Plus, 27 Croatian Roma go on trial for child crime ring and Uzbekistani leader Karimov’s non-singing daughter gives a rare interview.by Ioana Caloianu and Ky Krauthamer 2 October 2013
Representatives of the International Monetary Fund began talks with the Serbian government 1 October during a weeklong visit to assess the country’s economic health, Balkan Insight reports.
Serbian officials acknowledge the government needs outside aid to help pull back the rising debt and fiscal deficit numbers.
"Serbia needs an arrangement with the IMF for the credibility of the country's economic policy," Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said.
The public debt stands at 65 percent of gross domestic product, far over the 45 percent limit set in a fiscal responsibility law, Balkan Insight writes. The budget deficit this year is forecast to be around 4.5 percent.
The statements of high officials could signal a softer stance toward the international lender since July, when Dacic and then-Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic rejected the IMF’s proposal of a new loan in return for deficit-cutting moves including reduced pensions and public sector wages, which together account for more than half of government spending, according to Balkan Insight.
B 92 quotes Dacic as saying 1 October he was considering ways to limit government workers’ salaries.
More than two dozen Croatian Roma stand accused in France of running a crime ring that used children to carry out hundreds of thefts in several Western European countries, according to AFP.
The trial of 27 adults belonging to three extended families from the Croatian town of Slavonski Brod began 30 September. The Guardian reports the suspects deny the charges, which could land them prison sentences of up to 10 years. The alleged mastermind of the scheme, a 66-year-old woman, will be tried separately from the other suspects, who are standing trial in the eastern French city of Nancy. The woman was extradited to France after being arrested in Croatia in July under an international arrest warrant when the country joined the EU.
Croatian police found members of the families leading lavish lifestyles in Slavonski Brod, where they owned expensive houses and luxury cars. The money for this, according to AFP, came from a mafia-like structure that forced children to steal goods worth an average of 5,000 euros ($6,800) monthly and sold women to families who also forced them to steal.
"The better they were at stealing, the higher the price was," said Gilles Weintz, the police officer who led the investigation.
Alain Behr, a lawyer for one of the accused, said his client might not get a fair trial given the current anti-Roma climate in France, which emphasizes their origin and not their alleged deeds, the Guardian writes.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls recently said most Roma are unable to assimilate into French society and should be deported, the AFP writes. France sent almost 8,000 EU citizens back to their native Romania and Bulgaria in 2010, provoking an international outcry.
Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova says she is ready to resume a hunger strike if her demands for better prison conditions are not met.
In a statement released today by her husband, Tolokonnikova demanded an investigation into abuse of prisoners’ rights at her prison colony, an end to "psychological pressure" on inmates who speak out about the conditions there, and her transfer to another institution.
Tolokonnikova and another member of the radical performance group, Maria Alyokhina, are serving two-year terms for hooliganism for performing a scatological song against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral in 2012. Alyokhina was denied parole in May a day after going on hunger strike. A third band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed in October 2012.
On 1 October the Russian prison service said she had ended a nine-day hunger strike and was in stable health, according to Deutsche Welle. She reportedly told a Russian opposition leader she decided to end the strike after being placed on an intravenous drip.
In a letter announcing the hunger strike last week, she accused the colony’s deputy warden of making death threats toward her and said prison officials tried to pit other inmates against her.
Tolokonnikova has repeatedly complained about the treatment of inmates at the penal colony in the Mordovia region and of being singled out for additional punishment.
In a BBC interview Uzbek leader Islam Karimov’s younger daughter, Lola, says she does not foresee a political career and estimates her more famous sister Gulnara’s chances of succeeding their father as “low.”
Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva told the BBC Uzbek Service she and Gulnara had not spoken in 12 years.
"There are no family or friendly relations between us,” she said.
Karimova-Tillyaeva is married to an Uzbekistani businessman, Timur Tillyaev. The couple have three children. She represents Uzbekistan at UNESCO although the family spends most of its time in Geneva, in a house reportedly worth $46 million.
Her husband’s business activities include a trade and transport company, she said.
“In a carefully worded statement, she says that Mr. Tillyaev has never been involved in public tenders, been associated with national resource industries like gas or cotton, and does not enjoy tax exemptions or monopoly status,” and has not benefited from her family connections, the BBC writes.
The couple recently paid an estimated $58 million for a mansion in Los Angeles – not mentioned in the interview – according to Uznews.net, which claims that “every importer in Uzbekistan” is obliged to do business with Tillyaev’s company, Abusaxiy.
Exiled Uzbek political scientist Tashpulat Yuldashev tells Uznews.net the interview looks like a move by Lola to distance herself from the credibility problems facing her sister, whose name figures prominently in allegations that Scandinavian mobile operator TeliaSonera paid huge bribes to win an operating license in Uzbekistan..
“She is afraid that her older sister’s reputation will taint her image,” Yuldashev said. “Similarly she is afraid that her father’s shadow will jeopardize her newly found status among Western billionaires.”
Karimova-Tillyaeva appears to draw back from some of the policies that have tarnished her father’s image abroad, the BBC writes. She said she “categorically” rejects the use of forced labor when asked about the reports of child labor in the country’s cotton fields, and believed it was wrong to use force to combat Islamic extremism, a problem she attributed largely to the lack of employment opportunities.
A live telethon on national television raised about 517 million rubles ($16 million) for Russians affected by floods in the Far East region, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines. Russian Channel One devoted 10 hours 29 September to the program featuring celebrity guests and live footage from areas that suffered from weeks of heavy rain and flooding in August and September, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
According to Channel One director Konstantin Ernst, the broadcast was timed to allow viewers across the many Russian time zones to tune in live and donate, with cold weather on the way. Funds raised will be used to build prefabricated shelters for those made homeless by the floods, he said.
The floods along the Amur River on the Russian-Chinese border were dubbed the worst in over a century. By mid-September, 135,000 people had been affected and 14,000 houses damaged, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev said.
Putin ordered an inquiry into the local response to the emergency in August after visiting devastated areas.
The catastrophe caused at least 85 deaths in nearby regions of China.