Plus, helicopters and commandos swoop down on a Dagestan power-broker and Macedonian journalists protest a colleague’s arrest.by Barbara Frye, Ioana Caloianu, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 3 June 2013
Cities across Central Europe have declared a state of emergency after days of torrential rain caused flooding that threatened the population and shut down transportation.
In the Czech Republic, about 1,000 soldiers are working on securing the historic center of Prague and other areas with sandbags and temporary barriers, the BBC reports.
During an emergency cabinet meeting on 2 June, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas pledged 300 million crowns ($15 million) for flood relief, according to Reuters.
“We will do everything to protect people's lives and health. Tonight and tomorrow will be critical,” Necas said, according to the BBC.
The rising of the Vltava River has caused the evacuation of a Prague hospital and parts of the city’s zoo. Metro lines are also closed throughout much of the Czech capital, Reuters reports.
The Czech government is counting on flood defenses installed in Prague after disastrous flooding in 2002 to minimize damage, although rains are predicted for several days. At least two people have died in the floods and several are reported missing, according to Reuters.
In Austria, a meteorological service reported that the equivalent of at least two months of rain has fallen in the last two days, and regions in eastern and southern Germany have been evacuated due to swollen rivers, according to the BBC.
Many railway lines and roads are also closed in Switzerland due to flooding, Radio Free Europe reports.
Russia plans to send nuclear submarines on patrol in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Reuters reports, citing the government-run Itar Tass news agency.
The patrols will start next year, according to RT, another state-run news service. They will be conducted by Borei-class submarines, which can carry 16 ballistic missiles and dive to a depth of 450 meters (about 1,500 feet).
The first Borei submarine debuted in January. Two more are due later this year, and the navy plans to have eight in service by 2018, RT reports. The news service says the Borei “is almost silent compared to previous generations of submarines.”
Reuters notes that the announcement of the patrols, by an unnamed military official, roughly coincides with Moscow’s decision to develop a permanent naval force in the Mediterranean. Rebuilding Russia’s army and navy and extending its influence around the globe have been priorities of President Vladimir Putin.
“The revival of nuclear submarine patrols will allow us to fulfill the tasks of strategic deterrence not only across the North Pole but also the South Pole,” Itar Tass quoted the official as saying, according to Reuters.
The mayor of the capital of Russia’s restive Dagestan republic has been arrested in a “military style operation” on charges of murder, the Associated Press reports.
Said Amirov is suspected of arranging the murder of an official from the Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI, according to the Itar Tass news agency.
The AP writes that Amirov was airlifted out of the capital, Makhachkala, via helicopter on 1 June in order to evade his “private army of several hundred bodyguards.”
The news agency paints a dramatic picture of the arrest, with streets blocked off around the bunker where Amirov lived and officers flown in from Moscow, instead of enlisted nearby, to prevent word of the operation from leaking.
Amirov has been Makhachkala’s mayor for 15 years and has survived 15 assassination attempts, the AP reports. Dagestan, in Russia’s North Caucasus, is wracked by violence as Islamic militants fight to establish a caliphate there and clans compete for the spoils of local government and business.
Amirov will be held for two months as the investigation proceeds, Itar Tass reports. The AP says his absence could set off a new round of violence as various groups seek to fill the power vacuum.
Journalists in Macedonia are protesting the arrest of a reporter who authorities say revealed the identity of a protected witness, Balkan Insight reports.
Tomislav Kezarovski was arrested last week over an article he wrote in 2008 that suggested that defendants in a murder case had been framed. He was handcuffed in front of cameras and ordered detained for 30 days.
About 100 journalists stood outside a Skopje courthouse 31 May hoisting banners that read, “Who is next?” and “What is the cost of freedom?” They demanded an explanation for Kezarovski’s arrest, Balkan Insight writes.
Kezarovski’s case arises from a 2005 murder, for which three men were arrested three years later. This year, however, a protected witness who testified against them said he was forced to do so by the police.
“I had to sign everything that was put on paper. … I had to memorize the statement and repeat everything to the prosecution and to the investigative judge,” the witness, Zlatko Arsovski, told a court in Skopje, according to Balkan Insight. Arsovski also said he did not get protected status until 2010, two years after Kezarovski’s article was published.
The country’s largest journalists’ associations condemned the arrest.
“Kezarovski has been arrested for protecting the public interest and for revealing a false witness. This interest is more important than protecting the identity of a false witness,” Petrit Saracini of the Macedonian Institute for Media told Balkan Insight.
A Facebook page has been set up in support of Kezarovski.
Global Voices blogger Veronica Khokhlova notes that Kezarovski has recently been investigating the death of Nikola Mladenov, an independent publisher who died in late March in a car accident. The journalist published an article on Mladenov’s last hours 1 April.
Mladenov’s Fokus newspapers reported on corruption and were often critical of the government. Kezarovski wrote that the police had mishandled evidence at the scene of the wreck, according to Filip Stojanovski, another Global Voices blogger.
A leading Russian economist and rector of a well-regarded Moscow business school has fled his home country for fear of becoming a target of the Kremlin’s wrath, according to the BBC. Sergei Guriev told the news service that his flight to France a couple of weeks ago was spurred by “the risk of losing my freedom.”
Russian investigators have been questioning Guriev about a report he wrote on imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2011, when the economist was an adviser to then-President Dmitry Medvedev, and they have seized a cache of his emails.
Guriev’s report concluded that the former oil magnate’s second trial in 2010 “should have not led to the second prison term.” Initially convicted in 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges after he funded an opposition movement, Khodorkovsky was sentenced again in 2010 for stealing oil from his own company to sell it abroad.
According to the BBC, Russian investigators are suggesting that some authors of the report could have been swayed by support they received from Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky gave money in 2003 to Guriev’s New Economic School, but Guriev notes the donation was made before his appointment as rector in 2005.
The internationally acclaimed New Economic School has blazed a trail for private higher education in Russia, Forbes commentator Paul Roderick Gregory writes.
Guriev, who has been a supporter of opposition figures, joined his wife and children, who were already living in France, The New York Times reports. He is working as a visiting professor at Institut d’Études Politiques.
On 31 May, shareholders of Russia’s largest bank “overwhelmingly re-elected him to its board of directors, a show of support that points to rifts within Russia’s ruling class,” according to The Times.