Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
Plus, Latvia's Ask.fm social networking site is hit over teen suicides and the Mongolians who seek fame and fortune as sumo wrestlers.by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane 13 August 2013
Estonian police say a former intelligence agent arrested 7 August has confessed to spying for Russia. The arrest triggered alarms within the Estonian security services about the safety of the EU and NATO member country’s intelligence, AFP reports.
Vladimir Veitman worked for the Soviet KGB and then for Estonian intelligence until his retirement in 2011.
“He was recruited to spy for Russia later, not immediately after he got the job at the Estonian security police,” security police chief Arnold Sinisalu said.
“Russia has intense and aggressive interest in Estonia. They don't like that we belong to the EU,” Sinisalu said. Veitman did not have access to secret EU or NATO material, he said. Estonia joined the EU in 2004, the same year it irritated Moscow by joining NATO. The alliance established its cyber-defense center in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in 2008.
Security expert Veiko Kulla said Estonian intelligence has leakage problems because of its ex-Soviet personnel. “Everything that we know is also known on the other side of the [Russian] border,” Kulla told the Eesti Paevaleht newspaper, according to ERR News. The same was true of Latvia and Lithuania, he said.
Veitman’s arrest is the latest in a string of Russian spy scandals in the country, AFP notes.
In 2012, senior intelligence official Aleksei Dressen and his wife were imprisoned for 16 and six years respectively after being convicted of spying for Russia. In 2009, the perpetrator of one of the most serious security breaches in NATO history, Defense Ministry official Herman Simm, was sentenced to 12 year for selling secrets to Russia.
War-crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary died 12 August, just days after a Budapest court ordered proceedings to resume against the 98-year-old man accused of helping deport thousands of Jews from Hungarian-held territory during World War II.
Csatary, one of the last remaining Holocaust crime suspects, was threatened with legal proceedings in both Hungary and Slovakia, which requested his extradition last year, after he was unmasked after living in Budapest for many years.
As a police commander in the city of Kosice, now in Slovakia, during World War II, Csatary is accused of participating in the deportation of almost 16,000 Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz and other camps in Ukraine and Poland.
Csatary was put under house arrest last year. He denied the charges against him, MTI writes. The court ruling last week reversed a lower court finding that Csatary’s trial should be suspended pending determination of whether a 1948 conviction in Czechoslovakia for the same crimes was valid in Hungary.
Proceedings were due to begin in September on Slovakia's extradition request, according to the BBC.
Laszlo Karsai, a prominent Holocaust historian, and the son of a Holocaust survivor, told the BBC the planned trial of Csatary and another trial of another very old suspect “serve no useful purpose – historically, educationally, or politically."
The earlier case concerned Sandor Kepiro, who in 2011 was acquitted of involvement in a massacre of Jews in Novi Sad, Serbia, in 1942. The 97-year-old former Hungarian army officer died two months later.
“While I have no doubt that these two men – Kepiro and Csatary – were war criminals, the sight of them hounded into court evokes only human sympathy,” Karsai said.
The parents of the Latvian founders of a social media platform involved in a British suicide row are defending their sons, the Daily Mail writes. Latvian entrepreneurs and founders of Ask.fm, Ilja Terebin, 34, and Mark Terebin, 29, have come under fire from relatives of teens who have committed suicide after being cyber-bullied. The most recent case is that of Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old British girl who recently ended her life. She had been told to “drink bleach” and “go die” by anonymous users of the platform, according to the Techcrunch website. The tragedy followed the suicides of four other teenage girls in English-speaking countries who allegedly received abusive and hateful messages from Ask.fm users.
The Daily Mail writes that parents of the victims are urging advertisers to boycott the website and have even appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron for assistance. The mother of Ask.fm’s founders, Ludmilla Terebin, responded, saying, “I think we'd better look instead at the parents of these teenagers and at the way they brought them up.”
She added that she didn't understand how Ask.fm worked and didn't use it herself.
Some of the concerns about the site could be addressed by making it harder for users to communicate anonymously, Techcrunch writes, while noting that users can disable anonymous messages and can report abusive posts to moderators.
Smith’s suicide elicited an open letter from the Terebin brothers stating that Ask.fm is collaborating with British police to try and unmask the cyber bullies, and had commissioned an audit of its security features.
But the brothers themselves are now taking flak for expressing their dislike of homosexuals on their personal Ask.fm pages, the Daily Mail reports.
Residents of Serbia who lost properties in Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav wars have until the end of the month to apply for new properties in their former home regions, the Serbian refugee commission says.
Those who had tenant’s rights in Croatia before 8 April 1991 are eligible, commission spokeswoman Jelena Maric said, according to Balkan Insight. They must intend to return permanently to Croatia and must not own a dwelling in Croatia or any other former Yugoslav country.
Applicants are entitled to 35 square meters of living space with an additional 10 square meters for each family member, Maric said.
Another condition is that the new property must be in the same area as the former one, Assistant Commissioner for Refugees Ivan Gerginov told Tanjug, the Serbian National News Agency.
Gerginov said the 31 August application deadline is final. Only 1,450 people responded to two previous calls to apply for the Croatian re-housing program, he said, probably because of poor housing conditions in their former home areas.
More than half the 5 million population of Bosnia was displaced during the conflicts in 1991-1995, and about half a million were displaced in Croatia and in Serbia, Balkan Insight writes.
The refugee return program in Bosnia was funded by 583 million euros ($775 million) from international donors raised at a conference last year. The money is intended to help re-house 27,000 refugee families, 16,000 of them living in Serbia.
In the past five years, more than 70,000 people who fled to Serbia have reclaimed property in Bosnia, Gerginov said.
With 2,000 years of tradition behind it, wrestling is the most popular sport in Mongolia. Thousands of wrestlers enter competitions around the country and the best meet for an annual tournament in Ulaanbaatar where some 500 competitors fight for the champion's title, Al Jazeera writes.
There are no weight classes or time limits on the bouts, which put a premium on technique and endurance.
Mongolians began taking these skills abroad after the end of communism, with many excelling at the Japanese national sport of sumo wrestling. The most recent Mongolian triumph came on 19 July when Hakuho won the prestigious Emperor's Cup for the 26th time, the Japan Times reports.
Hakuho defeated the Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu to take the cup at a tournament in Nagoya.
In 2002 sumo authorities introduced a limit of one foreigner for each wrestling stable, hoping to curtail the dominance of foreign wrestlers, but not stopping the migration of would-be champions from low-income Mongolia, Al Jazeera notes.
Asashoryu Dagvadorj, one of the first and most successful Mongolian sumo stars, now retired at the age of 32, says he saw sumo wrestling as a way to develop Mongolia, according to Forbes. Dagvadorj, whose Japanese name means “Morning Blue Dragon,” parlayed his sumo winnings into a range of Mongolian businesses and is now a wealthy man.
Sumo still beckons, but many Mongolian athletes are switching to Olympic events such as judo, Al Jazeera writes.
Transitions magazine = Your one-stop source for news, research and analysis on the post-communist region.
Sign up for the free TOL newsletter!
The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.
This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes.
It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.