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Newsline - November 9, 2004

Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, addressing a conference in Hong Kong, said on 8 November that the government's economic policy has been moving in the wrong direction over the last two years, RIA-Novosti reported. "From August 2002, there has been a sudden change in Russian economic policy and the state's economic policy has negatively affected economic development," Illarionov said. He said that in terms of economic freedom -- which is measured by considering the ratio of state spending and taxation to GDP, the protection of intellectual property, fiscal policy, trade policy, and the level of state regulation of the economy -- "Russia is nearing the bottom of the list." Illarionov repeated his dissatisfaction with Russia's recent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, saying that "for the first time in our country's history, legal limitations have been imposed on the rate of growth of the economy." Illarionov also said that the Central Bank has adopted a policy of selling U.S. dollars and dollar-denominated securities in order to diversify its foreign-currency reserves. He added that India and China have adopted similar policies, which could lead to further declines in the value of the U.S. dollar. RC

The planned Russia-EU summit scheduled for 11 November in The Hague has been postponed until December at the request of the Russian side, Russian and international media reported on 8 November. Officially, Moscow explained its request citing delays in the formation of a new European Commission, saying that it wanted members of the new commission to participate in the summit. "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 6 November that Russia called for the delay because it has failed to reach an acceptable long-term partnership agreement with the EU. According to the daily, Moscow has been seeking the status of a "privileged partner" with the EU, while the union has been attempting to include Russia in its European Neighborhood Policy. The Brussels-based EUPolitix news agency quoted an unnamed EU source as saying that "it is true that despite considerable efforts on our part, we are still working toward an agreement." The source added that "there were some areas, to be frank, where we would have liked to see the Russians be more forthcoming." RC

The weekly "Versiya," No. 42, published what it claims are the going rates that State Duma deputies charge for lobbying services. The weekly notes that the influence of the Duma has been reduced considerably in recent months, pointing out that the legislature's consideration of the crucial second reading of the federal budget took less than one day. However, the paper claims that deputies earn $100,000-$200,000 for the passage of a law and $30,000-$50,000 for the successful introduction of an amendment. Deputies also earn $2,000-$10,000 for each formal deputy's inquiry and up to $30,000 for an inquiry to the prosecutor's office that results in an investigation. A telephone call from a deputy to a deputy minister costs $2,000-$4,000, according to the paper. The paper noted that the Budget and Tax Committee offers the most opportunities for corruption, which is why it has 51 members, as opposed to, say, the Nationalities Committee, which has six. The weekly said that the most influential Duma deputies are all in the leadership of the Unified Russia party. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, and Unified Russia leaders Yurii Volkov and Valerii Bogomolov are reported to have direct access to President Vladimir Putin. Unified Russia leaders Vyacheslav Bolodin, Vladimir Pligin, and Oleg Morozov are reputed to have ties to presidential administration deputy head Vladislav Surkov. Budget and Tax Committee Chairman Yurii Vasilev is considered to be close to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. RC

In the run-up to President Putin's 22 November trip to Brazil, Brazilian Development Minister Luiz Fernanado Furlan told ITAR-TASS on 9 November that his country supports Russia's bid for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). "Our stand is that it is not wise when such an important country as Russia with such a powerful economy is not a member of the WTO," Furlan said. Furlan also hailed Russia's recent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and said that Brazil is ready to share with Russia the environmentally friendly technologies it has developed. Furlan also said that bilateral trade is still based primarily on raw materials and commodities and that the two countries must do more to develop high-technology and high-value-added exchanges. RC

China is increasingly seeking to purchase state-of-the-art Russian military technology, including in some cases equipment that the Russian military does not possess, NTV reported on 8 November. A recent air show in Zhuhai featured almost exclusively Russian-made technology, as the European Union has enforced an arms embargo against China for 15 years. Russia showed the Su-27SKM single-seat fighter, only five of which have been delivered to the Russian Air Force, NTV reported. Russian producers also showed a fifth-generation electronic targeting system and a fifth-generation jet engine. "Since the Russian defense industry is to a large extent being propped up by the Chinese, there is no other option but to offer them the most up-to-date products," NTV correspondent Sergei Morozov reported. NTV also reported that China is providing regular financing to its own military-industrial complex, which is reportedly about five years behind Russia's. RC

Many of the people recently named to senior posts in the Defense Ministry have backgrounds in the Federal Security Service (FSB) or other security organs, "Russkii kurer" reported on 28 October. Lieutenant General Andrei Chobotov, a longtime associate of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, moved from the FSB to the ministry in 2001 and was recently named head of the Defense Ministry's central apparatus. The daily reported that he is considered the second most-powerful person in the ministry. Lieutenant General Nikolai Pankov, who now heads the ministry's personnel directorate, also worked with Ivanov in the FSB and, later, at the Security Council. Former FSB officer Colonel Sergei Rybakov now is the defense minister's officer for special missions, but is expected to be named head of the ministry's information and public-relations department. "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 November that the Defense Ministry expects to complete its management reorganization by mid-December. RC

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow gave a press conference on 5 November in the wake of the reelection of U.S. President George W. Bush, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 6 November. Vershbow said that he believes Bush and President Putin will hold a private meeting later this month at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization summit in Chile at which they will discuss terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, and bilateral issues. Vershbow said that bilateral relations will be characterized by "continuity" in Bush's second term. "The United States and the Russian Federation have great potential that has not been utilized yet," Vershbow said. He added, however, that there are some areas of potential conflict, including Ukraine, Georgia, and Central Asia. "We will manage to avoid major confrontation," Vershbow said, citing the example of differences over policies in Iraq. RC

More details have begun emerging regarding the false 4-5 November reports of an accident at the Balakovo Nuclear-Power Plant in Saratov Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian media reported on 6 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004). A website set up by journalists on 5 November helped fuel the panic by reporting that "four workers have died and 18 others have received burns of various degrees" in an accident and that "the situation is critical." As of midday on 9 November, the site ( continues to maintain that there was an accident at the plant despite official denials. "People were terrified and thought it was the end of the world," Anna Vinogradova, head of a local NGO, told the daily. "The entire city went mad." According to the daily, some schools and kindergartens gave iodine pills to children and enterprises throughout the region came to a standstill as workers left to help their families. The panic was also spurred because of a preplanned emergency drill that was held at the station on 4 November and the fact that no official statement was made about the situation until the evening of 4 November. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko visited the oblast on 5 November to show that the situation was normal, the daily reported. RC

Construction of the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant was begun in 1978 and it has four 1,000-megawatt reactors, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 November. It is the largest electricity producer in Russia, generating some 28 billion kilowatt-hours per year and providing energy to the Volga, Urals, and North Caucasus regions. Construction of a fifth reactor is expected to begin in 2006 and of a sixth in 2010. There has never been a serious accident at the plant, the daily reported. RC

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who recently returned from observing the U.S. presidential election, said on 6 November that he believes that losing Democratic Party candidate John Kerry has legal grounds to challenge the results of the election, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Veshnyakov, the fact that some votes, including absentee ballots, were not counted gives Kerry a legal basis. At the same time, Veshnyakov noted that Russian politicians should learn from their U.S. counterparts how to "lose with dignity." According to Ekho Moskvy, Veshnyakov also said that U.S. election specialists are interested in coming to Russia to learn how the electronic Gaz-Vybory system works. JAC

A Pskov Oblast court has ruled that Pskov Oblast Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov is eligible to run for a third term in the gubernatorial election scheduled for 14 November, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 November. Four other candidates in that race had demanded that Mikhailov's registration as candidate be canceled on the basis that the oblast charter does not allow a person to serve as governor for more than two terms in a row. The court found that the charter does not conform with an earlier decision of the Constitutional Court and is therefore invalid. JAC

On 6 November, the presidium of the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of two lower courts and canceled the registration of Pskov Mayor Mikhail Khoronen in the gubernatorial election, because he used the office of the mayor for his campaign, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 November. For example, he held a press conference in the mayoral administration building, the daily reported. An opinion poll conducted by the Levada Analytical Center in the oblast during the last week of October found that there was 35.1 percent support for Khoronen versus only 25.9 percent for Mikhailov, Regnum reported on 6 November. "Kommersant-Daily" argued that other candidates, such as former State Duma Deputy Mikhail Kuznetsov and former Federation Council Chairman Igor Provkin, still have a good chance, but much will depend on whether Khoronen decides to support one of the other candidates in the race. JAC

Recent data collected by the Feniks Center for New Sociology and the Novyi region news agency showed that nationalist youth groups are springing up not only in large cities but also in the provinces, RFE/RL's Yekaterinburg bureau reported on 8 November. For example, in small mining towns in Chelyabinsk Oblast, youth groups have been conducting protests against migrants from the Caucasus region. In a recent discussion of the roots of nationalist youth groups and radical protest movements, Natalya Zubarevich of the Moscow-based Independent Institute for Social Policy suggested that nationalist groups are most active in large cities and regions throughout central Russia, which are predominantly ethnically Russian and have little experience with other ethnic groups. According to Zubarevich, another aspect of the rise of such groups is the "inherited mindset from Soviet times of a search for the other who is guilty of what is happening to us." A listener from Podolsk called the bureau to report that, among her age group of 15- to 17-year-olds, people who have "dark hair and long noses" are targeted by skinheads even if they are ethnic Russians. JAC

Some 400 people forced their way on the morning of 9 November into the building housing the office of Mustafa Batdyev, president of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and ransacked it, a correspondent in Cherkessk for RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Most windows in the building were shattered, and some six people have been reported injured. Thousands of people have congregated on the square in front of the building calling for the resignation of the government and of Batdyev, whose whereabouts are not known. LF

The remains of the seven men killed last month during a shoot-out at the dacha of Batdyev's son-in-law, Ali Kaitov, have been found near a mountain village outside Karachaevsk, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel told Interfax on 8 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 25, and 26 October 2004). Two of the 15 suspects arrested so far in the case have confessed to the killings and told police where to find the bodies, which had been burned. Batdyev publicly announced late last month that his daughter will divorce Kaitov, who turned himself in to police. LF

Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said on 8 November that members of his presidential security guard killed 22 resistance fighters during an operation in Vedeno Raion in southern Chechnya, Interfax reported. Kadyrov said the dead men included a certain Suleiman Khairulla, who according to Kadyrov claimed responsibility for the terrorist blast on 9 May that killed Kadyrov's father Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and seven other people. In a statement dated 17 May, radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev said his men killed Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, but did not name Khairulla as having participated in that operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2004). Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov offered a slightly different version, telling Interfax on 8 November that Khairulla was one of the organizers of the blast that killed Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. LF

President Robert Kocharian named Major General Gorik Hakobian on 8 November as director of the National Security Service (the Soviet-era KGB), Noyan Tapan reported. Hakobian, who was born in 1946 and graduated from the Yerevan Polytechnical Institute, joined the KGB in 1970 and has spent his entire career in the security sector, serving most recently as National Security Service deputy director. On 6 November, the independent daily "Aravot" quoted Hakobian's predecessor Karlos Petrosian as declining to elucidate the circumstances of his dismissal, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. "Aravot" commented that Petrosian's departure benefits powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, as working relations between the two men were reportedly difficult. LF

A senior lieutenant was killed on 7 November when Armenian forces opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in Agdam Raion, reported on 9 November. He was reportedly the 11th Azerbaijani serviceman killed on the Line of Contact this year. LF

Two companies, numbering in all 300 men, from the Georgian Commandos battalion left Tbilisi for Kuwait on 8 November where they will undergo two weeks' training before being deployed to Iraq, Caucasus Press reported. The men are all graduates of the U.S. Train and Equip program launched in the summer of 2001. Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze said on 8 November that Tbilisi will increase its manpower in Iraq next year from the current level of 156 men to 850. Also on 8 November, Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, who heads the League for the People's Protection, told Caucasus Press that organization has failed in its campaign to collect 30,000 signatures in support of a petition against sending Georgian servicemen to participate in peacekeeping operations abroad. LF

Independent parliament deputies Koba Davitashvili and Zviad Dzidziguri formally announced on 8 November the establishment of a new Conservative Party which, they say, already numbers some 8,000 members, Caucasus Press reported. Presenting the new party's charter, Davitashvili noted that it was drafted in consultation with the U.S. Republican Party. The party will hold its constituent congress in early 2005, at which either Davitashvili or Dzidziguri will be elected chairman. Davitashvili added that the party already has the support of six parliament deputies and hopes to increase that number to 10 -- the minimum for formally registering a parliament faction -- by the end of this year. LF

Vineyard owners from the traditional wine-producing region of Kakheti in eastern Georgia have been picketing the State Chancellery since 4 November to protest the government's failure to pay them the sum of 45 tetris ($0.25) per kilogram of grapes delivered to state-owned wineries, Caucasus Press reported. That sum was agreed in late September after grape producers staged an earlier protest, as a result of which Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania announced the allocation of an additional 600,000 laris in subsidies (increased weeks later to 1 million laris) to be paid to grape producers and threatened to fire Agriculture Minister David Shervashidze if he proved unable to resolve the problem. Parliament deputies, however, protested in mid-October that Zhvania violated the law by allocating funds from the state budget without the consent of the legislature. The protesters now accuse Shervashidze of cheating them, and are demanding a meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili. LF

Lieutenant General Lance Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, met with Kazakh Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev in Astana on 8 November, Khabar TV reported. Altynbaev told journalists after their talks, "We reviewed the reform of Kazakhstan's armed forces, regional security, and prospects for cooperation between Kazakh and U.S. armed forces," Kazinform reported. For his part, Smith thanked Kazakhstan for its assistance in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. "It would have been difficult for us without Kazakhstan's help. It is very important that Kazakhstan has offered its airspace to carry out operations in Afghanistan and its contingent of field engineers who are in Iraq at the moment," the U.S. deputy commander said, according to Khabar TV. DK

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's (SCO) Envoys' Club met in Astana on 8 November, Kazakh TV reported. The meeting was attended by Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev and the ambassadors of China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Their discussion focused on the need for cooperation among member states in the fight against terrorism and the expansion of trade ties, reported. Astana will host the next SCO summit in July 2005. DK

A court in Almaty has thrown out a lawsuit against three television channels by the opposition parties Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 8 November. The two parties accused the TV channels KTK, Khabar, and ORT-Yevraziya of causing them "moral damage" by suspending their advertisements in the run-up to 19 September parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2004). DVK presidium member Vladimir Kozlov said that the court ruled that the plaintiff had failed to prove that the parties incurred damage from the TV channels' actions. Describing the court's ruling as "biased," Kozlov said that his party is currently discussing an appeal that "will most likely go to the Supreme Court." DK

Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan's state-owned nuclear company, and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement in Beijing on 6 November, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 8 November. Kazatomprom, which handles Kazakhstan's uranium production and exports, stated in an 8 November press release: "The establishment of a strategic partnership between Kazatomprom and CNNC will help to unite the strongest arms of the industrial nuclear fuel cycle systems of Kazakhstan and China." The agreement will be signed by the two countries' heads of state in the near future, the press release noted. DK

According to Tajik Labor Minister Mahmadsho Ilolov, Russian authorities will give Tajik citizens who reside in Russia until 1 April 2005 to comply with regulations requiring a valid foreign passport for travel within the Eurasian Economic Community (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan), the BBC's Persian Service reported on 8 November. The requirement had been slated to go into effect on 1 January 2005. Ilolov said that Russia's Federal Migration Service and Interior Ministry have agreed to the reprieve, which will allow Tajik citizens in Russia, whose numbers have been estimated at up to 1 million, more time to acquire proper travel documents. Ilolov also said that negotiations are underway with Russian immigration authorities to extend the registration deadline for Tajik citizens in Russia. Tajik citizens are currently required to register within three days of arrival. DK

Rahmatullo Zoirov, head of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service on 8 November that he has put forward his candidacy to represent the Sino (formerly Frunze) district of Dushanbe in February 2005 parliamentary elections. The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan has also announced that it has advanced the candidacies of 10 people for the city council in Kulob. DK

Representatives of the German Development Bank and Tajikistan's Economy Ministry have signed six agreements for Germany to provide Tajikistan with 9 million euros ($11.6 million) in economic-development grants, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 7 November. One 6 million-euro grant will go to social-sector projects, and a 3 million-euro grant will support entrepreneurship. Tajik Deputy Economy Minister Maruf Sayfiev called the grants a valuable contribution to the development of the aforementioned sectors. DK

Uzbekistan's ruling People's Democratic Party and the pro-presidential Fidokorlar National Democratic Party have held their party congresses in preparation for 26 December parliamentary elections, UzA reported on 8 November. Both parties approved their platforms and selected candidates for the elections. According to the report, the People's Democratic Party has 580,000 members. The National Democratic Party has 61,000 members. DK

The unregistered opposition party Erk announced on 6 November that it will boycott 26 December parliamentary elections, AP reported the next day. Party head Atonazar Arifov told journalists in Tashkent, "Considering the economic, political and social situation in Uzbekistan, we may say the election can't be either free, democratic, or fair." Noting that all of the parties officially cleared for participation in elections support President Islam Karimov, Arifov asked the international community not to lend the "anti-democratic" elections legitimacy by sending observers. DK

German Ambassador to Belarus Martin Hecker has requested that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry explain the decision to prevent the head of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's regional office for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova from entering Belarus, Belapan reported on 8 November. Helmut Kurth was turned away by Belarusian authorities upon arriving at a Minsk airport on 5 November. Hecker was reportedly told by a high-ranking Belarusian border official that Kurth is on a Belarusian blacklist. Meanwhile, Kurth has appealed to the Belarusian public in an open letter saying he has sought during the past three years to "contribute to the continuation of Belarus's dialogue with other European countries by arranging conferences, workshops, research, and information trips to Germany." Kurth expressed the hope that Belarusian authorities might lift their ban, thus "discontinuing the process of self-isolation of the country." JM

An appellate court in Cherkasy Oblast on 8 November annulled the official protocols of the 31 October presidential ballot in electoral districts Nos. 200 and 203, thus invalidating the vote in those constituencies, Interfax reported. The verdict followed complaints filed by two minor presidential candidates, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy (constituency No. 200) and Oleksandr Bazylyuk (constituency No. 203). Preliminary figures suggest that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko defeated Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in those constituencies by large margins. Yushchenko's staff has announced that it will challenge the oblast court's verdict before the Supreme Court, a step that must take place within the two days of the annulment of the election results. Meanwhile, Central Election Commission Chairman Serhiy Kivalov told journalists on 8 November that the commission received some 100 complaints regarding violations of the election law during the presidential election. Kivalov pledged that the commission will announce official results of the 31 October vote prior to the deadline imposed by the election law -- that is, no later than 10 November. JM

Anatoliy Kinakh, leader of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, signed an accord on 8 November throwing his support behind Yushchenko in the 21 November presidential runoff and urging transparent and democratic voting on that day, Interfax reported. According to preliminary election results published by the Central Election Commission on 2 November, Kinakh placed fifth among presidential candidates on 31 October with 0.94 percent of the vote. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz declared his support for Yushchenko on 6 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004). JM

Presidential candidate Yushchenko and his campaign manager Oleksandr Zinchenko met with Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), in Kyiv on 8 November, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko's press service reported the same day that Yushchenko and Metropolitan Volodymyr expressed concern about the tense situation in the country ahead of the 21 November presidential runoff and about an "artificial split of Ukraine 'into East and West for denominational and religious reasons.'" Yushchenko's press service added that the metropolitan blessed Yushchenko at the end of their meeting. On 9 November, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's (Moscow Patriarchate) press service issued a statement saying that the report by Yushchenko's press service on the meeting was a "dirty political tactic" intended to draw the church into a political confrontation. "No joint appeals or assessments or statements were made or could be made [during the meeting]," Metropolitan Volodymyr's press service said. "At the end of the meeting, the metropolitan blessed the visitors." JM

A poll conducted by the Razumkov Center from 3-7 November among 2,027 adult Ukrainians suggested that 44 percent of respondents will vote for opposition candidate Yushchenko in the 21 November presidential runoff, while 37 percent declared their support for Prime Minister Yanukovych, Interfax reported on 9 November. The poll also indicated that 5 percent of respondents will vote against both candidates, 2 percent will not vote, and 12 percent have not made up their mind about the runoff. The poll's margin of error was roughly 2 percent. JM

In response to the preliminary results of the 7 November referendum on the government's redistricting plans, Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov said on 8 November that Macedonian citizens -- irrespective of which ethnic group they belong to -- have shown once again that they support the further development of interethnic relations, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Kostov said it is now time to carry out the necessary reforms to promote Euro-Atlantic integration, improve the economy, and fight unemployment. With just over 26 percent, the voter turnout was too low for the referendum to be valid. The government is now free to carry out an internationally supported plan to cut the number of administrative districts and to decentralize the state administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4, 8, and 22 October 2004). UB

Bernard Fassier, who is the international community's deputy high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said in Sarajevo on 8 November that the recent Bosnian Serb report on the July 1995 massacre of up to 8,000, mainly Muslim, males by Serbian forces in Srebrenica marks a "dramatic U-turn" in the Bosnian Serb approach to that issue, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 29 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004). Fassier noted that the previous Bosnian Serb position was based on "denial, obfuscation, and concealment." He stressed, however, that the authorities must follow up on the report with specific actions. "A fresh large-scale process of exhuming and identifying victims must be started and properly funded. There must be full and thorough investigations and prosecutions of those responsible," he added. In related news, Montenegrin Foreign Minster Miodrag Vlahovic laid a wreath at the memorial site for the victims at Potocari near Srebrenica on 8 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He warned that unnamed people still seek to cover up the truth about the massacre, thereby hindering attempts to bring to justice those individuals responsible for the killings. PM

Representatives of four prominent Bosnian NGOs agreed in Sarajevo on 8 November that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats are not treated equally throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is in clear violation of the constitution, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 October 2004). Representatives of the Serbian Civic Council, New Croatian Initiative, Congress of Bosnjak Intellectuals, and the Krug (Circle) 99 group noted that unspecified measures aimed at preventing the introduction of full equality have preserved the results of wartime ethnic cleansing and the institutionalization of ethnic discrimination. PM

Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 8 November that three new ministries will be set up soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The respective ministries will deal with energy, local self-government, and refugee return together with minority affairs. Oliver Ivanovic, who heads the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija and was recently reelected to the parliament in Prishtina, pointed out that the three ministries will considerably affect the Serbian minority, particularly the ministry dealing with returns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2004). PM

The Kosovar Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said in Belgrade on 8 November that the Serbian deputies recently elected to Kosova's parliament lack credibility due to the low Serbian turnout and will await official guidance from Belgrade, the private Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2004). He stressed, however, that a recent proposal by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus for a de facto partition of the province into two Bosnian-style entities with limited authority is nothing but "political marketing." Labus wrote in the Belgrade daily "Politika" of 7 November that the entities would each have a "transitional sovereignty" until Serbia joins the EU. PM

A Romanian government press release charged on 8 November that recent declarations on the country's accession talks by opposition National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance presidential candidate Traian Basescu were "irresponsible," Mediafax reported. The statement accused Basescu of putting political interests ahead of national interests. Basescu said on 7 November that Social Democratic Party presidential candidate and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase neglected Romania's interests during the negotiations with Brussels and rushed to end the process in order to use it in the current election campaign. Basescu countered by telling the BBC that while it is generally good that negotiations end earlier than scheduled, the negotiations were "hasty" and "bad" for Romania. He added that Romanian citizens will have to pay the price. ZsM

Something quite unexpected happened on 28 October in Ukraine, three days before the crucial presidential ballot. On that day, a group of some 40 television journalists from four private-owned channels signed a statement protesting the pressure exerted on them during the election campaign and expressing their concern about a "threat of distorted coverage of the decisive period of the elections." The signatories simultaneously undertook to cover the election campaign honestly and called on their colleagues to do the same.

The statement asserts that to ensure unbiased coverage, Ukrainian news programs need to report on "all socially important events," present "all important point of views on reported events," and check "all broadcasted information" as well as attribute it to specific sources. Within the next week, the statement was signed by nearly 300 other Ukrainian television reporters from more than two dozens channels, including the most influential, state-owned UT-1 (see

This statement alone gives a fairly good insight into the problems encountered by Ukrainian reporters working for state-owned or private television channels. Most international and domestic studies and surveys of Ukrainian television broadcasting concur that Ukraine's airwaves are dominated by the government's point of view and that television coverage is ridiculously homogenous.

Such a situation is being maintained primarily by temnyky (in Ukrainian journalistic lingo: themes of the week) -- unsigned instructions sent by the presidential administration on a daily basis to major television channels to tell journalists what "socially important events" to cover and what "points of view on reported events" to publicize. Given that all Ukrainian broadcasters must have their licenses renewed every five years, Ukrainian news editors generally follow the prescriptions contained in temnyky.

The "Ukrayinska pravda" website (, a fiercely antigovernment online newspaper, reported on 3 November that there has been a noticeable change in coverage by major Ukrainian pro-government channels, including the state-controlled UT-1 as well as the private-owned ICTV, New Channel, and Inter since the 28 October journalistic protest. "The television broadcasting has changed," "Ukrayinska pravda" wrote. "This has been noted by both insiders and ordinary viewers who, since this past Thursday [28 October], have received much fewer overtly dirty interpretations of events and heard again the voices of those whom they were previously advised to ignore."

According to "Ukrayinska pravda," the presidential administration considered two possible reactions to this journalistic "rebellion" -- either discipline the disobedient journalists with cautionary sackings or allow them to "let off steam" for the time being and tighten the screws at some later date. Since no conspicuous dismissals have taken place, "Ukrayinska pravda" concluded that the latter option has prevailed for now.

It remains to be seen whether the current journalistic defiance will continue beyond the three weeks separating the 31 October presidential ballot from the runoff on 21 November. A similar outburst of journalistic disobedience came in late 2002, when the Verkhovna Rada organized a debate on the situation in the Ukrainian media and the word "temnyky" became a phrase of the day in Ukraine. "Television news coverage in Ukraine is made by remote control," journalist Andriy Shevchenko told the Verkhovna Rada in December 2002. "Someone else, not journalists, edits news programs, shoots and disseminates videos, writes texts, and selects comments by governors, which are subsequently sent to all channels. Let us admit honestly: instead of news coverage, Ukraine gets lies."

Shevchenko subsequently became involved in setting up an independent trade union of journalists, but that initiative has withered without achieving any tangible results. At that time, his colleagues apparently preferred relatively well-paid jobs and "remote control" in the state-owned and oligarchic media to the fight for freedom of expression in a trade union with uncertain prospects of success. There are reasons to believe that if Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych wins the presidential race, this new journalistic protest will be nipped in the bud as well.

Television in Ukraine, as perhaps in a majority of countries around the world, is among the most efficient tools of political propaganda and control. All but one of Ukraine's television channels are controlled and/or heavily influenced by either the government or oligarchs supporting the government's policies. It is thus little wonder that Ukrainian television channels have appeared to lend massive support to Viktor Yanukovych's presidential bid and to work in concert against opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

The OSCE Election Monitoring Mission for the 31 October presidential ballot, apart from observing the voting itself, organized a monitoring of the behavior of major Ukrainian media outlets in the presidential campaign from 3-24 September. The mission selected six national television channels, two regional television stations, and nine daily newspapers for its qualitative and quantitative study of election coverage in prime time news (see The findings of the media monitoring were alarmingly homogeneous. On the government channel (UT-1) and pro-Kuchma oligarchic channels -- Inter, 1+1, ICTV, STB, New Channel, TRC Ukraine -- the coverage of Yanukovych was rated essentially as either positive or neutral, while that of Yushchenko was either negative or neutral. In addition, Yanukovych got three to four times more airtime than Yushchenko.

This reporting pattern was visibly reversed on the pro-Yushchenko Channel 5, which devoted approximately the same amount of airtime to Yanukovych and Yushchenko during the monitored period. The coverage of Channel 5 was also deemed more balanced -- the amount of negative material about Yanukovych exceeded the positive by 50 percent. Curiously enough, Channel 5 also provided negative coverage of Yushchenko, which constituted nearly 20 percent of all the airtime devoted to him. This, however, did not prevent Channel 5 from getting into trouble during the election campaign. Its bank accounts were frozen by a court, and the channel faced a threat of closure by the authorities.

"We are not soldiers, as our managers wanted us for a long time to be," "Ukrayinska pravda" wrote on 3 November, expressing sympathy with and encouragement for the current journalist remonstration against the pressure and "remote control" in information policy. "We are professionals who have the irrefutable right and duty to determine what should be broadcast to people. We are journalists, not they."

"They" seem to be on the defensive at the moment in Ukraine. Will "they" counterattack?

The shadowy group holding three UN workers hostage in Afghanistan, Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims), has reversed an earlier statement and said its captives are in good health, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 8 November. Saber Mo'min, identified as an Army of the Muslims military commander, told AIP that he is "very optimistic that our prisoners will be freed" because "fresh information obtained by us indicates that the [Afghan] government and also the Americans are trying" to locate 25 people whose release has been demanded in exchange for the three UN employees. Mo'min also said his group has allowed the hostages to contact their offices and perhaps relatives. The Army of the Muslims abducted the UN workers on 28 October from Kabul and has on several occasions altered its demands and deadlines. Most recently, the group claimed it contacted Afghan authorities and delivered a list of 25 or 26 individuals whom it demands be freed in exchange for releasing the hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 November 2004). One of the hostages, a Kosovar Albanian woman, was able to telephone a friend in her hometown of Pec, AFP reported on 8 November. AT

Four Afghan journalists offered on 8 November to take the places of the three UN employees being held hostage by the Army of the Muslims, AFP reported. In an open letter, the journalists indicated that in order to "avoid discrediting Afghan culture and to respect the holy religion of Islam," they were offering themselves as hostages. No reaction from the Army of the Muslims has been reported to the journalists' offer. AT

The cabinet decided at a meeting chaired by President-elect Hamid Karzai on 8 November that private television stations in the country should take into account Islamic and moral values, Radio Afghanistan reported. If private television stations are deemed to have aired un-Islamic or immoral programs, their transmissions may be banned under the measure, which takes effect immediately. The cabinet also ordered that all cable programming be banned until an interministerial investigation is completed, although no deadline has been announced for those findings. The investigative commission includes members of the Interior and Culture and Information ministries. Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 8 November that the broadcasting of "non-Islamic and illegal films" by private television stations in Afghanistan has angered the public and members of the judiciary, prompting Information and Culture Minister Sayyed Makhdum Rahin to ask those stations not to broadcast such programs. Afghan Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari issued an order in January 2003 banning all cable broadcasts in the country, but the ban has gradually been eroded (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 and 30 January 2003). AT

Eyewitnesses reported seeing U.S. aircraft spraying defoliants to destroy opium-poppy fields in Nangarhar Province, AIP reported on 7 November. "I saw the chemical myself. It is made of small black granules and looks like black fertilizer," an unidentified resident of Khogiani District told AIP. Another Nangarhar resident quoted by the same agency called the destruction of poppy fields a good step and said it should encourage people to "sow wheat on their land instead" of poppies. President-elect Karzai has vowed that his administration will eliminate his country's growing drug problem. Afghanistan's opium production, which has increased at an alarming rate since 2002, is expected to rise once again in 2004. For the most part, both the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S.-led coalition forces have so far remained on the sidelines of the problem (for more, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003 and 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). AT

The pro-PKK/Kongra-Gel "Ozgur Politika" and "Ortadugu," an Istanbul daily that supports the right-wing Nationalist Action Party, reported on 6 November that the Iranian government intends to use Kurdish tribesmen as militiamen. Iranian officials are quoted as having told their Turkish counterparts that they will train, arm, and pay the Kurds. "Ozgur Politika" added that these forces are cooperating with Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they will be used against Kurdish insurgents, and this is part of an earlier Iran-Turkey joint security operation (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12, 19, 26 July and 9 August 2004). "The Boston Globe" on 7 November quoted PUK officials who charged that Iran is aiding members of the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam group and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's group in Iraq. Tehran's imputed actions could be linked with a report in the 28 June issue of "The New Yorker" suggesting that Israeli military and intelligence specialists are training Kurdish commandos and have penetrated Iranian territory to install devices that target suspected Iranian nuclear facilities. BS

Deputy Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr told high-school students attending a conference called "The World without America" on 8 November that the United States is guilty of many crimes, Reuters reported. "The world without America is a world without oppression, without terror, without invasion, without massacre," Zolqadr said. He went on to describe actions such as the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Zolqadr also said that if anyone attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, the country will strike back anywhere, Fars News Agency reported. Zolqadr said Iran has developed a new military doctrine based on experience in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War as well as observation of the more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Zolqadr said Iran opposes the use of unconventional weapons and prefers to rely on 10 million (his figure) trained Basijis and 1 million military personnel. "In view of Iran's powerful force, the enemy will never dare to fight against Iran," he concluded. BS

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi left for Bahrain on 8 November, IRNA reported. The news agency added that the main topics of discussion will be events in Iraq and Palestine. In the last fortnight, Kharrazi has visited Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. One day earlier, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami congratulated the U.A.E.'s new ruler, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, IRNA reported. He succeeds Sheikh Zayid Bin Sultan al-Nuhayyan, who died on 2 November. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi attended the funeral, which took place on 3 November. BS

Noruz Kohzadi, governor of the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran, said on 8 November that the cabinet has approved the provision of insurance coverage for exports to Afghanistan and Iran, IRNA reported. This means that the guarantee fund will cover possible nonpayment of loans to any Iranian bank that provides credit for exports to the two countries. The credit ceiling is $300 million for Iraq and $50 million-$100 million for Afghanistan. BS

U.S. and Iraqi forces began a full-scale assault on the volatile city of Al-Fallujah on 8 November, international media reported. CNN cited U.S. military officials on 9 November as saying that militants in the city were not as coordinated as expected. Tank-company commander Captain Robert Bodisch told Reuters, however, that insurgents are "putting up a strong fight," the news agency reported on 9 November. Al-Arabiyah also reported heavy street fighting in the city. There are about 10,000 U.S. forces and about 2,000 Iraqi forces participating in the battle. An Al-Arabiyah correspondent in the city reported seeing four U.S. tanks burning. He claimed that U.S. forces bombed a medical center in the city, killing "scores" of doctors, medical staff, and patients. Doctors at Al-Fallujah Hospital said there are no surgeons on duty in the city, adding that at least 15 civilians were killed in fighting on 8 November, Reuters reported. Iraqi State Minister for National Security Affairs Qasim Dawud told Al-Arabiyah in an 8 November interview that the operation has been codenamed Operation Walfajr, or Daybreak. There are an estimated 3,000 militants holed up in Al-Fallujah, AP reported on 9 November. KR

Militants in Al-Fallujah claimed on 8 November to have captured 36 U.S. soldiers, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day. The announcement by the Al-Fallujah Shura Council said the soldiers were captured during battles south of the city. That claim has not been confirmed. Meanwhile, Muslim Scholars Association Secretary-General Harith al-Dari told Al-Jazeera in an 8 November interview that the "resistance" in Iraq has a legitimate right to fight and that his association supports that right. "Resistance has been legitimate since its first days.... The Iraqis carry out jihad out of their right to defend their country," he said. Al-Dari added that his association has called on Iraqi national guardsmen not to fight alongside multinational forces. "We issued a statement in which we appealed to the National Guard forces to be genuine Iraqi forces to defend the homeland and its sons, and not to fight alongside the enemies. We appealed to them not to obey the orders of the occupation forces." In an apparent threat, he added that if the National Guard "became partners to the occupiers, then it will certainly be considered part of them," implying that he will consider the National Guard a legitimate target of insurgents. KR

The incursion into Al-Fallujah came just hours after Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced security measures on the city in an 8 November press briefing broadcast on Al-Arabiyah television. The security measures include a curfew on the city; the closure of roads, except for emergency cases; the closure of public institutions, aside from hospitals, fire departments, and other pubic-service departments; and a ban on weapons. Allawi also said the Baghdad International Airport will be closed to civilian flights for 48 hours, and that the country's borders with Syria and Jordan will be closed except for essential travel and the transport of foodstuffs. The Allawi government announced on 9 November that it is imposing a curfew in Baghdad from 10:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. with immediate effect, Reuters reported. KR

A car bomb detonated outside an Iraqi National Guard base in the northern city of Kirkuk on 9 November, Reuters reported. The blast killed three people and wounded two others, the base commander said. Major General Anwar Ibrahim told Reuters that the casualties were workers arriving at the base. Four mortar explosions also targeted the Green Zone that houses coalition and government facilities in Baghdad on 9 November, international media reported. Two booby-trapped cars detonated in front of two churches in the Iraqi capital on 8 November, Al-Jazeera reported on 9 November. A hospital in the city was also attacked. Reuters reported that 11 people were killed in the three attacks. Meanwhile, militants attacked two police stations in Ba'qubah on 9 November, Al-Jazeera reported. The satellite news channel reported that 45 people were killed and 32 wounded in the attacks. KR

The Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew from participation in the interim government on 8 November to protest the incursion on Al-Fallujah, Al-Jazeera television reported. The party issued a statement obtained by Al-Jazeera that accuses the government of collusion with multinational forces in shedding the blood of the Iraqi people. Iraqi Islamic Party spokesman Farid Sadri confirmed the decision in an 8 November interview with Al-Jazeera, saying, "The party leadership says that there is nothing now that justifies our presence in this government." He added: "As a political party, we recognize the legitimacy of resisting occupation. We believed we could do something to stop the aggression of the U.S. government through political means. So far, our attempts have failed." Senior party member Muhsin Abd al-Hamid resigned from the interim National Assembly after the party's announcement, Reuters reported on 9 November. Meanwhile, party member and Industry and Minerals Minister Hazim al-Hassani said he will not resign. "I believe that the fate of Iraq is more important than that of a political party, and I will stay with the government," he told Reuters. "I will withdraw from the Iraqi Islamic Party," he added. KR