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Bulgarian Protests Escalate, London Police Break Up Roma Camp

Plus, Gazprom's chief awaits a shiny new toy and Belarus tops the list of spam producers.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 24 July 2013

1. Bulgarian parliament blockaded as anti-government protests escalate


Bulgarians' anger at perceived government corruption and cronyism reached its highest point early this morning, a day after a high EU official implicitly sided with the protesters.


Demonstrators blockaded parliament overnight on 23-24 July on the 40th day of rallies against the Socialist-led government that took power in June after an earlier wave of popular discontent forced a conservative administration to resign.




The BBC reports that police escorted about 100 people from the parliament at 5 a.m. local time Wednesday, including journalists, members of parliament, and three cabinet ministers.


Ten people including two police officers were treated for minor injuries at a Sofia hospital, The Sofia Globe reports.


The Socialist Party today claimed the opposition was behind the “radicalization of the protests” and party leader Sergei Stanishev spoke of “a conscious attempt to instigate conflict,” according to The Globe.


The latest round of demonstrations began in June when a controversial media owner was nominated to head the national security agency. After the appointment was scotched, protesters began demanding the resignation of nonpartisan Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and broad political reforms.


On 23 July EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, on a previously scheduled visit to Sofia, told a public discussion, “My sympathy is with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting on the streets against corruption.


“And it is now the time to step up the efforts to reform [Bulgaria's] judicial system and fight corruption. Modern democracies and vibrant economies are incompatible with oligarchies,” Reding said, according to an unconfirmed text of her remarks released by the EU press office.


2. Romani campers back on Park Lane days after police raid


Recently ejected Romanian Roma have returned to camp in an upscale London neighborhood just days after British authorities raided the site, the London Evening Standard reports.


On 19 July police dispersed about 60 people sleeping near Marble Arch.


Twenty-one accepted an offer of an immediate free flight home and 19 said they would leave the UK on their own. By 23 July “dozens of Romanian gypsies” were again sleeping outdoors on Park Lane, according to the report.




Representatives of the Romanian Embassy in London were present at the 19 July police action, The Huffington Post reports. Last week's raid on Park Lane was part of an operation against Romani rough sleepers, beggars, and petty criminals in central London.


British police are being assisted by colleagues from Poland and Lithuania as well as Romania in an operation to break up “criminal gangs from Eastern Europe,” making more than 50 arrests by 17 July, the BBC reported.


3. Astana moves to calm row with Italy over Shalabaeva expulsion


Kazakhstan may allow the wife of fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov to return to Italy in return for financial and other guarantees, the ANSA news agency reports.


Alma Shalabaeva and her young daughter were flown to Kazakhstan 31 May after Italian police raided a villa in a fruitless search for Ablyazov, Reuters reports. According to the ANSA report, Kazakh diplomats were aboard the private jet that flew them to Kazakhstan.


Her expulsion led to strains in Italy's coalition government and drew a rebuke to police from Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Reuters writes. One official resigned over the incident and the opposition initiated an ultimately unsuccessful bid to bring down the government last week on a no-confidence vote against Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who had said he was not informed of the expulsion.


Mukhtar Ablyazov_100Mukhtar Ablyazov
Ablyazov, a former cabinet minister and banker, is wanted in Kazakhstan for fraud charges he claims are politically motivated. He was granted political asylum in Britain two years ago.


Astana would permit Shalabaeva's return if Italy provided “a deposit” and other “guarantees,” Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry told Corriere della Sera 23 July, according to ANSA.


Shalabaeva is under investigation for bribing officials to obtain false passports, Reuters reports, citing Corriere della Sera. She is reportedly free to move around Almaty but cannot leave the city.


4. Gazprom chief to get $4 million iPad


Russia Beyond the Headlines details  a tender for a new iPad custom-made for Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller.


The Russian energy giant announced a tender for a computer system costing up to 120 million rubles ($3.7 million) for the use of Miller and other Gazprom brass, the news site reports. The system is to be based on Apple's iOS operating system and will run on an iPad. It will be designed to interface with a Gazprom management system installed last year, a spokesman told Izvestia, according to RBTH.


This pricey tablet is meant to help Miller “run the company more efficiently,” Bloomberg writes.


Recently President Vladimir Putin urged Gazprom to do just that. Gazprom stock has fallen 13 percent this year on reduced energy demand and investor concerns the company is spending more while paying smaller dividends, Bloomberg notes.


One Russian software developer told Bloomberg, “Even though the $3.7 million price looks a bit exaggerated to me, it should be clear that we aren’t talking about an iPad decorated with diamonds.


“An automated work station for a CEO” matching Gazprom's specifications “could be indeed quite a complicated and costly solution,” he said.


Apple refused to comment on the report.


5. IT guys pinpoint exact location of Spamalot


Belarus has grabbed the dubious honor of being the biggest worldwide source of spam per capita, according to the BBC. Data from the Cloudmark security firm flagged 27 percent of Belarusian IP addresses as known sources of spam, with Romania in second place at 22 percent.


Anti-spam companies block data traffic from more than 3 million Belarusian IP addresses, Cloudmark's Andrew Conway said.


The United States, with its far larger population, continues to emit the largest volume of junk emails.


Spammers began exploiting Belarusian IP addresses after Russia and other countries put better anti-spam protection in place, security researcher Paul Ducklin told the BBC.


The country's lax Internet security controls also lured cybercriminals based in other countries such as Romania. Spam messages are typically sent from hijacked computers and rarely originate in the country denoted by the IP address, he said.


Another Internet security company, AppRiver, measured a massive spike in Belarusian spam in April, when the volume leaped from 3 million messages a day to a steady level of 12 million, the Internet news site The Register wrote on 30 May.


Security analyst Jonathan French said the reason for the 13 April spike and continued sky-high spam volume was not clear. Internet security provider Sophos confirmed the rapid rise in spam from Belarusian computers, saying it logged more spams from Belarus than any other country over a 30-day period.

Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Molly Jane Zuckerman are TOL editorial interns.


Bulgaria video by Euronews/YouTube

London video by liarpoliticians/BBC/YouTube

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