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Ethnic Unrest Hits Russian Town, Outgoing Czech Premier Calls Foul in Bribery Probe

Plus, shots ring out on the Serbia-Kosovo border and Polish conservatives toast an election victory.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 9 July 2013

1. Ethnic tension flares in Russian town after fatal stabbing


Some 600 residents of a town in the southern Saratov region staged a march and called for Chechen immigrants to be “evicted” hours after a 16-year-old Chechen fatally stabbed a Russian man, RIA Novosti reports.

udomlya 350Residents of Udomlya, Russia, talk to police during a demonstration “for a peaceful, quiet life in the city” 8 June, the same day a fight broke out between locals and immigrants from the Caucasus. From a video by ProektA69/YouTube


The two had quarreled over a girl, according to the local prosecutor’s office. The incident occurred 7 July in the town of Pugachyov, one of many Russian towns that have seen an influx of ethnic Chechens in recent years.


The suspected killer was detained the same day.


When the unrest continued 8 July, RIA Novosti writes, Saratov Governor Valery Radayev warned against the use of “mob rule” against ethnic minorities.


A similar incident took place recently in Udomlya, northwest of Moscow, according to RIA Novosti, when hundreds of “Slavic Russians” demonstrated after a fight between locals and “out-of-towners apparently from the North Caucasus.”


Many Chechens, along with much of Chechnya’s ethnic Russian population, fled the province to escape the destruction caused by two separatist wars in the 1990s. A recent poll indicated that most Russian citizens would not oppose the republic’s secession.


2. Necas may face charges in Czech political scandal


Petr Necas
Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas says he will defend the actions that resulted in his government's downfall amid a burgeoning corruption scandal. Necas himself may now face charges after prosecutors asked parliament 8 July to remove his immunity from prosecution, the Czech Press Agency reports.


Necas resigned 16 June, three days after his top aide and seven others, including three former members of parliament, were arrested. Necas’ chief of staff, Jana Nagyova, was charged with bribing the three legislators and ordering illegal surveillance of people including Necas’ wife. Nagyova allegedly arranged state posts for the three legislators, who as members of Necas’ Civic Democratic Party were blocking the passage of certain laws. Necas said he and his wife were divorcing and admitted to having an affair with Nagyova.


The chairwoman of the lower house of parliament, Miroslava Nemcova, said the chamber will discuss the request to strip Necas of immunity at its next session.


In a statement 8 July, Necas said there had been no agreement with the three ex-lawmakers about their resignations. In any case, he said, “political agreements cannot be regarded as illegal activity, because this would have to include many similar cases in the past and present.”


He also said he suspected the investigation was “a case of the criminalization of political decisions and political steps.”


Also yesterday, Prime Minister-designate Jiri Rusnok said his cabinet was complete after former caretaker premier and presidential candidate Jan Fischer agreed to serve as finance minister.


President Milos Zeman appointed Rusnok, a former member of the Social Democratic party, two weeks ago over broad parliamentary opposition. The government now has 30 days to win a vote of confidence from the lower house.


3. Shots fired over timber near Serbia-Kosovo border


Armed timber thieves attacked Serbian police in the village of Borovac, near the border with Kosovo, on 7 July, B92 reports.


Serbian gendarmerie (special police) commander Bratislav Dikic reported no injuries among his officers, although the Kosovo police confirmed that six men had been taken to a hospital in Kosovo with injuries, according to Balkan Insight. The men were reportedly ethnic Albanians who locals said had crossed the border from Kosovo.


Dikic said a tractor loaded with timber was found at the scene, along with two chainsaws.


Local residents said it was the third armed incident in the area in 10 days, B92 reports, quoting an official in the village of Merdare as saying, “There was shooting like there was a war. From multiple kinds of weapons. Beside individual shots, there were also bursts of fire. The local villagers are very upset and frightened.”


InSerbia reported that “a group of armed Albanians from Kosovo” fired on a Borovac villager 3 July before illegally felling trees in Merdare and escaping across the border.


Timber theft in the area is a serious problem and members of EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo and the Kosovo police have come under fire as well as Serbian personnel, a Serbian forester said in July last year.


4. Polish conservatives cheer win in closely watched mayoral race 


The candidate of the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party has won a Polish local election seen as a curtain-raiser for the next national polls, The Wall Street Journal's Emerging Europe blog writes. In the runoff mayoral race in the city of Elblag, Law and Justice's Jerzy Wilk won with 52 percent of the vote, four points more than the candidate for the ruling, center-right Civic Platform.

Jerzy Wilk

“This is a signal for the whole of Poland that Law and Justice can win in large cities,” Wilk crowed.


The early mayoral election was held after voters unhappy with rising living costs turned the former mayor, a member of Civic Platform, out of office, WSJ reports. A similar fate could await Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz if Law and Justice pulls off its quest to raise the necessary signatures to call early elections in the capital.


Flaccid economic results this year are boosting Law and Justice's opinion ratings, despite Poland's relative economic strength over the past five hard years, Polish Radio writes. A July survey shows the ruling party losing more ground to PiS, with 35 percent of respondents pledging electoral support to the conservatives, compared with 26 percent for Civic Platform.


Law and Justice still has work to do before national elections set for 2015. A different poll last month showed the two parties almost neck and neck.


5. Japan looks to Uzbekistan for new uranium supplies


A Japan-Uzbekistan joint venture is preparing to explore for uranium in Uzbekistan, reports.


The government-affiliate Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) was expected to sign an agreement this week with Uzbekistan's state-owned Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinant (NMMC).


Japan, with few energy resources of its own, relied heavily on nuclear power until the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 caused a major accident at the Fukushima nuclear station and forced the shutdown of all but two of the country's nuclear power plants.


Japanese nuclear operators recently applied to restart 10 reactors. The country is looking for new sources of uranium, writes.


Japan already imports uranium from world-leading producer Kazakhstan and has been looking into Uzbekistani and Mongolian sources of the metal as well, Business New Europe writes.


JOGMEC and NMMC agreed in 2009 to jointly explore for uranium at three sites in the central Kyzyl-Kum region, RIA Novosti reported in 2012. The sites were thought to contain about 13,000 tons of uranium.


Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Molly Jane Zuckerman are TOL editorial interns.
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