Plus, Gazprom rejects new Kyiv gas talks and Clinton nudges Riga on restitution.by S. Adam Cardais and Sofia Lotto Persio 29 June 2012
The UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague has dropped a genocide charge against Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radio Free Europe reports. He still faces one count of genocide for his alleged involvement in the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim at Srebrenica.
The withdrawn charge had alleged that Karadzic was involved in the expulsion and killings of non-Serbs from Bosnia as the 1992-1995 conflict began. Judge O-Gon Kwon ruled that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the charge, RFE reports.
Defense lawyer Peter Robinson praised "a courageous decision … , " according to RFE. Prosecutors had not commented at press time, but Robinson said he expects them to appeal.
Arrested in 2008, Karadzic had been on the run since being indicted for war crimes in 1995. He now faces 10 charges for allegedly participating in a campaign of ethnic cleansing during the conflict.
Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic is also on trial at The Hague on genocide and other charges.
Formed by Slobodan Milosevic, the Socialist Party became kingmaker after placing a surprisingly strong third in the 6 May elections. The SNS and Democratic Party of former President Boris Tadic placed first and second, respectively, but neither won enough seats to govern alone.
Previous talks between the Socialists and Democrats to form a government failed. Balkan Insight reports that Dacic, a former Milosevic spokesman, will be Serbia's next prime minister, with several top postings for SNS officials.
B92 reports that Dacic is prime minister-designate. He said coalition talks would continue with the SNS.
Serbia's next government will face challenges both severe and immediate, including an economic crisis that has pushed unemployment to 25 percent.
Despite recent claims from Kyiv that Moscow had agreed to review Ukraine's natural gas supply deal, Russian energy giant Gazprom says there will be no new contract negotiations, Radio Free Europe reports. Moscow is sticking to the terms of the current deal, Gazprom chief executive Alexey Miller said in Kyiv 27 June, following a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev and Ukrainian leaders.
Kyiv desperately wants to renegotiate what it calls an "enslaving" contract, which jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko inked with Vladimir Putin in 2009 after a supply stand-off. (Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of power over the deal). Kyiv wants price cuts or a reduction in import volumes, originally agreed at 52 billion cubic meters of gas annually, according to RFE.
But Gazprom is "working strictly in line with the contract, strictly in line with this volume," RFE quotes Miller as saying.
Kyiv is under considerable pressure. The International Monetary Fund is leveraging a suspended bailout to press Kyiv to raise domestic gas prices by up to 50 percent to improve public finances. Leaders have resisted with parliamentary elections in October, holding out for a new supply deal with Moscow.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed the Latvian government to return Jewish property that was seized by either the Nazis or the Communists. In a 28 June visit to the country, she called restitution a “piece of unfinished historical business,” Reuters reports.
Most of Latvia’s Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation between 1941-1944. Afterward, their property was confiscated by the Soviet Union. When Latvia gained independence in 1991, individuals were allowed to reclaim nationalized property, but the status of some communal property, such as schools, hospitals, and orphanages, remained undefined.
Jewish organizations now claim several hundred properties, including religious and community buildings, according to Israel National News.com. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said restitution of certain buildings “is not always possible,” whereas compensation is.
The justice minister, who belongs to the nationalist party All for Latvia/For Fatherland and Freedom, recently resigned over the issue of restitution, claiming that Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was being too “pushy,” according to Reuters. But some commentators believe the resignation was a bit of political gamesmanship unconnected to the restitution issue.
Legislators in Belgorod, southern Russia, have passed a measure that introduces a fine of 5,000 rubles ($150) for clients of prostitutes, RIA Novosti reports, citing a release by local police. In addition, the sanctions will be imposed during open hearings.
RIA Novosti notes that the fine amounts to nearly one-third of the average monthly wage in Belgorod. It also points out that Governor Yevgeny Savchenko is a moral crusader whose administration banned Valentine's Day and Halloween, as well as heavy metal concerts to "end Satanic activity" in the region.
Prostitution is illegal in Russia, but federal legislation does not punish clients, according to the news agency.