Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!
Plus, opposition leader’s lawyer arrested in Tajikistan and Bosnia mourns victims of 1992 massacre.by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, Mane Grigoryan, and Madeleine Stern 22 July 2014
The owner of Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk soccer club has warned six players they face sanctions unless they return to the club in the eastern city where street battles are raging.
“Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer. Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros,” Rinat Akhmetov wrote 20 July on the team website.
Akhmetov is one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen and a critic of the separatists who hold parts of Donetsk and other cities in the country’s east. The city of nearly 1 million is about 35 miles west of where a Malaysian airliner was shot down over rebel-held territory last week.
Fighting in the city intensified 21 July as government forces attempted to expand toward the city center from their base at the airport, Reuters reports.
The players, five Brazilians and an Argentine, refused to return to Ukraine after an exhibition match 19 July in France, BBC Sport reports. Several of the players have been regulars with Shakhtar, and one, Fred, played in the Brazil squad that reached the semifinals of the World Cup earlier this month.
One of the most successful Ukrainian soccer teams in the post-Soviet era, Shakhtar has won nine domestic championships since 2001 and the 2009 UEFA Cup. Ten South American players are members of this season’s 28-man squad.
Brazilian Douglas Costa wrote on his Instagram page that the players decided not to return with the team for fear they “all run a deadly risk if we are in the region.” The players were not seeking transfers to other clubs, he said, according to the Associated Press.
Akhmetov admitted he did not know where the club will play its home matches.
“We will not take risks and in any case we won’t bring players to dangerous places. We want to play in Donetsk very much, but, unfortunately, at the moment we cannot do it,” he wrote.
Shakhtar kicks off its season today, taking on fierce rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the annual Super Cup exhibition match in Lviv. The team is scheduled to play its opening Ukrainian Premier League match on 27 July against Metalurh Zaporizhya.
A dispute over the election of a new speaker of the Kosovo parliament is delaying the nomination of the next prime minister, Balkan Insight reports.
Instead of designating a successor to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci after the new parliament held its opening session 17 July, President Atifete Jahjaga will wait until the brouhaha around the speaker settles down, a spokesman said.
The bad-tempered session saw four smaller parties elect Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, as speaker after deputies from Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) walked out of parliament, Reuters reports.
Thaci then filed a complaint at the Constitutional Court, calling Mustafa’s election invalid because of procedural irregularities, according to Balkan Insight.
The PDK won a plurality of 31 percent of the vote in the June snap election but has been unable to form a coalition as other parties instead coalesced into a loose anti-Thaci alliance.
The party claimed Mustafa’s election was invalid because the four-party bloc of 47 deputies that proposed him as speaker is not a proper parliamentary grouping. The party claims only it has the right, as the biggest-single seat-holder, to propose the speaker.
Meanwhile, the head of the Serbian government office for relations with Kosovo, Marko Djuric, said Kosovo Serbs were entitled to hold ministerial posts in the next government thanks to their participation in recent elections, B92 reports.
The bodies of 284 victims of a 1992 massacre in Bosnia were buried 20 July, Reuters reports. The bodies were found in a mass grave in Tomasica, near Prijedor in northwestern Bosnia. They are believed to have been killed in the summer of 1992 during a wave of violence against Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces.
“Witness accounts suggest around 1,000 people were tossed into the gruesome death pit but later dug up and reburied elsewhere as part of a systematic bid to conceal evidence of atrocities,” Reuters writes. Almost all the bodies found in the grave are thought to be those of Bosniaks.
The burial ceremony was led by the grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Deutsche Welle reports.
Evidence collected from the Tomasica graves will be used in the ongoing trials of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, at the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal in The Hague.
The burial of the Tomasica victims came days after commemorations of the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which took the lives of more than 8,000 Bosniaks.
Poland is planning to appeal the European Union’s upcoming ban on flavored tobacco products at the European Court of Justice, Reuters reports. Poland, a major tobacco grower and cigarette maker, claims menthol cigarettes qualify as a traditional product and should thus be exempt from the EU’s sweeping new tobacco rules due to take effect in 2016.
Sweden won an exemption from the ban on flavored tobacco for snus, a powdered tobacco placed under the lip. Poland’s deputy prime minister and economy minister, Janusz Piechocinski, argues that menthol cigarettes should be exempt as well.
Nearly a fifth of Polish smokers favor menthol cigarettes, far more than in many EU countries. An industry study said a ban on menthol cigarettes could cost Poland 30,000 jobs and $3 billion in lost tax revenue annually, Reuters writes, and could see many smokers buying cigarettes smuggled from Belarus and Ukraine.
A spokeswoman for British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris, and Japan Tobacco International, which have a combined 99 percent share of the Polish market, said, “Menthol cigarettes were introduced to Poland in 1953 and Polish smokers have developed a unique taste for them. … There is no reason why they should get hit so hard over this.”
Poland is the second largest producer of tobacco in the EU, with the industry providing more than 60,000 jobs, and the seventh largest manufacturer of cigarettes worldwide, according to Reuters.
The most visible impact of the EU directive will be large health warnings splashed on cigarette packages. Last month Philip Morris asked a court in the UK to review the legislation.
Tajikistani authorities detained a lawyer for jailed businessman and opposition politician Zayd Saidov on bribery charges, Asia-Plus reports. According to an unnamed source at the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption, Shuhrat Qudratov was detained 21 July on suspicion he tried to bribe a Dushanbe judge.
Qudratov is the second Saidov lawyer arrested this year. Fahriddin Zokirov remains in pretrial detention after being arrested in March for allegedly failing to pay off a bank debt, Avesta.tj reports.
A prominent businessman, Saidov was arrested in May 2013 on charges of polygamy and economic crimes, weeks after he founded a new political party, seen by some around longtime Tajikistani leader Imomali Rahmon as a threat to his political dominance.
Saidov was sentenced to 26 years in prison in December for economic crimes, polygamy, and sexual relations with a minor.
Saidov was also accused of rape by a woman who won a lawsuit against Qudratov in April for damaging her reputation, Asia-Plus reports.
After Zokirov’s arrest this spring, Qudratov told IWPR that the legal profession was becoming a “dangerous occupation” in Tajikistan, partly because most trials of regime critics are held behind closed doors, making lawyers “the only source of information for the public outside.”