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Ivanishvili Clarifies Stance on Saakashvili Resignation, Kyrgyz Mine Protest Turns Into Riot

Plus, Ukraine moves to criminalize the promotion of homosexuality and a Russian film studio receives a gift of rarely seen silent movies.

by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 3 October 2012

1. Kyrgyz protesters demand nationalization of Kumtor mine


A rally in central Bishkek 3 October ostensibly to demand the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine ballooned into an anti-government riot as young men tried to force their way into the main government building, the Associated Press reports.


Protesters reportedly called for the resignation of Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiev, only a month after he took office. On 1 October Satybaldiev ruled out the nationalization of the mine and promised to defend foreign investments, Reuters reports.


Kumtor’s owner, the Canadian company Centerra, says the mine is a vital part of the Kyrgyz economy. Centerra said it paid more than $170 million in taxes and other payments to the state in 2011, the equivalent of almost 10 percent of the national budget. The Kyrgyz government owns 33 percent of Centerra shares.


But environmentalists charge the mine is contaminating the environment around its site high in the mountains of Issyk-Kul province and contributing to the melting of nearby glaciers. Residents of villages below the mine say they have suffered from unexplained health problems since the mine opened 15 years ago.


Kyrgyz officials and Centerra management fended off another challenge last winter when they negotiated a new pay and benefits package with mine workers after a 10-day strike shut down the mine.


The Kyrgyz parliament voted for renegotiation of the contract with Centerra in June after new allegations of environmental damage around the mine, the AP writes, leading to renewed calls for the mine to be nationalized.


2. Georgian election winner eases call for Saakashvili’s resignation


Ivanishvili_10.12Bidzina Ivanishvili
Opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili stressed in an official statement 3 October that neither he nor the Georgian Dream coalition, winner of the 1 October parliamentary elections, had made a “political demand” for the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili.


Numerous media outlets earlier quoted Ivanishvili as calling for Saakashvili to leave office and call early presidential elections. The Georgian Dream leader now appears to be drawing a line between his personal view and the coalition’s official position.


On 2 October he told a press conference that Saakashvili’s resignation would avert a “sort of a dual power” situation, reports. The president is empowered to nominate the prime minister and cabinet. If parliament rejects three such presidential nominations, the president can dismiss it. However, this power cannot be exercised during the first six months of a legislative term.  


Prominent opposition member Irakli Alasania, interviewed by Ivanishvili’s family-owned television channel Maestro, said the coalition was ready to cooperate with Saakashvili until his presidential term expires in 2013.


Presidential elections are due to take place in October 2013. Saakashvili is constitutionally barred from serving another term.


The latest vote count, with 97 percent of districts reporting, gives the six-party Georgian Dream coalition 55 percent of the vote and the governing United National Movement 40 percent. No other parties passed the 5 percent threshold required to enter parliament.


3. Uncertainty for homosexuals in Ukraine and Serbia


Ukraine’s parliament has given preliminary approval to a bill that would make the promotion of homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison, Reuters reports.


The new prohibitions would apply to anyone convicted of importing, producing, or spreading “works that promote homosexuality,” the news agency reports.


The measure made it through first reading despite protests from domestic and foreign human rights groups. But its supporters argue that homosexuality threatens national security because it could cause an “epidemic” of HIV/AIDS, destroys the family, and could lead to a “demographic crisis,” Radio Free Europe reports.


In a 2011 poll in Ukraine, 78 percent of respondents took a dim view of homosexuality, according to Reuters, which notes that the bill could prove popular ahead of the country’s 28 October parliamentary elections. The measure must survive a second vote in parliament. President Viktor Yanukovych has not said if he plans to sign the bill should it reach his desk.


In Serbia, uncertainty lingers over whether or not a gay pride parade in Belgrade will take place 6 October as planned. A member of the organizing committee said that if the parade is banned, the event could take place indoors.


Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the parade poses a security risk and authorities were considering whether to ban it. Belgrade authorities used the same reasoning to cancel the 2010 parade as right-wing groups issued a string of threats to disrupt it.


The parade is meant to cap off Belgrade’s third annual Pride Week. As of 1 October, no confrontations or violence had been reported since the events began over the weekend.


4. Serbian chetniks stripped of some veterans’ benefits


Serbia’s Constitutional Court has overturned parts of a 2005 law that granted eligibility for pensions and other benefits to veterans of the World War II chetnik groups on an equal basis with communist partisans. Balkan Insight writes that members of the Ravna Gora Chetnik movement, who fought to restore the prewar Yugoslav monarchy, will now lose eligibility for some welfare benefits enjoyed by partisan veterans. However, they are still eligible for state pensions and retain the right to be rehabilitated.


The ruling angered supporters of the surviving chetniks. Aleksandar Cotric, a vice president of the conservative, monarchist Serbian Renewal Movement, said the Constitutional Court lacked jurisdiction in the case and that his group would probably appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. "The court of history has confirmed that the Ravna Gora Movement was anti-fascist and liberating," he said, according to the Croatian Hina news agency, citing the Danas Serbian daily.


About 3,000 pension requests by chetnik veterans are awaiting approval, Balkan Insight writes. During the war monarchist and partisan groups separately fought German armies while fighting each other. Under communist rule the chetniks were seen as fascist collaborators, but after the 2005 law passed, several former monarchist leaders were officially rehabilitated, although the case of the chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic is still pending.


serbian chetniks 1944Serbian chetniks in 1944. Source:


5. Hundreds of pre-1917 film rarities headed home to Russia


Russian cinephiles will soon have a chance to see a rare collection of films made before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, according to Radio Free Europe. The collection of 350 silent films originally belonged to Samuel Kipnis, a Russian emigrant who settled in Miami after the revolution. After his death in 1982, they were transferred to the film library of the University of Florida and eventually were rescued from the trash bin by the owner of a cinema technology company, Steven Krams.


On 21 September, Krams donated the film collection to the St. Petersburg film studio Lenfilm. Andrei Sigle, the head of Lenfilm’s production department, said such a large collection of rare films represented “an important period in the history of our cinema” given that film production was limited in tsarist times and that almost 80 percent of the films made then were either lost or destroyed.


However, Lenfilm – Russia's oldest film studio and the birthplace of several cinematic gems – says it is unable to restore and digitalize the films owing to its difficult financial situation and has asked the Russian state film archive Gosfilmofond for assistance.


Stenka_Razin_filmScene from one of the earliest Russian narrative films, “Stenka Razin.” Source: YouTube

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLIoana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Andrew McIntyre and Nino Tsintsadze are TOL editorial interns.
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