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Ukrainian Olympics Chief Resigns in Ticket Scandal, Police Convicted in Zhanaozen Violence

Plus, ousted official to be Tatarstan deputy PM, and IMF Pressures Kiev on Gas Prices

by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 29 May 2012

1. BBC ticket scalping sting undoes Ukrainian Olympics head


Volodymyr Gerashchenko, general secretary of Ukraine's National Olympic Committee, has resigned on evidence that he tried to scalp tickets for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the BBC reports. Gerashchenko is reportedly cooperating with a related investigation.


Volodymyr Gerashchenko
Gerashchenko was suspended last week after the BBC exposed him in a sting operation allegedly trying to sell an undercover reporter up to 100 Olympics tickets. The former official was filmed telling the BBC journalist: "I understand you're a dealer – that's why, for me, you are priority No. 1, … "


Selling tickets to the 2012 London Games illegally is punishable by fines of over $30,000. Gerashchenko has said he was only humoring the journalist, according to Radio Free Europe.


Ukraine’s Olympic Committee president, Serhiy Bubka, has said the committee takes the allegations "very seriously."


2. Kazakh court sentences five police officials to jail in Zhanaozen unrest


On 28 May a Kazakh court convicted five police officials of abuse of power during December's deadly clashes in Zhanaozen, Radio Free Europe reports. The defendants, three of whom are high-ranking regional officials, received prison sentences of between five and seven years.



Police shot dead at least 16 people in a crackdown of a six-month strike by oil workers over wages in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan on 16 December. Violent unrest quickly spread to a nearby city, and western Kazakhstan saw mass protests.


More than 100 demonstrators were also injured in the unrest. No police officers were hurt, RIA Novosti reports.


Kazakh courts are also trying 37 civilians for inciting the violence, RFE reports.


3. Minister ousted in detainee torture case is Tatarstan's new deputy PM


The State Council of Tatarstan approved 28 May the nomination of Asgat Safarov, 50, for deputy prime minister of the Russian republic, Radio Free Europe reports. Safarov resigned as interior minister of Tatarstan last month after a public outcry over the March death of a man who was allegedly tortured while in police custody in Kazan, the Tatar capital, after being picked up for a minor offense.


Before succumbing to his injuries, the man told doctors that he had been raped with a wine bottle at the police station. Five officers were charged in the death, and Safarov himself pledged swift and harsh justice.


Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov nominated Safarov for the deputy premiership earlier this month, RFE reports. His responsibilities will include security issues.


4. IMF hinges Ukraine bailout payments on gas price hike


During a visit to Ukraine 28 May, an International Monetary Fund official pressed Ukraine to raise domestic gas prices so that funding from a suspended bailout may resume, Reuters reports. The IMF wants Ukraine to raise household gas and heating prices by up to 50 percent to bolster its public finances, but Kyiv has resisted with parliamentary elections in October.


Instead, officials had hoped to renegotiate a cheaper price for Russian gas supplies. But contract talks with Moscow over the last several months have foundered, and Ukraine has lost $6 billion in payouts since the IMF suspended the $15.6 billion bailout last spring.


Christopher Jarvis, head of the IMF mission to Ukraine, noted that Ukrainian households pay only 20 percent of the natural gas import price, the Associated Press reports. He recommended immediate and sustained tariff increases to ultimately end subsidies.


The IMF also wants Kyiv to open Ukraine's currency to greater exchange rate flexibility. Keeping the currency pegged at 8 hryvnias to the dollar, Jarvis said, will only widen the country's current account deficit, which was 5.5 percent of GDP last year.


5. Albanian Socialists blame Berisha for dismal rights record


Opposition Socialists in Albania are pointing the finger at Prime Minister Sali Berisha after the country got a black eye in the annual U.S. State Department’s report on human rights, according to Balkan Insight. Speaking to the media on 25 May, Socialist lawmaker Ditimir Bushati said the report was so damning that it would “make you think that this report does not refer to a European country." 


The authors singled out corruption as the country’s biggest governance problem but also cited police mistreatment, discrimination, and human trafficking. They also criticized the Albanian government for failing to prosecute government officials, especially those with “powerful business interests.”


Last week, the country started the procedure for electing a new president, which is scheduled to take place in parliament 30 May, according to


S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Joshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant.
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