The peaceful, majority-Muslim Russian republic of Tatarstan was shaken 19 July by assassination attempts on its two leading Muslim clerics, Radio Free Europe reports.
The first terrorist-style attacks to hit the republic came a day before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. No one has claimed responsibility, but some say Islamist extremists may have targeted the leaders for their pro-Kremlin stance in a sign that the Islamic insurgency in Russia's south might be spreading.
"We see a North Caucasus scenario unfolding in Tatarstan now, and it's spreading across the Volga region," religious affairs expert Rais Suleimanov told RFE. "Traditional Muslim leaders who were speaking up against so-called 'pure Islam' pushed by the Wahhabis were also getting killed 10 years ago in Daghestan."
Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee was still exploring a range of potential motivations for the attacks at press time. Investigators are focusing on Yakupov, a powerful religious figure with close links to federal authorities who had been a proponent of moderate Islam.
On 19 July, Moscow joined Beijing in vetoing a UN resolution that threatened Western-backed sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia and China fear the resolution could lead to foreign military intervention in the Middle East country teetering on civil war.
Susan Rice, U.S. envoy to the UN, called it "a dark day." While her British counterpart, Mark Lyall Grant, said the veto could lead to "all-out-civil war" in Syria, according to RIA Novosti.
Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin responded to what he called "unacceptable" comments by saying the West is thinking of only "its own geopolitical interests, which have nothing in common with those of the Syrian people," RIA Novosti reports.
The British-drafted resolution threatened non-military sanctions if Damascus did not withdraw heavy weapons and soldiers from urban areas in 10 days, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Security Council has until midnight 20 July to agree on extending the UN monitoring mission to Syria, but Rice insisted that the mission is neutered without the leverage of sanctions.
Russia and China have now vetoed three UN resolutions on Syria. Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who's facing a home-grown opposition of his own, vowed to prevent another "Libya scenario," a reference to the ouster and assassination of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi in late 2011, RIA Novosti notes.
The 19 July vote came a day after three top Syrian security officials were killed in a bold bomb attack in Damascus. Moscow had said that adopting the resolution would be "direct support" for rebel forces, RIA Novosti reports.
Unknown assailants attacked a police officer’s home, a radio station, and a bank in northern Kosovo, the majority-Serb contested territory, the night of 19 July, Balkan Insight reports. No one was hurt, according to reports.
Police say more 50 rounds were fired at the locations in the municipality of Zubin Potok. A hand grenade was also detonated at the police captain's residence while his family was home, Balkan Insight reports.
"Preliminary reports show that the armed assaults were coordinated. …" Besim Hoti, a police spokesman, told Balkan Insight.
No suspects had evidently been detained at press time.
Interethnic tensions have been high in northern Kosovo since last summer, when Pristina sent police to the border to enforce an effective embargo on Serbian goods. The subsequent year has seen incidents of interethnic violence and ongoing clashes between demonstrating local Serbs and NATO peacekeeping forces.
The U.S. government has given $1 million to a project to establish a network of reporting teams across Bosnia to uncover corruption, Balkan Insight reports. Led by two Bosnian watchdog groups, the Anti-Corruption Civil Organizations Unified Network, or ACCOUNT, will create a journalistic task force of sorts to fight the graft and public misconduct that reportedly robs Bosnia of 24 euros ($29) a second.
ACCOUNT Director Eldin Karic says more than 50 teams will be trained to spotlight corruption in five priority areas, including the judiciary, education, and health care, according to Balkan Insight.
Speaking at an event to announce the project 18 July, U.S. Ambassador Patrick Moon said corruption is especially troublesome in Bosnia because of the country's dire economic situation, including high double-digit unemployment. Bosnia ranked 91st of 182 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2011.
Slovak police announced 19 July the discovery of a tunnel running underneath the Slovak-Ukrainian border, Reuters reports. The tunnel was used to smuggle goods, mainly cigarettes, and possibly people into Slovakia, Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said at a press conference.
The tunnel extended over 700 meters and ran 6 meters underground, connecting a house in the Ukrainian city of Uzhorod to a warehouse near the Slovak villages of Vysne Nemecke and Nizne Nemecke, which the police had been monitoring for weeks. It was equipped with a small train and railways and was meant to avoid customs duties.
In a raid, police seized more than 13,000 cartons of cigarettes. Over a period of a year, the smuggling operation could have cost Slovakia as much as 50 million euros ($61 million) in lost excise taxes, Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said, according to Reuters.
The border between Slovakia and Ukraine runs for almost 100 kilometers, and, according to Reuters, it is often used to traffic drugs, cigarettes, and refugees from east to west, despite Kalinak’s claims that Slovakia has taken “adequate steps” to guard it.