Who will manage Russias CIS relations?
Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear in his 26 May State-of-the-Nation speech that Moscows relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) continue to play an important role in Russias foreign policy. Speaking before both houses of parliament, Putin stated: "Work to intensify integration in the sphere of the Commonwealth of Independent States remains our priority
Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, in discussing upcoming reforms to his ministrys staffing, indicated that his ministry, despite the importance of the CIS to Russia, would not set up a special department to focus on CIS affairs as many of the ministrys current departments and ministers already "deal with relations with [the CIS] countries." (2)
So, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will not lead the effort in Russian-CIS relations, who will? Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the State Duma committee for international affairs, proposed in a radio interview on 26 May that Russias cooperation with countries of the CIS should be "implemented by the Security Council," because in these matters "the political will of the state should be concentrated in one pair of hands." (3)
Kosachev, who began his government service working in the Soviet Unions MFA at the age of 22 in 1984, (4) suggested that the Security Council has increased its role in international policy since the former foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, took over as its secretary. Indeed, Ivanov has been visible on several diplomatic missions abroad in recent weeks, including taking an active part in the removal of Aslan Abashidze from Adjaria, Georgia, subsequently visiting to Georgia regarding the status of Abkhazia, touring three Persian Gulf states, and representing Moscow in Astana, Kazakhstan at an extraordinary session of the Central Asian Cooperation Organizations heads of state, among others. In July 2004, Ivanov is scheduled to visit North and South Korea.
Were Putin to put Kosachevs proposition into action, it would serve as a political marker on several counts. Firstly, limiting the MFAs authority over and involvement in CIS affairs would add credibility to a recent report that Lavrov and the MFA are merely occupying an "auxiliary role" in the foreign policy process and are used simply for "articulating and implementing the presidential line." (5) Secondly, it would reinforce reports that the current Security Council under Ivanov will play a more active role in Moscows decision making than it did under his predecessor. (6) Finally, transferring the management of such an important issue as relations with the CIS to within the Kremlin walls would also fit the now familiar pattern of centralizing control of Moscows most important issues.
Deals and progress at E.U.-Russian summit
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov declared that the 21 May RussianEuropean Union (E.U.) Summit would create a new stage in RussianE.U. relations. (7) Russian Presidential Aide and Presidential Special Envoy for relations with the European Union, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, described it as "a summit of substance, one of specific, concrete and pragmatic work." (8) While self-congratulatory descriptions of Russian (and other) summits should generally be taken with a grain of salt, the results of this seventh RussianE.U. conference deserve a closer look.
The "substance" which Yastrzhembsky mentioned manifested itself in the establishment of four so-called "common spaces" between the E.U. and Russia. These spaces, which had been proposed and discussed at earlier summits in St. Petersburg and Rome, consist of:
1. a shared economic space;
2. an external security space;
3. an internal security space; and
4. a humanitarian space involving science, technology, education and culture.
President Vladimir Putin called on the E.U. to prevent further delays in developing these common spaces and immediately appointed his coordinators for each of the spaces. Russian Minister of Industry and Power Viktor Khristenko is in charge of the common economic space. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will coordinate the foreign security space for Moscow. Presidential Aide Viktor Ivanov will organize the cooperation on the internal security space, and Presidential Aide Yastrzhembsky will coordinate the humanitarian segment in addition to his special envoy duties. (9) Once again, such an arrangement of special representatives demonstrates President Putins desires to keep crucial international issues firmly in his control and to limit the power of any single ministry or individual.
The big score for Moscow at this summit, however, appears to be the E.U.s acknowledgement that it will support Russias bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yastrzhembsky denied in a 26 May radio interview that a deal had been struck consisting of the E.U.s backing Russias joining the WTO in exchange for Moscows ratification of the Kyoto protocol. The timing of Putins announcement that he would expedite the ratification of the environmental protocol (at the same time as his announcement of the E.U.s WTO position) led to speculation that such bargaining had indeed taken place. (10) The E.U.s support for Russian acceptance into the WTO might have been the triggering event Putin was expecting before finally playing his "Kyoto card."
Relative to the results of other presidential summits, which often produce little more than proclamations of "a dynamic bilateral relationship" or "potential for increased economic activity," this three and a half hour meeting (and no doubt the preceding preparatory work) appears to have produced substantial results for Moscow. It also represents a dramatic improvement in Russian-E.U. ties, which earlier this spring were somewhat strained as the 1 May expansion date loomed.
But despite Moscows claims of progress at the summit, it is still not satisfied. MFA spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko reminded the E.U. of its obligations regarding Russian speaking minorities in the Baltic states and freight transit between Kaliningrad and Russia proper. (11) Also, Russia continues to advocate for a Russian-E.U. visa-free regime. Moscow appears intent on realizing this goal, but as President Putin acknowledged, Russia must first improve control over its borders before such a system becomes possible. (12)
Riding the rapids of Russian foreign relations
Interviewing the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, for Vremya novostei on 18 May, a journalist indicated that Lavrovs love of white-water rafting is well-known among Russians. Asked how the thrill of his job as foreign minister compared to that of white-water rafting, Lavrov explained that his new assignment left little time for his exhilarating hobby. And while the outside observer might see a similarity in managing Russias foreign affairs and traversing a wild and winding river, Lavrov coolly says that although being appointed Minister was exciting, "[t]he adrenaline which increases in fulfilling a professional task cannot be compared with the adrenaline which increases when rafting." (13)
(1) RTR TV, 26 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(2) ITAR-TASS, 27 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(3) Ekho Moskvy, 26 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(4) Following his 14 years in the MFA from 1984-1998, Kosachev served as aid to three Russian prime ministers: Sergei Kirienko, Yevgeni Primakov and Sergei Stepashin. In 1999, he was first elected as a State Duma deputy under the banner of Primakovs Fatherland-All Russia party. In December 2003, he was reelected with the United Russia election bloc. (Whos Who in Russia website www.whoswho-sutter.com/w_in_russia.htm).
(5) Kommersant, 19 Apr 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(6) Izvestiya, 27 Apr 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0427 via World News Connection (WNC).
(7) ITAR-TASS, 20 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) Ekho Moskvy, 22 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) ITAR-TASS, 21 May 04; BBC Monitoring, 22 May 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(10) ITAR-TASS, 21 May 04; BBC Monitoring, 22 May 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database,
(11) ITAR-TASS, 19 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(12) ITAR-TASS, 21 May 04; BBC Monitoring, 22 May 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(13) Vremya novostei, 18 May 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(14) See NIS Observed, 28 April 2004.
(15) See NIS Observed, 11 Dec 03 and 10 Oct 03.
By Scott C. Dullea (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The fall, and rise, of justice in the periphery
While a recent survey indicates that jury trials, recently introduced in some regions, have gained the confidence of many Russians, it appears that the prosecution of cases continues to be somewhat less confidence-inspiring. Indeed, lately it seems that, more than ever, politics, not crime, may be the motivation behind some prosecutorial activity.
Once again, reality in Russia tends to depend on just what one wants it to be. The Yuri Levada Analytical Center (formerly VTsIOM) polled 1,591 Russians about the judicial system at the end of April, (1) and found that thirty-four percent of participants stated that they believed juries are fairer and more independent than other courts. Yet nearly another third of respondents (29%) said jurors are less literate and experienced and more likely to be pressured from external forces.
There is evidence however that, in non-political cases, ordinary citizens are not always on the losing end of court decisions, even against government organs. The Agency of Judicial Information announced that, while it may take some time and perseverance, justice can be found in the courts. (2)
The key very well may be "non-political cases." Too much evidence indicates that Russias courts continue to be used for political purposes. Case in point: the short-lived, but enthusiastic, attack against Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov, who had been persecuted by Anatoli Bondar, the regional prosecutor, for abuse of office. The charge revolved around the governors alleged illegal instruction to pay the customs duties for a private firms import of harvesters, machinery that would be delivered to the oblast government itself. At first, Bondar stood on principle, claiming that "obvious elements of corruption" were apparent in a few gubernatorial activities. (3) And yet, the charges did not fit the statements: The "crime" did not involve using his office for personal gain no one has charged that. Rather, the governor who has a reputation for getting things done in his oblast did not obtain prior approval from the regional duma for this budget expenditure, presumably intended to provide oblast-wide benefit through the gathering of the harvest. Bondar himself became defensive when subsequently questioned about the charges, as the case began to unravel. "Why is everyone so hung up on the harvester story? It is just one of the episodes on which the prosecutor's office based its charges. We are working on several leads at once," he said. (4)
The situation raised many questions, particularly about the motivation behind the charges; the "crime," after all, was committed to benefit the oblasts economy. Moreover, the governor was not a thorn in Moscows side a motivation, alas, in some other prosecutions. Although a Yeltsin-era appointee, Ayatskov has been an ardent supporter of Putins administration, much to the dismay of his fellow governors. "I find all this very difficult to comprehend," Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak said, "Particularly since Ayatskov, unlike my other colleagues and me, always loved the federal Center. And always defended it. It is he who always campaigned for the federal Center's ideas. You remember: The land issue, then reforms that could be regarded as extremely liberal
.I can't understand why they did this to him." (5)
So who could be behind the "Ayatskov case"? Most fingers point to the governors former deputy, and now Duma Deputy Speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, a strong rival to Ayatskovs re-election, who happened to be in the region when the charges were brought. (6) Bondar originally denied that he was following anyones instructions, and asserted that he simply was trying to ensure that everyone follows the law. (7) And yet, when asked by another reporter specifically if Volodin was behind the prosecution, Bondar began responding to the reporters questions with questions of his own. (8)
Others, perhaps ignoring Ayatskovs historical loyalty to Moscow, saw a conspiracy stemming from the prosecutor generals offices quest to build the "vertical of power." (9) Those allegations dont hold up, given how the case turned out, however, unless one presumes that Moscow realized, a bit late in the game, how ill-advised it was to attack on grounds of competency one of the most successful governors in the country. More likely, the center had to backtrack for an over-zealous regional agency seeking to curry favor with a powerful rival of the governor. Less than a week after the charges were instituted, the prosecutor-generals office announced that "the decision to launch the criminal investigation was premature," and criminal proceedings were cancelled. (10)
While the cancellation of charges is good news for Ayatskov, it does not mean that courts will stop being used for political reasons; thus, prosecutors credibility, and the faith of the citizenry in the judicial system, remain at risk.
Meanwhile, other regional officials are facing charges of corruption Karelias Ministry of the Interior announced that "an organized criminal group, consisting of the republic's
government officials, has been uncovered," although exactly who is being charged with exactly what remains unclear. (11) Apparently eager to jump to the forefront in the fight with corruption, these regional security agencies probably havent heard that the justice system is reformed. And those who have heard dont seem too happy about the notion. The deputy general prosecutor has proposed amendments to Russias Criminal Procedure Code that would put the burden of proof on the defendant in cases where government corruption is charged, removing the presumption of innocence on which the judicial system purportedly is based. (12)
1. RIA novosti, 13 May 04 via Johnsons Russia List (JRL) #8206, 13 May 04.
2. Novaya gazeta #32, 13 May 04.
3. ITAR-TASS, 0919 GMT, 14 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0514 via World News Connection. (WNC)
4. Izvestiya, 19 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0521 via WNC.
5. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0519 via WNC.
6. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 17 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0517 via WNC.
7. Rossiyskaya gazeta, 18 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0518 via WNC.
8. Izvestiya, 19 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0521 via WNC .
9. MosNews.com/Gazeta.ru, 19 May 04 via JRL #8214, 19 May 04; Nezavisimaya gazeta, 19 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0519 via WNC.
10. Interfax, 1554 GMT, 20 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0520 via WNC.
11. Izvestiya, 14 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0516 via WNC.
12. MosNews.com, 21 May 04 via JRL #8219, 22 May 04.
By Kate Martin (email@example.com)
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Scandal envelops Tymoshenko
Recent accusations against Yulia Tymoshenko claim she is involved in a judicial bribery scandal and may have attempted to bribe judges and to compromise Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with fraudulent foreign currency accounts. These charges seem likely to tarnish the oppositions reputation before the presidential election in October 2004.
On 18 May, Volodymyr Borovko, an aid to the BYT opposition block leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, made accusation against Tymoshenko saying that she gave him $125,000 for the purpose of bribing judges in order to make possible the release of her former business associates, who also happen to be relatives. Her associates, who are under investigation for corruption, used to work for the UESU (United Energy Systems of Ukraine), which was run by Tymoshenko. (1) When she realized the bribery attempt had failed, says Borovko, Tymoshenko demanded he returned her money and began threatening him.
Several days after his first accusation, Borovko revealed that Tymoshenko also asked him to help her carry out a plan that would discredit Kuchma and his family. Her alleged scheme consisted of opening a foreign-currency account in Kuchmas name, which would later be presented as proof of Kuchmas involvement in covert arms sales to countries with ties to international terrorism. (2) According to Borovko, the plan was never implemented. Borovko further claims that Tymoshenko asked him to gather information on public figures (such as Mykola Azarov, Viktor Medvedchuk and Viktor Yanukovich) who, she believed, would be willing to pay as much as $500,000 to keep the details concealed. (3)
Tymoshenko called the accusations a "provocation" and said that Borovko had realized that the Prosecutor General's office had enough material to launch a criminal case against him and, therefore, decided to go ahead with the accusations in order to avoid going to court. (4) Borovko, however, presented rather convincing evidence of his claims, including a video that shows a woman who looks exactly like Tymoshenko offering assistance to Borovko in return for his help in bringing her to power. (5)
Tymoshenko is a symbol of the Ukrainian anti-presidential opposition. She is a leading ally of presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko and is expected to support him in upcoming presidential elections. The only question is: will Yushchenko want her support? Associating himself with Tymoshenko after such accusations are not likely to help his chances of becoming president. This is not the first time Tymoshenko finds herself in the glare of an unfavorable spotlight. Tymoshenko was accused of fraud when she was working with former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is now on trial in the U.S. A U.S. court did however, recently drop charges against Lazarenko pertaining to his dealings with Tymoshenkos company UESU.
It seems that the Ukrainian people have very difficult choices to make in October; neither the current administration (Yanukovich) nor the opposition (e.g., Tymoshenko) can apparently be trusted. Yanukovichs previous convictions and the opposition represented by Tymoshenko make the choice as easy or as hard as choosing the lesser of two evils.
Belarus natural gas update
Sibur and Beltransgas have signed an agreement that envisages the supply of 650 million cubic meters of gas at $46. 68 per 1000 cubic meters to Belarus in June 2004. (6) Russias natural gas monopoly Gazprom holds 50.67% stake in Sibur. (7) Belarus still does not have a permanent contract with Gazprom. "Of course, this is not normal situation when there is no permanent contract with the main gas supplier," said Uladzimir Syamashka, the Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minster. (8) Beltransgas is hoping to get a permanent contract with Gazprom in the first half of June. Gazprom admitted it was ready to give in and offer Minsk lower natural gas prices $46.7 instead of $50, but, in return, Gazprom wants the gas transport fee through Belarusian territory decreased, which is not likely to happen. (9)
Gazprom stopped the natural gas supply to Belarus on 1 January, as a result of the disagreement over gas prices and acquisition of shares in Beltransgas. Alexander Lukashenko demanded $5bn for Beltransgas, when Gazprom claimed it was only worth $600mln. As a result of recent negotiations, the sides decided to have an independent appraiser, Deloitte & Touche, evaluate the company. (10)
Reform of the Security Council
On 25 May, 2004, the President of Moldova issued a decree on the creation of a reformed Supreme Security Council (CSS). The President of Moldova will be the head of the Council, and the chairman of the Supreme Security Council Service of the Presidential Administration, Ion Morei, will be the CSS secretary. (11) The CSS will be structured into the following commissions: for internal and foreign policies, economic and financial policy, social and environmental policies, anti-terror policy and an analysis and information center. (12) The CSS remains an integral element of executive authority within the presidential administration.
Release of a Gagauz prisoner
Ivan Burgudji, an opposition politician and former chairman of the legislature of the Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia was recently released from prison. He served just under a year of his three-year sentence. Last June, the judges found him guilty of abusing power, thwarting a referendum of no confidence and anti-social group actions. Burgudji considered himself a political prisoner, while the authorities claim that he has been imprisoned solely on the bases of his criminal activity. Burgudji was convicted for "five years in a maximum security prison," (13) a sentence, that was later changed to "three years in a correctional facility of a semi-closed type." (14) He was also banned from occupying state posts for five years.
Burgudji was a special representative to the Dniestr region and one of the founders of the breakaway Gagauz republic in 1990, when he was in charge of the Budeac special battalion a parliamentary formation, which played the role of the Gagauz army. (15) Burgudji was arrested and convicted after Gagauzia received autonomy within Moldova in 1995. He later was released.
Political observer Vladimir Tselsyuk points out in his article "Released and Very Dangerous," that Burgudjis release as an unguarded prisoner could be an attempt by the Chisinau authorities to cast off their responsibility for his persecution. He speculates that should the European court deem the results of the Gagauz 2003 elections invalid, the Moldovan leadership would blame Gagauz local authorities for Burgudjis persecution. (16)
After his release, Burgudji is expected to continue the dialogue with the Chisinau authorities about the role of Gagauz autonomy in Moldova, he is also expected to demand compensation for his ordeal during of his prosecution/persecution.
(1) Inter TV, 20 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(2) One Plus One TV, 22 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(3) Interfax news agency, 18 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) UT1, 24 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) RosBusinessConsulting Database, 28 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
(7) Prime-Tass Business news agency, 28 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis
(8) Belapan News agency, 25 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(9) Gazeta, 20 May 04; RIA OREANDA via Lexis-Nexis.
(10) BELTA, 26 May 04 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(11) Basapress news agency, 25 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) Basapress news agency, 9 Jun 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(14) Moldovan Radio, 24 Jul 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(16) Pridnestrovye, 22 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
By Elena Selyuk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilis crusade to purify Georgia of interministerial fiscal corruption and eradicate country-wide smuggling rings and organized crime has prompted pervasive ministerial personnel changes. Additionally, Saakashvilis anti-corruption campaign provides a plausible guise for asserting Georgian authority over South Ossetia.
If we are to trust the claims of the politicians, the sole rationale for the Georgian Interior Ministry landing, via helicopter, a unit of Interior Ministry troops and a group of police commandos in the village of Tkvivi into the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone on 31 May was to protect the integrity of the Georgian anti-smuggling military operation along the Georgian-South Ossetian border. According to Internal Troops Commander Georgy Baramidze, the Interior Ministry ordered the force into the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone because peacekeeping contingent commander Major General Svyatoslav Nabzdorov reported that the village had dismantled a roadblock set up by the Georgian police. (1) This road-post is one of four established by the Georgian Interior Ministry and fiscal police in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict-zone, the other three are located in Eredvi, Nikozo and Khvevi in the Gori district not far from Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia. (2) Georgian politicians quickly painted this ostentatious display of military might as necessitated by the anti-smuggling campaign, creating a political sound-bite molded to garner domestic support, American approval, and remain above Russian reproof. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvanias assertions that Georgia's desire to protect the police posts rests within the framework of battling organized crime are echoed by Interior Minister Georgy Baramidze, who also discreetly acknowledged the Georgian military operation as a move in the chess game with Russia for territorial sovereignty throughout Georgia proper by stating, "we shall not let the Russian military use force in a territory controlled by Georgian authorities." (3) Georgian Prosecutor General Irakliy Okruashvili's declaration that the period of Russian peacekeepers and Ossetian separatists dictating Georgian policy is over and his condemnation of attempts to address Georgia "in the language of ultimatums" (4) reflects a Georgian political belief that Russia will not act on behalf of its South Ossetian ally and simultaneously demonstrates the Justice Ministrys strong alignment with Saakashvilis office.
However, despite Tbilisis authoritative display of military and political force in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone in front of Russian peacekeeping forces, Russia's reaction has been primarily limited to ambiguous statements of unease by Andrei Kokoshin, the Chairman of the State Dumas Committee for CIS Affairs, and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Kokoshins and Lavrovs underwhelming statements parallel each other in highlighting the overall Russian concern with stabilization in Georgia and a "resumption of the spirit of interaction" between South Ossetia and Georgia (5) and further indicate a Russian complacency toward Tbilisis activist policy regarding its separatist regions. Indeed, Russian-Georgian relations have not been damaged by the recent South Ossetian dispute as indicated by Russian participation in the 2 June meeting of the Mixed Monitoring Commission, a supervisory board mediating the South Ossetian-Georgian 1992 cease-fire line. (6)
Although ostensibly acting to eradicate corruption, Saakashvilis long-term intentions in South Ossetia were suggested in the official release of the Abkhazian Conflict Settlement Plan by Former Deputy Justice Minister Kote Kublashvili in an interview with Civil Georgia on 19 May. The plan, pending the approval of the Georgian National Security Council (NSC), envisages linking Tbilisi and Sukhumi within a single federal state in an attempt to settle the Abkhazian-Georgian dispute. Under the proposed two member federal state, defense and foreign policy, border defense, customs systems and the fight against organized crime will fall within the jurisdiction of the Tbilisi central authority, while the Abkhazian government would manage all other civil affairs. (7) Additionally, the document solely empowers the Georgian Federal State with military capabilities throughout the Georgian-Abkhazian federation while allowing for an Abkhaz police squad in the hopes of precluding the development of an armed Abkhaz separatist movement. The revelation of a comprehensive Georgian-Abkhaz federal framework during a period of escalating tensions between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali offers a solution to the South Ossetian-Georgian conflict and alludes to Saakashvilis ambition of constructing an all-inclusive Tbilisi-based Georgian federation.
The South Ossetian situation also reveals that the Justice, Interior Ministry, and National Security Council are emerging as power-brokers in forming Georgian governmental policy while alluding to a marginalization of the Foreign and Defense Ministries. While Interior Minister Georgy Baramidze and Prosecutor General Irakli Okruashvili personally represented the Georgian government in Tskhinvali, (8) Georgian Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili was relegated to issuing yet another warning to Russia regarding the removal of Russian bases from Georgian territory, (9) while Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili was in the U.S. on a state visit with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (10) Additionally, the Justice Ministry and the NSC maintained a high-profile throughout the South Ossetian dispute by serving as President Mikheil Saakashvilis and Prime Ministers Zurab Zhvanias official media mouthpieces. Prosecutor General Okruashvili and NSC Secretary Vano Merabishvili gave two appearances on Georgian Imedi TV between 31 May and 1 June to elucidate Tbilisis South Ossetian policy, (11) outline Georgian troop involvement with South Ossetian and Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone, and repeatedly issue uncompromising statements regarding Georgian territorial rights in South Ossetia. (12) In comparison, Defense Minister Bezhuashvili has given no press conferences to date on the South Ossetian situation while Foreign Minister Zourabichvilis absence has hampered direct media coverage and allowed only for a conciliatory statement regarding Russian-Georgian relations, (13) leaving the incendiary rhetoric to the Interior and Justice Ministries. These events indicate that the Justice and Interior Ministries and the NSC, as opposed perhaps to the Defense and Foreign Ministries, align themselves with Saakashvilis vision of total Georgian territorial cohesion, potentially in a federation framework, and may become the principle Georgian governmental institutions for formulating and executing domestic and foreign governmental policies.
1. Vremya Novostei, 1 Jun 04; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
2. ITAR-TASS, 31 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
4. Georgian Imedi TV, Tbilisi, 31 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
5. Interfax-AVN Military News Website, 1 Jun 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
6. Financial Times, 1 Jun 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
8. ITAR-TASS Tbilisi, 31 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
9. Financial Times, 31 May 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
11. Georgian Imedi TV Tbilisi, 31 May; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis; Interfax Tbilisi, 31 May 04; Financial Times; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Databases; Georgian Imedi TV Tbilisi, 1 Jun; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
12. ITAR-TASS, 31 May 04 via Lexis-Nexis; Georgian Imedi TV Tbilisi, 31 May; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis; Vremya Novostei, 1 Jun 04; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
13. Kavkasia Press, 1 Jun 04; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Databases.
By Ariela Shapiro (email@example.com)
The development of an opposition
With parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2005 in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and presidential elections scheduled for 2006 in Kazakhstan, political opposition movements are increasing efforts to gain support and thereby increase their chances to have an impact on political and social change. These political groups seek to capitalize on discontent with the existing course of government, a platform shared in principle by Islamist groups active in the region, as the incumbent governments seek to improve security and economic prosperity in ways that solidify their control of power.
Fomenting opposition: political and religious
Political infighting continues in Kyrgyzstan, highlighted most recently by a report issued by a parliamentary ad hoc commission investigating the origin of wiretapping devices found in the offices of members of parliament in mid-January of this year. (1) Parliamentarian Alisher Abdimomunov delivered the report and said that "Special services were following contacts between parliamentarians and other politicians with the German and U.S. Embassies and also with the OSCE and other international organizations." (2) On 17 May, the Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly failed to endorse a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev; the vote was introduced by Ismail Isakov (whose office was among those which discovered a listening device in last January) and was the second in two months. (3)
As centrists made clear plans to participate in the 2005 parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan, (4) a group called the Union for Fair Elections (UFE) was founded on 20 May to challenge the existing government administration in next year's elections. UFE is comprised of a number of opposition parties including Ar-Namys, the Social Democrats, and the Peoples Party that, according to a press release, have come together with a centrist agenda to unite "for real action, with good intentions, despite differences in our political views or party platforms." (5) The question before UFE is who would be a strong candidate to replace Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. While Akayev has denied any intention to seek reelection for another term (which would clearly be a violation of constitutionally-set term limits), many fear that he might change his mind at the last minute.
For his part, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that he would stand for reelection in December 2006, claiming that he would continue to "work as President [until 2013]
if, God willing
everything is normal." (6) Such an early announcement likely came as a show of resolve in response to accusations of Nazarbayevs involvement in a bribery case scheduled to be heard before U.S. federal courts on 2 June. (7) Agreeing, however, that it is time to focus attention on political reform (most reforms in Kazakhstan have been directed at economic reform), opposition party Ak Zhol and Nazarbayevs party, Asar, leaders announced their decision "to set up a joint working group to develop a political reform program" that would look at "decentralizing power and expanding the role of parliament." (8)
In a push to increase the transparency of Tajikistans February 2005 parliamentary elections, the Islamic Renaissance Party, the Social-Democrat Party, and the Socialist Party of Tajikistan, recently formed the Coalition for Just and Transparent Elections. Analysts suggest, however, that the coalition lacks the cohesiveness that its formation implies, bringing into question its potential effectiveness. (9)
While political opposition parties, especially in Tajikistan, appear to lack cohesion, Islamist groups are routinely seen as a worrisome cohesive front able to mobilize the Muslim population. The extent to which this is true is often exaggerated at an ideological level, but the immediate public response to the March bombings in Uzbekistan suggested a moderate level of support for the anti-government militants; i.e. the police and Uzbek government were blamed with equal fervor. (10) Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) are routinely detained for distribution of literature about the group, (11) and Nabijon Rahimov, a Tajik prosecutor from the Soghd Region, suggested that support for HT in Tajikistan was increasing. Furthermore, there is concern that a new Islamist group calling themselves Bayat 20 members of which where arrested in mid-April in the Isfara District of Tajikistan has ties with the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and is attracting support among those discontent with the path being taken by the Tajik state. (12)
Economics and Security
The countries of the region have made efforts to increase military cooperation and improve regional security. (13) One hope is that improved economic conditions will weaken the support base for Islamist groups. Uzbekistan recently announced its intention to resume participation in GUUAM; (14) Kazakhstan is trying to position itself for membership in the World Trade Organization; (15) and Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to push the creation of a Common Economic Space with Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. (16)
While these larger agreements are designed to improve the macro-economic health of the region, at a micro-level regional security-related border restrictions have complicated cross-border trade and, for example, caused Uzbek and Kyrgyz villagers to take greater risks in order to subvert border-crossing regulations. (17) It is in these regions that many of the Islamist groups cultivate their numbers and it is here that the message of political opposition parties finds support in calls for reform and change.
- See NIS Observed, 6 Feb 04 via www.bu.edu.iscip
- Parliamentary opposition leaders Ismail Isakov, Adakhan Madumarov, Absamat Masaliyev and Omurbek Tekebayev, and Human Rights Commissioner Tursunbai Bakir-uluu, were among the those whose offices were tapped and followed. Interfax, 1431 GMT, 21 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0521 via World News Connection (WNC).
- AKIpress (Bishkek), 1402 GMT, 18 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0518 via WNC.
- AKIpress (Bishkek), 1015 GMT, 19 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0519 via WNC.
- Eurasianet, 26 May 04, via www.eurasianet.org .
- Vremya novostei (Moscow), 17 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0521 via WNC.
- The bribery scandal, referred to by the media as "Kazakhgate", involves a U.S. businessman, James Giffen, who is accused of paying unnamed Kazakh officials $78 million in bribes to secure oil contracts. For more, see Eurasianet, 20 May 04 via www.eurasianet.org .
- Interfax, 1728 GMT, 23 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0523 via WNC
- Eurasianet, 24 May 04 via www.eurasianet.org; for more on the political situation in Tajikistan, see International Crisis Group, "Tajikistans Politics: Confrontation or Consolidation?", 19 May 04, via www.crisisweb.org .
(10) See NIS Observed, 8 Apr 04; 28 Apr 04 via www.bu.edu/iscip.
- For information on the most recent arrests of HT members in Tajikistan, see ITAR-TASS, 0630 GMT, 22 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0522 via WNC
- RFE/RL Central Asia Report, 25 May 04, via www.rferl.org
- See, for example, NIS Observed, 5 Mar 04, via www.bu.edu/iscip
- ITAR-TASS, 1812 GMT, 10 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0510 via WNC. Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova are the members of GUUAM, which was created to facilitate trade through a Europe-Caucasus-Asia transportation corridor. For more on Uzbekistans 2002 withdrawal from GUUAM, see NIS Observed, 10 Jul 02, via www.bu.edu/iscip
- Interfax-Kazakhstan (Almaty), 0422 GMT, 21 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0521; Interfax, 1015 GMT, 24 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0524 via WNC
- Interfax, 1044 GMT, 24 May 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0524 via WNC
- See Eurasianet, 25 May 04, via www.eurasianet.org .
By David W. Montgomery (firstname.lastname@example.org)