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Kazakhs Indicted in Boston Attack, Floods Sweep Russia’s East

Plus, ex-Moldovan official acquitted of coverup and Gorbachev debunks death reports. by S. Adam Cardais and Vladimir Matan 9 August 2013

1. Emergency declared over Russian floods


Russian authorities have declared a state of emergency after flooding caused by heavy rain struck five Far East regions, Russia Beyond the Headlines reports.


On 8 August, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov announced the high alert due to both the current situation and forecasts that even more rain in the coming days will continue pushing up the Zeya and Urkan rivers, The Moscow Times reports.

russiafloods_350A dam on the Zeya River. Photo by Russian Emergency Situations Ministry


Nevertheless, Puchkov said the situation was under control thanks to the emergency personnel and resources sent to the area.


“The people should have no reasons to worry,” he said, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines.


Over 24,000 personnel and 4,245 vehicles have been sent to the Republic of Sakha, the Khabarovsk and Primorye territories, the Amur region, and the Jewish autonomous region. Amur has been among the hardest hit, with 1,500 people evacuated and nearly 10,000 emergency personnel dispatched there.


Overall, authorities have evacuated 2,285 people, The Moscow Times reports, citing the ministry.


Water is also overflowing from the reservoir at the Zeyskaya hydroelectric plant. If it continues, some 30 more villages and the Amur region administrative center Blagoveshchensk could be flooded.


2. U.S. says two Kazakh students obstructed Boston bombing probe


Two Kazakhstani nationals were indicted 8 August on new, more serious charges for allegedly impeding the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, The Wall Street Journal reports.


If brought to trial and convicted on the charges, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19, could face up to 25 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and deportation, Reuters reports.


Originally charged with conspiracy in May, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bombing suspect, living in Massachusetts on student visas. U.S. authorities say they removed a backpack with fireworks and a laptop computer from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room after the FBI released pictures of him and brother Tamerlan in the hopes of identifying the suspects,


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had reportedly sent Kadyrbayev a text suggesting he go to the room and “take what’s there.” Authorities believe the explosives used in the bombs were made with black powder that probably came from fireworks.


Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police after the 15 April bombing that killed three people and left over 260 injured. In June, a grand jury charged Dzhokhar on 30 counts, including using a weapon of mass destruction. Seriously injured during the police manhunt, he pleaded not guilty in July.


3. Ex-Moldovan prosecutor cleared in affair that toppled a government


Former Moldovan Prosecutor-General Valeriu Zubco has been acquitted of charges related to a fatal hunting accident that sparked a five-month political crisis, Radio Free Europe reports.


Valeriu Zubco
Zubco faced charges that he tried to cover up the fatal shooting of a businessman during a December 2012 hunting expedition with top judicial officials. He had faced heavy criticism for leaving the country after the accident, and was forced to temporarily step down after lawmakers said he could influence the case.


His ouster set off a series of charges and counter-charges of corruption within the ruling coalition that ultimately brought down Moldova’s pro-Western government in March. It’s unclear whether Zubco will retake his post as Moldova’s top prosecutor.


The country’s National Commission for Integrity says it will appeal the decision, according to RFE.


4. “I am alive and well,” Gorbachev says


Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has spoken up to deny reports of his death planted by hackers in the Twitter accounts of a Russia news agency, AFP reports.


Mikhail Gorbachev
“I am alive and well,” he told Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper of which he is part owner, late on 7 August after two Twitter accounts of the RIA Novosti state news agency posted reports of his death. The last Soviet leader added that his enemies were “hoping in vain” for his passing.


RIA Novosti said the hackers infiltrated the Twitter accounts of its international press center and German-language news site on the night of 7 August. The tweets were removed within five minutes.


The news agency, which has been hacked before, launched an internal investigation and is preparing a request for a federal probe.


AFP suggests a potential political motive because the tweets said Gorbachev, 82, died while talking to the controversial anti-drug campaigner Yevgeny Roizman, who is running for mayor of Yekaterinburg. Gorbachev, for his part, said the hackers were “carrying out the orders of some authorities.”


5. Serbian government to subsidize cash-strapped public TV


Media experts and Serbian journalists are concerned by the Serbian government’s plan to fund two of the country’s public broadcasters from the state budget.


Under the provisions of a draft law, the government will fund Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) and Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV) for the next two years, Deputy Culture Minister Dragan Kolarevic said this week, Balkan Insight reports.


The change from funding through license fees to direct state support could imply political influence on editorial policy, according to the Serbian daily Danas.


A media adviser to the European Commission, Sandra Basic Hrvatin, called on the government to reconsider the new law. Danas writes that the proposal runs counter to EU standards on media independence. As the newest country to become a full candidate for EU membership, Serbia will be under scrutiny from Brussels as it brings its legal and regulatory systems in line with those of the bloc.


The proposal to cancel license fees for the public broadcasters was lobbied by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in May this year, reported, against the claim by Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic that the state could not afford to finance the stations.


The public broadcasters are in dire financial shape, Balkan Insight writes, pointing out that RTS staff are owed several months’ back pay. Data indicate that only about 30 percent of the population pays the five-euro monthly license fee.


The government proposal “will open a Pandora’s box,” Vukasin Obradovic, president of the journalists' association NUNS, said. He predicted that smaller media outlets would plea for state funding as well.


A novelty in the bill is that the broadcasters will not be allowed to buy commercial programs with state money. This means that expensive programs like Hollywood blockbusters or Champions League soccer matches will have to be paid for out of advertising income, something the stations may not be able to achieve, Danas writes.


S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Vladimir Matan is a TOL editorial intern.
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