|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Bush Promises 'Spetsnaz for Democracy'
On May 18, George W. Bush was the featured guest at a dinner held by the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Republican wing of "Project Democracy," the National Endowment for Democracy. The IRI is the outfit zeroed in on by Russian security chief Nikolai Patrushev in his report to the Duma on foreign subversion against Russia and its neighbors. EIR has exposed the IRI as a vehicle for imposing insane free trade and related neo-conservative dogmas worldwide, and particularly in the post-Soviet area, beginning with our 1980s Special Report on Project Democracy, and later, in articles by Bill Jones and Roman Bessonov, published in 1996 as the series "The IRI's Friends in Russia."
Bush read a script in which he hailed these "exciting times for everybody," when "we have witnessed revolutions of Rose, Orange, Purple, Tulip, and Cedarand these are just the beginnings." "Rose" means Georgia, where latest reports indicate Bush narrowly missed death or serious injury from a grenade attack earlier this month; "Orange" is Ukraine, which is now being denounced by free-trade ideologues like Anders Aslund for insufficient economic liberalization, and where the capital is the scene of permanent demonstrations against the falling standard of living; "Purple" is Iraq; "Cedar" is Lebanon; and "Tulip" is Kyrgyzstan, where the victorious forces are warring amongst themselves.
Bush boasted that his administration has provided $4.6 billion to promote "democracy" around the world. He played up the new Active Response Corps of "foreign and civil service officers who can deploy quickly to crisis situations as civilian 'first responders'," promising $24 million for this Corps in 2006 and $100 million for a Conflict Response Fund.
Taking up U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice's campaign against Alexander Lukashenka of Belarus (launched earlier by Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.], who was Bush's host and introducer at the IRI), Bush said baldly: "With the help of IRI, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia are working with civil society leaders in Belarus to bring freedom to Europe's last dictatorship." The Russian news agency Strana.ru reported the speech under the headline, "America Will Finance 'Spetsnaz for Democracy'" ("spetsnaz" is Russian for special forces). The article quoted a statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, calling upon the international community "to block attempts by the USA to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries." A Belarus Member of Parliament, Nikolai Cherginets, said that Belarus, during its 2006 Presidential elections, would surely be a target of the new American rapid response corps, arriving "in the guise of every conceivable sort of philanthropic fund and educational organization."
Uzbekistan Forces Take Border Town
Uzbekistan military forces took over the town of Kara Suu in the eastern part of the country on the border with Kyrgyzstan May 19. There were explosions and some shooting heard, but apparently, new major bloodshed was avoided, as the government forces arrested Islamist radical leader Bakhtiyor Rakhimov. Since the previous week's clashes in Andijon, a larger eastern Uzbekistani city, Rakhimov has been calling for establishment of an Islamic Republic in Uzbekistan.
President Islam Karimov, as well as Moscow, have attributed the Andijon events to the work of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group based in London. (See InDepth for Ramtanu Maitra's report on the latest Central Asia destabilization.) The groups involved in those events, as well as Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesmen, deny this, claiming that the imprisoned "businessmen" around whom the agitation developed were merely members of a cultural movement called Akromiya (named after its founder Akrom Yuldashev, a former Hizb ut-Tahrir member; the group has been compared with Falun-gong in China). Certain British diplomats have been very active in promoting this analysis worldwide.
At the same time, several human rights groups came out May 19 with much higher estimates of the civilian casualties in Andijon, saying that a thousand people died when Uzbekistan forces fired into the crowd of protesters the week of May 9. The EU demanded an investigation, as did British Foreign Minister Jack Straw.
Akayev: Not a Revolution, But a Coup in Kyrgyzstan
On May 12, Moscow Izvestia published an interview with ousted Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev. The physicist Akayev, who as President, succumbed to outside agitation for Kyrgyzstan to join and submit to WTO membership requirements, which helped to wreck the country's productive economy, has relocated to Russia. But he could not remain silent, at the prospect of organized crime taking over his country.
Akayev said, "I continue to insist that what was advertised as a 'tulip revolution' in my country, was an anti-constitutional coup d'etat. Political scientists are now telling me about a 'shift in the elites,' which is allegedly happening in all of the post-Soviet countries, and that this is allegedly natural. These arguments are ridiculous. The main figures in this coup d'etat originate from the same old Soviet nomenklatura. But I am concerned not about how they are trying to redivide power and property, but more about the chaos in the republic, the real danger of a north-south split of the country, and the obvious attempts of the drug mafia bosses to seize power."
Russia, Kazakstan Presidents Meet
Russian President Vladimir Putin met May 17 with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan, in the southern Ural city of Chelyabinsk. Among other agenda items, the two agreed to step up efforts to establish a joint development bank. "We agreed to boost this process to have this financial institution established as soon as possible," said Putin. I believe it will be effective." He said the agreement included the bank's leadership and headquarters, but gave no further specifics. "In terms of state finances [Russia and Kazakstan] are in a position to create such a mechanism," Putin said. He described the bank as an entity that could encourage the development of regions on both sides of the border." Much has been said about the need for infrastructure development, notably economic and transport infrastructure, he said.
President Putin also called on the law enforcement authorities of Russia and Kazakstan to cooperate more closely. This would also imply a closer cooperation in the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal migration. According to Kazakstan wires, the two also stressed the importance of monitoring their joint border.
Nazarbayev pointed to the Russia-Kazakstan alliance in cultural, historical, and economic terms, while Putin expressed hope that trade between the two countries would reach $1 billion annually.
Khodorkovsky Convicted of Fraud
Former Yukos oil boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky was found guilty of all seven fraud and tax-evasion charges against him. Three judges began their summing-up on May 16, but reading of the over 1,000-page verdict dragged on throughout the week. The initial findings were related to the acquisition of a 44% stake in an agricultural institute by Khodorkovsky and Menatap partner Platon Lebedev. On May 13, before the verdict announcement began, Russian authorities announced that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev would be charged with additional crimes in connection with a separate money-laundering probe.