whom the South Ossetians apprehended early on 8 July, Mironov told ITAR-TASS. The remaining Georgians were released on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). Interfax on 10 July quoted South Ossetian Minister Without Portfolio Boris Chochiev as saying the three men are suspected of committing crimes and an investigation is underway. He said one of the men is suspected of murdering a South Ossetian Defense Ministry official, and a second is a witness to the interception by Georgian forces early on 8 July of a Russian military convoy and claims to have seen Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who participated in that operation, open fire on a Russian vehicle. Georgian First Deputy Prosecutor-General Giorgi Djanashia dismissed those charges as "absurd," Caucasus Press reported on 10 July. ITAR-TASS on 10 July quoted Georgian State Security Minister Vano Merabishvili as saying that he rejected a South Ossetian proposal to exchange the three detainees for Marik Dudaev, who was detained by Georgian police after a shootout in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2004). LF

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in London on 11 July that Moscow has demanded the immediate return by Tbilisi to the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia of the missiles seized when Georgian Interior Ministry forces intercepted the Russian convoy in South Ossetia on 8 July, Interfax reported. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava told ITAR-TASS the same day that the missiles have been taken for storage to a Russian military facility near Tbilisi. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told journalists on 10 July that Georgia is willing to transport the missiles to Georgia's border with Russia, but will not return them to South Ossetia. Ivanov also told journalists in London on 11 July that the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia is acting "courageously and skillfully," ITAR-TASS reported. He accused the Georgian leadership of sending some 3,000 Interior Ministry troops to South Ossetia, far more than the 500 it is officially permitted to deploy there. LF

Saakashvili said on 11 July that he will not embark on talks with Kokoity, whom he referred to as "a puppet in a game played by serious forces," Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili recalled that he proposed talks in May on South Ossetia's future status within Georgia, but Kokoity failed to respond to that proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2004). Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze similarly told journalists on 10 July that "negotiations with Kokoity are like talking to a terrorist...but currently we have no choice," Interfax reported. LF

Mixed local reactions emerged on 9 July to the previous day's public criticism of the OSCE by a group of nine CIS countries. The 8 July CIS statement, which accused the OSCE of meddling in countries' internal affairs and straying from its original mandate, was signed by Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Ives Bargain, head of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan, told RFE/RL on 9 July, "I would say that we have fruitful cooperation [with the Tajik government]. We have many projects in the field of the human dimension, and the dialogue is ongoing with the Tajik government." Abdil Segizbaev, spokesman for Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev told RFE/RL, "I would say that Kyrgyzstan has nothing to complain about with regards to the OSCE. Until now the OSCE has been doing a good job here. If the OSCE continues its cooperation with us in such a manner, we will be very happy." But Kazakh political analyst Borikhan Nurmakhambetov told RFE/RL, "I think if one country, such as Kazakhstan, sends such a letter, then it's fine. But to sign a collective letter on behalf of several countries is wrong. If you ask why, I will answer: our country, for example, is very different in terms of democracy from, let's say, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan" (see "End Note"). DK

In a 10 July decree, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev appointed Eleusin Sagindikov governor of the Aqtobe Oblast, Kazinform reported. The decree removed former governor Ermek Imantaev from his post "in connection with a move to other work." The 57-year-old Sagindikov represents the Aqtobe Oblast in the Senate, where he chairs the Committee on Legislation and Legal Reform. He is a member of the pro-presidential Otan party. DK

Member of parliament Alisher Abdimomunov told a 9 July press conference in Bishkek that the National Security Service (SNB) is trying to deflect attention from its own unconstitutional actions with a PR campaign, reported. SNB head Kalyk Imankulov displayed a videotape at a 8 July news conference in which Border Service official Kelsenbek Akimaliev confessed to providing Alisher Abdimomunov with classified documents about the SNB's placement of listening devices in the offices of opposition parliamentarians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). Abdimomunov denied meeting with Akimaliev and called Imankulov's allegations "yet another failed attempt by the exculpate itself in the eyes of the public after the recent discovery of listening devices." The legislator continued: "With this PR campaign, the SNB is trying to justify actions that violate the constitution." DK

Maksim Peshkov, Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan, told a news conference in Yekaterinburg on 8 July that he opposes the introduction of visas for Tajik travelers to Russia, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. The news agency quoted Peshkov as saying, "Visas won't help at all. People will continue to smuggle drugs." Noting that the introduction of visas would harm Russian relations with Tajikistan and other countries, Peshkov said that the root of the drug problem lies in Afghanistan, not Tajikistan. According to Peshkov, 15 percent of Afghanistan's burgeoning heroin production makes its way to Tajikistan, with the bulk of the narcotics continuing on to Russia. Evgenii Roizman, the State Duma deputy for Yekaterinburg, has called on numerous occasions for the introduction of visa regulations between Tajikistan and Russia in order to stem the flow of illegal drugs. DK

In remarks to Asia Plus-Blitz on 9 July, representatives of Tajik opposition parties criticized the 8 July passage of a new election bill through the upper chamber of the country's parliament and reiterated their calls for Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to veto the bill. Muhiddin Kabiri, deputy chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party, said, "Even now we continue to place some hope, albeit a small hope, in the president." Rahmatullo Valiev, executive secretary of the Democratic Party, called the vote predictable, "since nearly all members of the upper chamber are representatives of local authorities." If the president fails to veto the bill, Valiev promised that the Democratic Party will join the For Free and Fair Elections coalition. Shokirjon Hakimov, deputy chairman of the Social-Democratic Party, said that the upper chamber's passage of the law was a foregone conclusion. He remarked, "For all practical purposes, the upper house consists of representatives of the executive branch who are, at the same time, members of the [ruling] People's Democratic Party." DK

Saparmurat Niyazov harshly criticized the Ministry of Trade and External Economic Ties at an 8 July cabinet meeting, the national news agency TDH reported the next day. Niyazov said that the ministry has failed to ensure the timely execution of the tasks it faces. He prefaced his remarks by noting that greater openness, more economic freedom, and healthy competition are indispensable for a growing economy. Additionally, the president proposed merging the Trade Ministry with the Turkmen Consumers Union (Turkmenpotrebsoyuz), which oversees trade in consumer goods. Niyazov praised the latter for its successful adaptation to the challenges of the free market. A special commission will be created to handle the merger of the two structures, reported. DK

An extraordinary session of the Samarkand Oblast Assembly of People's Deputies removed governor Rustam Kholmuradov on 9 July and replaced him with Mamarizo Nurmuratov at the recommendation of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, the official news agency UzA reported. Speaking at the assembly, Karimov criticized Kholmuradov for allowing "unworthy tendencies, criminal activities, abuses of power, violations of justice, and, worst of all, clannishness, regionalism, and serious errors in the training, selection, and assignment of staff." Uzbek TV quoted Karimov as saying, "[Kholmuradov] has failed to demonstrate such skills as uniting the people and organizing their creative work." Nurmuratov is currently the finance minister. DK

U.S. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, has cosponsored the Belarus Democracy Act that provides for the promotion of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 9 July. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey) in February 2003 and the Senate by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Republican, Colorado) in March 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). If enacted, the legislation would in particular impose a travel ban on senior Belarusian officials, prohibit any financial assistance to the Belarusian government, and require U.S. representatives in all international financial institutions to oppose delivery of any nonhumanitarian aid to Belarus. JM

Dzmitry Bandarenka, a leader of the Charter-97 Belarusian opposition group, has said that Uta Zapf, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, "shares responsibility with [Belarusian President] Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime" for the current crackdown on the Belarusian opposition, Belapan reported on 9 July. Bandarenka was commenting on Zapf's decision at a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Edinburgh on 8 July to withdraw a draft resolution condemning the Belarusian government and sign a joint declaration with Belarusian legislators (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). Bandarenka also charged that it was Zapf who initiated procedures that allowed the Belarusian National Assembly to fill Belarus's vacant seat in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in February 2003. The move, Bandarenka added, was followed by a new round of persecution against the Belarusian opposition. JM

Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, a leading presidential candidate, has published on the Our Ukraine website ( an action plan called "Ten Steps for the People," which he plans to implement if he wins the 31 October presidential election. In particular, Yushchenko pledges to create 5 million new jobs; raise the minimum pension above the subsistence minimum and pay wage arrears within a year; lower taxation on salaries to under 20 percent; fight corruption decisively; introduce "real" political reform in 2006; double productivity in the agricultural sphere; and reduce the length of compulsory military service to 12 months as soon as 2005. JM

President Leonid Kuchma told 1+1 Television Channel on 11 July that during his 10 years as Ukrainian president, the Ukrainian government has averted an economic collapse, raised living standards in the country, and achieved "impressive" economic results. According to the Ukrainian president, the three main foreign-policy achievements in the last 10 years are the international recognition of Ukraine as a state, Ukraine's membership of collective security organizations, and the fixing of the state's borders. Kuchma avoided a direct response to the question whether he will run for a third presidential term on 31 October. He praised Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych for the "specific results" that Yanukovych achieved with his cabinet and criticized Yushchenko for making "populist" election promises. JM

A congress of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (PPP) in Kyiv on 10 July proposed PPP leader Anatoliy Kinakh as a candidate in the 31 October presidential election, Interfax reported. "I was in power and know how to change it," Kinakh said at the congress. "I know all about politics, therefore I refuse to play politics and choose to do what can be done with clean hands. I know all about the economy and, first of all, about how to stimulate it." Kinakh headed the Ukrainian government from March 2001 through November 2002. JM

Serbian President Boris Tadic said in his inaugural speech on 11 July that he wants to bring Serbia into the EU and NATO's Partnership for Peace program and to promote cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "The history of crimes in the Balkans is a long one. A lot of blood has been spilled," Tadic said. He stressed that "all people from this region should make one great historic apology to each other. And in that context it is particularly important to look at one's own crimes," Reuters reported. Tadic added that "cooperation with the [Hague-based] war crimes court is a priority of our foreign and domestic policies because it confirms our dedication to European values." He also said that he wants Serbia to be a country that promotes the welfare of its citizens. The 82 members of the 250-seat parliament belonging to the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) attended the inauguration wearing T-shirts with a picture of party leader Vojislav Seselj, who is on trial for war crimes in The Hague. The Serbian presidency is a largely ceremonial post. Any order to extradite war crimes indictees would presumably have to come from Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who regards the tribunal as anti-Serb (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 February, 18 June, and 2 July 2004). PM

General Vladimir Lazarevic, who is one of the four Serbian generals sought by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on the private BK Television on 11 July that "the army's hands in Kosovo are clean" as far as the 1998-99 conflict is concerned, AP reported. He added that Kosova's ethnic Albanian guerrillas were "helped by Al-Qaeda, mujahedin warriors, and other dogs of war." Referring to the charges against him, Lazarevic said: "This indictment is an indictment against our entire army. Our [four] destinies will determine that of Serbia.... If I am extradited...unthinkable crimes by ethnic Albanian terrorists would [in effect] be pardoned, as would the crime of the NATO alliance's aggression against our country." He stressed that his extradition "would be treasonous [and] betray the memory of fallen Serbs, [constituting] an amnesty for all war crimes committed against Serbs." "As a soldier, I was not charged with making decisions. I followed orders and I was ready to defend my country with my life," Lazarevic added. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 7 July 2004). PM

Some 20,000 people, mainly Bosnian Muslims, attended a commemorative service in Potocari near Srebrenica on 11 July to mark the ninth anniversary of the massacre in which up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males were killed by Serbian forces and bury 338 recently identified bodies, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 23 April 2004). Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa Ceric, who heads Bosnia-Herzegovina's Islamic Community, cautioned against vengeance, dpa reported. "Revenge is not our faith or our destiny. The truth is our faith, and justice is our destiny," he said. Several representatives of the survivors called for the arrest and extradition of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. No senior Bosnian Serb official attended the ceremony, all having gone instead to Tadic's inauguration in Belgrade, Reuters reported. PM

The Macedonian Helsinki Committee has warned in its latest report that Macedonia might "lose its independence" if the political elite continues to rely on foreign diplomats in the decision-making process, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 12 July. According to the report, decisions are being made within a small circle of political oligarchs and with the help of foreign diplomatic representatives rather than in the democratically elected institutions. The committee called on politicians to return the decision-making process to the parliament and the other state institutions and to end the "unprecedented direct involvement of diplomatic representatives of foreign countries in the adoption of national legislation and implementation of laws." UB

A KFOR spokesman said on 11 July that an unidentified gunman wounded four Finnish peacekeepers with a hunting rifle near Lipjan, dpa reported. The spokesman added: "We [do not think] that this was a planned attack on KFOR. The theory at the moment is that the soldiers were incidentally shot at, and this was some local smuggling operation." The Kosovar government strongly condemned the attack. Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said that he opposes all violence, particularly that directed at peacekeepers helping to ensure Kosova's future and progress, Hina reported. PM

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 10 July announced a reshuffle in the cabinet he heads, Mediafax and international news agencies reported. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Elena Dumitriu is to be replaced by Dan Mircea Popescu, who held that portfolio between 1991-1996. Communications Minister Dan Nica is to be replaced by his deputy Adriana Ticau; Agriculture Minister Ilie Sarbu will be replaced by Petre Dadea; and the two ministers in charge of local administration affairs and of relations with trade unions, Gabriel Oprea and Marian Sarbu, are to be replaced by Gheorghe Emacu and Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz, respectively. Nastase also announced that the current Permanent Delegation that heads the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) is to be disbanded and replaced by a 16-member Coordinating Bureau, which will be in charge of party affairs until the planned PSD extraordinary congress next month. The newly appointed ministers will be members of the Coordinating Bureau. President Ion Iliescu on 11 July refused to comment on the reshuffle, saying he is "waiting for proposals" from Nastase. Reuters cited critics of the PSD as saying the reshuffle is largely cosmetic and prompted by the party's poor performance in June local elections. MS

Prime Minister Nastase said on 10 July that he would "not hesitate to run for president" as the PSD candidate "if that would serve the party and be in the interests of the country," Mediafax reported. Nastase said he would like to hear the opinions of his party members on his candidacy and believes the best way to achieve that is through an "internal opinion poll." Media reports say Nastase is reluctant to run for the post, both because he fears losing and because he does not want to relinquish the post of PSD chairman in favor of President Iliescu, who ends his mandate at the end of 2004. MS

Opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan said on 10 July that the cabinet reshuffle shows that the PSD places party interests ahead of national interests, Mediafax reported. Stolojan said that the newly appointed ministers are precisely those who have earned the most praise from the prime minister. "The message Nastase has sent to the citizens is the following: we do not care about the government's problems, all we care about is the PSD," Stolojan said. MS

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on 9 July that it was surprised by the "inconsistencies, contradictions, subjectivity, and obvious political partisanship" of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights' (ECHR) ruling obliging Russia and Moldova to pay compensation to members of the "Ilascu group," Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). The ministry said the group's members were detained in Tiraspol in 1992, long before Russia had ratified the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1998 and the convention cannot apply retroactively. The ministry also accused court members of applying "double standards," and alleged that the court applied the principle of "territorial jurisdiction" when rejecting a complaint against NATO countries' bombing of Yugoslavia, whereas in the Ilascu case it applied the principle of "extraterritorial jurisdiction" by "proceeding from the false premise that the Russian Federation exercises jurisdiction over the Transdniester territory." The ministry said Russia rejects the court's ruling that it immediately push for the liberation of the two prisoners still detained in Tiraspol, as this would amount to "gross interference in the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Moldova." MS

The separatist Transdniester authorities said on 10 July that they will defy the ECHR ruling to set free the two remaining members of the "Ilascu group," AP reported. In a statement released by the region's "Foreign Ministry," Transdniester said it wishes to express "its deep indignation" over the court's decision, saying that the "terrorists cannot be freed before their term is up." The 15-year sentences passed on Tudor Petrov-Popa and Andrei Ivantoc run out in 2007. Meanwhile, Moldova's Foreign Ministry said Chisinau will comply with the court's decision to pay compensation to the four members of the "Ilascu group." MS

President Vladimir Voronin on 9 July dismissed Justice Minister Vasile Dolghieru, replacing him with Dolghieru's deputy, Victoria Iftodi, Infotag reported. No reason for the dismissal was given and Dolghieru said he asked the president to relieve him of his duties several days earlier. Infotag reported that according to "unconfirmed information," Dolghieru's resignation was initiated by Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, who is dissatisfied with the ministry's negative image abroad. The agency cites several unidentified "experts" who said the dismissal was due to the large number of cases Moldova has lost at the ECHR, which has cost the country hundreds of thousands of euros. MS

At Moscow's instigation, the six CIS states that are members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), together with Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, issued a statement in Vienna on 8 July harshly criticizing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and calling for a fundamental refocussing of its priorities and activities.

The statement, which was adopted during a meeting of CIS heads of state in Moscow on 3 July and bears the imprimatur of the Russian presidential press service, charged that the OSCE "does not respect such noninterference in internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty," and that it is guilty of double standards by focusing "selective attention on certain states while ignoring problems in other states." It claimed that the OSCE's humanitarian activities are restricted to "monitoring the human rights situation in the countries of the CIS and former Yugoslavia," and that this almost exclusive focus on the human rights dimension "significantly restricts" its ability to counter new challenges and threats.

The statement further targeted the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), noting that its primary activity of election monitoring is frequently "politicized and fails to take into account the specifics of individual countries." Over the past decade, ODIHR monitoring missions have criticized as failing to meet European standards most of the ballots, both parliamentary and presidential, in all the nine states that signed the condemnation.

The joint statement also criticized as "ineffective" the OSCE's field missions in the CIS, noting that their financing consumes a significant chunk of the OSCE's budget. It claimed that instead of fulfilling their mandate "to provide assistance to the government of the host state," those missions concentrate "exclusively" on the human rights situation and engage in "unwarranted" criticism of the domestic political situation.

It concluded that "the OSCE's agenda should include the swiftest removal of the imbalance between the three dimensions of the organization's activity by increasing the role of its military-political, economic, and environmental elements," and called for drafting "new approaches" to the organization's work.

Speaking in Moscow on 8 July, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov warned that Russia and other CIS states might "lose all interest" in the OSCE if it continues to "degenerate" rather than reform.

This is by no means the first time that Russia has criticized the OSCE for allegedly neglecting the security aspect of its original mandate. Exactly 10 years ago, in July 1994, then-Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev formally proposed that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), as it was then called, should assume the role of an umbrella organization with overall responsibility for coordinating security in Europe, in cooperation with NATO, the West European Union, and the Council of Europe. A Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax on 20 July 1994 that other CIS states supported that Russian proposal. A Russian parliamentarian said the Russian proposal was prompted by NATO's shortcomings, specifically with regard to peacekeeping. He said NATO's Partnership for Peace program launched earlier that year "is an interesting forum for cooperation in military training and joint exercises, but it does not...guarantee security in Europe." But the underlying Russian rationale was clearly concern at the prospect of NATO expansion to incorporate one or more of the former Warsaw Pact countries.

At its summit in Budapest in December 1994, the CSCE changed its name to reflect its enlarged membership and shifting priorities in the wake of the collapse, first of socialism in Eastern Europe, and then of the USSR. But Russian politicians continued to lobby persistently for enhancing the OSCE's security component and specifically for the adoption of a new European security charter. Addressing a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Copenhagen in December 1997, then-Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov argued that the OSCE "should be the appropriate framework for the reinforcement of pan-European security." At the same time, he urged that the proposed OSCE charter should not mandate "interference into the domestic affairs of member states."

The new OSCE security charter was finally adopted at the Istanbul OSCE summit in November 1999. It outlined intended "new steps," including enhancing the focus on security, expanding the OSCE's role in peacekeeping, and the need to counter the growing threats of terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking. It also stresses the potential threat to regional security posed by "acute economic problems and the degradation of the environment." By that time, however, it was already clear that Russia was losing the battle to forestall NATO's expansion eastwards: the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary were formally admitted to the alliance at its Washington summit in April 1999, and seven more countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia) were to follow suit in early 2004.

Russia, nonetheless, persisted in its criticisms of the OSCE. In June 2000, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarev complained that unnamed Western countries were trying to narrow the OSCE's focus to human rights issues in the former East Bloc. He said such efforts "would reduce the OSCE to nothing," and warned that Russia "will do everything to prevent this." In January 2001, Russian diplomats presented to OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis proposals for reforming the OSCE, which met with a lukewarm reception.

The most recent Russian broadside against the OSCE came just days after the NATO summit in Istanbul failed to designate any CIS states as potential candidates for a future round of NATO expansion. Instead, the final communique signed at the summit stressed the importance of enhanced "cooperation" and closer "partnership" between NATO and the states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and also Ukraine. The question therefore arises: is Russia trying to persuade its CIS allies that in light of NATO's increased geographical focus on "out-of-area" operations, such as its engagement in Afghanistan, on the one hand, and its reluctance to designate any CIS states as potential future members, on the other, a revamped OSCE could guarantee European security just as effectively?

It should be noted that of the four CIS states (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan) that have made clear their aspiration to join NATO, two (Georgia and Azerbaijan) declined to sign the joint statement criticizing the OSCE. Turan on 10 July quoted a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry as saying that Baku had proposed an alternative draft statement that contained the accusation of double standards but also arguing that the OSCE's primary mandate is conflict prevention and mediation, specifically averting "ethnic cleansing" and "the occupation of the territory of sovereign states." Ukraine and Uzbekistan, by contrast, endorsed the Russian initiative.

Five people were killed in the western Afghan city of Herat on 11 July when a bomb exploded on a crowded downtown street, international media reported. AP reported that 29 others were injured in the attack, which Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA) Chairman Hamid Karzai blamed on "enemies who are desperately trying to derail Afghanistan from the path of reconstruction, peace, and democracy." There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Police in Herat said they arrested one as-yet-unidentified suspect who denied involvement. Herat police chief Ziauddin Mahmoudi said the explosive was placed in a garbage heap near a building housing shops on the ground level and a police station above. One police officer was among the injured. Officials said the dead included a 12-year-old boy. The attack highlighted security concerns for the upcoming Afghan presidential elections. Authorities announced on 9 July that the elections will be postponed from their previously scheduled date in September until 9 October. MR

Taking part in a UN-backed disarmament program, 750 former fighters handed over weapons in Herat on 11 July in a ceremony marred by the bomb attack on the other side of town. A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry said some 750 former combatants have turned over 550 weapons, both light and heavy, Xinhua news agency reported. Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, who has in the past expressed reservations about cooperating with disarmament efforts, was absent from the ceremony, and none of his forces' tanks were among the weapons collected. Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Khan has been reluctant to hand over his weapons, but is not stonewalling disarmament efforts, AFP reported. "Ismail Khan was not opposing the program but of course he had some remarks, which have been resolved during meetings we'd had with him," Azimi said. MR

Two suspected insurgents died while planting a land mine in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar Province, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 11 July. The blast happened overnight on 10 July a kilometer from the Khogyani District headquarters, dpa reported on 11 July, citing AIP. "They were trying to plant the mine on a road when it blew up, ripping their bodies beyond identification," local police chief Mohammad Omer said. Omer said authorities nonetheless recovered documents from the scene that led to the arrest of 10 relatives of the suspected terrorists. Police also found a remote-control device. The explosion occurred near an area where another blast killed a female election worker and wounded five others on 8 July. MR

Afghanistan's Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan on 9 July hosted a reception for the new Iranian consul, Mohammad Ali Najafimanesh, Herat Television reported. Najafimanesh expressed his eagerness to work with the people of Herat. His predecessor, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, now serves as the charge d'affaires in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 April 2004). BS

Ali Talai, an official from the Tehran Governorate-General's Political-Security Affairs Directorate, said that the situation in Tehran was normal on 18 Tir (8 July, the anniversary of student unrest in 1999), "Vaqa-yi Itifaqi-yi" reported on 10 July. Talai said that fewer than 10 people were arrested, and their releases will not be possible until their cases are examined on 10 July. BS

Said Razavi-Faqih, a leader of the Office for Strengthening Unity (OSU) student organization, told Radio Farda that the Interior Ministry and the university did not allow his organization to stage any events on 8 July. "Since we are committed to avoiding endangering the students by violent or unlawful actions, we could not hold any programs this year," he said. Hojatollah Sharifi, a former member of the OSU's central council, told Radio Farda: "The 9 July anniversary passes in silence and under repression, because the ruling authority wants this day to be forgotten." He said that a few small events, such as a photo exhibit at Sharif University, took place and added, "The fact that perpetrators of the 8 July attack continue to hold high-level positions and have become candidates for the legislature has been a slap in the face of the students, who were thrown in jail instead of the perpetrators." BS

Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization member and university professor Hashem Aghajari defended himself in the Tehran Public Court on 10 July in the final hearing of his retrial, IRNA reported. Aghajari was sentenced to death in 2002 after criticizing the Iranian clerical system (for his comments, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002, and on his court case, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 July, 12 August, and 11 November 2002). The death penalty was overturned in May, and in presenting his oral arguments on 10 July, Aghajari said the charges against him should be dismissed. He explained that in his controversial 2002 speech he was only questioning blind acceptance of orders from clerics and he was not actually insulting the clerics. Before the session began, according to the Islamic Association of Isfahan University of Technology's website (, 20-30 people gathered in front of the courthouse and chanted slogans such as "Hashem Aghajari must be executed." Some of them managed to enter the courthouse and kept up their chanting. BS

The court for offenses committed by government employees and the media on 11 July issued an arrest warrant for "Toseh" Editor in Chief Qoli Sheikhi, IRNA reported. The charges against Sheikhi include publishing lies and insults, and propagating against the Islamic Republic system. The same court on 11 July issued a temporary ban against publication of the "Aftab" monthly, IRNA reported. The judge explained in a letter to the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry that the ban stems from the public prosecutor's complaint against managing editor Issa Saharkhiz. Saharkhiz is accused of publishing articles against the Vali-yi Faqih (Supreme Jurisconsult), against the constitution, and against the legislature. He also is accused of disseminating false news. BS

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in Tehran on 11 June, state television and IRNA reported. Khatami said that it is important for the occupation of Iraq to end. Rafsanjani said history shows that the Iraqi people will not tolerate an occupation for long. He added that the establishment of the Iraqi interim government is a "positive step towards full transition of power to the Iraqi people," and said that Iran is ready to help the Iraqis. BS

A Philippine hostage held by Islamic militants in Iraq has reportedly been spared death for 11 more days -- the deadline by which his captives have demanded the Philippine government withdraw its troops from Iraq, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 11 July. A representative of the militant group, identified as the Islamic Army in Iraq, Khalid Ibn al-Walid Brigade, said in a videotape sent to Al-Arabiyah: "If we learn from media sources after this extended deadline [that there has been] a clear response from the Philippines government, then instead of treating him as a hostage to be killed he will be a prisoner treated according to Islamic teachings. He will be treated as such until the last Philippine soldier leaves Iraq within a period of 11 days. After which he will be turned over to his country unharmed." The Philippine cabinet on 10 July voted against a proposal to withdraw its troops from Iraq ahead of its scheduled August pullout, international media reported. KR

The Bulgarian government remains optimistic that two of its nationals held captive in Iraq are still alive despite the deadline having passed for their threatened execution, international media reported on 12 July. Reuters reported on 11 July that senior Bulgarian diplomats traveled to Baghdad on that day to plead for the release of the men, who were kidnapped on 27 June after delivering cars from Bulgaria to a Mosul car dealership. The Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad terrorist group affiliated with fugitive Jordanian Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for the abductions and said it intended to kill the men on 9 July unless the United States freed Iraqi detainees from prison. KR

Unidentified militants kidnapped the head of the Free Iraqi Society Party in Baghdad on 10 July, MENA reported. Abd al-Muhsin Shalash was kidnapped from the party headquarters after militants ransacked the offices, destroying computers and other equipment. It is not known why Shalash was targeted. The political group was established in April 2003 and calls for the return of a constitutional monarchy to Iraq. For more information on the Free Iraqi Society Party, see the RFE/RL webpage on Iraqi political groups ( KR

Iyad Allawi has reportedly postponed a tour of Arab states by one week in order to make additional preparations, "Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported on 11 July. Allawi was due to begin his tour in Jordan on that day. Cairo's MENA reported on 10 July that Allawi's talks with Jordanian officials, including King Abdullah II, will focus on a resumption of bilateral ties, including the export of oil from Iraq to Jordan. Iraq was the leading supplier of oil to Jordan before Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 10 July that Jordan has given the Iraqi military 150 armored vehicles in order to help boost security there. KR

The Al-Najaf News Network reported on 10 July that Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was stabbed recently by members of his office during a dispute. The report claims that the dispute erupted when members criticized al-Sadr for contacting Prime Minister Allawi and some politicians in Baghdad without first obtaining their approval. Al-Sadr's injuries were reportedly not serious. The report has not been independently confirmed. KR