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Newsline - November 22, 2005

Vladimir Putin concluded his three-day visit to Japan on 22 November, Russian news agencies reported. Before leaving from Tokyo's Haneda airport, Putin had a 30-minute audience with Emperor Akihito, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported. During talks the previous day, Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed to cooperate in fighting terrorism and to streamline visa procedures between their countries, and concluded bilateral talks on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2005). BW

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari on 21 November asked Russia to assist in training his country's security forces, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. "We proposed that Russia considers its assistance in training the staff of our security services. The stronger Iraq's positions in this field, the sooner foreign troops will withdraw from Iraq," said al-Zebari, who is in Moscow with an Iraqi delegation. Speaking the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia wants to establish broader ties with Iraq in the oil and gas sectors, Interfax reported. "We have good prospects for establishing contacts in...spheres including oil and gas," Lavrov said at a briefing following talks with al-Zebari. "The Russian side has confirmed its determination to expand ties with Iraq. At this transitional stage support for the efforts of the Iraqi leadership to revive the economy and social life assumes special significance," he added. BW

Lavrov also said on 21 November that Russia plans to increase the number of specialists currently working on Iraqi reconstruction projects, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. "There are currently 200 Russian experts working in Iraq to rebuild power facilities. This figure will rise as far as the security situation will allow," Lavrov said. He added that Iraqi students and specialists are also welcome to receive training in Russia. "We intend to develop our relations, especially during the transitional period, considering the Iraqi government's efforts to revive the national economy and socioeconomic sector. We will increase our contribution in this and other areas to promote stability in this friendly country," Lavrov said. BW

Lavrov warned Iran on 21 November that it could be referred to the United Nations Security Council if its nuclear program endangers the "nonproliferation regime," RIA-Novosti reported the same day. "We do not rule out that Iran's nuclear dossier could be referred to the UN Security Council if the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, first and foremost of nuclear weapons, arises," Lavrov said. "We do not see such a threat at this juncture," he added. BW

A Russian Foreign Ministry official has accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of using questionable methods and applying double standards when monitoring elections in CIS states, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 November. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Grushko called methods applied by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) "unacceptable" and accused them of double standards in choosing which elections they monitor. Grushko pointed out, for example, that the ODIHR did not send any observers to Germany's or Poland's elections this year, but sent hundreds to Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. "Russia will emphasize its concerns over the OSCE's activities at the upcoming session of the OSCE's Council of Foreign Ministers in Ljubljana [Slovenia]" on 5-6 December, Grushko said. BW

According to the state-controlled arms export agency Rosoboroneksport, exports by the Russian military-industrial complex have increased by 15 times over the last three years, reported on 21 November. According to an unidentified official with Rosoboroneksport's press service: "In 2002...cooperation in this segment of the world arms market included 30 countries, but this year it increased to 50. Among our partners are the countries of Latin America, Southeast Asia, [and] the Middle East." BW

Some members of the Federation Council have proposed setting up a group of special prosecutors to investigate official corruption among top Russian officials, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 21 November. A bill proposed by five members of the upper house, including former Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Nikolai Ryzhkov, suggests setting up a chamber of 17 prosecutors. They would be responsible for investigations of wrongdoing involving the president, prime minister, the speakers of both houses of parliament, the chairmen of the Supreme, Constitutional, and Arbitration courts, the head of the Audit Chamber, the head of the Central Bank, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, the human rights commissioner, and the prosecutor-general. Several State Duma deputies, however, said the bill violates the constitution. "The basic law says nothing about a collegium of duly empowered officers," said Viktor Ilyukhin, a member of the State Duma's Security Committee. BW

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 21 November that the investigation into two suspects accused of killing American journalist Paul Klebnikov is complete and the case will go to trial, Russian and international news agencies reported the same day. "In the course of the criminal investigation it was established that the murder was carried out by members of an organized crime group," read a statement by the Prosecutor-General's Office, cited by Reuters. Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, who were arrested in November 2004 in Minsk, Belarus, will go on trial in the Moscow City Court, RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February, 6, 10, and 17 June 2005). It is not clear when the trial will start. Police are still searching for three other men implicated in the case, including Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev who is accused of ordering the killing, Reuters reported. BW

Human rights activists have criticized the State Duma for allocating 500 million rubles ($17.4 million) for nongovernmental organizations supporting civil society in Russia and the rights of Russian speakers abroad, "The Moscow Times" reported on 21 November. The funds, part of an amendment proposed by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party to the 2006 budget, passed the third of four required readings on 18 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2005). "In a way, it will be a return to the Soviet Union, with a number of pseudo human rights groups specializing in criticism of what is going on in other countries in order to distract attention from what is going on inside Russia," said Lev Ponamarev, head of the For Human Rights advocacy group. The measure is seen as a response to the United States Congress' allocation of $4 million earlier this month for the development of Russian political parties. The move also comes as the Duma prepares to consider a bill on 23 November forbidding Russian NGOs from receiving foreign funding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 18 November 2005). BW

Russia plans to allocate $104 million in federal funds to combat HIV/AIDS in 2006, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 November. The figure represents more than a twenty-fold increase over the amount allocated in 2005. Vadim Pokrovskii, head of Russia's Federal HIV/AIDS Research Center, said half the funds would go toward financing the medical treatment of those infected with the disease. Pokrovskii said the funds would be enough to care for 30,000 HIV-infected people, but said the cost of treatment needs to be lowered so more AIDS patients could receive care. Russia has over 330,000 registered HIV cases, but Pokrovskii and other experts say the actual number is closer to 1 million. Meanwhile, Mikhail Grishankov, deputy chair of the Security Committee in the State Duma, said the lower house is setting up a task force to deal with AIDS-related issues. "We are preparing a meeting of parliament members from the Group of Eight to be held in the run-up to the next G8 summit. This meeting will be aimed at consolidating efforts in the fight against HIV," Grishankov said. BW

A Kaliningrad-based airline has announced that it will begin flights to and from Berlin by the end of the year, the first such service since World War II, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 November. The airline, KD Avia, said the first flight, scheduled for 28 December, is timed to coincide with the 85th anniversary of the start of air services between Berlin and Kaliningrad -- then called Koenigsberg -- in 1920. BW

Leaders of the opposition parties aligned in the Artarutiun bloc told voters in the southern town of Artashat that they hope popular protest against the anticipated falsification of the 27 November referendum on constitutional amendments can be parlayed into a peaceful revolution that will topple what they termed the country's "illegal" leadership, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 21 November. Nor Zhamanakner Chairman Aram Karapetian explained that once a "critical mass" of people has taken to the streets in Yerevan, the opposition will immediately lead them to the presidential palace. On 21 November, the opposition Hanrapetutiun and National Accord parties decided separately to recall their representatives on election commissions at all levels to avoid any involvement in the conduct of the referendum, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. National Accord Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian again predicted on 21 November that the authorities will not be able to secure the minimum number of votes in favor of the planned changes without rigging the outcome of the referendum, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

Raffi Hovannisian, who served from 1992-1993 as Armenian foreign minister, endorsed on 21 November the opposition's call for a boycott of the 27 November referendum and urged voters to resort to civil disobedience if the outcome is falsified, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Using harsher rhetoric than ever before, Hovannisian described the Armenian leadership as "a regime that supports thieves, murderers, and corrupt individuals." "It is really pathetic that the ruling clique, which has turned illegalities into a way of life and is enriching itself by unlimited plunder, is pretending to be a custodian of the constitution and law," he added. LF

In response to written complaints of alleged malpractice, Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission (MSK) invalidated on 21 November the results of the 6 November parliamentary elections in an unspecified number of polling stations in a further 16 or 17 constituencies, but those "cosmetic changes" do not impact on the number of parliament mandates individual parties or blocs received, the online dailies and reported on 22 November. The MSK also upheld the preliminary outcome of the vote in three constituencies (Nos. 29, 30, and 61) in which opposition candidates protested that the outcome was falsified to deny them victory. Also on 21 November, Eldar Namazov, one of the co-founders of the opposition bloc Yeni Siyaset (YeS), told a press conference he has appealed to MSK Chairman Mazahir Panakhov and Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov to investigate what he termed the criminal falsification that deprived him of victory in Constituency 15, and reported on 22 November. Namazov said he has original protocols from 23 of the 29 polling stations showing him the winner. LF

The trial of Vladimir Arutiunian, who is charged with throwing a live hand grenade at U.S. President George W. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on 10 May, has been postponed as Arutiunian has announced he has no trust in his defense lawyer, Caucasus Press reported. The trial was scheduled to begin on 24 November at the Tbilisi City Court. The initial investigation established that Arutiunian, a Tbilisi resident who was apprehended after a shoot-out on 20 July in which he killed a Georgian police officer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2005), acted alone, Caucasus Press reported on 1 November quoting Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. LF

Georgia's Constitutional Court refused on 21 November to consider an appeal by Aslan Abashidze, the former ruler of Georgia's Adjar Autonomous Republic, against the confiscation in the wake of his May 2004 ouster of real estate and valuables worth millions of dollars belonging to himself and his family, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2005). The Constitutional Court rejected the argument by Abashidze's lawyer that the confiscation of his and his family's property was unconstitutional. LF

Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini met in Sukhum on 21 November with Sergei Bagapsh, president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Prime Minister Aleksandr Ankvab, and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, reported. Tagliavini discussed with the Abkhaz leaders the situation in the conflict zone, and she presented them with a package of unspecified proposals concerning security issues and guarantees of a nonresumption of hostilities. Taglianvini said the UN is concerned that failure to address numerous unspecified problems is delaying "further productive work" on resolving the conflict, and she requested clarification of unspecified aspects of the Abkhaz Law on Citizenship, which requires Georgian residents of Abkhazia to choose between Abkhaz citizenship or leaving the region to live elsewhere in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 November 2005). LF

Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told a cabinet meeting on 21 November that Kazakhstan's GDP grew 9 percent year on year in the first 10 months of 2005, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Finance Minister Arman Dunaev said that Kazakhstan plans to pay off $849 million of the country's sovereign debt ahead of schedule in 2005, saving $290 million on future interest payments. Dunaev said that by yearend, the national debt will stand at $3.9 billion, or 7.8 percent of forecast GDP. The ratio of sovereign debt to GDP was 26.5 percent in 2000. DK

Shalatai Myrzakhmetov, regional representative of the pro-presidential Otan Party, told a news conference in Astana on 21 November that Otan offices in Shymkent, in southern Kazakhstan, were attacked on 20 November, Interfax reported. Myrzakhmetov said that a guard was beaten and documents stolen. The Shymkent offices of Zheltoksan, an unregistered patriotic movement, also was vandalized on 20 November. Both incidents are under investigation. DK

The Almaty campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, head of the For a Just Kazakhstan opposition bloc, issued a statement on 21 November alleging numerous incidents of pressure and harassment by law-enforcement authorities, the For a Just Kazakhstan website ( reported. The statement said that as of 20 November, For a Just Kazakhstan had filed 51 petitions and complaints with various official agencies. The allegations include three incidents of hooliganism, 19 incidents of threats and psychological pressure, 10 incidents of the unlawful detention of Tuyakbai supporters, and six incidents of the unlawful confiscation of campaign materials. The statement said that eight cases involved possible criminal violations. Although the statement noted that at least one investigation has begun, it stressed that the bloc has not received a response to many of its appeals. In closing, the statement charged, "Instead of solving crimes and catching criminals, the police have taken it upon themselves to hinder the activities of the opposition candidate's campaign headquarters and are working for the benefit of presidential candidate [and incumbent president] Nursultan Nazarbaev." DK

At a 21 November meeting of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council chaired by President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Security Council Secretary Miroslav Niyazov and Prosecutor-General Kambaraly Kongantiev warned that serious crime-fighting measures are needed, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "Certain representatives of the law-enforcement agencies and the state apparatus were connected in many ways with the criminal world," Kongantiev noted. He also said that 40 contract killings have taken place in Kyrgyzstan since 2001, including three killings of members of parliament over the past six months, and not one of them has been solved. Niyazov stressed that the number of police must be increased by 3,000-4,000. Bakiev noted that the number of law-enforcement officers has fallen from 16,000 to 8,500 in recent years. He criticized the Interior Ministry, National Security Service, and courts and ordered the government to develop a crime-fighting program by 25 December, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and reported. DK

Prosecutor-General Kongantiev said at the 21 November Security Council meeting that unauthorized protests are "a serious threat to the stability of the state and public order," reported. "The wave of unauthorized demonstrations and protests that has swept the nation after the March events...threatens to become a permanently expanding process of unlawful conduct," Kongantiev warned. He said that 2,286 unregistered public meetings have taken place this year. But Security Council Secretary Niyazov told Interfax that protests will not be banned. "The constitution does not allow us to ban rallies, but they must comply with the law and be coordinated with the authorities," Niyazov said. Kongantiev's remarks blaming media for alleged attempts to destabilize the situation in the country drew a critical response from the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, reported. Coalition head Edil Baisalov commented, "If the prosecutor-general is really concerned about the emotional state and mood of the people, he should be ruthlessly combating organized crime instead of criticizing the media." DK

The last U.S. military plane left the air base in Karshi-Khanabad on 21 November, AP reported, quoting U.S. military attache Gregory White. U.S. Central Command spokesman Joe Vermette said that a small support staff is wrapping up operations at the base. The base was opened in 2001 to support military and other operations in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan gave the United States six months to vacate the base on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005) after the United States called for an independent international investigation into allegations that Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Andijon on 13 May. DK

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is debating closing down all its operations in Uzbekistan because of the deteriorating political situation there, Reuters reported on 21 November. Bruno Balvanera, the head of business development at the EBRD, told the news agency that the bank's involvement in the country has been shrinking in past years as the political situation worsened and economic reforms stalled. Meanwhile, in a statement posted on the website of the Uzbek Embassy in Germany (, Uzbekistan on 21 November rejected European Union criticism of the trial of 15 men convicted of organizing an uprising in May, calling it "unprecedented political pressure." The EU decided last week to ban entry to 12 Uzbek officials for their purported involvement in putting down the uprising in the eastern city of Andijon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2005). DK

Judge Neli Arlouskaya of the Minsk City Economic Court on 21 November rejected a lawsuit by the private daily "Narodnaya volya" against Minablsayuzdruk, the Minsk Oblast branch of the state-run press-distribution monopoly Belsayuzdruk, which cancelled a distribution contract with the daily in October (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 21 November 2005), RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Last week, the same judge threw out similar lawsuits against Belsayuzdruk and its Minsk city branch, Minharsoyuzdruk, but sustained the newspaper's suit against the state-run Chyrvonaya zorka plant for the termination of a printing contract. "I find the judge's position strange. On one hand she orders the printing plant to print the newspaper, but on the other she rejects absolutely identical lawsuits over a breach of distribution contracts. That means that the newspaper can spend money on printing, but would have to keep all the copies at a warehouse," lawyer Hary Pahanyayla told Belapan. "On the eve of the [2006] presidential election all independent periodicals will cease to exist. All independent periodicals will be destroyed with all available means," "Narodnaya volya" commercial manager Yauheniya Tserakhava told RFE/RL. JM

Viktor Yushchenko told Reuters on 21 November that his allies will regain public trust wrecked by the dismissal of Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet in September, win the 2006 parliamentary elections, and form a new parliamentary majority and government. "A victory in parliament will be our second victory after winning last year. There is still time for us to learn the lessons of what happened and achieve understanding," Yushchenko said. He stressed that no one should be promised the post of prime minister in the process of forging an election coalition. "We made a mistake once," Yushchenko said, referring to the appointment of Tymoshenko as premier after the Orange Revolution. "Once bitten, twice shy. I would say the main loss was disappointment among the people." JM

President Yushchenko on 21 November met with leaders of all political forces that took part in the Orange Revolution to set a plan for celebrating the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution on 22 November, the presidential press service reported. The main celebration rally will be held on Independence Square in Kyiv from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. The first people to address the crowd will be the so-called field commanders of the Orange Revolution: Roman Bezsmertnyy, Volodymyr Filenko, Yuriy Lutsenko, Mykola Tomenko, and Taras Stetskiv. Statements are also to be made by Yuriy Kostenko, Borys Tarasyuk, Viktor Pynzenyk, Oleksiy Ivchenko, Volodymyr Stretovych, Vladislav Kaskiv, Anatoliy Matviyenko, Anatoliy Kinakh, Oleksandr Moroz, Tymoshenko, and Yuriy Yekhanurov. Yushchenko's speech will close the rally. JM

Deputy Prime Minister Roman Bezsmertnyy stepped down on 21 November, saying he is going to focus on the 2006 parliamentary elections campaign of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People's Union, which he leads, Ukrainian media reported. Bezsmertnyy told journalists that the government officials who will be placed on the party's election list will remain in their posts since, he added, they will not be involved in managing the election campaign. Bezsmertnyy also said President Yushchenko can be given the top place on the party's election list if he decides to run. JM

The three members of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency agreed in Washington on 21 November to "start a process of constitutional reform aimed at strengthening the powers of the state authorities, and which should define the work of the parliament and the state Presidency," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2005). The Croat Ivo Miro Jovic, Muslim Sulejman Tihic, and Serb Borislav Paravac were scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 22 November to finalize an agreement, RFE/RL reported. U.S. and other Western diplomats have applied considerable pressure on Bosnian leaders in recent weeks to speed reforms of the constitution set down in the 1995 Dayton peace agreements in favor of a more centralized and streamlined state. RFE/RL noted that the Washington declaration by the Presidency does not include any commitment to specific changes. The broadcast added that any modifications to the constitution will have to be approved by March 2006 in order to be valid for the elections expected in October. PM

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters in Washington late on 21 November that U.S. officials are looking for a commitment from the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina to reform government structures, RFE/RL reported. "What we hope they'll...dedicate themselves to this process of constitutional reform [and] will pursue [it] over the coming months in advance of the 2006 elections," he said. Burns stressed that an agreement on constitutional reform implies replacing the tripartite Presidency with a single individual, as well as strengthening the role of the prime minister and setting up a unicameral legislature. Burns argued that "Bosnia can't remain a fractured state and think that it can become part of the unified Europe or a unified NATO." He called on the members of the Presidency to commit themselves to "a future unified state," adding that "we will negotiate the the coming months." PM

At a Washington gathering marking the 10th anniversary of the Dayton peace agreements, U.S. Undersecretary of State Burns said on 21 November that Dayton was a "remarkable" diplomatic achievement that provided a decade of peace for Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL reported. He added, however, that: "Dayton established a state with internal divisions, internal Berlin walls, separating one community from another because that was the only way to stop the war and to build a tentative and fragile peace. Ten years later these internal walls must now be torn down. The country's people -- the Croats, Serbs, and Muslims -- must be allowed to mix, they must be allowed to integrate as differing people do in normal multiethnic states." Richard Holbrooke, who was the chief architect of the settlement, told the conference that the achievements of Dayton included an end to bloodshed, the emergence of a single country, and the introduction of a single currency. He said the mistakes of the Dayton agreement included permitting the name "Republika Srpska," allowing three armies to remain, and leaving a weak central government and cumbersome tripartite Presidency. PM

The international community's High Representative Paddy Ashdown told the 21 November Washington conference that Bosnia-Herzegovina is poor because it spends too much of its income on government, RFE/RL reported. "If you want to ask why you've got such terrifyingly bad hospitals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in Republika Srpska; such poor education systems; such terribly low pensions, there's a very simple answer -- because you spend so much on government, you've got nothing left to spend on your people," Ashdown said. Paravac, the Serbian member of the Presidency, defended Dayton. But his Croatian counterpart Jovic appealed to his colleagues to support constitutional changes: "In order to create a democratic and functional state, we are asking the Americans and Europeans to strongly support the constitutional changes that will make Bosnia and Herzegovina a democratic state and a secular state at the same time, the peoples and citizens of which will have normal and equal conditions for their education and work. Let's...create a complete constitution so that everyone in my country will be able to look forward to their life in that region." PM

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the parliament in Belgrade on 21 November that his country will not accept an independent Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "An independent Kosovo would mean that violence, violations of human rights, ethnic cleansing, and cultural genocide pay," he argued. Kostunica added that "it would put in question many widely accepted values and undermine the foundations of the world order. No one should mistake the possible consequences of such a precedent." The prime minister is apparently staking out Serbia's opening negotiating position in anticipation of the talks on Kosova's permanent status, which are expected to start soon. His remarks on Kosova, as well as those of other leading Belgrade politicians, are presumably also aimed at voters with an eye toward the elections widely expected in 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 16, and 18 November 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). The political leaders of Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority argue that Serbia forfeited all rights to the province through its genocidal policies in 1998-99 and that independence is the only acceptable outcome for the status talks. PM

The Greek Supreme Court ordered on 22 November the extradition of Croatian citizen Hrvoje Petrac, whom Greek police arrested in August on the basis of a Croatian arrest warrant, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2005). Petrac is formally wanted in an extortion case, but the main interest in him is because of his alleged links to former General Ante Gotovina, who is Croatia's most wanted fugitive war crimes indictee. Petrac is widely suspected of being part of Gotovina's support network that enables him to stay on the run. PM

Ukrainians converged on Kyiv's Independence Square on 22 November to mark the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution, which installed Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's president.

One year ago, tens of thousands of people came to the same square to protest what they saw as a rigged second election round in favor of Yushchenko's rival, then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Weeks of peaceful protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities led to a repeat runoff on 26 December, which was won by Yushchenko with 52 percent of the vote.

The Orange Revolution, which has drawn comparisons to the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in November 1989, was a time of immense social optimism and activism in Ukraine. However, one year later, a majority of Ukrainians say they are disappointed with the current course of events in their country.

According to a poll taken earlier this month, more than half of Ukrainians say the new government has failed to keep the promises that were made on the square. Today just one in seven Ukrainians fully supports President Yushchenko, compared to nearly 50 percent declaring such support shortly after his inauguration in February.

What are the main reasons for this general disappointment?

First, the Yushchenko government has failed to exploit the backing it gained during the Orange Revolution to institute coherent reforms. Such a scenario could have set Ukraine on a path of irreversible transformation from the current oligarchic-capitalism system to a more market-oriented economic model. Instead, Yushchenko resorted to a populist and expensive increase in wages and pensions, apparently to keep the electorate satisfied until the 2006 parliamentary elections. After several months of relative social contentment, this move was followed by increased inflation and a rise in costs of living. At the same time, economic growth rate in Ukraine has slumped from 12 percent in 2004 to some 3 percent today. As a result, Ukrainians justifiably view their economic prospects as bleak.

Second, Yushchenko has failed to fulfill his revolutionary pledge to eradicate endemic corruption and "send all bandits to jail." True, the government has annulled more than 4,000 regulations in business registration, which was a breeding ground for corrupt practices. However, the general view is that corruption in Ukraine has remained no less acute than it was during the reign of Yushchenko's predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. No senior official from Kuchma's regime has been brought to court on charges of corruption or abuse of office.

Third, Yushchenko was constrained to dismiss Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet in September, after some high-ranking government officials accused several top presidential aides of corrupt practices. The crisis served to severely damage the Yushchenko camp by fueling arguments that the Orange Revolution was not so much a popular revolt as a rebellion of pro-Yushchenko "millionaires" against pro-Yanukovych "billionaires."

Fourth, Yushchenko made an ill-advised deal with Yanukovych in late September to secure the approval of a new cabinet. In particular, Yushchenko obliged himself to draft a bill on amnesty for those guilty of election fraud in 2004. In other words, Yushchenko not only reneged on his vow to "send all bandits to jail," but also undermined one of the primary motivations of those who supported the Orange Revolution. Many of Yushchenko's former supporters and sympathizers were taken aback by this move, and some accused him of "betraying" the revolution.

Fifth, prior to the cabinet crisis in September, Yushchenko could hardly be credited as a strong-willed and objective-driven leader. For example, he involved himself in an embarrassing public argument with Tymoshenko regarding the scale of reprivatization in Ukraine. While the president wanted to review some 30 dubious privatizations, the prime minister called for a much broader effort -- saying their number must be at least 3,000. For several months Yushchenko also tolerated the existence of two "parallel governments" in the country, one centered on Tymoshenko's cabinet and another on the National Security and Defense Council headed by Petro Poroshenko. To resolve this controversy, he eventually dismissed both of them.

Sixth, there is also a growing feeling in Ukraine that Yushchenko came to power with hardly any coherent or long-term economic program. For many commentators this was illustrated by the much-publicized reprivatization of the Kryvorizhstal steel mill. In October, the government sold Kryvorizhstal to a Dutch steel conglomerate for some $4.8 billion -- six times the amount Kuchma's government received for it in 2004. Initially, Yushchenko said the money would be spent in the social sphere to improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainians. However, he recanted on this promise and announced that the sum would be primarily invested in Ukrainian industries. Meanwhile, lawmakers have reportedly drafted no fewer than 20 bills on how to spend the Kryvorizhstal windfall. This seems to indicate that decision makers in Ukraine remain fairly confused regarding the country's development priorities or economic course after the Orange Revolution.

For most Ukrainians, the above-mentioned drawbacks of the postrevolutionary government in Ukraine seem to outweigh the benefits that derived from Yushchenko's coming to power. This is unfortunate, as it is difficult to ignore or to discredit the accomplishments of the Orange Revolution.

First, Ukrainian media now operate in an incomparably freer environment than they did during the Kuchma era. Second, the Orange Revolution has given rise to vibrant civic activism, pulling Ukrainians out of the public passivity that is characteristic of many post-Soviet societies. And third, the Orange Revolution has introduced a political reform that will soon transform the country into a parliamentary-presidential republic -- that is, objectively a more democratic political system than most post-Soviet governments.

It is these achievements that should be most remembered on Independence Square on 22 November.

Indian Border Roads Organization will not leave Afghanistan despite an ultimatum issued by the purported neo-Taliban hostage takers to kill an Indian national whom they abducted recently, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood told All India Radio in Kabul on 21 November. The Indian national, along with three Afghans working for the Indian government-owned construction company, was kidnapped in Nimroz Province in southern Afghanistan on 19 November; their abductors have threatened to kill their Indian hostage if his employer does not leave Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2005). The neo-Taliban have not contacted Indian authorities, Sood added. Then on 22 November, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Yousif Stanikzai announced that the Afghan driver abducted along with the other three men was released unharmed the previous day and was being questioned by local intelligence agents, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Nimroz security officials mobilized 70 policemen to search for the kidnapped Indian citizen, Kabul's Tolu Television reported on 21 November. An official spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi on 21 November identified the kidnapped Indian national as Shri Maniappan Raman Kutty. The Indian government has identified Shri Kutty as a driver rather than an engineer, as was previously reported. AT

President Hamid Karzai on 20 November urged the media to broadcast public complaints about his cabinet ministers during a one-week period dubbed "Accountability Week," which started on 19 November, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 20 November. The period has been earmarked as a time during which all ministries are to discuss their performances publicly and respond to criticism. Karzai said that the media can help both the government and Afghan citizens to bring positive change in society. Karzai dismissed critics who have called the establishment of "Accountability Week" a symbolic move. He termed the move as an honest endeavor on the part of his government to give transparency to its actions. Meanwhile, representatives of several Afghan ministries, speaking at a news conference on 21 November, presented the media with reports of their work, Pajhwak reported. AT

In an editorial published on 21 November, "Anis" wrote that reconciliation with the armed opposition is the only path toward peace in Afghanistan. Praising the existence of a "democratic government" in which all Afghans can participate without "any discrimination," the editorial expressed hope that the government will "open paths of reconciliation with its opponents in accordance with the principles of Islamic brotherhood." "Anis" argued that the government's reconciliation program should offer the opposition -- which the paper did not identity -- "an amnesty and the opportunity to participate in the government," and should try to "deliver a truly Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" to the "disgruntled brothers." The editorial urged "leaders of various Afghan tribes, Pakistani progressive and democratic parties," religious figures, and "impartial scholars" to assist the Afghan government in its ongoing reconciliation process. President Karzai recently reviewed the national-reconciliation programs aimed at offering amnesty to most members of the former Taliban regime, while Sebghatullah Mojaddedi, the head of the commission established to implement the reconciliation process, has blamed elements in Pakistan for assisting the Afghan insurgency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 November 2005). AT

Herat Province Governor Sayyed Hosayn Anwari on 21 November blamed the Afghan National Police for a clash that occurred on 18 November between police and Afghan National Army forces in a park on the outskirts of Herat, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. "After an investigation, we found that the national army troops were not armed and the national military police fired on them," Anwari told reporters in Herat. One soldier was killed in the clash, the cause of which remains unclear. AT

Seyyed Mohsen Tasaloti, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's most recent nominee for petroleum minister, met with some 50 members of parliament late on 20 November, Mehr News Agency reported the next day. Before Tasaloti began fielding questions, conservative legislator Seyyed Ali Riaz headed off questions about whether Tasaloti holds dual citizenship by citing the parliamentary research center's determination that the nominee has no such dual status. The citizenship issue has been something of a concern, and there has been similar speculation about Tasaloti's daughter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2005). Riaz said Tasaloti subsequently answered queries about his personal life, ethics, technical skills, and managerial experience. Riaz called the answers satisfactory and said the conservatives do not want the ministry run by a caretaker any longer. Another legislator, Reza Talai-Nik of Bahar and Kabudarahang, said Tasaloti did not give appropriate answers. The reformist Nureddin Pirmoazen of Ardabil said the legislative minority will not interfere with the approval process because it does not believe the current government can solve the country's problems. He said the cabinet should be complete as soon as possible so the Ahmadinejad administration's shortcomings cannot be blamed on the reformists. BS

A riot broke out in the predominantly Kurdish city of Mahabad on 20 November after police reportedly shot and killed a local youth, Radio Farda reported. Kurdish reporter Sohrab Sharifi told Radio Farda that a police car was set alight in the wake of the shooting. Security personnel made numerous arrests, Sharifi said, but the exact number is unknown. Sharifi added that there are differing accounts of the shooting. Some reports suggest the youth was caught with smuggled goods, Sharifi said, and this would not be the first time a smuggler has been shot. The northwestern part of Iran is relatively underdeveloped and some locals earn a living through smuggling. Sharifi said there is a heavy security presence in Mahabad since the riot, there is martial law, and occasional shooting can be heard. BS

President Jalal Talabani arrived in Tehran on 21 November for a three-day visit, Radio Farda and other news services reported. Middle East expert Alireza Nurizadeh told Radio Farda that Talabani has come to reassure the Iranians that Iraqi territory will not used as the base for any attack on them. Nurizadeh added that Talabani is there as the representative of all Iraqis, not just Kurds. Talabani told Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki that he has come to thank Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials for their years of support, IRNA reported, and to expand cooperation in the cultural, economic, and political fields. President Ahmadinejad told a 21 November cabinet meeting that Iran backs Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity, IRNA reported. "We think that the occupying powers are after their political and material gains and they have no incentive to defend interest of Iraqi political and ethnic groups," Ahmadinejad said. "They are not concerned about shedding blood of innocent people in Iraq." BS

Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i was in Tehran on 17 November, Iranian state television reported. He and Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, signed a memorandum of understanding dealing with counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and enhanced security to facilitate pilgrimage traffic. On 18 November, Larijani told state television that the most important part of the memorandum relates to the pilgrims. Larijani said enhanced cultural, economic, and political cooperation will contribute to security in Iraq. According to on 21 November, al-Rubay'i emphasized that the Iranians must stop interfering in Iraq, and he criticized Iran for contributing to unrest by backing Shi'ite militias. Both countries agreed, in the memorandum, to refrain from supporting groups that cause problems. The Iraqis said of the Iranians as they headed home, "They're obsessed with the Americans. They're really obsessed." BS

The Arab League-sponsored preparatory conference on national reconciliation ended in Cairo on 21 November with a closing statement pledging that the Iraqi National Accord Conference will be held in late February or early March in Baghdad, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 22 November. Iraqi delegates expressed their commitment to the unity, sovereignty, and independence of Iraq in the closing statement. "Even though resistance is a legitimate right for all peoples, terrorism is not legitimate resistance," the statement acknowledges. It also calls for the release of "all innocent prisoners not convicted by a court and the investigation into the allegations" of detainee torture (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2005). The statement also calls for the "withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable through the setting up of an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces." The statement calls on Arab states to increase their diplomatic presence in Iraq, provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid, and help secure their borders with Iraq. Participants also agree to undertake a series of trust-building measures in preparation for next year's conference, including a departure from blaming other sides to the conflict and refraining from using religious, political, or media platforms to incite hatred or division. KR

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told reporters at a 21 November press briefing in Cairo that delegates to the preparatory reconciliation conference were not under any international pressure during the three-day talks, MENA reported the same day. "We are discussing with an honest Iraqi determination that stems from the Iraqi constitution, the Iraqi state, and what the Iraqi people believe," al-Ja'fari said. Commenting on a possible withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq, he told reporters, "The troops pullout depends on the security situation in Iraq, and we are continuously training Iraqi forces so that they can fill the vacuum left by coalition forces once they leave the country." Al-Ja'fari reminded reporters that Iraqi security forces have taken over responsibilities in a number of governorates. KR

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission (IECI) warned political parties and coalitions against impropriety, saying they should not give gifts, make donations, or promote sectarianism in their campaigning, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 21 November. The IECI said that political parties or coalitions that attempt to promote ethnic, religious, sectarian, tribal, or regional sentiments in their campaigning will be subject to legal questioning by the commission. The IECI has also banned the use of slogans, posters, graphic images, or television advertising that might invoke such sentiments, Al-Sharqiyah reported. KR

The Iraqi Front for National Dialogue accused government forces on 21 November of tearing down the front's campaign posters in the Diyala Governorate, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 22 November. The bloc said in a statement that people in military uniforms were seen tearing down its campaign posters in the governorate as well as in villages surrounding the governorate. The statement accused the government of trying to disrupt the democratic process by fomenting sedition. The front called on the United Nations to intervene in the issue. KR

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Baghdad on 21 November that a U.S. raid on a terrorist safe house in Mosul did not result in the death or capture of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, reported on 22 November. "I do not believe that we got him. But his days are numbered," Khalilzad said. "We're closer to that goal [of capturing al-Zarqawi], but we didn't get him in Mosul," Khalilzad said. The U.S. military stormed the safe house on 20 November, reportedly acting on a tip that al-Zarqawi was inside. Eight suspected insurgents, four Iraqi policemen, and two U.S. Special Operations officers were killed in the three-hour, helicopter-backed firefight at the house. Three of the suspected insurgents blew themselves up with explosives to avoid capture. The website reported that the United States ran DNA tests on the bodies of the suspected insurgents before Khalilzad spoke to the press. KR