DISCUSSION OF MOSCOW BLACKOUT CONTINUES...
The Duma on 7 June held a detailed review of the 25 May blackout, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 8 June. Several Duma deputies used the occasion to lambaste EES and the ongoing reform of the country's electrical grid. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov told the Duma that problems extend to Russia's nuclear power plants as well. Kolesnikov said that as a result of inspections in recent months, 100 officials have received warnings and 19 criminal cases have been filed. He said that his office intends to continue to monitor the energy sector closely in the coming months. According to the Duma's findings, some 6 million people were affected by the power outage. More than 12,100 apartment blocks were left without power, and more than 16,500 had no hot water. Nine sewage plants lost power and 12,000 elevators were stuck, trapping 1,500 people. About 20,000 people were evacuated from 57 trains that were halted in the Moscow subway system. The blackout affected 42 towns in Moscow Oblast, 22 in Tula Oblast, and four in Kaluga Oblast. EES board member Vasilii Zubakin told the news agency that a special EES commission set up to study the 25 May blackout and the surrounding region is expected to complete its work on 24 June, RIA-Novosti reported. RC
...AS DUMA WANTS TO KNOW HOW MUCH CHUBAIS IS PAID
The Duma asked its Energy, Transportation, and Communications Committee on 8 June to ask the government to provide information about the remuneration packages of members of the Unified Energy Systems (EES) board of directors and its senior management, including CEO Antatolii Chubais, RIA-Novosti reported. The Duma also wants such information about the managers of EES's regional affiliates. Motherland Deputy Andrei Savelev submitted the request. RC
IS MOSCOW SEEKING CONTROL OF MOSENERGO?
Mosenergo Deputy General Director Dmitrii Vasilev has proposed that his company finance the upgrading of Moscow's electrical-supply system by selling new shares to the city of Moscow, "Vremya novostei" reported on 9 June. "The best way out of the situation is the issuing of new shares of Mosenergo, the capitalization of which is now $2 billion," Vasilev said. "We cannot find such money without the participation of the government of Moscow." Many analysts speculated in the wake of the 25 May that a major result of the incident could be a takeover of Mosenergo by the city of Moscow. Moscow First Deputy Mayor Yurii Roslyak told Ekho Moskvy on 8 June that the city is seeking 1.7 billion rubles ($56.7 million) in compensation for the blackout and is pushing EES to pay "within the tightest possible deadlines." ITAR-TASS on 8 June cited an unnamed source in the Moscow Oblast administration as saying that the possible takeover of Mosenergo by the city is "an objective threat" to the region. "We are interested in regulating this sector just as much as Moscow is, and such statements by the city leadership are alarming," the source said. RC
ANALYST CALLS FOR U.S.-RUSSIA COOPERATION IN PROMOTING CIS REFORMS...
Writing in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 7 June, political columnist Valerii Vyzhutovich called on Russia and the United States to work together to promote peaceful democratic reforms in the CIS. "To secure its interests in the CIS countries, Russia should modernize its relations with these countries," Vyzhutovich wrote. "America does not intend to deprive Russia of influence in CIS countries. On the contrary, it would be to the United States' advantage to maintain a balance of interests between Russia and its closest partners." He concluded that revolutions in the CIS are "equally undesirable and dangerous for both Russia and the United States." Vyzhutovich writes that the two countries should cooperate in "the renunciation of support for authoritarian regimes and active assistance to democratic forces." RC
...AS NATIONAL RESERVE CORPORATION STEPS UP PRESSURE ON UKRAINE
The National Reserve Corporation, the investment arm of Russia's National Reserve Bank, announced on 8 June that it is suspending investment in Ukraine "due to changes in the business climate following numerous conflicting statements and actions by officials and agencies regarding the results of privatization," ITAR-TASS reported. The announcement came just one day after Gazprom announced major price hikes for gas supplied to Ukraine and asked Ukraine to compensate it for some 7.8 billion cubic meters of stored gas that allegedly went missing during the Orange Revolution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). RC
DUMA REJECTS CALL TO CREATE ELECTED SENATE
The State Duma on 8 June rejected a proposal by independent Deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin calling for the direct election of members of the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Only 98 deputies voted for the resolution, which Pokhmelkin said would have "counterbalanced" the recent elimination of the direct election of regional executive-branch heads. Currently, members of the upper chamber are selected by regional executive-branch heads and regional legislatures. Duma Constitutional Law Committee Chairman Vladimir Pligin (Unified Russia) told the news agency that there is no need to amend the constitution, which "has not exhausted itself yet." RC
MOSCOW FORMALLY ELIMINATES DIRECT MAYORAL ELECTIONS
The Moscow City Duma on 8 June approved a new municipal Election Code under which the direct election of the city's mayor will be eliminated, RBK reported. The new law brings the city into conformity with a federal reform introduced earlier this year under which regional executive-branch heads are nominated by the president and approved by local legislatures. The new code also bans the participation of electoral blocs in municipal legislative elections. RC
NEW GREENS LEADER WARNS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE
Aleksei Yablokov, chairman of the newly formed Russian Union of Greens political party, told NTV on 8 June that his party was created "out of desperation" because of the catastrophic situation of the environment in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). He said that Russia is the only "civilized country" in the world where average life expectancies are declining and charged that ecological conditions are a major contributing factor to those declines. "Russia is not on the brink of an ecological catastrophe," Yablokov said. "It has already started in Russia." He predicted the population of Russia will fall to less than 100 million within 20 to 30 years, saying that "some 300,000 or 350,000 people each year die because of the unfavorable environmental situation." He said that, for instance, there are only two ecological inspectors in Tyumen Oblast, which is about the size of France. "How can one possibly keep an eye on or know about any oil leaks or other things?" he said. "The state has retreated from this sphere." RC
LOW-PROFILE OLIGARCH ENTERS PUBLISHING BUSINESS
Iskander Makhmudov, a metals magnate who was ranked Russia's 18th-richest person by the Russian edition of "Forbes" magazine, has purchased a 25 percent stake in the Rodionov publishing house, while his longtime business partner, Andrei Bokarev, has purchased another 25 percent, "The Moscow Times" reported on 9 June. The deal was apparently completed in September, although it was made public only this week after a profile of the little-known Makhmudov appeared in "Vedomosti" on 8 June. Rodionov publishes five magazines, including "Profil," a joint project with the U.S. magazine "Business Week." According to "The Moscow Times," Makhmudov, who owns the Urals Mining and Metallurgical Company and Kuzbassrazrezugol, was connected with the "Family" of former President Boris Yeltsin, but he is not believed to be well-connected with the current administration. Rodionov General Director Aleksei Volin told the daily that Makhmudov and Bokarev "were interested in the business as it is and were not going to interfere in our editorial policy." RC
MOTHERLAND HOLDS DEMONSTRATION TO DEMAND DISMISSAL OF LIBERAL MINISTERS
About 50 members of the youth arm of the Motherland party and several Motherland deputies from the Moscow City Duma participated in a demonstration in Moscow on 8 June to demand the resignations of Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Interfax reported. "We should get them to resign today, but we mustn't let them go off to Switzerland tomorrow," an unidentified deputy was quoted as saying. The demonstrators rallied around three inflatable pigs bearing masks of the three ministers and placed them in a cage with a sign reading, "From the White House to the jailhouse." RC
THREE GO ON TRIAL FOR STORMING OF GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN NORTH CAUCASUS
The trial of three men accused of organizing the storming on 9 November of the government building in Cherkessk, the capital of the Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic, opened on 8 June and has been postponed until 21 June, yufo.ru reported on 8 June. The three are charged with causing material damage estimated at 70 million rubles ($2.5 million) and with causing grievous bodily harm to numerous policemen and Interior Ministry troops who sought to prevent outraged protesters from breaking into the government building. The protesters were demanding the resignation of republican President Mustafa Batdyev after seven local businessmen were found killed on the grounds of a dacha belonging to Batdyev's son-in-law, Ali Kaitov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 November 2004). The three defendants told the court that they participated in the storming of the government building but did not organize it, according to yufo.ru. LF
ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN
Vartan Oskanian met in Vienna on 8 June with the French, U.S., and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, Noyan Tapan reported. The talks focused on unspecified issues raised during the 15 May meeting in Warsaw between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev, to discuss approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Oskanian is to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Paris on 17 June under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group to continue that discussion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). Also on 8 June, former Russian Minsk Group co-Chairman Vladimir Kazimirov (1992-96) told a conference in Baku on "Azerbaijan's Geo-Political Significance" that if Azerbaijan resumes military hostilities with Armenia it will sustain "enormous casualties" and stands to forfeit its potential and geopolitical significance, day.az reported. LF
AZERBAIJANI POLICEMAN DISMISSED FOR ASSAULTING JOURNALIST
The police officer who assaulted Farid Teymurkhanli, a reporter for the independent daily "Ayna/Zerkalo," during the unsanctioned 21 May opposition demonstration in Baku has been dismissed, Turan reported on 8 June quoting Interior Minister Ramil Usubov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2005). Teymurkhanli, who suffered a concussion after a blow to the head, has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to bring criminal charges against the police officer in question, whose name Usubov did not divulge. LF
GEORGIA SOLICITS SOUTH OSSETIANS' HELP IN RELEASING HOSTAGES
Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Bidzina Bregadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 June that both the Georgian and the South Ossetian authorities know the identity of the people who abducted four Georgians in the South Ossetian conflict zone two days earlier, rustavi2.com and Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). For that reason, Bregadze said, the Georgian police will not launch an operation to try to free the four men but have asked the South Ossetian Interior Ministry to do so. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava traveled to Tskhinvali on 8 June to discuss the abduction with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 8 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement commending the work of the Joint Control Commission and the peacekeeping forces and calling on both Georgia and South Ossetia to demonstrate restraint. The statement urged that a meeting between the two sides' interior ministers to discuss the situation be held as soon as possible. LF
ABKHAZ OFFICIALS REJECT DEPLOYMENT OF UN POLICE IN GALI
During talks in Sukhum on 7 June with Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for the Abkhaz conflict, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh rejected as inexpedient the proposed deployment in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion of UN police officers, rustavi2.com reported. He claimed that Abkhaz police are taking measures to crack down on crime in Gali. On 27 May, the Georgian daily "Rezonansi" quoted a Georgian crime expert as saying that 238 people have been killed in Gali over the past two years, and robberies, kidnappings, and the hijacking of cars and buses are also frequent. Visiting Gali on 2 June, Bagapsh attributed the high crime rate to infiltration by criminal elements across the River Inguri, which forms the internal border between the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. During his talks with Tagliavini, Bagapsh also rejected her proposal to open a UN Human Rights Office in Gali, saying that such an office already exists in Sukhum, Caucasus Press reported. Tagliavini told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 June she will continue to push for the opening of a Human Rights office in Gali, Caucasus Press reported. LF
KYRGYZ PROSECUTORS APPEAL TO RUSSIA ON EX-PRESIDENT
Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov told a meeting at the Prosecutor-General's Office in Bishkek on 8 June that his office has appealed in writing to Russian authorities for their assistance in arranging the interrogation by Kyrgyz officials of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kyrgyz prosecutors hope to speak with the ex-president about allegations of corruption during his term as president. DK
NEW COMMITTEE EMERGES ON KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION...
Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Feliks Kulov told a news conference in Bishkek on 8 June that the newly formed committee Citizens for Fair Elections will monitor the upcoming 10 July presidential ballot to ensure that it is not marred by the use of so-called administrative resources, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kulov said the committee will include representatives of political parties, NGOs, and legislators. Kulov also announced that acting President and Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, widely considered the leading presidential candidate, will soon go on vacation in order to focus on his election campaign. Kulov, who has been promised the post of prime minister should Bakiev win the election, will perform the functions of head of state in the interim, he said. DK
...AS NGO WARNS AGAINST INTERFERENCE FROM PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION
The NGO coalition For Democracy and Civil Society announced in a statement on 8 June that Bakiev should step down from the post of acting prime minister in the lead-up to the presidential election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The coalition also stressed that the presidential administration, "which is the personal political apparatus for one of the presidential candidates," does not have the right to interfere in the conduct of the ballot. Coalition head Edil Baisalov said it is crucial that the administration of the acting president refrain from any use of administrative resources in the 10 July election. DK
KYRGYZ GUARDS KEEP TIGHT LID ON ASYLUM SEEKERS' CAMP
Journalists and rights defenders have not been able to visit the recently relocated camp of nearly 500 Uzbek asylum seekers despite Kyrgyz government assurances that the camp would be open to accredited visitors on 7 June, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 8 June. At least two journalists told RFE/RL that they have not been allowed into the camp. A spokesperson for the governor of Jalalabad Province, where the camp is located, told RFE/RL that visitors will be able to obtain accreditation to visit the camp from migration and border authorities, although she did not way when. Also on 8 June, acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva told Reuters that Uzbek authorities would like to obtain the return of 12 asylum seekers who had been in prison in Andijon. But she stressed that Kyrgyzstan would honor its international commitments to protect refugees from possible persecution and torture at home. "If [the 12 former prisoners] are convicted of crimes like murder or torture, a malicious crime, that's one thing," she said. "[But] political stuff ascribed to them as crimes, that is different of course." DK
TAJIK MEDIA ASSOCIATION TO INVESTIGATE JAILED JOURNALIST'S CASE
The National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT) is sending a team to Sughd Province to investigate the case of jailed journalist Jumaboy Tolibov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 June 2005), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 8 June. NANSMIT spokeswoman Nargis Zokirova said that the group, which includes correspondents from the newspapers "Sadoi Mardum" and "Minbari Khalq," will return to Dushanbe on 10 June to present its findings. Troy Etulain, the country director for Internews in Tajikistan, said that Internews has dispatched two people on a fact-finding mission in connection with the Tolibov case. DK
RUSSIAN GAS CONCERN UNEASY OVER TURKMEN RESERVES
Aleksandr Ryazanov, deputy CEO of Gazprom, announced on 7 June that the Russian gas monopolist has doubts about Turkmenistan's natural-gas reserves, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. Noting that Turkmenistan has been slow to share the results of an international audit, Ryazanov commented, "This suggests that the reserves do not correspond to the quantities recorded in international agreements on gas shipments." He added: "We were supposed to receive an audit of reserves at the end of 2004. They then promised to provide it in March, but we don't have anything yet, although we know for sure that the document is ready." Turkmenistan has contracted to supply 60 billion-70 billion cubic meters of gas to Gazprom in 2007, but current production levels are closer to 45 billion cubic meters, according to the newspaper. The newspaper noted that if Turkmenistan does not have additional production capacity, Gazprom will have to reexamine plans to expand the transport capacity of the Central Asia-Center pipeline. DK
UZBEK PROTESTERS DEMAND RELEASE OF JAILED ACTIVIST
Nigora Hidoyatova, the head of the unregistered opposition party Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Farmers), told fergana.ru on 8 June that 600 people held a protest at the Bobur collective farm in Samarqand Province demanding the release of Norboy Kholjigitov. Kholjigitov, who had been trying to arrange an investigation into the farm's privatization, was detained by the National Security Service on 5 June, Hidoyatova said. DK
SPOKESMEN DENY UZBEK POWER-BLOC SHAKEUP
In comments to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on 8 June, spokesmen for Uzbekistan's Interior Ministry and National Security Service (SNB) denied reports that combat units belonging to the Interior Ministry were recently transferred to the Defense Ministry and SNB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2005). "Such matters are carried out through a government resolution," Interior Ministry spokesman Aziz Ernazarov said. "We have not seen or heard of any such resolution." DK
U.S. SAYS 'HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS' KILLED IN UZBEKISTAN
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on 8 June that eyewitness accounts indicate that Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of civilians in Andijon on 13 May, according to a transcript of his remarks on the State Department website (http://www.state.gov). "There have been many reliable eyewitness accounts to shooting by Uzbek forces of civilians. And I think what we know now is that hundreds of innocent civilians were killed," McCormack said. Addressing the issue of an investigation, McCormack noted: "We support an international investigation into this incident. I believe the Uzbek parliament began its own investigation. We chose not to participate in that investigation, as we don't see that as a substitute for an international investigation." DK
POLL SAYS NEARLY HALF OF BELARUSIANS WANT TO JOIN EU
The Independent Institute for Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) found in a poll conducted in cooperation with independent Belarusian sociologists and a Bratislava-based foundation among 1,510 Belarusians in May that 47 percent of respondents would welcome Belarus's accession to the EU, while 35 percent said they would be against such a move, Belapan reported on 8 June. NISEPI noted that the percentage of Belarusians advocating their country's EU membership has hit an all-time high this year, as only one in four respondents wanted Belarus to join the EU in a similar survey last June. "Belarusian citizens have started to realize the obvious advantages of such a move: easy formalities for traveling to Europe, the opportunity to work, spend a vacation, and receive education there," sociologist Uladzimir Dorakhau commented on the findings, while presenting the poll's results at the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk. NISEPI was banned by the Belarusian authorities in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005) and has subsequently moved to Vilnius. JM
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT REPORTEDLY TO CONTEST 22 PRIVATIZATIONS
Borys Sobolev, deputy state secretary in Ukraine's Presidential Secretariat, said at a roundtable on the investment environment in Ukraine in Kyiv on 8 June that the government will continue to challenge in court the privatization of 22 companies, while abandoning claims regarding other privatized businesses. Sobolev added that lawyers at the Presidential Secretariat are mulling the adoption of a legal act that could grant amnesty to companies privatized under questionable circumstances. Last week, State Property Fund Chairwoman Valentyna Semenyuk said her organization is currently challenging in court the privatization of 194 facilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2005). Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said the same day that the Kryvorizhstal steel plant might be reprivatized by the end of this year. The controversial privatization of Kryvorizhstal in 2004 was annulled by the Kyiv Appellate Economic Court last week, but the verdict may still be contested in Ukraine's Higher Economic Court and Supreme Court. JM
FORMER UKRAINIAN SECURITY CHIEF REJECTS ALLEGATIONS OF ARMS SMUGGLING
Ihor Smeshko, former head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), said in a statement on 8 June that the recently voiced allegations that he was involved in arms smuggling are a "cynical lie," Interfax reported. Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun said at a news conference in Kyiv the previous day that Smeshko and two other officials have been implicated in an illegal arms deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WINDS UP TRIP TO TURKEY
President Viktor Yushchenko has returned to Ukraine from a 6-8 June official visit to Turkey, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 9 June. Yushchenko met with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and other government officials in Ankara and Constantinople Patriarch Bartolomew I in Istanbul. "Our countries don't have problems in the political sphere," Yushchenko told a Turkish-Ukrainian business forum in Istanbul on 8 June. "We have a common strategic line towards the European Union." JM
GERMAN CHANCELLOR WARNS AGAINST STALLING EU ENLARGEMENT PROCESS IN BALKANS...
During a joint news briefing with Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Berlin on 8 June that unspecified "populists" are seeking to destroy the EU by attempting to prevent the western Balkan countries from joining that body, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005). Asked if the EU can afford to fund further enlargement in that region, Schroeder replied, "Instability is much more expensive." He added that "you would be amazed if I told you how much the current situation in the Balkans with European soldiers costs." With regard to Macedonia's efforts to join the EU and NATO, Schroeder said, "Buckovski has made huge efforts to conduct successful reforms in his country, and these reforms are now showing very significant results," MIA news agency quoted Schroeder as saying. "Macedonia's example without any doubt...shows that the region's stability is linked to its European perspectives," Schroeder said. He warned that eliminating these "perspectives" would fuel instability in the region. At the same time, the chancellor refrained from naming concrete dates for the EU accession of the countries in the western Balkans. UB
...AS CROATIA GETS COLD SHOWER...
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement in Brussels on 8 June that Croatia has made progress in cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal but still has much to do before he can certify its cooperation as "full," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 8 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005). Referring to a recent report on Croatia by Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Rehn said that more time is needed to show whether "democratic structures" will prevail within Croatian state institutions and facilitate work with The Hague. Failure to catch fugitive indictee and former General Ante Gotovina is the main obstacle to Croatia's starting EU membership talks. Elsewhere, Rehn appealed to all countries that want to draw closer to the EU to meet their prerequisites as soon as possible in view of the "enlargement fatigue" affecting much of the Western European public, "Spiegel Online" reported on 8 June. PM
...AND SERBIA AND KOSOVA WAIT
Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), told the Berlin-based daily "Die Welt" of 9 June that the EU's internal crisis is affecting the countries of the western Balkans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 April, 20 May, and 3 June 2005). He stressed that Belgrade needs a clear "EU perspective" if the region is to become truly stable, adding that a similar perspective is crucial if Kosova is to implement the international community's standards. He also noted that the EU intends to assume responsibility for Kosova once the UN administration ends. Jessen-Petersen said that the recent U.S. efforts aimed at resolving the status issue in Kosova are welcome because "no problem" in the western Balkans can be solved without the full involvement of the United States. The Danish diplomat added that he wishes that Brussels were as involved in Kosova as much as Washington. He noted that Kosova has gone beyond the formula "standards before status" to "standards and status" or even "standards after status." He stressed that, in any event, the important thing is to ensure the protection of minorities. Jessen-Petersen said that Belgrade is playing a "double game" in Kosova, calling for dialogue with Prishtina while telling the local Serbs to boycott the province's institutions. PM
U.S. CALLS FOR COMPROMISE IN KOSOVA
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in Prishtina on 8 June that Kosova's ethnic Albanian majority "must be willing to compromise" in talks leading to a political settlement in the province, which are widely expected to begin in the fall, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). He added that the status quo is not sustainable, and that Belgrade must understand that "it is not possible to recreate the past." Elsewhere, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's newly appointed special envoy for Kosova, told RFE/RL that he will begin his mission on 13 June. He stressed that he will be independent of UNMIK and intends to speak to as many different people in Kosova as possible so that his final recommendations on the province's future will be "credible and realistic" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August and 17 December 2004). PM
U.S. RESUMES AID TO SERBIA
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Burns said in Belgrade on 9 June that Washington has resumed aid to Serbia and Montenegro previously suspended because of Serbia's poor record of cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Reuters reported. "The United states as of today is announcing the resumption of economic and other assistance.... More than $10 million will be unfrozen and will now proceed" for distribution, he said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2005). PM
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE URGES BOSNIANS TO LOOK FORWARD
High Representative Paddy Ashdown said in Sarajevo on 8 June that Bosnia-Herzegovina's Prime Minister Adnan Terzic should reconsider his decision to sack Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ashdown stressed that "it is not clear to me -- to put the point very gently -- how the decision [to fire Ivanic] announced yesterday is designed to promote the reforms that this country so badly needs. It is a matter of record that I strongly advised...Terzic against it in a 45-minute meeting yesterday." The high representative called on all parties to look forward to their work in the coming days and months and not to dwell on the past. Elsewhere, Ivanic told RFE/RL that the decision to sack him on the basis of a resignation he submitted in December in a very different context was "more than a political joke." Dragan Cavic, who heads the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), said that Terzic's decision was politically motivated and that the reasons behind it will soon become clearer. PM
HAGUE YUGOSLAV TRIBUNAL UNLIKELY TO WRAP UP WORK BY 2008
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal announced on 9 June that it will soon free former Serbian General Momcilo Perisic to return home pending his trial, Reuters reported. He surrendered voluntarily in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2005). On 8 June, Judge Theodor Meron, who heads the tribunal, wrote the UN Security Council that the court is unlikely to complete its work by 2008 as planned and will need to continue at least into 2009. He stressed that the tribunal is working as hard as it can and that fugitive indictees must not be allowed to think that they can "wait out" that body. "The tribunal's...lesson must not be lost: international justice will be served and impunity denied," he added. In related news, the tribunal dismissed two counts of plundering against former Bosnian Muslim General Naser Oric but kept the remaining four counts against him involving murder, cruel treatment of prisoners, the destruction of villages, and violations of the laws and customs of war against Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2004). PM
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REQUESTS EU HELP IN BORDER MONITORING
During his visit to the EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels and Strasbourg on 7-8 June, Vladimir Voronin handed EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana a letter, signed also by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, asking the EU to offer assistance in establishing an international customs control on the Transdniester segment of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, Reuters reported. Solana told journalists that Brussels needs to analyze the letter before deciding how to react. "Moldova firmly favors the involvement of the European Union, the United States, and Romania in the negotiations on the Transdniester settlement," ITAR-TASS quoted Voronin as saying at a news conference on 8 June. Voronin added that the talks in the current five-party format involving Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have proven fruitless. Voronin also stressed that an unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniester could speed up the resolution of the Chisinau-Tiraspol conflict, Infotag reported. JM
MOSCOW REPORTEDLY HAS PLAN TO KEEP MOLDOVA IN ITS GRIP
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 June that the Russian Security Council has adopted a secret plan intended to maintain Russian influence over Moldova. The plan's main purpose is to prevent Moldova from sliding toward the West and pushing the Russian military contingent out of the breakaway region of Transdniester. The plan allegedly proposes using Russia's political and economic pressure on Chisinau, including periodicals bans on Moldovan exports to Russia, and staging demonstrative expulsions of Moldovan guest workers from Russia. In the event Chisinau does not bend to the Russian pressure, the plan reportedly calls for introducing drastic economic sanctions against Moldova and applying world-level prices for Russian gas deliveries to Moldova. JM
PUTIN TAKES CONTROL OF THE STATUS QUO THROUGH GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTMENTS
The 31 May resignation of North Ossetia President Aleksandr Dzasokhov and the 2 June requests for reconfirmation submitted by Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov and Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub means that 24 of the Russian Federation's 89 regions will soon have undergone a change of administration under the new system adopted at the beginning of this year. In response to the wave of terrorism last summer that culminated in the Beslan school hostage taking in September, President Vladimir Putin replaced the direct election of regional executive-branch heads with a system under which regional legislatures confirm candidates who are nominated by the president.
In a major speech on 13 September 2004, Putin announced this political reform, arguing that the war on terrorism necessitated "securing the unity of state power and the logical development of federalism." At the time, many critics commented that they failed to see the connection between the struggle against terrorism and the system of selecting regional executive-branch heads. National Strategy Institute head Stanislav Belkovskii wrote on apn.ru on 14 September that Kremlin appointments are based on "mediocrity, cynicism, and lack of talent." Independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov argued that governors would be weakened by the loss of their popular mandates, rendering them ineffective if a crisis struck their regions.
Putin's supporters -- and many regional governors rushed to applaud the reform in the days following Putin's speech -- savaged Russia's flawed elections. St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko told ITAR-TASS on 14 September that under direct elections "a random person can come to power and there is no mechanism to recall him," adding that voters are easily swayed by populist rhetoric. Ryazan Governor Georgii Shpak told regions.ru the same day that elections merely bring "photogenic" people to power. "They can speak well, but they cannot do anything." Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn said direct elections mean that governors can be "pushed around" by voters.
In the five months since the reform was adopted, the pattern of gubernatorial appointments has clearly shown that the reform was not intended to replace ineffective governors who had come to power by manipulating a flawed electoral system. In the first 20 regions to pass through the new system, Putin reappointed 17 incumbents. Only Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and Tula Oblast Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev were rejected, while Koryak Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Loginov was dismissed under accusations of incompetence. In effect, Putin has seemed to be endorsing the choices made by the people in almost every case, but he has made their political fortunes dependent on him rather than on the electorate. (For a Fact Box on all those appointments, see http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/06/6e784a63-e0cd-4c2d-9e28-8965fdbd3e8c.html.)
Analysts have noted that the success rate of incumbents under the new system -- which has had the additional effect of abolishing term limits -- is considerably higher than the already-high rate seen under the old direct-election system. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 June, only 13 of the 21 incumbents who faced re-election in 2004 managed to hold on to their posts.
After Putin announced his reform, many observers felt that the new system could be used to remove entrenched leaders in many of the country's so-called ethnic republics, leaders who so thoroughly control the local political machines that the oppositions have no hope of winning an election. Oppositionists in the Republic of Bashkortostan were particularly encouraged and took to the streets in a campaign to urge Putin to oust republican President Murtaza Rakhimov. However, these hopes have largely backfired, as Rakhimov and others have used the unrest as evidence of the need for a firm hand and stability. In the Republic of Tatarstan, President Mintimer Shaimiev, who has called the shots there since 1991, was given an unprecedented fourth term in March.
Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Nikolai Petrov wrote in "The Moscow Times" on 6 June that the new system has developed into a major cash cow for the Kremlin. According to Petrov's sources, governors pay tens of millions of dollars to secure access to Putin's endorsement, and governors -- even those with many months remaining on their old mandates -- are lining up to pay and receive the Kremlin's blessing. Petrov wrote that his sources tell him that some governors pay for their endorsements not in cash but by placing Kremlin-selected figures in key positions in their republics, meaning that the corruption in the system is seeping deeper into local administrations. As Petrov warned, the potential for explosive instability in such an opaque and corruption-riddled system is considerable.
U.S. CASUALTIES IN MORTAR ATTACK IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN...
Two U.S. servicemen were killed and eight others injured in an 8 June mortar attack on a firebase in Paktika Province, international news agencies reported. The servicemen were unloading a helicopter near the base when the mortar landed close to them. The mortar attack on a landed helicopter was the first of its kind against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, "The New York Times" commented on 8 June. AT
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATTACK
Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi on 8 June claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S. base, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The neo-Taliban fired "six missiles" at the base "killing two American soldiers and wounding an unknown number," Hakimi told AIP. AT
NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR KILLING TWO PAKISTANI DRIVERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Neo-Taliban spokesman Hakimi on 8 June also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two truck drivers delivering fuel to U.S. forces in Afghanistan the same day near Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province, AIP reported. "The Taliban are attacking these tankers because they are delivering fuel to American soldiers," he told AIP. An unidentified security officer in Spin Boldak told AIP that "unidentified people" attacked the convoy of fuel trucks, burning one tanker and killing the driver and his assistant. Afghan and U.S. forces on 8 June arrested five suspects related to the attack, official Radio Afghanistan reported. While the report indicated that "Taliban fighters have increased their attacks," it did not identify the detainees. AT
TWO FORMER TALIBAN COMMANDERS ACCEPT KABUL'S RECONCILIATION PROGRAM
Two unidentified former Taliban commanders have agreed to stop fighting the Afghan government, handing over "a huge arm and ammunition cache," in Laghman Province, east of Kabul, Radio Afghanistan reported on 8 June. With the upsurge of violence, the reconciliation policy adopted by President Hamid Karzai, offering amnesty to most of the former Taliban or the neo-Taliban militias, has come under some criticism recently by the Afghan media and some Afghan politicians. AT
AFGHAN LEADER ANNOUNCES SECOND PHASE OF DISARMAMENT
President Karzai on 8 June conveyed a message to his countrymen on what is described as the second phase of arms collections in Afghanistan, Radio Afghanistan reported. Karzai said that there is "no justification, legal or based on Shari'a, for keeping arms and ammunition without a license." Karzai said that he is approving a new law on arms, ammunition, and explosives that will make the possession of remaining munitions illegal. As such all "illegal arms and ammunition in the possession of groups and individuals should be submitted to" the government. Henceforth, the Afghan government will issue arms licenses only "in special cases," Karzai added. The new law, if enforced, would put an end to the hundreds of armed militias and allow the central government to extend its rule across the country. AT
DISSIDENT IRANIAN JOURNALIST ON THE LAM...
One day after effectively challenging the security forces to take him back to the prison from which he was furloughed for medical reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005), dissident journalist Akbar Ganji is on the run. Ganji's wife, Masumeh Shafii, said on 8 June that bailiffs came to their house the previous evening with an arrest warrant, ILNA reported. She said the bailiffs waited there until 6 a.m. but Ganji never turned up. She added that the warrant, which is for giving illegal interviews and exceeding his prison leave, was signed by Press Court Judge Said Mortazavi. Mortazavi said he issued the warrant because Ganji failed to present himself when his one-week leave expired, Fars News Agency reported. BS
...AS SUPPORTERS FEAR FOR HIS SAFETY
Mashallah Shamsolvaezin and students from the Office for Strengthening Unity were at Ganji's home on 7 June. Shamsolvaezin told Radio Farda the next day that there are contradictory reports on whether or not Ganji has been recaptured. The presence of unaccountable security agencies, referred to colloquially as parallel institutions, that operate with no oversight and are not answerable to elected officials, makes it possible that Ganji is already in custody. Ganji's wife, Masumeh Shafii, echoed concern that her husband is in custody already, telling Radio Farda on 9 June: "We haven't had any news from him since Tuesday [7 June] afternoon when he left the house. I am very worried about him. I think there is a possibility that they have arrested him without making any noise. I don't [know where to go], and I don't trust any of these [officials] because they say he is on the run. They say that they don't have him." BS
TEHRAN READY FOR ELECTION DAY
Vajiollah Aqataqi, the governor of Tehran, said on 8 June there will be no fraud in the 17 June presidential election, Mehr News Agency reported. There will be 2,760 polling stations in Tehran, and 203 of these will be mobile polling stations. Officials will monitor the entire process carefully, he said, and he urged them to deal with electoral violations impartially. BS
CENTER-RIGHT CLERIC LEADS IN IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL...
Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani emerged as the most popular candidate for the upcoming presidential election in a poll conducted by the Iranian Students' Polling Agency, ILNA reported on 7 June. He was the preferred candidate of 19.1 percent of respondents in Tehran and 12 other cities. Following Hashemi-Rafsanjani are Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf (9.5 percent), Mustafa Moin (6.7 percent), Ali Larijani (4.5 percent), Mehdi Karrubi (3.6 percent), Mahmud Ahmadinejad (2.8 percent), Mohsen Mehralizadeh (1.5 percent), and Mohsen Rezai (1.4 percent). Another 17.7 percent of respondents said they will not vote. BS
... AS CENTER-LEFT CLERIC ADDRESSES FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES
"We have serious problems with the U.S.," Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi said in an interview with state broadcasting, according to IRNA on 8 June. He went on to say that an Iran-U.S. dialogue is possible if the United States tries to mend fences. Karrubi added, "We want peaceful and friendly ties with the whole of the world, except Zionists and Israel.... Excluding Israel, we are willing to have good ties with all countries." Turning to the nuclear issue, Karrubi stressed that Iran is not interested in having a weapons capability. He accused the United States of raising suspicions about Iranian ambitions. Karrubi said: "The Islamic Revolution has been the subject of the animosities of Americans. The Americans are also hostile to the world of Islam." Speaking in the northern city of Bandar Anzali on 7 June, Karrubi said the importance of elections is that they remind rulers of the source of their power, Mehr News Agency reported. High voter turnout will prevent tyranny, he said. BS
REFORMIST CANDIDATE PROMOTES 'WELFARE ADMINISTRATION' IN IRAN
One-fifth of the country's families live in absolute poverty, presidential candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh said in Lavasan, Central Province, on 8 June, Mehr News Agency reported. He said his Welfare Administration would focus on solving young people's main concerns -- jobs, housing, and marriage. BS
IRANIAN FAR-RIGHT CANDIDATE CRITICIZES NATIONAL MANAGEMENT...
Mahmud Ahmadinejad said on 8 June in Urumiyeh, West Azerbaijan Province, that the priorities of the managerial class that has emerged in Iran differ from the people's priorities. The managers are therefore unaware of issues like poverty and they do not empathize with the public. He added that in an Islamic society, economic development means the fair distribution of wealth, while political development means political understanding, national unity, and solidarity. In a 4 June program on state television, Ahmadinejad said he wants to change the governmental attitudes on culture, justice, economic growth, and science and technology. Ahmadinejad added that young people are an asset, not a threat. They need more opportunities, he said, and they are the ones responsible for Iran's advance in nuclear science, dam building, aerospace technology, sports, and culture. He said Iranians' sense of national identity should be revived. BS
...AND ADDRESSES FOREIGN POLICY
Ahmadinejad said in an 8 June interview on state broadcasting that he promotes relations with all other countries on the basis of respect, IRNA reported. In order of priority, he said, relations with immediate neighbors are the most important, followed by countries that were once part of the Persian empire. Then come Muslim states, and last but not least, states that are not hostile to Iran. Turning to the United Nations, Ahmadinejad said its structure is "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam." He described nuclear energy as an achievement and a right of the nation, adding, "No one can deprive the Iranian nation of this right." BS
TWENTY-TWO IRAQI SOLDIERS KIDNAPPED
Twenty-two Iraqi soldiers have been kidnapped near the Syrian border, AFP reported on 9 June, citing an unidentified Iraqi military official. The soldiers, all Shi'a, were seized by armed men in Rawa, approximately 250 kilometers west of Baghdad, after they had left their base, the official said. Rawa is located in the predominantly Sunni Al-Anbar Province, where there have been several incidents of kidnapping and mass killing of Iraqi soldiers in the past. BW
UN: THOUSANDS HELD IN IRAQ WITHOUT DUE PROCESS
The United Nations said on 8 June that thousands of people are being detained in Iraq without due process in violation of international law, Reuters reported the same day. In Iraq, "one of the major human rights challenges remains the detention of thousands of persons without due process," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the UN Security Council. "Despite the release of some detainees, their number continues to grow. Prolonged detention without access to lawyers and courts is prohibited under international law including during states of emergency," his report said. The U.S. military is holding about 6,000 of the approximately 10,000 prisoners in Iraq, Annan said. BW
SUNNIS DEMAND GREATER REPRESENTATION ON IRAQ'S CONSTITUTIONAL COMMITTEE...
Sunni leaders in Iraq set terms for their involvement in drafting a new constitution on 8 June, saying that they wanted about one-third of the seats on the body that will draft the document, Reuters reported the same day. A congress of leading Sunni organizations threatened to withdraw from negotiations on the constitution if they were not given larger representation on the negotiating body. "The number of our representatives must be 25 so that we have fair rights," the Gathering of the Sunni People said in a resolution approved by delegates to the conference in Baghdad. "If the National Assembly...stick to their position, we suggest suspending our participation." Because most Sunnis did not participate in the January election, few sit in parliament and so only two are on the committee that will draft the constitution. BW
...AS MILITANTS THREATEN SUNNIS WHO PARTICIPATE IN DRAFTING CONSTITUTION
A group calling itself the General Command for Military Forces in Iraq circulated leaflets in the rebel stronghold of Al-Ramadi warning Sunni leaders not to participate in writing the new constitution, Reuters reported on 8 June. Sunnis, who comprise approximately 20 percent of Iraq's population, could potentially block the constitution due to a rule requiring that at least 16 of the country's 18 provinces support the document in a referendum. BW
U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY, EU OFFICIALS MAKE SURPRISE VISIT TO BAGHDAD
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and senior European Union officials made a surprise visit to Baghdad on 9 June to discuss plans for a conference on Iraq to be held in Brussels later this month, Reuters reported. Straw met with Iraqi transitional President Jalal Talabani for about 45 minutes to discuss preparations for a 22 June conference on the reconstruction and development of postwar Iraq. "President Talabani confirmed that Iraq will send a 40-member delegation to the conference, including senior government ministers," Reuters quoted a spokeswoman for Talabani's office as saying. Straw was also scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari. Also present on the trip were EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, External Affairs Commissioner Bettina Ferrero-Waldner, and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. Luxembourg currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. BW
SUPPORT TO CLOSE DOWN UN ARMS INSPECTION AGENCY FOR IRAQ GROWS
Support is growing in the UN Security Council to close down the UN weapons inspection agency for Iraq, whose experts have been kept out of the country since March 2003, Reuters reported on 8 June, citing diplomats. "I can agree that there is a general perception by the council members that the time to wrap up the body has come. The problem is how to do it," Russian UN Ambassador Andrei Denisov said. The United States wanted to end the work of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Agency (UNMOVIC) by September but could not find consensus in the council. The United States refused to allow UNMOVIC back into Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The agency has since been studying arms data from before the war and satellite images to determine the extent of looting of Iraqi weapons sites that were sealed by inspectors before the war began. BW
IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS KURDISH, SHI'ITE MILITIAS STILL NECESSARY
Jalal Talabani said that given the escalating violence in the country, Shi'ite and Kurdish militias were still needed, dpa reported on 8 June. "Your role and that of your brothers the Kurdish peshmerga is still necessary to achieve the sacred task of ending dictatorship, destroying terrorism, and establishing a democratic, pluralistic, united, and independent system of government," Talabani told a conference of the Shi'ite Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI head Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim has also called for a greater security role for the Badr Organization, although Sunni leaders have accused the group of extrajudicial killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). BW