Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - July 19, 2005

Dmitrii Kozak, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, told journalists in Moscow on 18 July that the amount of autonomous power granted to federal subjects should be dependent on their level of economic development and financial situations, RIA-Novosti reported. Under such a system, federal constituencies could be categorized by whether they are recipients of federal funds, intermediaries, or donor regions. Kozak said the first group should comprise territories whose budgets are largely dependent on federal funds. Consequentially, those territories would relinquish to the federal center administrative powers that they cannot support financially. Kozak said he believes that the republics of Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetiya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Tuva, and Koryak Autonomous Okrug would be among those in the first category. Kozak said his proposals will be submitted to the government as a bill by the end of summer. VY

Vasilii Yakemenko, leader of the pro-presidential youth group Nashi, on 18 July described the role of a summer camp in Tverskaya Oblast where more than 3,000 Nashi members from throughout Russia are undergoing training, TV-Tsentr reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2005). He said the camp is intended "to prepare the cadre's revolution in Russia," adding that "we are training nationally oriented managers who will provide Russia's global leadership in the 21st century." Addressing Nashi activists during the two-week camp, deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov called on them to "protect [Russian] youth from impact of the West," and said that the faster you "come to us" the faster "we will hand over the country to you." VY

Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii told participants at the Nashi summer camp that "there are people preparing riots in 2007, and they will try already to test their strength this fall during the elections for the Moscow City Duma," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 19 July. "Putin is not afraid of riots, because he has the means [to counter them] and he is the supreme commander in chief," Pavlovskii added. He also criticized Yabloko's leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii, saying he is merely another Boris Berezovskii and describing him as a key adviser and tool of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported. VY

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's cabinet on 18 July adopted a national program of patriotic education of youth that will promote national and state values through the year 2010, Russian news agencies reported. Approximately 500 million rubles ($18 million) will be allocated to support films, festivals, competitions, software development, and the promotion of state symbols and the national anthem. The program will also earmark funding to "confront attempts to compromise and devaluate patriotic ideals in the mass media, literature, and art, " reported. VY

Investigative journalist and Duma Deputy Aleksandr Khinstein (Unified Russia), whose request initiated an investigation into former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 July 2005) on 19 July published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" new documents and new accusations supporting his allegations that Kasyanov illegally purchased an exclusive estate. Meanwhile, "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 19 July published additional documents provided by Khinstein and the results of its own investigation that allege that Kasyanov purchased two luxury dachas in prestigious areas while he was in office. In connection with these purported purchases, Khinstein has sent a request to the Prosecutor-General's Office asking it to investigate how Kasyanov, who until his retirement was officially never involved in any business, could afford such purchases. VY

Unified Russia faction deputy head Mikhail Bugera replied "No" when asked by a reporter if the Kremlin is prepared to detain former Prime Minister Kasyanov, "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 28, reported. "Kasyanov not a man who will risk his neck for politics," he added. However, Duma Deputy Aleksei Ostrovskii (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, LDPR) told the weekly that Kasyanov could face up to five years in prison, "and the privatization of dachas is only a minor accusation against him." Former Yukos executive Leonid Nevzlin, who himself is wanted by Russian authorities, told "Kommersant-Vlast": "Ask Putin. He is only person who knows." Another Putin rival, self-exiled oligarch Berezovskii, told the magazine: "Yes, they can put Kasyanov in prison, but then he will be president." VY

Writing in "Vremya novostei" on 18 July, Semen Novoprudskii said that Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov revealed through a recent statement in which he said, "Stop stealing, and there will be no politics" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2005), that in Russia politics and stealing are practically one and the same. Indeed, there are three reasons to believe that cases of Kasyanov and former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii are political in nature, Novoprudskii wrote. First, both cases involved people who either criticized the Kremlin or funded the opposition. Second, the charges brought against the two could be filed against a vast number of officials and businessmen. And third, none of the oligarchs who remain loyal to the Kremlin or officials from President Putin's closed circle have faced similar accusations. Therefore, Novoprudskii concluded, the criminal persecution of Khodorkovskii and Kasyanov must derive exclusively from the intention to prevent them from participating in the 2004 presidential election, because under Russia law those who are on trial or under criminal investigation cannot run for president. VY

A Moscow court jury on 18 July unanimously acquitted Vyacheslav Ivankov, aka Yaponchik, of charges that he killed two Turkish nationals in Moscow in 1992, Russian and international media reported. The jury said it was not possible to prove Ivankov's guilt because witnesses could not positively identify him. Ivankov, 65, spent many years in Soviet prisons for running criminal gangs and other serious crimes. Following his release in 1991 he moved to the United States, where in 1996 he was arrested for extorting $3.5 million from Russian immigrants and for marriage fraud. Ivankov spent 10 years in U.S. prison until he was handed over to Russia in 2004. Mikhail Borshchevskii, the Russian government's representative in the Constitutional Court, said on 18 July that the trial merely showed that the defense's case was stronger than the prosecution's, RTR reported. Meanwhile, state prosecutor Maria Semenenko said that she will appeal the verdict. VY

Some 48 percent of respondents in a nationwide poll taken earlier this month said that a country with "normal" political, economic, and social conditions does not need to have a political opposition, reported on 18 July, citing the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). The same VTsIOM poll found that 33 percent consider a political opposition necessary. Respondents who had started or completed higher education were almost evenly divided on the question (46 percent saying an opposition is necessary, 44 percent saying not), while respondents with lower levels of education by large margins said an opposition was not needed. Supporters of Unified Russia, the Communist Party, and the LDPR were more likely to say that an opposition was not necessary under normal conditions, while Motherland supporters were more likely to believe in the need for an opposition. Some 61 percent of respondents named the KPRF as an opposition party, but just 44 percent and 41 percent said the same about the LDPR and Motherland, respectively. LB

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is not planning to resign before his current term ends in December 2007, Interfax reported on 18 July, citing Mikhail Solomentsev, first deputy head of the mayor's press service. The recent adoption of a law granting privileges to Moscow city officials, including former mayors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005), has fueled speculation that Luzhkov plans to resign early, as President Boris Yeltsin did at the end of 1999. Both on 15 July and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 July commented that the Moscow City Duma hurried to pass the new law, approving it in two readings at a special session on 15 July (one day after the chamber had adjourned for summer vacation) rather than waiting for the fall session. But speaking to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Lebedev speculated that the city legislature rushed consideration of the law not to pave the way for Luzhkov's resignation, but because the law provides privileges for former Moscow City Duma deputies. Elections for the legislature of the Russian capital are scheduled for December 2005, and current deputies may have wanted to safeguard their own retirements in case they are not reelected. LB

The Yabloko-United Democrats faction in the Moscow City Duma has dissolved, with two of its three members switching to the Unified Russia faction, "Gazeta" reported on 18 July. The deal gives Unified Russia 20 out of the 35 seats in the city legislature. Moscow Duma deputies representing the Union of Rightist Forces, Motherland, and the Party of Life recently accused Yabloko and Unified Russia deputies of working together to pass legislation and shut out competing parties in the Moscow Duma elections scheduled for this December, "Novye izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 July. The latest developments suggest that such cooperation was not authorized by the leaders of Grigorii Yavlinskii's party. Aleksei Makarkin, deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies, told "Gazeta" that the dissolution of Moscow's Yabloko faction will undermine Yavlinskii's plans to begin his political comeback by heading Yabloko's party list in the Moscow Duma elections. Makarkin speculated that the two Yabloko members who joined Unified Russia did so in order to boost their chances for winning reelection to the city legislature or gaining good jobs with the Moscow government. LB

The Federal Postal Service has informed publishers that it will change its fee structure for delivering publications to subscribers, effective 1 January 2006, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. The fee for delivering Moscow-based daily newspapers will rise most sharply, doubling in some cases. Delivery costs for regional and raion newspapers will increase as well, but a 30 percent discount will lessen the blow. Postal Service general director Denis Chuiko told "Kommersant-Daily" that some large-circulation federal newspapers may be able to negotiate discounts as well. Up to now, regional branches of the Postal Service have used different formulas to determine the price charged for delivering newspapers and magazines, but next year the fee structure will be standardized. Publishers predict that the increased costs may cause a 30 percent decline in subscriptions to daily newspapers. Subscriptions make up a relatively small proportion of the circulation of most newspapers. However, subscription rates are still important for advertisers, according to Tatyana Melikhova, deputy general director of the Moskovskii Komsomolets publishing house. Experts cited by "Kommersant-Daily" said the magazine market will be much less affected, because in Russia magazines are distributed almost entirely through retail outlets rather than by subscription. LB

Ivanovo Oblast Governor Vladimir Tikhonov may become Russia's first sitting governor to be charged with bribery, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. On 16 July, the Ivanovo Oblast Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal case against Valerii Tsoi, head of the oblast's road department, for allegedly taking large bribes from a businessman whose company won a state contract. Tsoi was taken into custody the same day and allegedly told investigators that he was collecting money also for the governor and two of his deputies. "Izvestiya" reported on 19 July that Tikhonov has appeared before prosecutors to answer questions but has not yet been charged with a crime. Ivanovo Legislative Assembly Chairman Vladimir Grishin, an opponent of Tikhonov, told "Kommersant-Daily" that law enforcement officers had searched the governor's home and office, a claim Tikhonov vehemently denied. Tikhonov, whose term as governor expires this December, has accused political opponents of making false charges in order to deny him another term in office, TV-Center and NTV reported on 18 July. Tikhonov claims that Tsoi, found in possession of a large sum of money, was "set up" by an acquaintance, according to "Kommersant-Daily." LB

The long-anticipated elections for a new, bicameral Chechen parliament have been scheduled for 27 November, Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev told a cabinet meeting on 14 July, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. Preparations for the ballot will get under way in August, he added. Also on 14 July, Chechen Election Commission Chairman Ismail Baikhanov told Interfax that his commission has already determined the number of electoral districts, formed territorial election commissions, and drawn up lists of the 596,961 eligible voters. Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov told journalists in Moscow on 6 June that he estimates that 10 parties will win representation in the new legislature, but he did not name them. On 12 July, Moscow Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alekseeva told Interfax that "moderate separatists" in Chechnya should have the right to participate in the parliamentary election as they account for almost 10 percent of the republic's population. LF

The Strasbourg-based European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected an appeal by the Russian government against a February ECHR ruling that ordered Moscow to pay almost 190,000 euros ($228,000) in compensation to six Chechens whose relatives were killed or injured by federal troops in 1999-2000, Interfax reported on 14 July, quoting Memorial human rights center lawyer Kirill Koroteev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2005). LF

Addressing a press conference in Baku on 18 July, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov, who is President Ilham Aliyev's special envoy for the Karabakh peace talks, said that "in present conditions we are closer to peace than ever before," reported. Echoing comments by Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005), Azimov enumerated aspects of the conflict currently under discussion, including the withdrawal of Armenian forces from districts of Azerbaijan adjacent to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the repatriation of displaced persons, economic rehabilitation of the conflict zone, and the deployment of a peacekeeping force, Interfax reported. At the same time, Azimov characterized as either a "provocation" or a "trial balloon" Armenian statements last week that a peace settlement could make provision for a future referendum on the status of Karabakh vis-a-vis Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 14 July 2005). He said Mammadyarov will meet in Moscow on 23 August with his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian to prepare for talks on the Karabakh conflict three days later in Kazan between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev. LF

The Yeni Sisayet (YeS, or New Policy) addressed an open letter on 15 July to President Aliyev asking that former President Ayaz Mutalibov, who has lived in exile in Moscow since May 1992, be permitted to return to Azerbaijan to participate as a candidate in the 6 November parliamentary election, Turan reported. The appeal said allowing Mutalibov to return to Azerbaijan "for the sake of justice and statehood" would contribute to the development of democracy. The Social-Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, of which Mutalibov is co-chairman, is a corporate member of YeS. On 19 July the online daily quoted Mutalibov as saying that the Azerbaijani authorities are studying the implications of allowing him to return, but that he would do so only if his security were guaranteed and legislation were passed granting former presidents immunity from prosecution. LF

Local authorities detained for several hours some 30 members of the Azadlyg (Liberty) opposition election bloc who planned to stage a campaign rally in Kyurdamir on 16 July, reported on 19 July. The bloc has lodged a complaint with the OSCE's Baku office. Local authorities and police sought similarly to thwart Azadlyg's campaign rallies in Sabirabad, Lenkoran, Masally, and Djalilabad. LF

The Georgian Interior Ministry has raised from the original 20,000 laris ($11,000) to 150,000 laris the reward offered for information leading to the arrest of the man who threw a hand grenade at U.S. President George W. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on 10 May, Georgian media reported on 18 July. The grenade landed around 30 meters away from the podium where the two presidents were addressing a crowd of tens of thousands, but failed to explode (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 17 May 2005). Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told journalists that the suspect is aged between 25-35 and is 175-180 centimeters tall. LF

Armenian youths attacked a group of some 30 Georgian students on 17 July who traveled to the village of Samsari in the predominantly Armenian-populated southern region of Akhalkalaki to restore a local church, Caucasus Press reported. One of the Georgians was subsequently hospitalized with head injuries. A criminal case has been opened on charges of encroaching on freedom of worship. Also on 17 July, unknown perpetrators vandalized the only Georgian-language school in Akhalkalaki, smashing windows and equipment. An Education Ministry official told RFE/RL's Georgian Service on 18 July that he does not believe there is any connection between the two incidents. LF

Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Adakhan Madumarov told a press conference in Bishkek on 18 July that the inauguration of President-elect Kurmanbek Bakiev will take place on 14 August, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Madumarov said that the leaders of CIS countries, the United States, and China, among others, will receive invitations. Madumarov also said that Bakiev will submit the candidacy of Feliks Kulov to be prime minister as soon as Bakiev takes the oath of office. The presumptive appointment of Kulov, who heads the Ar-Namys party, harks back to an agreement that Bakiev and Kulov reached before the 10 July presidential ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2005). DK

OSCE special envoy Alojz Peterle met with acting First Deputy Prime Minister Kulov on 18 July to discuss Kyrgyzstan's recent presidential election and the country's progress toward democracy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Peterle commented, "I'm more than pleased that the [Kyrgyz presidential] elections were done in that way as they were done." He added that he feels that the new government is "preparing themselves to do what is necessary to be done for the benefit of the country." For his part, Kulov said that the new government's priority tasks will be the battle against corruption, unemployment, and poverty. DK

In an interview with Kyrgyz Radio One on 18 July, Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Avazbek Atakhanov said that the withdrawal of the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan is not under consideration. Noting that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, recently called for a timetable for ending the U.S. military presence in Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2005), Atakhanov said, "We are not talking here about the withdrawal of the U.S. air base from Kyrgyzstan.... To my mind, this issue must not be inflated in any way. Everything is in line with intergovernmental agreements, and the time frame for the air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be considered at the bilateral level." Atakhanov concluded, "What is at issue is not the full withdrawal of the U.S. air base from Kyrgyzstan. We are talking only about the conditions under which the base is present." DK

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 18 July, Uzbek Television reported. The two discussed deepening economic ties in light of improving relations between the two countries. Against the backdrop of Wu's visit, China's Sinopec company agreed to invest $106 million in Uzbekistan's oil sector, Interfax reported. Uzbekistan also agreed to open a consulate in Shanghai, UzA reported. DK

Two employees of U.S.-based media organization Internews went on trial in Tashkent on 18 July, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Kholida Anorboeva, the executive director of the Internews office in Uzbekistan, and accountant Olga Normurodova are charged with producing video and written materials without a license. They face penalties ranging from a fine to six months in prison if convicted, the BBC's Uzbek Service reported. The trial was supposed to have been open, but judge Nodir Akbarov ordered journalists and representatives of diplomatic missions out of the courtroom. DK

A meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on 18 July issued a statement condemning "the Uzbek authorities' refusal to allow an independent international inquiry into the recent events in [Andijon]," according to a press release on the EU Council's website ( Stressing that "EU-Uzbekistan relations are based on mutual respect for the principles of democracy, rule of law, and human rights," the statement condemned "the Uzbek leadership for breaching these principles in the light of the reported excessive, disproportionate, and indiscriminate use of force by the Uzbek security forces during the [Andijon] events." DK

The Belarusian authorities on 18 July ordered that U.S. professor Terry Boesch leave Belarus with his two daughters in the following 24 hours, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and the Charter-97 website ( reported. Boesch has taught international law at Belarusian State University in Minsk for the past two years. "Before taking part in the 2006 presidential election, [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka has started a big clean-up aimed at representatives of the West," Boesch commented on his expulsion in a letter posted on the Charter-97 website. The U.S. professor said he avoided politics and contacts with the opposition while staying in Belarus, where he concentrated on academic and humanitarian activities, including the organization of book donations, exchanges for Belarusian students, and visits of guest lecturers. "It is paradoxical that I have tried to do everything possible to help the Belarusian people," Boesch wrote in his letter. "I think I'm the last man from the West in Belarus who has tried to understand the Belarusian authorities and work with them in order to help this country." JM

President Viktor Yushchenko informed a meeting with the Interior Ministry leadership in Kyiv on 18 July of his decision to dissolve with immediate effect the ministry's traffic-patrol department, which is known in Ukraine under the acronym DAI (State Vehicle Inspection), Ukrainian media reported. The DAI remains an inefficient and corrupt service, Yushchenko said. "I have warned the ministers three times -- if DAI [officers] continue hiding in bushes [to ambush cars in speed traps], there will be no DAI in this country," he said, according to Interfax-Ukraine. "You have discredited this service. That is why I have decided there will be no DAI in Ukraine as of today. I expect a draft directive to be prepared on this issue within the next 24 hours." Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko commented on Channel 5 later the same day that Yushchenko's order did not come as a surprise to him, but Lutsenko added that he had not expected such "radical steps." Lutsenko vowed to present within a week a project to convert DAI into new, "European-style" service. Ukraine's DAI employed some 23,000 people in 2004. JM

President Yushchenko said at the same meeting with the Interior Ministry leadership on 18 July that it is necessary to change all Ukrainian regional police chiefs in order to counteract corruption and enhance efficiency of law enforcement, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "With a new personnel we will have hope that the work in regions will improve," Yushchenko said. "If we begin fighting corruption from the beginning, we should fully replace people representing the discredited part of the police." Yushchenko noted that oblast police directorates employ investigators who use torture and take bribes. Yushchenko criticized the police-directorate chiefs in Lviv and Volyn Oblasts and asked them to step down. Interior Minister Lutsenko announced after the meeting that he will sack the regional police chiefs in Lviv, Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Cherkasy oblasts, as well as the head of the transport police in Odesa and the chief of the Interior Ministry's Department for Fighting Narcotics. JM

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on 18 July that setting a date for starting membership talks with Croatia could take place in September at the earliest, when the Hague-based war crimes tribunal issues its report on Zagreb's cooperation with that body, dpa reported. Failure to catch fugitive indictee and former General Ante Gotovina is the main obstacle to Croatia's starting EU membership talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 June and 1 July 2005). The ministers agreed that Turkey can start planned negotiations with the EU on 3 October only if it first accepts an expanded customs union, which would mean recognizing Cyprus as part of the package. Straw stressed that the timetables for Croatia and Turkey are "under the proviso that the criteria are met." After the meeting, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn "expressed concern over the political situation" in Romania, Reuters reported. He did not explicitly say whether possible early elections in Romania might hold up its membership. In related news, Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said in Vienna that the former Yugoslav states should have priority over Turkey for possible EU membership, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

Former chief U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke wrote in "The Washington Post" of 19 July that the 1995 Dayton peace agreement led to "peace and not simply a cease-fire; this war will not resume." He stressed that Bosnia-Herzegovina has not "become two separate states, as many critics of...Dayton...predicted. Although many (including in the Pentagon) predicted a Korea-like demilitarized zone between Serbs and Muslims, there are no barriers between the regions, and there are growing economic and political ties between ethnic groups" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 July 2005). Holbrooke noted that the U.S.-led intervention that led to the Bosnian Serb defeat did not come easily. He wrote that "from 1991 to 1995, the United States had been reluctant to act in Bosnia. But after Srebrenica, President Bill Clinton knew that although the American people would not like it, the United States could no longer avoid involvement there. Thus began the diplomatic and military policy that led to the Dayton accords, to peace in Bosnia and, four years later, to the liberation of the Albanian people in Kosovo from Slobodan Milosevic's oppression." The former envoy added that in the 10 years since Dayton, "no...American or NATO military personnel have been killed by hostile action in Bosnia. It is a mark of the respect in which NATO -- that is, the United States -- is held." PM

Members of the Defense Reform Commission headed by Defense Minister Nikola Radovanovic signed legislation in Sarajevo on 18 July aimed at setting up a unified military for all Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005). The measures must now be approved by the Bosnian parliament. High Representative Paddy Ashdown urged all political parties represented in the legislature to approve the measures lest they block a "European future" for their citizens. PM

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Defense Minister Radovanovic said in Sarajevo on 18 July that the military reform will lead to streamlining and consolidating the current separate structures for the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Muslim Federation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He noted that the first unified budget will take effect on 1 January 2006 and that the "transformation will be completed by the end of 2007." Separate Defense ministries and recruiting systems will cease to exist by the end of 2005, he added. Radovanovic argued that there are at least two reasons for the reform: "First, NATO has made it clear that [Bosnia] cannot be included in the alliance if it has two [separate] armies, [including] three [ethnically based] components [of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats]. The second reason is that the general security situation has changed considerably in this region, especially after 11 September [2001]," he added. Another member of the commission, General Sifet Podzic, noted that there will be "a single unified chain of command that begins with the [Bosnian] Presidency. The operational command will include three...brigades with command centers [located] probably in Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Mostar." PM

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said at a special parliamentary session on 18 July that Moldova has met all the commitments it assumed when it joined the Council of Europe 10 years ago, Infotag reported. "From a totalitarian regime, we have come to a modern democracy, to the formation and consolidation of a law-governed state," Voronin asserted. The session, devoted to the 10th anniversary of Moldova's accession to the Council of Europe, was attended by Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis. "Moldova has made spectacular progress towards the culture of democracy," Davis told Moldovan lawmakers. "The recent joint declaration of your political parties on European integration has accelerated this process. It has delighted your friends and confounded your critics." On 24 March, the Moldovan legislature adopted a joint declaration of all parliamentary forces to pursue European integration under the Moldova-EU Action Plan signed in February. JM

Almost immediately after Uzbek security forces fired on demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijon on 13 May, Russian officials, later supported by their Uzbek colleagues, began blaming elements infiltrating from Afghanistan for instigating the events and claimed that the combat capability of subversive elements in Afghanistan was not diminishing. However, the final declaration from the meeting of the heads of member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, held recently in Astana, Kazakhstan, called for the U.S. and its allies to withdrawal their military units from Central Asia. RFE/RL examines the contradiction in the two comments made by Moscow and some of its Central Asian allies.

After the Andijon incident, Russian media immediately began quoting "high-ranking sources," who said that "large number of militants, comprising bandits, Islamists, radicals, and Taliban fighters" infiltrated [Uzbekistan] from Afghanistan and regrouped "at a juncture between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan." These charges were then echoed on several occasions by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking at the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 9 June voiced his concern over the "continuing activity of antigovernment groups" in Afghanistan, adding that "combat activities" of the neo-Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e Islami, and Al-Qaeda, is "not subsiding."

Ivanov claimed that his government has "information that purposeful training of militants who are supposed to go to other countries continues in Afghanistan." Then, repeating the charges already made by Lavrov, the Ivanov said that a "vivid instance" of such subversive activities originating from Afghanistan "could be seen during recent developments in Uzbekistan." According to Ivanov, Moscow has "reliable" information that the events in Andijon "were instigated from Afghan territory."

Claiming that a number of neo-Taliban have been "preparing an invasion of Uzbekistan for a long time," Ivanov asked his NATO colleagues: "Who organized the disturbances" in Uzbekistan, "how, and with whose help?"

During a visit by Uzbek President Islam Karimov in late June to Moscow, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said that while he will not "dwell on other aspects of the tragic events of 12-13 May [in Andijon]," he can "confirm gunmen did infiltrate from special bases in Afghanistan."

There are several factors that cast doubt on the allegations made by the three top Russian officials about the presence of the neo-Taliban in Uzbekistan. Geographically, for neo-Taliban fighters to cross over directly from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, they would have to, first, reach the northern regions of Balkh Province -- where the neo-Taliban have not been active since late 2001; second, they would have to cross the carefully guarded, 135-kilometer border formed by the Amu River that separates Afghanistan from Uzbekistan. From there they would have to go though much of Uzbekistan and/or Tajikistan to reach the area mentioned by Russia's leadership.

While not impossible, to complete such a mission, the neo-Taliban fighters would need the skills of some of the world's best special-operations units, which, judging by their activities in Afghanistan, they don't seem to possess.

The Afghan government has also rejected Moscow's charges.

In a letter to Putin in late June, Karzai called for "mutual trust" between Afghanistan and the Russian Federation. Karzai assured his Russian counterpart that "the government of Afghanistan will never allow the Afghan soil to be used as a base to carry out terrorist activities" elsewhere.

The Afghan president expressed hope that Moscow will "stop the spread of suspicion and untrue beliefs" and that the two countries deal with each other "on the basis of facts." Despite "bitter experiences that resulted from the invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union [in 1979]," Karzai wrote to Putin, "for the "historical interests of the peoples" of Afghanistan and Russia "we need to look into the future" and implement "reasonable polices."

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, one of Karzai's foreign-policy advisers, told RFE/RL on 29 June that Kabul reacted "with regret" to Putin's remarks. Spanta attributed the unrest in Uzbekistan to "developments in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan and also the proximity [of Uzbekistan] to democratic countries." According to Spanta, the activities of the neo-Taliban and Al-Qaeda were "mainly against Afghanistan" and had "nothing to do with Central Asia."

While Russia and Uzbekistan have yet to offer substantive proof of their allegation that neo-Taliban elements and other subversive elements trained in Afghanistan were behind the Andijon incident, no official from either country has retracted their claim that essentially Afghanistan is so unstable that on its territory exists terrorist training camps and through its borders, even to the relatively calm north, subversive elements are able to cross with ease into Central Asia.

It was therefore surprising to read that the heads of members states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which includes Russia, China and former Soviet Central Asian republics with the exception of Turkmenistan, at their annual meeting declared that the United States and its coalition partners should establish a deadline for the withdrawal of their military facilities from Central Asia based on "positive dynamics of stabilizing internal political situation in Afghanistan."

"Considering the completion of the active military stage of antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan," the declaration stated, the SCO members states "consider it necessary" that antiterrorist coalition partners involved in the Afghan campaign "set a final timeline" for the use of the bases that are located in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

While the United States has rejected the demand by SCO and the issue is still being debated in some of the Central Asian capitals, one question that needs clarification, especially from Moscow and Tashkent, is whether terrorism has been indeed defeated in Afghanistan, or not?

The issue of U.S. bases in the region may very well be linked to the overall strategic balance of power in the greater Central Asian region between Washington and Moscow and their respective allies. Likewise, the contradictory statements coming from Russia and Uzbekistan regarding the defeat or resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan may be linked to threats to the survival of the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia, ranging from democratization to local opposition. Nevertheless, the charges made by Moscow and Tashkent regarding the Andijon incident and their signature on the SCO declaration casts doubt on the credibility of both the earlier claim and their current demand.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan on 18 July said that the 17 suspected militants killed in North Waziristan Agency, close to the border with Afghanistan, were likely from Kazakhstan, AFP reported. Initial reports indicated that those killed were from Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005). "We now believe the entire group was from Kazakhstan," Sultan told AFP. The Kazakh Embassy in Islamabad, however, disputed the claims made by Sultan, "Kazakhstan-Today" reported on 18 July. Yernur Tuyakbayev, a spokesman for the Kazakh embassy, said that all Kazakh citizens who arrive in Pakistan register at the embassy. "According to official data, no Kazakh citizen is living in North Waziristan at the moment," Tuyakbayev added. AT

Neo-Taliban commander Mullah Mahmud on 18 July disputed the report by the Afghan Defense Ministry that 20 militiamen were killed in the southeastern Khost Province, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005). "No such incident happened" in Khost, Mahmud told AIP. The neo-Taliban commander conceded that seven neo-Taliban militiamen were killed in a battle with Pakistani forces. AT

Afghan security officials on 17 July foiled an attempt by terrorists to destroy the Sarobi dam situated around 75 kilometers from Kabul, Pajhwak reported on 18 July. Sarobi District police chief Sher Shah Yusofzai told Pajhwak that unidentified terrorists placed 10 Russian-built SAM-21 surface-to-air missiles on a hill, targeting the dam. The Sarobi dam and its sister power station in Naghlu provide much of Kabul's electricity. No one has been arrested in the case. AT

Three Afghan policemen, including a senior officer, were arrested on 18 July in Herat Province on charges of sexually abusing a young girl, Pajhwak News Agency reported. According to Nesar Ahmad Paikar, head of Herat's crime fighting branch, an 18-year-old girl who was arrested on charges of running away with her boyfriend was arrested and brought to a female detention center where the policemen sexually abused her. A Herat police department spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmad told Pajhwak that the charges against the officers have been proven and they will be tried according to the law. While sexual abuse against both women and men in detention centers is not uncommon in Afghanistan, the fact that three police officers are being charged for such a crime is a rarity. AT

On 17 July, the 36th day of his hunger strike, imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji was transferred to Tehran's Milad Hospital, Radio Farda reported. Physicians would not give access to journalists and Ganji's wife, Masumeh Shafii. Dr. Fatahi, the head of Milad Hospital, said on 18 July that Ganji resumed eating a special diet provided by the hospital, ILNA reported. He added, "Ganji's condition is by no means critical. I categorically deny his being critically ill." Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi said on 18 July that Ganji must return to jail after his treatment ends, Radio Farda reported. Tehran Judiciary chief Abbas Alizadeh said Ganji will not be released until he completes his sentence, Radio Farda reported, and he said the country will not be able to run its prisons if everyone who behaves this way is released. BS

Ganji's family visited him in the hospital late on 18 July, Former Deputy Minister for Islamic Culture and Guidance Issa Saharkhiz told IRNA on 19 July. Saharkhiz, who now heads a press freedom association, said the family saw that Ganji is receiving nutrition and medicine intravenously. BS

The president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, arrived in Tehran on 18 July for a three day visit, IRNA reported. Gnassingbe met with President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami at Saadabad Palace, and the host told his guest that cooperation between the two countries will contribute to stability and security in both. Khatami said that Tehran-Lome relations will be based on respect and democratic principles. He also discussed expanded cooperation in research and education. BS

An anonymous "high-ranking diplomat" said on 18 July in Moscow that Russia's Audit Chamber is investigating the level of compliance with the Bushehr nuclear reactor contract, ITAR-TASS reported. The request for the investigation came from the Russian Embassy in Tehran, and it will focus on the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, the joint stock company Atomstroieksport, and its office in Iran. "But an additional examination is needed. We are interested in commissioning the plant on time, without further delays," the diplomat said. Atomstroieksport is accused of misusing 665 million rubles ($23.1 million). BS

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari wrapped up his three-day trip to Iran on 18 July, leaving Tehran for a short visit to Mashhad before heading home, IRNA reported. In Mashhad, al-Ja'fari met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who told his guest that "the Zionists" may be responsible for creating instability and disasters. The preeminent issue in the Muslim world is Palestine, Khamenei said, so "the Iraqi government should reestablish its position by supporting the oppressed Palestinian nation and its ideals." Al-Jaafari also met with President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on 18 July. The previous day, al-Jaafari met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Hashemi-Rafsanjani said Iranians see Iraqi developments as their own, and they are keen to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction. BS

Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said on 18 July that the construction of an oil pipeline from Iran to Iraq is already under way and should be completed within a year, IRNA reported. The pipeline will go from Abadan to Al-Basrah. The Iranian official also described the training of Iraqi personnel, and he predicted the creation of a joint working group and the signing of several agreements. BS

Bayan Jabr told AP in an exclusive interview published on 18 July that Iraq's neighbors, and specifically Syria, are not doing enough to secure the border from terrorist infiltration. Jabr's comments came before the opening of a conference for the interior ministers of Iraq's neighbors in Istanbul. "They say, 'We are ready to cooperate,' and I hope they cooperate, but only talking is not sufficient," Jabr said. Asked whether Syria has taken steps toward stopping insurgents from crossing its border with Iraq, Jabr responded, "I can say no." The interior minister also said that while Jordan does not support the insurgency in Iraq, some people in Jordan do. Jabr pointed to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's wife Sajida and his daughter Raghad who are living in Amman, and who he claims sent $100 million to Iraq in support of the insurgents. He added that some former regime members "support the insurgency because they believe [Hussein] will return" to power. He said that only Hussein's trial will prove to these people that Hussein will "never return." KR

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allim told Al-Jazeera television on 18 July that he regretted that Jabr "involves himself in the circle of fabricated statements against Syria," adding that Jabr should have presented evidence he claimed to have about terrorist cross-border infiltration to his Syrian counterpart in Istanbul. Al-Mu'allim also contended that a Syrian diplomatic and security delegation was in Iraq for one week earlier this month during which time no evidence was presented to it regarding Jabr's allegations. Asked about similar allegations made by the European Union, al-Mu'allim said: "It is regretful that the European Union sees events in the region with an American eye only. All European ambassadors visited Iraqi-Syrian borders a month ago to see for themselves the security measures taken by the Syrian government.... However, no efforts are being exerted on the other side of the borders to control those borders." Al-Mu'allim claimed to Al-Jazeera that Syria has a "real interest in the success of the political process" in Iraq. KR

Hoshyar al-Zebari told Tehran's Al-Alam television in an interview broadcast on 18 July that U.S. talks with insurgent groups in Iraq sent the wrong message to these groups and gave them a sense of legitimacy. "In my opinion, these statements on the announcement of holding talks with groups in the resistance and the militants were not good, neither in their timing, nor in the secrecy that surrounded them. Secondly, the Iraqi government was not a party to these talks," al-Zebari said. "This has sent a very wrong message to these groups. It's a message that will make them feel that they have gained recognition and that a big power like America has come to sit with them. This has not happened," he added. KR

At the Istanbul meeting on 18 July, the Turkish and Iranian interior ministers said they support securing Iraq's borders, IRNA reported the same day. "Tehran is against all kinds of instability and insecurity in the region and all our efforts are geared to forging security in our neighboring states because we also regard it as our own security," Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said. The two countries have said they are taking steps to secure their borders with Iraq to prevent insurgent infiltration. Musavi-Lari met with his Turkish counterpart, Abdulkadir Asku, on 18 July. At a closed session the same day, officials and experts discussed counterterrorism, border control, illegal immigration, and pilgrimage traffic. Meanwhile, MENA reported on 18 July that Jabr confirmed to them that the killers of Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sharif have been arrested and tried. Iraqi media has reported the arrest of at least one person in connection with al-Sharif's assassination, but there are no confirmed reports as to whether a trial has taken place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2005). KR/BS

The World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and Japan offered new loans to support Iraqi reconstruction at the 18 July session of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) donor conference in Amman, Jordan, international media reported. The World Bank announced final approval of $500 million in loans for Iraq, reported on 19 July. Iraqi officials said agreement was also reached in principle for another $3.5 billion in loans from Japan, the website reported. Meanwhile, Iraq signed an agreement with the Islamic Development Bank for another $500 million in grants and loans that will be delivered directly to the Iraqi government, bypassing the IRFFI, which has served as one of two clearing houses for Iraqi reconstruction funds, Petra reported on 18 July. Much of the discussion in the conference's first day of meetings focused on the issue of corruption and management over reconstruction funds. "We have a serious problem with corruption and I think all of us must recognize it as a serious threat," Iraqi Planning Minister Barham Salih told Reuters on 18 July. KR

Gunmen traveling in two vehicles attacked a minibus transporting workers to a U.S. base in Ba'qubah on 19 July, killing 13 people, Reuters reported. The bus driver and nine passengers were killed in the attack. Three others were killed when the bus careened into their vehicle, a Ba'qubah police source told the news agency. Meanwhile, militants gunned down Buhriz Municipal Councilor Qassim Shihab Ahmad in the village of Abu Khamis, located just south of Ba'qubah on 19 July, Reuters reported. KR