Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
Plus, Tymoshenko urges Ukrainians to ditch “mafia” rulers, and a mock assassination attempt on the Czech president goes without a hitch.by Barbara Frye, Ioana Caloianu, and Nino Tsintsadze 1 October 2012
1. As Pussy Riot case moves forward, Kremlin and Russian church deepen bond
As an appeal gets underway against the prison sentences meted out to Pussy Riot, the feminist punk band convicted of hooliganism in August for performing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is defending the church’s close ties with the government and and legislators are moving to enact a blasphemy law.
The Pussy Riot members said they staged their protest in a church as a plea to the Virgin Mary to oust President Vladimir Putin, but they were also critical of the Orthodox Church’s overt support for Putin’s authoritarian regime. Church leader Patriarch Kirill told students at Moscow State University last week that church support for the institutions of power is crucial for a society to enjoy peace and prosperity, Agence France Press reports.
“The institution of power appeared in the world, in a society prone to sin, to safeguard this society so that people could live together,” he said. “[I]t is indispensable to understand that safeguarding the institution of power is a guarantee of a flourishing society."
The state is returning the favor. Lawmakers are likely to pass a bill that would introduce a three-year prison sentence for insulting the feelings of religious believers. Though the measure has not yet become law, it was successfully invoked by 18 people in the southwestern city of Rostov on Don to halt a planned production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which has already been performed in the city repeatedly over the past two decades, state-owned news agency RT reports.
2. Azerbaijan, Israel again deny joint anti-Iran plan
Reports that Azerbaijan and Israel have been conferring over a possible strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities have resurfaced after being denied by Baku several months ago.
Citing two former officers in Azerbaijan’s military and Russian intelligence sources, Reuters reports that Azerbaijani and Israeli officials have been looking at how best to use Azerbaijan’s air bases and intelligence capabilities in the event of a strike against Iran. Relations between neighbors Azerbaijan and Iran have grown increasingly sour over the past year, and Baku bought $1.6 billion worth of weaponry and aircraft from Israel in February.
Though an independent member of Azerbaijan’s parliament who sits on the foreign affairs committee told the news agency that his country would likely play a role in an attack on Iran, a member of the presidential staff said, “No third country can use Azerbaijan to perpetrate an attack on Iran. All this talk is just speculation,” according to Reuters.
Officials in Israel were more tight-lipped, though what Reuters identified as “one political source” said that Israel could use Azerbaijan’s bases for refueling, albeit in a carefully concealed manner.
3. Tymoshenko makes political appeal via hospital video
Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former prime minister of Ukraine, has urged voters to replace the country’s government in 28 October parliamentary elections, the Guardian reports.
In a video released 29 September, Tymoshenko calls President Viktor Yanukovych a criminal and his government a mafia regime transforming Ukraine into a police state. She urges the electorate to vote for her Fatherland party.
“If you don't realize now that the criminals are governing Ukraine, that a mafia is ruling in Ukraine, then nothing will protect you from what is happening now in the country, with Yanukovych at the helm. I am sure that either the people will wake up and overthrow this criminal gang during the upcoming elections, or everyone will be treated as they treat those who are now under their control,” Tymoshenko said in the two-minute video, according to Radio Free Europe.
The video was filmed by Tymoshenko’s lawyer during a visit to the hospital where the former prime minister is being treated for back problems. After its release, the prisons service said it would seek to move Tymoshenko from the hospital to a prison cell, RFE reported.
Last year, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years behind bars for abuse of her authority as prime minister in signing gas contracts with Russia in 2009. Her trial and imprisonment was condemned by the European Union.
4. Bodyguards fail to prevent a mock attempt on Czech president’s life
A young Czech attacked President Vaclav Klaus and walked away last week before security forces could react, Reuters reports. The incident took place on 28 September in the village of Chrastava about 70 miles north of Prague as Klaus visited to inaugurate a bridge. Despite the presence of the president’s bodyguards, 26-year-old Pavel Vondrous was able to approach him and fire plastic pellets from an imitation handgun. No one was injured.
Before being arrested, Vondrous walked away and told the Nova TV channel that Klaus is “blind and deaf to the laments of the people.”
The president’s chief of security, who was not present at the incident, has resigned. In an interview with the Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper, Klaus called the mock assassination a political act that “highlighted much deeper issues within the society,” according to Radio Prague.
5. Serbia to re-inter once-disgraced monarch on home soil
Serbia is welcoming home the last monarch of Yugoslavia, Prince Paul Karadjordjevic, 36 years after his death in Paris, Balkan Insight reports.
Karadjordjevic was overthrown by the military in 1941 after signing a pact with the Axis powers that was supposed to allow Yugoslavia to maintain its territory and neutrality. Instead, Nazi Germany led an invasion of Yugoslavia only days after the coup.
Karadjordjevic and his family lived in exile the rest of their lives, as he was considered a war criminal by Yugoslavia’s communist regime. That verdict was quashed in December and his memory was rehabilitated in Serbia.
The remains of the prince and his wife and son were exhumed in Lausanne, Switzerland, and brought to Serbia, where they will be buried on 6 October at a royal mausoleum.
Among Karadjordjevic’s achievements was the establishment of an autonomous Croat region in Yugoslavia in an effort to resolve longstanding disputes between Serbs and Croats, Balkan Insight notes.
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.