Two violent attacks in the volatile North Caucasus republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia have left eight dead and many more wounded. The attacks happened hours apart on 18 and 19 August as worshipers in the predominately Muslim region celebrated Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Of the morning of 19 August, a suicide bomber killed seven police officers and wounded 15 other people in the Malgobek district of Ingushetia, according to The New York Times. The bombing happened as police officers gathered for the funeral of a colleague who was shot the day before. Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the president of the republic, told journalists the bombing and the initial shooting were believed to be coordinated events carried out by a criminal gang with ties to insurgents and were timed to coincide with the religious holiday, The Times reports.
Hours before the bombing in Ingushetia, masked assailants opened fire in a Shiite mosque in neighboring Dagestan as some 50 worshipers were participating in celebrations for Eid al-Fitr, according to Reuters. One person was killed in the attack, and eight were wounded, some gravely.
“We were sitting, just finished our prayer and wanted to break our fast,” one witness told Reuters. “People just sat down, started eating, and the door opened and there was shooting from automatic guns.”
The gunmen also set explosive charges in the building before escaping, RIA Novosti reports. One of the devices detonated, injuring several more people, while another device – equivalent to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of TNT – was disabled by police the next day. News reports have not cited a connection between the attack in Dagestan and Ingushetia other than the timing of the holiday.
The populations of both republics, much like that of war-torn neighbor Chechnya, are predominately Sunni Muslim. The area has seen a rise in militant Islamists seeking independence from Moscow. The violence has mainly been confined to the North Caucasus, but a July assassination attempt on two religious leaders in Tatarstan that left one dead is stoking concerns that an Islamist insurgency is spreading into other parts of Russia.
Changes to Hungary’s higher education law are forcing high school graduates to work in the country for at least 10 years after graduating in exchange for a state-funded college placement, the BBC reports. And those sponsored places are becoming rarer: they have been cut by 40 percent from last year, with the most drastic reductions affecting subjects such as economics and law, for which there were only 50 slots available in 2012.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended the cuts by saying the country was producing too many graduates for the number of jobs available and that state funds should go into disciplines that continue to generate jobs, such as engineering.
A requirement that students whose education is publicly funded must work domestically for at least twice the period of time they were in college went into effect this year. Hungarian students pay tuition fees of up to 550,000 forints, or $2,500, for an undergraduate economics course.
One of the law’s unintended consequences could be to encourage students to pursue their education abroad, one student activist told the BBC. The news agency cites recent surveys showing that half of Hungarians under the age of 30 are considering leaving the country.
The leader of an opposition party in Azerbaijan is being investigated on suspicion of poisoning the country’s former president, who died of cancer 12 years ago, Radio Free Europe reports.
Elchibey was president of Azerbaijan for one year before being overthrown in a June 1993 military coup. He was succeeded by Heydar Aliev, father of the current president, Ilham Aliev.
Elchibey returned to Baku from provincial exile in 1997. As RFE reports, he sought medical treatment in Turkey, where he died in 2000.
Now Gadjiyev says that at some point Elchibey told him he had been poisoned by Kerimli, who vigorously denies the charges. The news agency notes that Kerimli and Elchibey were in the same political party but their alliance was splintering at the time.
The probe could be an attempt to sideline Kerimli, whom RFE calls one of the “only serious challengers” to Aliev in next year’s presidential elections. Elchibey’s family called the investigation “frivolous” and demanded that it be dropped.
Poland is looking to sell hundreds of small firms that have remained in government hands since the fall of communism two decades ago, The Wall Street Journal reports. Most of the big prizes were sold long ago, and Warsaw has kept a controlling interest in businesses in strategic industries, but that still leaves, among other entities, “an animal-breeding station, a handful of health spas, a maker of traditional Polish pottery, and an animation studio,” the newspaper writes.
In the ongoing privatizations, new owners have cut payrolls and pursued innovations, but where investors are thin on the ground, the government is offering easy terms to employees who want to buy shares in their companies. Many do so not expecting profit but rather to save a company where they, and sometimes their relatives, have worked for years.
The Journal reports that Warsaw has taken in $15.5 billion from privatizations since the current government came to power in 2007. “Some privatizations do bring in revenue, which helps the budget. Other companies are in bad financial shape. Finding them an investor is the only way to save them,” Deputy Treasury Minister Tomasz Lenkiewicz told the newspaper.
To halt the decline of water levels in the crucial Tuul River, Mongolia has turned to the forces of nature for help. The country’s Nature Protection Agency is releasing beavers imported from Germany and Russia with a mission to build dams that will shore up the river during dry spells, EurasiaNet.org reports.
A 2003 survey showed that about 30 percent of the river’s tributaries had dried up, the website reports. More than half of the country’s population lives along the Tuul.
Mongolian experts warn that the beaver-dam program will take a while to show results. The German beavers are being kept in captivity to breed and become acclimated to the extremes of the Mongolian climate. A similar program in Bavaria, where beavers had been hunted to extinction, took 10 years to bear fruit, a naturalist at the University of Mongolia told EurasiaNet.org.
Although a colony of beavers lives in the western part of the country, they are considered critically endangered and will not be uprooted for this project, which will cost 1 billion tugriks ($740,000).
“It’s a very important river and we have to do what we can to make sure we protect it for the future. The [imported] beavers will be the cheapest and most effective natural method,” said Delgermaa Yunger, director of the Nature Protection Agency’s office in the capital of Ulaanbaatar.