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Putin Death Plot Suspect Faces Extradition, Ponta Says He Can Live With Basescu

Plus, Kyrgyzstan’s methadone program comes under fire and the EU accuses Czechs and Latvians of anti-competitive telecoms plans.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Ernad Halilovic 15 August 2012

1. Ukraine may extradite would-be Putin assassin to Russia

 

Adam Osmayev, the suspected organizer of a plan to kill Vladimir Putin, can be extradited to Russia, a Ukrainian appeals court ruled 14 August.

 

Ukrainian special services arrested Osmayev in Odessa in February after a homemade bomb detonated in an apartment, killing one man and injuring another, Radio Free Europe reports. The Russian Prosecutor-General’s office requested his extradition. Osmayev’s lawyer said he would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

RIA Novosti reports that Osmayev, an ethnic Chechen, confessed to planning the assassination on the orders of Chechen warlord Doku Umarov.

 

News of the arrests broke a week before the 4 March election in which then-Prime Minister Putin was elected president for a third term. Some Russian analysts and opposition figures said at the time the plot was a fabrication designed to help Putin at the polls, RIA Novosti writes, noting that reports of attempts on Putin’s life also preceded the presidential elections in 2000 and 2004.

 

Ukraine_raid_PutinThis screen grab from Ukrainian television shows a police raid on a building in Odessa where the plotters were reportedly found. Source: YouTube

 

2. New research reveals big wage gaps among some post-Soviet capitals

 

Moscow and Astana offer the highest salaries among the capital cities of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Tashkent brings up the rear, new research by the CIS statistics bureau has found.

 

Workers in Moscow earned an average monthly salary in 2011 of 43,272 rubles ($1,350), well ahead of Astana, where salaries were the equivalent of $830. Baku came in third at $600, followed by Minsk and Kyiv at about $470 each, according to the Arka Armenian news agency.

 

Tashkent workers made just $120 a month last year, Tengri News reports.

 

The average monthly salary in Kazakhstan as of May was 98,942 tenge ($660), according to Tengri News.

 

Astana’s workers may bring home relatively good wages, but the struggle for jobs is fierce. Arka reports that there are an average of five candidates for each opening in the booming Kazakh capital.


3. EU weighs in on anti-competitive Czech, Latvian telecoms plans

 

The European Commission has vetoed the Czech telecoms regulator’s plan to split the country’s broadband market into regions.

 

In a 13 August statement, the commission said the regulator CTU’s proposal would in some cases have lifted obligations on the country’s largest telecoms company, Spanish-owned Telefónica, and might have led to higher prices for fast Internet connections.

 

CTU wanted to split the Czech broadband market into two geographical areas, European Voice writes, a step that could have relieved Telefónica of the obligation to provide broadband access to competitors in some parts of the country.

 

In a separate decision, the commission on 14 August expressed concern over the Latvian public utilities commission’s proposed high levels for the “termination rates,” that telecoms networks charge one another for fixed-line calls, the Baltic Times reports. The plan would have allowed Latvia to apply rates of 0.29 euro cents per call and 0.26 euro cents per minute from April 2013, higher than in most EU countries. The rate in France is 0.08 euro cents per minute.

 

4. Ponta sees a new dawn for Romania, Basescu or no Basescu

 

Ponta100Victor Ponta
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, insisting the political crisis that has gripped his country for the past couple of months is about to end, told the Guardian that the resolution of the crisis will put an end to 20 years of “lost time” since the fall of communism in Romania.

 

The crisis pitting the new, left-leaning government against the center-right president, Traian Basescu, erupted because Basescu “could not accept he did not have [a] majority in parliament and he constantly tried to delay the decisions of the government, attack the government,” Ponta said. He was prepared to “cohabitate” with Basescu should his government’s attempt to oust the president through a referendum end in failure.

 

Romania’s Constitutional Court will decide 31 August whether the voter lists used in the 29 July referendum were valid. A large majority of those who took part voted for Basescu’s impeachment, but the result was ruled invalid because turnout failed to reach 50 percent.

 

On 13 August, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said “credible allegations of large scale fraudulent voting, attempts to change voter lists, and attempts to pressure the Constitutional Court” will cast doubt on the outcome of the referendum regardless of the ruling, according to Hotnews. Gordon held talks with both Ponta and Basescu in Bucharest.

 

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also urged Ponta and the other political forces in Romania “to set their focus very firmly on the urgent need to restore stability,” adding that political developments in the country are closely scrutinized by European institutions.

 

The Romanian daily Adevarul notes that Ponta's popularity dropped by 7 percentage points in a month to 38 percent in a poll taken in mid-July, while Basescu's rose to 15.5 percent, his highest approval rating in two years.

 

5. Debate over methadone treatment heats up in Kyrgyzstan

 

A growing debate in Kyrgyzstan is threatening to jeopardize a methadone program that is helping more than 1,000 heroin users fight drug addiction, according to EurasiaNet.org. The close of the program could mean trouble for a country already caught up in a growing regional drug problem and an increasing number of HIV infections, largely fueled by injected-drug use.

 

Kyrgyzstan, with an estimated 25,000 to 55,000 intravenous drug users, was the first country in the Commonwealth of Independent States to launch a methadone substitution program in 2002. With 30 centers, it is also one of the few countries in the region to provide the treatment to prisoners.

 

EurasiaNet.org traces the start of the debate to last year with the launch of a short documentary called The Trap that purported to show the dangers and ineffectiveness of methadone treatment. The film, criticized by the Health Ministry for apparently failing to interview any doctors involved in the program, did get enough attention that politicians have started to pick up the cause and voice support for banning methadone.

 

A 2009 report by the World Health Organization shows that the methadone program has made a significant improvement on the lives of those addicted to heroin or other opiates.

 

“In Kyrgyzstan, methadone substitution therapy has been already used for 10 years, but a part of the society is still against its use,” Alexander Zelichenko, the Kyrgyzstan coordinator for the Central Asia Drug Action Program, told the 24.kg news website.

 

methadoneB350A screen grab from a BBC documentary on drug use in Kyrgyzstan. Source: YouTube

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLJoshua Boissevain and Ioana Caloianu are TOL editorial assistants. Ernad Halilovic is a TOL editorial intern.
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