Plus, no solution in sight to Kazakh forest ranger killings and North Caucasus police crack a baby-selling ring.by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 2 November 2012
On 1 November, Georgian Prime Minister-designate Bidzina Ivanishvili said he seeks a "a clean slate" with Russia, but that the restoration of diplomatic ties hinges on territorial integrity, RIA Novosti reports.
Georgia-Russia relations have been extremely strained since the two countries fought a brief war in August 2008 over the breakaway territory of South Ossetia. Moscow has recognized the independence of both South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region, Abkhazia, and Ivanishvili suggested that diplomatic relations will not resume until Russia closes its diplomatic missions in the territories, RIA Novosti reports.
The billionaire-turned-politician said normalization would be a long-term, "difficult process," RIA Novosti reports. Also on 1 November, he appointed Zurab Abashidze, Georgia's former ambassador to Russia, to a new post as special representative for bilateral relations.
Ivanishvili has pledged to improve ties with Russia since his Georgian Dream coalition won the 1 October parliamentary elections. He also aims to continue the country's path toward European Union and NATO membership.
Georgia's parliament approved a new government led by Ivanishvili 25 October.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped to improve ties with Georgia. Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Pandzhikidze, meanwhile, has said diplomatic relations would not resume as long as Russia "occupied" Georgian territory.
Authorities have freed a forest ranger arrested in connection with the murders of 12 people in the Ile-Alatau National Park near Almaty, southeastern Kazakhstan, Radio Free Europe reports.
Alexey Shkilev was arrested in September. Six bodies were found among the ruins of his burned house in August. The same day, another six men and women were found stabbed to death in the park.
A well-known forest ranger was among those killed, as were relatives of Shkilev, who was not at the ranger post at the time of the killing.
In late September, authorities said they were searching for two suspected radical Islamists in connection with the park murder and a July explosion at a house on the outskirts of Almaty that killed seven. Shkilev nevertheless remained in jail.
On 1 November, Shkilev's lawyer said his client had proved his innocence without evidently offering further details, RFE reports. All charges against him have been dropped.
Online pundits and political theorists have speculated that the forest ranger murders and a massacre of Kazakh border guards in May are part of a political plot to destabilize Kazakhstan and undermine public trust in President Nursultan Nazarbaev, with no potential successor to the 72-year-old leader in sight, TOL reported last month.
Investigators have uncovered a human trafficking network specializing in selling babies in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, Reuters reports.
On 1 November, the country's powerful Investigative Committee said police had arrested a 62-year-old woman in Chechnya for trying to sell a newborn to an undercover officer for 550,000 rubles ($17,500). The woman reportedly sold a child to an undercover agent earlier this year.
Investigators said they had also arrested a midwife in neighboring Dagestan in connection with the case. Citing Russian media, Reuters reported that the trafficking ring of 12 people includes staff from a hospital in Dagestan.
Russia is a source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State, which again this year placed the country on its list of those whose governments do not fully comply with minimum standards for the prevention of trafficking but which are making “significant efforts” to improve.
An opposition legislator who was ousted from Russia's lower house of parliament over an alleged conflict of interest will not face criminal prosecution, Radio Free Europe reports.
The Prosecutor-General's Office had requested Gudkov's expulsion in early September.
A member of the center-left A Just Russia party and a former intelligence officer, Gudkov told RFE in September the Kremlin had targeted him for criticizing President Vladimir Putin and wanted him purged before an opposition rally planned for 15 September that he helped to organize.
Serbia plans to introduce a new network of courts, Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic announced 31 October, saying that the current system is too small and inefficient and that citizens don’t have equal access, according to Tanjug.
The new network, which start up at the beginning of next year, would effectively double the number of Serbia’s courts from 34 to 65, Balkan Insight reports.
At the announcement, Selakovic said Serbia has one of the lowest numbers of courts relative to population in the region. "Only Macedonia is behind us, with 1.1 courts per 100,000 inhabitants. Serbia has 1.7, Bosnia-Herzegovina 2.9, Montenegro 3.8, whereas Croatia and Slovenia have more than four," Tanjug cited Selakovic as saying.
The new court network would also help Serbia reintegrate the hundreds of judges and public prosecutors who were dismissed during the judicial house-clearing of 2009-2010. In September, Selakovic some 400 prosecutors and judges would be reinstated after the Constitutional Court earlier ruled those firings were unconstitutional.