Plus, Poland’s Catholic primate defends the use of baby boxes and British Russophiles are red-faced over a bad-taste photo.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, and Nino Tsintsadze 4 December 2012
The resignations of Azarov and several other ministers were expected following their election to parliament in October’s elections, Radio Free Europe reports. President Viktor Yanukovych may reappoint Azarov, although there is speculation he will turn to National Bank Governor Serhiy Arbuzov, the Kyiv Post writes.
Last week Inna Bogoslovskaya of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions said a third, unnamed candidate was also being considered, Lenta.ru writes.
Arbuzov is one of the president’s closest allies and a part of the so-called Family of power brokers around Yanukovych and his eldest son, the Kyiv Post notes. However, his candidacy may face opposition from the newly elected parliament, where three opposition parties will control a substantial minority of seats.
A Ukrainian government source told RIA Novosti that no significant changes in the cabinet are likely and Yanukovych will probably ask Azarov to stay in office.
Azarov’s government will stay on in an interim capacity.
Pahor won 67 percent of the vote to Turk’s 33 percent in an election marked by very low turnout and marred by angry protests against corruption and the government’s painful austerity program, the BBC reports.
The protests began in the country’s second-largest city, Maribor, last week, according to the BBC, and spread to Ljubljana 30 November. Demonstrators denounced the government’s proposal to cut wages and welfare benefits, raise the retirement age, and reduce spending on schools and health, Reuters reports. Slovenia’s economy has plummeted since 2009, shrinking by more than 8 percent, according to the BBC.
Violent protests broke out again 3 December in Maribor, where a crowd estimated at 6,000 threw fireworks and rocks at police, Reuters reports.
Paradoxically, Turk was turned out of the largely ceremonial post as president even though he had argued against the government’s austerity measures, while Pahor supported them, the Economist’s Eastern Approaches blog writes. Pahor, former leader of the Social Democratic Party, was prime minister from 2008 until February this year. The Economist writes that he played on his experience in government to appeal to voters as someone who could heal the rifts in what is typically seen as one of the region’s more stable countries.
Four Azerbaijani men have been sentenced for terrorism and treason in connection with a planned terror attack in Baku ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest in May, the Trend news agency reports. The court in Baku announced 3 December sentences of from 12 to 14 years in prison for the four men, who went on trial in mid-November.
The men were also convicted of having links with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Radio Free Europe reports. The sentences may strain already-frayed bilateral ties after a series of incidents that began when Azerbaijan accused Iran of being behind a plot to kill foreigners in Baku in January.
Several other trials of accused collaborators with Iranian secret services have been held recently, RFE writes.
Azerbaijani officials said just after the Eurovision contest they had arrested some 40 suspected terrorists, some with ties to Dagestan. Critics of the government say the terror threat has been used to justify the government’s harsh stance on dissent and distract attention from the country’s poor human rights record.
Following a call by a UN committee to put an end to the use of “baby boxes,” the head of the Polish Catholic Church has spoken out in defense of the boxes, where mothers can anonymously leave unwanted newborns.
Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the Roman Catholic primate of Poland, called the boxes “windows of life” and said they were a part of Polish tradition that saved lives and prevented abortions, according to Polish Radio. “It would not be easy to lose our cultural rights of conscience and sensitivity,” he said.
Poland has around 50 boxes in use and is one of about a dozen countries in Europe, including the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Russia, and Slovakia, that use them. The Associated Press estimates that hundreds of babies have been left this way in the past 10 years and that, on average, one or two unwanted newborns are left at every box each year.
In November, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said the practice should be banned across Europe because it violates the internationally recognized right of children to know the identities of their biological parents. The committee said it would take the issue to the European Parliament and try to convince individual countries to stop it.
“[Baby boxes] are a bad message for society,” said a child psychologist on the committee, according to the AP. “Instead of providing help and addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations, we’re telling people they can just leave their baby and run away.”
A group called the Conservative Friends of Russia close to Britain’s governing Conservative Party seems near collapse after its honorary chairman and several other Conservative members of parliament quit over the group’s release of a semi-nude photo of a Labor Party lawmaker.
The Guardian describes the spiral of criticism over group members’ junkets to Russia paid for by a Russian government agency and its alleged links to the Russian Embassy in London. When the group posted a years-old photo of the Labor Party’s Chris Bryant in his underwear, honorary chairman and prominent Conservative Malcolm Rifkind resigned, and royal family member Prince Michael of Kent pulled out of a group dinner.
The Tories recently failed to unseat Bryant from his post as chairman of a parliamentary group on Russia, which he used to frequently criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Guardian writes.
Reacting to the Guardian story, Russia’s state-owned RT said the group had fallen victim to “political infighting in the UK.”
This, “combined with rising and pervasive anti-Russian sentiment, has led to the demonizing of British politicians who hope to normalize relations between London and Moscow,” RT writes.
The group’s website has been shut down.