Eve Conant

Stories by Eve Conant

  • CIA LEAK PROBE: POWELL'S GRAND-JURY APPEARANCE

    Secretary of State Colin Powell recently testified before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of CIA covert officer Valerie Plame, NEWSWEEK has learned. Powell's appearance on July 16 is the latest sign the probe being conducted by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is highly active and broader than has been publicly known. Sources close to the case say prosecutors were interested in discussions Powell had while with President George W. Bush on a trip to Africa in July 2003, just before Plame's identity was leaked to columnist Robert Novak. A senior State Department official confirmed that, while on the trip, Powell had a department intelligence report on whether Iraq had sought uranium from Niger--a claim Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, discounted after a trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA. The report stated that Wilson's wife had attended a meeting at the CIA where the decision was made to send Wilson to Niger, but it did not mention her last name or undercover...
  • Open For Business

    They call it the "Berlin Wall." It's a plain, six-foot-high concrete barrier that bisects an unnamed village outside the Iranian city of Bushehr. On one side, about 1,500 Iranians live under Sharia--they lead quiet, spartan lives of work and prayer at the local mosque, with men and women strictly segregated. A few feet away on the other side of the wall, a rollicking population of 800 or so Russians and Ukrainians swill homemade moonshine and carouse late into the night. Yet every morning, the two sides--Iranians and Russians--meet on a vast construction site, where for the past seven years they've been building what may soon be Iran's first nuclear power plant. "We're at the top of our field," says 44-year-old Andrei Malyshev, formerly deputy minister in Russia's Ministry for Atomic Energy and now head of Russia's nuclear inspectorate. "We have an excellent product and we're proud of it."To Russia, the Bushehr project is the symbol of its ambition as an exporter of nuclear...
  • In Search Of Noah's Ark

    Ten thousand years ago, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake in the middle of a vast, low-lying basin. Its fertile valleys and lush pastures would have given Neolithic hunter-gatherers a perfect opportunity to make the leap to a more settled, agricultural society. But then disaster struck. About 7,500 years ago the ice age ended, the world's climate warmed and the seas rose. The Aegean Sea breached a narrow strip of land, where the Strait of Bosporus is today, like a dam bursting. Seawater poured into the basin with the force of 200 Niagara Falls', raising the water level six inches each day and sending the human settlers scurrying to the hills. The story of the Great Flood was told and retold, eventually in Genesis: "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life... the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights."Did Noah's Flood really happen this way and in this place? Some...
  • Ghosts Of The Heartland

    The village of Nikolskoye isn't easy to find. Its nearest neighbors will tell you to turn right at the forest edge, follow the trees that ring a large field and hope for the best. If you do find the village, you'll see about two dozen houses, a pond and perhaps one of the three remaining villagers. One of them is Nadia Shipitsina, 63, who survives on a pension and guides visitors past abandoned houses of friends who have moved away. "That was Raya's house," she says, pointing to a boarded-up hut that she sees as an omen for her own. "The grass is starting to grow over my path. Once the path is gone, that's it. There aren't enough people here to start a new one."Nikolskoye is 300 kilometers south of Moscow in once-thriving farm country. Now, on the local highway, a group of 8-year-old hitchhikers explain that their school has closed ("not enough kids") and there is no money for a school bus. While cash pours into Moscow, the fabled Russian heartland is emptying out. According to...
  • Let The Jury Decide

    Nikolai Dulepov claims self-defense. "He was strangling me," whispers the 23-year-old, on trial for double murder. That's why he stabbed his friend Yevgenny four times in the back one drunken night last summer, he says. Skinny, with a buzz cut and wearing a dark blue tracksuit, Dulepov is defending himself from inside the "monkey's cage," a barred holding pen that is a typical feature of any Russian courtroom. Then he tells how he also killed Yevgenny's girlfriend when his knife "accidentally landed" in her stomach. "I'm guilty," he says. "But I didn't mean to kill them."Murder is hardly new to Russia. The novelty is Dulepov's audience: eight women and five men who are making history in one of modern Russia's first trials by jury. Since 1917, when the communist regime banned juries, justice has been meted out by state tribunals in proceedings closed to the public. Technically, Russians have had the right to a trial by jury in Moscow and a few other experimental zones since 1993. But...
  • Moscow In The Money

    He needs no further introduction in Moscow, but Europe's richest man under 40 still likes to advertise. Green-hued billboards marking the 10-year anniversary of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's oil giant, Yukos, crop up every few hundred meters on Moscow's busiest roads. The latest shows a sparkling gas pump pouring fuel into a symbol of Russian national pride: a space rocket in midlaunch, spitting fire. The message: riding an oil boom, Russia is regaining its lost status as a world player.Moscow has been abuzz since last week, when Khodorkovsky, a 39-year-old billionaire, announced plans to acquire a smaller rival, Sibneft. The $15 billion union creates a new Russian icon, a home-grown megacompany that will own the second largest oil reserves in the world after ExxonMobil and pump more oil than ChevronTexaco. It also thwarts the ambitions of the world majors trying to break into Russia's market. Both Royal Dutch Shell and France's TotalFinaElf were rumored to be angling for a deal with...
  • 'It's All Political'

    After more than two years of self-imposed exile in London, Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky was finally arrested by British police last week. Berezovsky faces extradition to Russia on charges that between 1994 and 1995 he and a colleague defrauded a Russian regional administration of 60 billion rubles, roughly $15 million dollars at the time.Berezovsky was an influential member of the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, and one of the country's most powerful and controversial "oligarchs"--the handful of businessmen that amassed great wealth after the fall of the Soviet Union. But since coming into power, Russian President Vladimir Putin has targeted the likes of Berezovsky in his anti-corruption drive. Berezovsky-whose first extradition hearing is on Wednesday--has made no secret of his dislike for the president, claiming that this is Putin's way of clamping down on criticism.Released on bail last week, Berezovsky spoke to NEWSWEEK's Eve Conant by telephone....
  • Taxes: Don't Even Think Of It

    Thinking about cheating on your taxes? If you're a Russian citizen, you may get a house visit from the tax police. The new "Instruction No. 525" allows police to contact colleagues and family members of any individual they believe may be planning to commit a crime, and ask them to talk their loved ones out of it. And just how will they read the mind of the secretive plotter? See "Instruction No. 426," which allows the tax police to use lie detectors on suspected evaders. A suspect would have to agree to take the test, but it's hard to say no to police who are best known for forcing the muzzles of their Kalashnikov rifles onto the foreheads of tax offenders. Russians are shocked at the totalitarian new regulations, says private tax lawyer Maxim Maximovsky, "but they have a genetic fear of the government. People are too scared to complain." In fact, they better not even think of complaining about the new rules if they want to keep the tax police off their backs.
  • They're In The Army Now

    The boys asleep in their bunks could be any young teens at summer camp. But this is no vacation spot. At precisely 6:00 a.m., a Russian army officer storms in and barks out a wake-up call. Within minutes the boys have made their beds, pulled on their uniforms and prepared for morning exercises on the military base of the Kineshma Chemical and Radiation Defense Regiment.The Russian Army--like most militaries around the world--doesn't exactly have a reputation for altruism. Indeed, it's better known for its cannon-fodder mentality, brutal hazing, bloated officers' corps, corruption and lack of resources. But the army has also assumed an unlikely social role: adopting and raising boys whose parents can no longer care for them.It's a program introduced more from need than desire. In a country still struggling to overcome the profound consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia is struggling to provide adequate services for the estimated three million children either...
  • The Chess Goddess

    Inside the crumbling rooms of Moscow's Central House of Chess, dozens of top players and fans watch in rapt attention as a match unfolds at lightning speed. On one side of the board sits an elderly Russian man, sporting thick glasses and a concentrated grimace. On the other: Aleksandra Kosteniuk, a ravishing, dark-haired 18-year-old wearing a tight black blouse and sleek, flowing pants. Her ponytail swishes back and forth as she slams the timer every few seconds. Kosteniuk's typically aggressive opening gambit--in this case, the "Sicilian defense," where the black pawn tries to control the center of the board--pays off; after dozens of quick moves, she checkmates her opponent. Some of the old-timers in the audience are horrified by the rapid play. But Kosteniuk doesn't care. "A traditional chess match is just too long to watch. It's boring," she says. "I love speed."Kosteniuk is lending the sport a racy new image--in every respect. A grandmaster at 14, the Russian bombshell--dubbed...
  • Back To The Future

    A decade ago, after the Soviet collapse, Russia rushed to liberate itself from the namesakes of fallen idols. Leningrad became St. Petersburg, Gorky became Nizhny Novgorod. But today, in the river city of Volgograd, scene of one of the most momentous battles of World War II, the winds of change seem to be blowing the opposite way. "Volgograd? This is Stalingrad," says activist Zinaida Chistyakova. "We want our name back."Commentators have noted the signs of a symbolic Soviet renaissance across Russia. President Vladimir Putin has already reinstated the Soviet anthem, with new words. The Defense Ministry has suggest-ed restoring the Soviet red star on military flags. Muscovites have considered returning Felix Dzherzhinsky, the dread founder of the secret police, to his pedestal in the square opposite the former KGB headquarters. But Stalin, the dictator who slaughtered tens of millions of Russians?The controversial proposal to change the name of their city back to Stalingrad is spear...
  • Blood-Sucking Bandages

    Yuri Fedosov is in terrible pain. Doctors have removed the splinter from his iris, but the swelling hasn't subsided. Inside Moscow's Central Ophthalmology Hospital, nurse Lydia Karikh has the cure. Reaching with a pair of tongs into a glass jar, she removes two greenish-black leeches, puts them into a vial and presses it against Fedosov's right temple. Instantly the worms slither toward his skin, latch on and begin to suck greedily. "This is a bit weird," says Fedosov, as the leeches swell with blood.Leeching may have disappeared in most parts of the world, but in Russia "hirudotherapy" is seeing a revival. Each week clinics like Karikh's order thousands of leeches from local farms. By applying them at pressure points, doctors say they can cure anything from glaucoma to infertility. Leech saliva increases blood flow and thus oxygen level in tissues. "Americans use synthetic hirudins, a major component of leech secretions, for thrombosis or tissue repair," says Dr. Albert Krashenyuk,...
  • More Questions Than Answers

    Ask Alexander Shabalov for details about the pre-dawn raid to save hundreds of hostages in a besieged Moscow theater on Oct. 26, and his swarthy face becomes set in anger, he smokes a few more cigarettes and his hands begin to shake. "Almost every single hostage was still alive when we came into the theater," says Shabalov, head of Moscow's quasi-governmental Rescue Services. It was only after they were freed, he says, that the dying began.Shabalov, a 44-year-old former paratrooper and KGB man, is one of the officials who has found himself catapulted into the spotlight over questions about how Russian forces used disabling gas to rescue the more than 800 people held by Chechen separatists. As many as 128 died in a rescue operation that is still raising questions and suspicions among Russians trying to find out just why so many lives were lost.Unlike many involved in the rescue, though, Shabalov is one of the few trying to find the answers. Perhaps that is because the theater tragedy...
  • Moscow Gets Fashionable

    Inside Victoria Andreyanova's Moscow boutique, the decor as well as the best-selling clothes are spartan and understated. Amid soft lighting, a Sinead O'Connor disc spins on a chrome CD player. Andreyanova meets her clients in the boutique's sleek underground cafe, where she shows them her tailored blazers and skirts, made mainly of Scottish tweed. The 40-year-old designer wears only the lightest of makeup, her hair cut in a simple blond bob. In a scene that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, a group of Italian cloth salesmen is gathered outside her door, suitcases full of exquisite material in hand. She keeps them waiting as she ruminates on the current state of Russian fashion. "Moscow's rich are tired of being showoffs," she says. "Everyone gorged on whatever they could in the '90s, and now they don't want to look like they're trying so hard. But don't get me wrong: everyone still wants to be noticed."Not long ago the best way to get noticed in Russia was to wear a...
  • Soviet Chic: Loving The Commie Look

    What do you design for people who are obsessed with everything new? Denis Simachev says the answer is simple: give them something familiar. The appeal of Soviet kitsch first caught on in Moscow a few years ago; billboards used Soviet propaganda posters to advertise rock-music stations, and Soviet-themed restaurants began popping up. But designer Simachev, 28, is the first to bring the Soviet look back to personal fashion. "It's not that I want the Soviet Union back," says Simachev, who was 11 when Mikhail Gorbachev first introduced the concept of perestroika. "But old people have nostalgia for their childhood, and people my age grew up hearing about Soviet life from their grandparents."The designer is not looking to revive the gray suits and polyester dresses of Soviet days. He is far more interested in capturing the former empire's "sporty past." His T-shirts have ornate hammer-and-sickle designs, or contain the giant letters CCCP (the Russian initials for U.S.S.R.). "Everyone...
  • The Dead And The Silent

    The staff of the weekly Versiya had a scoop. They'd spent 10 days frantically reporting one of the biggest stories any of them could remember--the siege of a Moscow theater that ended in a dramatic assault by Russian Special Forces and the use of a knockout gas that killed more than 100 civilians. And what they were publishing amounted to a damning expose: eyewitness accounts of dead and half-dead hostages piled on top of one another, charges that none of the victims received timely medical help and a report that the gas used was not civilian but military. Finally and most explosively, Versiya planned to publish claims from unnamed government sources that the death toll in the crisis was much higher than officially reported--rather than 119, as many as 300.Moscow is swirling with such rumors, and Versiya will be printing them. But only just. Shortly after it went to press, eight plainclothes investigators burst into the newspaper's offices in the center of Moscow. They were officers...
  • Looking For Answers

    The staff of the weekly Versiya had a scoop. They'd spent 10 days frantically reporting one of the biggest stories any of them could remember--the siege of the Moscow theater that ended in a dramatic assault by Russian Special Forces and the use of a knockout gas that killed more than 100 civilians. What they were publishing amounted to a sum of damning allegations: eyewitness accounts of dead and half-dead hostages piled on top of one another, charges that none of the victims received timely medical help, a report that the gas used was not civilian but military. Finally and most explosively, Versiya would disclose that unnamed sources in the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry had told it that the death toll in the crisis was two to three times higher than officially reported--as many as 300, rather than 119, the numbers swelled by hostages who remained unaccounted for.Moscow is swirling with such rumors, but Versiya has been delayed from publishing its version of what...
  • Show Of Nerve

    Anatoly Beloyusov had never seen anything quite like what he found in the ruined auditorium. The professional rescue worker was right behind the Special Forces who stormed Moscow's Melnikova Street theater in a predawn raid, ending a 58-hour standoff in which nearly 850 performers and theatergoers, dozens of them children, were held hostage by a suicide squad of Chechen terrorists. Here and there, among mounds of candy wrappers and empty bottles from the snack bar, lay the corpses of 50 hostage takers. The men wore camouflage uniforms; the women were head to toe in black, with thick belts evidently containing explosive charges strapped to their waists. Some were slumped in the seats where the military's knockout gas had toppled them. By one account, commandos finished off the unconscious female terrorists one by one, with a single bullet each. All around were the hostages, in the aisles, the seats, even the balconies, many in shock, others unconscious--and more than 90 of them dead...
  • On Second Thought

    Sandra Liedskalna, a fruit seller in Latvia's capital of Riga, is getting evil looks these days. As an early snow falls on the marketplace, Liedskalna is offering steep discounts on her imperfect yet fresh, honey-scented apples. Her arrival has spelled bad news for nearby fruit stands. Their produce bears the telltale blue and yellow stickers of the European Union, and the EU-imported lemons, bananas and apples are large and perfectly shaped. But they also cost a lot more. Liedskalna prices her homegrown apples however she pleases. The neighboring fruit stand, she says, is run by "a pair of hired hands"--a city dweller "who probably thinks that apples are made on an assembly line."Such sniping may seem far removed from the high politics of Brussels and EU expansion. But these subtle tensions in Riga's public squares and markets represent the front lines in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Baltic people--many of whom are asking just why they should drop their hard-earned...
  • Hostage Crisis

    Anna Politkovskaya was in Los Angeles yesterday, waiting to attend a dinner honoring her for her courage in covering the war in Chechnya. She didn't make it to the dinner. Instead, the award-winning reporter flew back to Russia for talks with the heavily armed Chechen guerrillas holding hundreds of hostages in a Moscow theater."I have always believed that Russian journalism, first and foremost, is the journalism of action. The journalism of taking the step that you simply must take," Politkovskaya said in a brief message before leaving California.Politkovskaya, winner of a Courage in Journalism award from the International Women's Media Foundation, spent about two hours inside the theater today as police and anxious relatives of as many as 700 remaining hostages kept up their vigil in the cold rain outside. While details of her talks with the guerrillas have not yet emerged, one immediate benefit was that fresh water was delivered into the building. The rebels had previously refused...
  • Deciphering The Bones

    The skeletons were twisted around each other, many frozen in a fetal position as if they were trying to stay warm. There were skulls and tibias, femurs and ribs, all piling up in the claw of the tractor breaking ground for an elite Vilnius housing complex. "The bones wouldn't stop coming out of the ground," recalls one worker. The horrified crew feared they had uncovered a mass grave of either Jewish Holocaust victims or those murdered by the notorious Soviet secret services. But this find turned out to be far older. When investigators dug up numerous brass buttons inscribed with a three-digit number, they knew that only one group had worn such items: Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armee.Now scientists are beginning a fresh investigation into what is believed to be the biggest mass grave of Napoleonic soldiers ever found in Europe. Their findings are expected to provide fascinating answers into life on the Continent almost 200 years ago. Who joined the Imperial Army and why were there...
  • Back To The Future

    Sept. 12 started out like any other day for Sergey Kukura, the finance director of one of Russia's largest oil firms, LUKOil: he plunked down onto a soft leather seat in the back of his chauffeured automobile. But as his black Mercedes S600 headed toward his office and neared a railway crossing, two cars pulled alongside and forced it off the road. At least four men in camouflage jumped out wielding Kalashnikovs, handcuffed Kukura's driver and bodyguard, put sacks over their heads, then plunged needles of heroin into their arms. When the men regained consciousness hours later their mobile phones, car keys and the bodyguard's pistol was gone. So was their boss. He'd been hustled into a Volga with police license plates.Late last week, exactly two weeks after the crime, somebody dumped Kukura near his home in broad daylight. The oil tycoon was so disoriented sources suggest somebody may have pumped him full of heroin as well. LUKOil denies that any ransom was paid for his release. As...
  • Radicals In Retreat

    Sheraly Akbotoev received the summons in Kabul last November. An Uzbek religious instructor and avowed jihadist, Akbotoev was a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a hard-line group with ties to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. "Come to Logar province" in northern Afghanistan, his superiors told him by phone. "Something has happened." U.S. fighter planes had attacked a convoy of IMU fighters fleeing Konduz, where some 300 of them had been helping the Taliban resist the U.S.-backed forces of the Northern Alliance. A top IMU aide, Akbotoev was being ordered to the soldiers' funeral. The bodies, wrapped in blankets, were virtually unrecognizable. One in particular, he says, "was just meat. There wasn't much left." But he knew who it was because the dead man's name had just been mentioned in the farewell prayer: Juma Namangani, a former Soviet paratrooper and leader of the IMU. A mysterious and supposedly pious man, Namangani's name had symbolized the lingering Islamist...
  • Reading The Bones

    The skeletons were twisted around each other, many frozen in a fetal position as if they were trying to stay warm. There were skulls and tibias, femurs and ribs, all piling up in the claw of the tractor breaking ground for an elite Vilnius housing complex. "The bones wouldn't stop coming out of the ground," recalls one worker at the construction site in the Lithuanian capital last winter.The horrified work crew feared they had uncovered a mass grave of either Jewish Holocaust victims or those murdered by the notorious Soviet secret services. After all, eight years earlier and just a few hundred yards away, Rimantas Jankauskas, an anthropologist at Vilnius University, had uncovered 700 skeletons of residents executed by the KGB near the end of World War II. But this find turned out to be larger--and far older. When investigators found numerous brass buttons inscribed with a three-digit number, they knew that only one group had worn such items: Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armee.Now...
  • A Sea Of Misery

    Once upon a time, the town of Muynak was a bustling port along the Aral Sea. City workers still paint the street signs with images of seagulls and ocean waves, and here and there the masts of ships poke up between the buildings. The coast, though, is nowhere to be found. "I've never seen the sea," says Mural Najimov, a 25-year-old local who's filling six jugs with salty water from a public well. Sergey Lipatovich, 67, former port captain, walks among the rusted hulls of ships, anchors dug into sand that used to be sea bottom. Thirty years ago, he says, the water level reached more than two meters. Now the shore is 200 kilometers away. "There have been so many projects to save this water," he says. "And not a single one worked."Once the world's fourth largest inland sea, the Aral has shrunk to less than a third of its original size, leaving behind a string of port towns to fight off the encroaching desert on their own. The 35 million people in the region--a tenth of whom live in a...
  • War Of The Faiths

    Father Krzysztof Kempa has a congregation but no church. As he reads mass for 15 Roman Catholics in a dark, cramped apartment in the southern Russian city of Belgorod, he struggles to make himself heard over a curbside car alarm, the hum of an old Soviet refrigerator and a boiling tea kettle. The altar is a desk adorned with a candle and wooden cross. A bedroom doubles as a confessional. The faithful sing hymns to the accompaniment of a Yamaha synthesizer teetering precariously on an old washing machine. "We must keep up the fight," Father Krzysztof admonishes his flock. "Otherwise we will drown."But he and his congregation are already drowning--in bureaucracy. That's the weapon of choice in what has become a bitter religious turf war. The Catholics in this gritty industrial city, hard by the Ukraine border, have been denied the right to register as a religious group. They say it's because local authorities, in cahoots with the Russian Orthodox Church, do not want to them to reclaim...
  • The Heart Of The Matter

    It's not often that billboards urge you not to buy or sell something. But the Moldovan capital of Chisinau is an exception. Its streets are filled with admonitions: TU NU ESTI MARFA (YOU ARE NOT FOR SALE).The dawn of market economics in Moldova has had an infamous side effect--a fire sale of its women. Desperate to escape the poverty and joblessness of home, they've taken flight en masse--many ending up in streets and brothels around the world. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva puts it bluntly: "Moldova is the main country of origin for the trafficking of women and children for the purpose of forced prostitution in Western Europe, Balkans and the Middle East." By some estimates, nearly two thirds of the prostitutes in southeast Europe come from Moldova, compared with about 15 percent from Romania, 9 percent from Ukraine and 1 percent from Russia. Europe's poorest country is also the most fertile hunting ground for its flesh trade.Could that soon change?...
  • Chilling In The Gulag

    Anyone can spend a holiday at the beach. But what about at a teeming slum, a nuclear-meltdown site or a former concentration camp? A growing number of vacationers are looking for just such hardship holidays. Travelers are increasingly flocking to Sniper's Alley in Sarajevo and the Viet Cong tunnels in Vietnam; they are taking Belfast's Tour of the Troubles, visiting sweatshops in Nicaragua and El Salvador, touring Rio's shantytowns and staying overnight in Russian Gulag country. "The darker side of human nature has a huge hold over us--death, the black arts, mass murder, all of it," says John Lennon, coauthor of the book "Dark Tourism."Is this a good thing? Visitors to such places insist they are gaining insight and valuable historical knowledge. But critics worry that packaging horror distorts such events. "Auschwitz has been altered so that tours end up at a crematorium that was actually located in a completely different place," notes Lennon. "Viet Cong tunnels in Vietnam have...
  • Saying Nyet To Russian

    Hardly anyone these days has a good word for the language of the former Soviet Union. Teenagers in Central Asia say they hate it; thousands have taken to the streets of Moldova and Belarus to protest it; former Soviet governments have deleted it from their mandatory-education programs, and some countries, like Latvia, have passed discriminatory laws against those who speak it. A Russian visitor to rural Moldova or Uzbekistan might have a fine conversation with a person over 35--but a 20-year-old will greet him with blank stares. "If before more than 90 percent of the people in the Soviet territories spoke Russian, now less than half do," says Vladimir Neroznyak, a Moscow linguist who helps advise the Russian government on language policy. Within the decade, he predicts, that figure will have fallen to one in 10.What a change. Not long ago the language rivaled English as a lingua franca of empire. Then came the revolutions of the early 1990s, when the former republics began promoting...
  • Russia: Putin's Priority List

    Russian president Vladimir Putin has long been suspected of trying to rekindle the glory of the former Soviet Union. But last week he more than hinted at just the opposite, coming down hard on Belarus's President Aleksandr Lukashenko two days after the two met in St. Petersburg. "No one will be permitted to restore the Soviet Union at the expense of Russia's economic interests," Putin declared.What does that mean? Putin doesn't want Russian growth to be held back by commitments to former Soviet states like Belarus, with its dire economic troubles. Moreover, Putin has tilted his policy westward--and if he wants to build maximum trust with Western Europe and the United States, talk of old empires won't do. In the new era, U.S. bases are sprinkled across Russia's Central Asian backyard, and Russia was recently granted a junior role in NATO.Lukashenko no longer belongs in the picture. In the previous Kremlin regime, the Belarus boss helped Boris Yeltsin appeal to those Russians still...
  • Periscope

    Pope John Paul II is finally getting involved in one of the biggest scandals in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Last week he called for an emergency meeting (to be held this week), directing a dozen American cardinals and the top two officers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to convene with Vatican officials in Rome to discuss the recent U.S. sexual-abuse scandals. Although this announcement raised more hopes for answers to that crisis than a two-day meeting can possibly satisfy, the session is at least proof that the Vatican is willing to act on what has become a global dilemma. "This is not just a problem in the American church," said the Rev. Thomas Reese of America, the U.S. Jesuit magazine. But it will likely be the Americans who press the Vatican hardest for change.At a minimum, the Americans want a papal mandate requiring all U.S. bishops to implement tough, uniform standards for dealing with clergy accused of child molestation. They also want a clear word...
  • NOWHERE TO TURN FOR HELP

    "Marziya," 36, is hiding at Samarkand's only women's shelter, a private home tucked behind an unmarked iron gate. Her husband began beating her in 1992, at the height of Uzbekistan's economic turmoil. Although the Qur'an prohibits alcohol, "he would come home after drinking and beat me very hard," Marziya says. "One time he crushed my ovary." She ran to her brother's house, "but he also drank and got violent," she says. So she and her 5-year-old son fled in search of safety.The shelter is as hidden as Uzbekistan's domestic-violence problem. There are only a handful of women there now, but over the past year more than 100 have passed through. Since Uzbekistan gained independence more than 10 years ago, what locals call "traditionalism"--a moral code based on Islam--has flourished. And for many Uzbek women, that code makes the few social guarantees of the Soviet regime look good. The Soviets not only banned traditions like forced marriage and wearing veils but also extended education...