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Around the Bloc - 11 July

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: racism in Kyrgyzstan; Black Sea dolphins; Belarus, China and Russia; Estonia and the Soviet Union; and Chernobyl tourism. 11 July 2019

Murder Opens Racism Debate in Kyrgyzstan


The death of a Nigerian in Bishkek is making the Kyrgyz question their own attitudes to race, Eurasianet writes. Ali Abubakar, 38, the principal of an English-teaching school, lapsed into a coma after being beaten on the street during an exchange with a young man and died several days later, on 5 July. Abubakar’s brother, Abdul-rahaman, said the man had been filming Ali and following him around. According to the attacker, he was chatting with friends online when Abubakar accused him of filming him without permission and starting shouting insults, provoking the attacker into striking him. Abubakar hit his head on the ground after being punched in the face by the man, Nigeria’s reported, citing Akipress. Abdul-rahaman said everyday racism is rife in Kyrgyzstan and claimed police are protecting the suspect. “Attacks like this happen to us every day. It happened today, it happened yesterday. And what are we supposed to do? Just keep quiet,” he said.



Dolphin Casualties May Be Linked to Black Sea Fishing 



Tourists enjoying their holidays on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast have been witnessing a disquieting sight, as dolphins, sometimes missing limbs, have washed up on beaches, the BBC reports. Environmental campaigner Atanas Rusev cited instances of baby dolphins getting tangled in turbot nets and drowning. Since only a small number of dead dolphins wash up on the shore, this points to a large-scale problem of illegal fishing, much larger than official statistics of 12 dead dolphins up to mid-June indicate, he said. The popularity of turbot, a delicacy on Bulgarian menus, is also partially to blame. Populations of both turbot and dolphins have been dwindling in the Black Sea. Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine are taking part in a joint European Union-funded project to protect dolphins, Novinite writes.



Belarus Seeks Chinese Money to Repay Russia 


Belarusian Deputy Finance Minister Andrey Byalkavets has confirmed that Minsk and Beijing are on the verge of agreeing a Chinese loan of $600 million to help repay Belarus’s debts to Russia, according to RFE/RL. "We planned to get another loan from Russia, but we postponed the issue, since we have found an alternative with our Chinese partners," Byalkavets said earlier this week. Russia has been using a stick-and-carrot approach to Belarus, conditioning potential financial aid on deeper integration between the two countries. According to bne IntelliNews, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in June that "we need to make comprehensive decisions that would concern a vision for our further integration" regarding the so-called Union State treaty signed in the 1990s but adhered to mostly on paper. "Then we will understand the level of our financial relations."



Moscow Celebrations of Tallinn Capture ‘Provocative’

Estonia has hit back at Russia’s plans for festivities marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Red Army’s seizure of Tallinn from German forces, the AP reports. A firework display is planned in Moscow for 22 September to mark the event. Reacting to the news, which his ministry dubbed “provocative,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said when the Red Army entered Tallinn in 1944, it “didn’t bring freedom to Estonia but a Soviet occupation lasting half a century.” A series of spying allegations and border incidents in recent years has worsened the already cool relations between Moscow and Tallinn. In December, a Moscow court found an Estonian businessman guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.



Visit Chernobyl! It’s Officially Safe


The Chernobyl nuclear station and the area surrounding the site of a massive reactor explosion in 1986 is set to be developed into an official tourist destination. "Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine's brand," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said yesterday, after signing a decree ordering new hiking trails and better mobile phone reception. "The time has come to change this," the BBC quotes him as saying. “We will create a green corridor for tourists,” Zelenskiy promised. Despite high radiation levels, the area surrounding the reactor is already popular with tourists. Public interest in the catastrophe was fueled by a recent TV series. “Until the hugely popular HBO/Sky TV series Chernobyl first aired, most people outside the former Eastern bloc had probably vaguely heard of Chernobyl, but few had ever pondered what exactly happened there in that spring of 1986,” TOL columnist Peter Rutland writes.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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