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Newsline - October 10, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist known for her critical coverage of politics and especially of the war in Chechnya, was shot dead on October 7 in her apartment building in Moscow, Russian and international media reported (also see End Note below). Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the shooting, which they say could have been a "premeditated murder," and Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika has taken the investigation under his personal control. Press watchdogs, rights activists, the United States, the EU, and several individual foreign countries have condemned the killing. There has been no official public Russian reaction as of October 10, but President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush in a telephone conversation on October 9 that "all necessary efforts will be made for an objective investigation into [her] tragic death." Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who owns shares in "Novaya gazeta," the liberal newspaper for which Politkovskaya worked, said on October 8 that her slaying was "a true political homicide, a vendetta." "Novaya gazeta" has launched its own inquiry and posted a $930,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Politkovskaya's killer. The daily "Kommersant" wrote on October 9 that "a journalist gave her life for her profession." PM

Vladimir Lukin, Russia's human rights ombudsman, told RFE/RL's Russian Service on October 8 that "the problem is not what opinions various people or various journalists have. The problem is that people are periodically killed in this country for their opinions." According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Politkovskaya is the 42nd journalist killed in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the 12th in a contract-style killing since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. Lev Ponomaryov, who heads the activist group For Human Rights, told RFE/RL that he wonders if there is a link between her killing and the fact that October 7 was Putin's birthday. "Of course, if you consider who did this, considering that today is Putin's birthday, it's a complex political provocation. Someone sat -- someone who was absolutely indifferent to the fact that this was a human life -- and simply dealt himself a game of political solitaire. [Someone] planned this murder. Who did this? An enemy of Putin? An ally of Putin? We don't know. [But it was certainly] a person for whom human life means nothing." PM

The daily "Novaya gazeta" wrote on October 9 that Politkovskaya's slaying appears to be an act of "revenge," either by Ramzan Kadyrov, who is the Moscow-backed Chechen prime minister, or by those in Moscow or elsewhere seeking to discredit him (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," March 3, 2006). In the last interview she gave, she told RFE/RL's Russian Service on October 5 that "right now, I have two photographs on my desk. I am conducting an investigation about torture today in Kadyrov's prisons. These are people who were abducted by the 'Kadyrovtsy' [his armed security service] for completely inexplicable reasons and who died. These are bodies absolutely disfigured by torture." Politkovskaya was speaking on the occasion of Kadyrov's 30th birthday, which lifted the last legal barrier preventing him from running for president of Chechnya. She called him the "Stalin of our days" and a "coward armed to the teeth." She added that her wish for his birthday is for him to "sit in the dock" and face a serious trial for his crimes. For his part, Kadyrov was quick to deflect suspicion following her assassination, saying on October 8 that he was "saddened and shaken" by her death. He called for a thorough investigation, but advised against what he called "making assumptions with no basis or serious evidence." PM

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said in Berlin on October 9 that the government is "outraged" and "embittered" over Politkovskaya's killing, dpa reported. He added that "it's the responsibility of government to ensure there is a climate...promoting freedom of the press without a climate of fear." German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said that Chancellor Angela Merkel will raise the Politkovskaya case with President Putin when she meets him in Dresden on October 10 for the latest in a series of periodic meetings known as the Petersberg Dialogue. The discussion is expected to center on energy issues, global terrorism, and Iran's nuclear ambitions. The German daily "Die Welt" on October 9 called Putin a "difficult guest" and wrote that the Politkovskaya case will "overshadow [his] visit." Other commentators suggested, however, that economic considerations are primary for Berlin. Putin, who is a German-speaking former KGB officer who worked for years in Dresden, has sought to lock Germany into an ever closer relationship with Russia at the expense of trans-Atlantic ties, which was a long-standing Soviet policy goal. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who once called Putin an "impeccable democrat," now heads the stockholders' oversight body for the planned Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 26, July 17, August 24, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," March 23, 2006). PM

The German Foreign Ministry, headed by former Schroeder aide Walter Steinmeier (SPD), seeks to promote German and EU ties to Russia on the basis of an expanding network of interrelationships in the run-up toward the German EU presidency in the first half of 2007, Gernot Erler (SPD), who is state secretary at the ministry, told the "International Herald Tribune" of October 7 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 5 and 25, 2006). The ministry's recent position paper says that "Russia is welcome in Europe" and calls for "strong links with Russia." The daily noted that the study does not deal with human rights and was drawn up without the participation of the SPD's coalition partner, Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU-CSU), which will soon prepare a paper of its own. Leading German Russia expert Roland Goetz told the daily that "we don't have influence with Russia. We cannot integrate Russia into NATO or the EU because Russia does not want to be integrated. We have no levers. Germany has limited influence." PM

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of October 9 that he is "impressed" with "Germany's plans for a closer integration with Russia." He called for overcoming "old ways" from the Cold War era, including what he called a tendency to formulate policy on the basis of blocs and use concepts such as "the West." Lavrov called instead for "flexible relations between states in a world undergoing globalization." He noted that "not everyone" likes Russia's "foreign-policy independence" but stressed that other countries "must get used to it" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 27, 2006). He added that Russia will formulate its own "national interests" as it sees fit. He warned against unspecified attempts by countries to promote "changes outside their own borders." Lavrov acknowledged what he called "basic democratic values...[with] a universal character" but stressed that they must be developed "in each country in its own way and with reference to its national customs and culture." The minister wrote that it is "absolutely unacceptable" to invoke the term "Islamic terrorism." Lavrov added that "Europe has a very rich history and should therefore not give in to attempts to simplify [the state of] today's world." He called for "sensitivity, patience, and tolerance" in dealing with international problems but did not explain how that view relates to Russia's recent blockade of Georgia, which he has defended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 3 and 4, 2006). PM

Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on October 8 that Russia has no intention of annexing Abkhazia or South Ossetia, despite charges by the Georgian authorities to the contrary, RIA Novosti reported. "On the contrary, during the past 15 years, the Georgian leadership has done everything to push these autonomous territories away from Georgia," he added. Ivanov stressed, however, that "if Georgia launches a military action against our peacekeepers and citizens [in those territories], if it starts genocide and an ethnic-cleansing campaign, Russia will not ignore those actions." He did not elaborate. PM

President Putin told the cabinet on October 9 that "Russia certainly condemns the [nuclear] test carried out in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" earlier that day, news agencies reported. He added that the matter "doesn't concern only Korea. Enormous damage has been done to the process of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world. I hope [North] Korea will return to the negotiation process and I ask the [Russian] Foreign Ministry to conduct the necessary consultations in the UN Security Council" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 4 and 5, 2006). Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov told the same meeting that "the force of the test explosion of the [North] Korean nuclear weapon was between five and 15 kilotons. We know the exact location where the underground test took place. The ecological situation is normal, including on the territory of the Russian Federation's [nearby] Primorsky Krai, but we will continue monitoring the atmosphere so that we have a full and thorough picture of the situation." Later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told reporters that "it is necessary that [North] Korea and other countries involved show maximum restraint" and return to the negotiating table. Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the United States is partly to blame for the test because Washington focused its attention on pressuring Pyongyang rather than on restarting talks. PM

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller said in Moscow on October 9 that the state-run monopoly will develop its huge Shtokman natural-gas field without foreign partners, Russian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 8 and September 25, 2006). He added that Russia did not receive what he called satisfactory offers from potential foreign partners. The shortlist of such partners included U.S. Chevron and ConocoPhillips, France's Total, and Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro. He added that the gas will be sent primarily to Germany and Europe using the NEGP. Previously, Gazprom suggested that most would go to the United States as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Developing the Barents Sea gas field is expected to cost between $10 billion and $20 billion. Gazprom has no experience in offshore projects or in LNG and will need to use foreign contractors, as Miller noted. Several Western experts told reporters in Moscow that companies normally seek to share the risk in carrying out such complex projects. Some commentators wrote that Gazprom's decision reflects oil-rich Russia's new self-confidence in dealing with foreigners. Others noted that the Kremlin had previously suggested that Moscow's granting U.S. participation in Shtokman might be linked to Washington's concluding an agreement leading to Russian membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has yet to happen. PM

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref presented to President Putin on October 9 a plan for an independent Russian pricing system for oil, the daily "Kommersant" reported on October 10. The paper added that the Russian Fuel and Energy Exchange in St. Petersburg and futures trading of Russian Export Blend Crude Oil (REBCO) "are to become key elements of Russia's pricing independence from North Sea's Brent brand." The daily noted that the meeting was not previously announced and called Gref's presentation "impromptu." A correspondent for ITAR-TASS wrote that Putin endorsed the futures listing under the name REPKA, from the Russian word for "turnip," and praised the name for the national blend. In fact, the futures will be listed as REBCO on the NYMEX as of October 20. PM

RusAl announced in Moscow on October 9 a three-way merger to create the world's largest aluminum company, news agencies reported. RusAl will merge with Russian rival Sual and Swiss-based Glencore. RusAl is owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Sual is also privately owned. Plans for the merger were confirmed in September, after Sual co-Chairman Viktor Vekselberg discussed them with President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 30, 2006). PM

Some 500 residents of the town of Khasavyurt blocked the main highway to Makhachkala on October 9 to protest the growing number of abductions in recent months of young male residents of Khasavyurt and the eponymous district, and the Chechen resistance website reported. Up to one-third of the town's residents are Chechens. In the most recent such incident, two young men were snatched four days ago by masked men in an operation that the Daghestan Interior Ministry has disclaimed any knowledge of. The protesters demanded a meeting with Daghestan law enforcement officials to discuss the situation. LF

Speaking at a Yerevan press conference, former Interior Minister and former Yerevan Mayor Suren Abrahamian revealed on October 9 that he was assaulted the previous day by unknown assailants, according to the A1+ website. Abrahamian, a member of the leadership of the ruling Republican Party political council, reported that two people attacked him, threw him to the ground and started to kick him near his home in Yerevan. Although Abrahamian refused to speculate on the motives of the attack, he recently criticized Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and mentioned the prime minister by name in a statement in support of the opposition's new campaign issue that highlights corruption within the state and links "criminals" to the political elite (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 12, 2006). The attack is the latest in a series of violent incidents in Armenia over the past two months, which include an assault on an opposition newspaper editor, the car-bomb assassination of a senior state tax official last month, and an attempted assassination of a senior police official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 7 and October 6, 2006). RG

Speaking to reporters in a press conference in Yerevan, Gianni Buquicchio, the head of the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, urged the Armenian authorities on October 6 to enact deeper reforms to the country's electoral code and to promptly implement necessary legislative amendments, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Buquicchio called for the adoption of a revised Electoral Code "as soon as possible, before the end of the year, in order to regulate the [parliamentary] elections that should be held in May" and urged "the parliament will take into account our comments on the code in order to improve the quality of this text to ensure good elections in Armenia." Parliament has been hesitant to adopt a new revision of the Electoral Code, although it has been presented with proposals from the Venice Commission, including measures that would combat electoral fraud by requiring election officials to mark voters' fingers with indelible ink. The measures would also mandate the early count and release of preliminary vote results shortly after the closure of polls. In past elections, election bodies have been notoriously slow in counting ballots, which has tended to allow greater opportunity for vote counts to be manipulated. The Strasbourg-based Venice Commission, which is empowered to monitor legal reforms in Council of Europe member states, argued that the amendments are essential for ensuring the freedom and fairness of next year's parliamentary elections. RG

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian met on October 6 with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Moscow to resume peace talks over the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Turan reported. The meeting, which both ministers characterized as "useful," effectively ended a diplomatic row over Azerbaijan's move to bring the issue before the UN General Assembly last month that threatened to derail the peace process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 27 and October 4, 2006). Although the Moscow meeting failed to garner any new agreement, the foreign ministers did agree to reconvene later this month to present their governments' responses to "new thoughts" voiced by international mediators during the talks. That meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in Paris on October 24-25, 2006. RG

In comments during a Baku press conference, the head of a Council of Europe election-monitoring mission from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, Ludmilla Shfiroaga, reported on October 9 that Azerbaijan's October 6 municipal elections were marred by "serious irregularities," Turan reported. According to the Council of Europe official, some of the most glaring shortcomings of the local election included improper vote counts, multiple voting and intimidation of voters. She further pointed to a weak electoral campaign and the refusal of the main opposition parties to participate in the elections as the main reasons for the elections' very low voter turnout. According to figures released by the Central Election Commission on October 7, overall voter turnout in the local election was slightly under 34 percent, with an estimated 805,000 voters casting their votes at 940 polling stations in 603 municipalities, Trend reported. The visiting official also noted that the Council of Europe must work more closely with the Azerbaijani government "to educate people involved in this process and hold special training programs for them." RG

NATO special envoy Robert Simmons met on October 9 in Baku with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, ANS-TV and Azerbaijani Public Television reported. Simmons, special envoy for NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on the South Caucasus and Central Asia, told reporters upon his arrival in Baku that he will also discuss Azerbaijan's integration with NATO during his meetings with the country's defense and national security ministers. Simmons added that while NATO has "good relations" with Azerbaijan, "we expect a lot from cooperation" with the Azerbaijani government and noted that the issue of NATO membership "depends on Azerbaijan's decision." He also confirmed that there has been "progress" in Azerbaijani efforts to bolster maritime security in the Caspian Sea and confirmed that "NATO was interested in military cooperation with Azerbaijan" within the framework of the existing NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). The visit follows a meeting last month in Baku between Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev and the deputy chief of the NATO International Military Center, Vice Admiral Denis Kutluk, to discuss pipeline security and military reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 20, 2006). RG

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, met on October 9 with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov in Baku, ANS-TV reported. Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, the OSCE official called on the Azerbaijani authorities to introduce greater media reforms and implement legislation aimed at protecting the rights of journalists in the country. He added that the continued classification of libel as a violation of the Criminal rather than Civil Code is the most obvious shortcoming in Azerbaijani media reform. The renewed attention on the need for media reform follows a recent decision by the Azerbaijani National Television and Radio Council to ban the broadcasting of the BBC and the Voice of America (VOA) and comes in the wake of the imposition of a three-year prison sentence for an opposition journalist after his questionable conviction on drug-possession charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). RG

Speaking in a televised national address, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili protested on October 8 Russia's recent deportation of Georgians, Rustavi-2 television reported. Russia deported more than 130 Georgians last week for alleged illegal-immigration violations and flew them to Georgia in an Emergency Situations Ministry plane on October 6 after Russia severed all transport links with Georgia. Saakashvili said the deportees should be transported in passenger planes, not in "cattle cars," adding on October 9 that Georgia is considering bringing a case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. He further warned that the airport in Tbilisi will no longer accept Russian cargo planes carrying Georgian deportees. Saakashvili also told reporters that he was willing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin "anytime" to defuse the crisis in relations. RG

Georgian President Saakashvili hailed on October 6 preliminary results from the previous day's local elections that showed a sizable victory for his ruling National Movement party, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. The local election was widely held as a test of the popularity of the Saakashvili government since its 2004 election. The elections, which were contested by six political groups competing for some 1,736 seats in 69 municipal councils, were generally held to be free and fair, with only a small number of reports indicating voting irregularities. Although votes were still being counted, estimates indicated that the ruling National Movement secured about 66.4 percent of the vote in the capital Tbilisi and nearly as much nationwide. Georgian Central Election Commission Chairman Guram Chalagashvili announced on October 6 that the "elections were conducted to quite a high standard and in complete accordance with the law and transparently" and noted that without "serious violations in the conduct of the elections" the election commission deems that the election was "conducted to the highest standards." He did report serious violations in six electoral districts and noted that there may be a repeat election in at least one district. RG

Opposition leaders disputed on October 6 the prior day's local election results, as opposition Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, whose party came in third with a disappointing 10.6 percent of the vote, urged the international community not to accept the outcome of the vote, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. Davit Usupashvili of the Republican and Conservative party bloc, which garnered slightly more than 12 percent of the vote, also argued that the election was flawed by blatant violations, pointing to events in Gori where "armed people and representatives of the police took an active part in counting ballot papers and in the transfer of voting boxes for counting." The opposition's protests were not openly accepted by international observers, as the head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Geert Ahrens, announced that "there had been significant progress in the conduct of the voting and welcomed the efforts of the authorities to conduct the elections in a professional and inclusive manner." The OSCE official did note that the elections' rather low turnout figures, estimated at a mere 34 percent in Tbilisi and roughly 51 percent nationally, suggested that more needed to be done to more fully engage citizens in the political process. RG

In a published newspaper interview, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli said on October 6 that agreements on the deployment and mandate of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are "obsolete" and accused Russian forces "systematic violations" of the terms of the agreements, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Noghaideli further called for the replacement of Russian peacekeepers with international troops. RG

Darigha Nazarbaeva, the daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and deputy chairwoman of the pro-presidential Otan party, told a meeting of the state commission on democratic reforms in Astana on October 9 that democratization must strengthen society's control over political power, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. She added, "Effective societal control is possible only under conditions of a multiparty system, a developed civil society, and a free press." Nazarbaeva stressed that "a multiparty system and free political competition presume strict control by opposition parties over the actions of the parties of power." Nazarbaeva also spoke out in favor of a reduction of presidential power and an increase in the authority of parliament. DK

Kurmanbek Bakiev appointed Murat Sutalinov head of the National Security Service (SNB) on October 6 to replace Busurmankul Tabaldiev, Reuters reported. Tabaldiev resigned last month after the arrest of former parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev on drug charges in Warsaw (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 14, 2006). Bakiev appointed Osmonaly Guronov acting interior minister to replace Sutalinov, Kabar reported. Guronov previously headed the Interior Ministry department for combating extremism and illegal migration. Artur Medetbekov was removed as head of the Kyrgyz State Guard Service and appointed first deputy chairman of the SNB, a post that Jenish Bakiev, the president's brother, previously held, reported. Also on October 6, Toktokuchuk Mamytov was appointed secretary of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. He replaced Miroslav Niyazov, who submitted his resignation a number of weeks ago. DK

The Ar-Namys Party is suspending its participation in the For Reforms opposition movement in the wake of negative comments by parliamentary deputy and For Reforms leader Azimbek Beknazarov about Ar-Namys Chairman and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, reported on October 6. In an October 5 interview in the newspaper "Obshchestvenny reiting," Beknazarov implied that Kulov is a hypocrite who tends to his own interests as prime minister while his party engages in opposition politics. Ar-Namys announced in an October 6 statement that it holds a constructive yet critical position on the current leadership but does not consider itself to be in the opposition. The statement strongly condemned Beknazarov's remarks, describing them as libelous and untrue. DK

Tajikistan's Central Election Commission registered three candidates on October 9, including incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov, for the November 6 presidential election, Avesta reported. Rakhmonov is running on behalf of the ruling People's Democratic Party. The other two registered candidates are Ismoil Talbakov (Communist Party) and Olimjon Boboyev (Economic Reform Party). DK

Tajikistan's Information Agency has asked local Internet providers to "search through and close websites on the Internet that aim to undermine the state's policies in the sphere of information," Reuters reported on October 7. The news agency said it had obtained a copy of the letter, which did not specify which sites Internet providers should block. A Reuters correspondent in Dushanbe discovered that the websites and, both of which feature critical and opposition materials, were inaccessible. DK

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told journalists in Dushanbe on October 6 that "we think [Tajikistan's upcoming election] can be a step forward in terms of meeting international standards and also building the practices in institutions that will serve Tajikistan well for democratic stability in the future," Reuters reported. The remarks came after talks with President Rakhmonov. Boucher noted that the election provides an opportunity "to open up the media to different points of view, to allow particularly independent media to report both sides." DK

Tashkent city courts recently ruled in favor of two U.S.-funded NGOs accused of violating Uzbek law, reported on October 9. The two NGOs are Cooperative Housing Foundation International and Mercy Corps. The former faced a lawsuit from two former employees who charged Labor Code violations, while the latter faced tax charges. In both cases the courts ruled in favor of the NGOs. The verdicts were unusual, as similar charges have led to the closure of virtually all U.S.- and Western-funded NGOs in Uzbekistan in recent years. DK

Some 100 members of New Life Church, a Minsk-based Protestant community, continued their hunger strike for a fifth consecutive day on October 9, protesting a court order to transfer their prayer house in Minsk to the city authorities, Belapan reported. Alyaksandr Karamyshau, a judge of the Minsk City Economic Court, on July 21 ordered New Life Church to sell its building for the equivalent of $17,500 to the Minsk City Executive Committee. The community replied that it will not to vacate its prayer house voluntarily. JM

Amateur sports clubs will be established at Belarusian ministries and large companies before the end of the year, Belapan reported on October 9, quoting Pavel Nyaprakhin, an official from the Sports Ministry. The clubs are to provide opportunities for physical exercise for the personnel of these organizations. "Sports clubs at ministries should be led by their heads," Nyaprakhin said, adding that enterprises will hire fitness coaches and rent gymnasiums for their staff. According to Nyaprakhin, Belarus has some 25,000 physical-education teachers and coaches at present. "We are alarmed by the demographic situation. According to our estimates, the number of schoolchildren will drop by 250,000 in 10 years, which will slash 1,500 jobs of physical-education teachers," he noted. JM

Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko told journalists in Kyiv on October 6 that Ukraine will not import Russian gas for domestic consumption next year, Ukrainian media reported. Boyko specified that Ukraine in 2007 will receive at least 57.5 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan through the Swiss-based Russian-Ukrainian joint venture RosUkrEnergo. Two days earlier Boyko announced that Ukraine has signed contracts on buying 42 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas, 7 billion cubic meters of Uzbek gas, and 8.5 billion cubic meters of Kazakh gas in 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 4, 2006). JM

President Viktor Yushchenko has appointed Vitaliy Hayduk as secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO), UNIAN reported on October 10. Hayduk, 49, was deputy prime minister for the fuel and energy sector in Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet in 2002-03. Last month Yushchenko issued a decree on the makeup of the RNBO, which is a constitutional body for coordinating and monitoring the activities of executive bodies in the sphere of national security and defense (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 12, 2006). JM

The pro-presidential Our Ukraine party has appealed to President Yushchenko to cancel his recent decree appointing Oleksandr Zinchenko as presidential adviser, UNIAN reported on October 10. "Oleksandr Zinchenko, while holding the post of state secretary [in 2005], disseminated dirty and ungrounded allegations, including with regard to members of our party. In the final analysis, [those allegations] created an artificial crisis in Ukraine, split the Orange [Revolution] camp, delivered a painful blow to the international image of the state, and affected the results of the parliamentary elections in 2006," Our Ukraine said in a statement. Zinchenko stepped down on September 2, 2005, from the post of head of the presidential staff, accusing then National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko as well as several other presidential aides of corruption. Zinchenko's allegations, which have not been confirmed in court, triggered the dismissal of Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet by President Yushchenko. JM

Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu said on October 9 that elections in Serbia should not postpone a decision on Kosova's final status, B92 and FoNet reported the same day. UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari said on October 3 that the possibility of Serbian parliamentary elections in December could delay a decision on Kosova's final status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). "We are interested in not postponing the status solution for anyone's elections and [favor] finishing this by the end of 2006, in accordance with the principles of the Contact Group." Sejdiu said. "In an agreement with the international community, Kosova postponed elections planned for the end of the status process, for the end of this year, and that is why there is no reason to wait for any other elections, such as the elections in Serbia," he added. BW

Also on October 9, Sejdiu said 20 seats in Kosova's parliament will be reserved for non-Albanian ethnic minorities, B92 and FoNet reported the same day. Ten seats will be given to Serbian officials and 10 to officials from other ethnic minorities. "There will be a twofold majority needed for the adoption of some laws," Sejdiu said. "In this way, minorities will be given the chance to speak, which means that they will have another voice. If, for instance, there is a law regarding religious freedom, if will first have to receive the approval of the parliamentary minority officials and then the entire parliament," he added. Sejdiu also said ministerial positions within Kosova's government will be given to minorities and that a Serbian-language university will be opened in Kosovska Mitrovica. BW

The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) unanimously reelected war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj as its leader on October 8, Reuters reported the same day. Seselj surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2003 and has been in detention since. "We will keep on trying to lift Serbia up from its knees and make it stand tall," deputy SRS leader Tomislav Nikolic said. "Until the Radicals come to power, Serbia will be a dysfunctional democracy." With Serbia expected to hold parliamentary elections in December, the SRS leads with approximately 35 percent support -- but are not strong enough to form a government alone and have few likely allies. BW

Also speaking on October 8, SRS deputy leader Nikolic said his party would look to Moscow for support rather than the European Union, Reuters reported the same day. "From the first day that the Radical Party is in power, this country will function normally. We will depend on our allies abroad, mainly Russia," he said. "We're not against the European Union, we just wonder if the EU is against us." Nikolic said the government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is corrupt and incompetent. He also dismissed claims that his party is not prepared to govern and that it would isolate Serbia from the rest of the world. BW

Suzana Grubjesic, a leading member of the liberal G17 Plus party, said on October 8 that recent conflicting statements about Serbia's upcoming constitutional referendum do not point to a split in the party, B92 reported the same day. Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Ivana Dulic-Markovic on October 5 called for a boycott of the referendum, while outgoing Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said on October 4 that the party plans to urge citizens to vote for the constitution's approval (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 6, 2006). "We are a democratic party and each Senior Council member has a right to his or her own position, as well as to put it to a test in the Senior Council meeting and find out if they have backing for their ideas," Grubjesic said. BW

The Belgrade District Court on October 9 convicted eight men for the killing in 2000 of Zeljko Raznatovic, aka "Arkan," one of Serbia's most feared paramilitary leaders, international news agencies reported the same day. The court sentenced Dobrosav Gavric, Milan Djuricic, and Dragan Nikolic each to 30 years in prison for their role in the killing. Gavric and Djuricic, who were tried in absentia, have yet to be arrested, Serbian state television reported. The court issued a warrant for their arrest. Five other accomplices were sentenced to 30 years in total. "Gavric approached the table [where Arkan sat] in [the Hotel] Intercontinental and shot him three times in the head," Beta and Reuters quoted presiding Judge Milenko Cvijovic as saying. "He then killed [Arkan's bodyguards] Milenko Mandic and Dragan Garic." BW

Serbia's deputy state prosecutor Milorad Cvijovic has been arrested and charged with forging a legal document to assist a businessman suspected of criminal conduct, AP reported on October 7. Cvijovic has been charged with stealing the document from the state prosecutors' office in 2005 and forging a ruling to assist Slobodan Radulovic, the former manager of the grocery store chain C-Market. Radulovic -- who is wanted for extortion in another case and is at large --- was seeking with Cvijovic's help to buy C-Market shares through another company at privileged prices. BW

Bulgaria demanded on October 8 that Serbia pay compensation for the environmental damage caused by an oil spill along the Danube River, Reuters reported the same day. "Serbia will have to pay Bulgaria compensation for polluting the Danube River in accordance with the Danube Convention," Reuters quoted Bulgarian Environment Minister Dzhevdet Chakarov as telling Bulgarian national radio. Serbia admitted last week that there was a small spill from a plant operated by the oil company NIS in Prahovo, near the Bulgarian border. Belgrade said, however, that the spill was under control and not big enough to cause the large slick that has since flowed downstream. Romania has also lodged an official complaint to Serbia, claiming that Belgrade failed to warn Bucharest about the spill. BW

U.S. Major General Richard Wightman took over as the new commander of NATO's headquarters in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a ceremony in Sarajevo on October 6, dpa reported the same day. Wightman replaced U.S. Brigadier General Louis Weber. Some 150 NATO troops, mostly Americans, remain deployed in Bosnia after the alliance turned over peacekeeping duties in the country to the EU force EUFOR in 2004. On September 22, Weber announced that NATO will make further troop cuts in Bosnia by the end of this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 25, 2006). BW

Anna Politkovskaya's last interview was with RFE/RL's Russian Service, just two days before she was gunned down in Moscow. The date of the interview, October 5, was also the birthday of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's prime minister, and it was a particularly significant birthday: now aged 30, he is now legally eligible to be president.

Kadyrov was the target of much of Politkovskaya's most critical reporting, and in this interview Politkovskaya expresses her forthright view of a man she calls "a Stalin of our times," dreams of a day when Kadyrov will stand trial, and talks about the subjects of much of her work -- the victims of torture and abduction in Chechnya.

RFE/RL: A Moscow journalist recently wrote that Ramzan Kadyrov has switched from the role of "destroyer" to the role of "creator," and that, as far as human rights are concerned, "all that remains for us is to cry about them." What's your reaction to this statement?

Anna Politkovskaya: I am even not going to comment on this, because it's total nonsense. I think that the new Kadyrov is the one who gives a ride in his car to Moscow ladies who long for more brutality. That is the only difference.

What does that mean, to "cry about human rights?" There is no need to sit and cry about human rights. One simply needs to meet not only with Kadyrov, but also with those people who have suffered as a result of Kadyrov's actions, and not just in a hypothetical way but directly -- people whose relatives died, who were tortured, and who were forced to flee. The majority of these people are truly admirable; I know many of them personally.

Right now I have two photographs on my desk. I am conducting an investigation about torture today in Kadyrov's prisons, today and yesterday. These are people who were abducted by the Kadyrovtsy [members of Kadyrov's personal militia] for completely inexplicable reasons and who died. They died as part of a PR campaign.

I plan to say that these people who were abducted, whose photographs are on my desk, these people -- one of them is Russian, the other is Chechen -- were made to look as though they were fighters who battled against the Kadyrovtsy in the village of Aleroi. It's a well-known story, one that was all over our television screens, on the radio, in the newspapers, when Kadyrov gave an interview before television cameras from state and other channels with bodies in the background. But in fact these were people whom they had seized, had 'disappeared' for some time, and were then killed.

RFE/RL: Some say such incidents are just a small percentage, that these are individual cases that are the price paid for improvements in the region. What is your view?

Politkovskaya: I want to say here that there were more abductions in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year.... And those are figures just of those people whose relatives reported abductions and whose bodies were never found. I'd like to call attention to the fact that we talk about "individual cases" only because these people aren't our loved ones -- it's not my son, my brother, my husband. The photographs that I'm telling you about, these were bodies that had been horribly tortured. You can't reduce this to a small percentage -- it's an enormous percentage.

Kadyrov is a Stalin of our times. This is true for the Chechen people. Many of our colleagues have gone out of their way to make us believe that this is a small percentage, that absolute evil can triumph today so that in some hypothetical future this evil can become good. This is absolutely not true.

As for the admiration felt for Kadyrov, you know, the situation is as it was under Stalin. If you [hear someone] speaking officially, publicly, openly, there is admiration. As soon as you [hear someone] speak secretly, softly, confidentially, you're told, 'We hate him intensely.' This split is absolute in people's souls. This is a very dangerous thing.

RFE/RL: Do you agree with journalists who say that the presidency of Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to the presidency of Vladimir Putin?

Politkovskaya: I link Kadyrov's fate to the number of [people who want to take revenge on him], that's all. Of course, I don't wish death on anyone, but as far as this particular person is concerned, I think he should take serious care of his security.

Journalists who don't know this region say that he is reviving Chechen traditions. That is complete nonsense. He's destroying them. You know, I'm no supporter of the custom of the vendetta, but it did ensure some kind of stability in this region for many years. He has destroyed that too.

RFE/RL: Assuming Kadyrov is not killed, do you think he is likely to bring about early elections?

Politkovskaya: He is a puppet, nothing depends on him now. I don't think he's more powerful than anyone else. He's a coward armed to the teeth and surrounded by security guards. I don't think he will become president [of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration]. That is my strong inner belief, perhaps an intuition. It's not something rational, and nor has it been confirmed by [current President] Alu Alkhanov.... Alu Alkhanov himself is a very weak person. That is his particular problem and the main reason for Kadyrov's increasingly draconian methods.

Personally I only have one dream for Kadyrov's birthday: I dream of him someday sitting in the dock, in a trial that meets the strictest legal standards, with all of his crimes listed and investigated.

By the way, no other newspaper writes anything about this, but criminal cases have been launched against the Kadyrovtsy and Kadyrov personally on the basis of three articles published by our newspaper. I myself am a witness in one of these cases. These cases are about abductions, including one criminal case about the abduction of two people carried out with the participation of Ramzan Akhmedovich Kadyrov.

Abdul Jabar Durrani, the chief of Khogiani district in Nangarhar Province, his security commander, the head of the security department, and a policeman were killed when a roadside bomb destroyed their vehicle on October 9, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Durrani and the two other officials were on their way to inspect a school that was torched earlier by arsonists, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on October 9. A website purporting to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- the name of the country under the Taliban -- claimed on October 9 that an "Islamic Emirate mujahedin" killed the district chief of Khogiani using a remote-controlled explosive device. AT

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has identified two cells of terrorists who intend to destabilize Kabul through a bombing campaign, French Brigadier General Frank Le Bot, the head of ISAF's command in central Afghanistan, told AFP on 9 October. The cells -- allegedly supported by the Taliban and former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e Islami -- "want to set in Kabul a permanent terror," Le Bot said, adding that "not at a high level [of terror, but] IED [improvised explosive device] attack per week or two." Le Bot added that ISAF is working with Afghan security forces to "neutralize these two IED cells." AT

According to Afghan Economy Minister Amin Farhang, 10 suspects have been arrested in the case of the murder of two German journalists in Baghlan Province, ddp reported on October 9. Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe, two freelance staffers of the state-financed Deutsche Welle radio and television station, were killed on October 7. Of the 10 people arrested, "it looks as if four of them were involved" in the crime, Farhang said. According to Farhang, the motive for the killings has not been determined. AT

The UN Security Council decided on October 9 to send a delegation to Afghanistan, the UN News Center reported. The decision was made based on concern for the deteriorating security situation and the dangers to regional and global security due to the rise in narcotics production in Afghanistan. Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshima, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said a delegation will be sent, possibly in November, to review the situation on the ground and to reassure Afghanistan of the UN's support. In his latest statement on Afghanistan, issued in September, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. AT

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's office has published part of a report outlining his government's achievements since it took power in summer 2005, ISNA reported on October 9. The report says the government has sought to provide equitable opportunities and access to public resources for all provinces, and focused on "basic, infrastructural works" while avoiding "habitual controversies" -- a presumed reference to political quarrels -- ISNA reported. The government made 3,300 decisions in its first year, the report stated. It highlights ongoing efforts to cut fuel consumption, promote mass transit, subsidize farmers -- with timely payments for crop purchases -- and steady house prices. There was a 101 percent increase in "the demand for public investment" in unspecified projects, the report asserted, while the government is "currently planning with precision" a large-scale privatization program pursuant to Article 44 of Iran's constitution. The report noted that the value of non-oil exports rose from $7 billion in the Persian year to March 2005 to $10.5 billion in the following year, thanks to "conditions provided by the government and the efforts of exporters," ISNA reported. VS

The Interior Ministry announced on October 9 that aspiring candidates for Iran's third municipal-council elections may register from October 16 through October 22, ISNA reported. The elections are to be held in December with polls for the Assembly of Experts, the body of senior clerics that oversees the work of the supreme leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 6, 2006). Candidacies must be approved by electoral supervisors under the authority of the Guardians Council, a body of jurists that has been accused by reformers of heavily favoring the conservative cause in elections. Guardians Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai said in Tehran on October 9 that "factional issues" will have no impact on the council as it vets candidates for the Assembly of Experts, and "the general requirements set by the law and academic eligibility are the two factors to be considered in examining conditions of eligibility," ISNA reported. Kadkhodai said that "some of these concerns," presumably expressed by reformers, on the vetting process are "groundless" and vowed that the council will identify eligible candidates through written examinations -- to ascertain their level of religious learning -- and verification that they meet general legal requirements, ISNA reported. VS

Former Interior Minister Abdulvahed Musavi-Lari said, "we shall not be taking part" in polls for the Assembly of Experts if they are not competitive and "our candidates are rejected," ISNA reported on October 9. Musavi-Lari did not name a reformist group, but such groups might approve a joint list of candidates. "Since both the Interior Ministry and the Guardians Council have similar views, we reformers are seriously worried that coming elections will become useless elections," he said. The constitution, he said, does not specify that the Assembly of Experts is limited solely to jurisprudents, presumably anticipating the Guardians Council's disqualification of aspirants it concludes lack sufficient expertise in Islamic law and theology (see above). Musavi-Lari urged Iranians to vote. "If people come forward, reformers will return to power," he said. The same day, Expediency Council Chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told students at the Tehran Medical Science University that Assembly of Experts candidates must "have weight, be learned, active, and familiar with contemporary needs," ISNA reported. VS

Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi was arrested at his home in Tehran on October 8 after police broke up a gathering of his supporters who were trying to prevent the arrest, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported, adding that the cleric and several supporters were taken to an unknown location. Iranian sources disagree on whether Boroujerdi is an "ayatollah," indicating a higher level of theological studies, or of a more junior rank. Radio Farda, quoting witnesses, reported that as many as 300 people might have been injured during the clashes and that the fire department was washing blood off the street early on October 9. Boroujerdi advocates the separation of religion and politics, which is rejected by Iran's government. On October 8, Abdollah Roshan, the deputy interior minister for political and security affairs, gave his version of events: "Firstly, I have to say he is not an ayatollah. Mr. Boroujerdi unfortunately caused this affair through his personal initiatives, so he was arrested," ILNA reported. Roshan claimed Boroujerdi's "sectarian" supporters were disrupting traffic and harassing local residents, prompting public complaints and police intervention from October 7. VS

The bodies of some 60 Iraqis have been found in Baghdad in the past 24 hours, Iraqi police officials announced on October 10, AP reported. The dead, all apparent victims of sectarian violence, were found with their hands and feet bound. They bore signs of torture, and appeared to have died from gunshot wounds. The bodies were found in several areas of the city according to police spokesman Lieutenant Muhammad Khayun. U.S. military spokesman Major General William B. Caldwell told reporters at an October 9 press briefing in Baghdad that although violence remains heavy, "across the country, Iraqi security forces are beginning to act independently and are making a difference." He added: "Obviously, you know, the military solution alone won't do it. We see the political leaders taking some great strides, making some real efforts in that endeavor, and we're hoping to see some results from those. We're hoping to see some actions that come out of those different efforts that they're making here by the government themselves." KR

Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zawba'i told Al-Jazeera television on October 9 that the government is now taking steps to reform security services. He acknowledged that the government must take steps quickly, but said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki cannot be blamed for the security situation. "Terrorists and lawless militias carry more sophisticated weapons" than the army and police, he said. "Al-Maliki's government was built on ruins.... We have a paralysis in the public and security sectors. There is also failure on the part of coalition forces in terms of equipping the army and the Interior Ministry," he added. Al-Zawba'i said the government should not ask, but demand that militias disarm, and noted the government began to replace corrupt officials on October 8 without identifying any officials by name. Asked about the possibility that the government might fail, he said: "This government is the Iraqi people's only option...this government cannot but succeed. If this government does not succeed, shall we import another government or get one from Mars or look for a military coup as reported a few days ago? We have only one option." KR

Some 20 gunmen disguised as security services personnel broke into the Baghdad home of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's brother, Lieutenant General Amr al-Hashimi, on October 9 and killed him, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. He is the third relative of the vice president to be assassinated in recent months. Witnesses said the gunmen chased al-Hashimi through the house and onto a neighbor's roof before killing him. The gunmen also kidnapped at least seven neighbors who had witnessed the attack, "The New York Times" reported on October 10. The kidnapped remain missing. The daily also quoted neighbors as saying the gunmen spoke Arabic with a foreign accent. KR

Prime Minister al-Maliki has opened an investigation into the October 8 food poisoning of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers at a military base in Al-Numaniyah, south of Baghdad, international media reported on October 9. Brigadier General Qasim al-Musawi told reporters that between 350 and 400 soldiers and policemen were poisoned while eating the traditional Ramadan evening meal that breaks the fast, known as iftar. He denied media reports that some recruits died. Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Khalaf said the poisoning was not terrorism-related, while al-Musawi said several workers at the dining facility were arrested. KR

A Kurdish witness at the October 9 session of the Anfal trial told the court that her family members were buried alive, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. The witness, who was not identified and testified from behind a curtain, said that Iraqi forces razed her village in 1988 and arrested the inhabitants, taking them first to Tuz Khurmatu, and then Tikrit. The prisoners were eventually taken to Nugrat al-Salman Prison in southern Iraq. The witness said many detainees died of hunger and lack of clean water in prison. She also claimed that her family members were buried alive, but did not say how she came to that conclusion. A second witness, identified as Abd al-Hadi Abdallah Muhammad, testified that Iraqi forces also destroyed his village and arrested many inhabitants, including many members of his family. His mother died in detention. Another unidentified woman testified that three of her children died in detention and her husband went insane after being tortured. He survived but was left paralyzed. A fourth witness, Jalil Latif Salih, testified that he and his family were arrested in 1988. He was separated from his wife and children in detention and never saw them again. KR