Plus, tit for tat expulsions in Belarusian teddy-bear war and Sofia will lose a much-hated sculpture.by Ky Krauthamer, Josh Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu and Ernad Halilovic 7 August 2012
Former Mongolian President Nambar Enkhbayar was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in prison 2 August.
Enkhbayar was convicted of several crimes, including stealing television equipment donated to a Buddhist monastery and not paying duties to ship books he wrote from South Korea to Mongolia, according to Businessweek. He has 14 days to appeal the verdict.
In a country where mining is a vital source of income, the question whether to sell off some of the largest mining operations or keep them under local control has become the main political debating point, Deutsche Welle writes. Enkhbayar supported moves to retain local control over the huge Tavan Tolgoi coal mine.
Several hidden listening devices and a video camera were found in the Moscow office of Russian anti-corruption activist, blogger, and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, according to RIA Novosti. Navalny said in a blog post that devices were found after his friend and lawyer, Andrei Mishchenkov, thought to bring a bug detector to his office at RosPil, a nonprofit aimed at exposing corruption in Russian government.
Navalny and Mishchenkov also posted photos of the devices on their Twitter accounts. Navalny called the police, who he said also found a radio transmitter and a battery.
Navalny was recently charged with embezzling funds from a state-owned timber company in 2009 while serving as an adviser to the Kirov regional governor. He has been ordered not to leave Moscow and could face up to 10 years in prison. Navalny denies the charges, which his lawyer called an attempt at removing Navalny from the political scene.
Sweden and Belarus are taking diplomatic pot shots at each other as their “teddy-bear war” escalates.
First, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced 3 August it would not renew the accreditation of Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson, charging that throughout Eriksson’s seven years in Minsk, “his activities were aimed not at the strengthening of relations between Belarus and Sweden, but on their erosion.”
In a swift counter-announcement, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called the move an “expulsion” and “a serious breach of the norms for relations between states.”
Bildt said the proposed new Belarusian ambassador to Stockholm would not be welcome and the residence permits of two other Belarusian diplomats would be revoked.
Earlier last week, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sacked two senior military officials for failing to safeguard national security during a 4 July stunt sponsored by a Swedish advertising agency, when a small plane dropped nearly 1,000 teddy bears over Minsk tagged with complaints about Belarus’ human-rights record.
Lebedev, whose interests include a share in the muckraking Novaya Gazeta newspaper, claims the frequent questioning and inspections by federal agents are fueled by anger over the paper’s reporting on corruption, with the aim of driving him out of the newspaper business.
Lebedev’s media assets include Britain’s The Independent and Evening Standard. He holds a 49 percent stake in Novaya Gazeta together with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“I’ll admit: [the police] won. It’s impossible to conduct business, as they are everywhere,” Lebedev told The New York Times. He said police had questioned him about his political views and urged him to leave the country. Until now, the former Soviet KGB officer’s connections with the security agencies have protected him against official harassment, according to the report.
A tall, crumbling monument in central Sofia will be gone by the end of the month, city officials said, according to the Sofia Globe. Built in the early 1980s to commemorate 1,300 years of Bulgarian statehood, the infamous abstract sculpture in a garden in front of the National Palace of Culture has been fenced off for years as a danger to the public, the news site reports, which has not kept occasional climbers and graffiti sprayers away.
City Hall also said a large tent at the entrance to the main railway station will be dismantled by the end of the summer, Novinite reports, and a new metro station at the Palace of Culture will open in September as part of a project to revitalize the area.
The iron and concrete Soviet-era Monument to 1,300 Years of Bulgaria has been considered a safety hazard for years. The many-peaked tent at the railway station, erected in 2003, ripped under heavy snow last winter, dumping snow on pedestrians, but lack of funds forced the city to delay dismantling both structures, the Sofia Globe writes. However, chief city architect Petar Dikov said 1,000 tons of steel from the monument will be sold for scrap, with the proceeds going to the city budget, and the tent fabric and be re-used at sporting events.
The urge to modernize the city and remove a number of communist-era features has inspired several large makeover projects, including the ambitious Sofia 2020.