Ok, after a few years of lurking, I think I am ready for my introduction to the AH forum. I've been researching this timeline for a few months and feel ready to take it on now. Hope you find it worthy of your time... PRELUDE Courtesy of BBC 21 January 2012Last updated at 14:52 ET Zhirinovsky cross-examines Grozny massacre witness at trial Vladimir Zirinovsky is defending himself The former president of the Union of Independent States, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has cross-examined a survivor of the Grozny massacre, at his trial for war crimes at The Hague. Mr Zhirinovsky, who is defending himself, spent much of his time berating the man who had just described seeing around 158 men killed at Grozny. As had become the case for much of his trial, he taunted both the victims and the United Nations tribunal. “The only thing that is important to me is that you are not in Russia any more!” Mr Zhirinovsky screamed at the witness, “you may fool the Korean, but you will never fool the Russian people! You are a terrorist and your fellow terrorist got what they deserved!” He denies 1,451 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his time as head of the UIS. Prosecutors say he orchestrated a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against numerous ethnic groups throughout the former Soviet Union as well as his actions in Yugoslavia, Romania, and Afghanistan. Mr Zhirinovsky, now 65, was arrested in 2009 after nearly three years under house arrest in The UIS Republic of Russia. He was president of the Republic of Russia from 1991 to 1996 as well as the president of the UIS from 1996-2003, when he was ousted in a popular Revolution that saw his vice president,Alexander Lebed, seize power after pro-democratic forces seized control of St. Petersburg, Minsk, and Odessa. As president of the UIS, he was named Supreme Commander of its army during the Chechen civil war, the invasion of Romania, and the Afghan intervention as part of the U.S. sponsored invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. International observers note that between those three major conflicts, over 2,000,000 people were killed and more than ten million driven from their homes. Vladimir Zhirinovsky was particularly wanted for masterminding the killings of over five hundred thousand people in Grozny upon the fall of the city in 1997, as well as his role in the “Rape of Sarajevo”, when the former Bosnian capital was overrun by Serbian and Russian forces during the Yugoslavian civil war in 1996. Both incidents have been ruled genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Soviet Union (ICTSI). Single survivor The witness who took the stand on Thursday is known as Protected Witness GZ1121. He described seeing men killed in Grozny on 19 June 1997, including twenty who were killed in a mass execution. "When we heard the news that Grozny had fallen, we knew we had to leave. Many of us fled to Grozny from the other parts of the county, we saw what the Russians were doing. We knew they were going to kill us all," the man said. Detained by Russian forces on 21 and 22 of June, 1997, the man was transferred to the auditorium at the Chechen State University, where he managed to survive despite a group of soldiers being detailed to execute him and those held with him. Zhirinovsky’s trial opened in January of 2010, but has been hit by several delays since. Mr. Zhirinovsky has often yelled out pro-Russian slogans during the trial, as well as hurl insults at the prosecutor, witnesses, and judges. He was found in contempt of court when he called presiding judge O-Gon Kwon a “Korean whoremonger” during opening statements, and has subsequently been warned for referring to the judicial panel as “the Muslim harem” during the trial. He interrupted the Prosecution’s opening statement in 2010 to claim that the UN had been bought with “30 pieces of Saudi silver,” and has repeatedly yelled in court that “vengeance will belong to the Russian people”, a phrase that has become synonymous with the controversial leader and can be seen throughout the UIS on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and banners. The Grozny phase is the fourth and final stage of the prosecution's case - about 360 witnesses are expected to take the stand. Prosecutors are expected to wrap up this phase by mid-2014. _________________________________________________ Opposition troops closing in on Mazar-e-Sharif Last Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 8:52 PM ET (Reuters) - Opposition forces in northern Afghanistan appeared to be closing in on the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif Wednesday, with reports of smaller centres near the city being taken from Uzbek forces. An Afghan government spokesman says opposition troops have taken control of Shol Ghar, 50 kilometres from Mazar-e-Sharif, but the Uzbek Republic of Northern Afghanistan (URNA) has denied it has lost Shol Ghar. The URNA says it will move 500 new fighters to the area by the end of the week. The battle for Mazar-e-Sharif is seen as one of the most important elements of the campaign to restore stability in Afghanistan. The URNA captured Mazar-e-Sharif in 2001, shortly after the United States began military operations in the country to overthrow the Islamic fundamentalist government of the Taliban and bring Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden to justice after the Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001. However, the entry of former Soviet troops ultimately proved problematic for the American war effort and dealt a serious blow to stability in the region. As part of what would come to be known as the Crawford Accord, former U.S. president George Bush and former UIS president Vladimir Zhirinovsky reached an agreement for operations in Afghanistan in October of 2001 at the latter’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. The agreement, which put UIS troops in charge of all military operations north of the 36th parallel, and NATO troops in charge of all military activity south of the 36th parallel, proved to be a major embarrassment for the American president and is widely cited as a major reason for his shocking 2004 defeat in the Republican primary race to then unheralded former Michigan governor John Engler. The Crawford Accord is widely cited as one of the major reasons for the disintegration of Afghanistan and is often cited for a major reason for the continuing civil war in Pakistan. Although former Northern Alliance commander and current Union of Tajikistan president Ahmad Shah Massoud has been successful in obtaining international recognition for the union of The Tajik Republic of Northern Afghanistan into the Republic of Tajikistan, URNA Supreme Commander Abdul Rashid Dostum has struggled due to frequent clashes with American, Russian, and Tajik forces inside of Afghanistan and numerous diplomatic blunders since declaring the independence of the Uzbek Republic of Northern Afghanistan in 2002. Although Afghan president Abdul Haq has indicated that the Republic of Afghanistan has the authority to conduct military operations in the breakaway republic, he claims that the revolt in the URNA is between Dostum and pro-Afghan factions of the Uzbek population. However, independent observers including the Red Crescent have reported that opposition forces widely appeared to be speaking Pashtu. U.S. Secretary of State Sam Nunn has indicated that there is evidence that the Taliban may also be a major factor in the resistance. ___________________________________________________ Transcript from The Daily Show with John Stewart, October 12, 2007 Guest: Sasha Baron Cohen Stewart: (Laughing) So can we expect more from Borat? Cohen: I hope so. Maybe a sequel when Borat goes back home to Ghazbakia. Like, an entire movie filmed in Ghazbakia. Stewart: How in the world did you ever come up with the idea of the Republic of Ghazbakia? Cohen: Well, initially Borat was called Christo and he was from the Republic of Moldova. The early clips that I did on F2F had Christo the Moldavian. But then the Russians invaded Romania and suddenly nothing about Moldova was funny anymore. So I changed his birthplace to Kazakhstan in 1997 and changed his name to Borat. But then the Russians crushed the Kazak independence movement and committed some horrible war crimes there and suddenly Kazakhstan wasn’t funny anymore either. It was all over the news, and these news stations that I had been pulling these pranks on, well, all they wanted to talk about was the Taraz massacre and if I was ethnic Russian or Kazak- Stewart: So it seems like wherever Borat called home, the Russians would invade and destroy. Cohen: Yeah. Stewart: Let me ask you a favor. Cohen: Sure. Stewart: Don’t change Borat’s birthplace to New York City. (Audience laughter) __________________________________________________ Op-Ed Contributor Is the UN killing democracy in Russia? By William Gregg Published: June 15, 2012 The Hague — When U.S. Ambassador to the UIS Jon Huntsman was attacked by an angry mob in Moscow last week the international community was in a justifiable outrage and applauded the actions of UIS President Alexander Lebed in storming the U.S. embassy and retaking control of the facility before we were forced to witness a repeat of the Iranian hostage crisis. Many noted the professionalism of the Moscow Police, and the so called “National Anti Terrorism Unit” of the UIS Federal Police Force, prompting Secretary of State Sam Nunn to thank the Russian government for “not going in with guns blazing as they had been apt to do under previous administrations,” a not so veiled insult at the former UIS President now standing trial for genocide in the Hague. It prompted President Lebed to coldly shoot back that the “professionalism” of the ATU-FPF was in large part due to the leadership of former President Zhirinovsky. However, it seems interesting that once again the International community just can’t seem to look past the obvious dictatorial tendencies of the Russian leadership because he’s “a heck of a lot better than the guy who came before him,” as former U.S. president George W. Bush once meekly stated in defense of the widely reviled Crawford Accord. Lebed is a dictator. He has never denied it. Sure he is not prone to wild outburst like his predecessor, but his actions, though muted, speak volumes about the type of man he is. Lebed seems to win over Western leaders not because he is truly an improvement, he’s not. If you think he is ask those civilians killed in the conflict with Croatia in 2010 when the Croats tried to finally rid the Russian from their blatant occupation of the Krajina region of their nation. Lebed has had numerous opportunities to ditch the UIS, and allow the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and those occupied regions of Croatia to decide for themselves if membership in the reviled UIS is worth the bloodshed. While Croatia is mired in poverty, she looks at her northern neighbor Slovenia, admitted to the EU in 2008 and NATO in 2009, as proof that the Russian leader is not an “improvement”. The UIS has become nothing more than a more intrusive and more genocidal version of the Warsaw Pact and Lebed has time and time fought to keep the coalition in place. His recent attempts to “loosen the confederation” into a “commonwealth of Independent states” rings hollow when one sees the Russian military intervention in the breakaway republic of Georgia last year. The international community, shell shocked from the disastrous reign of former president Zhirinovsky, has remained silent simply because Lebed is better able of keeping the instability inside of the borders of the UIS, and he has yet to punch Tony Blair in the mouth, two things his predecessor was unable to do. Besides, there are still the conspiracy theorists in Russia who feel that Lebed was the one pulling the strings from the start. “Zhirinovsky was selected as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party by the KGB for one reason and one reason only,” former head of the KGB and perennial presidential candidate Vladimir Putin stated in an Interview with the BBC last year, “because he was easy to manipulate.” Many Russia experts wonder if Lebed was in fact the real power during the Zhirinovsky presidency, but most feel that Zhirinovsky was the one responsible for the war crimes. “There are two things Zhirinovsky knows well,” Former Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev famously said in 2002, “how to act like a fool, and how to commit ethic cleansing. He was a master of creating ethnic strife.” So what can we expect from Russia and the UIS now? President Lebed earned international praise when he turned over Zirinovsky to the International Court in 2009, but many observers feel that he is simply using the entire trial to shore up popular support. Since the arrest, radical right wing groups in the UIS have become increasingly violent, and Lebed is able to play off the fears of the international community in supporting his position. Any foreigner who walks through the streets of Moscow is bombarded with graffiti, signs, and flags often in English, promising that “vengeance will belong to the Russian people!” That one former presidential candidate for the Radical Russian People’s Party was able to garner nearly twenty percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election on a platform of declaring war on The Netherlands shows the volatility of the state of affairs in Russia today. Russia today is truly one of the great tragedies of the 20th century. Had Russian president Boris Yeltsin not been shot during the failed Communist coup of 1991 perhaps Russia would have had a chance at democracy. But now it may be too late. A recent poll indicated that, inside Russia, over 75% of people view Zhirinovsky favorably. Up from less than 20% in 2003 when he was ousted.