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Kyrgyz Crowd Assaults Belarusian Embassy, Ethnic Rift Rocks Macedonia’s Government

Plus, a Polish IT company looks for new business in Russia and the video game that could heighten tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh.

by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, Joshua Boissevain, and Ernad Halilovic 29 August 2012

1. Protesters swarm Belarus embassy in Kyrgyzstan


Dozens of protesters attacked the Belarusian embassy in Bishkek 28 August, throwing rocks and breaking windows, according to The demonstrators were upset that authorities in Belarus have not agreed to extradite Zhanysh Bakiev, the brother of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who is wanted on murder charges and was discovered living in Minsk two weeks ago. The former president has been living in Belarus since his ouster in April 2010. Zhanysh Bakiev, like many others in the family, also fled the country after the coup.


Several of the protesters at the embassy were relatives of people killed when police opened fire on a 7 April 2010 uprising against the Bakiev regime that left some 90 dead. Zhanysh Bakiev, who was head of the National Guard, is accused of giving the order to open fire on protesters. He is also accused of the murder of three people, including former presidential administration chief Medet Sadyrkulov, RIA Novosti reports.


Kyrgyzstan recalled its ambassador from Belarus 24 August after Minsk ignored Bishkek’s request for Bakiev’s extradition. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan has turned to the Commonwealth of Independent States to help convince Belarus to return the former leader’s brother, according to RIA Novosti.


The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it would not follow suit and withdraw its envoy from Bishkek, Interfax reports.




2. Macedonian coalition divides along ethnic lines


Unhealed wounds from the 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising are causing havoc within Macedonia’s ruling coalition, Balkan Insight reports. The Democratic Union of Integration, led by former insurgent Ali Ahmeti, is threatening to leave the shaky coalition unless Albanian fighters are included in a bill on the status of veterans of the conflict.


gruevski_100Nikola Gruevski
The main coalition party, center-right VMRO-DPMNE headed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, sent the bill to parliament 24 August. The law would extend free health care, employment rights, free education, and other privileges to members of the security forces who served in 2001, but explicitly excludes members of paramilitary forces.


Ahmeti’s party claims the bill slights ethnic Albanian veterans and breaches a deal it made with VMRO-DPMNE after elections a year ago not to open the issue of 2001-era veterans during the current administration, Serbian Novosti writes. The insurgency broke out in January 2001 and threatened to spill over into all-out civil war before an internationally brokered peace deal was reached.


Al Jazeera writes that new elections either in the fall or next spring are inevitable unless the coalition finds a compromise deal.


3. Polish software giant set to take control of Russian competitor


Poland’s biggest software maker is setting its sights on the fast-growing Russian market. Asseco Poland has signed a letter of intent to take a majority stake in a large Russian IT firm that serves the banking and financial sectors, Asseco chief executive Adam Goral said 27 August, Reuters reports.


Asseco is expected to pay about 100 million zloty ($30 million) in cash for its stake in the unnamed company, which does business on the Russian and CIS markets, the Warsaw Voice reports, citing the daily Puls Biznesu.


Asseco began by making software for Polish banks, then grew to be the seventh-largest European software vendor in terms of sales in 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Emerging Europe blog. Now it hopes to crack the 14 billion euro ($18 billion) Russian software market. The group, valued at about $1.1 billion, recorded a 22 percent rise in sales in the second half of 2011 to 1.4 billion zlotys ($420 million), according to Reuters. However, the Russian deal has forced the company to delay its planned listing on the American Nasdaq stock exchange, where it hoped to raise between $200 million and $300 million.


4. Belarusian asylum seeker allowed to stay in Ecuador


Ecuador's highest court has ruled against the extradition of Belarusian dissident Alyaksandr Bakarou and ordered his immediate release. Judge Carlos Ramirez from the National Court of Justice ruled 28 August that Bakarou is entitled to political asylum status in Ecuador in spite of pressure from Belarusian authorities, the Associated Press writes.


Bakarou was granted asylum status after fleeing to Ecuador, claiming Belarusian authorities were persecuting him for uncovering a petroleum-smuggling ring involving high government officials. He was detained in June shortly before a visit to the country by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.


Belarusian prosecutors seek to try him on charges of fraud and extortion. "It's easy to accuse [someone] of this because the police, courts, and prosecutor's office are employees of the president and his family," Bakarou said last week while awaiting the ruling on his extradition. He also said he feared he would be killed in Belarus. A Belarusian human-rights activist, Yelena Krasovskaya-Kasperovich, said last week it would be dangerous for Bakarou to return to Belarus, suggesting the authorities would not have persisted with the extradition request if they were not certain that he possessed damaging information.


5. Video games hit too close to home in Armenia, Bosnia


For many video-game players, the European wars of the 1990s may seem like ancient history. One new game, however, is aimed at players well aware that fighting continues in real life, and others are set in ethnically riven Bosnia, in what may be the latest trend in the gaming industry. reports on a new first-person shooter game developed by 19-year-old Farid Hagverdiev and his classmates at the State Oil Academy in Baku. In Isgal Altında: Susa (Under Occupation: Shusha), the goal is to recapture the city of Shusha from the Armenian forces that have occupied Nagorno-Karabakh since the two countries warred over the Azerbaijani territory 20 years ago.


Azerbaijani and Armenian-backed forces continue to engage each other on the front lines of a conflict that Baku insists can end only when Armenia and the international community recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereign right to the territory. Indicating official sanction for the game, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Youth and Sports organized its launch party earlier this summer at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Baku, writes.


Under Occupation: Shusha is a fairly low-tech affair, but two big-budget games are promising the latest in realistic combat effects in their upcoming editions, each of which features a segment set in Sarajevo during the three-year siege of the city by Serb forces, in which an estimated 10,000 civilians died.


One of the games, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 from the Polish company City Interactive, “rewrites history” and paints a false picture of the siege, says an artist based in Sarajevo, Adela Jusic.


“The main character is an American who saves the city. This is a complete paradox, because while we waited to be rescued in Sarajevo, the Americans were silent. Now, all of a sudden, they are depicted as saviors, and children that play this game will have an entirely false image of this time,” Jusic told Balkan Insight.


Sarajevo_video.gamePhotos of the gutted Holiday Inn became icons of the Sarajevo siege. In this promotional image from the makers of “Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2,” a sniper looks out at the hotel. Source:


As part of the international peacekeeping mission to Bosnia, the first U.S. troops arrived in Sarajevo shortly after the Dayton peace accords were signed in November 1995.


The game’s release has been delayed several times and is now set for 2013.


A similar plot line runs through another popular game set for release in October. The American hero of Medal of Honor Warfighter battles villains in the Philippines and Somalia, as well as Sarajevo.



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