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Spanish Police Nab Djindjic Killer, Dutch Website Angers East Europeans

Plus, Ukraine says no to customs union and Medvedev sacks St. Petersburg police chief over beating probe.

by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, and Joshua Boissevain 14 February 2012

1. Russia could reverse decision to expel French journalist


Russian immigration officials are expected to cancel the recent decision to expel French writer Anne Nivat, according to RIA Novosti. Nivat was in Russia working on a new book when she was detained by police 10 February and told she had three days to leave the country.


Nivat told The Moscow Times that officially she was asked to leave because she was working on her book while on a business visa, not a journalist one; but she said it was made clear to her during a four-hour interrogation that officials were unhappy she had been meeting and interviewing opposition politicians.


Anne NivatAnne Nivat
Nivat is a prominent French author and has won several awards for her reporting in Chechnya, including one for her 2001 book, Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya. She told RIA Novosti that she intends to apply for a journalist’s visa and return to Russia after the presidential election in March.


But there is a chance that she could return sooner than that. On 13 February Konstantin Romodanovsky, the director of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, said he would review her deportation. RIA Novosti quoted him as saying, "Preliminary facts show that the decision was wrong. Perhaps it will be overturned." A spokesman for the migration service later confirmed this and said the decision to reverse her expulsion would likely be made this week.  


2. Djindjic assassin nabbed in Spain


Zoran_DjindjicZoran Djindjic
Serbian officials hope last week’s gangland arrests in Spain will help resolve unanswered questions around the 2003 assassination of Zoran Djindjic, the country’s popular prime minister.


One of the four Serbian men arrested in Valencia by Spanish police 9 February, Vladimir Milisavljevic, was convicted in absentia of involvement in the Djindjic killing in 2007 and sentenced to 35 years in prison, the Southeast European Times reports.


Suspected underworld boss Luka Bojovic and two of his associates, Sinisa Petric and Vladimir Mijanovic, were also arrested.


Bojovic was held in 2007 on suspicion of links to the Djindjic murder plot but was released for lack of evidence, AFP reports. He fled Serbia after being convicted in a separate case of illegal arms possession.


Serbian President Boris Tadic said the arrests dealt a body blow to the Serbian underworld and would help build the country’s reputation as a safe place for foreign companies to invest, the Southeast European Times wrote.


Notorious crime boss and Bosnian war fighter Milorad "Legija" Lukovic was convicted in 2004 of helping set up the Djindjic assassination, but persistent rumors of the involvement of the liberal politician’s political opponents have never been tested in court. Two other suspected leading figures in the plot were killed in a gunfight with police shortly after the assassination.


3. Romania, Bulgaria angered by Dutch anti-immigrant website


A nationalist party’s call on the Dutch to report their complaints about Central and Eastern European immigrants came under fire last week from European authorities, Dutch News reports. The website, which was launched by the far right Freedom Party (PVV) on 8 February, restated the party’s opposition to opening the Dutch labor market to Polish workers and warned against a similar "massive labor migration" from Bulgaria and Romania. The website also urges people who have had "troubles with Central and Eastern European nationals," such as "losing a job to a Pole, Bulgarian, or Romanian," to send a complaint to the party.


International reactions were quick to follow: Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu asked the Romanian Embassy in the Netherlands to express his state's "firm disapproval" of such discrimination, "which goes against European values." Vessela Cherneva, a spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry quoted by EurActiv, declared that "her country cannot accept that one of the founding members of the EU could tolerate such incitement to hatred, discrimination, and xenophobia." On her website, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the PVV website contradicted the principle of free movement of EU citizens anywhere in the union.


However, Dutch Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp refused to condemn the website and argued that it is PPV's business to choose what actions to promote. Kamp’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy is in a minority coalition government with the Christian Democrats and relies on the support of the PPV to stay in power. Last year, Kamp also called for homeless EU citizens to be deported to their home countries. Holland also vetoed Romania and Bulgaria's entry into the Schengen area in 2011, which led to border seizures of shipments of Dutch-grown flowers by Romanian authorities. 


PPV_websiteThe Dutch Freedom Party’s webpage with a photo of party leader Geert Wilders and a newspaper headline linking Poles, Bulgarians, and Romanians to rising crime.


4. Top Russian cop fired as probe widens into boy’s death


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week praised the police for abiding by his reform program, the same day the St. Petersburg’s police chief was sacked after clashing with the Kremlin over an investigation into the death of a teenage boy in police custody.


Medvedev signed an executive order relieving Mikhail Sukhodolsky, head of the St. Petersburg city and Leningrad region police, from duty on 10 February. Sukhodolsky’s department has faced scrutiny since a 15-year-boy was allegedly beaten to death last month after being detained on suspicion of robbery, The Moscow Times reports.


The chief had publicly criticized the investigation of his department by Moscow inspectors as window dressing on the eve of the 4 March presidential election, the newspaper writes.


Outgoing President Medvedev instituted deep changes in the police force last year, RIA Novosti notes, sacking 200,000 officers, raising salaries, and changing the force’s name from the Soviet-era “militia” to “police.”


5. Ukraine stays firmly outside Russian customs union


Ukraine appears to be resisting the Kremlin’s efforts to bring the country into the Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus customs union. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on 11 February he had suggested a “three plus one” format, but that this had been rejected, according to Interfax-Ukraine. Such an arrangement would presumably allow Ukraine to enter a free-trade zone with the three former Soviet countries without jeopardizing its hopes of one day entering the EU.


He hoped that sooner or later the three-plus-one format will be accepted, "because it is the only possible way,” The Moscow Times quoted Azarov as saying.


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has linked Ukrainian membership of the customs union with a more advantageous deal on natural gas than the present expensive arrangement negotiated by then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The former opposition leader is serving a prison term for abuse of office in connection with the gas deal, which commits Ukraine to paying more for Russian natural gas than Western European users.


Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOL. Ioana Caloianu and Joshua Boissevain are TOL editorial assistants.
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