Plus, the deposed ‘gray cardinal’ of the Kremlin may be poised for a comeback and a Czech girl makes history at the Little League World Series.by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane 20 August 2013
A rally for Azerbaijani opposition presidential candidate Rustam Ibragimbekov 18 August drew about 3,000 people, even though Baku city officials ordered it to be held 10 kilometers (six miles) from downtown, according to AFP.
In early August the National Council of Democratic Forces, an opposition coalition, nominated Ibragimbekov, an Oscar-winning screenwriter. He fled abroad earlier this year. Ralliers on Sunday urged the authorities to enable his return to Azerbaijan to participate in the election, Caucasian Knot reports. Ibragimbekov has said he fears being arrested on charges of tax evasion if he returns home and he is still waiting for the Russian bureaucracy to cancel his citizenship in that country – he is a dual Russian-Azerbaijani national – in order to legally contest the presidency, Radio Free Europe reported earlier this month.
Sargsyan said Aliev has the best chance of overcoming “Armenia-phobia” in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani officials have mooted a military solution to the conflict if the slow-moving, internationally moderated negotiations fail to bear fruit, RFE writes.
Belgrade officials continue to urge Kosovo Serbs to vote in upcoming local elections even though Serbia’s political class cannot agree on whether participation would amount to recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty.
The 3 November elections are meant to be “status-neutral,” requiring no implicit or explicit acknowledgement of Kosovo’s independence by Serbs who live there. But as B92 reports, some in the Serbian opposition reject that term as wordplay, though for different reasons.
“Status-neutral elections do not exist,” former Kosovo Minister Slobodan Samardzic of the moderately nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia said, noting that the elections will be organized by Kosovo officials.
A lead negotiator in the technical talks between Kosovo and Serbia under the previous government, Borislav Stefanovic of the liberal Democratic Party, sought to skirt the semantic dispute, arguing that the resulting EU-brokered agreement can be interpreted so as not to contradict the Serbian constitution’s insistence that Kosovo remains a part of Serbia.
An adviser to President Tomislav Nikolic, Marko Djuric, said the elections "do not mean a changing attitude toward the status issue for Serbia, but a step toward the political empowerment of the Serb community under very difficult circumstances."
At a meeting with Kosovo Serbs 14 August, Nikolic again stated that the government will not support an election boycott, former U.S. diplomat Gerard M. Gallucci writes for TransConflict.
“The northern Kosovo leadership seemed to have heard,” Gallucci writes. “After the meeting, Zvecan Mayor [Dragisa] Milovic said the leaders were told that ‘the election would take place with us or without us.’ Milovic noted that he personally already has made up his mind not to participate in the election.”
A Serb official in the divided city of Mitrovica, Adrijana Hodzic, told SETimes she was hearing dramatically differing versions of how local Serb political parties will handle the election. One unofficial source told her all parties were in principle ready to take part, while another said all will “absolutely boycott” the voting.
Belarusian and Lithuanian officials are putting different spins on a weekend discussion of Belarus’ planned nuclear power plant.
Although billed as a public discussion, the event took place in the town of Ostrovets, where the plant will be built, hindering participation by those in Lithuania, Lithuanian’s Foreign Ministry complained, according to the Lithuania Tribune. Lithuanian citizens could not easily travel there, said Gitana Grigaityte, a ministry department head.
In addition, the Belarusians have not given satisfactory answers to a number of questions regarding the plant, she said, such as how it will be cooled and what provisions are being made for the possibility of earthquakes. The site is about 10 kilometers from the two countries’ border and 50 kilometers from Vilnius. As such, it is subject to a UN convention on projects that could have cross-border environmental affects.
Belarus’ embassy in Vilnius ran ads in Lithuanian media inviting Lithuanians to the meeting, even saying their travel expenses would be met, the Lithuania Tribune writes.
Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk dismissed Lithuanian concerns, the state news agency Belta reports.
“All this fuss around our project is nothing else but Lithuania’s efforts to promote its economic interests. Lithuania and other Baltic states had declared earlier that they were going to construct their own nuclear power plants,” he said.
Lithuania has proposed replacing its closed Soviet-era nuclear plant with a new, safer model. Voters rejected the plan last year in a non-binding referendum, but officials hope to revive the idea, Energy Minister Jaroslav Neverovich said recently.
The man widely seen as the chief strategist of Vladimir Putin’s system of “managed democracy” is about to return to the Kremlin just months after falling out of favor with the president, Izvestia writes.
The pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia quotes government sources saying that Surkov will be named a Putin adviser on business innovation and development, according to Reuters.
“Putin often rotates people he trusts in important posts and has a limited pool from which to choose,” Reuters writes.
Reports do not suggest whether Putin might be grateful for Surkov’s recent fulsome praise for his former boss.
In a July interview, Surkov shared his belief that Putin was God-sent and “summoned to save Russia from a hostile takeover,” Interfax writes. He also labeled as “absurd” the possibility of him joining the opposition, whom he saw as “personalities beset by the severest forms of frustration, deprivation, and aggravation.”
“They should not be curing society, instead society should be curing them,” he said.
Czech team coach Pavel Chadim was overwhelmed by the scene in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the home of the Little League World Series, where eight U.S. teams are vying with eight foreign sides. Crowds of 20,000 regularly turn up for games at the 10-day tournament, which concludes this weekend.
“There is nothing like it for children in any other sport, so you can’t compare success here to anything else,” the Brno edition of the Czech news site Denik.cz quotes him as saying.
The Czechs reached the pinnacle of kids’ baseball by winning the Europe-Africa qualification tournament last month in Kutno, Poland.
Eliska Stejskalova beat out her twin brother to win a spot on the team.
“She is good, that is why she is here,” Chadim told the Pennsylvania TV station WNEP.
Eliska is the 16th girl to compete in the Little League World Series since the gender barrier was broken in 1984.
Her team failed to advance past the first round, losing to Tokyo on 16 August and Ottawa on 18 August. They are scheduled to play a consolation game today against the team from Grosse Point, Michigan.