|Friday, 22 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, 04-09-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA, KOREA SIGN $4 BILLION IN AGREEMENTSPresident Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on 21 September presided over the signing of international business agreements worth a total of $4 billion between the two countries, Russian and international media reported on 22 September. The highlight of the day was a $3 billion project to create an oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Tatarstan, an agreement inked by South Korea's LG Group and Russia's Tatneft. "Our economic relations are developing very actively," Putin told Roh, according to his official website (http://www.kremlin.ru). Roh lauded Putin for making Russia "stable in all spheres," AP reported. Trade turnover between the two countries reached $4.1 billion last year, "The Moscow Times" reported. State-owned Vneshtorgbank signed a $50 million deal with the Export-Import Bank of Korea to finance the purchase of Korean manufactured goods by Russian firms, Interfax reported. RC
 GOVERNMENT STRIKES TWO NEW BLOWS AGAINST YUKOS SUBSIDIARYThe Natural Resources Ministry on 21 September announced that it believes the claimed reserves of Yuganskneftegaz, the major production subsidiary of embattled oil giant Yukos, are too high, Interfax reported. Yukos had claimed nearly 1 billion tons in new recoverable reserves at four oil-and-gas fields controlled by Yuganskneftegaz, but the ministry said its commission will not confirm any increase in the company's reserves this year. Prime-TASS on 21 September cited an unnamed Natural Resources Ministry official as saying the ministry will consider next week whether to withdraw Yuganskneftegaz's license because of nonpayment of taxes. The government has frozen Yukos's shares in the subsidiary and is expected to announce a tender for them as part of its efforts to recover billions of dollars in tax arrears from Yukos. RC
 WORLD BANK HEAD SAYS NOT TO JUDGE PUTIN TOO QUICKLYIn an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" on 21 September, World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned against assuming that President Putin is attempting to use the recent spate of terrorist attacks to strengthen authoritarianism in the country. "I think Russia is a pretty difficult place to run, and so I wouldn't come to that conclusion too quickly," Wolfensohn said. He added, though, that "the moves in relation to press freedoms and in relation to Yukos are of concern." Andrew Kuchins of the Carnegie Moscow Center told "The Moscow Times" on 22 September that Wolfensohn is looking at Russia from the point of view of a banker and that "those who are primarily interested in the economy see Russia much more positively." Kuchins added that Wolfensohn compares Russia to other developing countries, most of which don't have developed democratic institutions. RC
 MOSCOW POLICE DETAIN MORE THAN 11,000 UNREGISTERED RESIDENTS...Moscow police carried out two days of sweeps on 15-16 September and rounded up more than 11,000 people suspected of living in the city without having registered with the authorities, "The Moscow Times" reported on 21 September. According to police, 6,781 Russian citizens and 4,377 foreigners, mostly citizens of other CIS countries, have been detained and 840 have already been deported. The Federal Security Service (FSB) estimates that about 1 million people are living illegally in Moscow. RosBalt reported on 20 September that authorities in Moscow Oblast rounded up about 2,500 unregistered people during sweeps the same days. In its upcoming sessions, the Duma is expected to examine proposals to tighten up immigration and registration requirements, including one by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov that would require people to register with the authorities immediately upon arrival at a new place of residence, rather than within three days as the current law requires. RC
 ...AS PUBLIC AGREES THAT RUSSIA NEEDS TIGHTER BORDER, REGISTRATION CONTROLSA recent survey by the Public Opinion Foundation found that 92 percent of Russians believe that Russia needs stricter border controls, while 82 percent felt that police should be checking identification in public places more frequently, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 September. About two-thirds of respondents endorsed stricter controls over the media. Forty-five percent backed the idea of armed civilian patrols, while 42 percent opposed that proposal. Forty-four percent said the security services should be allowed to listen in on telephone conversations and read mail, while 45 percent opposed such intrusions. Forty-one percent said they do not understand what terrorists want from Russia, while 20 percent said the terrorists want to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus and 7 percent said they wanted to force a complete withdrawal of federal forces from Chechnya. RC
 GUARDS AT DAM EXCHANGE FIRE WITH ARMED GROUPA group of three armed men opened fire on guards at the Zelenchuk hydroelectric complex in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia during the night of 20-21 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 September, citing republican police sources. One of the attackers was reportedly wounded and detained in the exchange, while no guards were injured. The other two attackers were reportedly captured while attempting to escape. Police have not commented on the possible motives of the attackers, but the news agency noted that the complex provides about 20 percent of the republic's electricity. RC
 RUSSIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HIGH-TECH PASSPORTSPresident Putin appointed a working group on 20 September to lay the groundwork for the next generation of passports, which will incorporate advanced identification technology, "Vremya novostei" and "Izvestiya" reported on 21 September. The 14 members of the new group represent agencies including the Finance Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the FSB, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Federal Migration Service, and Information Technologies and Communications Ministry. Noting that Putin put presidential aide Viktor Ivanov in charge of the new working group, "Vremya novostei" speculated that the siloviki will play the most important role in formulating the new identity documents. The process will take years; Putin's directive set 1 January 2006 as the deadline for "preparing the legal and technical basis" for phasing in the new passports. "Vremya novostei" noted that the interior ministers of the G-8 countries agreed in 2003 to add biometric information such as digital data on fingerprints and cornea scans to passports. According to "Izvestiya," however, Putin's directive of 20 September concerns internal passports, the most frequently used identity documents in Russia, as well as the passports required for foreign travel. LB
 ELECTION COMMISSION OFFICIAL: PUTIN'S PLAN UNCONSTITUTIONALCentral Election Commission (TsIK) Secretary Olga Zastrozhnaya said on 21 September that President Putin's proposed changes to the system for electing the State Duma are unconstitutional, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 September. Under the current system, 225 Duma seats are distributed proportionally among parties and electoral blocs that receive at least 5 percent of the vote, and 225 Duma seats are filled by candidates who win a plurality in single-mandate districts. Putin recently advocated eliminating the single-mandate-district component of Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2004). Addressing a meeting of the Democratic Alternative Club in Moscow, Zastrozhnaya argued that filling all Duma seats from party lists would bar independent candidates from Duma elections and would therefore violate Article 32 of the constitution, which grants citizens the right to run for office. She also said the proposal would contradict Article 30, which states that no one can be compelled to join or belong to any association, as well as Article 55, which prohibits the adoption of laws that revoke or restrict citizens' rights and freedoms. Zastrozhnaya acknowledged, however, that "few people doubt that a [fully] proportional-representation system will be adopted." LB
 COMMUNIST DUMA FACTION EXPELS THREE MEMBERS...The Communist Party (KPRF) State Duma faction on 21 September expelled Leonid Ivanchenko, Yelena Drapeko, and Aleksandr Kuvaev for causing "political and moral damage" to the party and for not carrying out the decisions of party organs, Russian media reported. Those three deputies oppose KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov and participated in the recent founding congress of the All-Russian Communist Party of the Future (VKPB), a new party led by Ivanovo Oblast Governor Vladimir Tikhonov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2004). Speaking about the deputies expelled from his faction, Zyuganov told journalists: "They left. It was their choice, and they left for lies and betrayal," TV-Tsentr and REN-TV reported. For his part, Ivanchenko told REN-TV that "no one will stifle my communist views and convictions." "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 September quoted Ivanchenko as saying that he hopes to cooperate with members of the Communist faction in the future. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that seven Communist Duma deputies participated in an alternative plenum in July, which rejected Zyuganov as party leader. However, the four who did not take the further step of joining the VKPB were allowed to stay in the Duma faction, which now has 48 members. LB
 ...AND SAYS NOT READY TO BACK NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONZyuganov indicated on 21 September that his party is not inclined to support a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's government, Interfax reported. In the aftermath of the Beslan hostage crisis, the Motherland Duma faction voted unanimously on 9 September to call for a no-confidence vote. However, Duma regulations require the support of 90 deputies before such a motion can be put on the agenda, and the Motherland faction has only 39 members. Zyuganov pointed out that President Putin has direct authority over the "power ministries"; he called for expressing no confidence in "all who implement" current social and economic policies. The Communist Duma faction authorized its deputy chairman, Sergei Reshulskii, and the first deputy chairman of the KPRF Central Committee, Ivan Melnikov, to negotiate with Motherland faction leader Dmitrii Rogozin on a no-confidence vote. However, these negotiations are unlikely to yield agreement, since Rogozin is a staunch supporter of Putin. In fact, "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 September cited Melnikov as accusing Rogozin of seeking the no-confidence vote in order to shield Putin from responsibility for the Beslan tragedy. Communist Duma Deputy Valerii Rashkin told "Kommersant-Daily" that the KPRF faction's lawyers are examining possible grounds for impeaching Putin. LB
 POLICE USE FORCE TO BREAK UP PROTEST IN KALMYKIAInterior Ministry troops used force to disperse an estimated 2,500 protesters in Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia, NTV and RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 21 September. The protesters were demanding the ouster of Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Earlier this month, opposition leaders convened an Extraordinary Congress of the People of Kalmykia, which decided to hold the protest. However, the mayor of Elista banned large demonstrations, citing the threat of a terrorist attack. Andrei Goryachev, a member of the Extraordinary Congress's executive committee, told NTV that the republic's prosecutor ordered the Interior Ministry troops to use force after declaring the demonstration illegal. Goryachev accused the troops of beating and kicking unarmed protesters, including some women and elderly people. LB
 PENSIONER TO AIR DIRTY LAUNDRY IN STRASBOURGSt. Petersburg pensioner Lidiya Tumasova met in Moscow on 22 September with a judge from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to discuss her pending suit against St. Petersburg city authorities, Interfax reported. Tumasova accuses the city of violating her human rights by privatizing the attic of the downtown building where she lives, depriving her of the ability to dry her laundry there. Noting that the building was built in 1825, Tumasova said that "since that time residents have always dried their laundry in the attic and they stored their firewood in the basement." The judge reportedly told Tumasova that her case will be heard within three years. "I'm more than 70, but I told her not to worry, I'll live until then," Tumasova told the news agency. RC
 SECURITY OFFICIALS REPEAT CLAIM OF INTERNATIONAL FUNDING FOR CHECHEN FIGHTERSThe FSB and the Interior Ministry on 22 September announced the arrest in Chechnya of Natalya Khalkaeva, who is accused of being involved in the financing and training of female suicide bombers, RIA-Novosti reported, citing Major General Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus. Shabalkin said the financing and training system of terrorists had "been dealt a serious blow." Shabalkin alleged that "terrorists in Chechnya" maintain ties with backers in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, and Turkey. He added that Khalkaeva herself was in contact with people in those countries and that she discussed by telephone the transfer of funds to Chechnya. In a statement released on 17 September in which he takes responsibility for the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Russia, radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev wrote: "This year I have received just $10,000 and 5,500 euros [$6,800] from foreigners. I operate exclusively on funds from the Russian budget." The Russian government has repeatedly argued in recent weeks that international terrorists have stepped up their activity against Russia. RC
 CONVICTED KILLER WITHDRAWS PARDON PLEAFormer Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the murder in March 2000 of a young Chechen woman, has withdrawn his plea for a pardon, Russian media reported on 21 September. Vladimir Shamanov, who is governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast where Budanov is serving his sentence and a former senior military commander in Chechnya, has already approved the pardon request, which has been forwarded to President Putin. Budanov lodged a similar pardon request four months ago but retracted it almost immediately (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 20 May 2004). Over 10,000 people participated in a demonstration in Grozny on 21 September to protest the move to pardon Budanov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. Some demonstrators carried placards denouncing both Budanov and Basaev as terrorists. LF
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 INVESTIGATION INTO ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BLOC CLOSEDThe criminal investigation into the campaign by the opposition Artarutiun bloc to force the Armenian leadership to resign was closed one month ago, according to Andranik Mirzoyan, a senior official at the Prosecutor-General's Office. In an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 21 September, Mirzoyan did not explain why the investigation, which was opened on 30 March, had been closed. Leaders of the various parties aligned in the Artarutiun bloc said on 21 September that they have not been officially notified that the investigation has been closed. Social Affairs Minister Aghvan Vartanian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun) hailed the news, saying, "it is impossible to fight against parties or blocs by [bringing] criminal cases." LF
 AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES SEEK TO PREVENT OPPOSITION PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL ELECTIONSA seminar on ensuring free and fair elections was thwarted on 21 September after staff members at Baku's Gunay Hotel withdrew their permission to allow the Azerbaijani NGO hosting the event to hold it there, citing orders "from above," Turan reported. Also on 21 September, the Center for Democratic Development (DIM), which unites the Nakhichevan branches of several prominent opposition parties, issued a statement protesting efforts by the chairman of the local legislature to exclude DIM representatives from a conference on preparations for December's local elections. On 15 September, the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party released a statement in Baku alleging that election commissions are deliberately obstructing the registration of opposition candidates for the upcoming local elections by demanding as many as 40 types of documentation, Turan reported. LF
 NEW OSCE KARABAKH ENVOY VISITS AZERBAIJANFilip Dimitrov, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office Solomon Pasi's special representative for the Karabakh conflict, met in Baku on 21 September with President Ilham Aliyev, parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, and Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev, zerkalo.az reported on 22 September. Aliyev told Dimitrov that it would be impossible to resolve the conflict if the principle of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and the inviolability of its frontiers was not guaranteed. He also expressed regret that the OSCE Minsk Group's efforts to mediate a solution to the conflict have not yielded concrete results. Abiev warned that Azerbaijan will have no option but to liberate its territory by force if Armenia is not constrained to withdraw its forces unconditionally from occupied Azerbaijani territory. Alesqerov said Azerbaijan would resort to the military option if the conflict cannot be resolved through negotiations. LF
 MEETING OF CASPIAN WORKING GROUP POSTPONEDThe 15th session of the working group to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which was scheduled to take place in Moscow on 30 September, has been postponed until late October, zerkalo.az reported on 21 September, quoting Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov. No reason was given for the postponement. After the last session of the working group, which comprises deputy foreign ministers from the five littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan), in Astana in June, Iranian representative Mehdi Safari announced that the second Caspian summit will probably not take place in late 2004, as was hoped, but in January 2005, according to Interfax on 10 June. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES PEACE PLAN FOR ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIAIn an address to the UN General Assembly on 21 September, President Mikheil Saakashvili said that Tbilisi is committed to resolving its conflicts with the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia solely by peaceful means, RFE/RL's UN correspondent reported. Saakashvili outlined a three-stage plan for resolving both conflicts, according to rustavi2.com. The plan calls for: confidence-building measures; demilitarization of the conflict zones; OSCE monitoring of the Roki tunnel linking South Ossetia and Russia; the deployment of UN observers along the border between Abkhazia and Russia; and the granting of "the fullest and broadest form of autonomy" to the two republics. Saakashvili said autonomy would protect the Abkhaz and Ossetian languages and cultures, and guarantee self-governance, fiscal control, and "meaningful representation and power-sharing" at the national level. He also discussed the peace plan separately with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to rustavi2.com. LF
 GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES VERIFY CHECHENS IN PANKISIIn the wake of allegations by U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles and Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin that people with links to international terrorists remain in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 20 September 2004), Interior and State Security ministry forces launched a special operation on 21 September to verify the identity of Chechen refugees living in the area, Caucasus Press reported. Speaking in Tbilisi on 21 September after meeting with visiting U.S. officials, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said that the situation in Pankisi is "under control," rustavi2.com reported. LF
 GEORGIANS DENIED ENTRY TO RUSSIA ON GROUNDS OF VISA IRREGULARITIESSeveral dozen Georgians who arrived at Moscow's Sheremetevo and Domodevodo airports on 20 and 21 September were refused entry to the Russian Federation on the grounds that their visas incorrectly stated the purpose of their visit, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. On 21 September, the Georgian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, to demand an explanation, Interfax reported. LF
 PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CLAIMS VICTORY IN KAZAKH ELECTIONS...Amangeldi Ermegiyaev, deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's pro-presidential Otan party, said at a 21 September news conference in Astana that Otan plans to occupy at least 60 percent of the seats in parliament, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Ermegiyaev said that Otan won more than 50 percent of the vote in the 19 September parliamentary elections, according to Kazinform. In a press release issued on 21 September, Otan noted that it nominated 65 candidates in single-mandate constituencies. (Under Kazakh law, 67 seats are chosen through single-mandate constituencies and 10 through party slates.) Otan candidates won outright in 30 races, 15 made it to the second-round races, and results remain unclear in 5 races. DK
 ...AS U.S. EMBASSY ENDORSES OSCE'S CRITICAL ASSESSMENTThe U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan issued a press release on 21 September endorsing the OSCE's critical assessment of Kazakhstan's 19 September parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. As quoted by Interfax, the press release stated, "Generally, we share the view of the OSCE mission, which concluded that the electoral process did not conform to the international standards to which Kazakhstan has committed itself." The press release also noted a number of positive developments and described the elections as an improvement over the 1999 parliamentary elections. The OSCE election observer mission's assessment contained a similar mix of criticism and encouragement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2004). DK
 KAZAKH MEDIA PROVIDED BIASED CAMPAIGN COVERAGE, GROUPS SAYKazakhstan's Adil Soz (Just Word) and Slovakia's MEMO 98 said at a 21 September news conference in Almaty that television coverage during the lead-up to Kazakh parliamentary elections favored pro-presidential parties, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Kazakhstan's state-owned first channel devoted 16 percent of news broadcasts to the pro-presidential Otan party, allocating half as much airtime to opposition parties, according to the two groups. Coverage on state-run Khabar television aided the Asar party, led by Darigha Nazarbaeva, daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Nazarbaeva is also the CEO of Khabar, although she recused herself from the post for the duration of the election campaign. Adil Soz President Tamara Kaleeva noted that no television channels and newspapers were completely unbiased in their coverage. The two organizations based their conclusions on monitoring conducted between 30 August and 16 September. DK
 CHINESE, KYRGYZ PREMIERS MEET IN BISHKEKKyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev met with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on 21 September in Bishkek, Kyrgyz TV reported. The two discussed bilateral relations and signed a number of agreements. China will give Kyrgyzstan a $6 million grant under an agreement on technical and economic cooperation, akipress.org reported. The two prime ministers also signed a 10-year cooperation agreement on bilateral relations and a protocol on the demarcation of the border between the two countries. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said, "Together with the Kyrgyz side, we are ready to take neighborliness, friendly relations, and cooperation between our two countries to a new height," Kyrgyz radio reported. DK
 KYRGYZ COURT WON'T EXAMINE INQUIRY ON AKAEV EXTRA TERMKyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court decided on 21 September that it will not consider an inquiry from a group of Kyrgyz legislators on the legality of a possible bid for another term by President Askar Akaev, akipress.org reported. The court ruled that the lawmakers lacked the authority to initiate the inquiry. DK
 TAJIK COURT CONVICTS 20 HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVISTSA Tajik court in Kulob sentenced 20 members of the banned extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir to prison terms on 17 September, Avesta reported on 21 September. Nine of the 20 defendants were found guilty of active membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and sentenced to prison terms of 14 to 15 years. The remaining defendants were convicted of lesser offenses and received sentences ranging from six months to one year. The defense has two weeks to file an appeal. DK
 TAJIK MEDIA GROUP REPORTS 27 RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN AUGUSTThe National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan recorded 27 violations of media rights in Tajikistan in August, Avesta reported on 21 September. The group said that in addition to independent journalists, the rights of journalists who worked at several media outlets were also violated: the Khatlon press center; news agencies Avesta and Varorud; newspapers "Adolat," "Vatan," "Najot," "Nerui Sukhan," "Odamu Olam," and "Ruzi Nav"; Badakhshon TV; radio stations RFE/RL and Sadoi Khuroson; and the BBC. DK
 OSCE WON'T MONITOR BELARUSIAN REFERENDUMThe OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said it would not assign its experts in Belarus to observe the presidential referendum on 17 October, Belapan reported on 21 September. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry suggested earlier this month that the OSCE ask its experts currently monitoring the campaign for the 17 October parliamentary elections to observe both voting events (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2004). Urdur Gunnarsdottir, spokeswoman for the ODIHR Office in Warsaw, told Belapan that the ODIHR would not be able to monitor the plebiscite independently because it has not prepared for the referendum in advance. JM
 BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES BEGIN CAMPAIGNING ON STATE RADIO, TVCandidates for the 17 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives began airing their prerecorded campaign programs on state-controlled television and radio channels on 20 September, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 21 September. Candidates in Minsk are allowed to show a five-minute videotape on the Lad television channel, and candidates for regional seats run their five-minute broadcasts on regional television channels. Personal campaign broadcasts are censored and can be disallowed if a special panel decides they violate election laws. Dpa reported on 21 August that censors have already objected to the campaign tape of United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka, which shows the candidate saying, "On Belarusian television, 24 hours a day, there flickers only one face, only one moustache." The censors said the comment insults President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and banned the broadcast. JM
 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO REGROUP...Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn announced on 22 September that 17 lawmakers in the Democratic Initiatives-People's Power party have dissolved their group and formed a new caucus called United Ukraine (Yedyna Ukrayina), Interfax reported. The current division of deputies in the Ukrainian legislature is: Our Ukraine, 100; Ukraine's Regions, 63; the Communist Party, 59; the Social Democratic Party-united, 40; Labor Ukraine, 30; the Popular Agrarian Party, 21; the Socialist Party, 20; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, 19; the Soyuz group, 18; the Popular Democratic Party-Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, 17; and the Center group, 16. Also on 22 September, three lawmakers from the Popular Democratic Party-Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists announced their withdrawal from the pro-government parliamentary coalition. "The political fata morgana of the [pro-government] parliamentary majority elicits irony," Serhiy Shevchuk said. "We are not a component of the non-existent structure [parliamentary majority] any longer." It is not clear whether Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet can currently count on support from a majority of deputies (226 votes) in the Verkhovna Rada. JM
 ...AS PREMIER ACCUSES IT OF SOWING INSTABILITYPrime Minister and presidential candidate Yanukovych said on 22 September that the Verkhovna Rada is destabilizing the situation in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. "The developments taking place in parliament do not give us hope that we will have normal cooperation until the end of the election campaign," Yanukovych said. "Unfortunately, parliament has recently become a constant factor contributing to the destabilization of the situation." Three major pro-government groups -- Ukraine's Regions, the Social Democratic Party-united, and Labor Ukraine -- refused on 21 September to vote on any bills on the session agenda, including some sponsored by the government. Opposition lawmaker Mykola Tomenko alleged that deputies from these factions had been deprived of their magnetic voting cards. According to Tomenko, Yanukovych and presidential-administration head Viktor Medvedchuk are implementing a "scenario" to render the Verkhovna Rada inoperative and discredit it during the presidential election campaign. JM
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES SENDING TROOPS TO IRAQ...Continuing his online interview with users of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service's website on 21 September, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that he opposes sending any Croatian troops to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2004). Asked whether he thinks that the war in Iraq is "legal," Mesic replied, "The action in Iraq was not [carried out] under the leadership of the UN." The war in Iraq is highly unpopular in Croatia, which declined to participate in the U.S.-led coalition. Mesic responded to every question submitted, including provocative ones. Asked whom he favors in the U.S. presidential election, the Croatian leader answered that "it would not be appropriate for me to express my views on the elections in the [United States]." PM
 ...AND URGES TOLERANCE IN KOSOVAOne user of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service's website on 21 September identified himself to Croatian President Mesic as a Rom from Kosova, adding that he suffers from discrimination by members of the province's ethnic Albanian majority. The man said that he has never heard Mesic condemn Albanians for "terrorizing" Roma. Mesic replied that the Albanians were oppressed in the past but should now "be more tolerant toward minorities" because former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan "Milosevic's terror" has ended and "Europe" insists on equality between ethnic groups. Another website user asked why "Croatian citizens don't like Herzegovinians," to which Mesic replied that this assumption is not true. The president called Herzegovinians "hard-working and peaceful" but added that some Herzegovinians "stick out" and have given the others a bad name. He did not elaborate. The stereotype of Herzegovinians in Croatian jokes is of country people with large families and predilections for nationalist politics with a strongly Roman Catholic flavor and questionable business activities. PM
 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN KOSOVACampaigning for the 23 October parliamentary elections officially got under way across Kosova on 21 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. One hundred of the 120 seats are being contested by 32 parties or coalitions. Of the remaining seats, 10 are reserved for members of the Serbian minority and 10 for members of other minorities (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 August 2004). Ethnic Albanians make up about 90 percent of the population. PM
 BOSNIAN MUSLIM LEADER REJECTS TERRORISMSulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim member and chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, told VOA Television in New York on 21 September that Bosnian Muslims have never resorted to terrorism or revenge killings even though they were the greatest victims of genocide during the 1992-95 war, Hina reported. Commenting on U.S. President George W. Bush's speech at the UN General Assembly the same day, Tihic said, "We think that terrorism is counterproductive because innocent people get killed and that it is immoral because it does not resolve problems but only makes them more complicated." PM
 U.S. LOOKS FOR AL-QAEDA FUNDING LINKS IN BOSNIAAn unspecified number of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents began an investigation in Sarajevo on 21 September into the Bosnian activities of Jasin Kadi, a Saudi whom the U.S. authorities believe helps fund Al-Qaeda, Bosnian federal television (TVBiH) reported. The FBI is particularly interested in Kadi's Risala company and his elementary school of the same name. The investigators will also look into the dealings of Sarajevo's Vakufska Banka, in which Kadi has a 20 percent stake. PM
 ONE MILLION BOSNIANS HAVE GONE HOMEAbout 1 million people, or 45 percent of the estimated 2.2 million Bosnian citizens who fled their homes during the 1992-95 war, have returned, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said in a statement in Sarajevo on 21 September, Reuters reported. Of the remaining number, about half probably have no intention of returning, but up to 500,000 others still have no permanent solution to their housing problems. About 350,000 of those people are in Croatia, 100,000 in Serbia and Montenegro, and 50,000 in other European countries. Housing shortages, inadequate infrastructure, legal problems, and a lack of jobs, as well as war-related political and interethnic issues, are the main obstacles to returning (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 16 September 2004). Of those people who have returned to their former homes in areas where their ethnic group is now in the minority, it is not clear how many have gone back to stay and how many have returned just to sell their property and leave again. Persons familiar with the return process have told "RFE/RL Newsline" of many cases of fraud, such as would-be returnees stripping their newly rebuilt homes of building materials provided by international donors and selling those materials on the open market. PM
 ROMANIA TOUGHENS DISCOURSE ON CANAL ISSUE WITH UKRAINESpeaking to Romanian journalists in New York on 21 September, where he was attending the UN General Assembly meeting, Romanian President Ion Iliescu accused Ukraine of breaching international law and rules of good neighborliness by allegedly illegally placing buoys in the Danube River on Romanian territory, Mediafax reported. "Of course, we won't enter into a military conflict, but we will appeal to Ukraine and international bodies to [prevent] conflict situations," he said. Ukraine recently placed buoys marking the entry to the Bystraya deep-water shipping canal. Meeting in New York with his Ukrainian counterpart Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana warned that Romania will remove the buoys if Ukraine does not do so itself. Geoana also said an international committee is to start an environmental-impact assessment of the Bystraya canal in October. He further said Romania does not want relations with Ukraine to continue to deteriorate, in spite of the fact that Ukraine is practicing a policy of fait accompli. Hryshchenko reportedly told Geoana the current campaign against the canal and Ukraine in the Romanian press is being orchestrated by the government, to which Geoana replied that the press is free in Romania. ZsM
 IS UKRAINE BUILDING DANUBE DELTA CANAL TO DEFY NATO?In an interview with the BBC's Romanian Service on 21 September, Romanian Deputy Prime Minister Ioan Talpes, former chairman of the Foreign Information Service, said Ukraine intensified work on the controversial Bystraya canal in the Danube Delta after Romania became a member of NATO in April. Talpes added that Kyiv thus wants to draw a clear line to mark NATO's border. In related news, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry handed Romanian Ambassador Alexandru Cornea a note of protest against the harsh criticism in the Romanian media over the Bystraya canal issue, RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported, citing Ukraine's UNIAN news agency. ZsM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW INTERNATIONAL STRUCTURE FOR HELPING POOR COUNTRIESSpeaking at a UN meeting on combating hunger and poverty in New York on 21 September, Romanian President Iliescu proposed the establishment of a global structure to help poor countries, Mediafax reported. The structure should be coordinated by the UN, with the participation of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. The new structure would create international market-economy rules to "favor" poor countries. Iliescu added that economic and social development requires a global policy and new mechanisms, and the UN's involvement is "necessary and natural." ZsM
 POLAND SUPPORTS MOLDOVA'S EUROPEAN INTEGRATION AMBITIONSFollowing his 20 September meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw, Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan said Poland will continue to support Moldova's strategic orientation towards European integration, Flux reported on 21 September. Kwasniewski said that "it would be difficult to provide actual security in Europe without the resolution of the Transdniestrian conflict," Interfax reported. During his visit to Poland, Stratan also met with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka and Senate Chairman Longin Pastusiak. ZsM
 STUDY SAYS MOLDOVAN TV AND RADIO STATIONS GIVE LITTLE COVERAGE OF OPPOSITION...According to representatives of the Chisinau-based Independent Journalism Center (CIJ), Moldova's public TV and radio stations continue to act as state-controlled structures that favor political interests over the public interest, Flux reported. CIJ representative Nicolae Negru presented the results of a radio and TV monitoring study for August that show that the activities of the government and ruling party are given wide coverage, while there are no political debates and the opposition is almost totally absent from the airwaves. "While the presidency, the government, the prime minister, the parliamentary speaker, and some representatives of local public administrations received only positive or neutral coverage, the parliamentary opposition and the media were assessed only negatively or in the best case neutrally," BASA-Press quoted Negru as saying. ZsM
 ...WHILE TELERADIO MOLDOVA EMPLOYEES CONTINUE PROTESTSAfter almost two months of rallies in front of the Moldovan Radio building in Chisinau to protest a perceived politicization of hiring policies, Teleradio Moldova employees on 20 and 21 September rallied in front of the Moldovan parliament building, Flux reported. On 20 September, representatives of the protesters met with parliamentary speaker Eugenia Ostapciuc, but nothing came of the talks. Journalist Valeriu Frumusachi announced on 21 September that protesters intend to rally in Strasbourg on 5 October. ZsM
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 AFGHAN LEADER TELLS UN TERRORISM IS MAIN CHALLENGESpeaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on 21 September, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said that terrorism remains the main challenge for his country, Voice of America reported. Karzai said unless the terrorist threat is eliminated, neither his country, nor the world as a whole, will be safe. Karzai highlighted the upcoming 9 October presidential elections as the most significant achievement of his administration. Karzai also lauded the return of almost 3.5 million refugees to Afghanistan and the opening of schools as positive steps. The Afghan leader did, however, acknowledge that his country remains one of the poorest and least literate in the world and called for continued international support. AT
 STARVATION STILL A PROBLEM IN AFGHANISTAN...According to a study conducted by the UN World Food Program (WFP), Afghanistan continues to suffer from acute food shortage and malnutrition, oneworld.net reported on 21 September. According to the WFP, about 1.4 million Afghans continue to be affected by the drought that began in 1999. "Due to the drought there is no cultivation," Roya Mutahar, national nutrition officer at the Health Ministry, added. Hedayatullah Stanekzai, the ministry's policy and planning director, said, "Food is available but the prices are so high, it becomes difficult for people to purchase it." Ahmad Shah Salehi, the ministry's external-coordination director, said that most Afghan farmers "are not producing wheat, but are moving towards poppy cultivation." Growing poppies is more profitable to farmers "since it needs a small piece of land" and does not need much irrigation, Salehi added (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003, and 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). Afghan health officials estimate that their country suffers from 45-50 percent prevalence of chronic malnutrition. AT
 ...WHICH HAS HIGHEST MATERNAL AND CHILD DEATH RATE IN ASIAAccording to the WFP report, the mortality rate for Afghan children under five is 257 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 1,600 per 100,000 live births, oneworld.net reported on 21 September. Patrick Webb, chief of nutrition at WFP, said Afghanistan has not only the highest mortality rates in Asia, but the world. Afghanistan spends only 3 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and very few doctors are available outside urban areas. AT
 QANUNI TO STAY IN PRESIDENTIAL RACEMohammad Yunos Qanuni, the chief rival to Chairman Karzai in the upcoming presidential elections, announced on 20 September that he will remain in the race and will present his own political agenda soon, "The New York Times," reported the next day. On 16 September, Karzai said that if Qanuni joined him, he would welcome it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2004). Qanuni's two main supporters, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, apparently favor an alliance with Karzai in order to secure positions under a Karzai presidency. In the deal offered by Karzai's camp, Qanuni reportedly would retake the education portfolio, while Abdullah would remain as the foreign minister and Fahim would be appointed as the head of the yet-to-be-formed Senate. Qanuni's supporters from the provinces, however, have discouraged him from joining Karzai's camp. "There were some proposals made but when we put them to my supporters...we didn't get a positive response," Qanuni said on 21 September, the "Financial Times" reported. Qanuni's spokesman Hamed Nuri said that a deal between the two could be made in "as little as one hour before the election," and discussions would continue between them. AT
 TEHRAN PLEDGES TO COOPERATE WITH IAEAVice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi, the chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei on 21 September and said Iran will do its best to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog in order to resolve outstanding issues, IRNA reported. The two met on the sidelines of the 48th General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna. Aqazadeh also said that Iran will begin converting 37 tons of yellowcake uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, "The Guardian" reported on 22 September. The IAEA board of governors' 18 September resolution on Iran expressed concern about the plan to convert yellowcake uranium (http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2004/gov2004-79.pdf; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 September 2004). BS
 IRANIAN LEGISLATORS DIVIDED ON NONPROLIFERATION TREATYAlaedin Borujerdi, head of the legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on 21 September that there is no bill calling for withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the legislative agenda, IRNA reported. "Any suggestion to such effect is contrary to the national interest," he added. Another member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Karaj's Rashid Jafari-Jalali, said on 20 September that unless the Iranian case is closed at the next IAEA board of governors' meeting, "Iran will go its own way," state radio reported. He noted that this is permitted under the NPT. Jafari-Jalali went on to warn the Iranian people that no matter what the country does to meet the IAEA's conditions, "they will still try to stop this and to deny us the use of this modern and profitable technology." BS
 IRANIAN CLERICAL BODY WARNED ABOUT U.S.Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed the Assembly of Experts on 21 September, Iranian state radio and state television reported. The 89-member clerical body, which is tasked with monitoring the supreme leader's performance, began its semi-annual meeting on 19 September. Khamenei said the Islamic republic has divine goals, ideals, and values, but its instruments and methods are human and could make mistakes. He said people should not confuse goals and tactics, and they should not change their goals "in the name of modernism and reform." "That is a deviationist way of thinking," Khamenei continued, that is the same as "reaction and regression." He also cautioned against "steadfastness" that is really "obscurantism." Khamenei said Western media have conducted a propaganda campaign calling for reform in Iran, "But what they want is not reform. They want corruption." "Hegemonic power centers'" expression of concern about weapons of mass destruction are camouflage for their concern about the Islamic system that has proven to Muslims that it is possible to establish a state along Islamic principles. BS
 IRAN'S EXECUTIVE BRANCH CRITICIZES MEDIA CRACKDOWNVice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi told journalists that the recent crackdown on journalists and the media comes at a bad time, "Sharq" newspaper reported on 20 September (on the arrests of journalists, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 and 17 August and 20 September 2004). He said, "Under the conditions that we along with the region are under pressure politically and because of nuclear issues, raising such issues will confront the domestic political climate with tensions." Abtahi demanded the immediate release of Said Motallebi, the father of Netherlands-based journalist Sina Motallebi. BS
 IRAQI OFFICIAL DETAILS IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT IN AUGUST CRISISIraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i discussed the alleged Iranian role in the August crisis in Al-Najaf in the 21 September "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 31 August 2004). Al-Khuza'i said that thousands of people responded to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's call for his supporters to occupy the shrine of Imam Ali, while others engaged in military activities in the governorates of Al-Basrah, Al-Kut, Al-Amarah, Al-Nasiriyah, and Al-Diwaniyah. "Many of the attackers came from outside the borders, particularly from Iran," he added. "We arrested 45 Iranians and 11 Afghans in Al-Kut and 36 Pakistanis in Al-Najaf. They appeared on Iraqi television and admitted that they came to liberate the shrine." BS
 SECOND U.S. HOSTAGE REPORTEDLY KILLED IN IRAQ, AS FEMALE PRISONER RELEASEDAccording to an Islamist website, a second American hostage has been beheaded by the militant group Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad, which is loyal to suspected Al-Qaeda member Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, international media reported on 21 September. The claimed killing of contractor Jack Hensley follows the death of his American co-worker, Eugene Armstrong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2004). The group was holding the two men, along with a Briton, demanding that all female prisoners held in Iraq be released. The British daily "The Guardian" reported on 22 September that Justice Minister Malik Duhan al-Hassan said he will soon release one female Iraqi prisoner, Rihab Taha. Al-Hassan said a hearing will be scheduled to determine the release of a second woman, Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash. The two women, both former scientists who worked for Saddam Hussein, were the only females imprisoned, the U.S. military said. Al-Hassan said Ammash's release "has nothing to do with the kidnapping" and was based on her cooperation. "We couldn't find any wrongdoing they have committed," al-Hassan explained. EA
 ANNAN CRITICIZES IRAQ WAR, CALLS FOR GREATER COOPERATION...UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeared before the UN General Assembly on 21 September and rebuked states that disregard international law, international media reported the same day. Annan decried the ongoing turmoil in Iraq, saying, "In Iraq we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while relief workers, journalists, and other noncombatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion." He placed the insurgency in the context of a general lack of respect for the rule of law. "They put all of us to shame. Their prevalence reflects our collective failure to uphold the law and to instill respect for it in our fellow men and women. We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect," he said. Annan's remarks preceded U.S. President George W. Bush, who asserted that Iraq is on the path to stability and democracy. EA
 ...AS IRAQI PREMIER REQUESTS FURTHER INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTInterim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi met with an array of leaders during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly, Reuters reported on 21 September. Allawi shook hands and briefly chatted with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, an Israeli spokesperson said. It was the first meeting between the two. Allawi met for nearly an hour with his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf. "We hope that Pakistan will be able to help," Allawi told reporters. Pakistan has yet to contribute any troops to Iraq. "I'll be talking to him again," Allawi said. EA
 AL-SADR AIDES ARRESTED IN AL-NAJAF RAIDU.S. troops raided the Al-Najaf office of radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, CNN reported on 21 September. According to Adnan al-Zarfi, governor of Al-Najaf province, a total of 12 people were arrested, including senior aides Sheikh Ahmad al-Shaybani and Said Husam al-Musawi, as well as some of the cleric's bodyguards. The offices are located next to the Imam Ali shrine, the site of a standoff between al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army and U.S. and Iraqi government forces. The detentions follow the arrest of al-Sadr aide Hazim al-A'raji on 19 September. Al-Sadr aide Abd al-Sattar al-Bahadili warned that if arrests continued, "a revolution will erupt in the cities of Iraq, especially the south, against the occupation forces. It will be a revolution and an uprising that will end only when the occupation forces leave," AP reported on 21 September. EA
 PUTIN'S 'MANAGED' INVESTIGATION INTO BESLANBy Robert Coalson
Shortly after the 4 September conclusion of the tragic school hostage taking in Beslan, North Ossetia, President Vladimir Putin said that there would be no public investigation into the incident. Speaking to Western journalists and academics on 6 September, Putin said that he would conduct an internal probe into the matter. He added that if the Duma looked into it, the investigation would become "a political show" and "would not be very effective," "The Guardian" reported the next day.
A few days later, however, a "political show" of a different sort got under way, Kremlin critics say. Putin held a televised meeting on 10 September with Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, in which the latter informed him that the Federal Assembly intended to create an interparliamentary commission to probe the affair. Such televised meetings have become a prominent feature of Putin's post-Beslan management style: on 14 September, for instance, he held a stage-managed meeting with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov in which the prime minister "informed" him that Gazprom should be allowed to purchase state oil company Rosneft.
As the cameras rolled, Putin told Mironov on 10 September that "we are all interested in getting a complete and objective picture of the tragic events," Russian media reported. Putin further said he would order all executive-branch agencies to cooperate with the legislature's investigation. Although Putin's apparent volte face might have been prompted by the negative reaction in Russia and the West to his statement rejecting an independent inquiry, no one expected that the meeting with Mironov signaled a real change of heart or strategy.
On 20 September, the Federation Council held a closed-door session during which the composition of the investigating commission was determined. A few days earlier, council Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Torshin told RIA-Novosti that the commission's schedule had largely been determined, even though its membership had not been named. Torshin emphasized that the legislation governing such commissions is incomplete and that the commission would have no authority to compel senior officials to testify. He added, though, that it might even ask Putin himself to answer questions.
During its 20 September meeting, the Federation Council decided that the commission would comprise 11 council members and 10 Duma deputies and would be headed by Torshin. The 11 council members are: Torshin, Defense and Security Committee member Aleksei Aleksandrov, Constitutional Law Committee Deputy Chairman Leonid Bindar, Industry Committee Deputy Chairman Erik Bugulov, Economy Committee First Deputy Chairman Vladimir Gusev, Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee member Rudik Iskuzhin, Audit Chamber Cooperation Commission Deputy Chairman Yurii Kovalev, Federation Council Affairs Commission Chairman Vladimir Kulakov, CIS Affairs Committee member Oleg Panteleev, Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Popov, and Constitutional Law Committee Chairman Valerii Fedorov.
The 10 Duma members are expected to be named on 25 September. Seven will represent Unified Russia, with one each from the Communist Party, Motherland, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. "Vremya novostei" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 21 September that there will most likely be no independent deputies on the commission, even though independent Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov was the first to call for an independent probe.
Mironov told "Vremya novostei" that commission members were selected in part on the basis of their contacts with the secret services. "People selected for the commission are ones who have a high level of access," Mironov said. The paper predicted that the Duma representatives would be dominated by Unified Russia loyalists and former security-service figures -- "people who won't ask 'unnecessary' questions."
At a press conference announcing the commission, Mironov stressed that it will not conduct a public investigation. "Commission members will not have the right to publicize information about the progress of the investigation or to comment on it except at official press conferences sanctioned by the commission chairman," Mironov said, according to km.ru and other Russian media. Mironov said the commission will prepare a final report, but refused to say whether that report will be made public. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 September that Mironov has also ordered that commission members not be allowed to discuss the commission's work without his permission even after the probe is completed.
The semi-formed commission began work immediately and arrived on 21 September in North Ossetia to begin five days of collecting testimony from local witnesses and officials. However, few analysts expressed confidence that the commission would ever produce definitive answers to lingering questions about the Beslan events, including the identities of the hostage takers, the exact numbers of hostages and victims, what the government's plans were for either negotiating with the terrorists or storming the building, and how former Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev was able to negotiate with the hostage takers and to secure the release of 26 of the hostages.
"It will be impossible to have any confidence in this commission and its conclusions," Ryzhkov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 September, "because Unified Russia is compromised by the same authorities who allowed such failures in the North Caucasus and, in particular, in Beslan."