Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
Plus, a top fugitive from Kyrgyzstan surfaces in Minsk and Ukraine’s president looks to work the Russian angle ahead of elections.by Barbara Frye, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Ernad Halilovic 27 August 2012
Anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiment continues to plague Hungary’s public life, as a few recent demonstrations illustrate.
On 25 August the leader of the far-right Jobbik party told hundreds gathered in central Budapest that the country must show “show zero tolerance toward Roma crime and parasitism,” Reuters reports.
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary arm of Jobbik that has been banned, Gabor Vona said, "We need to roll back these hundreds of thousands of Roma outlaws.” He said the European Union should “adopt several hundred thousand of our citizens for a few years” in order to “educate them in European culture” before sending them back.
The rally came two days after a neo-Nazi march in the western village of Devecser, led in part by Gabor Ferenczi, a member of parliament from Jobbik. During the march, participants reportedly chanted, “You are going to die here” and threw stones and water bottles at houses inhabited by Roma.
The self-described “radical” party Jobbik rose to prominence in 2010 when it won 17 percent of the votes in parliamentary elections on an anti-minority and anti-Semitic platform.
In mid-August, AFP reported that soccer fans attending a match between the Hungarian and Israeli national teams in Budapest turned their backs during the playing of Israel’s anthem and shouted insults such as “filthy Jews” and “Buchenwald.” Although a press release from the Hungarian government condemned the fans’ behavior, it said the culprits would not be prosecuted given that “extremist behavior is not in direct contradiction with the law.”
The government of Serbia is suing to reverse the privatization process in Kosovo, Balkan Insight reports. The move, seen as likely to further complicate relations between Belgrade and Pristina, caps years of protests by Serbia that Kosovo did not have the authority to divest itself of companies owned by the government or workers.
Since the sell-off started in earnest nearly 10 years ago, hundreds of companies, from huge mining concerns to shops, have been bought by private investors. Most of the proceeds have been in limbo pending creditors’ and Belgrade’s claims.
Serbia has asked its constitutional court to rule on the status of formerly state-owned property that has been privatized. It bases its claim – and its continuing argument that Kosovo’s statehood is illegal – on UN Resolution 1244, which reaffirms “the commitment of all [UN] member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to which Serbia is the successor state.
Aleksandar Vulin, director of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo, said that if necessary Belgrade will take the matter to international courts, according to Balkan Insight.
One prominent would-be investor in Kosovo is a capital management firm run by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that has submitted a bid for the Post and Telecommunications Company of Kosovo.
Zhanysh Bakiev is alive and well and living in Minsk, apparently. Bakiev, the brother of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, is wanted in Kyrgyzstan on murder charges.
Zhanysh Bakiev’s whereabouts came to light on 17 August, when a Belarusian activist posted photos online of him and two other Kyrgyz fugitives in a Minsk café, according to EurasiaNet.org.
Bakiev served as director of the national guard in his brother’s administration. This is the first time he has surfaced in Belarus since his brother was overthrown in 2010 and much of the family, which had run the country like their private company, fled or was imprisoned.
Kurmanbek Bakiev lives in luxury in Belarus, where he has citizenship, after repeated rejections by Minsk of Bishkek’s requests for his extradition.
Another Bakiev brother, Ahmad, escaped from custody in March while serving a seven-year sentence in Kyrgyzstan for “organizing riots, inciting ethnic hatred, extortion, and fraud,” RIA Novosti reported at the time.
With news of Zhanysh Bakiev’s presence in the Belarusian capital, the Kyrgyzstani government asked that he be detained and extradited. Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry recalled the country’s ambassador on 24 August after the request was ignored, according to RIA Novosti.
EurasiaNet.org reports that the disagreement could have more far-reaching effects, as both countries belong to post-Soviet intergovernmental trade and security organizations.
On 25 August, after meeting for the second time in six weeks with Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych said Ukraine might be willing to “slightly alter our positions in our relations with Russia,” referring to disputes over gas prices and Ukrainian membership in Moscow-led regional organizations.
Ukraine has resisted calls to join Eurasian trade and security groups and to sell its pipelines to Gazprom, the Russian energy giant. At the same time, Kyiv has repeatedly tried to get Moscow to renegotiate gas prices set in January 2009 during a dispute between the two countries that saw Gazprom shut off the tap. That deal saddled Ukraine with a high price and large required gas purchases.
With Yanukovych’s Party of Regions sagging in the polls ahead of the 28 October voting, winning a cut in what the country pays to Russia for natural gas would be a popular move.
Reuters says Moscow has “hinted” that it could give Kyiv a break on the deal if Ukraine were to join a regional alliance with Russia and other post-Soviet states. In return, Yanukovych has asked for observer status for Ukraine in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, made up of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Tensions in Tajikistan’s restive Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region seem to have eased over the weekend after authorities in Dushanbe agreed to begin withdrawing thousands of troops from the area, according to Reuters.
Officials agreed 23 August to remove forces from the provincial capital of Khorog and surrounding areas after 2,000 demonstrators occupied the town’s main square in one of the biggest protests in the country’s recent history. Following news of the withdrawal, protesters went home.
Khorog, and the mountains in Gorno-Badakhshan, saw increased fighting between the Tajik military and local militants in late July. A brief calm settled on the region after rebel leaders agreed to surrender in exchange for government troops leaving the area and amnesty for most of combatants. That calm was broken last week following the assassination of Imomnazar Imomnazarov, a local opposition leader and former civil-war commander. Protesters, calling for the dismissal of local government head Kodiri Kosim, accused security forces of the killing and said Dushanbe had not followed through on its promise to remove troops.
As part of the agreement between officials and local leaders, government troops have 20 days to leave the region and participants in the protest won’t be prosecuted, but Kosim will keep his position, according to Asia-Plus. Communication lines to the city, which were cut off in late July when the fighting started, have also been restored, Asia-Plus also reports.
Now available! A new TOL e-book: "Crimea: The Anatomy of a Crisis" is a compilation of articles from TOL’s past coverage about Russia's annexation of Crimea, placed in the context of long-running disputes over the region. Find out also what's happened to Crimea and its people nearly a year after Russia's move shocked the international community.