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Five Charged in Politkovskaya Killing, Turmoil Hits Georgian TV

Plus, Katowice rises from the dust and Lukashenka criticizes Russia one moment, begs for aid the next.

by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 17 October 2012

1. Russian investigators bring new charges in Politkovskaya murder

 

Politkovskaya_100Anna Politkovskaya
Russia’s Investigative Committee on 15 October charged five people in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

 

Investigators named the suspects as the brothers Rustam, Ibragim, and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, and Lom-Ali Gaytukaev. All are charged with murder and illegal arms trafficking, gazeta.ru reports.

 

Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, a former Moscow police officer earlier charged with involvement in the murder, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and will be tried separately, Russia Beyond the Headlines reports. Pavlyuchenkov is accused of providing surveillance information that made the murder possible.

 

Politkovskaya was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building in October 2006. Her coverage of human rights abuses with an emphasis on Chechnya made her a highly unpopular figure in the Kremlin. When Pavlyuchenkov was charged in July, investigators said the killing was ordered by an "unidentified person upset with [her] publications exposing human rights violations, the stealing of state property and the overstepping of authority by officials,” according to Reuters.

 

Rustam Makhmudov, who is accused of shooting Politkovskaya, was arrested in late May. His two brothers, along with Khadzhikurbanov, were acquitted of involvement in the murder in 2009, but the verdict was overturned by Russia’s supreme court, which ordered a retrial, citing procedural violations by the judge and defense lawyers.

 

2. Georgia’s government-friendly TV stations in ‘crisis’

 

A Georgian television station has been returned to the family of a one-time opponent of President Mikheil Saakashvili in the latest unexpected development affecting the media since Saakashvili’s party lost power in the recent election.

 

Imedi TV, one of the largest privately owned Georgian broadcasters, said 16 October ownership rights to the station would be returned to the family of Badri Patarkatsishvili, Democracy & Freedom Watch reports. Details of the deal have not been released.

 

Wealthy businessman Patarkatsishvili launched the station shortly before Saakashvili came to power in 2004 and owned it until his death in 2008. During large anti-government protests in Tbilisi in 2007, police raided the station, at the time one of the loudest media critics of Saakashvili, and forced it to shut down. After Patarkatsishvili’s death, ownership of Imedi was transferred to a distant relative. His family has tried to regain control through a three-year lawsuit, Civil.ge reports.

 

Democracy & Freedom Watch writes that media close to the government have been in a “moment of crisis” since the elections. Earlier this month, Imedi stopped showing most  humor and entertainment programs. Channel 1, part of the public broadcasting network, canceled several talk shows covering politics and social issues, and private Rustavi 2, another strong Saakashvili supporter, faces a struggle for control with its former owners.

 

Journalists at the Russian-language public channel PIK protested on the air over what they said were delayed salaries and doubts over the future of the station. Instead of reporting the news, the hosts of the 10 p.m. news program on 15 October asked where the station was heading and then went silent as a sign that management was providing no answers to their concerns, according to Media.ge.

 

PIK protestMost of PIK’s journalists stayed silent throughout the 15 October late-night news broadcast. Here, Nina Shamugia and Sergo Kenia “report” the world news. Source: PIK video.

 

3. Lukashenka offers Russia oil-for-gas deal, warns EU

 

Belarus is willing to allow Russian investment in its oil refineries in exchange for rights to exploit Russian natural gas reserves, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said 16 October.

 

Belarus earns large amounts of foreign currency by refining Russian oil and pumping it on to European customers, but the price it pays for Russian crude has jumped in recent years. Russia wants the centralized Belarusian economy to privatize its oil and other big industries so that Russian companies can invest there.

 

Lukashenka said Belarus could produce about 350 billion cubic feet of gas in Russia, UPI reports. The country currently imports about 420 billion cubic feet annually from Russia, he said.

 

In a press conference with Russian journalists, the Belarusian leader also wondered why Russia allowed U.S. and British oil companies, but not Belarusian ones, to exploit Russian reserves. Belarus is a major Russian trading partner and a member of a Russian-led customs union, along with Kazakhstan.

 

Lukashenka also invited Russia to help modernize the Belarusian military and criticized the EU for prolonging sanctions on Belarusian officials even as Belarus annually prevents tens of thousand of illegal migrants from crossing its territory to enter the union, the official Belarusian Telegraph Agency reports.

 

“They [the EU] blame us all the time while we protect them at our own expense. So I say, guys, pay us money and we will continue protecting you. No money and we will not be able to work like that anymore,” he said.

 

4. The metamorphosis of a Silesian mining town

 

Deutsche Welle reports this week on the revival of Katowice, the once-sooty capital of Poland’s coal mining region that is being transformed into a green, regional innovation hub.

 

Mining did incalculable harm to the city’s environment during the communist era as much of its open space was converted into industrial uses, the German broadcaster writes. In recent years, though, 40 percent of the city area has been turned into parkland or forest.

 

Katowice PanoramaKatowice. Source: Wikimedia Commons/SimonfromSilesia

 

“Katowice is an example of what’s happening in the business community throughout Poland. It used to be a heavy industry town, but it’s changing very dramatically, being converted into a very modern business city,” Rafal Szajewski of Poland's Foreign Investment Department said, according to International Business Times.

 

“All the benefits and funds we got when we joined the EU have helped a lot to improve the business environment and drive change.”

 

Katowice and cities such as Brno in the Czech Republic are illustrations of a trend by foreign companies to look for investments in provincial cities, no longer just in national capitals, economist Ralf Hepp said.

 

Poland has made a conscious effort to build up special economic zones in smaller cities, often targeted toward specific industries, Hepp said.

 

5. Huge Kazakh oil field may soon begin to produce

 

Oil should start flowing within months from Kazakhstan’s Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea, an executive with Italy’s Eni energy company said last week.

 

Eni is a partner in a seven-company consortium that includes Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and KazMunaiGas. Production at the field, estimated as one the world’s largest undeveloped sources, has faced repeated delays. Head of exploration and production for Eni, Claudio Descalzi, said production should start in March, The Wall Street Journal reports.

 

Thanks in part to the Kashagan oil field, estimated to contain 13 billion barrels, Kazakhstan could become a leading global player in the oil market in the coming decades, Ulrich Benterbusch, director of global energy policy for the International Energy Agency, told participants at an energy forum in Astana earlier this month.

 

Benterbusch said Kazakh oil exports should more than double in the next 20 years.

 

The consortium owners plan to produce about 300,000 barrels per day initially, rising to more than 1 million barrels per day by 2018, Reuters wrote in August.

 

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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