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Newsline - October 3, 2005

The Swiss Justice Ministry ruled on 3 October to extradite to the United States former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, who has been detained on accusations of fraud and money laundering in Bern since 2 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, 19, 20 May, 8 July, 12 and 30 August 2005), RIA-Novosti and other media reported. Russia has requested that Adamov be extradited to his home country, as the authorities are concerned that the former minister could reveal state secrets or details of Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation. Adamov himself agreed to be extradited to Russia and, according to some reports, announced on 3 October a hunger strike in support of his request, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to Swiss law, Adamov has 30 days to appeal this decision in the High Federal Court in Lausanne. Adamov and his U.S. business partner Mark Kaushansky, are suspected by U.S. law enforcement agencies of embezzling about $9 million in U.S. aid funds that were earmarked for improving security at Russia's nuclear facilities during Adamov's time as minister (1998-2001). VY

Yuriy Yekhanurov visited Moscow on 30 September and, in talks with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkov, said that Russian business interests in Ukraine will be preserved and no privatization deals will be reversed, reported. When discussing bilateral economic and trade relations, Yekhanurov called on Fradkov to take "practical steps" to ensure "pragmatic relations." One of the main topics for discussions was Gazprom's plan to triple the price of Russian gas from the beginning of 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September, 10 and 8 June 2005), TV-Tsentr reported on 1 October. Yekhanurov would like to find an acceptable solution and at least have a gradual raising of prices, TV-Tsentr reported. The same day, Yekhanurov also met with President Vladimir Putin who told him that he hopes he will help Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko "consolidate Ukrainian society and overcome economic setbacks," RTR reported. Meanwhile, in an interview with the RTR talk show "Vesti nedeli" on 2 October, Yekhanurov said that "Ukraine will also continue to seek agreement with Russia on its participation in the Single Economic Space. "It is better if our relations will be free of loving words, be tougher, but realistic," he concluded. Meanwhile, according to RIA-Novosti, Putin said that he spoke with Yushchenko by phone and they agreed to open joint border checkpoints and reduce border-crossing formalities for residents of both countries. VY

"Vesti nedeli" host Sergei Brilev said on 2 October that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko visited Moscow last week ahead of Yekhanurov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2005) to prevent legal action, prepared by Ukrainian prosecutors, being taken against her. Brilev said that Ukrainian prosecutors are able to substantiate earlier accusations made against Tymoshenko by the Russian Prosecutor's-General Office. However, according to the host, Tymoshenko held "a dialogue " with Russian prosecutors, who then deleted her name from an international wanted list. VY

Speaking on the Channel One talk show "Vremena" on 2 October, First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Nikolai Pankov said that about 15,000 young people are listed as draft-dodgers. The situation is improving, Pankov said, as in recent years, about 40,000 draftees annually evaded military service. Pankov added that the army faces the same social and political discord that Russian society experiences, including interethnic problems. Speaking on the same program, Colonel General Vasilii Smirnov, the chief of the General Staff's organizational-mobilization department, said that the army continues to experience an acute shortage of qualified draftees, with 30 percent of conscripts unfit for service, 33 percent neither in work or higher education before the draft, and 18 percent only having elementary school education. Human Rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said on the same show that the main reason young people dodge the draft is because of fear of bullying and harassment. "In many cases it is explainable by army tradition that sees soldiers simply as 'cannon fodder.' One should break these traditions, not the people," he said. VY

A fire broke out on 30 September at an army ammunition depot, 60 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, Russian media reported. The fire detonated huge stocks of old artillery shells. Police evacuated around 8,000 local residents who lived within 30 kilometers of the depot. The military prosecutor's office has opened an investigation. According to, military prosecutors suspect arson in order to conceal stolen firearms. According to military experts, the blaze can not be extinguished until most of the shells have exploded. By 2 October, the fire was localized and engineer units began to remove undetonated shells from the surrounding region. However, according to Navy spokesman First Rank Captain Igor Dydailo, the units were still unable to get closer than 16 kilometers to the depot. First Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Belousov has arrived in Kamchatka to assist with the investigation, Interfax reported on 2 October. VY

Irina Khakamada said on 2 October that she supports the recent decision of the Moscow branch of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) to form a joint list for the 4 December elections to the Moscow City Duma, but she doubts that their tactics will lead to success, NTV reported. Until now, both parties, especially the SPS, were preoccupied with political survival, often collaborating with the Kremlin, and, at the same time, discussing their opposition, Khakamada said. Such tactics cannot really attract voters, who would like to see a more decisive and idealistic line, she said. "In politics, only reptiles and eagles reach the pinnacles of political power. I call on my colleagues to be eagles," she said. VY

Russian experts have denied accusations made last week by a local U.S. weatherman, Scott Stevens, that Hurricane Katrina was initiated by Japan's Yakuza mafia using a secret Soviet meteorological weapon, RTR reported on 2 October. U.S. author Tom Bearden, in a 1986 book, first suggested that the Soviet Union was in possession of a "meteorological weapon" able to provoke devastating weather catastrophes in the United States. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an intensive program for developing a "weather weapon." Much of the research took place at the top-secret testing ground in Sura, 150 kilometers from Nizhnii Novgorod. According to experts from the Nizhnii Novgorod Institute of Radio Physics, who are familiar with research into the "weather weapon," the energy Russian scientists managed to create during their experiments was absolutely negligible when compared with the energy of hurricanes or tsunamis, RTR reported. VY

Sergei Mironov, speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, said on 2 October that burying the embalmed body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin would be "untimely," reported the next day. "We have many other problems now," Mironov said. Mironov's statement came days after Georgii Poltavchenko, President Putin's envoy to the Central Federal District, said Lenin's body should be removed from its Red Square tomb and buried in a cemetery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). BW

Aleksander Zhukov said that Moscow is unhappy that raw materials like crude oil dominate its trade with the United States, RIA-Novosti reported on 3 October. "We are unhappy with the structure of our trade, which is oriented toward raw materials," Zhukov said the same day at the 13th annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Business Council in Moscow. Zhukov said that as of mid-2005, trade between Russia and the United States was worth $10 billion, and that preliminary figures suggest it could rise to $25 billion in 2006. He added that the two countries are developing bilateral cooperation in the energy and aeronautical fields. BW

Aleksii II said the return to Russia of the remains of anti-Bolshevik leader General Anton Denikin and religious philosopher Ivan Ilyin symbolizes the country's reunification, RIA-Novosti reported on 3 October. "Today's event testifies to the finally restored unity of our nation, which was divided by the tragic history of the last century," the patriarch said at a reburial ceremony for the two emigres at the Donskoy Monastery. Denikin was a leader of the Whites, who fought against the Bolsheviks in the 1918-22 Russian Civil War. Ilyin, a prominent religious philosopher, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1922. Both were originally buried in the United States. BW

Russia's controversial new Public Chamber met for the first time on 1 October, Russian and international news agencies reported the same day. President Putin created the chamber, a consultative body aimed at bridging the gap between the authorities and the public, as part of a political overhaul after 331 people died in the September 2004 Beslan hostage siege. "They will control any bureaucrats, and if necessary summon them. And these bureaucrats will have to appear and report," deputy presidential chief of staff Vladislav Surkov said in remarks reported by Reuters. The Kremlin named the chamber's first 42 members on 30 September. The group includes religious leaders, Olympic champions, businesspeople, trade unionists, and other luminaries. Critics alleged that the absence of human rights activists indicates that the Public Chamber will simply be a rubber stamp for the Kremlin. BW

The People's Assembly of the Republic of Ingushetia has written to Viktor Vodolatskii, ataman of the state-registered Don Cossacks, and Sergei Kalashnikov, ataman of the Kuban Cossacks, asking them to support the Ingush appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court to reject a request by North Ossetia to declare unconstitutional Articles 3 and 6 of the 1991 Law on the Rehabilitation of Oppressed Peoples, reported on 28 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). Those two articles call for the restoration of the internal borders between North Caucasus republics that existed prior to the 1944 deportations of the Chechens and Ingush, among others, and the abolition of the then Checheno-Ingush ASSR. If implemented, they would entail the return to Ingushetia of North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion. Meanwhile, Vodolatskii has presided over weeklong celebrations in Novocherkassk, attended among others by Grand Duchess Mariya Vladimirovna, one of the surviving members of the Romanov dynasty, to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Don Cossack troops, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 October. The rival, unregistered Don Cossacks led by ataman Nikolai Kositsyn were not represented at the celebrations. LF

Speaking on 30 September in Yerevan on the sidelines of a conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the Armenian Constitutional Court, Gianni Buquicchio, who is the secretary of the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, praised the constitutional amendments adopted last month by the Armenian parliament, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). Buquicchio termed the revised draft an improvement on the previous version and said its adoption in a nationwide referendum (tentatively scheduled for 20 November) would facilitate Armenia's integration into European structures and expedite the establishment of stability and prosperity and a solution to socioeconomic problems. Major opposition parties, however, have pledged to campaign against public approval of the draft. LF

Police in Baku resorted to force on 1 October in an attempt to disperse opposition supporters who sought to gather on one of the city squares for a rally prohibited by the municipal authorities, Reuters and Azerbaijani agencies reported. The rally was organized by the opposition Azadlyq bloc formed to participate in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 6 November. Would-be participants called for the resignation of the country's leadership and for free elections. Ali Kerimli, chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), one of Azadlyq's three constituent members, estimated turnout at several thousand. He said police detained up to 200 participants, including several registered parliamentary candidates. A Baku police spokesman quoted by gave the number of people detained at 34, and claimed nine police officers were injured in an altercation with armed supporters of prominent Musavat party member Rauf Arifoglu. Arifoglu subsequently released a statement denying his supporters were armed, Turan reported on 1 October. An undetermined number of rally participants and several journalists were also injured, Turan reported. LF

Arifoglu and four other registered Azadlyq parliamentary candidates began a hunger strike on 30 September to protest what they termed the Azerbaijani authorities' determination to falsify the outcome of the 6 November ballot, reported on 1 October. They are demanding that all conditions be created for holding free and fair elections, including the marking of voters' fingers with indelible ink to prevent multiple voting. Leading Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly argued that doing so is "insulting" to voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). LF

Candidates representing the ruling United National Movement won in all five constituencies where midterm elections were held on 1 October, Georgian media reported. Candidates from the united opposition selected at "primaries" last month ranked second in four of the five constituencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2005); Giorgi Mosidze (united opposition) polled 36 percent in the Tbilisi district of Isani and claimed his share of the vote would have been higher if many of his supporters had not been excluded from voter lists, reported. Turnout varied from 20.6 percent in Batumi to 56 percent in Tkibuli, western Georgia. The opposition New Rightists (aka New Conservatives) have filed suit against the Central Election Commission, claiming that its ban on adding voters' names to voter lists on polling day is unconstitutional, Caucasus Press reported on 1 October. Conservative Party leader Koba Davitashvili similarly complained in Batumi on 1 October that there also voters' names were omitted from voter lists, and he accused the ruling party of rigging the election outcome, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Sergei Bagapsh, president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, said on 30 September Sukhum will not agree to any changes in the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since mid-1994 in the Abkhaz conflict zone under the CIS aegis, reported. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili advocated on 28 September augmenting the Russian force with peacekeepers from the United States and the EU. In a commentary published on 3 October in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Javier Solana, who is the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy, noted Russian-EU cooperation over the Transdniester conflict, and said the EU would gladly cooperate with Russia in attempting to resolve conflicts in the Transcaucasus. Meanwhile, former Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek argued in a commentary published on 3 October in the European issue of "The Wall Street Journal" that "the EU cannot ignore" conflicts in the former USSR, or Russia's responsibility for those conflicts. LF

Nursultan Nazarbaev met on 30 September with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried in Astana, the Khabar news agency reported. The U.S. official, on his first official visit to the region, arrived in Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and discussed bilateral economic and security cooperation with the Kazakh president. Although Washington remains concerned over the preparations for Kazakhstan's December presidential election, in which Nazarbaev is seeking a further presidential term, the visit is intended to strengthen bilateral ties in the wake of the forced withdrawal of U.S. troops from the coalition air base in neighboring Uzbekistan. RG

Nazarbaev also met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki on 30 September in Astana, according to the Khabar news agency. The Iranian foreign minister reviewed plans to expand trade and commercial relations, and extended a formal invitation to Nazarbaev for a state visit to Iran at an unspecified date. Although still limited, trade between Kazakhstan and Iran continues to increase, surpassing $300 million for the first six months of this year. Kazakh trade with Iran is largely centered on Kazakh exports of oil and nonprecious metals and imports of construction materials and equipment, chemical products, furniture, and other consumer goods from Iran. Mottaki also met on 1 October with his Kazakh counterpart Qasymzhomart Toqaev, who expressed support for Tehran's determination to continue with its program to develop nuclear fuel, Interfax reported. RG

The Kazakh Central Election Commission issued a ruling on 30 September certifying the eligibility of 11 presidential candidates, reported. The ruling verifies that the 11 candidates have met all of the commission's requirements, including the state Kazakh-language test, for the 4 December presidential election. The most prominent of these candidates include incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev; Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the leader of the opposition "For a Just Kazakhstan" bloc; parliamentarians Ualikhan Kaisarov and Erasyl Abylkasymov; businessman Salim Oten; lawyer Mekemtas Tleulesov; and Alikhan Baimenov, the leader of the Ak Zhol party. The group also includes two female candidates, Maya Karamaeva, a 43-year-old woman who has nominated herself, and Baltabai Rakhimzhanov, the head of the National Federation of Farmers. The Central Election Commission has yet to rule on the status of another five candidates. RG

Feliks Kulov stated on 1 October that there is no evidence to substantiate repeated Uzbek allegations that Kyrgyzstan was in any way involved in the May uprising in the eastern Uzbek province of Andijon, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Kulov, in comments made during a press conference in Moscow, warned that the Uzbek allegations have contributed to a "negative effect" on bilateral relations, but he added that Kyrgyzstan is working to surmount any problems with its neighbor. Kulov explained that his official visit to Moscow was aimed at resolving "specific economic problems" and reflected his government's recognition of Russia as a "priority." RG

Addressing a conference in Dushanbe on 30 September, Tajik presidential administration official Nuriddin Amirkulov reported that Tajikistan is making progress in its fight against human trafficking, ITAR-TASS reported. He reported that human trafficking remains a serious challenge in Tajikistan despite the enactment of more severe criminal penalties and a more concerted effort by law enforcement personnel. Amirkulov added that the number of criminal cases related to human trafficking this year nearly doubled for the same period last year, with 59 cases initiated in 2005. As with other states in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, the human trafficking network extends from Tajikistan to India, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and other Middle Eastern countries. RG

Opponents of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a congress of pro-democratic forces in Minsk on 1-2 October at which they elected Alyaksandr Milinkevich as their candidate for the 2006 presidential election, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. Milinkevich edged out United Civic Party Chairman Anatol Lyabedzka for the nomination with 399 votes versus Lyabedzka's 391. "I will not promise you victory," Milinkevich said after the vote, "[but I can promise that] I will go forward with you to the very end. I will be with you in the public squares." Milinkevich, 58, holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics but has been a civil-society activist for most of the past decade, leading the Ratusha nongovernmental organization (1996-2003) and the Belarusian Association of Resource Centers (after 1998). Milinkevich previously worked with the Physics Institute of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences and the University of Hrodna in western Belarus, and served as deputy head of the Hrodna Oblast Executive Committee from 1990-96. Apart from Belarusian and Russian, he speaks English, French, and Polish. JM

A district court in Minsk on 30 September imposed a fine of $25,500 on the private "BDG. Delovaya gazeta" newspaper and its investigative reporter Syarhey Satsyuk after it found them guilty of libeling a former police officer in an article published in 2003, Belapan reported. The newspaper was also ordered to publish a retraction. Satsyuk said the paper will appeal to a higher court but added that he has no real hope of winning such an appeal because the lawsuit appears to be part of a broad, official campaign to silence the independent press. In April, the same newspaper -- then under the name "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" -- and its deputy editor in chief, Iryna Khalip, were fined $25,000 in another libel suit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2005). JM

Yuriy Yekhanurov used a visit to Moscow on 30 September to meet with senior Russian officials and to stress the importance of Russia as Ukraine's "main partner," RFE/RL reported. The trip marked Yekhanurov's first official foreign visit since he took office on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 September 2005). Yekhanurov met separately with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and with President Vladimir Putin, who praised the newly appointed Ukrainian prime minister as an "experienced and effective person" well positioned to solve economic and "other systematic problems." Putin said he hoped Yekhanurov might "give a fresh impetus to [mutual] cooperation," according to RFE/RL. Yekhanurov reportedly sought to reassure jittery investors over Ukrainian probes of flawed privatizations (see next item), and he agreed with Fradkov to "intensify" work on resolving Ukraine's difficulties in obtaining natural gas, according to Interfax. Ukraine and Russia also agreed to establish joint checkpoints on their common border, Putin told reporters during his meeting with Yekhanurov, according to Interfax. Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko agreed in a telephone conversation the same day to focus on issues that affect ordinary citizens, such as cross-border relations, Interfax reported. AH

In statements apparently aimed at reassuring Russian and other foreign investors, Prime Minister Yekhanurov stressed on 30 September that authorities will seek to punish wayward Property Fund officials rather than businessmen over wrongdoings related to past privatizations, Interfax reported. The interests of the current owners in cases of flawed state sales will be taken into account during proceedings to address past injustices, Yekhanurov said, although he suggested "possible additional payments" might also be sought. He added during his visit to Moscow, according to RFE/RL: "We gave a clear signal to Russian and other foreign businesses [in Ukraine] that we would work in a civilized manner and the problem of re-privatization would no longer concern our partners." Yekhanurov said Ukraine needs clear legislation to avoid the temptation to re-privatize and that a group in parliament has drafted the relevant bill for debate in the Verkhovna Rada, according to Interfax. He also urged lawmakers to endorse that legislation quickly. RK/AH

The Ukrainian cabinet approved the liquidation of the state-owned joint-stock company Ukrainian Coal on 1 October in order to allow for its reorganization under the newly created Coal Ministry, Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov was quoted by Interfax Ukraine as telling journalists the same day. President Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree in late July to hive off coal assets and management from the Fuel and Energy Ministry and subsequently named Viktor Topolov to run the new ministry. Ukrainian Coal comprises some 120 state-owned coal mines, 24 coal-enrichment plants, and other state-controlled enterprises. Ousted Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko has in the past accused Ukrainian Coal of serving as a lobby for the Donetsk coal industry to secure state subsidies for the industry. RK

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, told reporters in Luxembourg on 3 October that long-delayed talks on Croatia's admission will remain on hold pending the resolution of a dispute between Austria and most of the rest of the EU on Turkey's prospects for negotiations with the Brussels-based bloc, Reuters reported. "The Croatia Task Force has had to be adjourned," Straw said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July and 1 September 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 17 June 2005). PM

Serbian opposition politician and former Justice Minister Vladan Batic was released from prison late on 30 September, just short of the legal limit of 48 hours that police could hold him without filing formal charges, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 2005). The next day, he said that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is the primary person involved in what Batic called a "criminal conspiracy" behind his arrest. He also called for the resignation of Slobodan Radovanovic, who is special prosecutor for organized-crime cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2005). Serbian President Boris Tadic said on 2 October that there was no basis for the authorities to hold Batic and demanded an explanation from the government. Tadic also asked Batic to provide a detailed account of his detention. PM

Belgrade Mufti Hamdija Jusufspahic said on 3 October that the Serbian authorities have not met their obligations to the capital's Muslims in connection with the reconstruction of the historic Bajrakli mosque, which was burned and looted by rioters in the spring of 2004, the private Beta news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March and 5 April 2004). He did not go into detail but noted that Muslims there currently have no cemetery. Jusufspahic said that the Ministry of Religion has been cooperative but blamed President Tadic and Prime Minister Kostunica for not having carried out unspecified promises following the mosque's destruction. PM

A police-reform proposal for Bosnia-Herzegovina worked out recently by Bosnian Serb politicians in cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church was rejected on 1 October by the EU and the Office of the High Representative as inadequate, the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). Republika Srpska Finance Minister Svetlana Cenic told the paper that the authorities will seek clarification from Brussels for its stand. She said Bosnian Serb authorities want an explanation from the international community regarding the fate of Bosnian Serb institutions if the EU's police-reform project is adopted. The EU's plan envisions setting up new police administrative districts that cross the inter-entity borderlines. Many Bosnian Serbs consider this unconstitutional. Foreign and non-Serb critics of Banja Luka say that Bosnian Serbs want to keep control over their police because those security forces are the bedrock of support for political, business, and possibly criminal structures. PM

A shadowy group calling itself The Tigers said in an undated press release sent to the media on 1 October that it claims responsibility for the recent unexplained shooting and wounding in southern Kosova of Colonel Dejan Jankovic, who is the 30-year-old top-ranking Serb of Kosova's 7,000-strong multiethnic police force, which includes several hundred Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). The statement said that The Tigers are the successor to the late Zeljko Raznatovic's (aka Arkan's) group with a similar name and are committed to Serbian rule in Kosova. The text called Jankovic a "so-called colonel...who committed treason against his own people" by joining the UN-backed force. "We warn all those who maintain false illusions about an independent Kosovo that we, the Serbian Volunteer Guard [called] The Tigers and the entire Serbian people, will not allow it." The authenticity of the press release has not been confirmed. PM

A spokesman for Kosova's multiethnic police force said in Prishtina on 30 September that those police recently arrested two Serbian policemen in a village near Shterpce during a routine check of motorists, the private Serbian news agency Beta reported. The spokesman noted that the two men in civilian clothes were armed and had with them their identity cards from the Serbian Interior Ministry. He did not identify the men, but Beta quoted unidentified Serbian sources as saying that they are two locals from the Shterpce area, Sasa Mihajlovic and Miki Milosavljevic, who are now based in Nis, where the Serbian security forces have their headquarters for Kosova. The Kosovar police spokesman said the two were arrested when one of them went for his gun during the police check. The case is now in the hands of the Prishtina prosecutor's office, the news agency added. There have been at least three unexplained shootings of Serbs in the Shterpce area in recent weeks, which has led to charges by some Belgrade politicians that local Serbs are allegedly facing a "pogrom" at the hands of Albanian nationalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 August, and 12 and 29 September 2005). Kosovar Albanian leaders have condemned the incidents. PM

Nicolae Andronic, head of the opposition Popular Republican Party of Moldova, has sent a letter to Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Rene van der Linden and Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis urging the Council of Europe to continue its monitoring of Moldova, Infotag reported on 30 September. A similar appeal was published previously by another Moldovan opposition party, Moldova Noastre. According to Andronic, Moldova is far from meeting all its obligations arising from membership of the Council of Europe. Andronic stressed that Moldova fails to observe the constitutional principle of the separation of powers. "Power in Moldova has been usurped by one man. The country is governed solely by the president, who runs all branches of power [as well as] state institutions and establishments in an arbitrary way, proceeding not from the rule of law, but from his personal whims and moods," Andronic charged in the letter. JM

Speaking at a 23 September conference attended by North Caucasus leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin wholeheartedly endorsed proposals by his envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitrii Kozak, to curtail the powers of federation subject heads whose fiefdoms are heavily dependent on the federal budget to finance their budget spending. Days earlier, an article criticizing Kozak's performance during the 12 months since his appointment was published in a south Russian newspaper and immediately reprinted by several national dailies. It is not clear who sought to compromise Kozak and why. Kozak told journalists unequivocally on 23 September that he has no intention of running for president in 2008 when Putin's second term expires.

The article criticizing Kozak appeared in the weekly newspaper "Yuzhnii federal'nyi." Its author was identified as Ekaterina Bagrych, a student at Rostov-na-Donu State University, but no journalist has succeeded in tracing any student of that name. The article comprises two sections: a 10-part analysis of the political and economic difficulties facing the North Caucasus, followed by 10 direct questions addressed to Kozak personally.

Several of the problems Bagrych lists figured in Kozak's own report to Putin on the situation in the region, which was leaked to the Russian press several months ago, but she does not give him credit for his diagnosis. Those problems include the pernicious role and influence of corrupt local "clans" grouped around individual republic heads, and the inability of those leaders to end interethnic conflict, replace incompetent and corrupt bureaucracies, and eradicate unemployment and poverty. The author contrasts the economic weakness of individual republics with the unexploited natural wealth of the region and with economic indicators that are difficult to reconcile with widespread poverty. For example, Daghestan has the highest volume of foreign currency transactions in Russia, while Chechnya leads the way in the construction of luxury mansions.

Bagrych further highlights the dangers of failing to address environmental issues, and draws attention to the concern of the local population that the region will be passed over when the recently enacted law on free economic zones is implemented. (She did not add that the free economic zone that existed for several years in Ingushetia failed to serve as a motor for an economic upswing.)

As have many other analysts, Bagrych laments the fact that in 15 years the Kremlin has never drafted a single comprehensive, clearly thought-through long-term strategy for addressing the problems that plague the North Caucasus. She accuses Kozak personally and his team of advisors of lacking "a clear and precisely formulated strategic plan" for the region. She even describes Kozak's team as "ossified bureaucrats" and "burned-out old men" incapable of anything other than "pretending to work energetically and drafting utopian assessments" that are "far from reality." Bagrych argues that Kozak personally has disappointed local residents who hoped his appointment would be a watershed, heralding an end to multifarious negative phenomenon, and she challenges him to make public his own vision of how the region should develop over the next decade.

Bagrych argues that since finding a solution to the most pressing economic problems is easier than tackling political and personnel issues, Kozak should have been able to make some headway in doing so in 12 months, but has failed to do so. She further poses a series of fundamental questions: how close is the North Caucasus to sliding into civil war, and what preconditions are necessary to guarantee peace and stability there? Is it possible to rein in all-powerful clans and put an end to corruption, and is it morally acceptable for the Kremlin to reappoint local leaders in whom the population has lost all confidence? (That latter question is a clear reference to Ingushetia's Murat Zyazikov.) What does Kozak consider the optimum correlation between authoritarian and bureaucratic methods in the North Caucasus? (There can of course be no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, only individually tailored solutions for specific regions.) And finally, Bagrych challenges Kozak to specify whether his track record over the past year is in balance positive or negative. She compares him unfavorably with Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais who, she argues, in contrast to Kozak, has already made sure of his place in history as a reformer. And she asks whether Kozak does not regret having accepted his current post, implying that it may mark the ignominious end of his political career.

One could argue that some of those criticisms of Kozak are immoderate or even unfair in light of the circumstances of his appointment. In the wake of the Beslan hostage-taking, it seems logical to assume that Putin's first priority was to strengthen stability in the North Caucasus, rather than risk triggering new crises by replacing any or all local leaders who were demonstrably incompetent, or corrupt, or both. In addition, Kozak himself was not empowered to fire such officials, or even to recommend their dismissal. Moreover, Kozak's own diagnosis of the nature, extent, and seriousness of the political and social problems across the region testify to his perceptiveness, his analytical ability, and his rejection of a status quo which he argues poses a serious threat to political and economic stability across southern Russia. But even given carte blanche to formulate a long-term strategy for the region, he lacks the political clout to secure the budget funds with which to implement such a strategic vision.

Reduced to the most general terms, the problem facing Kozak, and by extension Putin, is, as Bagrych points out, the lack of an overall strategy for the North Caucasus; the disinclination, or inability, of local leaders to get to grips with the most pressing problems confronting them; and a disconnect in the "power vertical" that deprives Kozak of effective leverage to change the situation for the better. The measures Kozak proposed at the 23 September conference of North Caucasus leaders address the latter issue, in that they constitute an incentive to those leaders to undertake a serious overhaul of the economy by threatening to transfer to the federal center responsibility for the finances of those republics that receive more than 60 percent of their budget from Moscow. According to on 30 September quoting "Moskovskie novosti," that category includes Ingushetia (88.3 percent), Daghestan (81.3 percent), Chechnya (79.4 percent), Kabardino-Balkaria (73.4 percent), Karachaevo-Cherkessia (62.5 percent), North Ossetia (59.2 percent), and Adygeya (58.1 percent). Forfeiting control over republican finances would, in turn, severely curtail the ability of corrupt local leaders to dole out sweeteners and backhanders to henchmen and cronies. Putin demonstratively backed Kozak's proposal, stating that "we need a mechanism [to ensure] political and legal responsibility on the part of regional and local authorities for the end results of their performance in the economic sphere," "Izvestiya" reported. But legally formalizing those mechanisms may prove difficult and time-consuming, and as both Bagrych and Kozak have argued, the problems of the North Caucasus demand immediate and effective intervention before they become irreversible.

Officials from Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) indicated on 2 October that with about 80 percent of the ballots counted from the 18 September parliamentary and provincial elections, they have found what "The New York Times" described as "significant cases" of fraud, the paper reported on 3 October. Peter Erban, chief of operations at the JEMB, said that ballot boxes from 1,000 of the country's 26,000 polling stations have been earmarked for investigation of possible irregularities, the paper reported. When clear cases of fraud are found, he said, the votes in question will not be counted. "I do not believe these irregularities in any way have affected the overall elections, but some of them have surely affected them locally," Erban said, adding "tough action" is forthcoming, according to international news agencies. Erben predicted "some strong decisions" in the coming days concerning the Afghan vote count, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 2 October. The EU observer mission announced on 30 September that apparent voting irregularities were a "cause for concern" and called on the JEMB to address the problem "in a transparent and effective way in order to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process." AT

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, the deputy interior minister in charge of security affairs, as acting interior minister, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on 29 September. Ali Ahmad Jalali resigned as interior minister on 27 September. AT

A U.S. military statement released on 1 October announced that one U.S. and one Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier were killed in a firefight with unidentified insurgents on 30 September in the southern Kandahar Province, "Stars and Stripes" reported on 3 October. Two U.S. soldiers and two ANA soldiers were injured in the incident. Kandahar remains a stronghold of the neo-Taliban and their sympathizers. AT

Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah Television aired video footage on 2 October of what is purportedly one of four alleged Al-Qaeda members who managed to escape from the U.S. military facility in Bagram, north of Kabul, in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). The videotape features Muhammad Ja'far al-Misradi, also known as Abu Nasir al-Qahtani, reciting a poem in praise of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. Qahtani, a Saudi citizen, escaped from Bagram along with a Kuwaiti, a Libyan, and a Syrian. AT

The Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF) launched raids on 30 September against illegal narcotics laboratories, drug storage sites, and smuggling routes in Badakhshan and Konduz provinces, a 2 October press release by the Afghan Interior Ministry announced. Significant quantities of opiates were seized and destroyed in the operation, the statement said, together with a large number of weapons and essential drug-lab infrastructure. Nine individuals were detained for questioning, many of whom are now likely to face criminal charges and subsequent prosecution by the newly formed Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan, the statement added. AT

Afghan police have detained Ali Mohaqeq, editor in chief of "Hoquq-e Zan" (Women's Rights) magazine, for publishing allegedly anti-Islamic articles, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 2 October. Zemaray Amiri, an official of the Kabul court, acknowledged Mohaqeq's detention but refused to provide details of the case. AT

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's office on 1 October rejected a statement attributed to him in an interview that appeared in that day's "Khaleej Times" newspaper from the United Arab Emirates, IRNA reported. The presidential office said Ahmadinejad never gave any oral or written interview to the newspaper, and it added, "Such a claim is nothing more than a mere fabrication, so we call all domestic media to be aware and show vigilance in dealing with propaganda plots hatched by foreign media." In the "Khaleej Times'" purported interview, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that Iran has a right to use nuclear energy peacefully, and that the production or use of nuclear weapons is religiously forbidden. The interview goes on to quote him as stressing that Iran has been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and as adding, "But if Iran's case is sent to the Security Council, we will respond by many ways, for example by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities." BS

More than 15,000 members of Iran's regular armed forces participated in the Joshan exercises in northwestern Iran that began on 30 September, Fars News Agency reported. Participants in the three-day exercises in West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan provinces included electronic-warfare, helicopter, artillery, and engineering units, as well as air-force bombers. Brigadier General Bakhtiari, whom Fars described as the spokesman for the exercises, said their aim was to improve combat readiness and help assess officers and noncommissioned officers. Bakhtiari said before the exercises began that deployment capabilities, speed and mobility, and irregular-warfare training would also be tested. BS

Mohsen Rezai, who is secretary of the senior decision-making body the Expediency Council, told reporters on 1 October that the nuclear proposal put forward by President Ahmadinejad at the United Nations on 17 September is inadvisable and unnecessary, ISNA reported. Ahmadinejad rejected a European proposal of commercial and political concessions in late-July, and he made a counterproposal. "When Iran didn't accept the Europeans' proposal, the latter should have amended it," Rezai said. "There was no need for Iran to make a proposal to the Europeans." Rezai said this might have been a diplomatic mistake, but if the issue is managed well, then "America and Europe will be the main losers if our case is referred to the Security Council." BS

The chairman of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, said in his 30 September sermon at the Tehran Friday prayers that Iran is determined to defend its right to use nuclear technology, state radio reported. He added that Iran's opponents -- which he identified as "America, Europe, and others" -- say that they do not want Iran to master the nuclear fuel cycle. "Iran is not a sort of state to raise its hands in surrender as soon as you pick up your weapon and draw your dagger," Hashemi-Rafsanjani warned. "If by uttering words and issuing resolutions, you intend to intimidate us, you must realize that the Iranians are not scared and will not be intimidated." He said Iran and its opponents should talk and achieve trust. "I would like to let the [Iranian] managers in this sector know that here you need diplomacy and not slogans," he told colleagues. Hashemi-Rafsanjani called for prudence, patience, and wisdom, while avoiding provocations. He said any solution to this issue must protect Iran's rights. BS

Interior Minister Bajan Sulagh Jabr said that foreign Al-Qaeda militants operating in Iraq might have returned to their own countries to carry out future attacks, international news agencies reported on 2 October. Jabr said documents seized when U.S. forces killed Al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Azzam on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2005) pointed to a plan to send Sunni fighters to other countries to broaden the group's campaign. Azzam is believed to be a top lieutenant to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. "We got hold of a very important letter from Abu Azzam to al-Zarqawi asking him to begin to move a number of Arab fighters to the countries they came from to transfer their experience in car bombings in Iraq," Jabr told Reuters. "So you will see insurgents in other countries." BW

Iraqi Interior Minister Jabr issued a fierce verbal attack on neighboring Saudi Arabia on 2 October, saying his country will not be lectured about human rights and democracy by a country that does not allow women to drive and marginalizes its Shi'a minority, AFP reported. "We do not accept a Bedouin on a camel teaching us about human rights and democracy. In Iraq, we are proud of our civilization," Jabr told a news conference in Amman after talks on boosting border security. "Saudis should first allow women to drive, as is the case in Iraq," he said, adding that "4 million Shi'ites live like second-class citizens in the Saudi kingdom." Jabr was responding to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal's accusations that Iran was seeking to spread its influence in Iraq and that sectarian divisions were threatening to break up the country. BW

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari apologized to Saudi Arabia on 3 October for Jabr's statement, calling the comments "regrettable and inappropriate," Reuters reported the same day. "We hold the kingdom and Prince Saud in great esteem, and we regret such comments as these," al-Zebari told reporters at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Zebari also apologized in person to Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal in a closed meeting. BW

Iraq and Jordan have signed an agreement to strengthen border security in the fight against "terrorism and organized crime," international news agencies reported on 1 October. The agreement came following a meeting in Amman, Jordan, between Iraqi Interior Minister Jabr and Jordanian Interior Minister Auni Yervas, AFP reported. "We have signed an accord aimed at fighting terrorism, organized crime, money-laundering, and border infiltrations," Yervas said at a news conference. "Terrorism has no border, which is why we must strengthen cooperation between Islamic and Arab states." Baghdad has been concerned about Jordanian militants operating in Iraq, while Amman's largely Sunni population is worried about Iraq's Shi'a opening the door to greater Iranian influence in the region. BW

Saudi Arabia has called for a meeting of all Iraqi factions under the sponsorship of the Arab League to forge consensus on Iraq's draft constitution, dpa reported on 3 October. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on 2 October that the meeting will seek to reach "a broad national consensus on the constitution and guaranteeing the participation of all Iraqi groups in the political process." The Saudi foreign minister made his proposal at a meeting of eight Arab foreign ministers in Jeddah. "The main purpose of this meeting is to help our brethren in Iraq to overcome the current situation without going against their wish," Saud said. He added that Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa will visit Iraq to consult Iraqis on the matter. BW

Sharp divisions have emerged between Iraq's ruling Kurdish and Shi'ite leaders, international news agencies reported on 30 September and 1 October. On 30 September, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, accused Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, a Shi'a, of taking unilateral decisions in violation of an accord signed by their two blocs before setting up a government, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. Talabani subsequently urged al-Ja'fari to step down as prime minister on 3 October, AP reported the same day citing a spokesman for Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. "One of the problems with the prime minister is that he violates the law. For instance, on the concept of government and the cabinet, the state administration law for the interim period clearly defines everything," Talabani said on 30 September. "The cabinet cannot alone assume executive power, which is designated to the presidency of the republic and the council of ministers." Talabani's earlier comments brought an angry reaction from Shi'ite lawmakers. Mahmud al-Radhi, a member of Iraq's transitional National Assembly, criticized Talabani on 1 October for going public with the dispute. "The country is passing through a very dangerous phase, so what has happened is not reasonable," Al-Jazeera quoted al-Radhi as saying on 1 October. BW

U.S. forces killed at least 12 insurgents on the second day of an offensive near Iraq's border with Syria, AFP reported on 3 October. A force of 1,000 U.S. troops launched Operation Iron Fist near the village of Sadah in the Euphrates Valley on 1 October. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda associate Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's group in Iraq threatened in an Internet statement to execute two U.S. marines it claims to have captured, AFP reported on 3 October. The group demanded that the Americans release all female Sunni Muslim prisoners within 24 hours. The U.S. military denied on 3 October that any marines had been kidnapped in Iraq, Reuters reported the same day. "Claims on an Islamic militant website that two marines were kidnapped in western Iraq are patently false," the military said in a statement. "All marines and service members attached to Multi-National Force Iraq are accounted for." Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, meanwhile, survived an assassination attempt in Baghdad on 3 October, international news agencies reported the same day. A roadside bomb exploded near al-Ulam's motorcade, killing three of his escorts. Abdul Jabbar Solagh, the brother of Iraq's interior minister, was kidnapped in eastern Baghdad on 1 October and freed the next day following intervention from the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. BW

Five judges have been chosen to preside over the upcoming trial of Saddam Hussein over the massacre of Shi'ite villagers in 1982, AFP reported on 2 October quoted an unidentified source close to the court. Hussein and seven former top Iraqi officials are scheduled to go on trial on 19 October for the killing of 143 Shi'ite Muslims in the village Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982. "Five magistrates will try Saddam Hussein," an unidentified official in the Special Tribunal told AFP. The official did not identify the judges. Hussein's trial lawyer, Khalil Dulaymi, has requested a delay in the trial, claiming that the defense team has not been formally informed about the date of the trial or the charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2005). Asked about the possibility of a delay, the court official told AFP: "That depends entirely on the judges." BW