Russian police shut down St. Petersburg’s small Museum of Authority 28 August after seizing four paintings that poked fun at Russian officials, according to CBS News.
RIA Novosti writes that one confiscated canvas, made by painter Konstantin Altunin, included a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin dressed in a light pink nightgown brushing the hair of bra-and-panties clad Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev.
Among the other confiscated paintings was one of St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Milonov, chief sponsor of that city's ban on "homosexual propaganda," against the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement; a portrait of Moscow Patriarch Kirill with tattoos of Soviet leaders’ skulls; and a painting called “Erotic Dreams of Lawmaker [Yelena] Mizulina,” a member of parliament who championed a nationwide ban patterned on St. Petersburg's.
Police said the raid was prompted by a tip that artwork there “might violate existing Russian laws.” Russia has a law proscribing the act of “insulting representatives of authority.”
According to RIA Novosti, Altunin wants his paintings back.
“I demand the return of my paintings, which were stolen from the Museum of Authority by an organized criminal group led by lawmaker Milonov,” he posted on museum’s page on the VKontakte social network.
The United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) “singularly failed” to properly investigate the killings and abductions of Serbs in Kosovo during the 1998-1999 war between Kosovan separatists and Yugoslav forces, Amnesty International charged in a report released 27 August.
“UNMIK’s failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty’s Kosovo expert, on the organization’s website.
The UN was the de facto government of Kosovo after Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999, after three months of NATO bombing. The intervention was prompted by international concern over Serbia’s violent attempt to quell ethnic Albanian separatism and resulted in Kosovo’s de facto independence as an Albanian-majority state.
Most of the UN’s role in Kosovo’s law enforcement agencies and judiciary were handed over to a European Union mission in 2008, after Kosovo declared independence, the Associated Press notes.
The report is based on findings by UNMIK’s own Human Rights Advisory Panel, which received complaints from hundreds of survivors of missing people, mostly ethnic Serbs, that “UNMIK had failed to investigate the abduction and subsequent murder of their relative or relatives.”
According to the AP, the UN had no immediate response to the report’s findings, but UNMIK has blamed such administration-of-justice lapses on the difficulty of operating in Kosovo’s lawless environment.
However long it might take, Amnesty’s Jones said these crimes must still be investigated properly.
“There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity,” she said on the organization’s site. “They must be investigated and the families of the abducted and murdered must receive redress. The UN should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility any longer.”
Documents submitted by Rustam Ibragimbekov do not qualify him to run for president, Arifa Mukhtarova, secretary of the country’s Central Electoral Commission, said 27 August.
“There is no legal basis for registering his candidacy for the presidential polls,” given Ibragimbekov’s “Russian citizenship and his obligations to that country,” Mukhtarova said. Azerbaijan’s constitution prevents dual citizens from running for president.
A screenwriter whose work includes the Oscar-winning Russian film Burnt by the Sun, Ibragimbekov has requested the cancellation of his Russian citizenship and accused the Kremlin of delaying the process as a favor to incumbent President Ilham Aliev, who has an overwhelming electoral advantage.
A late July poll showed that 81 percent of voters would chose Aliev, while only 1 percent said they would choose Ibragimbekov.
Anticipating the commission’s ruling, the coalition of Azerbaijan's main opposition parties supporting Ibragimbekov as their candidate has also nominated historian Camil Hasanli as a backup candidate.
Another opposition candidate, Ilgar Mammadov, has been in jail since February on charges of inciting a riot. The European Parliament called for his release in June and urged authorities in Azerbaijan to respect freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.
Lithuania shut down its Soviet-era nuclear power plant in order to get into the European Union in 2004. Now it’s facing potential nuclear risks just across its borders, the latest concern being plans to develop a nuke plant in Kaliningrad, Russia’s enclave between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, Bloomberg reports.
The small Baltic nation has demanded safety assurances from Russian authorities about a plant being built by the government-owned Rosatom Corporation, the same company that is staking out territory for a nuclear plant in Belarus, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
On 20 August, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius told Belarusian officials not to start building a plant there until it can verify that it meets international safety standards and complies with atomic energy treaties.
On 27 August, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its website setting similar demands regarding Kaliningrad, where Rosatom announced that it has recently suspended work in order to decide between sticking with originals plans for two 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactors or bigger plans that would also include several smaller reactors, Bloomberg writes.
Rosatom, in a letter published on the Lithuanian news site 15min.lt, said other nearby countries, such as Latvia, Poland, Belarus, and Estonia, are satisfied with the information it has provided them, and Lithuania is the only country objecting, Bloomberg writes.
The Baltic region was hit by the world’s worst nuclear power disaster, the 1986 explosion and meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Soviet Ukraine. Winds spread radioactive particles northward over Belarus, the Baltic states, and Scandinavia before dispersing around the globe.
The report, signed by ruling and opposition parties and written by a bipartisan commission, largely blames the government for the December brawl, which ended with the ejection of several opposition members and journalists from parliament, Reuters reports.
Besides the threat of elections, which Gruevski's party would be better positioned to win, the two sides were under pressure from the European Union, which warned that the hostility could harm Macedonia’s efforts to start negotiations over joining the union.
Gruevski threatened to hold early elections unless the opposition agreed to modify the report, but pulled back the next day, Reuters writes.
“We decided that, in the interests of the state, and even if it costs us, we will vote and sign the commission’s report the way the opposition wants,” Gruevski said 25 August, according to Reuters.
Borce Davidkovski, president of the commission, stated he was “happy that the interest of the citizens was put above the parties.”
In 2005, Macedonia won candidate status to join the EU but failed to open entry talks due to a dispute with Greece over the country’s name. According to Reuters, the European Commission has signaled it might open negotiation talks this year even if the name issue is not resolved.