Plus, drought hits Romania’s farmers and gun ownership, legal and illegal, remains high in the Balkans.by Barbara Frye, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Ernad Halilovic 9 August 2012
On the fourth anniversary of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, retired Russian generals say former President Dmitry Medvedev’s indecision at the beginning of the conflict cost time and lives.
The generals made their remarks in a video titled “The Lost Day” circulating on the Internet.
According to Reuters, the generals say Georgia began attacking South Ossetia, a breakaway province of that country, on 6 August, but Russia waited two days to intervene – even though an action plan was already in place.
Yuri Baluyevsky, the former chief of the general staff, says the Russian army moved only at the initiative of Vladimir Putin, who at that time was prime minister and was in Beijing for the Olympics, the news agency reports.
"I am convinced, until there was a kick from Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] in Beijing, everyone here, speaking politely, was afraid of something," Baluyevsky said.
In response, Medvedev, who was in South Ossetia to commemorate the war’s anniversary, said, “All the decisions were made exactly when they had to be made,” according to RIA Novosti.
Reuters notes that the style of the anonymous video documentary “resembles the anti-opposition propaganda films aired on national television channels during the election campaign.”
The film’s real significance could be as a harbinger of tough times ahead for Medvedev in his role as prime minister. "The hawks are attacking Medvedev. They do not like him because they believe that the political rallies of the last few months are the result of his flirtation with the liberal-minded opposition," analyst Pavel Salin told Reuters.
Russian police last week found 70 members of a radical Islamist sect living underneath a three-story building in the suburbs of the Tatarstan capital, Kazan. Reports do not say specifically how police found the group, only that the discovery was part of an operation to trace the killers of a top Tatarstan Muslim cleric.
The number of children in the sect has been reported at 20 and 27, ranging in age from infants to a pregnant 17-year-old. According to the BBC, prosecutors said some of the children have been in the underground bunker for more than a decade. They have been kept in the compound, away from school and medical care.
The sect was founded by 83-year-old Faizrakhman Sattarov, who proclaimed himself a prophet in violation of Islam’s teaching that Muhammad is the last prophet, a Muslim theologian, Rais Suleimanov, told the BBC.
Sattarov’s followers retreated to his house’s eight-story underground lair in the early 2000s and had lived there with no sunlight or heat. He declared the sect and its territory independent of the Russian state.
The BBC reports that four members of the sect have been charged with child abuse and that Sattarov has been charged under a broad criminal statute.
Months of scorching temperatures and little rain have severely damaged Romanian crops, Balkan Insight reports. Up to 80 percent of the corn crop could suffer, according to Laurentiu Baciu, president of the League of Agricultural Producers. He advised the government to declare a state of emergency, which would stop all exports.
In late July, Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin announced that this year’s wheat harvest would total 4.75 million metric tons, which Bloomberg put at 34 percent below last year's 7.2 million tons.
Still, Constantin said that despite the losses, the situation is not critical. He said his ministry will offer subsidies for damaged crops and irrigation costs. Officials say the country is producing enough food to meet domestic demand, although prices are likely to rise.
According to Medias Info, the executive director of the National Meteorological Administration, Elena Mateescu, said July 2012 was the warmest month in 52 years, and that the heat wave would persist through August and September. The scorching summer comes less than year after widespread drought in the region caused the Danube to fall to record low levels, hampering river traffic.
Serbians pack the most heat of any people in southeastern Europe. The country’s residents legally own about 1.2 million firearms, B92 reports, and another 1 million illegal weapons, according to SETimes, which cites a study by the Small Arms Survey in Switzerland.
There are nearly 16 registered firearms for every 100 people in Serbia, but taking into account unregistered weapons, the figure is closer to 38. Serbia has the fifth-highest rate of gun ownership in the world, according to the Guardian.
In the region, Montenegro comes in a close second at 14.36 registered weapons per 100 people. Croatia, Bosnia, and Bulgaria have fewer guns – 8.36, 7.97, and 4.03, respectively – while the figure is below 1 per 100 people only in Romania, Belgrade police inspector Ivan Cvijovic told SETimes.
Southeastern Europe has some 3 million registered firearms and an estimated 4 million illegal weapons, SETimes reports, citing the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons. A history of conflict and corruption are partly to blame for the high number of illicit firearms in the region, as is lenient punishment for owners of illegal guns.
“Although Karimov was the last Communist Party boss of Soviet Uzbekistan, the system of which he was part is now redefined as Russian occupation,” IWPR writes. “His consolidation of authoritarian power after 1991 is rebranded as a national ‘struggle against Communism,’ and he becomes ‘father of the modern Uzbek nation.’ ”
The books delete mention of any benefit that might have accrued to now-isolationist Uzbekistan from the cultural and ethnic mingling that took place during the borderless Soviet era, IWPR notes. Recent ethnic clashes in Uzbekistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan have been left out as well.
Karimov’s regime is a notorious human rights abuser, and, although accurate information is difficult to come by, estimates of the incidence of poverty in Uzbekistan range from one-fourth to one-third of the population. Still, a university history teacher told IWPR that teachers were now required to “say that the last 20 years have been the best period in the history of Uzbek nation.”