|Saturday, 25 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 05-07-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 PUTIN CALLS FOR BANNING FOREIGN FUNDING OF POLITICAL ACTIVITIES ON RUSSIAN SOIL...At a meeting with members of the Council for Promoting the Development of Civil Society on 20 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for restricting foreign financing of "political activities" of Russian NGOs, Russian news agencies reported. "Not a single, self-respecting country will allow that, and neither will we," Putin said. "We believe who pays the piper calls the tune," he added. Putin added that the government is ready to establish grants for public organizations, but these should not be interpreted as an attempt by the state to bribe the groups. Politika Fund head Vyacheslav Nikonov told Interfax that Putin's remarks are likely connected to "events" in the former Soviet Union, noting that the revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan "were financed from abroad." He added that "the U.S. has already allocated $58 million for Russian democracy. No doubt, this money will be distributed through public organizations." JAC
 ...SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM SHOULD NOT IMPEDE ECONOMYAddressing concerns at the 20 July meeting about the environmental impact of the construction of the pipeline from Eastern Siberia to the Far East (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May and 11 July 2005), President Putin said that "ecological expertise must not hinder the development of the country and the economy," polit.ru reported. He added that he considers the pipeline the most important project since the completion of the Baikal-Amur Railroad and the pipeline will "give us the opportunity to export our oil and gas resources to markets of rapidly developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region...to China, to South Asia, Japan, and other [countries]." "As soon as we start to do anything, one line of attack against us is always about ecological problems" RTR quoted Putin as saying. Putin admitted in his 1999 book "In The First Person" that his attitude to human rights activists and issues was molded during his years in the KGB, newsru.com commented on 20 June. VY
 NGOS PARSE PRESIDENT'S WORDS...Lyudmila Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group told gazeta.ru that it is normal for the head of state not to approve of financing for political parties from abroad, but the question is what kind of political activities is President Putin speaking of. "If human rights groups insist on citizens' rights to free elections, hold public meetings and demonstrations, is this politics or not?" she said. Lev Ponomarev of For Human Rights said he suspects that Putin was talking about human rights groups "whose activities in the opinion of the authorities have a political character." JAC
 ...AS HEAD OF PRO-KREMLIN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DEFENDS HIMCouncil for Promoting the Development of Civil Society head Ella Pamfilova told strana.ru in an interview on 20 July that President Putin's call to ban foreign financing of NGOs in Russia was "purposely distorted" by the mass media. "It was intentional disinformation," she said, as Putin was only talking about the financing of political leaders during election campaigns and the political activities of NGOs. In another interview on kreml.org on 20 July, Pamfilova said that she agreed with Putin's call to ban NGOs' political activities. "No respected state would agree with 'political prostitutes' shaping the [political] climate in the country," she said. VY
 LAWMAKER PROPOSES DISBANDING SOME SECURITY AGENCIESSpeaking at a press conference in Moscow on 20 July, First Deputy Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) suggested disbanding some law-enforcement agencies because of widespread corruption and inefficiency and restoring Soviet-style "voluntary people's detachments" and "comrades' courts," RTR, Channel One, and NTV reported. "I realize that it sounds wild, but what is happening in the power structures is terrible. You do not know whom to fear more: bandits or policemen," RIA-Novosti quoted Sliska as saying. She also said traffic police should be replaced by a service "with respect for people" and that the Duma should adopt a law on corruption in its fall session. In Russian law there is no definition of corruption because laws attempting to set one were vetoed several times in the 1990s by President Boris Yeltsin's administration as "unconstitutional." VY
 PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION PLANS TO REORGANIZE FSB, INTERIOR MINISTRYThe presidential administration is planning to redistribute functions between the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry, Interfax reported on 21 July, citing a government source. According to this plan, the Interior Ministry would take over jurisdiction in economic crime and drug trafficking from the FSB. The FSB would retain the function of protecting the constitutional order, fighting terrorism, and regain the function of fighting corruption among officials and other law-enforcement organs that the KGB used to have. The FSB and the Interior Ministry would also abolish the provision of personal security. VY
 INFLUENTIAL WEEKLY PUBLISHES REPORT ON CORRUPTION IN 2005The INDEM Foundation headed by Georgii Satarov says in its new study "Corruption-2005" that the level of corruption among Russian officials and business world in the last five years has increased more than tenfold, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 28, reported. If five years ago the size of the average bribe an official took from a businessmen did not exceed $10,000, today it has grown to $135,000. According to the report, while ordinary people spent up to $3 billion a year on lower-level bribes in education and health care, the amount of bribes businessmen pay to officials has reached $300 billion. In rating sectors by corruption, first place goes to the traffic police, followed by the education system, the judiciary, offices responsible for residence permits, and draft offices. Corruption is not only affecting small and medium-sized business but even big business, Satarov said. President Putin's plan to double gross domestic product in five years is unlikely to be realized as long as the volume of business corruption is double the state budget, Satarov, who is a member of the opposition Committee-2008, noted. VY
 INVESTIGATORS INDICT RUSSIAN NATIONALISTS IN GROZNY-MOSCOW TRAIN EXPLOSIONMoscow's Meshchanskii Raion Court charged Vladimir Vlasov and Mikhail Klevachev, allegedly members of the banned extremist Russian National Unity (RNE) party, in connection with an explosion on the Grozny-to-Moscow train on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005), "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and other media reported. Vlasov and Klevachev were arrested by the FSB and charged with terrorism and attempted murder. Fifteen people were injured in the explosion and subsequent derailment of the train. The RNE campaigns against mixed marriages and demands a ban on Judaism and "nontraditional confessions." VY
 NEW HEAD NAMED FOR MIGRATION SERVICEPresident Putin has signed a decree naming Lieutenant-General Konstantin Romandovskii as head of the Federal Migration Service, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 July. Romandovskii previously headed the department of personal security at the Interior Ministry, replacing former Deputy Interior Minister Andrei Chernenko. Chernenko served in the position for only a year, but he served as head of the service in 2003 when it was first created. Romandovskii, 48, originally trained as a medical doctor but began working for the KGB at the age of 26, according to gazeta.ru. "Kommersant-Daily" reported earlier that Romandovskii was Putin's personal window on happenings at the Interior Ministry after the resignation of Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov. JAC
 FEDERAL ANTINARCOTICS SERVICE HAS NEW APPROACH TO DRUG REHABILITATIONThe number of persons using narcotics has increased nine times over the last 10 years, newsru.com reported on 20 July, citing a report from the Federal Antinarcotics Service. The drug market in Russia in the interim has grown into a $10 billion-$15 billion-a-year industry. The service's priority, according to the report, is to bring addicts out into the open for treatment. Meanwhile, TV-Tsentr reported on 20 July that the service's branch in Kaliningrad is threatening to publish a list of drug users together with their photographs. Doctors fear that this will mark the end of treatment for many of them. Sergei Slabondanyuk, who has worked in the field of drug rehabilitation for the last 10 years, told that station that if such a list had already been published for his clients, then "it would have been impossible to reintegrate half of them into society." The service officers believe that publication of names and photographs will lead the drug users to lose society's respect and then find the strength to change their fate. JAC
 BASHKIR OPPOSITION LEADER FACING POSSIBLE PRISON TIMEBashkortostan's prosecutor has confirmed that he has launched a criminal case against a well-known opposition figure in the republic, Airat Dilmukhametov, 39, gazeta.ru and RosBalt reported on 20 July. The opposition believes the case is an act of political revenge by Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov. Dilmukhametov, the head of the unregistered organization Bashkir National Congress, is accused of making public calls for extremist activities, according to RosBalt. If convicted, he could face five years in prison, gazeta.ru reported. According to the website, prosecutors were irked by Dilmukhametov's statements at public meetings on 26 March in Ufa and 7 April in Moscow. At the former, he called for Rakhimov to resign, adding that if he didn't go then the people would go to the administration building and make a people's revolution. In Moscow, Dilmukhametov accused President Putin of "covering up" for the Rakhimov regime. JAC
 FAR EASTERN CRIMINAL GROUP ORGANIZING CANNED-FOOD DRIVES IN LOCAL SCHOOLSREN-TV reported on 20 July that prosecutors in Komsomolsk-na-Amure have discovered that criminal gangs have taken over half of the city's schools and are extorting money, tea, cigarettes, and canned food from students for their colleagues being held in local prisons. The city's deputy prosecutor, Valerii Kozlov, told the station that initially the students' donations were voluntary, but in several cases those who refused to make contributions were beaten. According to the station, school teachers knew what was happening but were afraid to do anything, and parents knew also about the fixed fee of 20-30 rubles ($0.70-$1) a week that their children must pay. The station reported that local residents believe the new anticrime campaign is linked to plans to set up a free economic zone in the neighboring city of Yunost and Komsomolsk-na-Amure must get rid of its bad reputation in order to attract foreign visitors. JAC
 LAWMAKER SAYS RUSSIAN WOMEN HAVE RIGHT TO MARRY 'DECENT MEN' FROM ABROADAt a press conference on 20 July, First Deputy Duma Speaker Sliska said she categorically rejects a bill introduced by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia calling for stripping citizenship from Russian women who marry foreigners and move abroad, Channel One reported. "What to do if Russian men do not want to marry until [they're] 30 and are dying young. Why should our women suffer if there are no decent men [to marry]?" Sliska asked rhetorically. VY
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITIONIST DOWNPLAYS RIFT OVER CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTSPeople's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian, one of the leaders of the nine-party Artarutiun alliance, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 20 July he doubts that Artarutiun will collapse as a result of disagreements among its members over whether to support the revised package of draft constitutional amendments proposed by the Armenian leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 20 July 2005). Demirchian said he sees no grounds for former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian's Hanrapetutiun party, which rejects the proposed amendments out of hand, to make good on its threats to quit the bloc, and he predicted that "everything will be sorted out." LF
 ARMENIAN ELECTION BODY MEETSThe newly constituted nine-member Central Election Commission met for the first time on 20 July and elected as its chairman Garegin Azarian, who previously occupied that post from June 2003, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Azarian was President Robert Kocharian's nominee to serve on the commission; six members are nominated by parties represented in the Armenian parliament (including two opposition parties), and one each by non-aligned People's Deputy parliament faction and the Court of Appeals. LF
 EMBATTLED ARMENIAN TV STATION EVICTED FROM PREMISESThe independent A1+ television station has been given notice to vacate by 23 July the offices it rents from the Armenian Academy of Sciences, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 20 July. A1+ chief executive Mesrop Movsesian told RFE/RL that the Armenian authorities are pressuring the Academy of Sciences to force him to vacate the premises and that his claims for compensation for the $32,000 he invested in them has been rejected. A1+ was forced to quit broadcasting in April 2002 after losing a tender for the frequency on which it broadcast, and has since produced programs for regional TV stations, as well as functioning as a website and publishing a weekly newspaper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002 and 15 April 2005). LF
 OWNER CLARIFIES STATUS OF ARMENIAN POWER UTILITYThe Canadian-owned and British-registered Midland Resources Holding released a statement on 20 July confirming that it remains the nominal owner of the Armenian Electricity Networks (AEN) while signing an agreement with Interenergo, a subsidiary of Russia's state-owned Unified Energy Systems (EES), to manage the network, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 7, 11, and 14 July 2005). The statement said that the Armenian government was formally notified on 18-19 July of the management contract with Interenergo, but Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstian said on 19 July the government has not yet received such notification. The World Bank and USAID have both expressed concern that the resale of AEN could torpedo the decade-long reform of Armenia's energy sector. LF
 AZERBAIJAN AGAIN AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR NORTHERN CYPRUSMeeting in Baku on 20 July with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan "should be among the first countries in supporting" the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), according to Interfax on 20 July and turkishdailynews.com the following day. Three weeks earlier, Aliyev similarly assured visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Baku will do all in its power to help the KKTC overcome its current "isolation," including by promoting tourism, establishing direct flights, and encouraging Azerbaijani businessmen to invest there, Turan reported on 30 June. LF
 AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IMPLICATES TOP MUSLIM CLERGYMAN IN IMPORT OF WAHHABI LITERATURESpeaking recently on the independent television station ANS TV, State Council for Religious Affairs Chairmen Rafik Aliev alleged that on two occasions within the past three months state customs officials have intercepted and confiscated consignments of radical Islamic literature addressed to the Caucasus Muslim Board (UMK), zerkalo.az and echo-az.com reported on 20 and 21 July, respectively. Aliev said the first consignment of books weighed 14 tons and the second 10 tons. But UMK officials claimed that the literature in question was in Arabic, Uzbek, and Kazakh, and was intended for shipment to Uzbekistan. They said the consignments were sent to Baku "by mistake." Over the past year, Aliev has repeatedly criticized UMK Chairman Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade. LF
 IDENTITY DOCUMENT CONFUSION AFFECTS AZERBAIJANI ELECTION REGISTRATIONThe transition from Soviet-era internal identity documents to their post-Soviet equivalents is negatively affecting the collection of signatures in their support by would-be candidates who aspire to participate in the 6 November parliamentary election, echo-az.com reported on 21 July, quoting outgoing parliament deputy Rufat Agalarov, who is seeking reelection. People who sign the requisite form in support of candidates for registration are required to indicate the number of their identity document. The validity of the Soviet-era personal identity documents has been extended on several occasions, but ultimately expired on 30 June, and tens of thousands of people have apparently not yet obtained valid replacements. Agalarov said he has been informed that police are working around the clock in two 12-hour shifts to resolve the problem. To date, a total of 214 candidates in 65 of the country's 125 electoral districts have acquired the appropriate registration forms to collect signatures in their support, echo-az.com reported. LF
 GEORGIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECT IN BUSH GRENADE INCIDENTActing on an anonymous telephone call, Georgian antiterrorist police raided a building in the suburbs of Tbilisi late on 20 July where the man who allegedly threw a hand grenade at U.S. President George W. Bush during his visit to Tbilisi two months ago was believed to be hiding, Georgian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2005). The suspect was wounded, and one antiterrorism squad officer killed, in an exchange of fire. The suspect escaped but was tracked down and apprehended two hours later. He has been identified as Vladimir Arutiunian, 27. Arutiunian has been hospitalized and has reportedly confessed to throwing the grenade, saying: "I would do it again," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 July, quoting Deputy Health Minister Irakli Giorgobiani. Police searched the basement of Arutiunian's home and confiscated hand-made detonators, grenades, maps of Tbilisi, and "biological and chemical substances. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN PREPARES FOR VISIT FROM U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARYActing Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov met on 20 July in Bishkek with U.S. Ambassador Stephen Young in preparation for U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Kyrgyzstan on 25-25 July, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Although Kyrgyzstan's Defense Ministry did not detail the agenda for Rumsfeld's trip, local media have suggested that the issue of the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan will likely be the focus of discussion, Kabar reported. Heightened attention to the base comes in the wake of a recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) declaration asking the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan to clarify a timetable for withdrawal from military facilities it is now using in Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2005). Reports in Kyrgyz and Russian media on the U.S. defense secretary's visit to Kyrgyzstan have hinted that a deal may be in the works, with Kyrgyzstan allowing the base to remain in exchange for financial assistance from the United States. DK
 TAJIK NATIONAL DEBT CLOSE TO $1 BILLIONTajik Finance Minister Safarali Najmuddinov told a news conference in Dushanbe on 20 July that Tajikistan's national debt now stands at $905 million, or 40 percent of GDP, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The national debt in 2000 was $1.3 billion, or 70 percent of GDP, Najmuddinov said. Of the $905 million, $710 million is in direct government debt and $127 million in loans taken by Tajikistan's National Bank. Tajikistan's chief creditors are the World Bank, at $308 million; the Asian Development Bank, at $97 million; the Islamic Development Bank, at $40 million, the European Commission, at $46 million, and the OPEC Fund, at $11 million. DK
 MORE THAN 200 HIZB UT-TAHRIR MEMBERS CONVICTED IN TAJIKISTAN IN 2000-05Abduqodir Muhammadiev, the head of the legal department in the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office, told a news conference in Dushanbe on 20 July that more than 200 members of the banned extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir have been convicted in Tajikistan since 2000, Avesta reported. For the period 2000-05, Muhammadiev said that 259 criminal cases were opened, 215 people tried, and 209 of them convicted, with no acquittals thus far. Twenty criminal cases have been opened against alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members in 2005, he said. At a news conference the day before, Interior Minister Humdin Sharipov described Hizb ut-Tahrir as an extremist organization that aims to overthrow existing governments and accused members of the group of committing murders in various parts of Tajikistan, including Dushanbe, the BBC's Persian Service reported. DK
 CHINESE VICE PREMIER MEETS WITH TURKMEN LEADERChinese Vice Premier Wu Yi met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 20 July for talks focused on economic cooperation, turkmenistan.ru reported. Wu commented, "We conducted very useful negotiations and we hope to continue them next year in the course of an upcoming visit to our country by President Niyazov." For his part, Niyazov called cooperation between the two countries "pragmatic and mutually beneficial." The report noted that bilateral trade volume has quintupled since 2000 and stands at $79.6 million for the first half of 2005, with 90 percent of the total consisting of equipment imported from China. In the course of the visit, Niyazov and Wu signed an agreement for China to allocate a $24 million preferential credit toward the development of Turkmenistan's oil and gas industry, Interfax reported. Niyazov also noted that Chinese firms may take part in the reconstruction of Turkmenistan's Seydi refinery and the construction of a textile factory in Kipchak, Niyazov's hometown. DK
 POLL SAYS 48 PERCENT OF BELARUSIANS WANT TO VOTE FOR LUKASHENKAAccording to a poll conducted in Belarus by the Gallup Baltic Service between 6 June and 3 July, 48 percent of respondents said they would vote for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the next presidential election, Belapan reported on 20 July. The poll simultaneously found that 38 percent of Belarusian voters oppose Lukashenka's reelection. As for respondents under 29, 22 percent of them said they would vote for Lukashenka, while 64 percent would like him to leave office in 2006. The poll also found that 64 percent of Belarusians would oppose Belarus's incorporation into Russia, while 23.6 percent would like to see Belarus becoming part of the neighboring country. The poll was organized under a program carried out by the Washington-based International Republican Institute. JM
 WARSAW SAYS DIPLOMATIC ROW WITH BELARUS WILL AFFECT VISA POLICYPoland does not rule out the possible expulsion of a Belarusian diplomat in connection with the expulsion earlier this month of Andrzej Buczak, director of the consular department of the Polish Embassy in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005), PAP reported on 20 July, quoting Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksander Checko. Checko said Buczak's expulsion "cannot remain without influence on the efficiency of visa services and facilitations in traveling to Poland" for Belarusians. Checko also stressed that Minsk's decision is tantamount to the rejection of the Polish offer to solve the ongoing Warsaw-Minsk diplomatic dispute by a discussion. "Actions of the Belarusian authorities not only worsen the climate of bilateral relations but contain destructive elements," he added. A series of reciprocal diplomatic expulsions began in May, when Minsk ousted Polish diplomat Marek Bucko, accusing him of interfering with the activities of the Union of Poles in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 27 May and 22 June 2005). JM
 WILL UKRAINIAN OLIGARCH BE ARRESTED FOR QUESTIONING?Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists in Kyiv on 20 July that billionaire businessman Rynat Akhmetov may be arrested if he refuses to come in for police questioning, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "He has the right to refuse to speak with us.... This is his constitutional right. But he is obliged to appear," Lutsenko said. Akhmetov failed to appear on 18 July for questioning as a witness in a case related to a shooting in Donetsk in 1988. JM
 UKRAINIAN CHIEF SPYMASTER BOASTS OF COUNTERESPIONAGE SUCCESSESUkrainian Security Service chief Oleksandr Turchynov told journalists in Kyiv on 20 July that Ukraine's counterespionage service is one of the best in Europe, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Turchynov said that in the first half of this year alone the counterespionage service expelled eight secret agents working in Ukraine as diplomats, while 41 secret agents were not allowed to enter Ukraine and seven spies were expelled from the country. He added that in the same period 56 Ukrainian citizens were revealed to have contacts with foreign secret services. "The performance of the military counterespionage service was not bad either. The service prevented 22 terror attacks on Ukrainian peacekeeping contingents in various countries," Turchynov added. JM
 FAKE BANKNOTES WITH PREMIER'S PICTURE CIRCULATE IN UKRAINEMoney counterfeiters have been distributing false 5,000-hryvnya (nearly $1,000) banknotes among pensioners in Donetsk Oblast, posing as employees of regional social-security departments, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) reported on 20 July, citing the Kharkiv branch of the Ukrainian National Bank. The false banknote bears the image of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. The fraudsters claim to be distributing social allowances granted to pensioners by the government prior to this year's Victory Day. Since the allowances are significantly lower than 5,000 hryvnyas, the fraudsters reportedly make their profits by taking change from the duped pensioners, who are primarily village residents. Ukraine's banknote with the highest face value, 200 hryvnyas, bears the image of Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrayinka, whose appearance slightly resembles that of Tymoshenko. JM
 KOSOVA'S SERBS DECIDE TO CONTINUE BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENTOliver Ivanovic and the seven other members of the Serbian Lists for Kosovo and Metohija agreed unanimously in Prishtina on 20 July to follow Belgrade's recommendation and continue their boycott of Kosova's parliament and other institutions, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June and 20 July 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 February 2005). Ivanovic said that the eight deputies "absolutely support" the view of the top Serbian leadership that "conditions do not exist" in Kosova for the Serbs to take part in its institutions. He added that "Belgrade in this way assumes full responsibility for everything that happens here." Ivanovic stressed that the eight legislators told visiting EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana that their decision to boycott remains the only sensible one despite Solana's encouragement "and that of the entire international community" for the Serbs to take part in the elected institutions. Ivanovic criticized the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) which, he said, "has done nothing for decentralization [which is one of the Serbs' main aims], while the temporary institutions...show a willingness to say nice things but change little in practice." PM
 POLICE IN KOSOVA CARRY OUT CRACKDOWNPolice staged raids on several offices across Prishtina during the night of 19-20 July in a crackdown on organized crime and clandestine private intelligence services, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 20 July 2005). A police spokesman told the German news agency that "last night we raided several locations in Prishtina and confiscated computers and materials which will be valuable in fight against corruption and organized crime." Kosova is one of several Balkan centers for illegal trafficking in drugs, arms, and human beings. The news agency quoted unnamed "security sources" as saying that police also raided the offices of Rame Maraj, whose Institute for Researching Public Opinions and Strategies is suspected by UNMIK of being part of a "clandestine organization." Maraj is also a security adviser to President Ibrahim Rugova. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB LOSES WAR CRIMES APPEALOn 20 July, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal agreed to uphold the 10-year jail sentenced it handed down in March 2004 to former Bosnian Serb official Miroslav Deronjic in connection with the 9 May 1992 massacre of at least 64 Muslims in the village of Glogova, which was burned and razed by members of the Yugoslav Army and Bosnian Serb forces in Deronjic's presence, RFE/RL reported. Presiding Judge Theodor Meron said that the "Appeals Chamber...dismisses unanimously all the grounds of appeal filed by the appellant." Prior to his original sentencing in 2004, Deronjic became one of several indictees who negotiated a plea bargain with the tribunal, which is under pressure from some Western countries to speed up cases and clear up its backlog. Deronjic confessed to his role in the Glogova massacre and has provided valuable evidence in some additional trials, including that of former Serbian President Milosevic regarding Milosevic's role in the Bosnian conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2003 and 31 March 2005). But at the time of Deronjic's original sentencing, one judge said that his crimes were of a magnitude to merit a 20-year prison term. PM
 RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPER OPENS FIRE IN TRANSDNIESTRIAN SECURITY ZONEA Russian officer in the security zone separating Transdniester from the rest of Moldova fired two salvos from his submachine gun in the air in an incident involving two Moldovans and a U.S. citizen on 19 July, Moldovan news agencies reported on 20 July, citing Moldovan Minister for Reintegration Vasile Sova. The incident reportedly took place on a bridge over the Dniester River, some 20 kilometers from Chisinau, when the three stopped their car to take photographs of roadside warning posters. "The hot verbal duel quickly developed into a conflict. Traffic on the bridge was blocked. Soon, about a hundred persons gathered at the place. In this situation, a Russian second lieutenant fired two bursts in the air," Infotag quoted Sova as telling journalists. "The incident in Vadul lui Voda shows that it is necessary to urgently take measures to stabilize the situation. Separatists are trying to hinder, via a number of measures, the process of implementation of the Ukrainian plan of settlement of the Transdniester conflict, but we will use all mechanisms available to stabilize the situation in the security zone," he added, according to Flux. JM
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 PAKISTAN DENIES ARREST OF NEO-TALIBAN MEMBERPakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on 19 July denied recent reports that a top neo-Taliban member was arrested in North-West Frontier Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005), the Lahore-based "Daily Times" reported on 20 July. According to several reports from Pakistan, Mawlawi Abdul Kabir --who served as the governor of the eastern Nangarhar Province and commanded the eastern council under the Taliban regime -- was arrested by Pakistani security forces along with four other people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005). However, Rashid said Pakistani forces did not arrest Abdul Kabir. "I don't know if other people were arrested," he added. An unidentified Pakistani military security official also denied that Abdul Kabir was arrested. The initial news of the arrests was met with a positive response by Kabul. AT
 PAKISTAN CLOSES BORDER TO AFGHAN TRUCKSPakistani border guards at the Torkham crossing on 20 July denied Afghan trucks entry into Pakistan, Pajhwak News Agency reported. The restriction is viewed as a response to the 10-day protest being staged by Pakistani truck drivers against Afghan officials whom the drivers believe make it difficult for them to travel to Kabul. The Pakistani protest was prompted by a checkpoint set up by Afghan authorities to test the roadworthiness of trucks. "Vehicles that manage to clear the hurdles are allowed to go ahead," said Sher Ahmad, an Afghan police official in Torkham. Some 2,000 Pakistani truck drivers have parked their vehicles along the road leading to the Afghan border in protest. Pakistan's ban on Afghan trucks "will remain in place [until] the two governments reach an agreement on how to deal with the situation," Torkham's assistant political agent Bakhtiar Mohmand said. In recent days, Islamabad and Kabul have accused each other of harboring terrorists and of not doing enough to control their respective borders. AT
 TURKEY HANDS OVER COMMAND OF ISAF BRIGADE IN KABUL TO ITALYTurkey transferred command of the Kabul Multinational Brigade to Italy on 20 July, Anatolia news agency reported. The handover is the first step toward the Italians assuming full command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in August. The Italian commander of the brigade, General Claudio Graziano, said the force's primary responsibility will be to ensure that Afghanistan's parliamentary and provincial-council elections scheduled for September are successfully conducted in a secure environment. The brigade is currently made up of more than 3,000 personnel representing 26 states. AT
 FOUR NEO-TALIBAN KILLED BY OWN BOMBAfghan officials have said that four suspected Taliban rebels were killed when a roadside bomb they were laying blew up prematurely, RFE/RL reported on 20 July. Governor Mohammad Khan of southern Oruzgan Province said that the four were killed on 19 July while burying the bomb next to a dirt track regularly patrolled by Afghan troops. AT
 NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM EXECUTION OF AFGHAN ON SPYING CHARGESNeo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi on 20 July claimed that the militia killed an Afghan man for spying for the United States, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Hakimi said Mohammad Akram was captured in Zabul Province and executed after an "investigation revealed that he was working for U.S. reconnaissance forces." AT
 IRANIAN BOY EXECUTED FOR RAPETwo males -- one of them under the age of 18 -- who were found guilty of raping a 13-year-old boy at knifepoint were hanged in Mashhad on 19 July, Radio Farda reported the next day. They also received 228 lashes prior to their execution. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, which prohibits the execution of people under the age of 18. However, Iranian law allows for the execution of females older than nine years of age and males older than 15, according to Radio Farda. The practice has been protested by the European Union and human-rights organizations, and in January the UN Committee on the Rights of Child urged Iran to take steps to halt the execution of children. Shiva Dolatabadi, spokesperson for the Association for the Protection of Children's Rights, told Radio Farda that Iranian authorities had reassured her organization that no children were facing the death penalty. Prior to their execution, the two males reportedly expressed remorse and pledged not to repeat their actions. One of the two said that although he admitted his actions in court, he did not know they were illegal. BS
 IRANIAN AUTHORS WIN HUMANITARIAN AWARDFour Iranians are among the 27 recipients of the Hellman/Hammett Award, a grant program for writers, Radio Farda reported on 20 July. Named after authors Lillian Hellman and her husband Dashiel Hammett, the prizes are awarded annually to authors who are under pressure from their governments and whose work would benefit from financial assistance. One of the winners is painter and playwright Assurbanipal Babilla, an Assyrian who fled to the U.S. in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution. He now lives in a homeless shelter and works part-time in a coffee shop. After numerous press closures, pro-reform journalist Omid Memarian began writing a weblog. He was reportedly arrested in October 2004 and tortured. Released in December 2004, he has been campaigning against government repression. Sina Motallebi is another journalist who turned to the Internet and was arrested. He is now based in the Netherlands; and the Iranian government has arrested his father. Author Taqi Rahmani has spent a total of 16 years in prison, where he is currently incarcerated. BS
 UNPAID PROVINCIAL WORKERS MARCH ON TEHRANIranian state television reported on 20 July that 250 textile workers are marching on the capital, Tehran. The workers have been on strike for 33 days and say they have not been paid in 13 months. BS
 TOGOLESE PRESIDENT WRAPS UP IRANIAN TRIPThe president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, concluded his trip to Iran on 20 July, IRNA reported. Before leaving, Gnassingbe met with speaker of parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, who expressed Iran's determination to improve its relations with African states. Haddad-Adel expressed hope for greater cooperation in the energy, health, and transport sectors, and also within the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the UN. On 19 July, Gnassingbe met with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. Kharrazi described the establishment of the Africa Headquarters, which is supervised by First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Aref-Yazdi. Later that day, Gnassingbe and President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami signed memorandums of understanding pertaining to cultural, economic, and technical cooperation, as well as a join communique on the preservation of mutual interests. Gnassingbe met with President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad on 18 July. BS
 IRAQI DRAFT CONSTITUTION EXPECTED IN DAYSSheikh Humum al-Hammudi, the head of the National Assembly's constitutional committee, told reporters during a 20 July press briefing in Baghdad that a draft constitution should be ready in a matter of days, ahead of the 15 August deadline set under the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 21 July. Al-Hammudi told reporters that it appears the committee will not seek a six-month extension to draft the document. Under the terms of the TAL, the parliament must notify the Presidency Council by 1 August of the need for an extension. "We will present the draft and the views of the various committees to the National Assembly in the first week of August. The National Assembly will discuss this draft and it will complete discussing it on 15 August," al-Hammudi told reporters. "After it is discussed by the National Assembly and final changes are made, 5 million copies will be distributed to households," he added. Al-Hammudi said that many Sunni members of the committee remain at work following the 19 July assassination of three Sunnis connected to the drafting process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005). KR
 DONORS CONFERENCE GIVES IRAQ MORE CONTROL OVER FUNDSThe International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) conference in Amman, Jordan, concluded on 19 July with the transitional Iraqi government walking away with more control over donor money, according to an IRFFI press release (http://www.irffi.org). The Iraq Reconstruction Forum (IRFO) will be launched in two weeks' time and headed by Iraqi Planning Minister Barham Salih, international media cited IRFFI Chairman Michael Bell as saying on 20 July. The IRFO essentially allows the Iraqi government to take full control of the development process, Bell said, and allows it to work directly with donors on bilateral and multilateral levels. New pledges were reportedly made at the Amman donors conference, including a pledge by Denmark of some $5.5 million; $20 million from Australia; $2.4 million from Greece; $20 million from Spain; 150 million euros ($182.1 million) from the European Commission; and 10 million euros (about $12.1 million) from Italy, IRFFI reported. KR
 IRAQI PRIME MINISTER VOWS MORE SECURITYIbrahim al-Ja'fari told reporters on 20 July that the government is working to take steps to increase the protection of citizens from terrorist attacks, RFI reported the same day. Al-Ja'fari's comments came as Iraqis observed three minutes of silence to honor the victims of the 17 July Al-Musayyib bombing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005). Al-Ja'fari said he will meet with cabinet ministers responsible for security "so that we may upgrade the security plan in a manner that would fall in line with the nature of the challenges we are facing." KR
 U.S. BUILDS WALL AROUND TAL AFAR AS RESIDENTS LEAVE TOWNThe U.S. military is constructing a wall around the town of Tal Afar in an effort to keep insurgents and weapons from streaming into the town, CNN reported on 21 July. The wall will be similar to a 64-kilometer dirt berm recently constructed around the city of Mosul by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the same purpose. U.S. Colonel H.R. McMaster told CNN that several thousand civilians have left the town in the past few months and others are continuing to leave. It appears many fear a large-scale U.S.-Iraqi offensive against insurgents, who control areas of the town. The U.S. launched an offensive in Tal Afar last month. Major General David Rodriguez told CNN that the operation disrupted the insurgency, but did not disable it. The town's police force has reportedly been weakened by defections and allegations of corruption and torture. Meanwhile, insurgents continue to terrorize locals, who remain reluctant to cooperate with authorities out of fear for their families' safety. KR
 A NEW DISPUTE IN SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN RELATIONS?By Donald F. Reindl
Relations between Croatia and Slovenia continue to be strained by a number of problems left over from the breakup of former Yugoslavia 14 years ago. This year, in addition to the hardy perennial question of maritime border issues, a dispute over highway construction has moved to center stage.
The first half of 2005 represented a generally peaceful respite from the tensions that have marred Slovenian-Croatian relations since they both declared independence from former Yugoslavia in June 1991 and traditionally flare up during the summer months. Perhaps it was in part to take advantage of this lull that the Croatian and Slovenian governments held a joint session on the Croatian island of Brijuni in early June. Although a number of agreements were reached -- most notably, an understanding to avoid future incidents in the contested Bay of Piran -- the goodwill expressed at the meeting appears to have reflected wishful thinking rather than true rapprochement in bilateral relations.
Years of petty incidents and squabbles between Slovenia and Croatia have polarized attitudes among both the general public and political leaders in both countries. Some of the contentious issues stemming from the post-Yugoslav succession include property rights, bank accounts, land frontiers, and the use and funding of the nuclear power plant at Krsko. But heading the list has been the dispute over the demarcation of the countries' maritime border, which was nearly resolved in 2001 by an agreement initialed by former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and his Croatian counterpart at the time, Ivica Racan, but which was later rejected by Croatia's parliament. Since then, numerous incidents involving fishing vessels have taken place every summer, and resentment in Slovenia reached its apex in 2003 when Croatia unilaterally extended its jurisdiction over much of the Adriatic, effectively cutting Slovenia off from access to the open sea.
The Bay of Piran appears set to become a point of contention once again in summer 2005. Slovenia's daily "Delo" reported on 16 July that there are almost daily incidents in the bay, mostly involving maritime police notifying fishermen that they are in contested waters. It was reported that on 14 July Croatian police intercepted a sailboat of Austrian tourists in waters claimed by Slovenia and demanded that they identify themselves. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel also raised Croatian hackles in an interview published on 9 July in which he stated that the Drnovsek-Racan agreement remains the optimum basis for resolving the maritime dispute, despite its having been repudiated by the Croatian side.
Further inland, however, grumbling can be heard about a new issue: Slovenian delay in building highway connections to link Croatia's superhighway network with points northward. In July, Croatia celebrated the completion of a superhighway link extending most of the length of Dalmatia, as far south as Split. Dalmatian tourism is big business for Croatia and a key element in both the national economy and Croatia's image as a maritime country.
The Dalmatian superhighway is intended to speed Dutch, Austrian, and German tourists to their destinations -- and money into Croatia's coffers -- but there is one catch: You cannot get there from here. Or, at least, getting there is very inconvenient. Croatia's western and eastern superhighway connections feeding into Rijeka and Krapina stop short at the Slovenian border, where they degenerate into tedious secondary roads threading their way northward. The central Zagreb superhighway link does extend into Slovenia but peters out on its way to the Slovenian town of Novo Mesto. The comments published in Rijeka's "Novi List" on 1 July exemplify Croatia's resentment: "We're building, and the Slovenes are standing still. At least we're better than the Slovenes [who are members of both the EU and NATO] at road construction.... The Slovenes probably won't finish their part for another 20 years!"
Popular opinion in Croatia contends that Slovenia is deliberately delaying the development of road links to the south in retaliation for what Slovenes see as Croatian intransigence on bilateral issues. However, Slovenia counters that it is simply pursuing its own priorities first in highway construction. Slovenia's mountainous terrain has represented a significant challenge in developing its highway network, and the superhighway linking Slovenia's two major cities -- Ljubljana and Maribor -- is slated to be completed only on 12 August.
Completing Slovenia's second national superhighway -- from Jesenice to Brezice -- will be the next priority, and creating connections to regional population centers will follow. Unfortunately for Croatia, the Slovenian regions that abut Croatia's northbound superhighways are some of the least populated in the country, and Slovenia therefore has little or no national incentive to hasten highway construction in those areas.
In a meeting at the Slovenian resort of Otocec on 4 July, Slovenian Transport Minister Janez Bozic promised his Croatian counterpart Bozidar Kalmeta that Slovenia will accelerate its plans to complete the link to Croatia's eastern superhighway connection. According to a 4 July article in Zagreb's "Vecernji List," construction of Slovenia's 40-kilometer Maribor-Gruskovje/Macelj segment has been advanced from 2010 to 2008, while Croatia will complete its 15-kilometer Krapina-Macelj segment by 2007. This will complete Croatia's lucrative connection to Germany via Austria's Pyhrn (A9) superhighway.
A 5 July "Delo" article pointed out that the Slovenian segment is due to become the greatest bottleneck on this route between Scandinavia and the Adriatic. Perhaps ultimately German and Dutch beachgoers -- rather than Zagreb politicians -- will pressure Slovenia to meet Croatia's highway demands.Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University doctoral candidate based in Ljubljana