Plus, Lithuanians remember the “Kaunas Spring” and Tbilisi cleans up after flash flood.by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, and Joshua Boissevain 15 May 2012
Mladic’s defense lawyers also said Orie’s Dutch nationality could bias him against Mladic. Dutch UN peacekeepers have been blamed for not doing enough to prevent the Srebrenica massacre, for which Mladic will stand trial.
The latest request for a postponement is tied to delays in filing all the prosecution’s material, which the defense claims could result in a miscarriage of justice. The court hasn't ruled on either request for postponement.
Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj confirmed 14 May that Kosovo officials have met members of the Syrian opposition but denied reports the government is training Syrian fighters. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, warned the UN Security Council that international efforts to mediate between the Syrian government and armed rebels could be harmed if the reports are true, Radio Free Europe reports.
Hoxhaj responded by saying his government had established diplomatic contacts with Syrians opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while making clear Pristina’s support was of a political nature, Reuters reports.
In late April, three Syrian dissidents met former Kosovo rebel fighters in Pristina, the Associated Press reports. Foreign-based dissident Ammar Abdulhamid said, "Kosovo has gone through an experience that I think will be very useful to us in terms of how the different armed groups that formed the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] organized themselves."
Residents of Tbilisi are cleaning up after a flash flood killed five people on 12 May and asking themselves why a wall of water and mud swept through the Ortachala district.
Houses in the district hug a steep hill that rises up from the Mtkvari (Kura) River, not far from the city center. Many buildings in the neighborhood are old and in need of repair. The Democracy & Freedom Watch website reports the flood may have started when a hillside reservoir overflowed during heavy rain. The head of the city emergency service said trees and mud blocked a collector in the hills, diverting water toward houses, the website said.
Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava said recovery costs could reach 2 to 3 million lari ($1.2 million to $1.8 million).
Heavy rain and flooding was also reported in eastern Georgia, where about 300 homes were damaged, according to Caucasian Knot.
Private money continues to leave Russia at increasing speed. Capital outflow during April reached $8 billion, more than Russia’s Economy Ministry had estimated, according to Radio Free Europe. The recent figure comes on top of an announcement last month that capital outflow in the first quarter of 2012 had already reached $35.1 billion, almost double what it was the previous year.
Capital flight picked up dramatically in 2011 after two relatively slow years. Russia’s central bank reported that $80.5 billion left the country last year, up from $34.5 billion in 2010 and $56.1 billion in 2009, according to RIA Novosti. If the trend continues, Russia could see capital outflow numbers resembling those in 2008, which peaked at $133.7 billion during the global financial crisis.
Some commentators have linked the increase in capital outflow to investors’ fears surrounding recent political turmoil. Others, however, see it as a possible sign of Russia’s economic stability. One reason it could be a good sign for Russia is that foreign banks have started to borrow money – up to $40 billion in 2011 – from their Russian subsidiaries, according to an economist quoted in Russia Beyond the Headlines. Another reason for the shift is that Russian companies have stopped borrowing from abroad, taking advantage of their country’s record low inflation and interest rates.
Kalanta’s suicide sent a message that “freedom is more valuable than a life,” President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a statement.
Kalanta apparently intended his death as a call for Lithuanian freedom. In a notebook he left nearby, Kalanta wrote, "The political system alone is guilty of my death." The town’s young people were first to react, holding peaceful demonstrations in the town center. When the KGB ordered Kalanta’s funeral on 18 May to begin two hours earlier than planned, mourners grew angry, the Lithuania Tribune writes, and for two days thousands of people from Kaunas and nearby towns protested in the streets.
Authorities responded by sealing off the city and sending in troops to dismantle barricades young people began erecting in the city center. Local authorities dismissed the uprising as a teenagers’ riot, and eventually just seven people were convicted of hooliganism. A panel of psychiatrists later concluded that Kalanta was schizophrenic, according to Lithuania Today, pointing to the unusual manner of his suicide, his long hair, and his claim in a school essay that Lithuania would be free one day. In 1989 another panel of psychiatrists said there was no evidence Kalanta had been mentally ill.
The 1972 protests in Kaunas were the largest in Lithuania until national movements in the three Baltic republics swelled into the “singing revolution” of the late 1980s, AFP writes.