Plus, resignation launches Moscow mayor's re-election campaign and residents of a Bosnian city try to heal the scars of war.by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 5 June 2013
A Moscow court has granted a request for a jury trial by five suspects in the 2006 murder of prominent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, according to the BBC. The defendants include Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, accused of organizing the murder; his nephew Rustam Makhmudov, the alleged gunman; and two other nephews, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, accused of being accomplices along with former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.
Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, along with Khadzhikurbanov, were acquitted of involvement in the murder in February 2009. However, the verdict was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court owing to procedural violations, and the five current suspects were charged again with murder and illegal weapons possession in October.
Another former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2012 for providing the murder weapon and tracking Politkovskaya’s movements. He told investigators the murder was masterminded by the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev, according to government-owned Russia Beyond the Headlines.
In her articles for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya drew the ire of Russian authorities for reporting the brutal methods used by both sides in the Chechen wars.
Jury selection will take place 20 June and the trial will begin shortly afterward, according to the BBC.
Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer representing Politkovskaya's family, said a jury trial is the best option since it “fully respects the adversarial principle between the sides.” She also said there is “no chance” the trial will reveal the name of the person who ordered the killing.
Kyrgyzstani officials are negotiating an arrangement meant to give them more say in the running of the profitable Kumtor gold mine, Reuters reports.
Centerra, the Canadian company that co-owns and operates the mine, said Kyrgyzstan is offering to exchange its 32.7 percent share in the company for “an interest of equivalent value” in a new joint venture to run Central Asia’s largest gold mine.
Centerra stock rose 1.2 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange 4 June. The company’s shares have shed 57 percent of their value this year.
Alleged environmental damage at Kumtor has sparked numerous protests in Kyrgyzstan. Centerra has already been ordered to pay nearly $500 million in fines but “has steadily defended its environmental record in Kyrgyzstan,” Radio Free Europe reports. Two studies by European geologist commissioned by the government did not find evidence to back the government's claims of significant pollution in streams below the high-altitude mine.
A state of emergency was declared in the area after new protesters clashed with police near the mine and briefly cut off its electricity supply last week, Radio Free Europe reported. Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev said the government would look into protesters' complaints.
The mine accounts for about 12 percent of Kyrgyzstan's economic output.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said 4 June he was resigning two years before the end of his term. He called for early elections to be held in September.
If, as expected, he enters the election and wins, it would add legitimacy to his position as well as an additional five years in office, government-owned Russia Beyond the Headlines notes. Sobyanin was appointed to the post when then-President Dmitry Medvedev sacked the city's long-serving, powerful Mayor Yuri Luzhkov in 2010.
Opposition leaders criticized Sobyanin's move as a way to prevent opponents from having time to come up with a political campaign.
Protest blogger Alexei Navalny had announced his intention to run for the position, but a potential conviction in his upcoming trial for fraud would bar him from taking elective office. Navalny called the resignation “vile clownery,” according to Reuters.
Billionaire and liberal politician Mikhail Prokhorov, who had also floated a run for mayor, may be ineligible for the snap vote owing to a new law banning officials from owning assets abroad.
“It is only the naive who cannot see this as a ploy to win time while political opponents have not yet had time to mobilize,” Prokhorov said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
Sobyanin suggested the mayoral election be held 8 September to coincide with the voting for governor of the Moscow region. He is likely to remain as acting mayor until then, RBTH writes.
Several hundred young Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs gathered in the Bosnian city of Prijedor last week to commemorate the victims of a series of massacres committed during the Bosnian war, AFP reports.
The killings in Prijedor in spring 1992 are considered the war's worst atrocity after the Srebrenica massacre, Euronews reports. One local association says 3,227 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats died, including some 350 women and children, AFP reports.
When Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two entities in 1995, Prijedor was included in the Serb-controlled Republika Srpska. Last week's ceremony was also a protest against the city's Serb authorities, who have prohibited such commemorations in the past and deny that war crimes took place there, according to Euronews. Many of last week’s marchers wore white armbands like those non-Serbs were ordered to wear in 1992.
Residents of Prijedor are trying to come to terms with the horrific events of 21 years ago, but some nearby villages remain virtual ghost towns with most of their former residents either dead or living elsewhere, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting writes.
Organized returns to nearby villages began in 1998, IWPR writes, but their population now is only a quarter of the 16,000 people who lived there before the war. Just 263 people now live in the village of Rizvanovici, compared with 4,000 at the outset of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, before Serb forces expelled most of the area's Bosniak and Croat residents.
A handful of Rizvanovici's mostly elderly residents continue to farm their land, but it is hard for them to find buyers for their produce, IWPR writes.
Dissatisfaction with democracy may be on the rise in Poland, a recent opinion survey suggests.
In the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) poll, 25 percent of respondents said the transition that began in 1989 has not been successful, while 60 percent supported the political changes, Polish Radio reports. In a similar survey three years ago 83 percent of those polled approved of the transition and only 9 percent were skeptical.
In 2009, a large Pew Research Center survey found largely positive reactions to democracy and capitalism among Poles, along with Czechs, Slovaks, and East Germans, but falling levels of support in countries Ukraine, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Russia.
The new poll coincides with the 24th anniversary on 4 June of the partly free elections in which Poles voted overwhelmingly for non-Communist candidates in a harbinger of the democratic revolutions that swept much of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. Those elections marked the return of competitive politics to Poland and a period of enthusiasm for the party system. But Poles' trust in the system began dropping about a decade ago, CBOS reported in March, writing, “The level of party identification has never been as low as it is now.” Only 25 percent of those polled said they identified closely with any political party, compared with 57 percent in 1998.