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Crimean Tatars May be Evicted, Kyrgyzstan’s Government Crumbles

Plus, more reports of Chechen warlord Doku Umarov’s death and Azerbaijan sends two opposition leaders to prison for inciting unrest.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Sarah Fluck, and Lily Sieradzki 19 March 2014

1. Crimean Tatars must vacate land: official


A senior Crimean official tried to assuage the fears of the peninsula’s Muslim Tatar minority 18 March, telling RIA Novosti that the Tatars could expect senior posts in the new government of the region, whose people voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a weekend referendum.


“I think that Crimean Tatars will be well represented in the government and parliament,” Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev said. However, he also said the Tatars have been asked to vacate “part of their land, which is required for social needs,” apparently a reference to lands informally taken over by Tatars in areas where they once lived before their mass deportation during World War II.


“But we are ready to allocate and legalize many other plots of land to ensure a normal life for the Crimean Tatars,” Temirgaliyev added.


Memories of Stalinist terror are part of the reason most Tatars oppose reunifying Crimea with Russia. But even though many Tatars were allowed to return from Central Asian exile, successive Ukrainian governments have turned a deaf ear to their demands to resettle on their ancestral lands in the center and south of Crimea.


Thirty percent of Crimean Tatars voted to secede from Ukraine in the referendum, Temirgaliyev said.


Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine for the United States, EU, and many former Soviet countries, but National Geographic has faced facts and is ready to recolor the region as part of Russia on its maps, U.S. News and World Report writes.


Editorial and Research Director Juan Jose Valdes explained, “We map de facto, in other words we map the world as it is, not as people would like it to be.”


National Geographic maps will show Crimea as part of Russia once the Duma votes to approve the annexation treaty President Vladimir Putin signed 18 March. The vote is expected later this week, U.S. News writes.


Another major U.S. mapmaker, Rand McNally, said it planned no changes to its maps.


“We take our direction from the State Department,” a spokeswoman said.


2. Kyrgyzstan’s government collapses


Kyrgyzstan’s government dissolved after the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) faction withdrew from the majority coalition 18 March, Reuters reports. President Almazbek Atambaev accepted the government's resignation today.


Jantoro_Satybaldiev100Jantoro Satybaldiev
Ata-Meken accused Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev, who took office in September 2012, of misuse of state and foreign aid funds in his attempts to mediate ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan's southern regions in 2010, according to Reuters.


The party also criticized Satybaldiev over the release of an organized crime figure from prison last year, according to Radio Free Europe.


Satybaldiev is also blamed for failing to resolve the complex dispute over the Kumtor gold mine, the country’s most valuable single asset. Described by Reuters as a “soft-spoken technocrat,” Satybaldiev rejected calls to nationalize the mine and was a key figure in talks to restructure the project with its major investor, Centerra Gold of Canada.


In January Ata-Meken rejected a draft restructuring agreement between the government and Centerra.


Kumtor accounted for 7.7 percent of the country’s economic output and 36.5 percent of all exports in 2013, according to Reuters.


Satybaldiev’s cabinet will continue to work until a new government is formed.


Kyrgyzstan, a country of 5.5 million, has seen two presidents deposed since 2005.


3. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov ‘dead’


Umarov_100 Doku Umarov
Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, one of Russia’s most wanted men, is presumed dead, the Kavkaz Center, a militant website linked to Russia’s Islamist insurgency, reported on 18 March.


Russian and U.S. security officials said 18 March they could not confirm the reported death of the Chechen rebel commander, ABC reported.


The Kavkaz Center announced Umarov’s death while giving no further information, Reuters writes.


There have been several previous reports of Umarov being killed but never before by Umarov’s supporters, Reuters writes. Last month Israeli researcher Avrom Shmulevich alleged he had died of poisoning, Radio Free Europe reports.


Umarov claimed responsibility for a number of deadly terrorist attacks in Russia, including the 2011 suicide attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport killing 37 and the bombing of the capital’s metro in 2010 killing 40 people, Reuters writes. In 2007 he declared himself the head of an Islamic emirate covering the entire North Caucasus, Radio Free Europe writes.


A man going by the name of Ali Abu Mukhammad announced in a YouTube video that he would replace Umarov as the new emir by the Caucasus Emirate, Reuters writes.


4. Azerbaijani opposition leaders jailed in ‘political’ ruling


The United States and human rights groups have denounced the jailing of two Azerbaijani opposition figures for inciting anti-government riots last year.


A court on 17 March sentenced Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the opposition group Republican Alternative (ReAl), to seven years in prison and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat party, to five years, AFP reports.


They were arrested in February 2013, a month after protests over official impunity in the town of Ismayili escalated into a major riot.


U.S. officials called the sentences “politically motivated,” AFP writes.


Mammadov and Yagublu said the unrest was already under way when they arrived in Ismayili to support the protesters, writes.


“President Ilham Aliyev earlier admitted that local officials were to blame for the popular fury in Ismayili and fired the unpopular local governor. Yet, as is the order of the day, critics claim, whenever the energy-rich country faces troubles, its rivals bear the brunt of the blame,” writes.


5. Alleged ‘Balkan Warrior’ drug czar nabbed in Montenegro


Šarić_100Darko Saric
Serbian and Montenegrin police forces have captured suspected drug lord Darko Saric in a joint operation, Radio Free Europe reports. Saric, 43, was arrested in Montenegro and handed over to Serbia, where he faces charges related to his alleged organized crime activities. He had been on the run since evading arrest after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than two tons of cocaine in 2009 off the coast of Uruguay in an operation dubbed "Balkan Warrior."


Serbian prosecutors have filed at least five indictments against Saric for drug trafficking and money laundering, B92 reports. In 2010, Slobodan Homen, the then state secretary at the Justice Ministry, said Saric was suspected of colluding with state officials.


Saric’s brother Dusko was arrested in Montenegro on an Italian warrant in 2010 on a charge of heading a cocaine smuggling gang. Serbian lawyer Radovan Strbac is standing trial for allegedly helping set up companies to launder money for Saric’s gang, B92 writes.


Despite anti-mafia laws and arrests, organized crime still maintains political influence in Serbia, investigative journalists say.
Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Sarah Fluck and Lily Sieradzki are TOL editorial interns.
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