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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of November 13-19, 2004
UKRAINIAN SERVICE READY FOR DECISIVE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service is ready for the decisive run-off
presidential election November 21, with dozens of correspondents
located throughout the country -- especially in Donetsk, where
thousands of pro-government supporters threaten to march west on
Election Day to monitor voting in areas supporting the opposition
candidate Viktor Yushchenko.
In the run-up to what promised to be a contentious second round,
RFE/RL covered press conferences November 18 in Kyiv by President
Leonid Kuchma and Yushchenko. Kuchma vowed that Sunday's vote will be
honest, while also warning that "certain political forces" are trying
to seize power. Yushchenko appealed to his supporters to keep a close
watch on local polling stations to minimize chances for fraud, saying:
"My friends, you should be in no doubt today that your views will only
be taken into account if you defend them yourself.... Don't be in a
hurry to leave the polling station. Be at the polling station the
entire day, particularly after 8 p.m. when the voting stops and the
The election teams of both candidates plan to field their own
unofficial parallel counting crews after Sunday's vote. The team of
government candidate Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych says it has set
up a center for tallying the results from voting stations as they
become available. Yushchenko's team plans to field 35,000 volunteers to
report vote counts early Monday to his staff in Kyiv.
The presidential election is widely seen as a voter choice between
two directions and two ideologies: a vote for Yushchenko would be pro-
Western, pro-democracy and anti-corruption. A vote for Yanukovych would
be pro-Russian, pro-oligarchy and pro-corruption.
Other post-Soviet states are watching closely what happens in
Ukraine -- an interest mirrored at RFE/RL. Correspondents from RFE/RL's
Russian, Belarusian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik and Tatar-Bashkir services
plan also to be in Ukraine, to report back live in their respective
The Ukrainian Service's "Elections 2004" website (in Ukrainian) is
located at: http://www.radiosvoboda.org/elections2004/index.html.
RFE/RL English-language coverage of the Ukrainian election is available
** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky,
may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
TALIBAN DENIES UN ABDUCTIONS IN RFE/RL INTERVIEW
Radio Free Afghanistan interviewed a representative of the Taliban
movement in Afghanistan to find out more about the kidnapping of three
United Nations workers three weeks ago.
Our correspondent in Kabul spoke November 17 with Taliban
spokesman Abdul Latifullah Hakimi, who criticized the abduction and
said the group responsible for the kidnappings -- Jaysh al-Muslimin
(Army of Muslims) -- has no connection with the Taliban. Hakimi did not
condemn the kidnappings outright -- he said "Any action that is
effective against the enemy is good and should be used." But Hakimi
said the Taliban believes guerrilla warfare is a better way to fight
the enemy than kidnappings: "Holding people hostage is not an effective
way to fight the enemy. ...kidnapping women does not conform to Islamic
Hakimi said the Taliban is not against the Army of Muslims, as
"These groups are doing their holy jihad and we continue ours." But he
unequivocally denied a Taliban connection, saying "Those who call
themselves a splinter fraction of Taliban -- this assertion is
completely wrong and we deny that completely." Hakimi stressed that the
Taliban movement is united, undivided with one leadership and no
splinter groups: "No one has split from Taliban and there is no
question about the leadership of Taliban... there is no need for a
The interview was conducted by phone from Kabul to an undisclosed
location. It aired November 17, 2004. The interview is available (in
Pashto) on the service's website at
The Acting Director of RFE/RL's radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander
Lukashuk, may be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
KAZAKH SERVICE ON ANTI-TERRORIST CAMPAIGN IN KAZAKHSTAN
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service is following a widening Kazakh government
campaign to root out terrorist organizations and extradite foreign
Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev said, in an RFE/RL
interview November 16, that "Anti-terrorism operations are just
starting in our country and we already have very concrete results." He
was referring to an announcement earlier this month that more than a
dozen al-Qaeda suspects had been taken into custody. Altynbayev said
more research is needed, that the government wants to know all the
details of terrorist activities in Kazakhstan.
Vladimir Bozhko, Deputy Chairman of the Kazakh National Security
Committee (KNB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB), said in a speech at
the Kazakh Defense Ministry in Astana on November 16 that there are
3,215 religious organizations and communities officially registered in
Kazakhstan. Bozhko called on the Kazakh government and parliament to
adopt legislation that would make it easier for the KNB to monitor the
activities of these groups.
The interview with Altynbayev is featured in an article (in
Kazakh) found on the service's website, at
** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be
reached by email at <email@example.com>.
RFE/RL, RADIO FREE ASIA COLLABORATE ON CHINA/CENTRAL ASIA COVERAGE
RFE/RL's Central Asian services worked with their colleagues at
Washington-based Radio Free Asia to produce a series of reports on
China's growing influence in Central Asia.
RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs unit (NCA) issued the four-part
package in English November 18 for broadcast to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, as well as other
interested language services at RFE/RL and RFA. Part One looks at the
decade since the lifting of the Bamboo Curtain in 1991 and how China in
this period became a major player in the region; Part Two explores
China's oil interests and its project to build a pipeline from
Kazakhstan; Part Three examines the threat to Kazakh water supplies
posed by China's increasing use of trans-boundary rivers; Part Four
looks at Central Asian cooperation with China in the fight against
terrorism and China's exploitation of the issue to impose restrictions
on Uighur nationalists. More stories in the series will follow.
The RFE/RL OnLine team has built a special webpage to feature the
package in English at the following address:
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis
Girnius, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
TAJIK SERVICE LOOKS AT TOLERANCE LEVELS IN TAJIK SOCIETY
On the eve of International Tolerance Day, November 16, RFE/RL Tajik
Service correspondents interviewed representatives of national
minorities in Tajikistan, asking them how tolerant society is in the
country. Uzbek and Korean interviewees mostly said they are satisfied,
but Russian speakers complained of xenophobia during the 1992-97 civil
war, admitting though to some improvement since.
Experts contacted by the service said a likely factor in anti-
Russian prejudice in Tajik society is perceptions of widespread Russian
mistreatment of Tajik migrant workers in Russia.
In the series, aired November 17, the Tajik service also examined
the level of tolerance between government supporters and the mostly-
Islamic opposition -- former enemies, who signed the peace agreement in
1997 that ended civil war in Tajikistan. Those interviewed on both
sides said they have learned mutual respect and recognize that
tolerance is the cornerstone of a new political culture in post-war
Tajik society. They said attention is now needed to improve tolerance
in other areas, including respect for gender rights and economic and
The series is available in Tajik on the service's website at:
** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be
reached by email at <email@example.com>.
FERGHANA VALLEY FROM INSIDE TAJIKISTAN
RFE/RL's Tajik Service, in it's recently launched Hamnafas (Global
Link) program, focused on the situation in the Ferghana Valley -- the
vast, largely lawless border land in which Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and
In this week's Hamnafas (produced in Prague), the Tajik Service
interviewed visiting senior journalist Ilhom Djamolion, head of the
independent Ferghana Valley Vararoud News Agency and co-editor of "The
Neighbors," a newspaper published in the languages of the three
Ferghana Valley countries. He said authorities in all the Ferghana
countries are glossing over serious problems in the Valley, in order to
avoid increasing international tension and cross-border conflicts.
The densely populated Ferghana Valley with high unemployment,
widespread poverty and deep ethnic rifts makes it a hotbed of
extremism. Ahmed Rashid, author of "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam
in Central Asia," has said that almost all Islamic political movements
of Central Asia are born in Ferghana Valley. In the Prague studio
interview, Djamolion confirmed that the militant Hizb-ut Tahrir and
several new Islamic groups, such as Bai'at, are active throughout the
Ferghana Valley, crossing national borders freely. He pointed out that
no secular political group is active in the area. In addition, regional
Ferghana elites of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are alienated
from their central governments in all three countries.
Djamolion said Ferghana lives its own separate life, riddled with
problems of water distribution, border restrictions, territorial
disputes, ecological disasters and so on. According to Djamolion, the
international community shows more interest in these issues than the
Central Asian governments that share the Ferghana Valley.
The Tajik service will continue to follow trends in this important
region. The Tajik Service's report (in Tajik) can be found on the
service's website at http://www.ozodi.org/reports
** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be
reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
RUSSIA SAYS NYET TO LATIN SCRIPT FOR TATARSTAN
RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service highlighted the decision by Russia's
Constitutional Court November 16, rejecting a politically-charged bid
by Tatarstan to use the Latin alphabet instead of Cyrillic. The request
came from Tatarstan's Supreme Court, which challenged a 2002 Russian
law mandating the use of Cyrillic for all official languages of the
RFE/RL covered broad reaction to the court decision. The chairman
of the Tatar parliamentary Science, Culture and Education Committee,
Razil Valiyev told RFE/RL in a phone interview that an appeal against
the decision will be filed and that the only way to get a just ruling
is to go to international organizations, particularly the Human Rights
Court in Strasbourg. But in another RFE/RL interview, Tatarstan's
parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin said the court decision will
not be disputed by any part of Tatarstan's government.
The Tatar-Bashkir Service's report on the Russian Constitutional
Court's decision can be read (in Tatar) at
** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be
reached by email at <email@example.com>.
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