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Newsline - June 21, 2005

Duma Deputy and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia) said on 20 June that Russia will study carefully the juridical statements included in the preamble to the Russia-Estonia border treaty, reported. The Estonian parliament ratified the treaty on 20 June by an absolute majority, but inserted a clause in the preamble highlighting the continuity between present-day Estonia and the Estonian republic proclaimed in 1918. The preamble also refers to the 1920 Tartu Treaty between Estonia and Soviet Russia. "Our jurists are studying carefully whether Estonian claims leave room for further territorial claims. If they come to this conclusion, Russian ratification [of the treaty] becomes senseless," Kosachev said. According to Mikhail Margelov, who chairs the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, "Estonian parliamentarians are trying to outwit themselves by avoiding direct mention in the document of Soviet 'annexation' and 'occupation,'" although they are implying these things, "Trud" reported on 21 June. "Reference to 1918 creates ground for further Estonian territorial and other claims against Russia. I think that, in such a form, the treaty is not suitable for Russia," Margelov said. VY

Speaking at a 20 June cabinet meeting, President Vladimir Putin said he is unhappy about how "liberal" ministers responsible for the economy are cooperating with the Duma, RTR reported. Repeating the Duma's recent criticism of Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, and Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 20 June 2005), Putin mentioned the conflict between those ministers and the Duma during the adoption of amendments to the 2005 budget. Putin said that the ministers lacked "systematic" cooperation with the Duma and that he is unconvinced by the explanations given to him by Kudrin and Zurabov. At the same meeting, Putin asked Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to coordinate more closely the government's work with that of the Duma. VY

Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration who is responsible for working with political parties and public organizations, said in an interview with the German weekly "Spiegel," No. 25, that Russia needs political parties that will not trigger a "changeover of power [and] will not result in an irreversible change in course." Surkov, who in September 2004 accused some opposition groups of being a "fifth column" of the West in Russia, also said that he considers the National Bolshevik Party a "pro-fascist" entity that threatens Russia's national security. "If chauvinistic, pro-fascist forces were now to provoke a wave of Islamic extremism, the integrity of our multinational state would truly be in danger," Surkov said. Surkov, who previously worked with jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, refused to comment on his former boss's sentence. "For 10 years, I received a paycheck from him. I respect him. And I cannot be impartial," he said. VY

In the same interview, Surkov said that violence is still spreading in the Caucasus and in Chechnya in particular, and that the region "remains ethnically and culturally isolated from the rest of Russia." He blamed radical Islamic groups, both local and foreign, for the violence, as well as Moscow's policy errors. However, he emphasized, "We must retain the North Caucasus as part of the Russian Federation." Surkov said that he knows the Caucasus well and revealed that his father is Chechen. Speaking about the so-called colored revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Surkov said that Russia had such a revolution in the 1990s. He added that some foreign nongovernmental organizations want to repeat such a scenario in Russia and said "there are schools, where [people] are taught how to do this." "There will undoubtedly be attempts to overthrow the government. But they will fail," he said. VY

Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii, speaking at a meeting with local followers of the pro-Kremlin youth organization Nashi in St. Petersburg on 18 June, said the organization's members should study the mechanisms of "colored revolutions," RosBalt reported. "Not later than 2007, but maybe already by 2006, Russia should expect provocation and internal disturbances," Pavlovskii warned. Pavlovskii also said members of Committee-2008, headed by former world chess champion Garri Kasparov, are nothing more than "freaks," RosBalt reported. "Before he went into politics, Kasparov already managed to ruin five to seven organizations, so one should treat him as the 'enemy' he is," Pavlovskii said. He also criticized some Russian politicians for their roles in the recent revolutions of Russia's neighbors, mentioning former Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) head Boris Nemtsov, who works as a consultant for Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. When politicians are not wanted at home, they go abroad, Pavlovskii noted. He also said that he does not think much of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's chances of becoming opposition leader. "He is not an independent politician and can only be part of somebody else's project," he said. VY

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 20 June, Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais said that the reason for the outage in the Moscow area on 25 May was due to several factors, but mainly due to his company's old equipment, NTV reported. "From the very beginning, both I, and EES, have accepted responsibility," Chubais said. He added that it would be a grave mistake to stop reforms in the energy sector. On 19 June, Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Pekhtin (Unified Russia), who is heading the parliamentary investigation into the blackout, also said that obsolete equipment was the reason for the outage. However, on 20 June, the administration of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" a press release accusing Pekhtin of covering up for Chubais and of grossly undervaluing the damage caused by the blackout. According to the press release, no less than 2 million people suffered from the blackout. The Moscow authorities have demanded complete financial compensation and for those responsible to face criminal charges, the press release stated. VY

Speaking at an economic conference in Moscow on 20 June, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov said that Russia is in better financial shape than ever with a current account surplus and $150 billion gold and currency reserves, Interfax reported. He said that by the end of the year the country will have another $45-50 billion in these reserves. Zhukov said that the Stabilization Fund should reach 2 trillion rubles ($70 billion) by 2008, at the same time, Russia's foreign debt should shrink to 15-16 percent of GDP by the end of 2005. "Never in the history of Russia or the Soviet Union has the country's financial situation been so solid or stable," he concluded. JAC

Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued a report on 20 June noting that Russia's economic growth is slowing and calling on the Russian authorities to rely less on direct intervention in markets and state control over assets in order to assure long-term growth. According to the report, Russian authorities have lately been drifting towards a more interventionist state behavior. Russia is a "weak state with strong bureaucrats" and "the patronage dispensed by individual officials -- particularly those charged with managing state property or large financial flows -- can be enormous," the report noted. The authors of the report also characterized reform of the gas sector as "one of the government's major policy failures." JAC

The St. Petersburg-based Telekominvest holding company has purchased the right to publish "Ogonek" from the OVA-Press publishing house, Russian news agencies reported on 17 June. According to "Vremya novostei" on 20 June, the acquisition is only the latest in a series of purchases of eminent, well-established Russian publications by corporations that are loyal to the current authorities. Earlier in the month, Gazprom-Media purchased a controlling stake in "Izvestiya" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). According to the daily, Telekominvest was created in 1994 and specializes in information technology and reportedly has no structures in place to put out serious publications. Leonid Bershidskii, a media manager formerly associated with "Ogonek," told that he believes the journal was sold on the orders of the Kremlin. "Vedomosti" reported that according to its sources, Telekominvest acquired the publication at the request of former presidential administration head under Boris Yeltsin, Valentin Yumashev, general director of the publication. JAC

TV journalist Aleksandr Gordon and writer Dmitrii Lipskerov have sent an open letter to the journalists at Ekho Moskvy accusing them of imposing their own views on their coverage of the trial of Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev, reported. "Izvestiya" published the text of the letter on 20 June. In the letter, they write that they aren't necessarily well informed and their views may be "politically illiterate," but it is "obvious even to us what has evoked the squeals of the liberal media, your radio, and the behavior of Russia's enemies following the announcement of the verdict against the [former] directors of Yukos." The liberal media, in their opinion, are riled over the inability of the "clever, charming, wealthy, talented Khodorkovskii" to construct a constitutional republic in Russia. They go on to say that they, unlike the liberal media, unconditionally accept the right of the government to defend Russia from internal and external enemies with the help of an imperfect legal system. JAC

Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov responded to the letter in the same edition of "Izvestiya" by asserting that the radio station provides its listeners with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with all points of view, with journalists of various beliefs from Mikhail Leontev to Olga Romanova, and representatives of various parties. "No one can doubt that we failed to remain silent on the positions of either the accused or the accusers. Therefore, the doubtful characterization of our editorial policy as a 'squeal' simply does not correspond with reality," he wrote. In closing, Venediktov noted that the station always gives airtime to the lawyers of public figures who have fallen on the wrong side of the law, not only Khodorkovskii but also former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov. "If you personally happen to experience such a misfortune -- God forbid! -- I can assure you that your lawyers can approach Ekho Moskvy and present your position," he concluded. JAC

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 June, head of the United Civic Front Kasparov said that because of his "high popularity rating," he is on a black list at the Kremlin and cannot get access to the official mainstream mass media. He also revealed that many long-time acquaintances are shying away from him, but this doesn't matter as much to him as maintaining his reputation. "When was the last time you saw me on television?" he asked rhetorically. JAC

The Oborona youth movement conducted protest actions on 20 June in Moscow and St. Petersburg calling on President Putin to resign, RFE/RL's Moscow and St. Petersburg bureaus reported. The meeting was organized under the slogan "Vladimir Putin: Soon it will be time to demobilize (skoro dembel)!" A tall young man threw tomatoes at the protestors, and according to the bureau, managed to keep throwing them even after he was seized by Moscow police. In an interview with the Moscow bureau, political analyst Vladimir Prybylovskii noted that today Russia's youth movements are not a serious force but tomorrow they could be. "Our authorities are afraid of opposition in general but youth in particular.... Youth are more uncompromising, and it is difficult -- almost impossible -- to manage them," he said. JAC

Two Ingush students from the North Caucasus University were shot dead in a house on the outskirts of Nazran on 20 June, reported. Local officials claimed the two opened fire on police who surrounded the house with the intent of arresting the owner, who was suspected of involvement in a terrorist bombing last month. The father of one of the dead men said they went to the house on Kommunalnaya ulitsa to visit the owner, who was their friend. LF

The approximately 400 Avars who fled their homes in the village of Borozdinovskaya in Chechnya's Shelkovskii Raion following reprisals by Chechen security forces have refused to return to Chechnya, Interfax and reported on 20 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 17, and 20 June 2005). Daghestani Interior Ministry forces abandoned a 20 June attempt to expel the Avars after several hours but continue to keep them under close surveillance. Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak is monitoring the situation, according to Interfax. LF

Members of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun -- Movement 88 alliance called into question on 20 June preliminary returns indicating that the bloc won only three mandates in the previous day's parliamentary election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The bloc's leaders told journalists in Stepanakert, capital of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, that they will boycott the new legislature, but in light of the need to "preserve stability" they will not stage protests to demand the annulment of the vote. Nor did they give details of the alleged irregularities that gave the Democratic Party of Artsakh, which supports the unrecognized republic's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, 12 of the total of 33 mandates. The pro-Ghukasian Azat Hayrenik (Free Fatherland) party won 10 seats, and independent candidates took the remaining eight. LF

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 20 June that his talks three days earlier in Paris with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on approaches to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were "positive" and "constructive," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. At the same time, Oskanian admitted that he and Mammadyarov failed to build on the "small step forward" achieved one month earlier in Warsaw by the two countries' presidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May and 8 June 2005). Oskanian told journalists last week that he hoped it would prove possible in Paris to formalize in a written text the agreements reached in Warsaw. Oskanian said the two sides are working on "all elements of a package settlement," but stressed, as he has done previously, that he considers it pointless to address other issues until "clarity" is reached regarding the future status of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told journalists in Baku on 20 June that the Paris talks resulted in a rapprochement between the two sides' positions concerning unspecified aspects of the peace process, reported on 21 June. Azimov said the Paris talks focused on "various aspects," of which the most important to Azerbaijan is the liberation of Azerbaijani territories currently under Armenian control and creating "normal conditions" for the return to those districts of Azerbaijani displaced persons. He suggested that in the initial stage, international peacekeepers could be deployed to those districts. Azimov also said that the highway that connects the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Armenia (the so-called Lachin corridor) should be under Azerbaijani control, while both sides should have the use of the remaining sections of the highway from Azerbaijani's Agdam District via Karabakh, Lachin, and Armenia to the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. LF

Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on 20 June pardoning 100 prisoners "on humanitarian grounds," Turan and reported. The 100 include 27 persons from a list of 107 designated political prisoners by the Council of Europe, together with Rza Guliev, the nephew of self-exiled opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Rasul Guliev. Rza Guliev was sentenced six years ago to eight years' imprisonment on charges of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999). But Murad Sadaddinov, who is president of the Fund for the Protection of Democracy and Human Rights, told Turan that three people considered political prisoners by the Council of Europe -- Elchin Amiraslanov, Arif Kazimov and Safa Poladov -- were not among those pardoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2004). LF

Azerbaijan's Press Council and the international press watchdog Reporters without Borders have separately demanded an official investigation into the death on 19 June of Alim Kazimli, a photographer with the opposition daily "Yeni Musavat," and Turan reported on 20 and 21 June respectively. Kazimli, who was 54, was left partially paralyzed after being beaten up on 28 December at a Baku police station while applying to renew his identity papers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). LF

Lieutenant General Valerii Yevnevich, who is deputy commander of Russia's Ground Forces, denied on 20 June that he discussed two days earlier with Kakha Ardia, governor of Georgia's Mingrelia-Upper Svaneti region, the possible withdrawal via Abkhazia of military hardware to be removed from Russia's military bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki prior to their closure, ITAR-TASS reported. Ardia told journalists on 18 June he discussed that possibility with Yevnevich, Caucasus Press reported, but ITAR-TASS quoted Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava as denying that any such discussion took place. LF

Russia's EvrazHolding has abandoned its plans to proceed with the acquisition of Georgia's Chiatura Manganese Plant and the Vartsikhe hydroelectric complex on the grounds that they are unprofitable, ITAR-TASS and Georgian media reported on 20 June. EvrazHolding won a tender for the two enterprises in January, but a spokesman for the company said that in light of a recent steep decline in world manganese prices, it prefers to forfeit the $20 million deposit already paid rather than pay the full price of $132 million. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli said on 20 June that the Russian withdrawal from the deal will not negatively affect the Georgian economy. LF

Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told members of parliament on 20 June that two draft bills amending legislation on NGOs go against Kazakhstan's international obligations and should not be passed, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Toqaev said that the legislation, if passed, could negatively impact the activities of UNESCO, the World Health Organization, and the OSCE in Kazakhstan. He stressed that this is especially worrisome in light of Kazakhstan's stated desire to chair the OSCE in 2009. The two bills in question have drawn criticism from NGOs, which charge that they will tighten state control over civil society. Darigha Nazarbaeva, the daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and the head of the pro-presidential Asar Party, called on 26 May for the draft bill on international and foreign NGOs to be recalled, "Kazakhstan Today" reported the same day. DK

Leading presidential candidate and acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Feliks Kulov, head of the Arnamys Party, announced in a joint appeal on 20 June that their alliance remains strong in the lead-up to the 10 July presidential election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The two noted that they have given up their posts in the government for the duration of the presidential campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005) in order to prevent any untoward use of so-called "administrative resources." In light of recent unrest in Bishkek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 20 June 2005), they stated, "We warn that rioting will be countered as harshly as possible. Stability and order are what the people of Kyrgyzstan now need. It was for this reason that our alliance was created." Bakiev has promised to appoint Kulov prime minister if he is elected president. DK

Bishkek police are on high alert and have stepped up their efforts to guard key installations in the Kyrgyz capital in the wake of recent unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 20 June 2005), Kyrgyz Television 1 reported on 20 June quoting an Interior Ministry spokesman. Police sealed off the city's central square on 20 June and patrols checked car traffic coming into the capital, Interfax reported. The main government building, located on the central square, was briefly seized by supporters of presidential hopeful Urmat Baryktabasov on 17 June. DK

The U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan released a statement on 20 June expressing concern at the extradition of Tajik Democratic Party head Muhammadruzi Iskandarov from Moscow in April and his subsequent detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2005), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The statement noted that Stephan M. Minikes, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, raised the issue at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 16 June, Avesta reported. Iskandarov has been denied regular access to legal counsel and family members, the statement noted. Joseph Chamberlain, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service on 20 June, "The United States calls on the Tajik authorities to permit Mr. Iskandarov's access to his legal counsel in accordance with Tajikistan's own laws and with international standards." DK

Tajik military prosecutors have completed their preliminary investigation of Ghaffor Mirzoev, former head of the Presidential Guard and former chairman of the Drug Control Agency, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 June. "Mirzoev and his defense today began familiarizing themselves with the materials of the criminal case, which consist of 30 volumes," Prosecutor Abduqodir Nurov told the news agency. Mirzoev was arrested in August 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2004); he is accused of a coup attempt, murder, corruption, and other crimes. A closed trial is expected to begin in two to three months. DK

Turkmenistan's Interior Ministry issued a press release on 20 June charging that Ukraine owes Turkmenistan nearly $600 million in goods for gas shipments in 2004 and 2005, reported. Aleksei Ivchenko, head of the Ukrainian national oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrayiny, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 20 June. According to the statement, Ukraine owes Turkmenistan $61.7 million in goods for 2004 shipments and approximately $500 million for shipments in the first five and a half months of 2005. The statement stressed that Niyazov spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who reportedly agreed to ensure that the appropriate payments in kind will be made. Turkmenistan secured a price hike of more than 30 percent from Ukraine for gas shipments in 2005, which are set to total 36 billion cubic meters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). DK

The OSCE announced in a 20 June press release on the organization's website ( that OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel "has reiterated his call for a credible, independent, and international investigation" into events in Andijon, Uzbekistan on 13 May. The press release coincided with an OSCE report on events in Andijon based on eyewitness testimony from Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan. The report concluded that "force was used repeatedly against unarmed civilians [in Andijon on 13 May]," adding that "[a]n estimate based on the information given by refugees would indicate that 300-500 people may have been killed on 13 May." The report was based on 44 in-depth interviews with Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan because the OSCE did not have access to Andijon. DK

The Minsk City authorities have resolved to take fees from the organizers of rallies in the capital, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported on 20 June, quoting Syarhey Alfer, deputy chairman of the opposition United Civic Parties. Alfer said that in order to hold a street rally, the organizers need to pay fees to the police, the medical emergency service, and the city's road maintenance service. "The organizers have to sign a written contract with each of these services. However, we don't know how such contracts should look and how much it will cost," Alfer said, noting that the city authorities usually give the official go-ahead for opposition rallies as late as just five days before they are scheduled to take place. "Thus, the organizers have no time to sign these contracts," he added, stressing that the requirement is a new bureaucratic tool designed to prevent the government's opponents from staging demonstrations. JM

A printing plant in Hrodna on 18 June printed the second fake issue of the Polish-language weekly "Glos znad Niemna," prompting the editor to appeal to the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the police over the illegal use of the newspaper's nameplate, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported on 20 June. Like the first disputed issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005), the second one contains accusations against the new leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB), which is a founder of the weekly. "Glos znad Niemna" editor Andrzej Pisalnik said he knows none of the second bogus issue's contributors, except for Tadeusz Kruczkowski, who was replaced as SPB leader by Andzelika Borys at a March convention, which was later invalidated by the Belarusian Justice Ministry for alleged irregularities in the nomination of delegates. "It is a de facto nationalization of an independent publication," Andrzej Poczobut, another Polish minority journalist in Belarus, told RFE/RL. "If you ask my opinion about who's behind this, I'm sure it is the KGB." JM

Former dissident lawmaker Syarhey Skrabets entered the 37th day of a hunger strike in a jail in Brest, where he was placed on 15 May on charges of attempted bribery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005), RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported, quoting Skrabets' lawyer, Mikhail Khomich. Khomich said Skrabets refuses to take any food, just water, and is set to continue his strike over the charges that he believes to be politically motivated (for more on this story, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005). JM

The Kyiv Appellate Court on 21 June extended the arrest of two former police officers, Valeriy Kostenko and Mykola Protasov, until 14 September, thus complying with a request from the Prosecutor-General's Office, UNIAN reported. Kostenko and Protasov, who were arrested earlier this year, are suspected of murdering Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000. Another suspect, Oleksiy Pukach, former head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Department of Criminal Intelligence, is being investigated under a search warrant. Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun said earlier this month that Kostenko and Protasov plead guilty, adding that the Gongadze case will go to court in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). JM

Mexican President Vicente Fox met with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko as well as with Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn in Kyiv on 20 June, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Yushchenko said after his meeting with Fox that their countries are planning to cooperate in producing fertilizers and building planes. The two sides also agreed to hold a Days of Ukrainian Culture in Mexico and Days of Mexican Culture in Ukraine next year. JM

Forensic experts finished the exhumation of a mass grave containing the remains of 240 people believed to be victims of the Srebrenica massacre, international news agencies reported on 20 June. "The exhumation has been completed; 240 partially damaged skeletons have been found," Murat Hurtic, a member of the Muslim-Croat Commission for the Missing, said according to AFP. The remains were unearthed from a grave found earlier this month in the village of Liplje, some 30 kilometers from Srebrenica. The find was the fourth so-called secondary mass grave in Liplje. Over 700 remains were found in previous ones. The victims are to be identified by DNA analysis. BW

Despite vocal protests from victims' families, Serbian President Boris Tadic insists he will attend the 11 July ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, AP reported on 20 June. Tadic "will pay tribute to the innocent Srebrenica victims," his office said. A group of women whose sons and husbands were killed in Srebrenica have said Tadic and other Serbian officials are not welcome as long as Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the alleged masterminds of the 1995 massacre, remain free. "Let no Serb or Bosnian Serb official come here until they arrest Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic," Munira Subasic, a member of The Srebrenica Mothers group, said. The group threatened to block Tadic's access to the ceremony, which will be held in the Bosnian town of Potocari. "We don't want dishonest guests," Subasic said. "If they were honest, both Mladic and Karadzic would be behind bars by now." BW

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the 25-country bloc remains open to accepting Balkan members if they meet conditions set by Brussels, AFP reported on 20 June. After the recent French and Dutch rejection of the proposed EU constitution "it is now even more important that the process of enlargement continues," Rehn said, adding that each Balkan country must meet certain conditions. Croatia must track down fugitive General Ante Gotovina, who is wanted by the UN war crimes court at The Hague. Tracking down fugitive war crimes suspects is also a key condition for Serbia and Montenegro, Rehn said. Macedonia needs to focus on economic reform, while Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to reform its police, he added. BW

Stipe Mesic said there is a good chance for Zagreb to begin EU accession talks as early as autumn, Hina reported on 20 June. "There is a great chance for the negotiations to start in September, maybe October," Mesic said. He added that his optimism is based on chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's positive assessment of Croatia's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. BW

The United Nations has extended the opening hours of the main bridge separating Serb and Albanian ethnic enclaves in the Kosovar town of Mitrovica, but for the eighth consecutive day not a single car crossed, Reuters reported on 20 June. The UN began opening the bridge to civilian traffic for one hour per day last week, a move officials said was an attempt to heal the town's bitter ethnic divide. Hundreds of Serb protestors have been blocking the bridge since 13 June, and minor fighting broke out on 19 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 June 2005). Police want to increase access each week until cars can cross 24 hours a day from mid-July. BW

An item in the 20 June issue of "RFE/RL Newsline" had an incorrect headline. It should have read "SERBIAN PRESIDENT: ALL MONTENEGRINS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE IN REFERENDUM." "RFE/RL Newsline" regrets the error.

Two independent candidates for Chisinau mayor, Mihail Severovan and Iulia Gorea-Costin, unveiled their election programs on 20 June, Basa reported. Municipal councilor Severovan promises to ensure hot water to all residents of Chisinau, remove garbage from the city, to "institutionalize beggary," and turn Chisinau "into a clean and lighted city" within the first 100 days of his mayoralty. As Chisinau mayor, lecturer Gorea-Costin would reportedly like to consecrate the offices of the Chisinau mayor and the municipal council. Apart from Severovan and Gorea-Costin, eight others are registered for the early mayoral election on 10 July: Valerii Climenco from the Patria-Rodina-Ravnopravie bloc; Gheorghe Susarenco from the Christian Democratic People's Party; Gheorghe Sima from the Labor Union Patria-Rodina; Vladimir Guritenco from the Democratic Party; Finance Minister Zinaida Grecianii from the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists; Vladimir Garaba from the Green Alliance; Dorin Chirtoaca from the Liberal Party; and Dumitru Braghis from the Our Moldova Alliance. Previous Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean from the Our Moldova Alliance tendered his resignation in April -- after holding the post for 11 years -- in order to take up a parliamentary seat. JM

The 24 June second round of the Iranian presidential election pits two individuals with very different backgrounds against one another -- Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani versus Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The former represents an older generation that opposed the monarchy and has 2 1/2 decades experience in national leadership. The latter represents a younger generation whose formative experience was the Iran-Iraq War and which wants a greater say in the country's affairs. That older generation appears to be losing control to the younger one, and this election represents a high point in a continuing political struggle.

The 70-year-old Hashemi-Rafsanjani's involvement with politics dates to the early 1960s, when he began his association with the dissident cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After the 1979 revolution, this relationship and Hashemi-Rafsanjani's political skills led to him becoming one of the country's most powerful figures. He served as speaker of parliament from 1980-89 and president from 1989-97. More importantly, while president he became chairman of the Expediency Council, a body tasked with adjudicating in legislative disputes between the parliament and the Guardians Council, that also advises the supreme leader. The council, furthermore, is involved with constitutional revisions.

As chairman of the Expediency Council, Hashemi-Rafsanjani is already one of the country's most powerful individuals, and being president at the same time would strengthen his hand immensely. He is very influential informally, too, through the patron-client relationships and personal networks that result from his lengthy involvement in politics, through his extended family, and through his clerical ties.

Hashemi-Rafsanjani's position on most issues is well-known in the West because he has made an effort to be accessible to media outlets such as the BBC, CNN, "The New York Times," and "USA Today."

The 48-year-old Ahmadinejad has not received as much public attention. According to his website (, he is the fourth son of an ironworker who had seven children. He earned a doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Science and Engineering in Tehran in 1997. In 1986, he joined the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and served in its intelligence and security apparatus, participating in operations around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk and in the western part of Iran. Ahmadinejad went on to serve as governor of Ardabil Province. In April 2003, Ahmadinejad was appointed mayor of Tehran by the capital's municipal council, which is dominated by the hard-line Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami).

Ahmadinejad is a member of the central council of the hard-line Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami), according to his website. The Devotees, however, publicly endorsed another candidate in the 17 June first round of the presidential election. After his defeat, that candidate complained of betrayal by his supposed supporters. In some of Ahmadinejad's public statements, furthermore, he has appeared to identify himself as a Developer. Both the Developers and the Devotees represent a younger generation of revolutionary Iranians, particularly those with a background in the Revolutionary Guards and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Ahmadinejad's candidacy, therefore, represents the rise of a new generation, as well as a rightward drift in Iranian politics.

Stepping back from the machinations of party politics, it is difficult to understand Ahmadinejad's seeming popularity across the country and his ability to secure more votes than better-known candidates, such as former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karrubi or former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. They and the other candidates have been in the national spotlight for many years, and they campaigned throughout the provinces. Although Ahmadinejad has been politically active, it was only after he became Tehran mayor that he became nationally known. He did not campaign as aggressively as his competitors. Indeed, he only carried 10 of the provinces, including Tehran. Alleged electoral interference by the Basij and the Guardians Council on his behalf may explain an otherwise inexplicable rise in his political fortunes.

Some of the contrasts between Ahmadinejad and his rival were borne out in a 19 June television program. Ahmadinejad's representative took a swipe at the children of the wealthy, and he said that although the names have changed, the rule of the prerevolutionary Thousand Families (the prerevolutionary aristocracy) continues. He promised that Ahmadinejad's cabinet would include young people. When Hashemi-Rafsanjani's representative said the country needs evolution rather than another revolution, Ahmadinejad's representative retorted that the country's current management has grown rigid and unresponsive and a revolution is necessary. When the two argued about Basij involvement in the election, Hashemi-Rafsanjani's representative said the Basij must not intervene in politics.

Ahmadinejad has taken a populist stand on domestic issues. He referred to the problems of the underclass in an 8 June state television interview. Ahmadinejad said resolution of the unemployment problem requires financial support from the state, land distribution to farmers, and promotion of small workshops. He went on to say that the state should employ people directly, rather than using contractors, and state employees should receive housing and good wages. He called for use of 1 percent of the state budget to create a Young People's Fund that would, among other things, create jobs.

In a 7 June interview on state television, Ahmadinejad said Iran is the target of a destructive Western cultural onslaught, intended to undermine the self-confidence of Iranian managers and influence the young. He said teachers must have greater access to resources.

Ahmadinejad said during a campaign visit to Yasuj, Boir Ahmadi va Kohkiluyeh Province, that the gap between rich and poor is increasing, "Kayhan" reported on 6 June. As Tehran's mayor he was behind a crackdown on social freedoms in the capital and he banned billboards with the picture of British soccer player David Beckham, "The Guardian" and "The Independent" reported on 20 June.

Turning to foreign affairs, Ahmadinejad said in the 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."

He does not seem friendly towards the United States. "America's unilateral move to sever its ties with the Islamic Republic was aimed at destroying the Islamic Revolution," he says on his website. "And it is for the same reason that America is trying to reestablish relations with Iran." He said Iran should resume relations with the United States only after careful consideration of its interests.

Ahmadinejad's statements, his background and experience, and his associations give a strong impression of what one can expect from him as president. He is likely to get more cooperation from the hard-line-dominated legislature than President Mohammad Khatami did, and given the alleged Guardians Council support for his presidential bid, he will not encounter any resistance there. For the international community, the implication is that an Ahmadinejad presidency will result in a greater focus on "Third Worldism" in Iranian foreign policy. And if Iran seemed uncooperative on the nuclear issue so far, it will just get worse under Ahmadinejad.

Neo-Taliban fighters said on 20 June they have freed 23 hostages that were captured near Kandahar, AFP reported the same day. The captives were taken last week by rebels, who said they executed eight of the hostages and released the rest after a Taliban "court" found them not guilty. "Malik Noor Ahmad, the district chief of Mian Nisheen, along with 22 other people were released today at 5:00 pm after they were found not guilty by a Taliban court," said neo-Taliban spokesman Latif Hakimi. Neo-Taliban fighters took the group hostage after storming their district headquarters on 15 June. On 19 June, Hakimi announced that the district police chief and seven others were executed after being convicted of cooperating with U.S. troops. MR

Afghan security forces stopped three Pakistanis from carrying out an apparent assassination attempt against U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on 19 June, AP reported. The would-be attackers were arrested in the Qarghayi district of the northeastern Laghman Province, where Khalilzad was scheduled to inaugurate a new road. The suspects, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades, came within about 46 meters of Khalilzad before being stopped by Afghan intelligence agents. Khalilzad, who presented his credentials on 21 June to the Iraqi president to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, cancelled his appearance at the road inaugural, as did Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. MR

Fresh fighting erupted between neo-Taliban rebels and Afghan security forces in southern Afghanistan on 20 June, AP reported the same day. Altogether, 18 insurgents and three others were dead after renewed fighting on 19 June and 20 June in the Kandahar area, where U.S. airstrikes also killed an estimated 20 neo-Taliban fighters in the early hours of 19 June. Afghan security forces killed 11 rebels in the early hours of 20 June when insurgents attacked a government office in the Washer district of Helmand Province, a local official said. The district government chief and an Afghan soldier also died in that violence. Late on 19 June, Afghan security forces killed another seven rebels after they tried to attack a police checkpoint along the highway connecting Kabul and Kandahar. A policeman guarding the post was killed in the incident as well. Meanwhile, three U.S. soldiers were slightly wounded on 19 June when their vehicle triggered a roadside bomb in Paktia Province. MR

Alireza Mahjub has won a runoff on 17 June to become Tehran's 30th member of parliament, IRNA reported on 20 June. Taking place at the same time were parliamentary by-elections for the constituencies of Iranshahr and Sarbaz; Ilam, Eivan, Shirvan, Chardaval, and Mehran; Babolsar and Fereidun-Kenar; Bam; Shiraz; Qorveh; Qazvin and Abyek; Gachsaran; Garmsar; and Marand and Jolfa. Results for these constituencies were not available on the Interior Ministry website. BS

Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati confirmed the fairness of the 17 June presidential election in a 20 June letter to Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari, state television reported. Jannati said the council did not receive any formal complaints about the election until after the deadline, when it got a letter from fifth-place finisher Mustafa Moin. He added: "The letter sent by Mr. Moin's headquarters only included general statements without any legal evidence calling for the postponement of the runoff." Turning to the complaints of another unsuccessful candidate, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Jannati said the Guardians Council authorized the Interior Minister to recount the votes in a sample of ballot boxes. "Accordingly, it became clear that there were no doubts in the result of the votes and the election process." Jannati wrote that candidates in the runoff can begin campaigning on 21 June. Campaigning must end 24 hours before the polls open on 24 June. BS

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander General Yahya Rahim-Safavi said on 20 June that participation in the 24 June presidential runoff is a duty, ISNA reported. "Therefore, all commanders, officials, [Revolution] Guards personnel and Basijis [Basij Resistance Force personnel] must concentrate their efforts on maximizing the number of people who go to the ballot box to ensure that the next president will have a suitable number of votes which will give him a mandate for his actions in the future," Rahim-Safavi continued. He stressed that IRGC personnel cannot campaign on behalf of or against any of the candidates. Candidates and their supporters have alleged that IRGC and Basij personnel interfered in the first round of the election. BS

A statement from the Ansar-i Hizbullah in Isfahan has endorsed the candidacy of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Radio Farda reported on 20 June. The hard-line group referred to the candidate's dedication to the values of the Basij and Hizbullah (yek Basiji-yi mokhles va Hizbullahi) and it said he will restore a Koranic order after securing the presidency. The statement said girls will have to wear the proper hijab, access to improper websites will be blocked, university professors infatuated with the West (gharbzadeh) will be banned, and satellite receivers will be eliminated. The statement added that Ahmadinejad will confront newspapers that are antireligious, secular, or that promote Western democracy. He will ban Western tourists who do not respect Islamic values, and he will act against antireligious films. Finally, the Ansar-i Hizbullah statement said that if elected president, Ahmadinejad will "punch in the mouth" all those who advocate relations with the United States. BS

Mas'ud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, told reporters in Baghdad on 20 June that the "democratic and federal experience in Iraq's Kurdistan can be extended to the rest of Iraq," RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Barzani offered to host exchange visits between Kurdistan and other Iraqi governorates to help share Kurdistan's experience. Asked about the future of the peshmerga, he said: "The peshmerga tasks change. In the past, their task was fighting against dictatorship. Now they are defending democracy." Barzani denied that the peshmerga operates as a militia, saying, "They are a regular army which fought against all dictatorial regimes and sacrificed blood to achieve democracy in Iraq." Barzani called a recent article that claimed Kurds were illegally abducting Turkomans and Arabs in Kirkuk "baseless" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). "We did not arrest a single person. Those who were transferred to Irbil were sent there after being arrested by the U.S. forces and upon the request of the U.S. forces. They were also returned to the U.S. forces when they asked for them. This [article makes]...a false accusation," Barzani contended. KR

Iraqi leaders have agreed to set aside the issue of the status of Kirkuk until after a permanent constitution is drafted, Reuters reported on 20 June. Kurds, Turkomans, and Arabs all claim majority status in the oil-rich city. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) established by the Coalition Provisional Authority to serve as a basis for the permanent constitution states that a permanent resolution to Kirkuk should not be carried out until a permanent constitution is ratified and a census has been taken. The TAL, however, does call on the Presidency Council to "make recommendations to the National Assembly on remedying these unjust changes" -- the previous regime's alteration of the democratic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk -- "in the permanent constitution." Iraqi leaders did not remark on the requirement, but one unnamed U.S. official said: "Kirkuk is not going to be dealt with until later, so that basically leaves federalism and Islam, both of which are potentially heated [issues] but which can be sorted out." KR

Fu'ad Ma'sum, deputy chairman of the constitutional drafting committee, told Al-Sharqiyah television in an interview broadcast on 21 June that the committee is still waiting for 15 Sunni Arabs and 10 Sunni Arab advisers to join the committee and an advisory panel. Media reports last week indicated that the Sunni Arab names were to be submitted to the committee on 19 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 June 2005). "As far as we were informed, it [the six-party committee] must approve the [Sunni Arab] names, and then the names shall be endorsed by the constitutional drafting committee," Ma'sum said. He added: "Generally speaking, the [Sunni Arab] names are known. However...the general commission members must convene.... We were informed that they will convene during this week to approve the names." Ma'sum expressed eagerness for the 70-member constitutional drafting committee to convene and proceed with its work. The deadline for the completion of the constitution is 15 August. KR

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad presented his credentials to Iraqi transitional President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad on 21 June, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Khalilzad addressed the Iraqi people after presenting his credentials saying: "This country has been the center of great civilizations. While it suffered through periods of darkness, it has known eras of glory and great flourishing culture. Now, it's poised for greatness again. Iraq has all the necessary elements, including natural resources, the right ratio of land and water to population, and human capacity to achieve greatness on the world stage. It has friends such as the Untied States who can assist with some of the elements of success such as modern technology that are needed.... I know that most of you remain hopeful about the future. You have committed yourself to democracy and deserve the very best from all who care about both freedom and about Iraq." Regarding his role, Khalilzad vowed to work with Iraqis and other regional and international partners, including the United Nations on three fundamental objectives: the development of a sound constitution, the breaking of the insurgency, and accelerating reconstruction through economic initiatives and the development of a "vibrant civil society." KR

The July issue of "GQ" magazine ( has an interview with five Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who were responsible for guarding former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in jail for nearly one year in Iraq. The guardsmen said Hussein, who was not allowed to read about world news, labeled President George W. Bush and his father, former President George Bush, "no good," but said former President Bill Clinton was "okay." "Towards the end, [Hussein] was saying that he doesn't hold any hard feelings and he just wanted to talk to [George W.] Bush, to make peace with him," said one guardsmen. Another one said that Hussein continued to insist that he was president of Iraq. He said the former leader reminisced about President Ronald Reagan. "He talked about how Reagan sold him planes and helicopters and stuff... He said, 'I wish things were like when Ronald Reagan was still president.'" He said that he told Hussein when Reagan died last summer. The guardsmen described Hussein as friendly and talkative, and noted he was a "clean freak." KR