Accessibility links

Breaking News

RFE/RL Review April 29, 2005

The PDF version is available at

The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
April 23-29, 2005

RFE/RL REMEMBERS CHERNOBYL April 26 was the 19th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, when a nuclear reactor exploded spewing radiation over Ukraine, Belarus and northern Europe. Because of prevailing winds, Belarus was hardest hit, absorbing more than two thirds of the radioactive fallout; the country continues to wrestle with the economic, political and health consequences of the disaster. RFE/RL coverage included forecasts by health experts who predict that the incidence rate of thyroid cancer, rising since the tragedy, will continue to escalate, peaking in about ten years (

...Belarus Service Focuses April 26 Broadcasts on Commemorations, Demonstrations The Belarusian Service devoted all six live evening broadcasts on April 26 to the anniversary and how it was observed in Belarus. Reports on government commemorative events included coverage of President Lukashenka's tour of affected areas and his speech in the town of Homel, as well as a memorial ceremony in Minsk honoring Chernobyl firefighters and crisis management workers. The Belarusian Service also broadcast a statement commemorating the Chernobyl anniversary by U.S. Ambassador to Belarus George Krol (; the statement is published in English on the U.S. Embassy's website, at
RFE/RL correspondents throughout the country filed live, on-scene reports from the cities of Minsk (, Homel, Vitebsk and Mahilou, where opposition groups held memorial gatherings and demonstrations. The anniversary is a traditional day for rallies and criticism of the government because in 1986, an official cover-up of the disaster left a million and a half people remaining in the polluted area ignorant of the radioactive risk for several days.
In Minsk, several hundred people gathered in the city center displaying banners of Belarus nationalist groups opposed to the planned union with Russia, as well as flags of Ukraine and the European Union. RFE/RL correspondents saw opposition leaders push through ranks of helmeted riot police to deliver a petition to the President's Administration demanding a true account from the government of what happened after the accident, stop growing crops in contaminated areas, provide medical treatment for Chernobyl victims, lift restrictions on foreign humanitarian aid and stop sending students on compulsory clean- up brigades to the Chernobyl danger zone. RFE/RL reported that police moved in on the demonstrators, forcibly scattering the crowd and arresting some 40 protesters, including seven Russian citizens, a number of Ukrainians and most Belarusian opposition party leaders. Police seemed particularly focused on youth groups and took into custody more than a dozen leaders of youth organizations (;
One of the broadcasts of the Belarusian Service aired April 27 was an interview with imprisoned Belarusian scientist Yuri Bandazheuski, serving an 8-year sentence on trumped up bribery charges ( Bandazheuski repeated in the interview that he was jailed because he was trying to publicize his findings about the disastrous consequences of Chernobyl radiation. Bandazheuski said in the interview that his scientific research revealed the severe consequences of tiny radiation doses and contradicted government-funded research findings. Other programs were on events held by Belarusians in diaspora in Brussels, Warsaw and Stockholm (, and a roundtable discussion on present-day apathy and indifference to the continuing problems of Chernobyl.

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

...Russian Service Airs Chernobyl Protests RFE/RL's Russian Service mobilized a network of local correspondents on April 26 to cover protests by Russian environmentalists to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in several cities, including Moscow, Kaliningrad and Voronezh.
RFE/RL's Yekaterinburg bureau reported that most protests were against Russia's policy of secrecy concerning nuclear waste disposal. Activists from the environmental organization "Ekozashchita" asked 14 branches of the Emergency Situations Ministry for information on ministry plans for evacuating the population in case of a radioactive accident, and ministry officials in six of the 14 cities said the information was classified.
Lidiya Popova, director of the Center for Nuclear Ecology and Energy Policy gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. According to Popova, a law on protecting the population from radiation requires enterprises to keep local officials informed of radiation incidents, but few companies are doing so.

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

...Tajik Service Remembers Tajik Victims of Chernobyl RFE/RL's Tajik Service devoted its broadcasts on the 19th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the forgotten, uncompensated victims of radiation poisoning from the 1986 explosion. Clean-up crews were ferried in from various parts of the Soviet Union and set to work without being informed of the hazardous contamination. Some 5,000 people participated from Tajikistan.
The Tajik Service interviewed several survivors who said they receive no welfare benefits, no medical treatment and often cannot find employment. A doctor told RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent of widespread work discrimination, with many firms refusing to hire Chernobyl veterans.
In its April 26 program, Tajik Service correspondents filed reports on commemorative ceremonies that were held in Dushanbe and several other cities. Relatives and friends formed a Tajik-Chernobyl Union, which organized a groundbreaking ceremony for a small memorial in a Dushanbe park. The group's leader, Faridun Hakimov, spoke of a campaign for parliamentary approval of a draft law to help some 2,000 Tajik survivors, who remain alive from the original 5,000. He said Tajikistan is the only former Soviet republic that has no laws to help Chernobyl victims and their families.
Tajik Service coverage of the Chernobyl anniversary can be read (in Tajik) at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ INTERVIEWS IRAQ'S NEW GOVERNMENT Radio Free Iraq's three-month watch was rewarded April 28, when the partial composition of Iraq's new government was approved by parliament. RFI assembled the high points of the process, with exclusive interviews from senior politicians and analysts, into a 12- minute program broadcast within an hour of the events in Baghdad. RFI aired excerpts of speeches by the newly appointed government ministers, as well as Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who paraphrasing the famous wartime words of Winston Churchill ahead of the parliamentary vote said: "the journey was full of blood, words, sweat and tears until this day, when our people gave you their trust to carry out this responsibility" ( The cabinet, balancing Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups gave most posts to Shi'ites with represemtation also to Kurds and Sunnis. But Sunni Arabs expressed some disappointment saying in RFI interviews they want a stronger presence on the poitical scene. Seven ministries went to women, another historical first in Iraq.
RFI gave detailed coverage to a a press briefing April 26 on the role of women in Iraq's transitional administration. The three briefers were women interim ministers working in the areas of labor, migration and diplomacy. They all agreed that a new democratic Iraq must give women effective participation in political life, emphasizing that women must be able to choose their representatives, as well as run for office. Another major point made at the briefing was the need for support for women widowed by the war and continuing killings, and support for families of unemployed Iraqis.
RFI coverage of the confirmation of Iraq's new government can be heard on the service's webpage: interviews with Iraqi National Assembly members Abbas Al-Bayati and Ali Al-Dabbagh (, Ahmad Chalabi on the new government and its tasks (, and "man on the street" interviews in Baghdad and Al-Hilla regarding the new government (;

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

RFE/RL INTERVIEWS AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER, U.S. ENVOY AT NAGORNO-KARABAKH NEGOTIATIONS RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service was the sole news source for Azeri media on the latest round of OSCE-sponsored talks to resolve a longlasting stalemate on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The service sent a correspondent to Frankfurt who gained exclusive interviews with Azerbaijani foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov and U.S. Special Envoy for the Caspian Region Steven Mann at the end of the one- day talks April 27 ( The RFE/RL correspondent was the only Azeri-speaking reporter at the meeting and after RFE/RL's broadcast was beseiged with interview requests from Azeri radio and TV, as well as the ANS press agency and major newspapers. RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported that the Azerbaijani Service correspondent, Kenan Aliyev, was featured all day long on various TV and radio channels with due credit and attribution to RFE/RL.
In the RFE/RL interview, Mammadyarov confirmed that a new negotiating format has been adopted for the OSCE-sponsored talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia with each side talking separately to the co-chairs of the so-called Minsk process. Mammadyarov said some progress is being made towards a resolution of the territorial conflict and that a major item on the agenda were preparations for a meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents in Warsaw in mid-May during a summit conference of Council of Europe members.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

TAJIK SERVICE ON THE TRAIL OF VANISHED OPPOSITION LEADER RFE/RL's Tajik Service gave comprehensive coverage to the disappearance and reappearance of Tajikistan Democratic Party leader Mahmudruzi Iskandarov, who is regarded by the Rakhmonov regime as a terrorist and has been living in Russia. At the request of the Tajik government, Iskandarov was arrested in December, but was released from prison by the Russians in early April. Shortly thereafter, Iskandarov disappeared in Moscow under mysterious circumstances -- it is now believed that he was kidnapped by Tajik security forces and returned to Tajikistan.
Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojhon Bobokhonov announced, at a press conference in Dushanbe on April 26, that Iskandarov is in custody in Dushanbe and undergoing pre-trial investigation. Bobokhonov was interviewed for the Tajik broadcass by Dushanbe Bureau Chief Mirzonabi Kholiqzod, who also spoke to Iskandarov's solicitors. Political analysts and experts interviewed by the Tajik Service said there were irregularities in the way Iskandarov left Russia and that Russian and Tajik authorities had secretly agreed he was to be "illegally extradited."
Tajik Service coverage of the circumstances surrounding Iskandarov's return to Tajikisan can be found (in Tajik) on the service's website, at:;;;

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

MINSK DEMONSTRATORS ON HUNGER STRIKE RFE/RL's Belarusian and Ukrainian Services continued to follow the fates of jailed participants in a April 26 demonstration in Minsk.
Three Belarusian protesters joined five fellow prisoners from Ukraine in a hunger strike this week, causing international tension. RFE/RL reported that Kyiv has officially accused Minsk of violating the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, by denying opportunities for proper legal defense to the Ukrainian detainees. A correspondent for the Ukrainian Service also reported, on April 28, that activists with Ukraine's National Alliance youth movement had picketed the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv, presenting the mission a textbook on human rights and a basket of oranges, symbolic of last year's Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

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

SERBIAN POLITICIAN BLACKLISTED AFTER RFE/RL INTERVIEW ON KOSOVO A Serbian politician who gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) about the EU track for final status talks over Kosovo is now facing criminal charges and a furious publicity campaign against him.
SSALS broadcast the interview with Goran Svilanovic, a former foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, on Sunday, April 24 (a transcript, in Serbian, is available at He said that, as a member of the International Commission for the Balkans, he supported a four-phased plan for Kosovo independence.
"I have become 'a black sheep,' because I had the courage to say in public what all political leaders know in private -- that the European Union is poised to start a process which ultimately will lead to independence for Kosovo," Svilanovic said. He pointed out in the interview that no political party in Serbia is prepared to tell the public this truth.
Svilanovic said his comments outraged the Serbian political establishment and that the Serbian Radical Party has filed criminal charges against him, alleging he had violated the nation's territorial integrity. As part of an orchestrated campaign, the Power of Serbia youth group displayed posters in front of the parliament building, depicting Svilanovic's face over a map of Kosovo with an Albanian cap on his head and the slogan, "Stop Serbia Falling Apart." Most local media have declined to give Svilanovic an opportunity to explain his position.

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

RFE/RL REMEMBERS SREBRENICA MASSACRE RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) broadcast a round table discussion on April 21, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, Europe's worst crime against humanity since World War II. In 1995, Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Bosniaks and buried the bodies in secret mass graves. Participants in the roundtable included Dragan Popovic, from "Youth Initiative", Milivoje Ivanisevic, head of the Center for Truth on War Victims, and Enis Suljagic, a journalist from Sarajevo whose father and numerous relatives were murdered in Srebrenica.
Their discussion, designed as a forum for discussing the atrocity and its consequences, showed there has been no closure on the tragedy and that ethnic tensions remain high. Popovic said on the program that Serbian society is still in the grip of the nationalist pattern of the 1990s and that "many Serbs are not prepared to admit what happened in Srebrenica, nor can they accept their own responsibility for voting for Milosevic's party, whose policy ultimately lead to the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities."
Milivoje Ivanisevic from the Center for Truth claimed Srebrenica was "liberated" by Serb forces: "Serbs were expelled forcefully by guns and they reconquered it by using guns." Sarajevo journalist Enis Suljagic said he couldn't believe what he had just heard, that virtually his entire family was murdered in Srebrenica: "I don't expect an apology, but at least recognition from the Serb side that atrocities were committed." But Ivanisevic insisted there was no genocidal strategy and that the killings were isolated incidents committed by renegades acting on their own.
At one point, Suljagic said "I can no longer participate in this show if I have to listen to such a tissue of lies. If many of my cousins, neighbors and other people to whom I used to know for years had not been murdered where would they have disappeared to? I know boys of 10-12 years who were forcefully separated from their mothers. They cried and Serb commanders responded they will see each other soon. Unfortunately, they didn't meet because they were brutally murdered," said Suljagic.
A transcript (in Serbian) of the SSALS roundtable on the Srebrenica massacre can be found on the service's website, at

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

KAZAKH SERVICE PUBLICITY HELPS GAIN JOURNALIST'S RELEASE RFE/RL's Kazakh Service was the first media in Kazakhstan to give details April 24 of the imprisonment of prominent Kazakh journalist Irina Petrushova. Petrushova, the chief editor of Kazakhstan's "Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye" weekly and a former recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2002 International Press Freedom Award, is an opposition journalist who edits the magazine from Russia to escape persecution. At the request of the Kazakh government, Russian authorities took her into custody in the town of Volokolamsk, near Moscow on April 23. A Kazakh Service correspondent spoke to local police and the prosecutor's office to get confirmation.
Following RFE/RL broadcasts April 24 about her arrest, Kazakh journalists and opposition politicians gathered in front of the Russian Embassy in Almaty, on April 25 to deliver a petition demanding Petrushova's immediate release. A Kazakh Service correspondent, who was the only media representative on the scene, spoke to one of the protesters -- Altynbek Sarsenbayev, leader of the newly established Naghyz Aq Zhol (True Bright Path) opposition party, who said Petrushova's detention is politically motivated and an attempt by the Kazakh government to silence remaining independent media before forthcoming presidential elections.
Russian authorities released Petrushova on April 26 on the grounds that she is a Russian citizen. Petrushova fled Kazakhstan in 2002, following attacks on the publications' editorial offices, and has been residing in Russia ever since. Kazakh authorities have sought her detention on charges of tax evasion. Kazakh service coverage of the Petrushova case (in Kazakh) can be read at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL COVERS ATTACK ON UZBEK JOURNALIST RFE/RL's Uzbek Service covered prominently in its programs the April 23 attack on independent Uzbek journalist Ulughbek Haydarov. RFE/RL correspondents in Tashkent interviewed Haydarov in hospital, where he was being treated for multiple bone fractures after being brutally beaten by unknown persons. Haydarov suggested the attack was part of an orchestrated campaign by the Uzbek Government against journalists ( Several Internet sites have been publishing articles about journalists being targeted for repression, including Haydarov.
Correspondents for the Uzbek Service also spoke to several international organizations about Haydarov's case, including Reporters Without Borders, the International Press Institute, and Committee to Protect Journalists, which issued statements in support of Haydarov and called the attack on him a flagrant suppression of press freedom in Uzbekistan. Journalists and human rights activists interviewed by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service noted that Ulugbek Haydarov was beaten after publishing several critical articles about the way local authorities treat peasant farmers in Jizzakh, his home town.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

...CREATION OF NEW UZBEK OPPOSITION GROUP RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported April 21 and 22 that a new opposition group has been established in Uzbekistan, called "My Sunny Uzbekistan." It is headed by Nigora Hidoyatova, leader of the unregistered opposition party Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Farmers). The coalition, which includes a number of prominent rights activists, identified the privatization of land as a priority reform. Hidoyatova said in an RFE/RL interview that, "our demands are the democratization of the political system, the limitation of the president's powers, freedom of speech, openness, and agrarian reform" ( Exiled opposition leader Muhammad Solih, a leader of the banned Erk party, told RFE/RL that the new coalition is based on individual aspirations and lacks a solid platform.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL CORRESPONDENTS AT OCCUPIED KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondents are covering the protest at the Supreme Court building in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, which is occupied by demonstrators who are demanding the resignation of all the members of the Supreme Court, including its chairman Kurmanbek Osmonov.
Former Kyrgyz opposition leaders interviewed by RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk were ambiguous about the action, saying they support protest against a compromised, corrupt judiciary, but not occupying the Supreme Court building. Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement Party (KDMP) leader Jypar Jekshe said, in an April 30 interview, that occupying the building is illegal and counter-productive for democracy. "There are other ways to compel the judiciary to resign," he said.
On April 25, Supreme Court Chairman Kurmanbek Osmonov tendered his resignation to parliament and interim President Kurmanbek Bakiev, but it was not accepted. In an exclusive interview with Radio Azattyk, Osmonov said he offered to resign in order to defuse the protests and restore calm and stability.
An English-language report on the standoff can be found on RFE/RL's website, at

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

KYRGYZ SERVICE INTERVIEWS INTERIM PRESIDENT BAKIEV... Kyrgyz interim president Kurmanbek Bakiev gave an exclusive interview RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on April 27 in Bishkek. In the interview that aired that evening, Bakiev called for constitutional reform to safeguard against a dangerous concentration of power in any one branch of government, and also recognized the need for a free, uncensored media to "illuminate all events in Kyrgyzstan." Commenting on the rule of ousted president Askar Akayev, Baliev said Akayev initially contributed to the country's economic and political reforms, but eventually became "more and more authoritarian." The RFE/RL interview was widely quoted by AP, and other international media.
An English-language report on the Bakiev interview can be found on RFE/RL's website, at

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

...AND FORMER PRESIDENT AKAYEV Kyrgyzstan's ousted President Askar Akayev, in an exclusive telephone interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on April 24, rejected allegations by a top prosecutor that he was involved in fraud during parliamentary elections that sparked a popular uprising in March ( Akayev said the charges that he was personally involved in election fraud were untrue. He went on to deny a statement by acting chief prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov that Akayev's personal notebook had been found, showing records of money transfers for election purposes along with receipts signed by pro-government candidates who received cash. "It is an utter lie. I didn't have such accounting," Akayev said.
This was the second exclusive interview Akayev has given to the Kyrgyz Service since he was forced on March 24 to flee Kyrgyzstan, which he led for 15 years. Akayev is believed to be living near Moscow. In the earlier interview, he told RFE/RL he wants to return to Kyrgyzstan with presidential pension and honor restored.

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

RFE/RL IN ALMATY FOR KYRGYZ INTERIM PRESIDENT BAKIEV'S SURPRISE VISIT Interim Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev paid a sudden, unexpected visit to Kazakhstan's former capital, Almaty last weekend, where he met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Bakiev's trip surprised most media; the RFE/RL Kazakh Service's local network of correspondents was, however, in place and covered the weekend press conference that concluded the visit.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told journalists tha Kazakhstan would send 1,000 tons of wheat to Kyrgyzstan as humanitarian aid. Interim Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev said he and Nazarbayev had agreed that Kazakhstan should play an active role in Kyrgyzstan's economy. He promised to create favorable conditions for businessmen from Kazakhstan, Russia and other countries to work successfully in Kyrgyzstan. RFE/RL's Kazakh service carried key parts of the press conference an hour before other media and added analysis by local observers and politicians.
Kazakh Service coverage of the Bakiev visit can be found on the service's website, at (in Russian) and (in Kazakh)

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL in the News

RFE/RL STARS ON TATARSTAN TV RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service was featured on New Century TV (TNV) in Tatarstan April 26 in a segment that ended with these words from the moderator: "There is hope that as long as there is liberty in Tatarstan, there will be "Azatlyq" (Liberty) broadcasts."
TNV visited RFE/RL's Kazan bureau to film the news feature which discussed an April 1 decision by the State Radio and TV Company (GTRK) to stop rebroadcasting "Azatlyq" (RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir) programs. TNV's radio station, the remaining affiliate partner of RFE/RL, has for nearly two years been rebroadcasting two hours of RFE/RL programming daily on an FM frequency. The TV segment informed viewers that they can still hear the Tatar-Bashkir Service on short wave and on FM on New Century Radio and displayed RFE/RL's new, burnt orange torch logo. Kazan Bureau Chief Rimzil Valiev also spoke about RFE/RL's mission to promote democratic values in the segment.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <>.

----------------------------------------------------------------------- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international communications service to Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

RFE/RL, Inc.

1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW * Washington, DC 20036 Phone +1.202.457.6900 * Fax +1.202.457.6992

Vinohradska 1 * 110 00 Prague 1 * Czech Republic Phone +420.2.2112.1111 * Fax +420.2.2112.3002



Get "RFE/RL Review" via e-mail!

To subscribe Send an email to <>

To Unsubscribe Send an email to <>


Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

Managing Editor: Sonia Winter <>

For more information about any of the stories mentioned in "RFE/RL Review," or to learn more about RFE/RL, please contact Martins Zvaners at <> or by calling +1-202-457-6948.