|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Protests Follow Saakashvili Victory Claim in Georgia
Jan. 6 (EIRNS)Rose Revolution poster-boy Michael Saakashvili claimed first-round victory in the Republic of Georgia's snap Presidential elections, held yesterday, with an alleged 52.8% of the vote, according to incomplete official returns. The outcome did little to calm the situation in the country, with thousands of people demonstrating against Saakashvili, and charging vote fraud, in Tbilisi during the day, as his vote teetered near the 50% mark. OSCE observers pronounced the election results legitimate, despite "significant challenges" in the process.
But the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement citing opposition and NGO reports of "numerous violations of electoral laws by the authorities." Said the ministry, "This was hardly unexpected, since the pre-election campaign could hardly be called free and fair. It effectively began under conditions of a state of emergency, while the administration made broad use of its official resources, with undisguised pressure against opposition candidates and limitation of their access to financial and media resources." The statement also criticized U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.)for calling the election "a triumph for Georgian democracy."
Levan Gachechiladze, the United Opposition candidate, was running at 27%, and during the day today declared that a second round had been secured. Running third was Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvilia staunch opponent of Georgia's joining NATO and supporter of the LaRouche proposal for a New Bretton Woodswith over 7% of the vote. Natelashvili called for repeat elections in two months. "Any international findings that deem this election democratic and in compliance with international norms," he said, "will amount to collaboration with Saakashvili's criminal band." Yesterday, Natelashvili's staff alleged that a plot to kill him had been uncovered, in which Saakashvili was to blame.
Iran's Space Exhibition Opened by Russian Cosmonaut
Jan. 8 (EIRNS)On Jan. 5, the well-known Russian cosmonaut, Georgi Grechko, opened a space exhibition at Tehran's Astronomy Center, which will run through Jan. 11. Grechko, who flew three Soyuz space missions, commented on Jan. 7 that he had noticed that young Iranians had a marked enthusiasm for astronomy, as compared to Americans and Russians. There are many amateur astronomy clubs in Iran, some of which, before 9/11, had joint activities with American astronomers. Grechko said that, although for many decades, manned space missions were the monopoly of U.S. and Russian astronauts, more representatives from developing countries are getting involved, and he sees a promising future for them. A South Korean astronaut is scheduled on a Soyuz mission later this year.