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Moscow Slams Pussy Riot Defenders, Kyrgyz Government Falls

Plus, Karadzic's bid to subpoena Clinton is rejected, and Putin will be the one to choose state company directors.

by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 23 August 2012

1. Russian Foreign Ministry lashes out at Pussy Riot defenders

 

Alexander Lukashevich
Moscow has some harsh words for western critics of the Pussy Riot case, RIA Novosti reports. On 22 August, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich dismissed the global solidarity movement forming around the three band members who were convicted last week of "hooliganism" for performing an anti-Putin protest song at a Moscow cathedral in February.

 

"Our opponents ignore the fact that the punk group's action was insulting to millions of Orthodox believers, as well as representatives of other faiths who adhere to traditional moral values," he said, according to RIA Novosti.

 

Lukashevich said the international criticism was "politically motivated," Radio Free Europe reports. He also called "totally groundless" the claim that the Kremlin is stifling artistic expression, as a guerilla art group received a state prize last year "for a rather controversial piece of art," RIA Novosti reports. The Voina art collective, with links to one of the convicted members of Pussy Riot and her husband, won a state arts award for a painting of a giant penis on a Moscow drawbridge that, when raised, faced the local headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

 

Human rights groups, celebrities including Madonna, and ordinary people worldwide have rallied around Pussy Riot since their arrest in March for performing a song at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral urging the Virgin Mary to throw President Vladimir Putin out of office. Amnesty International labeled the young women "prisoners of conscience," and last week saw solidarity demonstrations from Moscow to London to New York City.

Supporters of Pussy Riot rally in London on 17 August. Photo by Sean Comiskey/flickr.

 

On 21 August, hackers infiltrated the website of the Moscow court that sentenced the trio to two years in prison, Reuters reports. A group calling itself AnonymousRussia posted a statement denouncing Putin and demanding the young women's release. The hacked site was visible for several hours that morning, according to Reuters.

 

2. In two days, two parties quit ruling Kyrgyz coalition

 

Kyrgyzstan's government has collapsed following the departure of the second ruling coalition partner in two days, Radio Free Europe reports. The Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party announced its resignation 22 August, one day after Ar-Namys (Dignity) did the same.

 

The collapse follows coalition infighting over the country's economic woes and corruption, according to RFE. In a statement, the parties requested Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov's resignation.

 

In Bishkek, opinions differ on the next step. RFE quotes a coalition spokesman as saying the cabinet must resign immediately so a new government may be formed, while Babanov's office counters that the president must first weigh in.

 

The departures come a week after the parties announced plans to hold a parliamentary no-confidence vote on Babanov's government, formed in December.

 

3. The Hague refuses to subpoena former U.S. President Clinton

 

The UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague has denied a request by former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic to question former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Balkan Insight reports.

 

The court ruled that Karadzic, on trial for war crimes during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, could not demonstrate the necessity of Clinton's testimony. Moreover, other sources could provide the information Karadzic wished to obtain from Clinton, the court suggested, according to Balkan Insight.

 

Karadzic wanted the former U.S. president to testify in connection with illegal arms shipments to Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) combatants during the war and an alleged commitment by Washington to supply Bosniak and Croat fighters with arms if peace negotiations failed, according to Balkan Insight. The latter, Karadzic maintains, inspired the Bosniaks to bombard a Sarajevo market in August 1995, an infamous attack on civilians that Karadzic himself is indicted for.

 

Arrested in 2008, Karadzic had been on the run since being indicted in 1995. He faces charges including genocide for allegedly participating in a campaign of ethnic cleansing during the conflict.

 

Karadzic maintains innocence. His defense team plans to begin presenting evidence in October, Balkan Insight reports.

 

4. Putin empowers president's office to appoint state company heads

 

Vladimir Putin has issued a directive empowering the Russian president to choose executives at state corporations like RIA Novosti, the national news service, The Moscow Times reports.

 

Though the Russian president has had de facto approval over these positions for more than a decade, the new order makes the power official, The Moscow Times reports, citing Russian media. Until now, only the prime minister could officially approve top appointments at state-owned firms.

 

Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank told The Moscow Times that the decree allows Putin to retain powers he had as prime minister. Petrov suggested Putin doesn't want to relinquish authority to the new cabinet of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

 

On 22 August, the Kremlin's website published another Putin decree announcing the firing of several top officials at the Interior Ministry, Radio Free Europe reports.

 

5. Slaying of opposition leader sparks violent protests in Tajikistan

 

Tensions have flared in Tajikistan as several thousand people took to the streets 22 August in Khorog, the capital of the increasingly troubled Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region where deadly clashes between militants and the Tajik military took place in late July. Protests calling for the withdrawal of Tajik forces and the resignation of the region’s governor continued in the city 23 August, according to Radio Free Europe.

 

The demonstration was sparked by news of the assassination of Imomnazar Imomnazarov, a local opposition leader and former civil-war commander who was reportedly killed in his home 22 August in a grenade attack. Imomnazarov was one of several suspects wanted in connection with the stabbing death of a regional security head in July that sparked the initial fighting between Tajik authorities and militants.

 

Following news of his death, mourners carried Imomnazarov’s body to the central square near the regional administration building. Police opened fire on the crowd, wounding two people after protesters there began throwing rocks at the building, according to Asia-Plus. Protesters in Khorog blamed Imomnazarov’s death on Tajik authorities and said the killing represents a violation of the recent peace agreement reached after militants handed over weapons and its leaders surrendered to police, RFE reports.

 

Earlier this week, Tajik authorities told all men in the volatile region to report to local military offices for questioning on their military backgrounds, according to RFE. However a spokesman for the military said this is a “routine and nationwide procedure” not related to last month’s clashes.

 

S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Joshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant.
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