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RFE/RL Review March 11, 2005

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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of March 5-11, 2005

Among the common themes for RFE/RL's 18 language services this week were the killing of former Chechen president and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov in Chechnya; the unraveling of the cover-up of the 2002 murder of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in Kyiv; the weakened communist victory in parliamentary elections in Moldova; Lebanese- Syrian tensions; and the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena after a month of captivity in Iraq.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq and Radio Farda took the lead on the case of Giuliana Sgrena and the accidental shooting that injured her and killed her bodyguard, Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, at an American checkpoint. Radio Farda's Rome correspondent got an exclusive interview with Sgrena, at the hospital where she was recovering from a wound received in the checkpoint incident. The material was shared with other language services.
RFE/RL Russian and Central Asian Services programmed heavily on International Women's Day--still a state holiday in many post-Soviet states. In the run-up week to March 8, RFE/RL's Tajik Service aired a series of reports on women from different walks of life--rich and poor, young and old. Radio Free Afghanistan ran an interview with Afghanistan's first female governor, Habiba Sorabi, who was appointed the top administrator of Bamiyan province earlier this month. RFE/RL's Uzbek and other services broadcast a package produced by RFE/RL's central News and Current Affairs journalists, which included a profile of Dildora Alimbekova (a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Uzbekistan's most successful businesswoman) and a report on the visit of a delegation of Afghan and Iraqi women to Washington and their meeting in the White House with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

RFE/RL NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE FIRST SOURCE ON MASKHADOV KILLING, SUCCESSOR RFE/RL's North Caucasus service was consistently one of the first to get information concerning the March 8 death of democratically elected Chechen president and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov into its daily broadcasts and also served as a source for international media (see "RFE/RL in the News" below). RFE/RL was the first to get independent confirmation that Maskhadov had indeed had been killed, during a telephone interview with Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev minutes after the announcement was made by a Russian government spokesman ( The North Caucasus service also secured the first media interview of Maskhadov's son Anzor, who was contacted by phone from Baku on March 9 and was the first to report the news of the appointment of Abdul Khalim Saidullayev as Maskhadov's successor later that night.
Zakayev, during a March 9 interview with the North Caucasus Service, refuted the official Russian version of events, saying: "the president of the Chechen state (Maskhadov) was found by pure chance and he died in a shootout. There wasn't any explosion, or a basement, or a bunker, contrary to how they (Russia) are trying to present it today." According to Zakayev, "They (Russia) tried to convince the world that Maskhadov was in some sort of a bunker and was preparing a horrible terrorist act in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt. This may seem credible to those who don't know the republic and those villages, but there was no bunker in the house in Tolstoi-Yurt where President Aslan Maskhadov was killed. They were not trying to pull him out of a bunker, nor did they blow him up. This was a planned operation in that village, where the president of the Chechen state was found by pure chance and he died in a shootout."
In the March 9 interview, Maskhadov's son Anzor spoke with North Caucasus Service Director Aslan Doukaev mainly about the family's distress at the Russian government's refusal to return Maskhadov's remains for burial on the grounds that he was a terrorist. Anzor Maskhadov said: "They (Russian authorities) call my father a terrorist. I can prove that he is not a terrorist. They don't have any evidence to prove that. They are talking about Beslan, where many children died. We didn't want it to happen, the Russians made it happen. (Aleksandr) Troshin (head of the Russian parliamentary commission investigating Beslan) once said that Maskhadov was not planning to come to Beslan to resolve the situation (after the siege began). I know for certain that my father was on the way to Beslan. When they (Russian authorities) realized that he was coming they began storming (the school)."
Former speaker of the Russian State Duma, former Russian Security Council secretary and a top negotiator in talks between the Kremlin and Chechnya in the 1990s, Ivan Rybkin, said in a March 9 interview with RFE/RL by phone from Geneva that "the elimination of Aslan Maskhadov was absolutely inappropriate -- if, at all, we can speak this way about the killing of a human being. He was a man who embodied the will for peace talks with the federal center, a man who signed agreements with the government of the Russian Federation, in fact three times, a man who signed a peace accord between the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation, a man who constantly sought a peaceful solution to the situation."

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

...RUSSIAN SERVICE COMMENTS BY RYBKIN, LORD JUDD, OTHERS News and comments about Maskhadov's death dominated programming on the Russian Service, which also aired the March 9 Rybkin interview-- including his sense that Maskhadov's successor will not be as easy to deal with: "I can say now that those who didn't want to hold negotiations with Soviet General Dudayev [Chechnya's first president Dzhokhar Dudayev, also killed by Russian troops], those who didn't want to negotiate with Soviet Colonel Maskhadov, will now have to seek talks with younger [Chechen rebels], real scum in fact, those who will probably match the labels that were stuck [by Russian authorities] on Aslan Maskhadov."
Lord (Frank) Judd, former rapporteur for the Council of Europe on Chechnya, gave an exclusive interview on similar lines to the Russian Service broadcast March 10. Judd, who resigned as Chechnya rapporteur in January 2003 to protest Moscow's refusal to postpone a constitutional referendum in Chechnya, saying conditions were too dangerous, told RFE/RL he was "surprised at the apparent jubilation [at Maskhadov's death], in some quarters, in Russia because, it seems to me that Maskhadov and the people close to him represented a more moderate element amongst the fighters, and I've always believed that is the element we needed to get back into a political process. "What I'm afraid [Maskhadov's] death may do is to make an inclusive political process of that kind more difficult because it will play into the hands of the more extreme elements led by Mr. [Shamil] Basayev."
RFE/RL's Russian Service went live on the air with reaction to Maskhadov's killing at 5 PM on March 8, minutes after the announcement of his death on Russian television. The moderator was RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky--who covered both wars in Chechnya, was abducted and held for five weeks by Russian forces in 2000 and personally knew Maskhadov. Between the 6 PM analytical "Topics of the Day" program and the end of the 7 AM Morning Show the next day, the Russian Service had broadcast exclusive comments from Zakayev; former Russian Supreme Soviet Speaker and ethnic Chechen Ruslan Khasbulatov; Chechen politician Shamil Beno; the Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Security, Gennady Gudkov; military expert Alexander Goltz; Russian political analysts Andrei Piontkovsky and Vyacheslav Nikonov; western political analyst Marshall Goldman and Chechen journalist Musa Mouradov. The Russian Service continues to bring to listeners further analysis, discussion among experts and journalists, as well as responses on the subject from listeners.
To read transcripts of a selection of the Russian Service's coverage of the death of Aslan Maskhadov, please visit:,,

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

...REACTIONS FROM GEORGIA, UKRAINE RFE/RL's Georgian Service sent a correspondent to the Pankisi Gorge, home to a sizable Chechen minority who fled from the war across the border. He reported widespread sorrow and mourning among Chechens living there at the death of Maskhadov and a general sense of pessimism about any future peace negotiations with Russia.
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service aired an interview on March 11 with Mustafa Djemilev, member of the Ukrainian Rada and chief of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the leadership of the Crimean Tatar community ( He said the Crimean Tatar Mejlis offers condolences to Chechens over the killing of their leader Aslan Maskhadov, noting that "throughout Russian history, all national movements that called for the independence of their homeland, beginning from Shamil in the 1850s (an uprising in the North Caucasus led by Imam Shamil), who fought against Russia for the independence of his motherland, have been called terrorists and bandits (by Russia)." Djemilev described Maskhadov as "a very moderate political leader who always sought peaceful ways to resolve the Chechen problem," adding that "a serious blow has been dealt to the hopes for a peaceful settlement and the situation has become more complicated now." Djemilev said in the RFE/RL interview that "it seems Russia is absolutely not interested in a peaceful settlement and relies, traditionally, on a military solution."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>. The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

KYRGYZ POLITICAN TELLS RFE/RL OF 'YURT REVOLUTION' The leader of Kyrgyzstan's opposition Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) movement, Roza Otunbayeva, named the growing protest movement in Kyrgyzstan "the Yurt Revolution" in an exclusive interview broadcast March 11 by the Kyrgyz Service ( According to Otunbayeva, "This is a Yurt Revolution -- people are putting up yurts (traditional nomadic tents) in different parts of the country (to facilitate protest actions). I think this shows that people are ready and active in regions of Kyrgyzstan these days." Otunbayeva, who is barred from being a candidate in the parliamentary elections, was referring to daily protest rallies that started in Bishkek more than a month ago and intensified, spreading to other cities and gathering thousands of supporters after an inconclusive first round of voting February 27. Nearly half the seats were contested and will be up for grabs in the March 13 run-off poll. Meanwhile, Radio Azattyk has been covering protest rallies continuing in the cities of Jalalabat, Uzgen, Suzak and Osh, as well as Bishkek with protesters demanding president Akayev's resignation and early presidential elections.
Radio Azattyk's correspondent in Osh spoke to one of the protesters in Osh, former parliamentarian Anvar Artykov, now a member of the opposition Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) bloc, in an interview broadcast March 10. Artykov said the Feb. 27 election "was among the dirtiest elections ever held in Kyrgyzstan" and that Akayev must resign.
RFE/RL's Bishkek correspondent reported March 10 that 20 opposition members of parliament were barred from entering the parliament building ( They issued a statement, distributed to protesters in front of the building. One of the signatories, deputy Alevtina Pronenko, read the statement as follows:
"By using the parliamentary elections, (Kyrgyz) President Askar Akayev, who has been in office for more than 13 years, is trying to form the next parliament from members of his family and people loyal to him in order to preserve power. We believe that the president who has publicly spoken in favor of fair elections but at the same time has helped disrupt the elections and failed public confidence in the election process and its outcome, who has deceived his people, should no longer be the leader of the country. We demand that President Akayev hold early presidential elections in July 2005, extend the term of the current parliament until November 2005, ensure the adoption of legislation for parliamentary elections to be based on a proportional system (based on party lists). We call on the people of Kyrgyzstan to remain calm and resolute at this crucial time and we call on the law enforcement agencies not to use arms against citizens defending their rights by constitutional means."
President Akayev, whose term in office expires this October, remained silent for more than a week but March 10 appeared on television exhorting citizens to go to the polls Sunday and to ignore the "troublemakers". RFE/RL reported that the president's spokesman warned March 11 that Akayev may call a referendum to confirm his powers and possibly extend his mandate by five years if the opposition continues to demand early presidential elections ( He has said previously he will step down in accordance with Kyrgyzstan's constitution, which bars the president from a third consecutive term in office.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ LEARNS ZARQAWI NOOSE TIGHTENING Iraq's national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad correspondent that "the noose is tightening around Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's neck" in an exclusive interview broadcast March 10. Al-Zarqawi, believed to have close ties to Osama bin Ladin, is held responsible for some of the worst atrocities to have been documented in Iraq, including beheadings of western captives. Al-Rubay'i said there has been a change in public opinion and people are more willing to give information to Iraqi forces about terrorists, the houses and cars they use. "Iraqi security forces have now got the edge after having been on the defensive. We believe that within a short period, [Abu Mus'ab al- Zarqawi] will either be arrested or killed," al-Rubay'i said.
Commenting on the coalition forces in Iraq, he said Iraqi police and armed forces are growing in confidence and soon will be well enough trained to handle terrorists and insurgents on their own. He said the interim government will have to reach an agreement with the coalition forces limiting their activity inside Iraq. Al-Rubay'i said in the RFE/RL interview, "It is necessary that we close an agreement regulating the presence of these forces so that we are able to move them out of some big cities and replace them with Iraqi forces--the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police, or the [Iraqi] National Guard. [We should move the multinational forces] also out of some small towns that are calm and thus we do not need the presence of these forces there. It is possible that we will launch negotiations and a serious dialogue on relocating these forces and on trying to transfer them from calm cities, especially from cities south of Baghdad, in Kurdistan.
A report (in Arabic) on Radio Free Iraq's interview with Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i can be found at the audio can be accessed at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ REPORTS FROM MOSUL AFTER EXPLOSION Radio Free Iraq Mosul correspondent Ahmad Said reported March 11 that there is so much fear and tension in this northern city, plans had to be cancelled for a public funeral for some 50 victims of a suicide bombing that occurred at another funeral the day before. Said filed this report for broadcast that day from Mosul, about the attack and reaction:
"Today, Friday afternoon, funeral ceremonies took place in villages and eastern quarters of Mosul for more than 50 victims of yesterday's suicide attack. The suicide bomber yesterday [10 March] targeted a funeral gathering held in a tent near a mosque of the Kurdish followers of the Shabak branch of Shi'a Islam. The mosque is situated in Al-Ta'mim quarter in the eastern part of Mosul city. About 91 people were injured in the blast and brought for treatment to several hospitals in Mosul. Dozens of citizens came to the Republican Hospital in Mosul this morning to donate blood for the injured. A cleric, speaking to us on condition of anonymity, said that a public mass funeral for all the victims, planned for today before noon, is not taking place for fear that the funeral procession could become a target of another armed attack by terrorist groups.
"The attack on the funeral gathering happened yesterday [10 March] evening. It was a strong explosion in a tent erected for the funeral of Mr. Hashim Sayyid Mahmud, one of the Shabak dignitaries in the area. In the first hour following the attack, the toll had already reached 30 dead and today it went past 50. All counts of those killed and injured are, up to now, only approximate. Reaction in the streets of Mosul, among all social groups and irrespective of ethnic and religious affiliations, is strong anger because unarmed people were targeted. There are fears that similar incidents could be repeated in events like wedding celebrations."
"Security measures have been in force for a long time. Every day, Iraqi and U.S. forces apprehend many people suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. Every day, Nineveh and Al-Iraqiyya television stations show images of those apprehended and their testimonies."

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

UKRAINIAN SERVICE OPENS NEW CHAPTERS IN GONGADZE FILE The renewed investigation into the brutal 2000 murder of investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze has dominated programs on RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. Two policemen were arrested for the murder March 2 and the case took an unexpected turn when former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, whose name had been linked to the murder, was found dead two days later as an apparent suicide. He left a note, saying he was the victim of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's intrigues. Kuchma, Kravchenko's boss at the time of Gongadze's death five years ago, has undergone questioning in Kyiv about his role in the affair.
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service provided special insight on the case to RFE/RL Russian, Georgian and other services. Legal experts were interviewed, including the Gongadze family lawyer. RFE/RL also broadcast interviews with Gongadze's widow, Myroslava; Grigoriy Omelchenko, the chairman of the Ukrainian parliamentary committee investigating the case; Igor Storozhuk, the press secretary for Ukrainian parliament chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn; and former Kuchma bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko (
Heorhiy Gongadze, 31, wrote for the "Ukrayinska Pravda" Internet journal and was a harsh critic of Kuchma. He disappeared in September 2000 and two months later his decapitated torso was found outside Kiev. A leading opposition politician made public audio tapes linking Kuchma to Gongadze's death. The so-called Melnychenko tapes were broadcast first on RFE/RL. They were part of secret recordings made between 1998 and 2000 by Mykola Melnychenko, one of Kuchma's bodyguards, later granted political asylum in the United States. Although the Melnychenko tapes have never been officially recognized as genuine in Ukraine, Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun has said he wants the tapes to be examined by international experts and, if authenticated, to be included as evidence in the Gongadze case.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

ROMANIAN SERVICE COVERS ROMANIAN, U.S. PRESIDENTS' MEETING RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service reported extensively on President's Bush's meeting with Romanian president Traian Basescu in the White House March 9 ( The visit, Basescu's first formal visit to the White House since becoming President in a surprise election victory last November, was a major story for Romanians and their close neighbors in Moldova.
President Bush said after the talks that he asked Basescu "what the U.S. can do to move democracy forward (in Moldova), because the president understands that a democratic neighbor is one that will be a peaceful neighbor." Bush said he got good advice from his Romanian counterpart.
President Bush's remarks were broadcast to both countries by RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service, which also aired an exclusive interview with Bruce Jackson, president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, about Romania's role in the Balkans and in the Black Sea area (the audio of the service's interview with Bruce Jackson is available at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL BROADCASTS ON MOLDOVA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS The March 6 parliamentary election in Moldova, Europe's poorest country, was a major topic in Romania-Moldova Service broadcasts last week. RFE/RL expanded its program by an hour to bring listeners reports from polling stations located throughout Moldova, in the disputed separatist Transdniester region, as well as the voting of Moldovans living abroad. Political analysts in RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau interpreted results, while RFE/RL correspondents at the election headquarters of each of the three main parties were able to get exclusive statements after the vote from party leaders Victor Stepaniuc (Communist Party), Serafim Urechean (Democratic Moldova Bloc) and Vlad Cubreacov (vice-president, Christian Democratic People's Party). Broadcasts highlighted the relatively high voter turnout and the remarkable speed with which the Central Election Commission counted votes and declared a "convincing victory" for the ruling Communist Party of President Vladimir Voronin. The Communists lost some ten seats but retained a comfortable majority.
In the preceding week, RFE/RL established a free phone line for listeners in its Chisinau bureau to express their views on a given political question of the day. The bureau received more than 100 calls a day from all over the country, and many expressions of appreciation for allowing listeners the chance to speak their mind and get a response on RFE/RL broadcasts.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

GEORGIAN SERVICE: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA OVER MILITARY BASES RFE/RL's Georgian Service is following growing tension between Russia and Georgia over the long-standing contentious issue of Russia's military bases inside Georgia. The pressure ratcheted up several notches March 10, when Georgia's parliament, ignoring government pleas for restraint, passed a nonbinding resolution giving the Russians a May deadline for agreement on a date for withdrawal. (For an overview of the tensions, please read "Georgia: Russia Calls Parliamentary Resolution On Bases 'Counterproductive'" on the RFE/RL website, at
Georgian lawmaker Giga Bokeria said, in an RFE/RL interview after the parliament's vote, that "in this statement we are giving more time for diplomacy, despite the fact that Russian diplomacy have proved time and time again that there is yet no political will in Russia to withdraw its bases, which are here as an echo of Soviet rule and which are here against the will of the Georgian people."
RFE/RL reported Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's statement in Moscow March 11 that "negotiations are underway between the two sides (Russia and Georgia) and we will discuss the timetable (for the pullout of Russian military bases from Georgia), the functioning of the military bases and the financial aspect of this matter, because a withdrawal of course entails certain expenses. When Russia and Georgia reached an agreement in Istanbul to resolve of the issue, a number of OSCE countries mentioned they were prepared to provide financial assistance for this process."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>.

U.S. CONGRESSMAN URGES CALM IN KOSOVO IN RFE/RL INTERVIEW The Kosovo subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service spoke with U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York), senior member of the House International Affairs Committee's subcommittee on Europe, in an exclusive interview aired March 8, about the surprise indictment and resignation of popular Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and his surrender to The Hague tribunal earlier that day.
Engel urged Kosovo Albanians to remain calm and refrain from violence, stressing that the indictment by The Hague International War Crimes Tribunal is a charge and not proof of guilt. He said "at this point in the process, Mr. Haradinaj is innocent until proven guilty, he deserves every chance within the law for fair trial". Engel said the Kosovar people should focus on the future and "the future is self- determination and an independent Kosova."
A transcript of the interview with Rep. Engel can be found at
Haradinaj was indicted for allegedly committing war crimes against Serbs during the 1998-1999 Kosova conflict.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL COVERS WAR CRIMES COURT INAUGURATION IN SARAJEVO A correspondent from RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) was at the inauguration of the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo on March 9, the first war crimes court in Bosnia. U.N. chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and the president of the International Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Theodor Meron spoke at the opening ceremony and the RFE/RL program carried excerpts of their remarks. Del Ponte emphasized that "there be no credit given to a defender if he killed or ordered the killing of innocent civilians. All are equal in front of the court of law." She said "there were hundreds-of-thousands of victims and their suffering must be addressed in the first place." Meron declared that "no major war criminals will benefit from a gap in impunity, either now or at the time when the work of the ICTY will draw to its end. And let me say here, loud and clear, that the tribunal will not close its doors before we have tried [wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic, [former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko] Mladic and [General Ante] Gotovina."
A report on the opening of the War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo may be found at

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS RFE/RL COUNTRY'S FUTURE DEPENDS ON FUGITIVE GENERAL Croatian Foreign Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, in exclusive interview with RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), said her government is confident going in to accession talks with the European Union that are scheduled to begin on March 17. But she made clear in the interview, broadcast March 8 ( that "this depends on our efforts to capture General Gotovina, if he is in Croatia. We have to assure the EU states and War Crime Tribunal that we are doing all we can to fulfill the demands from ICTY. We are preparing very seriously for the March 17." Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and President Stipe Mesic were quoted as saying that Gotovina is not in Croatia and it would be unfair to punish Zagreb for failing to do something beyond its reach and jurisdiction.
Sanader said in Zagreb on March 9 that he expects the EU to give the green light for membership talks to start on March 17.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

BELARUS SERVICE AIRS REACTION TO EURO CRITICISM RFE/RL's Belarus Service sought reaction from all sides to a strongly- worded European Parliament on the human rights record of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government that demanded the immediate release of several imprisoned activists. The 24-point document, adopted on March 10, condemns the Belarusian government's crackdown on independent reporters, media outlets, opposition groups and human rights advocates and urges the current Belarusian regime be recognized as "a dictatorship." It also calls for action in "identifying and freezing the personal assets of President Lukashenka and those other senior members of the regime who ensure the continuation of the dictatorship." (
In RFE/RL interviews, opposition leaders universally lauded the European Parliament's resolution, while government officials denied its veracity or were evasive ( The Foreign Ministry said it hadn't seen the document, while a pro-government deputy in the National Assembly argued that Belarus was not a dictatorship, but merely had an authoritarian government. A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office told RFE/RL there were no political prisoners in Belarus.
RFE/RL has broadcast details of the Europarliament's resolution, which also calls for the release of Mikhail Marynich, Valery Levanewski, Alyaksandr Vasilyev and other persons described as "imprisoned political opponents of the regime" ( The resolution was drafted partly in response to what the EP said was "an arrogant reply" by Belarusian Ambassador Uladzimir Syanko to EP President Josep Borrell's letter of concern about the imprisonment of opposition politician Mikhail Marynich.
To increase pressure on the regime, the EP resolution suggests a number of measures, including expanding the list of Belarusian officials banned from traveling on the territory of European Union countries, providing political asylum to victims of the Belarusian regime, supporting independent media and creating alternative information sources such as TV and radio stations in neighboring countries that would broadcast to Belarus.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

BELARUS SERVICE PUBLICIZES FATE OF POLITICAL PRISONER RFE/RL's Belarus Service has been reporting on a growing campaign on behalf of imprisoned opposition leader, former government minister and ambassador to Latvia Mikhail Marynich. He was recently transferred to the harsh-regime Orsha prison. Marynich, 65, reportedly suffered a stroke there on March 7 and has been moved to a prison hospital.
Marynich's son Pavel said in a March 11 interview with RFE/RL ( that his father had been denied medicine, which precipitated the stroke and that withholding his medication amounts to "attempted murder". He said he was not allowed to see his father and told to come back in four months. RFE/RL also spoke to an Interior Ministry spokesman who said Marynich was getting adequate care and was in satisfactory condition. But Marynich's lawyer Valyantsina Shykhantsova was able to meet her client on March 11 and told RFE/RL afterwards that Marynich is not getting appropriate care and must be moved back to Minsk. "He has to be transferred to Minsk and we will now work toward this goal," she said.
Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman of European Union foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana, said in an exclusive interview broadcast March 11 ( that the EU urges Belarusian authorities to ensure Marynich receives good medical attention and permit his family to see him. She added on behalf of the European Union that "we consider that the trial leading to the sentencing of Mr. Marynich was politically motivated and built on a questionable charge."

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

ELDERLY MOLDOVAN ARTIST HELPED BECAUSE OF RFE/RL INTERVIEW An RFE/RL interview with an elderly, impoverished artist broadcast to Romania resulted in offers of money and housing and a happy ending to a life of loneliness. The March 5 broadcast of the Romania-Moldova Service's "Weekly Diary" program featured an interview with 84-year old sculptor Leonid Nedov, a Russian-speaking Moldovan in Chisinau who spent eight years in the Soviet gulag. Nedov looked back at his hard life and unhappiness that he has no place to work. Nedov said that, prior to 1990, he was shunned because of his anti-Soviet views--now he is old, ill, has no money for a studio and people have no time for art. Nedov said he wants to continue sculpting and feels he still has something to contribute to people.
After the broadcast, Nedov he received many offers of help, including food, money and the use of a studio where he can work from a businessman in the wine industry. Nedov came to the Chisinau bureau to thank RFE/RL staff, saying he never imagined that in poor Moldova, his story could have such an impact and people could be so kind.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL in the News

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE DIRECTOR A FEATURED SOURCE IN MASKHADOV KILLING COVERAGE RFE/RL North Caucasus Service Director Aslan Doukaev was interviewed by RFE/RL's central News and Current Affairs journalists within hours of the March 8 death of Chechen resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov, to provide in-depth analysis for use by all of RFE/RL's language services ( Doukaev was also interviewed by news media worldwide, including BBC Online, CNN, Associated Press, United Press International, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian (Great Britain), and Frankfurter Rundschau.

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