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Serbian Church Shaken by Sex Scandal, Police Hunt Killer in Southern Russia

Plus, Hungary bans swastikas and red stars, and Russia issues an arrest warrant for Hermitage Capital chief Browder.

by Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, and Vladimir Matan 23 April 2013

1. Sex tape brings down Bosnian Orthodox bishop


Vasilije Kacavenda
For years tales of a lavish lifestyle and friendships with young men hovered around the powerful Serbian Orthodox bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik in Bosnia. Now a video apparently showing the cleric engaging in sex with several men may mark the end of 74-year-old Vasilije Kacavenda’s career.


The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church accepted Kacavenda’s resignation on 22 April, officially for reasons of health, Radio Free Europe reports. Kacavenda has kept a low profile for months while the scandal grew.


Two days before Kacavenda’s resignation, the Croatian news site’s Belgrade-based columnist Milos Vasic wrote that most Serbian media were keeping the story under wraps, probably because of his close links to political and business leaders in Bosnia’s Serbian entity.


RFE quotes a former theological student in Kacavenda’s diocese saying the bishop threw many orgies attended by influential clerics and prominent businessmen. A lawyer in the city of Bijeljina, Dusko Tomic, said he has testimony from numerous people claiming to have been abused by Kacavenda.


Tomic said Kacavenda is a close friend of the president of the Serbian part of Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, and other influential Bosnian Serbs, adding, “All of them are in big trouble now.”


This is not the first allegation of sex abuse leveled against a prominent Serbian Orthodox cleric. Until now, the most notorious case was that of Bishop Pahomije, accused of sexually abusing minors from 1999 to 2002.


2. Award posted for capture of Belgorod mass murderer


Russian police today announced a reward of 3 million rubles ($95,000) for information leading to the capture of the gunman who killed six people in the city of Belgorod 22 April, RIA Novosti reports.


Police from the Belgorod and neighboring Kursk regions in southern Russia were today widening the manhunt for the killer, identified as 32-year-old Sergei Pomazun. Authorities in nearby Ukraine have also been warned to be on the alert. In the attack, which may have begun as a robbery at a gun shop, Pomazun shot dead three people in the shop with a hunting rifle and then killed two passers-by and fatally injured a third, the BBC reports.


Pomazun, who has four convictions on his record, fled the scene in a BMW SUV, the Voice of Russia reports.


Police are today patrolling the streets of Belgorod, a city in a state of shock, the Voice of Russia writes. Belgorod Region Governor Yevgeny Savchenko described the massacre as a "terrible, irreparable tragedy.”



3. Hungary forbids display of Nazi, communist emblems


Public display of the most notorious Nazi and communist symbols will be banned from 1 May, the Hungarian parliament decided 22 April.


The amendment to the criminal code passed by a vote of 320 to 6, the Associated Press reports.


The new rules tighten the language of a bill the Constitutional Court rejected earlier this year as being too general, after a similar ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. says the ban will cover “wearing, exhibiting, or promoting the swastika, the logo of the SS, the [Hungarian Nazi] arrow cross, the hammer and sickle, or the five-pointed red star in public, in a way that harms the human dignity or the memory of the victims of dictatorships.”


Restrictions on the display of Nazi symbols are not uncommon in Europe, but only Hungary and Lithuania have enacted bans on communist paraphernalia.


4. Russia seeks arrest of Magnitsky boss for Gazprom deal


A Moscow district court issued an arrest warrant in absentia on 22 April for William Browder, the British-based investor and former boss of the deceased Sergei Magnitsky, according to the Russian Legal Information Agency


Browder_100William Browder
Browder, who was charged last month with illegally purchasing shares of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, was also put on an international wanted list by Russian authorities after investigators there said summons to him were ignored. A spokesman for Browder’s equity trading firm, Hermitage Capital, called the initial charges “revenge and hysteria” related to the Magnitsky law, which blacklists Russian officials believed to be involved in the 2009 suspicious death of the Hermitage Capital lawyer.


Browder also faces nominally unrelated charges filed in March for tax fraud – for which Magnitsky is being tried posthumously – in a case that has opened a deep rift in U.S.-Russian relations.


The Russian Interior Ministry followed up on the arrest warrant by warning Hermitage Capital against commenting on the case in the media, saying this could be seen “an attempt to pressure investigators,” RIA Novosti reports. The firm responded by saying that it had “no intention of being muzzled by a group of corrupt police officers who are trying to cover up the grave crimes of torture and extra-judicial killing and massive thefts.”


Browder, a British citizen, is unlikely to face extradition from Britain, according to RIA Novosti.


5. Georgian authorities reassure Christians about use of digital IDs


Rumors that electronic ID cards carry hidden satanic symbols have swirled in Georgia since the cards were introduced in 2011. Efforts by the Georgian Orthodox Church to quash the story, even a ruling approving the cards by the church’s Holy Synod, seem not to be working, so the government has stepped in, writes.


The Justice Ministry last week released a video showing how the cards are used. In the video a young man assures viewers that the cards do not carry the mark of the Antichrist, and says the authorities made sure the number 666 does not appear on the cards.


The video explains that users’ personal data and facial image are stored on a chip embedded in the card, according to, which says that more than 700,000 electronic IDs are now in circulation.


On 21 April, the day following the video’s release, about 100 members of Orthodox groups staged a protest against the cards at the ministry buildings, writes, warning about both spiritual and political misuse of the cards. Similar demonstrations occurred in January and last summer. One cleric said in the future political forces might misuse the information stored on the cards.


A woman indicates the devilish face some Georgians believe is hidden in the new electronic ID cards. Photo from a video by

Joshua Boissevain and Ioana Caloianu are TOL editorial assistants. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan is a TOL editorial intern.
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