Plus, Moscow welcomes Kyrgyz migrants, and U.S. urges results in Kosovo-Serbia talks.by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 6 April 2012
Ukrainian authorities want to close a case on the alleged poisoning in 2004 of former President Viktor Yushchenko. Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka says there isn't enough evidence to continue the investigation, according to RIA Novosti.
The case has dragged, Pshonka added at a 5 April press conference, because the Orange Revolution leader has refused to submit to new blood tests.
Yushchenko was allegedly poisoned during his presidential bid, leaving his face badly scarred. He blamed election rival Viktor Yanukovych, the former prime minister and current president of Ukraine.
Initial tests by Swiss toxicologists found dioxin levels in Yushchenko 50,000 times normal, according to RIA Novosti. Subsequent blood tests by Ukrainian doctors in 2005 were destroyed.
New investigators were assigned to the case after Yushchenko left office in 2010 and have called for further blood tests to get a clearer understanding of what happened. But the former president says he wants to "close that chapter" of his life.
The interior minister of Tatarstan has stepped down over a sordid prisoner abuse scandal, Radio Free Europe reports. Russian authorities officially announced the resignation of Interior Minister Asgat Safarov 5 April.
Civic groups have called for Safarov's job over the death of 52-year-old Sergei Nazarov. Arrested in early March for a minor offense, Nazarov was admitted to the hospital with rectal injuries after a night at the Dalny police precinct in Kazan. He told doctors that he had been beaten and raped with a wine bottle in custody. Nazarov died the next day.
The case sparked a public outcry and what some observers say is a surprisingly decisive official response thanks to the presidential efforts of Dmitry Medvedev on police reform. Federal authorities fired the chief of the Dalny precinct 15 March, and five officers are charged in Nazarov's death. They maintain innocence.
After an initial investigation and the officers' arrests, Safarov himself said the punishment would be severe if the suspects were found guilty.
Amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Bishkek, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 5 April that his country welcomes legal labor migrants from Kyrgyzstan, RIA Novosti reports.
“We value Kyrgyz citizens coming to Russia,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart. "We are interested in them working on a legal basis and that their rights are protected."
Up to 1 million migrants from Kyrgyzstan live and work in Russia, according to official and unofficial sources. The Kyrgyz economy depends on their remittances.
But in March Russian authorities signaled that they might abandon an agreement to streamline citizenship procedures for people from Kyrgyzstan in an evident power play to get Bishkek to cool its increasingly heated rhetoric. President Almazbek Atambaev has had harsh words for Moscow recently and even threatened to kick Russian troops off a military base in the city of Kant.
Though Lavrov did not evidently reference the event, his remarks on worker rights followed a fire that engulfed a Moscow warehouse 3 April, killing 17 people, migrant laborers from former Soviet states all. The workers were living in overcrowded conditions and were effectively trapped in the building.
Serbia and Kosovo should implement the agreements reached in a bilateral "dialogue" that began last year over technical issues like telecommunications and customs, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said 4 April, Balkan Insight reports.
"We urge both countries to stay committed to the dialogue and to fully implement what has been agreed to," she said after a meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington, D.C.
On pressure from the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo entered the ongoing dialogue in March 2011 as the first high-level talks between the capitals since Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence. Five agreements have been reached so far, with only two implemented. They concern customs and management of the Kosovo-Serbia border.
The talks aim to normalize relations between the countries to put them both on track to EU membership. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo and says it never will despite Brussels' insistence that Belgrade improve relations with Pristina to enter the EU.
Clinton said she believes in Kosovo's independence and aspirations to join the EU and NATO as a "full partner in the international community," according to Balkan Insight.
Earlier this week Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church encouraged his fellow priests to keep a low profile in response to what he claimed was an attack on the church by Russian liberal society for his support of President-elect Vladimir Putin. Now it seems Kirill is having trouble heeding his own advice and is quickly becoming the main source of fodder for church critics unhappy with the patriarchate’s display of wealth.
The most recent controversy involving Kirill happened 4 April when the Russian blogosphere picked up on a doctored photo on the church’s website that had been airbrushed to remove a $39,000 Swiss gold watch from Kirill’s wrist but neglected to remove the watch’s reflection from the table, according to The New York Times. Kirill initially denied wearing the watch and said that it had been altered into the photograph, but on 5 April the church issued an apology for the “technical inaccuracy” and replaced the edited photo on its website with the original showing both the watch and reflection.
Previously, Kirill and the Orthodox Church came under fire for a high-profile court decision that awarded nearly $700,000 to the keeper of a Moscow apartment owned by Kirill. According to the court decision, the tenant sued former Health Minister Yury Shevchenko, who is also an Orthodox priest, because dust kicked up during renovations of his apartment had drifted upstairs to Kirill’s and damaged books in the Patriarch's library, according to The Moscow Times. Following a public backlash to the lawsuit, Kirill announced that he would donate the damages to charity, according to Interfax.