Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - July 14, 2005

Moscow has demanded that Washington extradite Leonid Nevzlin, a major shareholder in Yukos who now lives in Israel and was once a business partner of jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, international media reported on 13 July. Nevzlin spoke in Washington on 13 July at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, on the impact of the Yukos affair on Russian business. Yevgenii Khorishko, the Russian Embassy spokesman in Washington, said on 13 July that Nevzlin is "a criminal charged with serious crimes and we want him back in Russia," Reuters reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office has accused Nevzlin of involvement in several contract killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 July 2005). Nevzlin dismisses the allegations as part of a campaign against Yukos and its management. Nevzlin told the commission that all the might of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Prosecutor-General's Office is used to crush political opponents, and he compared the Yukos case to the current investigation of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, reported. Commission co-Chairman Congressman Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey) said on the commission's website ( that, "We criticize this trial not necessarily because we believe Mr. Khodorkovskii is innocent or that oligarchs should be immune from the law, but because it was not a fair trial." VY

Russian Air Force commander General Vladimir Mikhailov said on 13 July that Russia would like to double the number of personnel at its air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, "Trud" and reported. Mikhailov's statement followed ratification by the Federation Council of the accord between Russia and Kyrgyzstan on the status of the base signed by President Vladimir Putin and former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003). Formally, the base in Kant is a military component of the Collective Security Treaty Organization that comprises Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. VY

Political Sociology Institute Director Vyacheslav Smirnov said on 13 July that although the administration of newly elected Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev wants to develop relations with all major players in the region, Russian influence in the republic is declining, reported. Russia now has much less influence in Kyrgyzstan than even Kazakhstan or the United States because of its misunderstanding of the local situation and because of Russia's limited financial capabilities, he added. Kyrgyzstan naturally tilts more toward the United States "because poor [countries] always lean more toward richer [countries]." For that reason, Bakiev is unlikely to seek the withdrawal of the U.S. military from its base in his country, but "the appearance of a Chinese military base in Kyrgyzstan is very likely," Smirnov concluded. VY

Speaking to journalists after talks in Moscow with Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office Dimitrij Rupel on 13 July, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov harshly condemned the detention of two Russian citizens who went to Chisinau as observers for the Moldovan capital's 10 July mayoral election, RIA-Novosti and other media reported. Aleksei Kochetkov and Vladimir Lebedkin were arrested on 10 July for allegedly attempting to take illegal photos and sentenced to seven and 13 days in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2005). Lavrov called Moldova's actions unacceptable and also condemned Moldova's position on the settlement of the Transdniester conflict. "The Moldovan leadership seems to be doing everything possible, and even impossible, to freeze the Transdniester settlement and further spoil Russian-Moldovan relations," he said. VY

The Foreign Ministry officially expressed its dissatisfaction on 13 July at the statement by its Ukrainian counterpart released the day before that Moscow recognizes Kyiv's jurisdiction over the disputed island of Tuzla in the Azov Sea, RIA-Novosti and other media reported. "Russia considers the legal status of Tuzla to be undetermined, while presently it's under the jurisdiction of Ukraine," the Foreign Ministry statement said. Kyiv has proposed that both countries define their state borders in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait and insists that the demarcation line should follow the former Soviet administrative border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2005). But RIA-Novosti quoted the Foreign Ministry statement as saying, "The Russian side believes that according to Soviet law there was not and could not be such a border." VY

President Putin, who arrived in Astrakhan on 12 July, inspected the next day a naval unit of the Federal Border Guard Service, which is an element of the FSB, RTR and other media reported. Putin then met with Federal Border Guard Service head Vladimir Pronichev, local border-guard commander for the Southern Federal District Nikolai Lisinskii, and other top commanders to discuss strengthening the southern border. Lisinskii told Putin that within the federal district there have been created North Caucasian, Caspian, Black Sea-Azov, and Rostov directorates of the Federal Border Guard Service and 72 border-troop stations, which have already been finished or will be finished this year. VY

On the last day of its spring session, Federation Council members approved on 13 July more than a dozen bills, including legislation on concession agreements, an agricultural census, and alcohol production. Senators approved a bill amending election legislation, establishing a single day for voting, the second Sunday in March. A back-up date is the second Sunday in October. Under the bill, electoral blocs may no longer take part in federal elections, the ceiling for entry into the State Duma is raised from 5 percent to 7 percent, and State Duma deputies may lose their seat if they leave a faction, ITAR-TASS reported. Independent deputies are no longer eligible to run, and election officials may bar foreign election observers. The vote was 142 in favor with one against. Also approved was a bill amending previous laws so that schools must make rudimentary military training a mandatory subject for students. JAC

Representatives approved on 13 July a law on special economic zones, which will be determined by the federal government, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported. The goal of the legislation is to develop the high-tech branches of Russia's economy and to encourage the manufacture of new types of products and development of transportation infrastructure. Within the zones, a special customs regime would exist under which foreign goods would not require value-added tax or customs duties. The fall session will begin on 21 September, according to RosBalt. At that time, the upper chamber will take up the issue of the reform of the public-utilities and housing sector. JAC

Russian Media Group, Russia's largest domestic radio company, has submitted an unexpected bid of $175 million to Gazprom for its media group, Gazprom-Media, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 July. The bid followed news reports that Gazprom-Media was valued at only $100 million in a planned asset swap between Gazprom and its subsidiary, Gazprombank. Russian Media Group owns and operates various well-known FM radio stations such as Maksimum, Russian Radio, and Dinamit-FM, according to In 2001, Russian Media Group twice expressed its readiness to purchase Ekho Moskvy, one of Gazprom-Media's holdings, but was rebuffed. This time, Gazprom-Media General Director Nikolai Senkevich told Interfax that Gazprom-Media is "ready to purchase Russian Media Group." JAC

Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev told an audience in Omsk on 13 July that regional governments will get federal funding based on how effective their performance is, ITAR-TASS reported. "Regions that assume responsibility, provide people living in dilapidated buildings with new housing, develop a mortgage system, implement public-utility reforms, and use allocated funds effectively, should and will receive [federal] government support." Yakovlev was in Omsk to attend a special meeting on the implementation of the new federal law on local self-rule. Yakovlev visited five micro-raions where new housing, kindergartens, and schools are being constructed simultaneously. According to, the Omsk region leads the country in terms of the speed of new construction. Since the beginning of the year more than 300,000 square meters of housing has been built. JAC

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 13 July that the party plans to finance its 2007 State Duma and 2008 presidential election campaigns by imposing a voluntary donation on each of its members of no less than 100 rubles ($3.50) per quarter, reported. In addition, each party member should subscribe to the party newspapers, "Pravda" and "Sovetskaya Rossiya." In this way, Zyuganov explained that the party wanted to create its own "information vertical" with party publications and Internet resources to avoid dependence on federal television channels. JAC

Members of the opposition youth movement Oborona and the pro-presidential youth movement Nashi are again at loggerheads, this time in Tver Oblast, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 13 July. At a camp on Lake Seliger, some 3,000 youths are attending a two-week program organized by Nashi, consisting of lectures on politics and economics, discussion clubs, and sports and tourist activities. Three members of Oborona infiltrated the proceedings. One of them told RFE/RL that Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko led one master class, telling campers that the West has sent certain people to Russia to recruit young adults under the guise of English-language courses. These young people are then sent abroad to study in camps financed by the State Department where a thousand people or so are taught to conduct revolutions. In response to this effort, Nashi, according to Oborona activist Igor Yakovlev, is forming special brigades of soccer fans to extinguish the "Orange plague," a reference to Ukraine's Orange Revolution. Nashi press secretary Ivan Mostovich denied that such brigades are being formed and suggested that the story was fabricated. JAC

Tatyana Konovalova, representative for the legislature of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, died on 12 July, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 July. Konovalova, 53, was a member of the Federation Council's Judiciary and Legal Affairs Committee. Her term officially expired in January of this year. Before being appointed to the council in 2001, Konovalova was a former adviser to the presidential envoy to the Federation Council. JAC

Alu Alkhanov told journalists in Grozny on 13 July that persons suspected of participating in the 4 June sweep operation in the Avar-populated village of Borozdinovskaya have been detained, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 17, 20, 23, and 28 June 2005). Alkhanov did not say how many suspects are in custody or identify them, other than to say one is a senior police inspector. He did, however, note that the 11 villagers abducted during the sweep have still not been found, and he expressed doubts that they are still alive. Alkhanov praised the "successful" work of First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov in his capacity as head of a government commission to "normalize" the situation in Borozdinovskaya, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov has stepped down as head of the commission, and has been replaced by Chechen Finance Minister Eli Isaev, Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov told journalists in Gudermes on 13 July. LF

Five Russian servicemen were injured on 12 July when a convoy of trucks escorted by five armored personnel carriers hit a land mine near the village of Agishty in Shali Raion southeast of Grozny, Russian media reported on 13 July, citing local police officials. on 13 July quoted the resistance website Kavkaz-Tsentr as claiming that five Russians were killed in the blast and six injured. LF

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian on 13 July confirmed Turkish media reports that "mid-level" talks between Armenian and Turkish diplomats took place at an unnamed European venue following the exchange of letters in April between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2005). However, Gasparian denied that there was "anything "secret" about those talks, which were not made public at the time. LF

A spokeswoman for Russia's state-owned Unified Energy Systems (EES) retracted on 13 July a statement included last month in EES's annual financial report claiming that one of its subsidiaries, Interenergo, has purchased for $73 million the Armenian Energy Network (AEN), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 11 July 2005). The spokeswoman said Interenergo has acquired only the right to manage AEN. Also on 13 July, the Armenian Public Services Regulatory Commission formally asked Canadian-owned Midland Holdings, which acquired AEN in a privatization deal three years ago, to clarify what changes, if any, have taken place with regard to AEN's ownership, Noyan Tapan reported. Meanwhile, the World Bank representative in Yerevan, Roger Robinson, warned on 13 July of unspecified "consequences" for the World Bank's programs in Armenia if it is proved that Midland Holding sold AEN illegally, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told journalists in Baku on 13 July that reports that a draft plan for resolving the Karabakh conflict entail holding a referendum among the population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on the region's future status are "a provocation," Azerbaijani media reported. Also on 13 July, the independent online daily noted that the constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic forbids the conduct of referendums on issues related to the country's territorial integrity. In Yerevan, President Kocharian's former foreign-policy adviser, Democratic Party of Armenia Chairman Aram Sarkisian, told the A1+ website that in 10-15 years' time when the referendum is due, Azerbaijanis in Karabakh may outnumber Armenians and vote for the region's return under Azerbaijani control. Prior to the outbreak of the conflict in 1988, some 40,000 Azerbaijanis lived in the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. The region's current, overwhelmingly Armenian population was 145,600 in 2004, according to Mediamax on 8 July. LF

Visiting Baku in her capacity as head of the National Democratic Institute, Madeleine Albright met on 12 and 13 July with representatives of the opposition Azadlyg and New Policy election alliances and of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party to discuss preparations for the 6 November parliamentary elections, Azerbaijani media reported. Albright also met on 13 July with Central Election Commission Chairman Mazahir Panakhov, who briefed her on measures taken in compliance with President Ilham Aliyev's 11 May decree on ensuring that the upcoming ballot is free, fair, and democratic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005), and with President Aliyev himself, with whom she discussed the upcoming elections and various aspects of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, reported. Albright told Azerbaijani journalists on 14 July she believes that the Azerbaijani authorities will conduct "democratic elections that reflect the will of the people," reported. LF

Representatives of the Labor Party, Republican Party, and the parliamentary Rightist Opposition expressed regret on 13 July at President Mikheil Saakasivili's dismissal the previous day of Zurab Chiaberashvili as Tbilisi mayor and the appointment of Gigi Ugulava to replace him, Georgian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2005). Tina Khidasheli, a leading Republican party member, characterized Chiaberashvili as the best mayor Tbilisi has ever had, and hypothesized that he failed in some way "to become a man of the government," reported. Rightist opposition leader Davit Gamkrelidze and Giorgi Gugava, a Labor party representative on the Tbilisi municipal council, both recalled Ugulava's role as an activist of the youth movement Kmara, and accused him of publishing a journal critical of the Orthodox Church. On 24 May, Gugava accused Chiaberashvili of blackmailing Saakashvili by threatening to publicize details of illegal privatizations that took place while Saakashvili himself was Tbilisi mayor, reported. LF

Gogi Khaindrava, who is Georgian minister for conflict resolution, has addressed an appeal to the international community and the members of the Friends of the UN Secretary-General for Georgia group calling for "international intervention" in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion, which he described as a hotbed of crime and human rights violations, Caucasus Press reported on 14 July. Khaindrava said the hijack on 9 July of four buses in which local Georgians were traveling shows that the Abkhaz government is incapable of controlling the situation in Gali. But Gali local council head Yurii Kvekveskiri said on 14 July that after discussing the incident with those involved he has concluded that the hijack was staged -- he did not specify by whom -- in an attempt to discredit local Abkhaz police. On 13 July, an Abkhaz government spokesman denied Georgian press reports that the Abkhaz leadership has agreed to demands for the creation of a Georgian administration in Gali, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov met in Astana with a visiting Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wu Yi on 14 July, Interfax reported. The Chinese delegation arrived in the Kazakh capital on 13 July on a three-day visit and is to attend the second meeting of the Kazakh-Chinese bilateral-cooperation committee. The Chinese officials are scheduled to travel to Turkmenistan following the conclusion of their visit to Kazakhstan. RG

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 13 July, Nurbol Sultanov, the deputy general director of the KazTransOil joint-stock company, announced that construction of a new oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China is progressing rapidly, "Kazakhstan Today" and Interfax reported. An estimated 30 percent of the planned 988-kilometer oil pipeline has been completed and is expected to become fully operational by the end of this year. The pipeline is to run from Atasu in central Kazakhstan to Alashankou in western China, and will have an estimated capacity of 10 million tons of oil, to be eventually doubled. Construction of the $700 million pipeline project began in late September 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2004). RG

The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission (CEC) officially certified on 13 July the results of the 10 July election in which President-elect Kurmanbek Bakiev garnered a landslide victory, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and the Kabar news agency reported. The CEC affirmed that Bakiev received 88.7 percent of the vote and confirmed overall voter turnout at 74.9 percent. The certification announcement is now subject to the approval of the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court. Once that review is completed, the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Bakiev will be held sometime next month. RG

Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev claimed in an interview with a Russian radio station on 13 July that the change of government and his subsequent ouster as Kyrgyz president was due to "outside influence, primarily from the United States," Interfax reported. The former president, speaking from his exile in Moscow, added that the fall of his government in March was initiated six months earlier, by "international organizations" operating in Kyrgyzstan. He added that "the influence of the West was what provoked it.... They helped bring in instructors with experience in organizing revolutions from Georgia and Ukraine." Akaev also dismissed any suggestion that events were influenced by Russia and China, explaining that "Russia and China have always been in favor of stability" and "loyal to the policy of non-interference in relation to Central Asian countries." The ousted president further welcomed the recent election of President-elect Bakiev, however, and expressed hope that he would be able to return to Kyrgyzstan in the near future. RG

A ceremony was held on 13 July at the Panj border post along the Tajik-Afghan border marking the final transfer of border security from Russian to Tajik border guards, according to Asia-Plus and the Avesta website. A spokesman of the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB) Border Guards Directorate in Tajikistan, Aleksandr Kondratev, noted that the move completes the handover of control of the 1,344-kilometer Tajik-Afghan border to the Tajik State Border Protection Committee. Following the ceremony, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Russian Border Guard Service First Deputy Chief Colonel General Mansur Valiev and reviewed plans for the continued Russian training of Tajik border guards. A bilateral agreement was reached in October 2004 allowing a small operational detachment of the Russian Federal Security Service to remain in Tajikistan to perform advisory functions and provide assistance and training to Tajik border guards. The transfer of border security began in 2004 and marks the end of nearly 13 years of Russian control of the Tajik border with Afghanistan. The border region has been plagued by widespread smuggling of arms and narcotics for more than a decade (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 29 August 2003). RG

The head of the Tajik Ministry of Labor and Social Security's State Migration Service, Anvar Boboyev, on 13 July reported a decline in the rate of labor migration form Tajikistan, Asia-Plus reported. According to official statistics, some 323,570 Tajik citizens left Tajikistan for seasonal work in the first quarter of 2005, down from 420,000 over the same period last year. Although Russia continued to account for roughly 90 percent of this labor outflow from Tajikistan, the decline was reportedly due to greater job opportunities in Tajikistan, including new jobs related to the construction of the Sangtuda-1 hydroelectric power plant. The Tajik government forecasts further job growth stemming from the June 2005 agreement with Iran for the construction of the Sangtuda-2 power plant and the Russian commitment to build the Roghun hydroelectric plant (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 8 June 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). RG

In comments in a daily news briefing, U. S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey warned on 13 July that U.S. aid to Uzbekistan this year depends on Uzbekistan's response to Washington's call for an independent international investigation into the violent unrest in Andijon this past May, according to the State Department website ( Casey added that all U.S. aid recipients are subject to "a certification process" and noted that while Washington determined last year that "Uzbekistan had not made sufficient progress" and suspended roughly $18 million in aid, the pending certification of aid depends on "how the government of Uzbekistan responds" to the demand for an international investigation. The warning also follows recent threats by Uzbek officials to reconsider the presence of U.S. troops in Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 20 June 2005). The demand for an investigation into the events in Andijon stem from reports of roughly 750 deaths when Uzbek troops opened fire on demonstrators in mid-May 2005, a much higher figure than the official Uzbek government's claim that 187 died in clashes sparked by "criminals and Islamist terrorists" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 May 2005). RG

A significant number of Uzbek security agents initiated a new operation on 13 July along the Uzbek border with Kyrgyzstan targeting Uzbek refugees who fled across the border following the violence in the town of Andijon in May, AP and AKIpress reported. The security operation reportedly includes the infiltration of Uzbek security personnel into areas of southern Kyrgyzstan near temporary camps sheltering some 400 Uzbek asylum seekers. The Uzbek security forces are allegedly offering large cash payments to local Kyrgyz to identify and turn over Uzbeks who were involved in the Andijon events and, according to local residents, are attempting to incite ethnic violence between local Kyrgyz villagers and the Uzbek refugees. RG

Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou told journalists in Minsk on 13 July that Belarus has too many universities offering studies in the humanities and nontechnical fields, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Radzkou said the state will gradually diminish this superfluity by closing branches of primarily private universities. State Monitoring Committee Chairman Anatol Tozik, who attended the same news conference, said the government will also reduce humanities faculties at state-run universities. "After graduating from higher-educational institutions, lawyers, psychologists, and economists are forced to register as jobless people," Tozik said. "We need to regulate the education of specialists in the humanities and to significantly reduce their number, including at state higher-educational institutions. Do you see what we have at the faculty of international relations of Belarusian State University? We have already trained diplomats for the entire Soviet Union. And what now?" JM

President Viktor Yushchenko told a business forum in Vienna on 13 July that the government's decision in March to abolish 24 special economic zones, which enjoyed special taxation and customs benefits, was a mistake, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yushchenko said that by September the government will complete the analysis of each individual free economic zone in order to implement a compensation mechanism. He also said he cannot rule out that a number of free economic zones can be restored, but only after individual business projects in the former zones are reviewed. "Out of the 500 projects we had, only 15 corresponded to the initial concept, but on the other hand every [free economic zone] has decent investors as well as frauds," Yushchenko noted. "When parliament abolished the economic zones, I think it was a mistake, because honest businesses were put in new and unexpected conditions, which changed the whole nature of their business." JM

Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said on 13 July that the cabinet's statement earlier the same day alleging that the parliamentary leadership staged a "provocation" last week has an "impudent character," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported. Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet charged that the parliamentary leadership conspired with opposition lawmakers to reject some of the bills proposed by the government to facilitate Ukraine's access to the World Trade Organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2005). "I talked with the president twice today and we agreed that it is necessary for us to find a common language," Lytvyn said. Interfax-Ukraine quoted President Yushchenko as saying the same day that he wants the parliament to create a pro-government majority by September. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko said on the Era television channel on 14 July that Lytvyn jointly with former government officials destabilizes the parliament and discredits the new authorities, according to Interfax-Ukraine. JM

Presidential spokeswoman Iryna Herashchenko revealed to journalists on 14 July that Yushchenko's presidential salary in June amounted to 23,567 hryvnyas ($4,660), which is 40 percent more than the prime minister's salary the same month, Interfax-Ukraine reported. JM

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Pierre-Richard Prosper told the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni avaz" of 14 July that unnamed U.S. diplomats have spoken to Russian officials about the possibility that some Serbian or Bosnian Serb fugitive war crimes indictees are hiding in Russia. He stressed that indictees cannot escape justice and that every country is obliged to observe its international obligations in that respect. Prosper noted that Russian officials have acknowledged those obligations but have not said whether any indictees are indeed in that country. The U.S. diplomat added that Washington is now waiting for Moscow to say whether any fugitives are on its territory, and, if so, what measures it intends to take. It is widely believed that former Generals Gojko Jankovic, Vinko Pandurevic, Vujadin Popovic, and Vlastimir Djordjevic are hiding in Russia. An official of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) recently denied such reports as "lies and provocations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2005). PM

At a 12 July commemorative meeting in the House of Culture in Srebrenica, several hundred people chanted the names of war crimes indictees and former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni avaz" reported on 14 July, quoting unnamed Serbs who were present at the gathering. Also in the hall were several top Bosnian Serb leaders, including Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic, Prime Minister Pero Bukejlovic, and Interior Minister Darko Matijasevic. According to the daily, none of the Bosnian Serb officials reacted to the chants of "Long live Karadzic" and "Long live Mladic." One person in the hall later told "Dnevni avaz" that the leaders "didn't do anything, and on some of their faces you could almost see contented smiles." Sadik Ahmetovic, who is a Muslim vice president of Srebrenica's town council, told the daily that the reactions of the officials show that "nothing has changed in their policies from the days of war, war crimes, and genocide against the [Muslims] of Srebrenica down to today" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 13 July 2005). PM

Husein Hodzic, chief imam in Trebinje in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, told the Croatian news agency Hina on 13 July that the reconstruction of the historical Osman Pasha mosque has been completed. The mosque was one of 10 in the region destroyed by Serbian forces during the 1992-95 conflict as part of their policy of removing all traces of the area's Ottoman heritage and transforming it into a "historic Serbian space." Hodzic said that the Osman Pasha mosque was supposed to have been rebuilt in 2001 but Serbian extremists forced a delay in the work. The reconstruction of two of the remaining nine mosques is expected to begin soon. Eastern Herzegovina was know as a center of Serbian nationalism in World War II and during the more recent conflict. PM

The League of Vojvodina Hungarians announced in Subotica on 13 July a proposed amendment to the Serbian Constitution that will allow local self-government and a high degree of autonomy in areas where ethnic minorities constitute the bulk of the population, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Belgrade leadership is a staunch defender of "decentralization" in Kosova to give the Serbian minority there a high degree of self-rule, but has been reluctant to extend similar rights to its own minorities. During the late 17th and into the 18th centuries, the Habsburgs encouraged Ottoman Serbs and people from throughout Central Europe to settle in what is now Vojvodina, which Habsburg forces had recently retaken from the Turks. The region became an ethnic mosaic and remained so through 1945, but its large German minority was expelled at the end of World War II, and many of the region's Hungarians fled or were deported at the same time. Vojvodina's Serbian population grew with Belgrade's support in the interwar years and under the communists. During the rule of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from the late 1980s to 2000, many Croats, Hungarians, and other people of central European origin left Vojvodina, but the area was generally spared the forced ethnic-cleansing campaigns Belgrade employed elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. PM

A roundtable of Moldovan legislators and nongovernmental organizations on 13 July discussed a draft bill defining the main principles for the future status of the separatist region of Transdniester, as proposed in Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's recent plan for settling the conflict (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 15 June 2005), Infotag reported. The document, prepared by the Moldovan Reintegration Ministry, reportedly proposes the status of an "autonomous-territorial" unit for Transdniester within the Republic of Moldova. The document stipulates the introduction of common customs, economic, defense, and social policies. The Transdniester autonomous republic is to have three official languages -- Moldovan (based on the Latin alphabet), Ukrainian, and Russian. The document guarantees Transdniester's right to secede from the Republic of Moldova if the latter loses its independent status. Such a decision is to be taken in a referendum conducted in Transdniester under international monitoring. "This is not a bill yet," parliamentary deputy speaker Iurie Rosca said. "This roundtable meeting is in fact the onset of a broad public discussion of the document." JM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 13 July that Moldova is obstructing the Transdniester conflict settlement, Moldovan and Russian news agencies reported. "The impression is that the Moldovan authorities are trying to do everything possible and impossible not only to block the Transdniester settlement -- they boycott every attempt to resume the negotiation process -- but also to damage Russian-Moldovan relations even more," Lavrov said. "The Transdniester settlement is possible only if both sides participate in the negotiations. It is absolutely unrealistic to impose a settlement on either side, as some officials in Chisinau are trying to do." Lavrov was speaking following his meeting with OSCE Chairman Dimitrij Rupel. Rupel reportedly believes that Yuschenko's plan for Transdniester could be combined with an earlier plan worked out by Kremlin representative Dmitrii Kozak. JM

The 40th international film festival in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, which took place last week, showed a rare bird in the world of cinema -- a Belarusian feature film. The film, which bears the double title "Occupation -- Mystery Plays," failed to win a prize at the festival but its 33-year-old director, Andrey Kudzinenka, did not appear to be particularly upset.

The film had already been shown at festivals in Russia, the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Estonia, Ukraine, and quite recently in Poland, where it won an award. Kudzinenka told RFE/RL that he did not expect any recognition in Karlovy Vary, two years after his film was released.

Kudzinenka's 90-minute film is actually a collection of three separate novellas -- the "mystery plays" of the title -- named in their successive order as "Adam and Eve," "Mother," and "Father." The novellas depict western Belarus under the Nazi occupation in 1942 but -- like medieval "mystery plays" that were based on Biblical stories -- they are not without deeper, "Biblical" undertones.

Kudzinenka shot the film with a digital camera and subsequently transferred it to celluloid. He says he is unable to estimate the total budget of the film, which was supported by a grant from the Netherlands, but its production costs were surely below $50,000.

"Adam and Eve" shows a Belarusian youth named Adam being recruited for the anti-Nazi guerillas by a Russian partisan. The Russian simultaneously gives Adam his first combat assignment -- to execute a fellow villager who defected from the guerillas to live a peaceful, even if physically exhausting life with his mistress Eve, a nymphomaniac Pole. Unable to resist Eve's lascivious charms, Adam obtains his first sexual experience and kills the Russian, while the fellow villager hangs himself in fear of the partisans' revenge. Adam stays with Eve, forgetting the partisans' cause.

This frivolous story alone could be anathema to Belarusian censors, as the guerilla war against the Nazi invaders in World War II has become an officially consecrated myth in Belarus. According to official sources, some 350,000 people took to Belarus's forests to fight the Nazis.

In official Belarusian postwar historiography, the Soviet guerillas were portrayed as an ideologically driven nationwide resistance movement against the Nazi occupation and for the return of the much-coveted Soviet Union. No erotic frolics, even in the context of the most unambiguous sacrifice for the liberation cause, were allowed in films about partisans made by the state filmmaker Belarusfilm, which was dubbed "Partisanfilm" in the Soviet era for its huge output of war pictures.

Kudzinenka's second novella appears to be even more controversial than the first. A child living with a mute mother is run over by two Germans on a motorcycle and dies. Partisans kill one German and wound the other but fail to find him. The Belarusian mother treats the wounded Nazi, feeding him with milk from her own breast. After the Nazi is back on his feet, he leaves for his unit while the mother goes apparently insane out of grief and burns herself in her house.

Initially, Kudzinenka's film obtained an official go-ahead for distribution in Belarus. But the authorities changed their decision after the movie was qualified to be shown at an international film festival in Moscow last year. It was the first time that a Belarusian movie was presented at that forum. Kudzinenka believes that the authorities were envious that his film was made by an independent filmmaker, not by Belarusfilm. Moreover, Kudzinenka says the authorities were worried that his film would seriously undermine the official Belarusian mythology about the Soviet partisans.

However, he is in two minds about the ban on his film in Belarus. "[The authorities] revoked the [distribution] license -- on one hand, they did a very bad thing, because we made the film primarily for Belarusians, who are the only people capable of spotting all the subtleties in it," Kudzinenka said. "But on the other, they [simultaneously] made publicity for the film."

In the third novella, a small boy longs for his father who left their village before the war, when it was in Poland, for the Soviet Union and never returned. The boy's mother lives with a Belarusian policemen, that is, with a Nazi collaborator. A partisan turns up claiming to be the boy's father and exploits the boy's affection for him to facilitate his comrades' way into the boy's house in order to kill the collaborator.

Another partisan, with ostensibly Asiatic features, slits the throats of the policeman and the boy's mother, only to be subsequently knifed to death by his comrade-in-arms, a Belarusian who boasts that his great-grandfather participated in an anti-Russian uprising in the 19th century. "My great-grandfather did not fight [the Russians] so that some Turks could slit the throats of our women," the Belarusian says after the slaughter ends.

Kudzinenka says he was given a peculiarly worded official explanation of the ban on his film in Belarus. "They wrote verbatim the following: 'The film does not correspond to the real truth, it can insult the sensitivities of war veterans and exert a negative influence on the education of the rising generation.' It is a sort of Soviet formulation, but the most interesting thing in it is the expression 'real truth,'" he said.

It is difficult to figure out what "real-truth" elements are missing from Kudzinenka's film from an official viewpoint, but one aspect of the film seems to be in stark contrast to all partisan movies produced by Belarusfilm. There is no ideology in Kudzinenka's three stories. His heroes choose to join or abandon the warring sides, be it Soviets or Germans, not for ideological reasons but to pursue purely private goals and impulses. In this they seem to be closer to real life, even if simultaneously further away from the "real truth" of the official myth.

The Belarusian weekly "Nasha Niva" hailed the release of "Occupation -- Mystery Plays" as the birth of independent, de-Sovietized Belarusian cinema. The film, a rarity in Belarus because of its independent production and demythologizing bite, is even rarer because of its original use of the Belarusian language. Prior to Kudzinenka's movie, virtually all feature films in Belarus were made in Russian and only sporadically dubbed into Belarusian.

Dadullah, an official within the neo-Taliban's military council, told Doha-based Al-Jazeera television on 13 July that his group has established contacts with what he described as mujahedin in Iraq. When asked by Al-Jazeera about the nature of the alleged contacts, Dadullah replied: "Revealing secrets concerning a military issue is inappropriate." Dadullah said "we still possess weapons that can down aircraft," but added without further explanation that "God willing, we will get stronger weapons than those we have in the near future." There has been speculation regarding a possible increase in contacts between antigovernment forces in Afghanistan and Iraq (see Iraq item below and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 July 2005), which could presumably include the supply of weapons. AT

Unidentified gunman on motorcycles on 13 July killed Mawlawi Saleh Mohammad, head of Ulema Council of Helmand Province, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Helmand Province Governor Hajji Sher Mohammad Akhund said that no one has been arrested in connection with the killing. Neo-Taliban spokesman Hakimi said during a 13 July telephone interview with AIP that the militia killed the cleric "because he described the jihad as evil and the American [supported] government [in Afghanistan] as the righteous government." President Hamid Karzai in a 13 July statement condemned the killing, the official National Radio of Afghanistan reported. "I am profoundly saddened by the incident," Karzai said. "Such attacks targeting religious figures and Islamic Ulema are carried out by the enemies of the prosperity of the Afghan people." Several other senior pro-Afghan government clerics have been killed recently in southern and eastern Afghanistan, Afghan Voice Agency reported on 13 July, and Hakimi said in his interview that the militia will target others with pro-government views. Saleh Mohammad's son, also a supporter of the Karzai government, was killed by the neo-Taliban in 2004, AIP commented. AT

Unidentified assailants on 11 July killed Qari Inqelab, administrator of a seminary in Laghman Province, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 12 July. Laghman's chief of security Jahan Shah said police are investigating the killing but have ruled out that the attack was politically motivated. A Laghman security official identified as Hajji Ikram told Pajhwak that Inqelab might have been killed by robbers. It is not clear why assassination has been ruled out by Laghman officials in this case, but their tactic might indicate an attempt to rule out the possibility of the existence of a campaign by the neo-Taliban to kill pro-Karzai clerics. Inqelab's political persuasion was not mentioned in the report. AT

Fifteen "enemy combatants" were killed and six others were captured in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in Deh Chopan, Zabul Province, on 13 July, American Forces Press Service reported the same day. Two other combatants were killed during fighting on 11 July. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi said on 13 July that only two members of the organization were killed in the military operation in Zabul, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Hakimi told AIP in a telephone interview that "Afghan and American forces...surrounded the Taliban" in Deh Chopan and that two militiamen "were martyred in fierce clashes." Meanwhile, American Forces Press Service reported that two Afghan employees of the U.S. company Kellogg, Brown, and Root were injured in the early morning of 13 July when rockets hit the U.S. air facility in Kandahar, southeast of Zabul. AT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi rejected "meddling" by the White House, which has urged the release of jailed journalist Akbar Ganji (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 July 2005), adding that the world already "deplores the extensive violation of human rights by America," IRNA reported on 13 July. A 12 July White House statement expressed concern over Ganji's health, and stated that he is "only one victim of a wave of repression" and "rights violations" in Iran. It urged the UN and rights activists to pursue his case. Assefi described Washington's statement as a reaction to the Iranians' rejection of "Bush's helpless calls" for them to boycott the June presidential elections, IRNA reported. U.S. officials, he added, "have many times and bitterly experienced the firm and negative response" of Iranians to "interference in Iran's internal affairs." Assefi separately rejected statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld associating Iran with a 12 July bombing in Netanya, Israel, ISNA reported. Continuing "foolish measures" by the U.S. "have made the world unsafe," Assefi said, adding that U.S. officials should "look for the source of assassinations and terrorism" in Israel and its "savage actions," ISNA reported. VS

The president of Reporters Without Borders Canada, Tanya Churchmuch, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on 13 July that her group wants Iran's judiciary to release Ganji and other imprisoned dissidents. She said Western diplomats must pressure Iran to release Ganji, but admitted that the country is indifferent to international pressures. Iran, she said, has its own priorities and motives in restricting free speech, and violates human rights to impose such restrictions. She said the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while in state custody two years ago, for which the Iranian government has yet to find a culprit (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14, 21, and 28 July 2003), is prompting concerns for the possible fates of Ganji and Naser Zarafshan, a detainee who is currently hospitalized. Meanwhile, New York-based Human Rights Watch stated on 13 July that it is "extremely concerned for Ganji's health" and termed the judiciary's refusal to release Ganji for medical treatment "cruel and inhumane." In Tehran, President Mohammad Khatami suggested that Ganji ask the judiciary chief to order his conditional release for having served most of his present sentence, ISNA reported on 13 July. "I hereby ask...[Judiciary Chief Mahmud Hashemi-] Shahrudi that...Ganji be allowed to use this conditional release," he told reporters. VS

A purported armed Sunni group in Iran claims to have beheaded an Iranian security agent it captured in Iran last month, and has sent a videotape of the apparent execution to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, Radio Farda reported on 13 July. The authenticity of the tape has not been confirmed and Iranian officials have not commented, the report added. The network broadcast parts of the tape showing masked men moving a knife toward the neck of a kneeling man. The man may be Shahab Mansuri, an Iranian agent reportedly captured by a group called God's Soldiers of the Sunni Mujahedin, Radio Farda reported. Al-Arabiya broadcast another video two weeks ago in which the group demanded that Iran release unspecified Sunni captives to prevent Mansuri's decapitation, Radio Farda reported. The captors then threatened to send Mansuri's head to President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Radio Farda added that the clothes the captors are seen wearing in the video footage, and the name of their purported leader Abdulmalik Baluchi, indicate that they may be from the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, where Iranian troops and police have clashed with bandits and alleged separatists. VS

Iran's new police chief, Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam promised reporters in Tehran on 13 July to take measures to reduce the number of road-accident deaths and to prevent unspecified interference in state-security work, Iranian news agencies reported. He said "there will be a firm response to those who interfere in the realm of state security" when they have "no responsibility in that area," reported on 13 July. Iranians often complain of plainclothes and unidentified men arresting or detaining people with apparent impunity. Ahmadi said police will make it a priority to "implement the law by legal means." He added the police will assure people's security, working "with moderation, courtesy, and morality." Ahmadi also mentioned Iran's high traffic-accident death rate, which he said is the "same as the number of annual deaths" during Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq, Fars news agency reported on 13 July. Ahmadi was formally presented as police chief during a ceremony in Tehran that day, news agencies reported. VS

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick toured an Iraqi police-training facility in Al-Hillah on 13 July, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. Zoellick observed police recruits' training exercises and told commanders at the facility that "I wanted to come to thank you and to thank your staff as well because I've heard that you've been doing a great job here." Speaking to reporters, Zoellick commented on speculation of an early pullout by U.K. troops in Iraq. "As President [George W.] Bush has said, and as the British have said, our goal is to stand up Iraqi capabilities before we stand down," Zoellick said. "So at some date we do want to turn over the security of Iraq to Iraq's own forces like the police here today. But that decision will be made by the elected leaders of Iraq, and the elected leaders of the United States based on the conditions." Zoellick also met with government officials and leaders of the Sunni community in Baghdad on 13 July to discuss the drafting of the constitution, RFI reported. KR

Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick told reporters in Al-Hillah on 13 July that he visited a multinational division in a southern province during the day and was told by a Polish general that an Iraqi battalion will soon be taking over some of the security operations in that province, RFI reported. "And [the general] was saying that he hoped by the end of the year that the Iraqi units would have the experience to take over all the security -- but this is more than a military issue, it's a political issue," Zoellick said. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari confirmed plans for a security handover at a separate press briefing with Zoellick in Baghdad on 13 July. "Some governorates are secure. Our forces -- whether those belonging to the Interior Ministry or the Defense Ministry -- have done a good job, and [terrorist] operations in these governorates have almost approached zero. It is possible to begin withdrawing the multinational forces to outside the towns as an initial step to encourage the scheduling of the withdrawal operation," al-Ja'fari said. He added that the transitional government has no intention of setting a date for a withdrawal of multinational forces at this time. KR

Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn denied in a 13 July statement that its top commander in Baghdad has been captured by U.S. forces, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 14 July. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers said on 12 July that Abu Abd al-Aziz, whom he described as the group's "main leader" in Baghdad, was captured on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2005). The 13 July statement said that Abd al-Aziz is a "platoon" leader in Baghdad and is not a top leader. Meanwhile, an official within the neo-Taliban's military council identified as Dadallah told Al-Jazeera television on 13 July that there are contacts between the Taliban and "mujahedin" in Iraq (see Afghan item above). Dadallah declined to elaborate on his claim. Al-Zarqawi was in Afghanistan ahead of the 11 September 2001 attacks and is known to have links to Islamist fighters in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 June and 5 April 2005). KR

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr announced an investigation into the arrest of Sheikh Diya Mahmud al-Janabi, imam of the Malik al-Mulk Mosque in Baghdad, following a plea from the Sunni Endowments Bureau on 13 July, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Al-Janabi and 10 others were arrested on 10 July by the ministry's Maghawir (commando) forces. They were found dead on 12 July. The bureau director for the Sunni Al-Waqf Council (endowments office), Adnan Muhammad Salman al-Dulaymi, told Al-Sharqiyah on 13 July that this is not the first instance in which an imam has been arrested and later found dead. He contended that similar incidents have taken place in the Al-Amiriyah, Abu Ghurayb, Al-Sayidiyah, Al-Iskan, and Al-Sha'b neighborhoods of the capital. Al-Dulaymi told Al-Jazeera on 13 July that the bodies of the 11 men bore signs of torture and appeared to be killed by gunshots to the head. KR

London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 13 July that members of the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance are studying a plan to deploy militiamen from the leading Shi'ite parties to some neighborhoods in Baghdad in the coming weeks. The forces will reportedly be under the control of the Interior Ministry. "This agreement between the government and the militias' commanders defines their roles in two processes: the exchange of security information and the hunting down of terrorist elements in the field," Hizballah leader Hasan Sari told the daily. Sari said that the militias have not been integrated into the Interior and Defense Ministries' forces because of budget deficits. The move is likely to draw criticism from Sunni leaders who have accused Shi'ite militiamen of targeting members of the Sunni community in extra-judicial killings in recent weeks (see item above). Kurdish leaders are also likely to object to the plan. They contend that peshmerga forces have easily been merged into the Iraqi security apparatus. Armed militias were ordered disbanded in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority. KR

Jordanian prosecutors have said that seven nationals have been arrested on terrorism charges for recruiting young men to fight U.S. forces in Iraq and for endangering Jordan's relations with Iraq, RFI reported on 13 July. An indictment against the men states that at least five Jordanians were recruited, including Ra'id al-Banna, who purportedly carried out a major suicide attack in Al-Hillah in February that killed some 100 Iraqis (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 March 2005). Two of the defendants have been charged with recruiting fighters in Jordan and sending them to a Syrian identified as Abu al-Jannah for training. Al-Jannah allegedly trained the men in Syria and sent them to Iraq. The other defendants were charged with raising money to pay for the training of the alleged fighters, "Al-Hayat" reported on 13 July. The Jordanian government reportedly does not know the whereabouts of the other four men allegedly sent to Iraq. Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters in Amman on 13 July that the Jordanian government's policy will not be determined by armed groups, adding that the embassy intends to send its ambassador to Baghdad as soon as possible, RFI reported the same day. KR

Two suicide bombers bombed an entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad on 14 July, killing two Iraqis and wounding 13, Reuters reported. The first bomber detonated his vehicle, possibly a police car, at a checkpoint for civilian workers entering the Green Zone. The checkpoint is manned by Iraqi police personnel. The second bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber who approached the site of the first bombing and blew himself up. A third potential bomber on foot was detained by police after they noticed wires hanging from under his clothing. The attacks come as Iraqis mark the 14 July 1958 revolution that deposed the British monarchy and installed the first independent Iraqi government. KR