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Prokhorov To Sit Out Moscow Mayoral Race, Anti-Corruption Raids in Prague

Plus, a Roman relic is at risk in Albania, and Bulgarians protest a controversial appointment to a key security post.

by S. Adam Cardais, Ioana Caloianu, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 14 June 2013

1. Billionaire says his party won’t contest Moscow mayoral elections


Crying foul play against the Kremlin, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov says he will not run in Moscow’s upcoming mayoral election, Radio Free Europe reports.


Mikhail Prokhorov

At a 13 June press conference, Prokhorov said his Civil Platform party “will not participate in the procedure of prolonging the current mayor’s license.” This was an evident reference to widespread criticism that incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin resigned suddenly 4 June and called early elections for September to secure himself another five-year term by not giving other candidates adequate time to campaign.


In addition, Prokhorov has yet to repatriate foreign assets to comply with a new Russian law that bans some officials from owning assets abroad.


Prokhorov, who placed third in last year’s presidential elections, said his party will focus instead on preparing for the 2014 Moscow city legislature elections.


“It is not a weak position, but a strong one,” he said, according to RIA Novosti.


The 8 September polls will be the first mayoral election in Moscow in 10 years. Sobyanin has said he will run as an independent despite being a member of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, RFE reports. Opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny, who is on trial for embezzlement, also plans to run.


2. Amphitheater in Albania among Europe’s most endangered antiquities


The Europa Nostra heritage organization has listed the Roman amphitheater in Durres, a coastal city in Albania, as one of the seven most threatened landmarks in Europe.


Dating to the early second century AD, the amphitheater suffers from neglect and the effects of “chaotic urban planning” in Durres, a burgeoning tourist destination that in recent years has resembled a construction site due to all the roads and hotels being built.



durres_ampitheater350Houses perch on the rim of the Roman ampitheater in Durres, which a preservation group says is threatened by encroaching development. Photo by Dirk Heldmaier/Wikimedia Commons.


“The major challenge is therefore its successful integration into the urban fabric of Durres,” the organization said, calling for a full restoration.


The amphitheater was discovered relatively late, in the 20th century, Europa Nostra points out. It is located in central Durres and, with a capacity of up to 20,000 spectators, is “one of the most remarkable heritage sites not only in Albania but in the whole region.”


The historic mining landscape of Rosia Montana, in Romania, is also on the organization’s list.


3. Top Czech government aide arrested in police raid


Czech anti-corruption police have raided several government offices, arresting a top aide to Prime Minister Petr Necas, Radio Free Europe reports.

Petr Necas

Jana Nagyova and four other officials linked to Necas’ Civic Democratic Party were apprehended in the raids, which began 12 June and carried over to the following day. Nagyova has come under suspicion for receiving large bonuses from the state, The New York Times reports, citing Czech media.


Several hundred police also raided offices in the government headquarters, the Defense Ministry, and Prague City Hall, as well as the offices of several politically connected businessmen. The Community Party called for Necas’ resignation, Bloomberg reports.


At press time, Czech police had offered no explanation for the raids and arrests.


The Times points out that Necas’ coalition government has been shaken by corruption scandals. Graft and misconduct are so widespread that a Czech entrepreneur last year launched a tour operator offering trips to locales that highlight infamous examples of corruption in the Czech Republic.


4. Controversial businessman/lawmaker to lead Bulgaria’s security agency


Bulgarians are planning nationwide protests against the appointment of a controversial businessman and member of parliament to lead the State Agency for National Security, Novinite reports.


Parliament approved the nomination of Delyan Peevski, a lawmaker from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party, on 14 June, immediately after Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski nominated him in a departure from the day’s agenda, the news agency reports.


Oresharski and his minority government have been in place since the end of May. Oresharski is an independent, but otherwise the government is led by the Socialist Party with the backing of the DPS.


According to Novinite, Peevski's nomination and subsequent election shocked many. Peevski and his mother, Irena Krasteva, a former head of the state lottery, are the owners of the controversial New Bulgarian Media Group, which owns several of the country's major media outlets.


“Peevski and his mother’s New Bulgarian Media Group have been on a spending spree for years, buying massively into TV stations and print media in Bulgaria. The source of their capital for these acquisitions remains unknown,” TOL’s Marius Dragomir wrote in 2011.


In 2007, Peevski was sued for blackmailing and fired from his position as deputy emergency minister under a previous Socialist government for “lack of morals,” Novinite reports.


Lawmakers from the former ruling party, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), walked out of parliament and refused to vote on Peevski's nomination, while President Rosen Plevneliev, a GERB member, canceled his appearance at the inauguration of a second bridge over the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria, allegedly for the same reason, according to Novinite.


Protesters will hold rallies in all major Bulgarian cities in the next few days.


5. EU calls on Azerbaijan to free opposition politician


The European parliament has called for the immediate release of detained opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov in Azerbaijan, Radio Free Europe reports.


Police arrested Mammadov along with opposition leader Tofiq Yaqublu in February on charges of inciting a riot in the northeastern town of Ismayili. Mammadov is a candidate in the presidential election to be held in October.


Khalid Bagirov, Mammadov’s lawyer, told IWPR at the time, “He talked to journalists and a few residents in the streets. That’s it. The riot was over, and the hotel and cars were burnt long before they arrived. These are trumped-up charges. There was a plan to arrest him, and they’ve done so.”


The European parliament demanded that Baku “investigate the charges against [Mammadov] in a speedy, fair, transparent, and independent manner,” RFE reports.


Rights groups charge that intergovernmental watchdogs have been relatively lenient with Azerbaijan recently. The Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union kept almost silent after the multiple detentions and fines imposed by the Azerbaijani government during the Ismayili protests.


In January, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly called on the Azerbaijani government to make a series of human rights reforms but sidestepped a resolution on political prisoners due to strong objections from Baku, Human Rights Watch reports.


This week’s European Parliament resolution calls “on the authorities in Azerbaijan to respect the freedom of the press and media and to secure freedom of expression, to reform the country's defamation legislation, and to fully respect the freedom of assembly of the population.”


The resolution also calls on EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to reiterate the EU’s concerns during a 21 June meeting in Brussels with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, RFE reports.



S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Molly Zuckerman is a TOL editorial intern.
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