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RFE/RL's World: 2006 In Pictures
December 20, 2006 13:29 GMT
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Georgians queue in Tbilisi to fill up gas canisters in late January (epa) - Oil and gas are forms of "soft power," but it felt hard and harsh to Ukrainians when, in the middle of winter, Russia turned the gas taps off. Georgians too found themselves freezing and few believed the explosions that cut the pipeline from Russia were accidental. The suspicions persisted and across Europe politicians voiced fears that Russia is using its energy power
Iranian women show their anger at the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in neighboring Iraq (epa) - The drumbeat of violence in Iraq quickened and changed in February. With a devastating explosion in Samarra's Golden Mosque and its Shi'ite shrine, the
of much of the violence became clearer and more important. The daily list of deaths became longer, the refugee camps swelled, talk of
became louder, and optimists became fewer.
An elderly woman in the heart of the Donbas, Donestsk, holds a flyer for Viktor Yanukovych that reads "With the Donbass in my heart!" (AFP) - In elections in March, the party of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko was trounced. But with the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc topping the vote, an Orange government seemed possible. But
a last-ditch deal collapsed
, bringing to power
, the man whose rigged presidential victory prompted the Orange Revolution.
Belarusian police violently broke up opposition demonstrations in central Minsk in the wake of the disputed presidential election (RFE/RL) - Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, "Europe's last dictator,"
lived up to his billing
in 2006. A presidential poll was brought forward, opponents jailed, and -- once most journalists had headed off for elections in Ukraine --
. Eventually, Lukashenka acknowledged the results were false: he had, he said, understated his real support in an attempt to satisfy European critics.
Children pictured in front of the hearse bearing former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to his funeral, in Porarevac (AFP) - In the end, justice was not done.
, the man who accelerated the collapse of Yugoslavia by trying to preserve Serbian power, died in detention before he was judged the mastermind of many of the atrocities committed in the Balkans in the 1990s. Serbia
denied him a state funeral
and his family remains on the run, but Belgrade hasn't convinced the EU it is serious about catching other war criminals.
A French artist performs in April in front of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant to mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster (AFP) - The disaster at Chornobyl proved a turning point for the Soviet Union and for nuclear power in Europe.
Its 20th anniversary
also fell at a key moment: fears about nuclear power were rising as North Korea (and possibly Iran) pursued a nuclear bomb, but there was also a growing sense that
is needed to slow the pace of
A pro-independence supporter celebrates after Montenegrins narrowly voted for independence in a referendum in May (AFP) - Milosevic died before he could see the former Yugoslavia splinter again. In early 2002, Serbia and Montenegro loosened their ties, and in May 2006, Montenegrins decided
the remaining bonds
were still too tight. It seemed that Montenegro might just be followed by Kosovo, but by the end of 2006 the future status of Serbia's UN-protected largely ethnic-Albanian province
was still unclear
Reading news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AFP) - Good news was in short supply in Iraq in 2006, but some came in June with confirmation that
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq,
had been killed
. The relief proved short-lived, with a steady flow of statistics suggesting that violence was worsening. By the end of the year, even a congressionally commissioned review of U.S. policy
called for major policy changes
in Iraq and in the region as a whole.
An Iranian woman at a rally in support of Lebanon and the leader of the Hizballah militia, Hassan Nasrallah (AFP) - Concern about Iran's
dominated the headlines for much of the year, but its power to influence events in Iraq and in Lebanon also prompted speculation and concern. The war in Lebanon added to a sense that
Iran's power in the region
was increasing, with the
Tehran-backed militia group Hizballah
resisting Israeli military power more successfully than almost anyone expected.
U.S. President George W. Bush (left) with his host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July (epa) - U.S. President George W. Bush once had a famously warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Washington and Moscow
in their comments in 2006 and the points of difference were substantive. However, the year ended on a positive note, with the United States
to Russia's entry to the World Trade Organization.
Mourners carry Chechen flags at a memorial event for Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev in Turkey (epa) - Russia has long claimed
the war in Chechnya
is over and that the security challenge now is to enforce law. The death in July of
, the most prominent and controversial Chechen warlord, seemed to presage the end of the conflict. But in October a senior Russian general said the number of attacks by militants was on the rise. Violence, it seems, remains commonplace -- as do
human rights abuses
Aleksandra Smirnova, a Russian refugee from Chechnya, mourns for her granddaughters, who died in the Beslan school siege (epa) - 2006 could have brought a sense of closure for relatives of victims of
the tragedy at Beslan
: the attack's mastermind, Shamil Basayev, was killed; the sole surviving terrorist was sentenced; and an official investigation presented its findings. But for many, the wound festers. Relatives say the authorities spurned them, the investigation was
, and that some terrorists escaped.
British Royal Marines land near Nawzad in the southern province of Helmand in October (British Defense Ministry) - October marked
the fifth anniversary
of the military intervention in Afghanistan. During that period some progress was noted -- for children, for women, for the economy, for politics -- but an upsurge in violence threatens those achievements.
NATO extended its control
in the south, but the region still experiences daily violence and constant insecurity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit with EU leaders in November (AFP) - By the end of 2006, Russian investigators had still not found the killer of Russian journalist
, shot in October. Nor had investigators identified the killer of former Russian security officer
, poisoned in November. The net effect of the two killings was bad press for
Russian President Vladimir Putin
. But was someone trying to smear him?
Iranian President Mahmud Ahamadinejad meets clerics (Fars) - Among the year's most familiar faces was that of Iranian President
. His controversial statements -- including calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map" -- were one reason, but the principal factor was the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities. The UN toughened its line, but has stopped short of sanctions. Ahmadinejad will, it seems, be one of the personalities of 2007 as well.
The Turkmen cavalry at a military parade to mark 15th anniversary of the country's independence (TASS) - Turkmenistan celebrated 15 years of independence in October, but the difference between independence and freedom was made clear by numerous reports of the
repression of dissidents
and the political, economic, and social freedoms of ordinary Turkmens. For RFE/RL, the difference was made tragically clear when correspondent
died in custody under murky circumstances.
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein shouts at the court as he is sentenced to death on November 5 (AFP) - In November, an Iraqi court sentenced former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
to death for crimes against humanity
. UN experts said the trial was flawed, but few Iraqis doubted his guilt and many celebrated his sentence. While many called for the sentence to be carried out quickly, others argued that his other crimes should be investigated first. Hussein is now on trial for genocide against the Kurds.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press briefing in the Pentagon (AFP) - Many observers argued that the midterm elections in the United States in November were a referendum on Washington's conduct of the war in Iraq. And the big casualty of the Republicans' defeat was the man charged with bringing security to Iraq:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
. His departure was seen as ushering in a new approach -- prompting Iran and Syria to move to strengthen ties with Iraq.
An opposition supporter pictured in the tent city set up by the opposition in central Bishkek (AFP) - When the Kyrgyz opposition toppled Askar Akaev in March 2005, one complaint was that the presidency had too much power. For the next 18 months, the division of power remained unresolved, but in November the Kyrgyz again showed the power of protest, forcing President Kurmanbek Bakiev
to hand greater powers to parliament
. However, unease about the country's direction remains.
The breakaway administration of South Ossetia and the region's ethnic Georgians held rival referendums on independence in November (epa) - If the world could recognize Montenegro's vote for independence, would it accept referendums elsewhere?
put that question to the test, and the answer was "no." But with Russia pushing for
and with Kosovo on the verge of independence, the issue of the post-Soviet frozen conflicts is coming in from the cold.
RFE/RL's World: 2006 In Pictures
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