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Newsline - June 20, 2005

On 17 June, the State Duma approved additional spending requested by Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin despite harsh criticism across the political spectrum ahead of the vote, Channel One and RTR reported. The amendments to the 2005 budget include some 350 billion rubles ($12.5 billion) to cover salaries and pensions for the military, teachers, retirees, and other federally categories. Unexpectedly high revenues from oil sales should provide funding for the move. Kudrin conceded that the move could add more than a full percentage point to inflation. The Duma debate followed harsh criticism of "liberal" cabinet ministers by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2005). "We don't need handouts from the government," Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Pechtin (Unified Russia) said, according to RTR. "The extra funds should be allocated with the participation of all deputies and all regions." The Duma also adopted a nonbinding resolution declaring that all budget revisions in the future should be prepared by the government together with the parliament. "We will no longer allow you to spend the people's money at your own discretion," Unified Russia's deputy leader in the Duma, Oleg Morozov, said of Kudrin, according to Channel One. "We are 450 [deputies] here, and we are the people's representatives; we will guide you on how money should be spent." VY

The head of Unified Energy Systems (EES) and the architect of Russia's privatization process, Anatolii Chubais, said on Channel One on 19 June that while he understands that Russians are increasingly comfortable with the idea of private property, it will take generations genuinely to accept new economic relations. Even so, Chubais added, the Russian attitude toward property will never be the same as in the West. "The specifics of any national economy are defined by its history and its culture," Chubais said. "In this sense, 'making money' will never be an ideal in Russia. It is important, however, that Russians not revise privatization -- as they need a basis for unification, not division." The United States survived a period of "robber barons" and found the strength to leave that era behind, Chubais said. "Now private property is institutionalized and protected by a 'no trespassing' sign in the United States," he said. VY

Speaking on the same Channel One talk show on 19 June, Duma Labor and Social Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei Isaev (Unified Russia) challenged Chubais by saying he thinks the United States puts a higher value on freedom, for instance, than private property. He noted the abolition of slavery in the 19th-century United States. Isaev concurred with Chubais that privatization should not be reversed, but suggested that big business should change radically in order to avoid the wrath of the public. The private sector must reject government handouts, provide quality goods and services, meet its tax obligations, raise pay levels, and respect employees' social rights, Isaev said. Mikhail Gorshkov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' United Institute of Sociology, said in the same forum that Chubais is mistaken if he thinks that people will simply come to accept privatization theft. He claimed that four out of five Russians believe that the origin of ownership is important. "The public will reject the idea of illicit gains and will never accept the propriety of fortunes derived through selling off mineral resources that belong to the whole nation," Gorshkov said. VY

Host Vladimir Pozner said on the same Channel One program on 19 June that a survey by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) shows that more than half (52 percent) of Russians now have a "positive" attitude toward private property, up from 45 percent in 1990. The proportion of people who have a "negative" opinion of private property fell from 24 percent to 16 percent during the same period, Pozner said. However, he added, the method of privatization prompted frustration over the benefits of reform. While a majority of the population believed in 1990 that private property brings a "feeling of ownership," Pozner said, that figure fell to just 30 percent in 2005. The proportion of the public that thought privatization would widen the gap between rich and poor leapt from 35 percent in 1990 to around 54 percent, he added. VY

Deputy Communist Party leader Vladimir Kashin used a party plenum on 18 June to criticize the government's economic policies and equate the cabinet with a "third-rate real-estate company doing business only at a loss," Channel One reported. Kashin presented his party's "alternative" economic program, which calls for nationalization of the mineral-resources sector, the introduction of a 50 percent tax on high-income earners, a ban on financial transactions to offshore zones, proposals for using the state budget surplus, and abolition of the federal stabilization fund. Kashin also recommended calling on the experiences of the "USSR, China, and socialist Vietnam," and increasing state control of the economy. VY

Communist Duma Deputy and former Yukos senior executive Aleksei Kondaurov predicted at the party plenum on 18 June that the country will hold Duma elections before the scheduled date of 2007, RosBalt reported. "There are a lot of reasons why the authorities might...set up parliamentary elections at an earlier date," said Kondaurov, who is also a retired Federal Security Service (FSB) general. VY

A special city-police detachment, along with FSB officers, stormed the Moscow headquarters of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), known as the "bunker," and arrested nine party activists on 17 June, RosBalt and other news agencies reported. NBP spokesman Aleksandr Averin said the raid followed an eviction order by the Moscow Arbitration Court, adding that all NBP members who were detained were released the same day. NBP leader Eduard Limonov said later in the day that he does not know the reason for the police raid. VY

A youth group within Aleksandr Dugin's Eurasia party announced on 15 June the creation of a militarized wing in the city of Voronezh to spread its ideology and combat an "orange revolution," the group's website ( reported. The site suggested that the Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), the NBP, and other "democratic" organizations seek to unleash a revolution similar to that Ukraine experienced at the end of 2004. VY

A poll conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) in early June found that almost two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) believe opposition parties have sufficient access to central television channels to present their points of view freely, according to on 17 June. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they think opposition parties' viewpoints can also be expressed freely in major newspapers. The number of respondents who feel television censorship is necessary increased from 63 percent last year to 82 percent in the new study, the pollsters said. Censorship of sex and violence had the highest support among those surveyed. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Dmitrii Polikanov, VTsIOM's director for international and public relations, stressed that most supporters of censorship are not referring to political censorship. Just 1 percent of those surveyed are in favor of censoring political shows and news bulletins. The poll was conducted in 46 regions with 1,561 respondents. JAC

The increasing frequency of robberies of mobile phones on Moscow streets has become a crime "epidemic," "Novye izvestiya" reported on 17 June. Other cities -- including Tolyatti, Chita, Novokuznetsk, Penza, and Chelyabinsk -- have been affected by similar crime waves. According to the daily, cell phones have become popular targets for thieves because they are easy to steal and easy to sell. The chairman of the Moscow City Duma's Security Commission, Inna Svyatenko, told the daily that the first thing parent committees from city schools complain of is theft of mobile phones. According to Svyatenko, some schoolchildren have been seriously injured because they didn't want to relinquish their phones. The daily listed the details of a series of killings that have taken place in regional cities over mobile phones. Leonid Reiman, minister for information technology and communications, has predicted that by the end of the year, the number of mobile-phone subscribers in Russia will reach 100 million. JAC

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 19 June, Gennadii Skarga, head of the municipal council of the Kochygbeevskii Raion in Stavropol Krai, acknowledged that local special-police (OMON) troops exceeded their authority during a raid on a local disco on the evening of 11 June. However, Skarga categorically denied that force was used against the detainees. The OMON officers have been accused of illegally detaining and in some case beating dozens of youths who were at the disco and transported to the raion Interior Ministry building. Some of those detained have said police intimidated them, shoving them and delivering blows in such a way as to avoid bruising, reported on 15 June. On 17 June, Stavropol Krai's human rights ombudsman Aleksei Selyukov sent a complaint to the krai prosecutor about the massive violation of human rights during the police raid, according to JAC

Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev backtracked on 17 June from a suggestion he made two days earlier that the city of Krasnodar be renamed Yekaterinodar, the city's name before 1920, and reported. "This is not my idea, but there are sentiments of this kind in society," Tkachev said. "[However,] nobody intends to force a decision on this issue. In any case, the decision on whether to rename or not will be made by the residents of Krasnodar, probably in a referendum." According to, the original idea to rename the city came from the Kuban Cossacks Ataman for the Abroad Aleksandr Pevnev, and Tkachev was publicly supporting Pevnev's proposal. Tkachev is now saying that the question of restoring the city's historic name "will not be decided soon." JAC

State Duma Deputy Vladimir Litvinov (Unified Russia) drowned while fishing in a river near his dacha in Rostov Oblast, RBK reported on 18 June. According to the station, the Interior Ministry has announced that there is no reason to launch a criminal investigation into the incident. Litvinov was deputy chairman of the Committee for Natural Resources. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Voronezh Oblast legislature, Yurii Titov, died in an auto accident on 19 June, Interfax reported. Titov was also the secretary of the political council of Unified Russia's Voronezh branch. JAC

Meeting in Grozny on 18 June, government officials from Chechnya and Daghestan formed an intergovernmental commission to address problems engendered by a sweep operation in early June in the village of Borozdinovskaya in Chechnya's Shelkovskii Raion, Interfax and reported. Two people were killed and 11 detained during the sweep operation, following which many of the villagers, who mostly belong to ethnic groups indigenous to Daghestan, fled with their belongings to Daghestan's Kizlyar Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 June 2005). Daghestan Security Council Secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadjiev of the Daghestani delegation told Interfax the sweep was undertaken by unnamed "federal structures" in Chechnya that fail to coordinate their activities with the republic's pro-Moscow leadership. He said the first priority is to defuse the resulting tensions and persuade the villagers to return from Daghestan. Magdigadjiev denied the existence of any major problems between either the governments or the populations of the two republics. LF

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on 17 June, former Grozny Mayor and Chechen Press and Information Minister Beslan Gantamirov accused Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov of seizing offices and a plot of land belonging to Gantamirov's family, Interfax reported. Gantamirov further accused Kadyrov, who has reportedly accumulated a large fortune from illegal oil exports and extortion, of racketeering. Kadyrov rejected those allegations in an appearance on 18 June on Chechen television, Interfax reported, and he claimed that in his previous capacity as press and information minister Gantamirov misappropriated property in Grozny that has now been restored to state ownership. Gantamirov earlier accused Kadyrov of seeking to prevent him from participating in the Chechen parliamentary elections tentatively scheduled for November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 17 June 2005). LF

Serzh Sarkisian, who is widely regarded as the second most powerful official in Armenia, is considering creating a political party, the nucleus of which will be the People's Deputy parliamentary faction, according to the independent weekly "Iravunk" on 17 June as cited by Groong. That faction comprises 17 of the 131 deputies. The paper claimed that Sarkisian hopes his party will win a majority in the parliamentary elections due in 2007, which would give a powerful impetus to his presidential bid the following year. Under the Armenian Constitution, incumbent President Robert Kocharian may not run for a third consecutive term. Sarkisian has consistently refused to say whether he intends to run for president, telling journalists that it is too soon to reach such a decision (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 30 May 2005). LF

Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov met on 17 and 18 June in Paris under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group to continue discussions of ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict, according to and Arminfo on 18 June as cited by Groong. Mammadyarov also met separately on 17 June with the Minsk Group co-chairmen, reported. Oskanian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 16 June that he hoped it would prove possible during the Paris talks to "give a little context to" the "preliminary agreement" reached during talks in Warsaw on 15 May between the two countries' presidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2005) and possibly to formalize that agreement in a written text. The details of the agreement have not yet been divulged. LF

Preliminary returns showed that the parties supporting Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, have won a majority of seats in the 19 June elections for a new republican parliament, AFP reported on 20 June. The ruling Democratic Party of Artsakh has 12 seats and the pro-Ghukasian Free Fatherland Party 10. The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation/Dashnaktsutiun/Movement 88 alliance reportedly won only three seats. Voter turnout was over 73 percent of the 89,500 registered voters, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. A total of 106 candidates from seven parties or blocs were competing for the 33 mandates, 22 of which are allocated in single-mandate constituencies and the remaining one-third according to the proportional system. On 18 June, President Arkadii Ghukasian again stressed the importance of a fair and democratic ballot, and he criticized the opposition, accusing its members of engaging in "libel" and "insinuations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). LF

Thousands of people, many of them wearing orange T-shirts or carrying orange banners, participated in a rally in Baku on 18 June convened by the opposition Liberty election bloc, which comprises the Musavat party, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the progressive wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Turan reported. Supporters of the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan and of the youth movements Yokh! and Yeni Fikir also attended the rally. Opposition sources estimated the total number of participants at 25,000-30,000; gave a figure of 7,000-8,000 at the beginning of the rally. Participants called for free elections and for an end to corruption, bribery, persecution, and clan politics, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. LF

Irakli Okruashvili met in Washington on 17 June with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Topics of discussion included U.S. assistance in training Georgian servicemen, the closure of the Russian military bases in Georgia, the unresolved conflicts with the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Georgia's progress in fulfilling the conditions for NATO membership outlined in its Individual Partnership Action Plan. Rumsfeld expressed appreciation of Georgia's deployment of 859 men to serve in the international peacekeeping force in Iraq. LF

Onalsyn Zhumabekov, the head of Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission, said on 17 June that the presidential election should take place in December 2006, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Noting that President Nursultan Nazarbaev's seven-year term expires on 20 January 2006, Zhumabekov commented, "The constitution allows the president to remain in office somewhat longer than seven years." Zhumabekov stressed, however, that the final decision on the date of presidential election is for the Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) to make. "My opinion is 2006. How the Mazhilis decides is the Mazhilis's prerogative," Zhumabekov said. The date of the upcoming presidential election has been the subject of debate, with some suggesting that it could be held in December 2005. DK

President Nazarbaev has signed a decree setting elections to the upper chamber of parliament for 19 August, Kazakh TV1 reported. The Central Election Commission announced on 17 June the schedule for the lead-up to the election, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The period for nominating candidates will last from 18 June to 18 July. The election commission will complete the registration of candidates on 29 July. The commission will then calculate election results no later than 25 August and make them public no later than 28 August. The Senate comprises 39 deputies, 32 of whom are elected by local assemblies and seven appointed by the president. DK

Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev rebuked the heads of the National Security Service (SNB) and National Guard on 18 June after protesters briefly seized the main government building in Bishkek on 17 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2005), reported. Bakiev issued a warning to Abdygul Chotbaev, head of the National Guard, for failing to protect the government building. SNB Chairman Tashtemir Aitbaev and his deputy, Tokon Mamytov, received official rebukes for failing to provide advance warning of the unrest. The demonstrators on 17 June identified themselves as supporters of businessman Urmat Baryktabasov, whom the Central Election Commission had refused to register for the 10 July presidential election, saying that he holds dual Kazakh-Kyrgyz citizenship. DK

Bakiev told a news conference on 17 June that "today's disorder -- today's attempt to seize the seat of government -- was organized by people close to [former President Askar] Akaev sitting in neighboring Kazakhstan," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Acting Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov told a news conference in Bishkek on 18 June that "counterrevolutionary forces" including Akaev organized the unrest in the capital the day before, reported. Usenov said that Adil Toigonbaev, Akaev's son-in-law, financed the demonstration. In a 17 June press release, the Interior Ministry alleged that demonstrators received 800 soms ($20) each for their actions. In an interview with Russia's Channel One on 18 June, former President Akaev said: "I declare categorically that neither I, nor my children, nor my son, nor my son-in-law have any connection to the events that took place yesterday in Bishkek. We are all in Russia now." DK

Usenov said on June 18 that law-enforcement officials plan to file criminal charges of hooliganism and attempting a coup d'etat against businessman and would-be presidential candidate Baryktabasov, Kabar reported. Usenov noted that Baryktabasov, who he said is currently hiding in Kazakhstan, is also suspected of having committed economic crimes. Meanwhile, police spokeswoman Aida Bakirova said on 18 June that 218 of 220 people arrested on 17 June have already been released, Interfax reported. She said that they received a court warning. Acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov said on 18 June that his office intends to petition parliament to strip Aidar Akaev, the son of ex-President Akaev, of his deputy's mandate and immunity, Interfax reported. "There is information that the former president's son was in Bishkek during the riots organized by the supporters of presidential hopeful Urmat Barktabasov," Beknazarov said. DK

Bishkek police chief Omurbek Subanaliev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 19 June that police have arrested Mukar Cholponbaev, the former speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, in connection with unrest in the capital on 17 June. Subanaliev allegegd that Cholponbaev led the effort to seize the main government building in Bishkek on 17 June. Subanaliev added that Kyrgyz police have issued a warrant for the arrest of would-be presidential candidate Baryktabasov, who authorities allege was the financer and organizer of the 17 June demonstration. Baryktabasov is currently in Kazakhstan, according to Subanaliev, and Kyrgyz prosecutors have appealed to their Kazakh colleagues for assistance in detaining him. DK

Acting President and Prime Minister Bakiev stepped down on 19 June from the post of prime minister until the 10 July presidential election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Bakiev, who is considered the leading candidate in the upcoming election, will continue in his duties as acting president. DK

Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Feliks Kulov announced on 20 June that he will leave his post ahead of the presidential vote in order to help with Bakiev's election campaign, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "The law says that a government official has no right to carry on an election campaign while in office, so I am suspending my duties," Kulov said. "Bakiev has also made such a statement. We have discussed this and made this decision together in order to make our goals clear to the people and to show unity between the north and the south." AH

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov laid the cornerstone for a bridge across the Panj River on 17 June, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The United States has provided more than $28 million to finance the construction of the bridge. Richard Hoagland, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, read out a letter from President George W. Bush at the ceremony, saying, "A bridge across the River Panj will symbolize not only historical relations between the two countries but also the development of international cooperation in the region," Asia Plus-Blitz reported. At talks in Dushanbe later in the day, Karzai and Rakhmonov discussed ways to expand bilateral cooperation, Avesta reported. Addressing the problem of drug cultivation in Afghanistan, President Karzai said that his country plans to reduce the area planted with drug crops by 30-40 percent in 2005. DK

An official statement made public on the Uzbek Foreign Ministry's website ( on 18 June denied media reports of a link between restrictions on the U.S. air base at Karshi-Khanabad and the U.S. position on 13 May events in Andijon. "The decision to limit flights by the U.S. Air Force from Karshi-Khanabad was made three months before events in Andijon for certain reasons about which the American side was well-informed," the statement said, adding, "If one follows the logic of the American media, another conclusion suggests itself: the Andijon events were likely a consequence of Uzbekistan's decision to limit the flights of American aircraft, and not the reason [for it]." DK

Warsaw has suspended the sponsoring of the Polish-language weekly "Glos znad Niemna" in Belarus after a printing plant in Hrodna, western Belarus, produced a fake issue attributed to an unidentified "editorial staff" and carrying articles attacking Andzelika Borys, head of the Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB), Belapan reported on 17 June. "The decision did not come as a surprise, as it was in line with Poland's policy regarding the organization. It would be inconsistent to continue supporting the newspaper, which is now published in violation of legal and moral standards," SPB spokesman Andrzej Pisalnik told the news agency. The Belarusian authorities did not recognize a new SPB leadership elected in March and have been pressing the organization to hold a new congress while Warsaw, which sponsors SPB activities and "Glos znad Niemna," said the March congress was legitimate and called on Minsk to back down (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 27 May 2005). In late May, the printing plant in Hrodna refused to print an issue of "Glos znad Niemna" edited by a staff loyal to Borys, but somewhat later printed the bogus issue, which included articles reflecting official Minsk's stance in the SPB conflict. JM

A city court in Barysau, Minsk Oblast, on 16 June imposed a fine of 1.02 million rubles ($475) and damages of 3 million rubles ($1,400) on Anatol Bukas, editor in chief of the private weekly "Borisovskie novosti," for allegedly libeling and insulting an editor of the local administration's newspaper, Belapan reported on 17 June. Bukas published an article in March responding to three stories carried earlier by the local official newspaper, which he found insulting. Bukas believes that the case against him was orchestrated by the local executive authorities, and he stressed that the local Prosecutor's Office rejected his earlier request to sue the official periodical. "They aim to do away by unfair means with the rival to the official newspaper whose circulation and popularity are considerably lower than ours, and thereby put an end to a publication that runs articles not very pleasing to the city executive committee," Bukas said. JM

President Viktor Yushchenko promised international businessmen participating in a World Economic Forum roundtable in Kyiv on 17 June that the government will provide investors with such "comfort and a level of relations that will best suit their interests," Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the government is going to set up a Council of Investors in order to facilitate the resolution of problems between investors and the authorities. Yushchenko also said his country hopes to secure membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) by October and intends to complete all legal requirements to meet that deadline. The same day Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko called on foreign businessmen to invest more actively in Ukraine, particularly in building transit highways, manufacturing airplanes, and developing the country's insurance and banking sectors. JM

Prime Minister Tymoshenko's cabinet on 18 June approved a decision to hold a new privatization of the Kryvorizhstal steel mill that was sold in 2004 under a controversial privatization tender to businessmen close to former President Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Tymoshenko said 93.07 percent of Kryvorizhstal's shares will be offered for an open tender while an additional 1.74 percent will be sold on Ukraine's stock market. Unlike previous selloffs, in which bidders submitted sealed letters to a commission, bidding for Kryvorizhstal will involve placing sums on raised cards or stating them aloud, Reuters reported. Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, one of the winners of the 2004 Kryvorizhstal privatization tender, commented the following day that he will take legal action against the government's decision. "[The decision] is wrong from a legal point of view, since legal procedures [concerning the privatization of Kryvorizhstal] are still continuing," Pinchuk said. Earlier this month the Kyiv Appellate Economic Court ruled that the Kryvorizhstal privatization in 2004 was illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2005). The Investment-Metallurgical Union, the nominal owner of the mill, has announced that it will appeal against that verdict. JM

A Belgrade court on 17 June sentenced Sasa Cvjetan to 20 years in prison for killing 14 Albanian civilians and wounding five boys six years ago, dpa reported the same day. Cvjetan, who has been in custody since November 2001, was found guilty of taking part in the 28 March 1999 mass killing in Podujevo, in northeastern Kosova. He was serving with a shadowy Serbian police unit called the Scorpions, which committed the executions in the yard of a Podujevo house. BW

Michael Polt said he found it "deeply disturbing" that Serbia's parliament failed to adopt a resolution acknowledging the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys by Serbs, international news agencies reported on 17 June. "The absence of real action in the Serbian parliament regarding the tragedy in Srebrenica is not only regretful but also deeply disturbing," the daily newspaper "Danas" quoted Ambassador Polt as saying. He added that an acknowledgement of Europe's worst massacre since World War II is necessary as its 10th anniversary approaches on 11 July. The resolution collapsed because lawmakers could not agree on the text. The majority wanted to mention Srebrenica as well as condemn war crimes against Serbs. "This is about human beings, a specific date and a specific incident that must be mentioned.... It is not enough to make generalized statements against war crimes committed in the history of mankind," Polt said. BW

Serbs and Albanians in the northern Kosovar town of Mitrovica clashed on 19 June, international news agencies reported the same day. Two ethnic Albanians and one Serb were arrested following the brief clash on a bridge over the Ibar River, which separates the town's ethnic enclaves, dpa reported. Serbs have been blocking the bridge since 13 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005). The clash began when an Albanian drove a car towards a group of Serbian demonstrators, who had been blocking the bridge, causing panic among protesters and leading to stone throwing and fistfights. Serbs are reluctant to see ethnic Albanians return in large numbers to north Mitrovica, which they see as their last urban stronghold in a province where at least 90 percent of the some 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. Albanians fear that the city may turn into the frontier of a possible division of the province. BW

Boris Tadic said that all citizens of Montenegro should be allowed to vote in a referendum on independence, regardless of their place of residence, Hina reported on 17 June. Tadic was responding to a 16 June letter from Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic, which said that under Montenegrin law, only citizens listed in voter registers are entitled to take part in the referendum. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had given European Union officials lists of some 250,000 Montenegrin citizens residing in Serbia who, according to the prime minister, should be allowed to vote on the referendum. Vujanovic had called Kostunica's action "irresponsible and irritating" and had hoped that Tadic would not endorse it. BW

Croatia detained 10 people on 17 June suspected of committing war crimes against Bosnian Muslims, Reuters reported the same day. Those arrested were part of Serbian paramilitary units fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. "There have been publicly broadcast tapes of the Scorpions' crimes. On the basis of that, we searched their premises and took 10 people in for questioning," local police spokesman Miroslav Janic told state radio, adding that all those detained were Croatian citizens. He did not say if they were ethnic Serbs. The arrests were made in eastern Croatia, where there is a sizeable ethnic Serb community. Local media reported this week that several former members of the Scorpions police unit live in the region, according to Reuters. The arrests follow that of Slobodan Davidovic, a member of the Scorpions who is suspected of taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). BW

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged Macedonia to improve its election process and crack down on violations of voting rules, dpa reported on 17 June. In its final report on local elections held in March, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said Macedonia must "take prompt and vigorous action to curtail any toleration for election related offences in order to restore the rule of law and confidence in the election process." Local elections in March were marred by some irregularities and incidents of violence. ODIHR also welcomed Macedonia's plan to reform its election legislation and recommended "consultation with the political parties, international experts and the public." BW

Kimmo Kiljunen, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's delegation to Moldova, told Moldovan journalists on 18 June that the OSCE is ready to help organize parliamentary polls in the breakaway region of Transdniester in the fall of 2005, Moldovan news agencies reported. "Tiraspol will have to guarantee the freedom of mass media, free access of the electorate to information about all election candidates, free activity of political parties, and election security," Kiljunen noted. He added that the problem of whether the elections are to be held under Moldovan or the Transdniester legislation should be resolved in talks between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The Moldovan Parliament adopted a document on 10 June calling for the Transdniester elections to be held in line with the Moldovan Constitution. The separatist legislature in Tiraspol on 17 June harshly criticized the document, saying its implementation would automatically deny voting rights to "hundreds of thousands" of Transdniester residents who do not possess Moldovan citizenship. JM

Two of the losing candidates in Iran's ninth presidential election on 17 June have complained of military interference in the election, with one calling on the country's supreme leader to intervene and another warning of a fascistic trend in the country's politics.

The overall process has resulted in a first for the Islamic republic, where a presidential runoff is required because none of the candidates earned more than half of the votes cast. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is slated to face Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the runoff scheduled for 24 June.

But voter turnout was better than in many other presidential elections, and this could have a tremendous impact in the runoff.

The purported third-place finisher, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Mahdavi-Karrubi, complained on 18 June about the behavior of the Guardians Council, which is supposed to supervise the election, IRNA and ILNA reported. He called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to appoint a special team to investigate the vote-counting process. "Had the Guardians Council had the authority, it would have ordered Ahmadinejad to be elected without even considering the votes," Mahdavi-Karrubi said. Mahdavi-Karrubi said he spoke with Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari and urged him not to extend the polling hours because of the possibility of fraud. Musavi-Lari reportedly shared this concern but said he was under pressure to keep the polls open.

Mahdavi-Karrubi also referred to alleged interference by the military in the election, IRNA and ILNA reported. "We will prove that the heads of the [Islamic Revolution] Guards Corps had delivered speeches in many places in support of certain candidates," Mahdavi-Karrubi said. Referring to Basij Resistance Force commander Mohammad Hejazi, he said, "If Mr. Hejazi wants to form a party and make Basij his party, he should become the secretary-general of Basij."

Elaheh Kulyai, who is the spokesman for fifth-place finisher Mustafa Moin, also complained on 18 June that Basij personnel interfered with the vote counting, IRNA reported. After the preliminary election results were announced, Moin released a statement in which he described interference in the election process, ILNA reported.

"A powerful will entered the arena bent on the victory of a particular candidate and the elimination of the other candidates and opened the way to the organization of some military bodies and the support of the election supervisory apparatus, so that the self-evident rights of the other candidates could be targeted," Moin said in his statement. "Today, anyone can clearly see the effect of this organized interference on the election results."

"The warning bell has sounded for our fledgling democracy," Moin cautioned. He warned that such events will "lead to militarism, authoritarianism, and narrow-mindedness in this country," and he mentioned "the danger of fascism." "Organized military and supervisory interference in the elections has consequences beyond the violation of the rights of people who voted for me and the likes of me," he said, adding, "I declare that this is a threat to the people's choice and free elections."

Moin's main backers also expressed their disgruntlement. The Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization is one of the main pro-Moin parties, and central council member Seyyed Hashemi Hedayati said the presence of Basij personnel near the ballot boxes was alarming, ILNA reported. "Since a few days ago we have witnessed the systematic organization of the police and Basij and in such a situation we have the right to doubt the outcome of the presidential election," he added.

The election results are not final until the Guardians Council announces them. Council spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said on 18 June that candidates have three days to lodge their complaints, Mehr news agency reported.

It is unlikely that Mahdavi-Karrubi's entreaty or any other complaints will resonate with Supreme Leader Khamenei, who one day before the election urged Iranians to vote. An 18 June statement from Khamenei praised Iranians for their participation in the election, Mehr News Agency reported. This foiled enemy plots against Iran, he said. Referring to a 16 June White House statement that criticized the election process, Khamenei said, "You, the dear nation, you, the committed and enthusiastic youth, you, the faithful men and women, through your wise and epic presence, made [U.S. President George W.] Bush's insults backfire and showed your strong dedication to the country's independence, the defense of Islam, and Islamic democracy."

In the absence of independent observers, it is impossible to determine whether fraud occurred. It is extremely unlikely that anything will come of the allegations of fraud, because nothing has come of previous allegations.

The more important issue now is to determine the outcome of the 24 June runoff. The pro-Moin Islamic Iran Participation Party announced on 18 June that it is undecided. Nevertheless, it is very unlikely that supporters of the reformist candidates will back the hard-line Ahmadinejad. If turnout remains the same, then Hashemi-Rafsanjani will gain the 10,409,943 votes earned previously by Karrubi, Mehralizadeh, and Moin, giving him a total of 16,569,396. Ahmadinejad will presumably earn the 5,815,352 votes that went to Larijani and Qalibaf, for a total of 11,525,706.

It is extremely unlikely that overall turnout will remain flat. Voters who stayed home for the first round -- either out of apathy or because they were consciously boycotting the election -- might be inspired to vote in an effort to preclude Ahmadinejad's victory. This would ensure a Hashemi-Rafsanjani victory.

On the other hand, the Guardians Council's apparent favoritism and interference by the Basij could make voter behavior irrelevant.

Suspected neo-Taliban insurgents killed an Afghan judge and two other government officials in southern Afghanistan on 19 June, AFP reported the same day. The three men were killed in an ambush as they were traveling together by car in Helmand Province. "As they were coming from a dinner party they were ambushed and killed on their way back to Lashkar Gah," said provincial security chief Amanullah. "It was the work of the enemies of Afghanistan, Taliban and their terrorist allies," said Amanullah, who like many Afghans, uses only one name. News reports failed to name the victims, identifying them only as a judge, an intelligence official, and an employee in Helmand Province's Education Department. MR

U.S. warplanes attacked apparent neo-Taliban insurgent positions in southern Afghanistan on 19 June, killing as many as 20 fighters, AP reported the same day. The airstrikes came amid several clashes that erupted across southern Afghanistan. U.S. aircraft fired on a group of suspected neo-Taliban fighters positioned along a narrow footpath in the high mountains northwest of Gereshk, in southern Helmand Province. The insurgents had attacked a coalition ground patrol with small arms and rockets. "Initial battle-damage assessments indicate 15 to 20 enemies died and an enemy vehicle was destroyed," the army said in a statement, adding that no Americans were hurt. A U.S. military spokesman aired a warning to insurgents following the incident: "When these criminals engage coalition forces, they do so at considerable risk." He added: "We are not going to let up on them. There is not going to be a safe haven in Afghanistan." MR

A spokesman for neo-Taliban forces said rebels have killed seven of the 13 hostages they captured last week, the Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported on 19 June. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mofti Latifollah Hakimi said: "An Islamic court in Mianshin District issued death sentences on seven people who had been seized earlier. These death sentences were carried out in Shiekhan village of Mianshin District at 1600 local time." Hakimi added, "Those executed were found guilty of killing Taliban and spying for the Americans." Hakimi said the neo-Taliban "court" will soon issue verdicts against the remaining hostages, who were captured in the Kandahar area on 16 June. MR

Afghan police confiscated nearly 3 tons of opium in a series of raids over the last four days targeting the central and eastern reaches of the country, AFP reported 19 June. Police captured one ton of opium in Nangarhar Province along with more than 800 kilograms of chemicals used for processing opium and heroin. In raids in central Afghanistan, authorities confiscated nearly 2 tons of opium in Bamiyan Province. "This is almost 3 tons of opium that will never be processed into heroin, and that will never find its way onto our streets or the streets of Europe," said Mohammad Daud, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics. MR

The Election Headquarters at the Iranian Interior Ministry announced the results of the 17 June presidential election on 18 June, state television reported. None of the candidates secured the minimum of 50 percent-plus of the votes that are required to win outright. Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who secured 6,159,453 votes (about 21 percent), will face Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who secured 5,710,354 votes (about 19.5 percent), in next week's runoff. Third was former parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Mahdavi-Karrubi with 5,066,316 votes, followed by former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf with 4,075,189 votes and former Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin with 4,054,304 votes. Trailing far behind were former state radio and television chief Ali Larijani with 1,740,163 votes, and Vice President for Physical Training Mohsen Mehralizadeh with 1,289,323 votes. The election results are not final until the Guardians Council announces them. Council spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said on 18 June that candidates have three days to lodge their complaints, Mehr news agency reported. BS

Guardians Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has instructed Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi to recount ballots in the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Qom, and Mashhad, state radio reported on 20 June. The recount is for a random sample of ballots, not all of them. According to the Election Headquarters at the Iranian Interior Ministry on 18 June, a total of 29,439,982 votes were cast in the election. There are 46,786,418 eligible voters, so this puts turnout at almost 63 percent. This turnout equals that of the 2001 election and surpasses that of the 1985, 1989, and 1993 elections, suggesting that calls for an election boycott fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, the election headquarters counted 29,317,042 correct ballots and another 1,221,940 spoiled ballots (approximately 4 percent). Casting spoiled or blank ballots is a traditional form of protest by individuals who are compelled to vote. Election-day photographs showed military personnel at polling places, and this suggests that voter intimidation could have occurred or that the vote count could have been manipulated. In the absence of independent observers, however, it is impossible to determine whether fraud occurred. BS

Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi complained on 18 June about the behavior of the Guardians Council, which is supposed to supervise the election, IRNA and ILNA reported. He called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to appoint a special team to investigate the vote-counting process. "Had the Guardians Council had the authority, it would have ordered Ahmadinejad to be elected without even considering the votes," Karrubi said. Mahdavi-Karrubi said he spoke with Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari and urged him not to extend the polling hours because of the possibility of fraud. Musavi-Lari reportedly shared this concern, but said he was under pressure to keep the polls open. Mahdavi-Karrubi also referred to alleged interference by the military in the election. "We will prove that the heads of the [Islamic Revolution] Guards Corps had delivered speeches in many places in support of certain candidates," Mahdavi-Karrubi said. Referring to Basij Resistance Force commander Mohammad Hejazi, he said, "If Mr. Hejazi wants to form a party and make Basij his party, he should become the secretary-general of Basij." BS

Fifth-place finisher Moin released a statement on 18 June in which he described interference in the election process, ILNA reported. "A powerful will entered the arena bent on the victory of a particular candidate and the elimination of the other candidates and opened the way to the organization of some military bodies and the support of the election supervisory apparatus, so that the self-evident rights of the other candidates could be targeted," Moin said in his statement. "Today, anyone can clearly see the effect of this organized interference on the election results." "The warning bell has sounded for our fledgling democracy," Moin cautioned. He warned that such events will "lead to militarism, authoritarianism, and narrow-mindedness in this country," and he mentioned "the danger of fascism." "Organized military and supervisory interference in the elections has consequences beyond the violation of the rights of people who voted for me and the likes of me," he said, adding, "I declare that this is a threat to the people's choice and free elections." BS

Unsuccessful presidential candidate Mustafa Moin told students and young members of the Islamic Iran Participation Party in Tehran on 19 June that he is not going to boycott the runoff election on 24 June, ILNA reported. Moin's spokesperson, Elaheh Kulyai, who is a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Party's (JM) central council, said on 19 June that the party will decide who it backs in the second round at a 20 June meeting, ISNA reported. Mohsen Safai Farahani, another member of the JM central council, said on 18 June that the party is unlikely to back top vote-getter Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani in the runoff, Mehr News Agency reported. BS

Mohsen Armin of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, said on 19 June that his organization has not decided to back Hashemi-Rafsanjani yet, ISNA reported. A later statement from the organization said it would back Hashemi-Rafsanjani, IRNA reported. It also condemned what it said are the efforts of "military organs, which have nationwide networks, to bring to the top the most extremist antireform candidate." A vote for Hashemi-Rafsanjani will avert fascist domination, it said. BS

Mohsen Bahrami, spokesman for unsuccessful presidential candidate Baqer Qalibaf, said on 19 June in Tehran that the candidate's supporters will not back second-place finisher Ahmadinejad in the runoff, ILNA reported. Bahrami said the Qalibaf campaign will consider supporting Hashemi-Rafsanjani. He said the supporters of Ahmadinejad and other right-wing candidates promised to back Qalibaf, but 48 hours before the election they changed their minds. Bahrami also accused extremists of infiltrating Qalibaf's election headquarters. BS

A Northwest Airlines DC-10 flying from Bombay to Amsterdam had to land in Tehran on 19 June due to technical problems, the "Boston Globe" reported. None of the 255 passengers or crew was injured. U.S. commercial carriers do not service Iranian airports, as they are prohibited by U.S. law from doing so. BS

The deputy head for the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, a Mr. Razavi, said on 19 June that an agreement was recently signed to open Iranian consulates in the Iraqi shrine cities of Al-Najaf and Karbala, state radio reported. In exchange, Iraqi consulates are to be opened in Kermanshah and Khorramshahr. Razavi said his office has received many inquiries from prospective pilgrims, and he urged them to wait until the security situation in Iraq is resolved. BS

A suicide car bomber attacked 200 police recruits in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on 20 June, killing at least 12 and wounding 107 others, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. A spokesmen for the Irbil city council said the death toll is expected to rise due to serious injuries, Al-Arabiyah television reported. The attack came as police recruits lined up for roll call in a field, Reuters reported. Security forces opened fire on the vehicle as it approached, but some recruits were unable to escape the path of the vehicle and it detonated. Meanwhile, insurgents detonated a car bomb outside the Al-Bayya police station in Baghdad, killing at least four policemen and wounding as many as 20 others. Al-Jazeera cited a U.S. Army statement as saying that a U.S. patrol clashed with the insurgents before they detonated the car bomb as Iraqi police arrived to assist the U.S. forces. The attacks come one day after 23 people, mostly security forces, were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a Baghdad restaurant frequented by police. More than 30 people were injured in the attack, RFI reported. KR

Some 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces launched Operation Dagger in the southern Lake Tharthar region of the Al-Anbar Governorate on 18 June, Multinational Forces Iraq announced in a same-day press release ( The operation is the second major operation launched in the governorate in a week and the fourth there since early May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2005). The press release said Operation Dagger is "focused on locating hidden weapons caches and denying terrorists sanctuary in the area that is a suspected logistical hub located 85 kilometers northwest of Baghdad." Marines uncovered over 50 weapons caches and an underground bunker used by insurgents during a recent 10-day operation east of Lake Tharthar, the statement said. Operation Spear, launched west of Lake Tharthar close to the Syrian border, is reportedly ongoing. Marines reported on 18 June that at least 50 insurgents have been killed in the operation. Marines also freed four Iraqis held captive and tortured in a house in Karabilah. KR

Iraq is exploring possible areas of cooperation with Kuwait, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) during a stopover in Kuwait on 19 June. Bahr al-Ulum is part of an Iraqi delegation led by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari that is heading to the Brussels donor conference this week. "The Kuwaiti side has expressed its readiness to cooperate in overcoming problems facing [Iraq] at this difficult stage. Kuwait is a country that has sided with the people of Iraq since liberation," Bahr al-Ulum said. Asked about possible areas of cooperation, he added: "One of the planned projects is to export natural gas to Kuwait. It is our hope that this will soon be completed and an agreement [will be] reached...under which Iraq will export gas to Kuwait." Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said on 19 June that Kuwaiti officials will visit Iraq once the security situation stabilizes there, KUNA reported the same day. KR

The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc headed by Mish'an al-Juburi held a conference on 18 June in Baghdad to announce the party's alliance with other Sunni parties, under the name National United Party, RFI reported the same day. The conference was held under the banner "A United Country is Our Goal. Towards Welfare and Prosperity" and aimed at eliciting Sunni support for December elections. Al-Juburi, who is a member of the transitional National Assembly, told reporters at the conference: "Our party will opt for peaceful resistance against occupation. We believe that any option other than the political process and democracy might spell trouble to the country, which no one wants. That is why I appeal to you all to engage in the political process. Any option other than involvement in the political process and the ballot box will not be in anyone's interest." Al-Juburi later told RFI: "We are a major and vital part of the Arab Sunni community and we will fight the elections on the Reconciliation and Liberation list as we did in the last elections. The Reconciliation and Liberation list will be open to all." KR