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Tajik Forces Battle ‘Rebels,’ Russia Bans Alcohol Ads

Plus, Slovenia threatens to hold up Croatia’s EU membership and CNN portrays a kinder, gentler Kazakhstan.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Sofia Lotto Persio 24 July 2012

1. Tajik forces launch raid against crime gang

 

Tajikistan’s military is reported to have launched a large operation 24 July against a rebel group linked to a former opposition warlord. Reuters reports that the pre-dawn operation in the mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region came after the region’s security chief, Major General Abdullo Nazarov, was stabbed and beaten to death 21 July close to the Afghan border.

 

A security official told Reuters the military had suffered nine dead and 25 wounded, while the rebels suffered higher losses. He said a group of fighters had been captured, including five Afghans believed to be linked to the Taliban.

 

Communications were cut off in the regional capital, Khorog, Reuters writes.

 

Abdullo_Nazarov100Abdullo Nazarov
The news agency reports that the main target of the operation and suspect in Nazarov's murder is an organized crime group involved in tobacco smuggling and drug trafficking. Security officials say the group is led by Tolib Ayombekov, a former opposition fighter during the 1992-1997 civil war.

 

The deputy head of the State Committee for National Security, Mansurdzhon Umarov, said 22 July that Nazarov’s killing may have been linked to an investigation he was leading into tobacco smuggling, Itar-Tass reports.

 

2. Romanian police dispatched to quell London crime wave

 

Ten Romanian police officers will spend the next three months in London helping their British counterparts tackle a rise in begging and petty crime involving Romanian citizens. The officers will arrive just ahead of the Summer Olympic Games, when large numbers of tourists are expected to visit the city.

 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said the officers will “support Romanian victims of crime and assist in cases where suspects originate from Romania,” the BBC reports.

 

Most British media reports emphasize Romanian perpetrators rather than victims. Under the headline “Invasion of the pickpockets,” Mail Online writes, “Britain is in the grip of a pickpocketing epidemic as Eastern European gangs descend on London ahead of the Olympic Games.”

 

According to The Telegraph, the Romanian police were selected on the basis of their knowledge of the Romani community.

 

Reports linking Romanians, often Romani, to begging, homelessness, and petty crime in central London have been on the increase in the British press for several months.

 

London_romanian_arrestsA photo on the website of London’s “Evening Standard” shows London police arresting a group of suspected Romanian con artists on Westminster Bridge. Photo: GeoBeats/YouTube

 

3. Far-reaching alcohol ad ban hits Russia

 

Russians will be exposed to far fewer advertisements for alcoholic drinks starting this week.

 

As of 23 July, there can be no advertising for most alcoholic drinks on television, radio, billboards, or public transport. In addition, President Vladimir Putin signed a law last week banning alcohol ads on the Internet, RIA Novosti reports.

 

Ads in print publications for drinks containing more than 5 percent alcohol, which are already restricted, will be prohibited from 1 January 2013.

 

The restrictions aim to protect consumers from harmful information, especially young people, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Sergei Zheleznyak told the Voice of Russia.

 

However, the bans will have little effect on the large market for illegal alcohol, the chairman of the Russian Union of Alcohol Producers, Dmitry Dobrov, told the BBC. He also suggested that enforcing the online ban will be particularly challenging, as companies will simply place their ads on websites hosted outside Russia.

 

4. Bank row could delay Croatia’s EU entry

 

The latest of many disputes between Slovenia and Croatia flared up 23 July when Ljubljana said it might hold up Croatian entry into the EU over a longstanding dispute about a defunct Slovenian bank.

 

Croatia is expected to join the EU in July 2013 but must first win approval by all 27 member countries.

 

The dispute concerns 172 million euros ($208 million) owed to Croatian depositors of the former Ljubljanska Banka. Croatia wants to resolve the issue bilaterally, Reuters reports, but the Slovenians insist on including it in talks on settling a number of disputes among the former Yugoslav republics being led by the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements.

 

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said, "We see this issue as a bilateral issue between Slovenia and Croatia. We continue to encourage both sides to find a mutually agreeable solution," Reuters reports.

 

The two countries have quarreled for years over their land and sea borders and Slovenian fishing rights in the Bay of Piran, leading Slovenia to hold up accession talks with Croatia in 2009.

 

5. CNN gets flack for Kazakhstan profiles

 

A series of reports on Kazakhstan by CNN International has come under fire for treading the line between journalism and public relations. Last week, CNN’s “Eye On” series began running short spots on the country that looked more like infomercials than news coverage, according to EurasiaNet.org. The stories cover a host of not-so-hard-hitting topics, ranging from the country’s growing economy and bright energy future to its drive to become a ski mecca.

 

CNN_Kazakhstan350

 

The EurasiaNet blog post noted that the promo video for the program briefly showed logos for the Astana Economic Forum and for Samruk Kazyna, a state-controlled fund that manages national assets. Some of the pages on the “Eye On” website, however, show a disclaimer at the bottom stating, “CNN's Eye On series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we profile. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reports.”

 

Following EurasiaNet’s lead, The Atlantic also criticized CNN, but this time for not being more transparent with their coverage of Kazakhstan. Max Fisher, an associate editor of the magazine, noted that the version of the Eye On site available in the United States lacked any disclosure of the state sponsorship. Fisher also charged CNN with using interviews with “experts” who are really current or former Kazakhstani government employees.

 

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOL. Ioana Caloianu and Joshua Boissevain are TOL editorial assistants. Sofia Lotto Persio is a TOL editorial intern.
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