Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
Also, Czechs wrangle over elite health care and Azerbaijan chides a Russian legislator over his Karabakh visit.by Erik N. Nelson, Ioana Caloianu, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 4 July 2013
Islamist insurgents in Russia’s North Caucasus regions have threatened to stop next year’s Winter Olympics in the Black Sea city of Sochi, Radio Free Europe reports.
Insurgent leader Doku Umarov released a video on 3 July urging fellow Islamist rebels to prevent the games from happening. Umarov, leader of the militant Islamist separatist group Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate), called the upcoming Olympics “Satanist games to be held on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many Muslims who died and are buried on our territory along the Black Sea.”
In the 19th century, tsarist Russia drove out several hostile ethnic groups as it expanded across the Caucasus region. Sochi, in the Krasnodar region of Russia, lies just north of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia and west of several Russian republics that have been wracked by clashes between security forces on one side and separatists and Islamists on the other.
Umarov also referred to the upcoming 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia – an international athletic competition for university students – as a “pagan event,” RFE writes.
RIA Novosti reports that Chechen leader and Russian loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov tried to match Umarov’s bravado in his response to the video.
“He is Satan. I am certain that we will eliminate him before the Olympics,” Kadyrov said. Russia has announced Umarov’s death multiple times, only for Umarov to reappear in jihadist videos.
The Russian National Antiterrorist Committee also vowed to keep the games safe.
“All of Russia’s state institutions, special services, and law enforcement bodies are constantly implementing a set of measures aimed at providing security for Russian citizens,” RIA Novosti quotes the committee as announcing.
Russian authorities have already planned for additional security at the Olympic Games following the Boston bombings attributed to two ethnic Chechen brothers in April.
Umarov, who has claimed responsibility for Moscow subway and airport bombings in 2010 and 2011, respectively, also revoked his 2012 moratorium on jihadist attacks against civilians, charging that “unbelievers in Moscow” had “increased their persecution of peaceful Muslims,” according to The Telegraph.
In a recent act of violence, a man lost a hand and received stomach wounds when a bag exploded outside a McDonald’s in St. Petersburg on 3 July. The fast-food outlet was also the site of a 2007 anti-Western bombing, RIA Novosti reports.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has granted early release to a Bosnian Serb leader who has served most of his sentence for ordering ethnic cleansing, Reuters reports.
“I am of the view that Krajisnik, through his good behavior during his detention, has demonstrated some rehabilitation, which militates in favor of his early release,” said tribunal President Theodor Meron in a statement.
Some eight months earlier, the tribunal had denied Krajisnik early release, describing his crimes as “among the most severe ones known to humankind,” Balkan Insight writes.
But the court’s explanation of its more recent decision cited the prisoner’s acceptance of his verdict and his “readiness to assist in reconciliation between nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Balkan Insight also cites a report from the British prison from which Krajisnik is to be released on 1 September. He said that upon release, he plans to return to Pale in Bosnia to work with his children at their gas station.
The tribunal itself has completed its main function of holding war-crimes trials for the Balkan conflicts and is set to be replaced by another institution, Balkan Insight reports. The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals was launched on 1 July to hear any further appeals of verdicts from the original court and to maintain its archives. The new institution will occupy the same headquarters in the Dutch city of The Hague. A second “mechanism” is taking over for the war crimes tribunal for the Rwandan genocide.
Ruling against a new provision that would have allowed patients to pay extra for services not covered by insurance, the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court on 2 July struck down measures aimed at reforming the nation’s health-care system, according to the Czech Press Agency.
The court revoked crucial elements of the government’s health-care reform, including extra payments for special medical treatment, higher fees for hospital rooms, and fines levied on medical providers for not collecting fees from patients, the news agency writes. The court said the law had not sufficiently defined what “extras” were permitted in the new provision, leaving open the door for a rewrite of the legislation. That section will be cancelled within two weeks while lawmakers must rescind the other two provisions by the end of the year.
Boris Stastny of the ruling, center-right Civic Democrats said the court’s ruling was “a shattering piece of news for the health care system,” according to the news agency, while the opposition Social Democrats welcomed the decision.
The future health minister in a caretaker government, Martin Holcat, told the Czech Press Agency that he would modify rules for extra payments after his appointment.
The president of the Czech Doctors’ Chamber said the court had gutted the reform.
Azerbaijani officials have condemned the visit of a Russian lawmaker to the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to News.az.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a region located within the territory of Azerbaijan but populated mostly by ethnic Armenians and under the de facto control of Armenia, which also occupies seven surrounding regions. The countries fought a war over the territory in the early 1990s and have been locked in an oft-broken cease fire since 1994.
The Russian legislator, for his part, lambasted Azerbaijani authorities for trying to prevent people from seeing both sides of the conflict. Pakholkov said he is an educated man and he was fully aware of the consequences of his visit.
“All those who visit Karabakh will be announced persona non grata by Baku,” Panorama.am, an Armenian news outlet, writes. However, Pakholkov said that he felt it was important to see both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
He added that the most suitable solution to the conflict would come once Azeris and Armenians “learn to live together harmoniously.”
Holding carnations, singing the national anthems of Russia and Venezuela, and chanting “Chavez forever!” a crowd of fans of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez – including his successor, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro – celebrated the naming of a Moscow street in Chavez’s honor on 3 July, Pravda reports.
Chavez was a stalwart friend of Russia and perhaps anyone who had an ax to grind with the United States. Known for comparing former U.S. President George W. Bush to Satan, Chavez died of cancer-related complications at age 58 in March.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s Emerging Europe blog, the previous name of Hugo Chavez Street was Projected Street No. 5509.
Also attending the street naming was Igor Sechin, chairman of Russian natural gas conglomerate OAO Rosneft. A day earlier, he and Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez signed an agreement to cooperate in energy exploration off of Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, according to the blog and Forbes.
Now available! A new TOL e-book: "Crimea: The Anatomy of a Crisis" is a compilation of articles from TOL’s past coverage about Russia's annexation of Crimea, placed in the context of long-running disputes over the region. Find out also what's happened to Crimea and its people nearly a year after Russia's move shocked the international community.