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ANALYST SAYS THERE WILL BE NO REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA... Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii told journalists on 28 March that the events in Kyrgyzstan are "a good lesson for the Russian political class in the context of the recent fashion for experimenting in revolution," ORT and RTR reported 28 March, and "Novye izvestiya" reported on 29 March. Pavlovskii said Russia faces no threat of the kind of revolution seen in Georgia and Ukraine because President Putin does not plan to remain in power indefinitely and the elections in 2007 and 2008 will be "completely transparent." However, if a force emerges in Russia that endorses what happened in those countries and runs on a similar platform, that party should be barred from participating in the election, Pavlovskii said. VY
...AS DOES LEADING DUMA OFFICIAL. Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) said on NTV on 27 March that the major contributing factor to the revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan was the concentration of power in those countries in the hands of single clan that was riddled with corruption and unwilling to develop a democratic succession mechanism. She added that in Russia, former President Boris Yeltsin was far-sighted enough to choose President Putin as his successor. Nonetheless, she said, Russia faces the problems of power-sharing and combating corruption. "In this context, I would ask President Putin, 'Please, get angry and tear the heads off the ministers responsible for the monetization reform,'" she said. Motherland party leader Dmitrii Rogozin, appearing on the same program, then interrupted Sliska and said: "How can you fight corruption if your own party is a creature of it? How can you defeat yourself?" VY
The Iranian Foreign Ministry reacted cautiously when asked about the recent ouster of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, who fled Bishkek following the storming of government offices by protesters. Spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said Iran is monitoring developments and added, "We hope conditions in Kyrgyzstan will return to normal as soon as possible," IRNA reported on 26 March.
Tehran has worked hard in recent years to strengthen its relationship with the Akaev administration, but the Iranian government cannot be expected to openly protest the democratic aspirations of the Kyrgyz people. Nevertheless, some Iranian officials have attributed the events in Kyrgyzstan to the United States, which reflects their concern about the large U.S. presence in the region.
Commercial relations between Iran and Kyrgyzstan -- which has a population of 5.4 million -- are insignificant. The Central Asian state mainly exports agricultural goods (cotton, wool, meat, tobacco), minerals (gold, mercury, uranium), energy (natural gas, hydropower), and manufactured goods (machinery, shoes) to the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Canada, and China. Kyrgyzstan imports oil, gas, chemicals, food, and manufactured goods, mostly from Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the United States, Uzbekistan, and Germany.
However, Tehran is eager to become a larger trading partner and a number of official delegations have exchanged visits recently.
Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Aref-Yazdi, Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari, and Health Minister Masud Pezeshkian met with Akaev and other officials in Bishkek in October 2004. At this time the two sides signed four memoranda of understanding on health, electricity transmission, and trade. Shariatmadari led another delegation to Kyrgyzstan in May 2004.
Significantly, Akaev's December 2003 visit to Iran yielded an Iranian government allocation of $10 million for investment in the Kyrgyz economy. The two sides signed seven memoranda of understanding -- on trade, tariffs, and trade centers; visa regulations; legal affairs; cultural and artistic cooperation; and housing and urban development. Akaev met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, then-Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is demonstrating every day growing interest in developing and expanding its relations with Kyrgyzstan, in particular in the economy," Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov said on 26 December 2003, Kyrgyzinfo reported.
The two countries also interact in multilateral fora. Both Kyrgyzstan and Iran are members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and Khatami and Akaev met on the sidelines of the September 2004 ECO summit in Dushanbe. Foreign Minister Kharrazi visited Kyrgyzstan in June 2003 to participate in a meeting of ECO foreign ministers.
Although the Iranian foreign ministry was restrained in its reaction to developments in Kyrgyzstan, the country's leaders have expressed a great deal of concern about the expanding U.S. presence in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Persian Gulf. Some official comments, therefore, reflect this concern.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani saw Kyrgyz events in the context of what is taking place in Lebanon and Iraq. He said during his Friday Prayers sermon on 25 March, which was broadcast by state radio. "You can see what America's mischief is doing in Lebanon. A country that was managing itself competently is now in crisis. You can see what they have done in Kyrgyzstan. You can see how they are toying with the people of Iraq." Hashemi-Rafsanjani continued: "We are faced with a creeping move designed by America aimed at dominating other countries and plundering their natural resources. We hope to repel America's evil intentions by relying on God and the revolution, holding fast to the covenant of God, which is Koran, and vigilance."
A 25 March Iranian state television commentary said events in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia show that these countries are "the focus of foreign powers' attention." Western and particularly American interference is responsible for events in Kyrgyzstan, it claimed. The commentary claimed some 50 nongovernmental organizations that were established in Kyrgyzstan recently "played a fundamental role in the crisis." It said the United States wants friendly governments in these countries because they possess energy resources, uranium, and nuclear technology.
Iranian state television also played the religion card, albeit inaccurately. It is "noteworthy," according to the commentary, that "such developments have occurred in countries [in which] the majority of the inhabitants are Muslims, which clearly shows the process of the expansionist and hegemonic policies of America." Islam is the majority faith in Kyrgyzstan (Muslim 75 percent, Russian Orthodox 20 percent, other 5 percent), but not in Moldova (Eastern Orthodox 98 percent), Ukraine (mainly Ukrainian Orthodox), or Georgia, where over 80 percent of the population is Georgian Orthodox.
The situation in Bishkek has calmed down since last week. During the current Noruz holidays in Iran, furthermore, most politicians are on vacation and newspapers are not being published. Unless the emerging Kyrgyz government makes some blatantly anti-Iranian comments or takes actions that seem hostile, it is likely that the two countries' relations will continue along the same path.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS 2005 BUDGET. The Verkhovna Rada on 25 March voted overwhelmingly to approve a revision of the 2005 budget prepared by Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet, Ukrainian media reported. Revenues were set at 108.5 billion hryvnyas ($20.5 billion) and spending at 115.3 billion hryvnyas, while the deficit was reduced from 2.2 percent of gross domestic product to 1.56 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2005). Tymoshenko, who addressed the legislature before the vote, said the budget will help curb inflation, predicting an inflation rate of 9 percent in 2005, compared with 12.3 percent in 2004. The primary beneficiaries of the revised legislation will be the country's 10 million pensioners and employees in the budget sectors, notably teachers and doctors, who are expected to receive substantial increases in their monthly payments. JM
UKRAINIAN, GEORGIAN LEADERS CALL FOR 'CALM' IN KYRGYZSTAN. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, urged the OSCE in a joint statement in Kyiv on 26 March to prevent violence in Kyrgyzstan, Ukrainian news agencies reported. "We were deeply concerned by the news that the situation in Kyrgyzstan is assuming threatening signs of violent confrontation," the statement reads. "We laud the courageous step of the former president of the country [Askar Akaev] not to order the use of force against his own people in the first days of the public uprising." Yushchenko and Saakashvili also urged Akaev to "immediately influence his supporters so that they show high responsibility for the sake of peace and calm in the country." In a joint declaration on strategic partnership, the two presidents announced that their countries will support each other's aspirations regarding NATO and the EU. They also underscored their mutual interest in developing transit capacities to supply Caspian oil and gas to Europe. Saakashvili arrived in Kyiv on 25 March to inaugurate the "Year of Georgia" in Ukraine. JM
WILL UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ATTEND V-DAY PARADE IN MOSCOW? President Yushchenko said on 26 March that he is not planning to attend the Victory Day parade in Moscow on 9 May, to which he was invited by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but will stay in Kyiv for a local V-Day parade on that day and visit Moscow on 8 May, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. "As we cannot postpone commemorations that will take place in Ukraine on 9 May, including a parade and other events, I would feel most uncomfortable if war veterans are gathering here and I am on a reviewing stand elsewhere," Reuters quoted Yushchenko as saying. "I think the Russian president, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and our other colleagues can easily understand that," Yushchenko added. Meanwhile, Yushchenko's spokeswoman Iryna Herashchenko told journalists on 28 March that his official schedule for 9 May has not yet been set. "I'm not ready to answer the question [of whether Yushchenko will go to Moscow on 9 May]," Herashchenko said. JM
ROMANIA OFFERS TO ASSIST IN TRANSDNIESTER BORDER CONTROLS. The Romanian government has offered Ukraine help in sealing Transdniester's border in an effort to halt smuggling, BASA reported on 25 March. Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu discussed the issue with Ukraine's Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko and Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk during an official visit to Kyiv. Under a Ukrainian program titled "Stop Smuggling," security and customs controls on Moldova's borders with Ukraine and Romania will be tightened. Smirnov meanwhile has proposed international controls on Moldova's administrative border with Transdniester, Infotag reported on 28 March. "We proposed that European experts come and examine on the site who really goes in for smuggling here. That is exactly why we insist that such monitoring be carried out on the Moldovan border as well," Smirnov said, adding that such controls are "the only possible way to put an end to Chisinau's trumpeting that [Transdniester] is, allegedly, a black hole for trafficking in human beings, arms, and drugs." BW
TRANSDNIESTER LEADER CALLS FOR RESUMED TALKS... Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov called for the resumption of talks on the disputed region's status and accused Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin of trying to exclude Russia from the negotiations, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March. "In recent years our relations have become more tense. We should resume talks to normalize them," Smirnov said. Voronin has said the existing formula of talks including Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Transdniester, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is ineffective and called for expanding the negotiations to also include Romania, the European Union, and the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2005). Smirnov called the suggestion an attempt "to expel Russia from the Dniester region." Negotiations over the breakaway territory were suspended last summer after Tiraspol authorities closed Moldovan schools that used the Latin alphabet, prompting Chisinau to withdraw from the talks. BW
...AND SAYS REGION WILL NEVER RETURN TO MOLDOVA. Smirnov also said that Transdniester's full return to Moldova "is absolutely out of the question," Infotag reported on 28 March. "Yes, there may be a normalization of bilateral relations between us but only as between two countries, and we are ready to negotiate this question in the existing five-sided format," he said, referring to talks involving Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Transdniester, and the OSCE. Additionally, Smirnov accused Chisinau of attempting to use coercion to resolve the issue, pointing to Moldova's economic blockade of the region. "Since last August, we have incurred $65 million in losses due to the blockade," Smirnov said. He also called Russia's military presence in Transdniester, which the Moldovan government wants ended, "one of the most important physical guarantees of maintaining peace and stability in the region." BW