GAZPROM TAKES TOUGH STAND WITH UKRAINE...
Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller met in Moscow on 7 June with Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of the Ukrainian national petrochemical firm Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Channel One, RTR, and newsinfo.ru reported. During the meeting, Miller demanded that Naftohaz pay for some 7.8 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas that allegedly disappeared from Ukrainian storage facilities during last winter's Orange Revolution. Miller's deputy, Aleksandr Ryazanov, explained after the talks that Gazprom stores natural gas that it intends to sell in Western Europe in underground reservoirs in Ukraine during the summer to meet excess demand in the winter, Channel One reported. Ryazanov said that Ivchenko offered no explanation for what happened to the allegedly missing gas and that Gazprom is insisting on $1.25 billion in compensation. Globalrus.com headlined its coverage of Gazprom's tough new stance "The Empire Strikes Back Against Ukraine." Miller also informed Ivchenko that Russia plans to increase the price of the gas it supplies to Ukraine from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $160 next year. Miller argued that the joint Russian-Ukrainian-German gas consortium has not proven economically viable and should be phased out. VY
...AS POLITICIANS LAUNCH VERBAL ASSAULT
Deputy Duma Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said on 7 June that "Ukraine has stolen Russian gas" and that "it took the money for it away from Russian children and old people," RTR reported. Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin (Unified Russia) told RTR the same day that the matter of the "vanishing gas" is "a serious blow to the business reputation of the Ukrainian company and the government that controls it." Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin told RTR that "the Ukrainian authorities simply haven't found out yet what happened to the gas." "When they do, they will explain the matter, if, of course, they haven't sold it," he said. VY
RUSSIA PREPARES TO BATTLE EU OVER ALLEGED DUMPING
Maksim Medvedev, who heads the Russian delegation negotiating Russia's proposed membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said on 7 June that after Russia joins the WTO, it will sue the European Union for the antidumping measures it has imposed on many Russian exports, gzt.ru reported on 8 June. Medvedev added that he hopes Russia will be accepted into the WTO next year. He added that Russia will never agree to raise domestic energy tariffs to world levels, as the EU has demanded, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. "WTO rules do not include such requirements," Medvedev said. VY
PUTIN MEETS WITH SULTAN OF BRUNEI
President Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin on 7 June with Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei, Russian and international media reported. After the talks, Putin told journalists that the sultan's visit opens "a promising new stage" in bilateral relations, particularly in the fields of energy and military-technical cooperation, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin invited the sultan, who is one of the richest people in the world, to participate in a number of investment projects in Siberia and the Russian Far East. He also proposed that Russian companies work more actively in Brunei, particularly in the construction of metallurgical enterprises and energy facilities. Putin thanked the sultan for supporting Russia's successful bid for observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). VY
BROADCASTERS SIGN VOLUNTARY PLEDGE TO REDUCE VIOLENCE ON TV
The heads of Russia's main television channels came to the Duma on 7 June to sign a voluntary declaration against violence and cruelty on television, polit.ru and other Russian media reported. According to the document, broadcasters pledge to restrict the use of materials that could "harm public morals or propagate a culture of violence and cruelty." The document is the product of a compromise between the Duma, which was calling for as many as 40 restrictive amendments to the law on the mass media, and the broadcasters, who argued for self-regulation. The document was signed by the heads of all four Duma factions, as well as by the heads of Channel One, RTR, NTV, TV-Tsentr, REN-TV, and STS television. VY
OFFICIAL PROVIDES DETAILS ON NEW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TELEVISION PROJECT
Federal Press and Mass Communications Agency Director Mikhail Seslavinskii said on 7 June that the editorial department of the proposed new Russia Today (RTTV) 24-hour, English-language television channel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2005) will be headed by 26-year-old RTR journalist Margarita Simonyan, Russian media reported. The station, which is being set up by RTR and RIA-Novosti, will employ about 500 people, including some 300 journalists and is expected to begin broadcasting in September. Seslavinskii said the government has earmarked $30 million as its contribution to launching the channel, and added that RTTV will open bureaus in Washington, London, Brussels, and Jerusalem. He added that the presidential administration is "in the picture" about the channel's development, but will not oversee it, ITAR-TASS reported. "Do you think people in the corridors of power are going to sit around and proofread English-language newsreels?" Seslavinskii asked. VY
SECURITY AGENCIES ACCUSED OF USING TORTURE AGAINST SUSPECTED ISLAMISTS
Human rights organizations including Memorial and the Civic Assistance Committee have alleged that the Federal Security Service (FSB) has tortured and otherwise abused Muslims being held in police custody, "Versiya," No. 21, reported. "In Russia, as in Uzbekistan, the probability of an Islamist uprising is very high," the weekly wrote. "The Interior Ministry and the FSB are literally trying to drive the Islamists underground, and their methods do not differ greatly from those of the Uzbeks." According to the weekly, a defendant in a trial in Ufa who is accused of being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir has reportedly complained to the Prosecutor-General's Office that he was savagely beaten and raped in his cell. The defendant said he confessed falsely under physical pressure. Another defendant said that he was beaten with an electrical wire and can no longer move his hand. The weekly provided details from cases in other parts of Russia. JAC
RIGHTIST'S CALL FOR RUSSIAN ENTRY INTO EU RIDICULED
Writing in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 7 June, journalist Mikhail Rostovksii argued that Russia's political opposition is "not very competent" and "irresponsible." He noted that in an interview with his daily, Nikita Belykh, the new leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), called for a new Russian national idea -- entry into the EU. According to Rostovskii, he talked to two dozen European experts and "not one of them allowed for even the theoretical possibility of Russia becoming a member of the EU in the next 20 or 30 years. We are for them simply too huge a country." In the same article, Rostovskii praised independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov as one of the wisest Russian politicians. However, he complained that Ryzhkov also made a strange statement in an interview with the daily, when he said Russia does not face any real danger of Islamic fundamentalism. JAC
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS EXPERIENCES TROUBLE IN VOLGA REGION
In an interview with gazeta.ru on 7 June, Viktor Gurskii, chairman of the Nizhnii Novgorod Human Rights Society, charged that after enjoying good relations with local authorities for the past 12 years, his organization has recently been experiencing problems and that the local branch of the FSB has been conducting operations against his group's sister organization, the Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship, and the group's newspaper "Pravozashchita." According to Gurskii, the problems started last October, following the newspaper's reprinting of an interview with Chechen resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov that had been taken from the Internet. On 28 February, the local Justice Ministry office demanded that the group provide an enormous amount of information by 2 March, a request that Gurskii complained was physically impossible to meet. Gurskii, who also works as a doctor at a local hospital, further charged that the authorities are trying to ruin his medical career. In addition, he said the group's bookkeeper met with tax authorities and was asked: "Aren't you afraid to work for such an organization since you have a young child?" JAC
EXPERT PANS NEW LAW ON STATE LANGUAGES
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" published on 7 June the new law on the state language of the Russian Federation and the daily asked Moscow State Linguistics University rector Irina Khaleeva to comment on it. She said it is "difficult to call the law ideal." "We find in the law on the state language of the Russian Federation not the best language, to put it mildly," she continued. "there are many glaring stylistic mistakes in the law." For example, in Article 1, section 5, the authors used the word "priumnozhenii" when "preumnozhenie" is meant. In addition, the authors of the law, whose goal is to limit the use of foreign words when a Russian word is available, are guilty themselves of using the word "analog," whose use they intend to limit. Khaleeva concluded that the law's main shortcoming is that it does not address how it will come into effect, and without this feature, it appears to be more of a declaration or memorandum than a law. President Putin signed the law on 2 June after the State Duma approved it on 20 May and the Federation Council on 25 May, the presidential press service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005). JAC
MOSCOW UNVEILS MONUMENT TO ALEXANDER II
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, and Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Sokolov participated in a 7 June ceremony to unveil a monument to Alexander II in front of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, RIA-Novosti reported. Sokolov called the monument a "testament to the rebirth" of Russia. He noted that Alexander's contribution was immortalized in many corners of Russia before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and the process of restoring those monuments has begun. The inscription on the monument notes that Alexander abolished serfdom, undertook legal and military reforms, introduced a system of self-government, and "freed Slavic peoples from the Islamic yoke [of the Byzantine Empire]." The SPS originally proposed the monument, even offering to give it to the city as a gift (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2002). JAC
BAD BEER SUSPECTED OF INFECTING TOWN
Tver Oblast is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A, with some 238 people -- including 51 children -- hospitalized, gazeta.ru reported on 7 June. The Rzhev brewery is suspected of being the source of the infection. Rzhev beer is sold not only in Tver Oblast but in the city of Moscow and in Moscow, Leningrad, Smolensk, Pskov, and Kaliningrad oblasts. Factory workers deny their plant's product has infected people, saying they also drink the beer and did not get sick, "Izvestiya" reported. According to gazeta.ru, representatives of the oblast prosecutor's office have arrived in Rzhev to investigate possible violations of sanitary norms. JAC
BESLAN RELATIVES PROTEST APPOINTMENT OF NEW NORTH OSSETIAN LEADER
The parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania voted on 7 June to confirm the nomination of its former speaker, 51-year-old Taymuraz Mamsurov, as the region's new head, Russian media reported. Mamsurov's candidacy was one of two proposed to President Putin by presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak to succeed outgoing President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, who announced his resignation last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). Also on 8 June, the parliament named Dzasokhov to represent North Ossetia on the Federation Council, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 June. Mamsurov began his political career in the Komsomol prior to the demise of the Soviet Union, "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 June. He was born in Beslan, and two of his four children were among the children held hostage there last September by Chechen militants. Relatives of those killed in the hostage taking nonetheless staged a protest outside the government building in Vladikavkaz on 7 June against Mamsurov's appointment, yufo.ru and gazeta.ru reported. A spokeswoman for the protesters said they will continue to demand the resignation of all officials who served under Dzasokhov. LF
EMBATTLED INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT SECURES KREMLIN BACKING
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Kozak traveled on 7 June to Magas, where he met with handpicked "representatives of the Ingush people" who begged him to ask President Putin to renominate Murat Zyazikov for a further term as Ingushetian president, which Kozak publicly promised to do, ingushetiya.ru reported. Zyazikov, who is under fire for condoning widespread corruption, offered last week to resign, asking Putin for an expression of confidence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2005). Musa Ozdoev, who leads the Ingush opposition, described Putin's apparent readiness to reappoint Zyazikov as the worst mistake Moscow has ever made in the North Caucasus, and he predicted that the psychological impact will be comparable to that of the deportation of the entire Ingush people to Central Asia in 1944. LF
DEFEATED CANDIDATE CHALLENGES OUTCOME OF ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTION
Proxies of Samvel Hovsepian, the incumbent mayor of the Yerevan district of Malatia-Sebastia and a member of the Yerkrapah union of Karabakh war veterans, have formally questioned the preliminary results of the 5 June election suggesting that Hovsepian was defeated by his sole rival, Aghvan Grigorian, Noyan Tapan reported. Grigorian is a member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, as are the victors in three other mayoral elections held on 5 June in the towns of Spitak and Hrazdan and Yerevan's Davitashen district. LF
AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER LOOKS AHEAD TO PARIS TALKS
Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told journalists in Baku on 7 June that "a great deal will depend" on the outcome of his planned meeting with his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian in Paris on 17 June, echo-az.com and day.az reported on 8 June. Mammadyarov again said that the two sides are discussing between seven and nine issues related to a peace settlement, and that those issues have to be addressed in a specific order, with each made secure before the following is added, "like pearls knotted on a silk thread." Mammadyarov said Azerbaijan insists on the liberation of the seven districts currently occupied by Armenian forces, and that the two sides are discussing which countries or organizations could provide peacekeeping forces to be deployed on those territories after their liberation, according to day.az. He also said that "after the frontiers are opened we must revive trade links and transport." Echo-az.com quoted Mammadyarov as saying that the two sides are discussing both the "phased" and the "package" approaches to resolving the conflict. But a senior Armenian Foreign Ministry official told "RFE/RL Newsline" on condition of anonymity that the final agreement will be a package one, although its various provisions may be implemented one after the other, rather than simultaneously. LF
U.S. HAILS 'PEACEFUL' OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN AZERBAIJAN
In a 7 June statement, the U.S. State Department expressed satisfaction that the opposition rally and march in Baku three days earlier proceeded "peacefully and without incident," according to Turan on 7 June and echo-az.com on 8 June. One Azerbaijani commentator, writing on 8 June in zerkalo.az, implied that that assessment was insulting. "We are not children, to be patted on the head for good behavior," he protested. The statement called on the Azerbaijani authorities to permit further public rallies, and to abide by its international commitments to ensure that the parliamentary elections due in November "conform to world standards." LF
LUKOIL CONFIRMS FAILURE OF TRIAL WELL IN AZERBAIJAN
A first trial well drilled by LUKoil at the Yalama field in Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea failed to yield oil in commercially viable quantities, LUKoil Vice President Nikolai Chernyi told Trend news agency on 7 June, day.az reported. LUKoil signed an agreement in 1997 with the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) to develop that field, in which LUKoil has a 60 percent stake. Initial estimates suggested the field contains up to 140 million tons of recoverable reserves. The contract obliges LUKoil to drill a second trial well at Yalama, but Trend cited unidentified LUKoil sources as saying the company may offer to pay SOCAR $20 million compensation in lieu of doing so. At least eight trial wells drilled over the past decade in Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian have failed to yield oil, centrasia.ru reported on 1 April 2003. LF
FOUR GEORGIANS FEARED KIDNAPPED IN SOUTH OSSETIA
A meeting between Georgian and South Ossetian officials was scheduled in Tskhinvali on 8 June to discuss the disappearance two days earlier in the South Ossetian conflict zone of four Georgian men, rustavi2.com reported. Georgian media alleged on 7 June that the four men were kidnapped in a reprisal for the shooting by Georgian police on 29 May of four Ossetians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005) but South Ossetian Interior Minister Mikhail Mindzaev denied on 7 June the four men were kidnapped, according to Caucasus Press. The ethnically mixed peacekeeping forces deployed in the conflict zone imposed additional security measures on 8 June. LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENT REPEATS CALL FOR CENTRAL ASIAN UNION...
At a 7 June meeting of Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry in Astana, President Nursultan Nazarbaev repeated a call for a union of Central Asian states that he initially made in a February address (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2005), Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Nazarbaev urged Kazakh diplomats to "develop a blueprint for a union of Central Asian countries in order to submit it to our partners in the region...." The president also said that Kazakhstan needs to "work out a long-term strategy to defend and promote our national interests." DK
...AS DAUGHTER WARNS OF REVOLUTIONARY DANGER FROM ABROAD
Darigha Nazarbaeva, a daughter of President Nazarbaev and the head of the pro-presidential Asar Party, told a party congress on 7 June that a repetition of the unrest that shook Kyrgyzstan on 24 March is possible in Kazakhstan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. "It is possible because a new form of expansion -- that is, the export of democracy -- has emerged in world practice," Nazarbaeva said. "This is, in fact, a new technology of instituting controllable governments in territories that are of strategic interest." DK
KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT RESUMES WORK
Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court, which was occupied by protestors in late April and was recently liberated by counter-protestors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005), has resumed its work, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 7 June. Nevertheless, demonstrators demanding the replacement of Supreme Court judges prevented Chairman Kurmanbek Osmonov and judges Larisa Gutnichenko and Kaliman Aknazarov from entering the court. Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev has set up a working group to report to parliament on the dispute over the high court. DK
KYRGYZ OMBUDSMEN CHARGES 100 REFUGEES WERE ILLEGALLY RETURNED TO UZBEKISTAN
Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu told a news conference on 7 June that in the period from 27 May to 7 June Kyrgyzstan returned 100 Uzbek refugees to Uzbekistan in violation of international agreements, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "In accordance with international conventions, we are obligated to observe the rights of refugees," Bakir uulu said. "The surrender of 100 Uzbek refugees is a violation of international norms." Some 500 Uzbek asylum seekers were recently moved to a camp within Kyrgyzstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). DK
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST DRUGS
Acting President Bakiev told a news conference in Bishkek on 7 June that Kyrgyzstan must step up its efforts to fight narcotics trafficking and drug abuse, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Bakiev said that the top priorities should be strengthening border patrols, providing antinarcotics units with necessary equipment and higher salaries, and eliminating corruption in law enforcement. He also noted that with drug abuse on the rise, efforts must be made to inculcate healthier lifestyles. DK
KYRGYZ GUARDS KILL TAJIK CITIZEN IN BORDER CLASH
A Tajik citizen was shot and killed in Kyrgyzstan in a clash with Kyrgyz border guards on 6 June, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the next day. The fatality occurred when border guards in Chekdobo confronted a group of seven Tajik citizens gathering wood. Tajik citizens from the Tajik village of Chorku subsequently disarmed and captured three Kyrgyz border guards. The three were being held in Chkalovsk, Tajikistan, fergana.ru reported on 7 June, noting that talks on the incident are under way between Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities. DK
JAILED TAJIK JOURNALIST'S LAWYER SAYS HE WAS TARGETED FOR ARTICLES
Maysara Fokhirova, a lawyer representing jailed Tajik journalist Jumaboy Tolibov, has told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that some of the charges against Tolibov involve articles he wrote criticizing a local prosecutor in Sughd Province. Tajik authorities had previously stated that Tolibov, who also occupied a position in local government, was not jailed in connection with his journalistic activities. Tolibov's articles appeared in the newspaper "Minbari Khalq," which belongs to the ruling People's Democratic Party. The newspaper spoke out in Tolibov's defense in a 4 June article, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 7 June. "If Tolibov was arrested because of his critical publications, then this could be considered a gross violation of freedom of speech and democratic principles," "Minbari Khalq" commented. "In that case, we, as Tajik journalists, cannot leave our colleague to face this problem on his own." International organizations have called for Tolibov's release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). DK
JAILED TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER APPEALS TO UN, OSCE
Lawyers defending Muhammadruzi Iskandarov, the jailed leader of Tajikistan's Democratic Party, have circulated an appeal to the UN and OSCE asking for assistance in obtaining a meeting with their client, Interfax reported on 7 June. Badriddin Azamov, who is representing Iskandarov, said that defense lawyers have only managed to meet with the jailed opposition leader once since he was arrested on 22 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2005). DK
RIGHTS GROUP ALLEGES 'MASSACRE' IN REPORT ON UZBEKISTAN...
Human Rights Watch charged in a 7 June report available on the organization's website (http://www.hrw.org) that Uzbek government forces perpetrated a "massacre" in Andijon on 13 May. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth told a news conference in Moscow on 7 June that "the scale of the killing and the deliberateness of the slaughter means that this can only be fairly classified as a massacre," RFE/RL reported. "The cover story that the Uzbek government has offered to explain the events of May 13th is completely false," Roth said. "It claims that only 170 people were killed when in fact hundreds were murdered. It claims that all the killing was done by non-governmental gunmen when in fact it was governmental troops that were responsible for the vast, vast majority of the slaughter." DK
...AS RED CROSS ASKS FOR ACCESS TO THE INJURED...
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated in a 7 June press release on the organization's website (http://www.icrc.org) that it "still has no access to people injured or arrested in connection with the events [in Andijon], nor has it been able to establish contact with the regional authorities...." While noting that ICRC representatives have been able to travel in the Ferghana Valley, the statement stressed that "access to the injured and detained, to morgues and to the regional authorities themselves has not been possible despite repeated requests from the organization." Reto Meister, ICRC delegate-general for Asia and the Pacific, said the organization aims not to conduct an investigation, but to perform a humanitarian mission. DK
...AND WORLD BANK, PEACE CORPS SUSPEND ACTIVITIES
A World Bank spokeswoman stated on 7 June that the organization has suspended planned missions to Uzbekistan in light of possible terrorist attacks, Reuters reported. "We have not cancelled [World Bank missions]," she said. "They have just been postponed." The U.S. Peace Corps announced in a 6 June press release on the organization's website (http://www.peacecorps.gov) that it has suspended its program in Uzbekistan. The statement noted that "the visas of 52 Peace Corps volunteers and the Peace Corps country director [recently] expired and were not renewed." Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez commented that "it is with regret that I make this announcement, but the Peace Corps only operates its programs in countries where it is invited by the host government and [that are] able to provide proper documentation for each volunteer." DK
FORMER UKRAINIAN SECURITY OFFICER PLACED ON WANTED LIST...
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun has charged former First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) Volodymyr Satsyuk "with committing a serious crime" and placed him on a wanted list, Interfax reported on 7 June. Satsyuk's whereabouts are not known. Piskun did not elaborate on the nature of Satsyuk's crime. Satsyuk has repeatedly been linked to the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko. The poison, a dioxin, is suspected of having been given to Yushchenko during a dinner at Satsyuk's summer home on 5 September 2004. As a result of the poisoning, Yushchenko's face was covered with scars and lesions. Some Ukrainians who have been placed on Interpol wanted lists by the Yushchenko government have fled to Moscow. RK
...AS FORMER SECURITY CHIEF IMPLICATED IN ARMS DEAL
Piskun also announced on 7 June that former SBU head Colonel General Ihor Smeshko has been implicated in an illegal arms sale, Interfax reported. It was not clear whether Smeshko has been charged. Piskun added that two other high-ranking government officials, not connected to the SBU, have also been charged in the same case, which he gave no further details about. The prosecutor-general did not name the other two officials nor which government agencies they worked for. In January, the Ukrainian website ORD.com.ua published a letter from the head of the parliamentary commission on combating crime and corruption, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, about the sale of Ukrainian cruise missiles to China and Iran in which a number of high-ranking SBU officers were implicated. RK
GAZPROM, UKRAINE AGREE NEW GAS PRICE
Ukraine and Gazprom have agreed to keep the price of imported Russian gas at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters till the end of 2005, Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov announced in Ankara, Turkey on 7 June, Interfax reported. Reports surfaced on 7 June that Gazprom had raised the price it would charge Naftohaz Ukrayiny for gas from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $160. Experts in Moscow told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that the $160 was not a firm, agreed-upon price and should be seen as part of the bargaining process between Gazprom and Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials announced on 7 June that the proposed consortium between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny to manage the Ukrainian trunk gas pipeline has fallen apart and will not play any role in the transit of Russian gas to Europe or manage and renovate the pipeline. This was not an unexpected move, with Ukrainian and Russian officials predicting the demise of the consortium over a year ago. RK
IMPRISONED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER HINTS AT POSSIBLE RELEASE
Convicted opposition leader Mikhail Marynich has told the French and German ambassadors to Belarus that he might be released under an upcoming amnesty, Belapan reported on 7 June. Marynich said that he has been "orally notified" of this by the administration of the correctional facility where he is being held. Marynich, a former minister and diplomat turned opposition leader, was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2004 on charges of stealing U.S. embassy property, which was discovered at the offices of the NGO of which he was chairman. The U.S. embassy made no claims against Marynich and stated that the equipment had remained U.S. property while being used by Marynich. RK
BELARUSIAN CLOTHING EXPORTERS FEEL THE SQUEEZE IN EU
Belarusian clothing exporters to the European Union are losing their market share to Asian competitors, Belapan reported on 8 June. When an international quota system ended on 1 January, exports to the EU from Belarus dropped sharply, Eduard Naryshkin, the chairman of the state-owned clothes manufacture Bellehpram, told reporters in Minsk. Exports of certain items of Chinese clothing to Europe have surged by more than 500 percent, Naryshkin said, and prices of some clothing and textiles have dropped by 23 to 96 percent. Triumph, a German-based company, intends to change its supplier from the Minsk-based Milavitsa lingerie producer to Vietnamese companies before the end of the year, Naryshkin said. RK
BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REFUSES TO BE SACKED
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Prime Minister Adnan Terzic, who is a Muslim, announced on 7 June that he has accepted the resignation that Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic, a Serb, submitted in December 2004 during a previous political crisis, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2004). Terzic said that Ivanic recently "obstructed" his work in selecting a new head of the security agency (SIPA). Ivanic refused to accept the sacking, telling reporters that the cabinet is not Terzic's "private company with which he can do as he pleases." Ivanic added that he spoke with Terzic one hour before Terzic announced the sacking and that Terzic told him "nothing" about the matter. Ivanic stressed that he felt vindicated when High Representative Paddy Ashdown that same day named Sredoje Novic, a Serb backed by Ivanic, to head SIPA. The German broadcaster noted that many Bosnian Serbs interpret Terzic's move as an attempt to undermine the position of Serbs in the central government and force new elections. Terzic is scheduled to tell the parliament's House of Representatives on 8 June about the sacking, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ivanic is attending an international conference in Spain. PM
HAGUE TRIBUNAL SAYS MUCH LEFT TO DO TO CATCH EX-YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal gave the UN on 7 June its latest twice-yearly report on the status of fugitive indictees, dpa reported. The study said that cooperation by the countries of the region is still insufficient, adding, however that Serbia's cooperation has "improved remarkably" in the past six months. The work by the Bosnian authorities has been "very good," the report noted, but not that of the Republika Srpska. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, his former commander General Ratko Mladic, and former Croatian General Ante Gotovina remain "the most notorious" of the fugitives in the tribunal's eyes. Referring to the inability of the Zagreb authorities to find Gotovina, the study said that "it is of major concern that this last remaining stumbling block to achieving full cooperation with the tribunal has not yet been settled" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 24 May 2005). Failure to arrest Gotovina is also the main obstacle to Croatia starting EU membership talks. PM
UN TELLS KOSOVARS TO GET READY FOR STATUS TALKS
Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), told Kosova's leaders on 7 June to start preparations for talks on the province's final status, which are widely expected to start in the fall, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). In related news, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said in London on the eve of a visit to Sarajevo, Prishtina, and Belgrade that Kosova has made "sufficient progress...to start final status talks," "The Guardian" reported. Burns added that Kosova "was put on the backburner for years. We have to go back and complete the job." He stressed that U.S. policy is now "standards and status," in place of the previous "standards before status" approach. PM
SERBIAN JOURNALISTS SUPPORT KOSOVAR COLLEAGUE
The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) condemned on 7 June the recent shooting of Bardhyl Ajeti, who is a journalist for the Prishtina Albanian-language daily "Bota Sot," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The UNS noted in its statement that a journalist from "Bota Sot" was killed four years ago, adding that his case and several others involving attacks on Kosovar journalists have not been solved. In Vienna, the OSCE also condemned the attack on Ajeti, who is in critical condition. PM
ANOTHER ARMED INCIDENT OUTSIDE MACEDONIAN CAPITAL
A group of armed men held a four-member police patrol for several hours in the village of Kondovo outside the Macedonia capital Skopje on 5 June, dpa reported. Despite sporadic gunfire, nobody was wounded in the incident. The armed group was reportedly led by Agim Krasniqi, who admitted that he provoked the incident, the private A1 TV reported on 7 June. At the same time, Krasniqi refused to surrender to the authorities, saying he would not get a fair trial. The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the case. Krasniqi's group in effect occupied Kondovo in late 2004 for several weeks before it agreed to disarm following talks with the leaders of the two main ethnic Albanian parties. The group allegedly sought to protest what it called the slow implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 20 December 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 December 2004 and 14 January 2005). UB
RUSSIA'S CRITICS PLAY NEW ETHNIC CARD
Russia, the world's largest country in terms of land mass, has some 145 million people and more than 160 nationalities, but only in recent weeks has international attention focused on the plight of one of those minorities, the Marii people.
Last month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution criticizing Russia for violating the rights of the Marii, a Finno-Ugric nation living mostly in the Marii-El Republic some 800 kilometers east of Moscow. Attention for the Marii will likely be renewed this summer when the 10th annual International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies meets in Marii-El's capital, Ioshkar-Ola, on 15-21 August. According to "Argumenty i fakty," No. 11, scholars from 23 countries including Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States will be in attendance.
European Parliament deputies from Estonia, Hungary, and Finland -- all of which are predominantly Finno-Ugric countries -- prepared the 12 May resolution, which listed measures taken by the Marii-El administration against the indigenous minority. The document noted the difficulty the Marii people face in being educated in their native language, political interference by the local administration in Marii cultural institutions, and the limited representation of ethnic Mariis in administrative posts in the republic, according to "Novaya gazeta," No. 35.
The European Parliament resolution also lamented the lack of a free press in the republic and mentioned the severe beating of Vladimir Kozlov in February. Kozlov is the editor in chief of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper "Kudo+Kodu" and director of Mer kanash, a national public organization of Marii in Russia. In addition, three Marii journalists were killed in 2001, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 May.
According to the daily, the Marii number about 650,000 and make up about 40 percent of the population of the republic. According to data from local human rights organizations, in the last five years the number of republican officials who are Marii has fallen to just four. Mark Dyachkov, a Moscow-based specialist in socio-linguistics and the Marii language, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 11 March, that in 2001, 60.3 percent of students in the republic were studying in the Marii language, but by 2001-02 this number had fallen to 37.1 percent. Since then, he believes this trend has intensified. Television and radio programs in Marii have been reduced to a minimum. Only short television news and daily radio broadcasts of less than an hour remain.
"Kodo+Kodu" Editor Kozlov told "Kommersant-Daily" that the human rights situation has only worsened since President Leonid Markelov was elected to a second term in December 2004. Ethnic Marii generally supported Markelov's opponents, while the Kremlin and the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party backed Markelov.
"Russkii kurer" on 15 March argued that although Markelov may be engaging in the suppression of his political enemies, he provides equal opportunities for harassment to people of all ethnicities, be they Russian, Marii, or Jewish. The daily suggested that residents of the Marii El Republic aren't being subjected to anything more than the usual weak rule of law that characterizes many remote provinces.
Local police and administration officials also rejected the idea that there is an ethnic component to the incidents cited in the European Parliament resolution. An unidentified source in the republican Interior Ministry told "Kommersant-Daily" the notion that the republic has a problem with human rights violations is far-fetched. According to the source, the investigation into the beating of Kozlov is continuing and, according to preliminary findings, the reason is far from political. "It is most likely hooliganism," said the source, noting that Kozlov was beaten in an area of the city center where "adolescents with crowbars operate." Discussing the deaths of the other journalists, the source accused the European Parliament of using the deaths for cynical purposes.
The Marii-El parliament adopted a resolution on 30 May condemning the European Parliament resolution as the latest result of "a premeditated campaign of lies and insinuations distributed by the mass media of European countries." Marii-El lawmakers accused "political and nationalistic leaders" within the republic who "didn't win the population's support during the elections" of initiating an "information war" against the republican leadership. According to the parliamentarians, the aims of Markelov's political enemies happen to coincide with those of international forces who are trying "to attract attention from violations of the rights of Russian speakers in the Baltic countries."
"Russkii kurer" agreed with this analysis. "Every time Russia brings up at the European level the situation with Russian speakers in Estonia and Latvia, Tallinn and Riga will mention the Marii nightmare," the newspaper commented. Finnish lawmaker Henrik Lax told "Helsingen Sanomat" on 13 May that the Finnish government and President Tarja Halonen will be able to use the European parliament's resolution to stiffen their resolve in discussions with Russia.
The Russian leadership is not without tools of its own to respond to attempts to play the Marii card. According to "Russkii kurer," Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomoija has called on Moscow to invite an authoritative human rights organization to prepare an objective report about what is happening in Marii-El. If nothing is wrong in the republic, then a clean report from an internationally recognized human rights organization should put the focus back where most Russian policymakers want it: on rights of Russian speakers in the Baltics.
At the same time, if language expert Dyachkov is correct, paying attention to the cultural rights of ethnic minorities is vital not only to prevent brickbats from abroad but to promote peaceful interethnic relations domestically. He told RFE/RL that past "practice in European countries shows that where national minorities and languages have some kind of support from the government, they have the opportunity to develop freely and interethnic relations do not worsen, but become more harmonious."
Dyachkov is not optimistic about the rights of ethnic minorities in Russia. "The [current] centralization of the administration and the strengthening of the power vertical has led to a situation in which all state bureaucrats, including presidents and heads of republics, are named from Moscow," he told RFE/RL. "And I imagine the problem of preserving national languages is not a [pressing] issue for the Moscow leadership."
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SAYS AFGHAN MOSQUE BOMBING PART OF LARGER PLOT
Jawed Ludin told a news conference in Kabul on 7 June that the suicide bombing, which on 1 June killed 21 and injured more than 50 people at a mosque in Kandahar city, could have been intended to undermine Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, the official Radio Afghanistan reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 June 2005). The Kandahar attack was part of a large-scale plan not only to target government officials but also to pose a threat to security in the country, Ludin added. According to Ludin, it was "logical to assume the enemies of Afghanistan -- the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements with links to circles outside the country -- would have chosen this time to set in motion their plot," as the elections are approaching, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 7 June. While Afghan authorities have indicated that the bomber was an Arab, and some circles have blamed the neo-Taliban for the attack, no one has claimed responsibility for the blast. AT
AFGHAN ELECTION COMMISSION TO SCRUTINIZE CANDIDATES...
In a 5 June interview in the Kabul-based daily "Anis," the head of the Independent Electoral Commission, Besmellah Besmel, said that the examination of candidates' records for elections to the lower house of parliament and provincial councils will begin on 11 June. According to Besmel, the five-member commission, which is "completely independent," will examine complaints brought against the candidates and will continue its work until the elections' end, scheduled for 18 September. Responding to a question from "Anis" on how the commission will be able to look into the records of more than 6,000 candidates in such a short period of time, Besmel responded that "not all of the candidates have files." The commission will look at documents that "prove that they [the candidates] have been accused by an authoritative court of crimes against humanity." Thus far the commission has received few complaints, there "are, however, no [court] documents," Besmel explained. The problem with Besmel's formula is that thus far no one has been accused by a court of committing crimes against humanity during the Afghan conflict. AT
...AS PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SAYS WARLORDS CAN RUN IN ELECTIONS
At a Kabul news conference on 7 June, Ludin said that warlords and neo-Taliban can run as candidates in Afghanistan's forthcoming elections, and people can decide whether to vote for them, Sada-ye Jawan radio reported. The fear is that warlords who continue to have significant power in parts of Afghanistan might directly or indirectly use coercion to force people to vote for them or buy their votes. AT
IRANIAN FIRM TO RESURFACE ROADS IN WESTERN AFGHAN CITY
An Iranian-based company is repairing and resurfacing roads in Herat, the city's mayor Mohammad Rafiq Mojaddedi announced, Herat-based Sada-ye Jawan radio reported on 7 June. The same firm has already resurfaced the 120-kilometer road from the Afghan-Iranian border to Herat city, Mojaddedi added. The current project is expected to last five months. AT
TEHRAN ENCOURAGES WASHINGTON TO TAKE DIPLOMATIC STEP
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani announced during his recent trip to Kuwait that the United States should take a bold first step to resume relations with Iran, Radio Farda reported on 7 June. Rohani predicted that if this step is sufficiently impressive, the next Iranian president will react positively to it. Rohani said the current situation, in which Iran and the United States do not have relations, cannot continue. While in Kuwait, Rohani held discussions with Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah, who is scheduled to visit Washington next month. However, Rohani said that Tehran has not asked the sheikh to carry a message to the United States. BS
IRANIAN ZOROASTRIANS ENDORSE CENTER-LEFT CLERIC...
Members of the Zoroastrian community in Yazd Province are backing Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi in the 17 June presidential election, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 7 June. The head of the Zoroastrians' pro-Karrubi headquarters, Dariush Kamusi, said Karrubi personifies the Zoroastrian tenets of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Kamusi noted that Karrubi backed legislation that made the blood money for killing a member of a religious minority the same as the blood money for killing a Shi'a Muslim. BS
...WHO SELECTS A RUNNING MATE
Ismail Gerami-Moghaddam, Karrubi's election spokesman, said at a 7 June press conference in Tehran that former Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Musavi is considered the top choice as first vice president, Fars News Agency reported. Gerami-Moghaddam hopes that Musavi -- who rejected entreaties to run for president -- will agree to be Karrubi's running mate. BS
IRANIAN CONSERVATIVE CLERICS CANNOT CHOOSE A CANDIDATE
The conservative Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Jameh-yi Ruhaniyat-i Mobarez-i Tehran) has met many times but has yet to decide on the presidential candidate it will back, the Baztab website reported on 7 June. The organization's spokesman, Alireza Mesbahi-Moghaddam, added that a final meeting is scheduled for 8 June and the announcement will be made immediately afterwards. One candidate -- Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani -- is a member of the organization, but the organization's leadership is involved with the Coordination Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, which backs another candidate -- Ali Larijani. In Qom, the religious seminary failed to decide on its preferred candidate, "Etemad" reported on 7 June. Thirty-two out of 55 people at the meeting voted for Hashemi-Rafsanjani, but he needed a minimum of 36 to get the endorsement. BS
NATIONALIST-RELIGIOUS FORCES ENCOURAGE VOTERS
Political activist Ezzatollah Sahabi told Radio Farda that the nationalist-religious forces and the banned but tolerated Liberation Movement have endorsed the candidacy of reformist candidate Mustafa Moin. Sahabi urged Iranians to vote in the presidential election and predicted that the reformist candidate will win. He explained that the nationalist-religious forces want to expand their political capital before it is too late. Whether or not we participate, he added, events in the country will continue. Radio Farda noted that the creation of a pro-Moin "democracy and human-rights front," which includes the nationalist-religious forces, is the first opportunity for opposition forces outside the government to work with those inside it. However, Sahabi said, the nationalist-religious forces will decline any positions in the government. BS
JAILED IRANIAN LAWYER STARTS HUNGER STRIKE
On the morning of 8 June, the family of imprisoned lawyer Nasser Zarafshan and some pro-democracy activists held a demonstration outside Evin prison, IRNA reported. They called for the release of Zarafshan, who represented families of the dissidents murdered by Ministry of Intelligence and Security personnel in 1998-1999. Mohammad Sharif, Zarafshan's lawyer, told Radio Farda on 7 June that his client has begun a hunger strike. Zarafshan has health problems and needs to see a specialist physician, but his jailers have refused to give him a furlough. Sharif went on to say that drug dealers and other regular prisoners sometimes get lengthy furloughs. BS
INSURGENTS STRIKE IRAQI OIL PIPELINE
Militants blew up an oil pipeline in northern Iraq on 8 June, Reuters reported, citing an official at the Northern Oil Company. The line affected, located north of the refining town of Bayji, was used to export oil to Turkey from Iraq's northern fields near Kirkuk. Approximately 95 percent of Iraq's revenue comes from crude oil exports and government officials have said Baghdad needs to lessen its dependency on them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). BW
TURKISH BUSINESSMAN TAKEN HOSTAGE IN IRAQ...
A militant group has kidnapped a Turkish businessman in Iraq and threatened to kill him in four days unless Ankara ceases cooperation with U.S. forces, Reuters reported on 7 June, citing Dubai Television. The television channel broadcast a video showing the hostage, identified as Ali Abdullah, holding up a passport while two men pointed rifles at his head. Dubai Television identified the group as the Ali bin Abi Talib Brigades. "The group asked the Turkish government to stop all logistical support to the U.S. Army and to stop cooperating with U.S. companies in Iraq," the television channel said. BW
...AS CAR BOMBER KILLS THREE CIVILIANS
A car bomb killed at least three civilians and wounded one on 8 June, Reuters reported, citing police officials. The bomber targeted a long row of cars lining up outside a gas station in the city of Ba'qubah, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad. In other violence, three U.S. troops were killed in two separate attacks late on 7 June, Reuters reported the next day. A mortar attack on a base at Tikrit killed two soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division, the military said in a statement released on 8 June. A soldier from the 1st Corps Support Command was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle just north of Baghdad. BW
REPORT: TWO REBEL GROUPS READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH IRAQI GOVERNMENT
A Sunni politician said that two insurgent groups are willing to negotiate with the Iraqi government, AP reported on 8 June. Ayham al-Samarra'i, who served as electricity minister in the interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, told AP that the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of Mujahedin are ready to open talks with the Shi'a-led government aimed at eventually joining the political process. Al-Samarra'i said the two groups represent more than 50 percent of the "resistance." He excluded the Al-Qaeda in Iraq group, which has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks and is headed by Jordanian-born Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. The transitional government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari refused to comment, AP reported. BW
SHI'ITE LEADER DEMANDS SECURITY ROLE FOR BADR ORGANIZATION
Shi'ite leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim has demanded a greater security role for his party's armed wing, despite charges it has been hunting down Sunnis, AFP reported on 8 June. "In gratitude to the efforts, sacrifices and heroic positions of our brothers and brave sons from the Badr Organization...we must give them priority in bearing administrative and government responsibilities especially in the security field," al-Hakim told a conference in Baghdad. Al-Hakim leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a key member of the current Shi'a-dominated government. The Badr Organization replaced the Badr Brigade, which was formed by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the former SCIRI boss and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim's brother, in the 1980s to fight the former regime of Saddam Hussein. The group has been accused of killing Sunnis. BW