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Russian TV Uncovers Alleged Opposition Plot, Kazakh Opposition Leader Jailed

Plus, a Serbian party takes a beating in Bosnian elections and a dramatic protest by a former Albanian political prisoner.

by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Nino Tsintsadze 9 October 2012

1. Russian oppositionist linked to “takeover” plot


Russian investigators have summoned Left Front opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov over state-television claims that he was conspiring with Georgian lawmakers and foreign funders to seize power in Russia, according to RIA Novosti.


Udaltsov said was he due to appear before the state’s highest criminal investigation body, the Investigation Committee, 10 October to answer questions related to allegations made by the state-run NTV’s documentary broadcast late last week that apparently shows hidden camera footage of him and Georgian politician Givi Targamadze discussing plans to use $50 million from Andrei Borodin, the ex-Bank of Moscow head, to take over power in cities across the country.


Udaltsov, who was the target of the film’s prequel earlier this year, says that the charges made are false and that the film is part of a wider attempt to bolster public support for the arrest of the protest movement’s leaders, according to ITAR-TASS. Targamadze, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's defense and security committee who NTV claimed was responsible for helping organize several “color revolutions,” also called the documentary “propaganda” in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.


In recent weeks, several opposition leaders who participated in May’s protests have found themselves at the center of increased harassment, including the anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, who is facing criminal charges for embezzling state funds.


2. Republika Srpska leader’s party big loser in Bosnian elections


Milorad Dodik
Municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina 7 October saw the party of Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik take a major beating, retaining only 15 of the 41 mayoral posts it previously held, the Southeast European Times reports.


Preliminary results also showed the Party of Democratic Action, the strongest player in Bosniak-inhabited areas, taking 34 mayoral posts, and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), co-founded by war-crime suspect Radovan Karadzic, in second place, winning in 27 municipalities.


The result may indicate a changing of the guard among the Serbian parties, analyst Ian Bancroft writes in Business New Europe.


Voter dissatisfaction over the continued poor economic situation in the Serbian entity helped the SDS gain ground on Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Bancroft writes. The SDS has been more assertive in calling for the entity to break away from the rest of Bosnia, although Dodik also wants independence. He said just before the elections that Republika Srpska is the only self-sustaining part of Bosnia.


The new mayor of the East Ilidza municipality, Predrag Kovac of the SDS, told SE Times, "SNSD has made many mistakes and alienated itself from the people. … People have recognized this and punished them.”


3. Dramatic protest by Albanian ex-political prisoner


A hunger strike by former Albanian political prisoners escalated 8 October when one of the strikers set himself on fire, Balkan Insight reports (warning: graphic photo).


Gjergj Ndreca, 51, was hospitalized with severe burns, Reuters reports. Ndreca was among 20 former political prisoners who started a hunger strike 25 September in central Tirana to publicize their demand to be adequately compensated for their treatment by the communist regime. Ndreca spent eight years in prison and was freed in 1991.


"We want a roof that does not let our children get wet when it rains. A job to live with dignity and to have the possibility of bringing bread and cheese home to our children," the strikers said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.


A law passed in 2007 makes communist-era political prisoners eligible to receive 2,000 lek ($20) for each day of imprisonment, according to Balkan Insight. However, the government divided the compensation payments into eight tranches and has paid out only one of them. Prime Minister Sali Berisha ruled out negotiations with the strikers last week, Reuters writes. Ex-prisoners over the age of 65 will receive their second compensation payments, Berisha said.


An association of former political prisoners says tens of thousands may have been jailed or sent to labor camps. About 5,500 men and 450 women are believed to have been executed during the period of communist rule from 1946 to 1991.


4. Kazakh opposition voice jailed over role in Zhanaozen strike


Vladimir Kozlov
Kazakh activist and leader of the unregistered Alga party Vladimir Kozlov has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and the confiscation of his property, Reuters reports. Along with Kozlov, the opposition activists Serik Saparghali and Aqzhanat Aminov were found guilty 8 October of forming and leading an illegal group, inciting social hatred, and calling for the violent overthrow of Kazakhstan's constitutional order related to the three’s alleged role in the Zhanaozen oil strike in December. Saparghali and Aminov received suspended sentences of four and three years, according to Radio Free Europe.


Reuters cites Judge Berdybek Myrzabekov as saying the trial was motivated by accusations that Kozlov politicized the strike under orders from Mukhtar Ablyazov, a self-exiled opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.


Human rights groups, joined by the United States, expressed concern over Kozlov's sentence. The U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan denounced the “apparent use of the criminal system to silence opposition voices,” Reuters reports.


5. Russian consumers won’t buy a “fragrance of freedom,” perfumer says


A company that sells perfumes to working-class Russians recently unveiled a men’s eau de toilette called V Kontakte, after the most popular Russian social networking site, and is preparing a product called Twitter. But don’t look for more perfumes in that line, the head of the Parade of Stars company, Alexander Korotenko, tells Moskovskie Novosti in an interview.


“Facebook and LiveJournal don’t suggest much connected with fragrances. People outside of the big cities don’t know them much either,” Korotenko said.


The company also produced men’s perfumes named after popular gangster TV shows Boomer and Brigade, one called Che Guevara, and a new scent called CCCP (USSR), most priced at less than $6, the newspaper writes.


Parade of Stars has introduced a scent called Vladimir Central, after a notorious prison and popular song of the same name, but has no plans to exploit the current popularity of jailed punk rockers Pussy Riot or other dissident figures, Korotenko says.


“Support for the opposition is critically weak. You can’t base a brand round it. Maybe 10,000 people on a public square make a newspaper story – but those numbers just don’t stack up for us. Okay, say we really released a ‘Pussy Riot’ perfume and sold a thousand units? It’s chicken feed. … Your average Russian buyer wants bread and entertainment, just like in the ancient world. They don’t care about a ‘Fragrance of Freedom.’ ”


Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLJoshua Boissevain and Ioana Caloianu are TOL editorial assistants. Nino Tsintsadze is a TOL editorial intern.
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