en-us Latest News COMPETITION 2018: International Museum of the Crimes of Communism2018-02-01<p>The objective of the design competition is to find a contemporary, attractive and visitor-friendly design for the museum&rsquo;s architecture, exposition and interior design. This museum is one of a kind in the world. The plan is to establish it on the shore of the Gulf of Finland right in Tallinn&rsquo;s city centre in the Patarei complex, which is under cultural heritage protection.</p> <p><strong>The design competition opens on 1 February 2018 and the deadline for submitting competition entries is 24 March 2018 at 12 noon.</strong></p> <p>40,000 euros are allocated for the competition&rsquo;s awards.</p> open discussion on the issue of the preservation and development of Patarei sea fortress2018-01-22<p>The Cultural Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia held an open discussion on the issue of the preservation and development of Patarei sea fortress, used by the totalitarian regimes of the XX century as a prison. The Institute was represented in the discussion by Researcher-Curator Martin Andreller The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory is actively developing the project to establish an international museum and research centre of communist crimes in the Patarei building complex.</p> <p>More information in <a href="" target="_blank">the press release</a> of the Parliament of Estonia (Estonian).</p> Internal Security Service is still investigating five criminal cases on crimes against humanity, committed during Soviet and Nazi occupation2018-01-18<p>The criminal cases are connected to the deportations of June 1941 and March 1949, killings of forest brothers, crimes of the Nazi occupation, as well as war crimes committed by the Red Army in 1944.</p> <p>More information in <a href="" target="_blank">Postimees</a> (Estonian).</p> exhibition "At The Water's Edge" continues its journey2018-01-12<p><span>The exhibition "At The Water's Edge" has been opened at Nordens Institut p&aring; &Aring;land in Finland (January 5th till Febuary 2nd). This is a space of exchange of personal memories from the Baltic Sea Region from the times when the sea was divided by the Iron Curtain.</span></p> <p>"At The Water's Edge" has already been exhibited in Visby (Sweden), Palanga (Lithuania), Rostock (Germany) and Narva (Estonia).</p> Me Lugu Presents Its Renewed Webpage2017-12-07<p>The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory&rsquo;s oral history initiative, Kogu Me Lugu, has taken a big step forward in its fifth year of activity. After undergoing major development, the KML project website has been relaunched with a wealth of freely available video interviews, greatly enhanced functionality, as well as new study and teaching materials. The new portal was presented to Estonian educators and international guests at a daylong event at Tallinn University on December 7th, 2017.</p> <p>Kogu Me Lugu (which in Estonian means &ldquo;Collect Our Story&rdquo;, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re Collecting the Story&rdquo;, also &ldquo;Our Entire Story&rdquo;) was created to record, preserve and share family stories of Estonians from around the world. KML focuses on the memories of people who were repressed by the Soviet or Nazi regimes and those who escaped from or arrived in Estonia during these occupations. The stories collected are used in research as well as for developing educational materials and raising public awareness in Estonia and abroad. Kogu Me Lugu was launched in 2013 and so far over a hundred and fifty interviews have taken place in Estonia and in the Estonian diaspora around the world.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The new portal</a> offers several useful functionalities to the visitor. The interview videos come in two parts &ndash; a full, uncut recording of the whole interview and smaller clips that focus on &ldquo;highlights&rdquo; such as personal stories or important topics. The videos can be browsed freely or searched for through various filters. In order to quickly find what one is most interested in, for example as an educator looking for teaching materials, there are subpages with tags for topics, regions, and people mentioned in the videos. Next to this, there is also a world map with markers for all localities that come up in the interviews. This is not only a useful tool for the user who wants to single out memories about certain geographical areas, but also shows the global scope of the stories collected at a single glance. The online portal comes in Estonian, Russian, and English, while the videos are subtitled in those two out of the three languages that were not used in the respective interview. As the Kogu Me Lugu team is continuing to record memories, the database and video archive will be growing further and provide useful materials to educators, researchers, and the wider public.</p> <p>On occasion of the portal&rsquo;s launch, on December 7th the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory held a conference and training event for educators at Tallinn University. Next to a presentation of the portal and its various functions by the Kogu Me Lugu team (Sandra Vokk, Elisa Avik, and Elmar Gams), there were two training sessions on how to make best use of the materials in the classroom &ndash; one focused on history (held by J&uuml;ri K&auml;osaar) and the other on human rights (held by Mariann Rikka).</p> <p>In the development of Kogu Me Lugu there has indeed been a focus on the usability of the materials for educators. This includes lesson plans with clear links of proposed topics and activities to the Estonian curriculum. Whether or not these suggestions are followed, one of the videos&rsquo; most important function in the classroom can be to expand the credibility of given information since it is not transmitted as usual just through the teacher, but told to the pupils by another voice. There is variation, while the teacher can assume the role of a moderator. Especially the interviews in the shorter form of video clips can be used in class, as pupils can focus more easily on them. The clips can be used as summaries of important topics that are more vivid than usual materials. Overall, the oral history materials can be related to in different ways, benefiting teaching about multiperspectivity. The stories reflect the variety of viewpoints in a society with different or even divided memories, since such different memories or interpretations were recorded side by side and can be contrasted and analysed together.</p> <p>Before and after the training sessions, several special guests contributed their insights on history education, oral history, and the wider implications of memory initiatives such as Kogu Me Lugu&nbsp; to the conference. Prof. Martin L&uuml;cke (Free University of Berlin, Germany) started off with a keynote speech on the commonalities and challenges of human rights and history education, a topic which was further developed in a subsequent panel discussion that focused on present developments. Against the background of political and social challenges around Europe, the panelists agreed that oral history materials such as the Kogu Me Lugu archive can have a powerful role in advancing critical, multiperspective education on history, citizenship and human rights. The panelists were Prof. L&uuml;cke, Prof. Mustafa &Ouml;zt&uuml;rk (Erciyes University, Turkey) and Danute Grīnfelde (Education Development Centre, Latvia), joined by Mariann Rikka (Tallinn) in the role of moderator.</p> <p>The event was organised by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory in cooperation with Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, the Education Development Centre, and EUROCLIO &ndash; European Association of History Eduators, and benefited from funding by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Justice, as well as the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission.</p> we see fear or indifference towards violence in Europe2014-03-26<div class="lead"><em>We again see fearful or indifferent glances in Europe that don&rsquo;t dare to do anything or don&rsquo;t know what to do against violence, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in his speech dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the 1949 March deportations on Tuesday, LETA/Public Broadcasting reports.</em></div> <div class="lead"><em><br /></em></div> <div class="part"> <p>"Naive hopes and leaving the victim of aggression alone has never helped to make world safer and stop the aggressor and it won't help in the future," Ilves said.</p> <p>"We have to keep in mind and consistently remind others that the price of loss of freedom is much higher than temporary reduction of economic benefits," he stressed.</p> <p>"We will have to explain this to our partners in Europe and the world. We have to support Ukraine, do it as a member of NATO and European Union."</p> <p>"Estonia has a right and moral obligation for that. Since we know from our experiences the full evil of aggression, also when the aggressor at first comes without firing any shots."</p> <p>"Estonia conquered the evil and became a free country again. Now we have to support others and give them hope and faith in their freedom," said Ilves.</p> <p>"With this we confirm our faith in the free Estonia. And with that we assure the victims of deportation that what was done to them will never be repeated," Ilves stated.</p> <p>On March 25-29, 1949, Soviet occupation powers deported more than 20,000 innocent people from Estonia to Siberia.</p> </div> Signs EU Agreement As Putin Signs Crimea Annexation2014-03-21<p><span class="firstLetter">M</span>oscow has completed the process of making Ukraine's Crimea part of Russia, as Ukraine's prime minister, in a highly symbolic move, signed a political cooperation agreement with the European Union. <br /><br /> President Vladimir Putin signed laws on the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation on March 21 after the upper house ratified the annexation treaty earlier in the day. The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly backed the treaty in a session the previous day.<br /><br /> Ukraine has said it will continue to fight for Crimea's "liberation."&nbsp;<br /><br /> Many states have rejected the annexation as a clear violation of international law, and the United States and the European Union have imposed targeted sanctions over the move.</p> <p>EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the signing early on March 21 of political chapters of the Association Agreement with Ukraine shows how important the relationship between the two sides is.<br /><br /> "Today, we are signing the [association] agreement's political provisions," Rompuy said. "It shows our steadfast support for the course the people of Ukraine have courageously pursued. Today is but the opening act. We expect to soon sign the agreement's remaining parts, not least the economic provisions. Together with the political ones, they form a single instrument."</p> <p>Rompuy and other EU leaders signed the agreement with Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels. The two sides signed three of the seven chapters of the agreement.<br /><br /> "This deal covers the most existential and most important issues, mainly security and defense cooperation," Yatsenyukd said. "This deal will establish a joint decision-making body, which is to facilitate the process of real reforms in my country. And this deal meets the aspirations of millions of Ukrainians that want to be a part of the European Union."<br /><br /> It was the refusal by ousted President Viktor Yanukovych to sign an association and free-trade agreement with the EU in November that triggered months of crisis.<br /><br /> On the first day of the EU summit on March 20, EU leaders warned against any steps by Russia to further destabilize the situation in Ukraine.<br /><br /> Both the United States and the European Union also expanded their respective sanctions lists. The United States imposed sanctions on allies of President Vladimir Putin, as well as Bank Rossiya, which has close ties to the Russian leadership.<br />In retaliation, the Russian Foreign Ministry released its list of Americans targeted for sanctions.</p> <p>Putin on March 21 said there is no need for Russia to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions.<br /><br /> In televised comments, the Russian president also quipped that he would open an account with Bank Rossiya.<br /><br /> Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to the Federation Council ahead of the vote, said Western sanctions against Russian officials were irrational and would create unnecessary barriers.<br /><br /> The Federation Council in a statement denounced the sanctions as "political blackmail."<br /></p> asks to join Russia as West readies sanctions2014-03-17<p>Crimea declared independence Monday and applied to join Russia while the Kremlin braced for sanctions after the flashpoint peninsula voted to leave Ukraine in a referendum that has sparked the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.</p> <p>Officials results from Sunday's poll showed 96.6 percent of the voters in the mostly-Russian speaking region opting to switch to Kremlin rule in the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.</p> <p>"Crimea appeals to the United Nations and to all countries of the world to recognise it as an independent state," said a declaration adopted by the region's Russian-backed assembly.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1154">Ukraine's interim president Oleksandr Turchynov denounced the vote as a "great farce" and watched from a podium as agitated lawmakers approved a partial mobilisation of the army aimed at countering Russian troops' effective seizure of Crimea at the beginning of March.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1156">The defence minister also insisted Ukrainian troops would stay in the strategic Black Sea region.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1155">Most of the international community has rejected the referendum as illegal because Russia had vowed to respect its neighbour's territorial integrity under a milestone 1994 agreement that saw Ukraine renounce its Soviet-era nuclear arms.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1157">- 'Strongest possible signals' -</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1190">Bu the government in Crimea announced a series of measures to sever the ties with Ukraine -- including seizing Ukrainian institutions and even plans to set the peninsula on Moscow time.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1191">The White House said US President Barack Obama warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Washington and its allies would "never" recognise Crimea's breakaway vote.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1183">Obama warned that "Russia's actions were in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions," the White House said.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1192">EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said Europe needed to send the "strongest possible signals" to Russia at a meeting of the 28-nation bloc's foreign ministers Monday.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1193">The ministers are widely expected to approve "targeted" sanctions against Russian or pro-Kremlin Ukrainian leaders that could include both travel restrictions and asset freezes.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1198">The measures -- reportedly affecting top Russian ministers and presidential aides but not Putin himself -- are meant to demonstrate the West's united resolve to punish the Kremlin for its overt show of post-Soviet might.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1199">Putin has signalled no intention to turn back on what he describes as his defence of ethnic Russians who have come under increasing attack from Ukrainian ultranationalists since last month's ouster in Kiev of a pro-Kremlin regime by a far more nationalist but Western-leaning team.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1200">The Kremlin said Putin "emphasised" to Obama that the referendum "was fully in line with the norms of international law and the UN charter".</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1201">It said Putin pointed out "the well-known precedent of Kosovo" -- a mostly Muslim region of former Soviet ally Yugoslavia whose independence is backed by Washington but not recognised by the Kremlin.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1206">- 'We're going home' -</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1207">Russia's lower house of parliament is expected to debate legislation on Friday simplifying the process under which the Kremlin can annex another part of a sovereign state.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1208">But the overwhelming margin of victory for the pro-Kremlin camp in Crimea underscores the degree of mistrust in the heavily Russified southeastern swathes have for the European leanings of those who rose to power on the back of three months of deadly protests in Kiev.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1209">Alcohol-fuelled celebrations swept cities across the diamond-shaped Black Sea peninsula as Russian flags waved and refrains from Soviet-era songs filled the rain-soaked streets.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1210">"We're free of the occupation!" Lucia Prokorovna said amid bursts of fireworks in Russia's historic naval port of Sevastopol.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1211">"Ukraine was attached to Crimea like a sack of potatoes," the 60-year-old said in reference to the sentimental but what proved to be explosive decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushev -- a native Ukrainian -- to present the peninsula to Kiev as a gift in 1954.</p> <p>Crimea's self-declared premier Sergiy Aksyonov -- recognised by Moscow but rejected as illegitimate by Kiev and most of the world -- hailed the referendum as an "historic moment".</p> <p>"We're going home. Crimea is going to Russia," he told those gathered on Lenin Square.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1213">- 'Mockery' of democracy -</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1212">Not everyone in Crimea was ecstatic with the result.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1214">Some ethnic Ukranians expressed bewilderment at a referendum that presented them with only two choices: to join Russia or go back to a 1992 constitution under which Crimea became a de facto sovereign state.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1215">The status quo or better terms with Kiev were not options -- a reality that along with the massive presence of Russian troops across the region prompted British Foreign Secretary William Hague call the vote a "mockery" of democracy.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1102">Crimea's indigenous Muslim Tatar community -- deported to Central Asia en masse by Stalin -- also largely boycotted the referendum.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1103">One of the greatest uncertainties hanging over Crimea itself is how the economically devastated region that relies on Kiev for subsistence can survive in the span it would take to formally be accepted as a part of Russia.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1104">More nationalist voices in Ukraine -- a culturally splintered nation of 46 million people -- are calling on the authorities to cut off Crimea from basic supplies in effort to get its leaders to reverse course.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1395066061890_1221">"Crimea's access to gas, electricity, water and food staples is in danger -- and Russia will not be able to compensate," said Penta institute analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.</p> Red Again in Chisinau2014-03-13<p>In April 2009, Rodion Burca celebrated his 21<sup><span style="font-size: x-small;">st </span></sup>birthday in jail. He had been arrested on the 7th of the month in the center of Chisinau when a peaceful protest erupted into street riots and the burning and gutting of the Moldovan parliament building. Like his fellow demonstrators, Burca had hoped the election two days earlier would bring pro-European forces to power. When it didn&rsquo;t, he felt certain the Communist Party that had ruled Moldova for eight years had rigged the vote.</p> <p>&ldquo;It seemed like this protest was the last chance for change,&rdquo; recalled Burca, who was then a history student at Moldova State University. And bring change it did, setting in motion a chain of events that led to new elections that July and the enshrinement of a westward-looking coalition, the Alliance for European Integration.</p> <p>In November 2013 Moldova initialed a free trade and political association agreement with Brussels, the fruit of an arduous three-year process. Late last month the European Parliament <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">voted to lift visa requirements</span></a> for Moldovans traveling to the Schengen zone, ratifying the European Commission&rsquo;s approval three months earlier.</p> <p>But for many veterans of the 2009 protests those steps toward EU integration pale against what they consider the government&rsquo;s deep failures at home, from corruption scandals to an <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">infamous illegal hunting trip</span></a> in December 2012, attended by several top Moldovan officials, that left a young businessman dead and the pro-EU coalition in tatters.</p> <p>Economic volatility has not helped the coalition&rsquo;s standing. After robust post-crash growth, Moldova <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">went into recession</span></a> in the second half of 2012, in part due the impact of a severe drought on the key agriculture industry. Since 2009 gross monthly wages have risen from $203 to $278, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, and GDP was up 8 percent in the first nine months of 2013. Still, a November survey by Public Opinion Barometer found that only 6 percent of the population is satisfied with the economic situation, with respondents expressing deep concern about poverty and their children&rsquo;s economic future.</p> <p>&ldquo;I expected the pro-European coalition would implement reforms and that once I graduated I would be able to have a decent salary. I believed they would truly fight against corruption. I hoped the Transdniester conflict would be solved,&rdquo; Burca said. Instead, &ldquo;the socioeconomic situation is deplorable. The level of corruption is the same. The Transdniester solution is as far away as ever. Not to mention the unresolved cases of those mistreated in April 2009.&rdquo; When Moldovans vote in parliamentary elections this November, he said, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m afraid the Communists could regain power.&rdquo;</p> <p>Burca does not plan to vote for the Communists &ndash; he doesn&rsquo;t plan to vote at all &ndash; but many Moldovans will. The November poll showed the party with 34.3 percent support, more than 20 points ahead of the second-place, co-governing Liberal Democrats. Among voters with a firm preference, 50.8 percent backed the Communists, compared with 31.8 percent in polling 10 months earlier.</p> <p>If the recent figures hold, the Communists will return to power this year, and they appear poised to shift Moldova from Brussels&rsquo; orbit to Moscow&rsquo;s.</p> <p>&ldquo;In 2009 our legislative motto was, &lsquo;Let&rsquo;s build a European Moldova together,&rsquo; &rdquo; Communist lawmaker Mark Tkaciuk, a leading policy voice in the party, told a November conference on the EU&rsquo;s <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">Eastern Partnership</span></a>, an outreach program to a group of countries that includes Moldova. &ldquo;Beyond a doubt, this year we will speak exclusively about the benefits of integration into the [Russia-led] Eurasian Customs Union. It&rsquo;s not only our position; it&rsquo;s the preference of more than half of the population, who will vote for us.&rdquo;</p> <p>This isn&rsquo;t just Communist rhetoric: an exhaustive <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">survey on Moldovan views on Europe</span></a> issued last fall by the Slovak Atlantic commission and Central European Policy Institute found that <a href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #0066cc;">EU integration has lost support</span></a> since the coalition came to power in 2009. According to some political observers, Western ties have lost their shine as the government was tarnished by corruption allegations and political scandals. It&rsquo;s not that the Communists have done anything to raise their rating, these experts say &ndash; the coalition has discredited itself.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Communists&rsquo; high rating is the result of people&rsquo;s discontent,&rdquo; said Igor Botan, a political commentator and executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy in Chisinau. &ldquo;The Moldovan electorate is split in two. One side turns toward Europe, the other toward Russia. People were waiting for changes. Now they&rsquo;re disappointed in the coalition. The continuous succession of scandals led to this.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The people who determine the political atmosphere in the country don&rsquo;t support the Communists,&rdquo; said Anatol Taranu, a former member of parliament who now heads the Political Science and Political History Center at Moldova State University. &ldquo;Still, the ruling parties have to convince people that they have achieved something and that everything is going be fine. Otherwise they will lose the election, and the Ukrainian scenario could be repeated in Moldova&rdquo; &ndash; a move away from the EU toward the Customs Union followed by widespread unrest.</p> <p>SPOILS AND SCANDALS</p> <p>The Alliance for European Integration took power in 2009 promising to reform the judiciary and battle corruption, but before long its three main parties &ndash; the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals, and the Democrats &ndash; were divvying up state institutions and revenue streams into spheres of political influence. In the meantime, with the Communists still holding a large bloc of seats, parliament failed repeatedly over 2 &frac12; years to muster the super majority necessary to elect a president, aggravating the political crisis.</p> <p>In the summer of 2011, Chisinau&rsquo;s municipal election campaign was dominated by mudslinging between Liberal Democratic Prime Minister Vlad Filat and wealthy businessman and Democratic politician <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">Vladimir Plahotniuc</span></a>. Filat called his rival a &ldquo;puppeteer&rdquo; who engineered hostile takeovers of banks and other companies; Plahotniuc accused the premier of smuggling.</p> <p>The <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">coalition infighting</span></a> really exploded as a result of a tragic accident, the fatal shooting of a businessman during a wild-boar hunt in a nature reserve two days before Christmas 2012. The death of Sorin Paciu was not made public for two weeks, and Filat accused Moldova&rsquo;s prosecutor general, Valeriu Zubco, of orchestrating a cover-up. Zubco, who was loyal to Plahotniuc&rsquo;s Democrats, was among some 30 political and judicial VIPs at the hunt. He was <a href=""><span style="color: #0066cc;">acquitted of criminal wrongdoing</span></a>, but the case inflamed old grudges and sundered the government, which collapsed in a March 2013 no-confidence vote.</p> <p>The scandal sent public dissatisfaction into the stratosphere. In an April 2013 Public Opinion Barometer poll, 87 percent of those surveyed declared that the country was moving in the wrong direction.</p> <p>It also consigned Moldova&rsquo;s three major pro-European figures &ndash; Filat, Democratic Party leader Marian Lupu, and Liberal chief Mihai Ghimpu &ndash; to the political sidelines. Filat stepped down as prime minister; an attempt by <a href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #0066cc;">President Nicolae Timofti</span></a> to reinstate him failed. Lupu was dismissed as speaker of parliament in another no-confidence vote. The Liberal Party split in two, with Ghimpu taking his faction into opposition. Negotiations between the pro-Europe parties and the Communists to hold early elections were scuttled amid pressure from European officials, who threatened to withdraw future investment in Moldova unless the main rivals came to terms, and a caretaker government was formed &ndash; the Pro-European Coalition, under Prime Minister Iurie Leanca.</p> <p>The current rulers say 2014 will be a decisive year, as the government signs the accord initialed in November at the EU&rsquo;s Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius and faces the voters in the fall elections. Leanca fired an opening salvo as parliament convened its spring-summer legislative session last month, in chambers reconstructed from the burned shell of 2009.</p> <p>&ldquo;Since autumn 2009 the government has achieved great results. The first one is the victory over the Communists&rsquo; authoritarian regime,&rdquo; the prime minister said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s no wonder I pay so much attention to the Communists. They warrant it. They represent the main obstacle on our country&rsquo;s path to modernization.&rdquo;</p> <p>Communist lawmaker Artur Resetnicov ridiculed the coalition&rsquo;s rhetoric. &ldquo;After almost five years of governing it&rsquo;s shameful to blame the Communists. It means the government hasn&rsquo;t really achieved anything,&rdquo; he said in an interview. &ldquo;We have the support of the half of the population &ndash; no less. We will promote Eurasian integration.&rdquo;</p> <p>That does not mean a prospective Communist government is giving up on Europe, Resetnicov said.</p> <p>&ldquo;European integration means modernization, fighting against corruption. External forces make us choose between East and West. We don&rsquo;t want to make a choice,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Ukrainian events show the consequences of such politics.&rdquo;</p> <p>Sergui Mocanu, leader of the Anti-Mafia opposition party, also invokes Ukraine in talking about the state of Moldovan affairs. But for him the lesson of Kyiv is the wages of rampant corruption, on both sides of the political divide.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Communists represent an important factor that impedes our country&rsquo;s development. They represent evil just as much as the pro-European parties do. The ruling parties have their origins in the same system,&rdquo; Mocanu said. &ldquo;They haven&rsquo;t achieved anything, and they both use the same criminal schemes. They are mafia, oligarchs. &hellip; If European officials don&rsquo;t study the Ukrainian lesson, everything will come to a bad end in Chisinau as well. Filat and Plahotniuc are the same as Yanukovych.&rdquo;</p> <p>Stefan Grigorita shares that pox-on-both-their-houses pessimism. He was another participant in the April 2009 protests. He was 18 and had just voted for the first time. Shocked by the seemingly rigged results, he joined a flash mob in the capital&rsquo;s main square. When mass disorder broke out on 7 April, he clambered up a tree and waved the Moldovan flag.</p> <p>&ldquo;I had big expectations indeed. Afterward I hoped for the arrests, resignations, and punishment of those responsible for that day&rsquo;s violence. But nothing was done,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Like his fellow protester Burca, Grigorita does not plan to vote this November. He doesn&rsquo;t want a return to the Communist past, but he is equally certain the current government has nothing to offer.</p> <p>&ldquo;The eventual visa-free regime is something, but it&rsquo;s not enough after four years of governing,&rdquo; Grigorita said.</p> Youths lead Tibet freedom fight2014-03-10<p>Young Tibetans are leading the fight to free their homeland from Chinese rule, the leader of the community's government-in-exile said on Monday's 55th anniversary of an uprising that led to a bloody crackdown and drove the Dalai Lama to flee into India.</p> <div class="body-slot-mod"> <div class="yom-remote"> <div id="mediacontentrelatedstory_container"></div> </div> </div> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1063">It is not easy for young Tibetans still living in Tibet &mdash; isolated from cousins, friends and former neighbors who have gone into exile in countries around the world, Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay said. Those who remain and remember how Tibetan National Uprising Day began in 1959 are aging.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1080">Within Tibet since 2009, 126 people have set themselves on fire to protest China's heavy-handed rule. Many have been Buddhist monks and nuns calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama.</p> <p>"It is the younger generation of Tibetans in Tibet who clearly and loudly demand their identity, freedom and unity," Sangay told flag-waving exile Tibetans and their supporters in Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama and the exile government are based.</p> <p>"Tibetans inside Tibet will have no memories of traditional Tibet, while Tibetans outside of Tibet will know only a life lived in exile," Sangay said.</p> <p>The crowd of more than a thousand people cheered during Sangay's speech and waved colorful flags emblazoned with the words, "Tibet for Tibetans."</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1083">During a slow, 6-mile (10-kilometer) march through town, they shouted "Long live the Dalai Lama" and "Free Tibet."</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1082">China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries. Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent until China occupied it in 1950.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1081">On March 10, 1959, hundreds rose up against the occupation, demonstrating outside the Dalai Lama's residence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, until their rally was brutally quashed by the army. The Dalai Lama, then the political leader as well as the Tibetan spiritual leader, fled on foot over the snow-covered Himalayas to India.</p> <p>The 78-year-old spiritual leader, who handed his political powers over to the democratically elected Sangay in 2011, did not attend Monday's gathering in Dharmsala.</p> <p>Beijing has blamed outsiders and extremists for trying to incite violence or undermine China, while Sangay and other Tibetan leaders say the self-immolations reflect an increasingly desperate population unable to express themselves any other way.</p> <p>Beijing accuses the self-proclaimed exile government of seeking to separate Tibet from China. But exiles and the Dalai Lama say they simply want a high degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.</p> <p>Also Monday, a small Tibetan protest outside the Chinese Embassy's visa office in Nepal &mdash; located between Tibet and India &mdash; ended with several protesters detained by police.</p> <p>Nepalese authorities had deployed hundreds of extra riot police for Monday's anniversary, hoping to thwart any anti-China protests in Katmandu, police spokesman Ganesh K.C. said. Nepal has said it cannot allow such protests against friendly nations.</p> <p>Five people who chanted and waved Tibetan flags were loaded into a truck and taken to a detention center. K.C. said five other people were detained separately.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1089">Police were guarding all roads leading to the Chinese Embassy and its visa office, while keeping a close watch on the Boudhanath area in Katmandu where most Tibetan refugees live, he said. Two people self-immolated last year in the area, which has many Buddhist monasteries and shrines.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1394554777958_1090">Thousands of Tibetan refugees live in Nepal, and many travel through Nepal on the way to Dharmsala.</p>'s Actions In Crimea Stir Bad Memories In Former East Bloc2014-03-06<p><span class="firstLetter">R</span>ussia's intervention in Crimea has brought back bad memories among its former satellites. <br /><br /> In much of the former Soviet Union, and among Moscow's former Warsaw Pact allies in Eastern Europe, there are renewed concerns about Russia flexing its military might on Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula.<br /><br /> Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- all former Soviet republics -- have been among the most vocal European Union and NATO member states criticizing Russia.<br /><br /> They, together with Poland, a former Warsaw Pact country, have invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty -- which allows any member state to convene emergency consultations "whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened."<br /><br /> Moreover, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary say their countries are "shocked" by Russia's actions in Ukraine.<br /><br /> They issued a joint statement March 4 saying Russia's military intervention resembles their "own experiences in 1956, 1968, and 1981," references to the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the imposition of martial law in communist Poland, respectively.<br /><br /> Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky suggested this week that Moscow's military action in Crimea should exclude the Russian state-run company Atomstroieksport from participating in a $10 billion tender to expand the Temelin nuclear power plant. "Unfortunately, with this move Russia has quit the family of predictable and democratic countries," he said. "It implements its interests through means that can be considered inadmissible and unacceptable."<br /><br /> Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, however, later walked back Stropnicky's comment.<br /><br /><strong>Sovereign Concerns</strong><br /><br /> Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca says Russia's intervention in Crimea reminds Moldovans of their 1992 separatist conflict, when the Kremlin backed the breakaway region of Transdniester.<br /><br /> Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on March 3, Leanca portrayed Russia's military action in Crimea as a warning sign about Russian President Vladimir Putin. "If there is no strong response, probably [Putin] will understand that the fait accompli policy is the right policy to pursue and it might just expand further," he said.<br /><br /> In Central Asia, Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying Russia's deployments in Crimea "create real threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country" and "cannot but cause deep anxiety and concern in Uzbekistan."<br /><br /> But not all of the governments of former Soviet republics are complaining -- at least not out loud. Armenia, for example, has taken steps during the past week to speed its integration into a customs union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.<br /><br /> In Moscow on March 5, further economic integration was also on the agenda of talks between Putin and the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan. But in Kazakhstan itself, there have been street demonstrations against draft legislation in the Russian parliament that would make it easier under Russian law for the regions in neighboring countries to join the Russian Federation.<br /><br /> In Kyrgyzstan on March 5, activists also held a protest in front of parliament against Russia's military intervention in Crimea. They demanded that the Kyrgyz authorities urge Russia to stop threatening Ukraine's sovereignty.</p> dissident is denied access to lawyer in China2014-02-28<p>A prominent Uighur economist who has been charged with separatism in China's far western Xinjiang region was denied access to legal counsel on Thursday, his lawyer said, on grounds that the case involves "state secrets".<span id="midArticle_1"></span></p> <p>The lawyer for Ilham Tohti, a professor who has championed the rights of Xinjiang's large Muslim Uighur minority, said he was given a notice that he could not meet his client, in detention in the region's capital, Urumqi.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_2"></span></p> <p>Tohti's case is the latest sign of the government's hardening stance on dissent in Xinjiang, gripped by periodic outbursts of violence often pitting Uighurs against ethnic Han Chinese.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_3"></span></p> <p>"They gave two reasons. The first was that it could hinder the investigation, and the second was that it involved state secrets," lawyer Li Fangping said by telephone from Urumqi.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_4"></span></p> <p>In China's judicial system, courts answer to the ruling Communist Party, but it is rare to completely deny the accused, even a political dissident, access to counsel.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_5"></span></p> <p>Any implication of access to state secrets adds a degree of severity to the charges and is also rare.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_6"></span></p> <p>Li said that if authorities were worried about hindering the investigation, they would not have made details of the case public on an official microblog run by the Urumqi government, as happened last month, a week after Tohti's detention.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_7"></span></p> <p>"Only if Ilham possessed documents with state secrets would the case involve state secrets," he said.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_8"></span></p> <p>Li said he would submit a legal rebuttal and hoped the authorities would reconsider.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_9"></span></p> <p>Tohti could face the death penalty, though Li said that he was most likely to receive a sentence of between 10 years and life in prison. Convictions are almost certain in Chinese courts.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_10"></span></p> <p>INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY</p> <p><span id="midArticle_11"></span></p> <p>Unrest in Xinjiang has killed more than 100 people in the past year, prompting authorities to toughen their stance. Many Uighurs resent restrictions on their culture and religion, though Beijing says it grants them broad freedoms.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_12"></span></p> <p>Advocates for Tohti say he has challenged the government's version of several incidents involving Uighurs. That includes what China says was its first major suicide attack, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, involving militants from Xinjiang, by pointing out inconsistencies in the official accounts.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_13"></span></p> <p>The United States, European Union and international rights groups have demanded Tohti's release.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_14"></span></p> <p>The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it was "deeply concerned" about his arrest.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_15"></span></p> <p>China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, called the U.S. statement "gross interference" in China's legal system.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_0"></span></p> <p>"I want to emphasize that the law is sacred and inviolable. Punishing crime in accordance with the law is a country's sovereign right," Hua told a press briefing.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_1"></span></p> <p>William Nee, a China researcher for Amnesty International, said the government's treatment of Tohti's case had been "highly irregular".</p> <p><span id="midArticle_2"></span></p> <p>"It's very confusing in a way," Nee said. "If he's being charged with separatism, it's hard to understand how that would involve state secrets. I'm not sure what state secret he would have access to."</p> <p><span id="midArticle_3"></span></p> <p>Tohti's wife, Guzaili Nu'er, maintains his innocence, saying that he has done nothing that could constitute separatism. She told Reuters on Wednesday that police were tailing her.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_4"></span></p> <p>Tohti, who teaches at Beijing's Minzu University which specializes in ethnic minority studies, told Reuters in November that state security agents had threatened him for speaking to foreign reporters.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_5"></span></p> <p>He has said that he has never associated with a terrorist organization or a foreign-based group and has "relied only on pen and paper to diplomatically request the human rights, legal rights, and autonomous regional rights for the Uighurs".</p> elders recall the horror of deportation2014-02-26<p id="story_continues_1" class="introduction">Seventy years ago, in February 1944, nearly half a million Chechen and Ingush people were herded into cattle trucks and forced into exile in remote parts of the Soviet Union. It's estimated that more than a third of them died before they were allowed back 13 years later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"At dawn, five soldiers entered each house and took all the men away - anyone over the age of 14. I was 10 years old. Then they said they would deport all of us," says Isa Khashiyev.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We had 10 people in our family - mum and dad, grandmother and seven children. I was the eldest, and my youngest sister was three months old.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The soldier who was assigned to deport us was very kind. He loaded our truck with five sacks of grain and helped us pack our bedding and other belongings. It was thanks to him that we survived," he says. The truck took them to the nearest railway station in Ingushetia where they were put in a cattle wagon with 10 other families.</p> <p>Khashiyev's family was sent on a 15-day journey to Kazakhstan. "We had no water and no food. The weak were suffering from hunger, and those who were stronger would get off the train and buy some food. Some people died on the way - no-one in our carriage, but in the next carriage I saw them taking out two corpses."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was cold and dark when they arrived in Kokchetav, in the plains of northern Kazakhstan. "We went off on a sledge, I fell off at one point, but they stopped the sledge and my mum ran back to find me," says Khashiyev.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Our baby sister died that night. My dad was looking for a place to bury her - he found a suitable place, dug the grave and buried her&hellip; she must have frozen to death."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exiles were housed by local families, not all of whom were happy with the situation. "The landlady didn't want to let us in - she had heard that we were cannibals or something like that," he says. "Eventually she agreed to take us in, but she wouldn't speak to us."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khashiyev is one of nearly 100,000 Ingush who were deported - nearly 400,000 Chechens were exiled at the same time. Both had a long history of resistance to outside authority. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin suspected them of collaborating with German forces as they pushed south into the Caucasus in 1942 and 1943.</p> Korean crimes against humanity should be referred to ICC, according to UN report2014-02-18<p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">In their 372-page report, published on Monday, the UN investigators said that North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings. </span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">The investigators were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court and compare the crimes against humanity in North Korea to Nazi-era atrocities.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">North Korea, however, rejected the accusations and claimed that they were based on material faked by hostile forces, which are supported by the United States, the European Union and Japan.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">According to Michael Kirby, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, "These are not the occasional wrongs that can be done by officials everywhere in the world, they are wrongs against humanity, they are wrongs that shock the consciousness of humanity".</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">Referral to the International Criminal Court, however, seems unlikely since China&rsquo;s veto of such move in the U.N. Security Council is probable, as diplomats told Reuters. China is North Korea&rsquo;s main ally. The investigators therefore also told China that it might be "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture or execution, a charge that Chinese officials dismissed.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman;">Kirby also compared the crimes in North Korea to crimes committed by Nazi-Germany in World War II. He said </span></span><span style="color: black; letter-spacing: 0.05pt; font-family: Roboto; mso-ansi-language: EN;">&ldquo;Some of them are strikingly similar&rdquo;.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="color: black; letter-spacing: 0.05pt; font-family: Roboto; mso-ansi-language: EN;"><span style="font-size: small;">&ldquo;Testimony [by defectors] was given ... in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried ... It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="color: black; letter-spacing: 0.05pt; font-family: Roboto; mso-ansi-language: EN;"><span style="font-size: small;">Further, the report says that &ldquo;If [detainees] are not executed immediately, persons held accountable for major political wrongs are forcibly disappeared to political prison camps that officially do not exist. Most victims are incarcerated for life... The limited information that seeps out from the secret camps also creates a spectre of fear among the general population ... creating a powerful deterrent against any future challenges to the political system.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="color: black; letter-spacing: 0.05pt; font-family: Roboto; mso-ansi-language: EN;"><span style="font-size: small;">In the four known prisons, North Korea holds an estimated number of 130,000 people according to human rights organisations.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman;">Shortly before their release, the North Korean diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the report&rsquo;s results. According to the government </span></span><span style="color: black; letter-spacing: 0.05pt; font-family: Roboto; mso-ansi-language: EN;">&ldquo;[They] will continue to strongly respond, to the end, to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of &lsquo;human rights protection&rsquo;&rdquo;.</span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;"> </span></p> Arrests Four Bloggers in a Week2014-02-11<div><span style="font-size: 13px;">Kazakhstan has never been a bastion of press freedom, but the arrests of four Almaty bloggers in the past week have put Internet commentators in the country&rsquo;s cultural capital on high alert.&nbsp;</span><br /></div> <div><br /></div> <div>In the latest case Dina Baidildayeva was detained by police on February 8 after staging a one-woman show of solidarity with three jailed bloggers, who were imprisoned on February 5 on hooliganism charges that they denied.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Nurali Aytelenov, Rinat Kibrayev, and Dmitriy Shelokov each received a 10-day prison sentence after protesting outside a restaurant where the mayor, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, was lunching with selected bloggers. The protesters, who had not been invited, accused the mayor of only wanting to hold a dialogue with &ldquo;tame&rdquo; bloggers.</div> <div><br /></div> <div>In response, Baidildayeva, who is a blogger and also a social networks editor at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, took to Republic Square opposite Almaty city hall waving a poster reading: &ldquo;Freedom to bloggers &ndash; Shame on Yesimov.&rdquo;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>&ldquo;Mr Yesimov, resign! Freedom to bloggers who were jailed just because they wanted to ask questions to Mayor Yesimov, because they are not satisfied with his work!&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He only gathered bloggers that he liked and who were loyal to him, and that&rsquo;s not what an intelligent government does!&rdquo;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Police watched the five-minute protest before moving in to detain Baidildayeva at the scene after she had finished speaking and packed away her poster. She complained that they did not specify what crime she had committed.</div> <div><br /></div> <div>She was later charged on two counts of holding an unsanctioned public protest and resisting arrest, although the second charge was dropped. Baidildayeva, who denies the charges and says she was exercising her constitutional right to freedom of speech, was ordered to appear in court on February 10. The trial did not go ahead&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px;">and the following day she was ordered to appear in court on February 12</span>. If convicted she faces a fine or&nbsp;up to 15 days in jail.</div> <div><br /></div> <div>The controversy over the arrests, which have had wide play on social networks, is likely to come as an embarrassment for Yesimov, who has just been at the Sochi Winter Olympics with President Nursultan Nazarbayev (and bloggers have had a field day over the cost of Yesimov&rsquo;s trip).&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>The detentions cast an unwelcome spotlight on media freedoms in Kazakhstan, which Reporters Without Borders ranked 160th out of 179 countries in its 2013 Press Freedom Index.</div> Slams Opposition Groups As 'Venal'2014-02-06<p><span class="firstLetter">B</span>AKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has described the political opposition in his country as "venal groups who sold their conscience for money from abroad." <br /><br /> Talking at an economic conference in Baku on February 5, Aliyev said that the last presidential election in October spelled "the end of the opposition, the top of its shame."<br /><br /> He also said that "those who receive grants from abroad have no place in Azerbaijani politics." The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) condemned the October polls as "seriously flawed," saying they were marred by a "restrictive media environment" and allegations of intimidation.<br /><br /> Presidential candidate Ilqar Mammadov and independent election observer Anar Mammadli were incarcerated and are awaiting trial.<br /><br /> At least two opposition journalists were sentenced to lengthy jail terms on what the opposition calls trumped-up charges after the election.</p> Serb Fighter Recalls Executing Srebrenica Prisoners2014-02-04<p>Convicted war criminal Kos told the Sarajevo court on Monday that he was at a Bosnian Serb base in Dragasevac on July 16, 1995 when security chief Ljubisa Beara phoned him and asked him to come to the command centre in Zvornik with seven other soldiers.</p> <p>Kos said that he initially refused but was ordered to do so by three superior officers who then arrived, including Milorad Pelemis, commander of the 10th Reconnaissance Squad at the Bosnian Serb Army&rsquo;s main headquarters, who is wanted by the Bosnian authorities on suspicion of involvement in the Srebrenica killings.</p> <p>&ldquo;They told me to go on a mission to guard the prisoners who will be exchanged. They said that we would have the instructions afterwards,&rdquo; said Kos.</p> <p>Ex-colonel Ljubisa Beara, the former chief of security with the Bosnian Serb Army&rsquo;s main headquarters, was jailed for life for genocide by the Hague Tribunal in 2010.</p> <p>Kos, a member of the Bosnian Serb Army&rsquo;s member of the 10th Sabotage Squad, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for participating in the killings of at least 900 people from Srebrenica at Branjevo farm. Cvetkovic, also a former member of the 10th Sabotage Squad, is being tried for the same crime.</p> <p>Kos said that he left in a van driven by a man he said was named Aca Cvetkovic, along with six other soldiers.</p> <p>When they finally arrived at Branjevo, said Kos, an officer told them that &ldquo;the prisoners should be killed because they are war criminals&rdquo;.</p> <p>The witness said a soldier called Goronja opened fire on about half the prisoners from the bus with a machine gun, wounding many of them.<br /><br />&ldquo;I did not see what others were doing. Personally, I was shooting people in the head,&rdquo; said Kos.<br /><br /> The other prisoners were killed with automatic rifles, he said, with the total death toll reaching about 300.</p> <p>Answering a question from the defence, Kos said that he did not see that Cvetkovic had a gun at Branjevo and that he did not see him shooting. The witness said that he found Cvetkovic in a stable when they were leaving Branjevo.</p> <p>The trial will resume on February 4.</p> Initiate Check of Dozhd TV2014-01-31<p>Prosecutors on&nbsp;Thursday said they were examining embattled Dozhd television for&nbsp;possible extremism charges related to&nbsp;a viewer poll about World War II, as the&nbsp;independent channel attempted to&nbsp;rally amid strong political pressure directed against it.</p> <p>At&nbsp;least four large cable providers have stopped broadcasting Dozhd, bringing the&nbsp;total loss of&nbsp;audience for&nbsp;the channel to&nbsp;20 percent, although it has increased its number of&nbsp;paid Internet subscribers as it launched a&nbsp;drive to&nbsp;gain support.</p> <p>The&nbsp;removal of&nbsp;Dozhd from&nbsp;cable packages came after it ran a&nbsp;poll on&nbsp;Sunday that asked viewers whether the&nbsp;Soviet city of&nbsp;Leningrad should have been surrendered to&nbsp;avoid the&nbsp;death of&nbsp;300,000 to&nbsp;1.5 million people during the&nbsp;blockade of&nbsp;the city by&nbsp;the Nazis from&nbsp;September 1941 to&nbsp;January 1944.</p> <p>Russians revere the&nbsp;blockade victims and&nbsp;survivors as heroes, and&nbsp;the poll incited a&nbsp;small number of&nbsp;displeased comments, but was removed within ten minutes.</p> <p>Three senior Dozhd officials have apologized since Sunday for&nbsp;unintentionally offending their audience, but senior federal and&nbsp;St. Petersburg lawmakers have called on&nbsp;prosecutors to&nbsp;"take action" against the&nbsp;channel.</p> <p>The&nbsp;channel's editor and&nbsp;political analysts have called the&nbsp;unanimous denunciation of&nbsp;the poll by&nbsp;officials part of&nbsp;an orchestrated attack on&nbsp;free speech that they say intensified with the&nbsp;closure of&nbsp;respected state news agency RIA Novosti by&nbsp;the Kremlin last month.</p> <p>Dozhd is the&nbsp;most prominent television channel not controlled by&nbsp;the government, and&nbsp;it devotes considerable coverage to&nbsp;opposition activities.</p> <p>President Vladimir Putin's&nbsp;spokesman Dmitry Peskov late on&nbsp;Wednesday joined the&nbsp;chorus of&nbsp;pro-Kremlin figures expressing outrage over the&nbsp;poll, calling for&nbsp;an "absolutely intolerant reaction of&nbsp;viewers to&nbsp;what has happened," Peskov told Dozhd in&nbsp;an interview.</p> <p>"As soon as we start to&nbsp;show even that slightest tolerance to&nbsp;such polls, our nation will start eroding, as well as the&nbsp;genetic memory of&nbsp;our people," Peskov said.</p> <p>Cable provider <span class="related_dotted2" id="company_id_142">Rostelecom</span>, which operates in&nbsp;Moscow through the&nbsp;OnLime company, and&nbsp;NTV Plus late Wednesday joined Akado and&nbsp; in&nbsp;halting broadcasts of&nbsp;Dozhd.</p> <p>As a&nbsp;result of&nbsp;the blocked access to&nbsp;the channel on&nbsp;cable packages, the&nbsp;channel lost about 20 percent of&nbsp;the "technical broadcast circulation," Dozhd general director Natalya Sindeyeva told Ekho Moskvy radio late Wednesday.</p> <p>But with the&nbsp;loss of&nbsp;cable television audience, the&nbsp;number of&nbsp;paid subscribers for&nbsp;the website skyrocketed Wednesday, Sindeyeva said.</p> <p>"If other cable television operators remain, I think we will pull through the&nbsp;situation," she said.</p> <p>Financial constraints are not the&nbsp;only potential problem facing Dozhd, with St. Petersburg prosecutors saying Thursday that they were examining the&nbsp;channel for&nbsp;extremism, meaning inciting hatred toward a&nbsp;group of&nbsp;people united by&nbsp;ethnicity, nationality or other things, Itar-Tass reported, without elaborating.</p> <p>In&nbsp;addition, the&nbsp;Federal Mass Media Inspection Service accused Dozhd in&nbsp;a letter to&nbsp;the channel's management of&nbsp;violating media law with its poll by&nbsp;failing to&nbsp;respect the&nbsp;rights and&nbsp;legal interests of&nbsp;other citizens, Interfax reported. But the&nbsp;media watchdog said the&nbsp;letter would not result in&nbsp;any sanctions for&nbsp;the channel, since it was not an&nbsp;official warning.</p> Ministry building seized by pro-European protesters2014-01-27<p>Pro-European protest rallies remain powerful across Ukraine with one of the buildings of the Justice Ministry in the capital Kiev becoming their stronghold overnight.<br />Participants in Kiev's riots have seized the buildings of the Ministry without resistance to keep warm and spend the night there, Russia's ITAR-TASS reported, citing a press release of the Ministry of the Interior of the country.<br />116 protesters have been arrested by riot police Berkut prior to that.<br />Ukraine's Justice Minister, Olena Lukash, cited by The BBC, has warned antigovernment protesters occupying her ministry that she will call on the National Security and Defense Council to declare a state of emergency if they do not leave and on the President to halt any negotiations with protesters.<br />Protesters are quoted in saying that the seizure of the Ministry is a symbolic act and they were not going to do any hooliganism or hurt anyone.<br />Meanwhile, protests against the Ukrainian government have spread to eastern and southern regions, traditional strongholds of President Viktor Yanukovych.</p> <p>On January 26, protesters tried to storm local government buildings in the eastern cities of Zaporyzhzhya and Dnipropetrovsk, but were repelled by police using tear gas, water cannon, and stun grenades.</p> <p>Further anti-Yanukovych protests were held in the southern city of Odesa and Kharkiv in the northeast.</p> <p>Protesters have occupied municipal government offices in up to 10 regions in the west of the country, where opposition is strongest.</p> <p>Analysts say it is the greatest unrest Ukraine has witnessed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.</p> between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan continues2014-01-17<p><span>The outbreak of shooting on January 11 in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken Province provides just the most recent example of how volatile the problem is.</span><br /><br /><span>The violence concerned a 130-square-kilometer fertile area around the village of Vorukh, which is populated by some 32,000 people, the vast majority of them Tajiks. Legally, Vorukh is part of Tajikistan, but due to past redrawing of borders, it exists as an exclave some 20 kilometers inside Kyrgyzstan.</span></p> <p><span>The fertile zones, which lie along rivers and streams, are the only highland areas which can support agriculture and grazing -- the economic mainstays of the region. That makes them tinderboxes for water and land disputes that can pull in not only local populations but also the governments of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, which divide the Ferghana valley among them.</span></p> <p><span>If all sides agreed on exactly where the exclave begins and ends, its existence might pose no difficulties. But because Bishkek and Dushanbe have so far reached no such agreement, Vorukh is a cause of constant tension, with both countries maintaining checkpoints on the road in and out of it.</span><br /><br /><span>It is still unknown exactly what caused the Tajik and Kyrgyz security forces to begin shooting at each other January 11 on disputed land in between the village of Vorukh and the Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai. But the gunfire, which left five Kyrgyz border guards and a policeman plus two Tajik border guards hospitalized, comes as local Tajiks accuse Kyrgyz of trying to grab land for a new road.</span></p> <p><span>Bishkek intends the new road to bypass Vorukh so that Kyrgyz drivers do not have to stop at Tajik checkpoints in the exclave as they travel from one point in Kyrgyzstan to another. But Tajiks in Vorukh say the bypass, which will link the villages of Ak-Sai and Tamdyk, is planned across land that in fact belongs to the exclave, and Dushanbe backs their claim.</span></p> <p><span>Vorukh is just one of the results. Seven other exclaves exist in the Ferghana valley, including another Tajik exclave in Kyrgyzstan, four Uzbek exclaves in Kyrgyzstan, a Tajik exclave in Uzbekistan, and a Kyrgyz exclave in Uzbekistan.</span></p> Communist former prison commander has no regrets2014-01-15<p><span>At the notorious Romanian prison the country's political and intellectual elite were incarcerated but Visinescu who is charged with genocide has denied the charges.</span></p> <p>Prosecutors accuse 87-year-old Alexandru Visinescu of responsibility for the deaths of six political prisoners at the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963 when he was commander. Prosecutors said prisoners were subjected to beatings, hunger, a lack of medical treatment and exposure to cold. No date has been set for a trial yet.</p> <p>Visinescu denied charges to prosecutors at a closed hearing Tuesday. Asked by reporters whether he had regrets, he replied: "No way." His lawyer says he regretted "the period when the prisons existed, but he did not do anything."</p> <p><span>About 500,000 Romanians were condemned as political prisoners in the 1950s as the Communist government sought to crush all dissent. Prosecutors say Visinescu participated in efforts to wipe them out.</span></p>'s anti-government protests are lumbering into their seventh week2014-01-07<p>Participants insist that that is just because of the Christmas holidays (Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7th). But fatigue and a sense of futility are surely also part of the reason. Viktor Yanukovych, the president, is sitting on a comfortable parliamentary majority and a financial assistance package from Russia that will last him through to the 2015 elections with no need for painful reforms.</p> <p>Put like that, the situation seems rather bleak. But wander around the protest area and you are swiftly reminded how astonishing, enchanting and also perplexing it all is. Whatever the eventual outcome, this is an event that has marked the lives of thousands of people and transformed Ukrainian civil society.</p> <p>Hundreds of anti-government activists are still sleeping in tents on Maidan and Kreshchatyk Street. There is a constant supply of wood for heating. Many of the tents were provided by opposition-run local authorities in western towns, who have also helped organise transport to and from Kiev. Protesters take it in turns maintain their respective town&rsquo;s representation in the capital. Most speak with jolly animation about their resolve to stick it out till the bitter end.</p> <p>All are protected by a combination of 19<sup>th</sup>-century-style barricades (many of them manned by Cossacks in full garb) and 21<sup>st</sup>-century knowledge that if police try to storm the square, as they did on the night of December 10<sup>th</sup>, online networks will summon thousands of people to defend it in a matter of minutes.</p> <p><span>Hundreds more protesters are living in occupied public buildings, mainly city hall and the trades union building. City hall was a pungent mess a week after it was first occupied on December 1st. Not anymore: a strict sanitary regime has been imposed. Medicine is available for free, as is psychological assistance. There are desks inviting people to sign up for guard duty and other voluntary tasks. The walls are plastered with messages, slogans and satirical art. Not for free, on the other hand, are the Christmas baubles and toys for sale at the top of the stairs. A sign on the stand reads &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t steal the toys, you&rsquo;re not Yanukovych&rdquo;. Among the notices on the walls are advertisements for talks on a whole range of topics related to Ukraine&rsquo;s political and economic situation.</span></p> <p>There are debates on&nbsp;<a href=""></a>, an online TV channel planned by journalists who had quit mainstream media over censorship, and which started broadcasting ahead of schedule when the protests began. Within days, hundreds of thousands were tuning in to its live streams of the protests.</p> <p>Even so, this grassroots explosion of creativity, energy, engagement and sheer organisational know-how does not seem to be matched at the top. The political opposition has no single leader and no clear strategy. After failing, as predicted, to oust the government in a no-confidence vote on December 3rd, it has given no credible indication of how its goal of securing early elections might be achieved. At times it is not even clear whether that really is the goal.</p> <p>The largest opposition party, Batkivshchyna, led by Arseniy Yatseniuk while Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, is in prison, gives the impression of struggling to control a movement it did not see coming and did not want. Vitaliy Klitschko, a former boxing champion leads a party, UDAR, that is smaller than Mr Yatseniuk&rsquo;s. His personal popularity ratings however are higher though he is still a lamentably poor public speaker. Finally Oleg Tyagnibok&rsquo;s nationalist Svoboda party, which is overrepresented among the protesters compared to its 5% or 6% ratings nationwide, is coming across as the most effective force. This is alarming for a movement that purports to defend European values. Svoboda&rsquo;s support is heavily concentrated in the west of Ukraine. It is allied with Eurosceptic far-right parties within the European Union, such as the French National Front or Hungary&rsquo;s Jobbik. Svoboda is frequently accused of anti-Semitism, which it denies. It is vocally opposed to liberal immigration laws, gay marriage and legal abortion.</p> <p><span>Yet there is evident potential for anti-government sentiment to bridge Ukraine&rsquo;s long-standing east-west divide. Four years of recession combined with conspicuous consumption by the president and his closest associates have sapped Mr Yanukovych&rsquo;s popularity in his former heartlands in the east and south.</span></p> <p><span>Even so, people here are receptive to the government&rsquo;s arguments that a blind rush towards European integration would cost too many industrial jobs. And with good reason: Ukrainian factories do not meet European norms, and Russia has demonstrated it that will stop buying Ukrainian products if Ukraine pursues westward policies. Workers in Kharkiv complain that opposition leaders treat the loss of their livelihoods as collateral damage on the path to a bright European future.</span></p> Poised to Become 18th Euro Member Amid Public Resentment2013-12-31<p>In the country of 2 million, which will become the 18th member of the euro area tomorrow, opponents of the currency switch outnumber proponents two-to-one as public expectations for accelerating inflation mount, opinion polls show. Residents are also bracing for taking on new responsibilities in the currency union.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m convinced&rdquo; prices will rise with the euro, said Andris Liepins, 51, a shopowner in Riga, the capital. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a fact&rdquo; that Latvia will have to help pay for other countries&rsquo; debt after adopting the euro. &ldquo;Why does a country have to pay other countries&rsquo; debts?&rdquo;</p> <p>Euro adoption will cap a journey of more than two decades for the former Soviet republic, which will become the fourth former communist country in the currency area after Slovakia, Slovenia and neighboring&nbsp;Estonia. The government of Valdis Dombrovskis, which is spearheading the switch, pushed through austerity measures worth 16 percent of gross domestic product as part of a bailout program that shored up finances and kept the currency pegged to the euro. The economy, which shrunk by more than a fifth in 2008-2009, is growing at the fastest pace in the European Union this year.</p> <p>Concern that inflation will accelerate is rising even after consumer prices fell 0.4 percent in November from a year earlier, the sixth month this year without an increase. The Finance Ministry estimates prices will rise 2.3 percent next year as the economy expands 4.2 percent.</p> <p>About 83 percent of people fear the euro will trigger unwarranted price increases, the European Commission said in a&nbsp;report&nbsp;Dec. 3.</p> <p>The government is focusing on the potential benefits. Adopting the euro will attract more investment and promote export growth, which will allow the economy to grow faster and &ldquo;raise welfare,&rdquo; Finance Minister Andris Vilks said in a&nbsp;statement&nbsp;Dec. 27.</p> <p><span>For the euro area, adding Latvia will mean another country that favors austerity and has won accolades from German politicians including&nbsp;</span>Chancellor Angela Merkel<span>&nbsp;for its commitment to budget cuts.</span></p> Zedong remembered2013-12-27<p>More, because Mao is the George Washington figure, the founder of the People's Republic of China, the great unifier of his ancient, far-flung and multifarious people.</p> <p>Less, because Chinese youth today, including young Party members, typically know nothing about his writings, his doctrine, his great successes and monstrous errors.</p> <p>Xi Jinping and his new leading team have warned that Soviet-style de-Maoification could lead to great confusion and weakening of the present regime - a regime whose stability they consider essential for leading China down the thorny path of reform.</p> <p>At the same time, they make no bones about the catastrophic latter-day Maoist adventures like the "Great Leap Forward" of the late 1950s and the (anti-) Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Those megalomaniacal social experiments cost tens of millions of innocent lives.</p> <p>Unlike Stalin, Mao sentenced no-one and certainly did not intend to create a terrible famine.</p> <p>But he did know full well that he was engaged in huge social experiments, which disrupted the lives of multitudes - and that he himself was not sure what the outcome would be.</p> <p>He confessed as much to the left-wing American writer Anna Louise Strong in 1958, when she was about to write a book acclaiming Mao's Great Leap Forward.</p> <p><span>Communist China's president Xi Jinping acknowledged Thursday its founding father Mao Zedong made "mistakes", as admirers celebrated the 120th anniversary of the late leader's birth with noodles and fireworks.</span></p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1388134012538_1147">Xi -- who has regularly cited Mao's theories -- and six other top-ranked leaders visited Mao's mausoleum in the morning where they bowed three times to his statue and "jointly recalled Comrade Mao's glorious achievements", Xinhua said.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1388134012538_1152">The 12-decade anniversary has a special resonance in China, which traditionally measured time in 60-year cycles.</p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1388134012538_1173">Near Mao's childhood home in Shaoshan, in the central province of Hunan, thousands of fans stood through the night and praised the founder of the People's Republic, who led the country for 27 years until his death in 1976.</p> journalists face ideology exams2013-12-19<p>Chinese journalists will have to pass a new ideology exam early next year to keep their press cards, in what reporters say is another example of the ruling Communist party's increasing control over the media under President Xi Jinping.</p> <p>It is the first time reporters have been required to take such a test en masse, state media have said. The exam will be based on a 700-page manual peppered with directives such as "it is absolutely not permitted for published reports to feature any comments that go against the party line", and "the relationship between the party and the news media is one of leader and the led".</p> <p>Some reporters say the impact of the increased control in the past year has been chilling. "The tightening is very obvious in newspapers that have an impact on public opinion. These days there are lots of things they aren't allowed to report," said a journalist at a current affairs magazine.</p> <p>China&nbsp;has also intensified efforts to curb the work of foreign news organisations. The New York Times Company and Bloomberg News have not been given new journalist visas for more than a year after they published stories about the wealth of relatives of the former premier Wen Jiabao and Xi .</p> <p>The General Administration of Press and Publication, a key media regulator, has said via state media that the aim of the exam and accompanying training is to "increase the overall quality of China's journalists and encourage them to establish socialism as their core system of values". It did not respond to questions from Reuters about the exam or&nbsp;press freedom&nbsp;in China.</p> <p>Traditionally, Chinese state media have been the key vehicle for party propaganda. But reforms over the past decade that have allowed greater media commercialisation and limited increases in editorial independence, combined with the rise of social media, have weakened government control, according to academics.</p> <p><span>Journalists will have to do a minimum 18 hours of training on topics including Marxist news values and socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as journalism ethics, before sitting the exam in January or February. Reporters who fail the test will have to resit the exam and undergo the training again. It os not clear what happens to reporters who refuse to take it.</span></p> <p><span>Reporters had little doubt about the aim of the exam. "The purpose of this kind of control is just to wear you down, to make you feel like political control is inescapable," said a reporter for a newspaper in the booming southern city of Guangzhou.</span></p> Korea erases online archives2013-12-17<p>North Korea's state media have erased almost their entire online archives since the&nbsp;execution of Kim Jong-un's uncle&nbsp;Jang Song-thaek.</p> <p>The removal of tens of thousands of articles is the largest deletion ever carried out by the official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.</p> <p>Several reports mentioning Jang had already been edited to remove references to him and other aides, and footage had been cut so that it no longer included him. But subsequently all articles from before October 2013 appeared to been removed from KCNA's North Korea-hosted site. It is unclear whether they will be reposted at some point or have disappeared for good.</p> <p>The mass deletion was spotted by&nbsp;NK News, a website covering North Korea. Frank Feinstein, a New Zealand-based programmer who tracks online media for NK News, told the site: "There were 35,000 articles dated September 2013 or earlier on KCNA in Korean. If they're leaving the odd one in, it's still a kill ratio of 98-99%."</p> <p>Translations in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese were also deleted, he said. Another 20,000 articles had vanished from the archives of Rodong Sinmun.</p> <p>Only a tiny proportion of North Koreans have access to the internet, meaning that the web archives were used primarily by those outside the country.</p> <p>Internally, information is tightly controlled by the regime; most economic statistics are classified as well as more obviously sensitive information.</p> <p>Revising documents is also common. Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea, noted in his book The Real North Korea that when he lived in Pyongyang in the 1980s, "the authorities took care to isolate the populace not only from the foreign media but also from the official publications of earlier years".</p> <p>He added: "All North Korean periodicals and a significant number of publications on social and political topics were regularly removed from common access libraries and could only be perused by people with special permission&nbsp;&hellip; This rule was obviously introduced to ensure that the changes in the policy line of the regime would remain unnoticeable to the populace."</p> Handshake Shows Thaw in Relations With Cuba2013-12-11<p><span>President&nbsp;</span>Barack Obama<span>&nbsp;shook hands Tuesday with Cuban President Ra&uacute;l Castro at the memorial service for&nbsp;</span>Nelson Mandela<span>, a gesture that follows decades of estranged U.S.-Cuba relations.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The handshake with Mr. Castro, brother of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, quickly drew attention in the U.S. as it highlights an increasing thaw with Cuba during Mr. Obama's five years in office. The freeze between Cuba and the U.S. has existed since the Cold War.</p> <p>Mr. Obama has adopted policies that have eased the U.S. embargo against Cuba, and as a presidential candidate in 2008 he expressed support for warmer relations.</p> <p>Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser for Mr. Obama, said the handshake, which occurred as Mr. Obama made his way to the podium past other leaders, wasn't planned and the two merely exchanged greetings.</p> <p>Mr. Rhodes said Mr. Obama wants to improve ties between Cuban Americans and Cubans, but has grave concerns about human rights on the island. He said the U.S. wants Cuba to release Alan Gross, a U.S. development worker who has been jailed in Cuba for four years.</p> <p>Mr. Obama's handshake is a ripe target for domestic criticism, particularly from some Cuban-Americans who fled the Castro regime.</p> <p>Secretary of State John Kerry was confronted by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) during a House committee hearing. "When the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Ra&uacute;l Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant," she said.</p> political star forces Czechs to rethink Communist-era legacy2013-12-06<p><span>The soul-searching has been stirred by Andrej Babis, a businessman-turned politician poised to join a new coalition government despite allegations - which he denies - of past collaboration with the Communist secret police.</span><br /><br /><span>A strict interpretation of current law says this would bar him from ministerial office, but a consensus is forming in the Czech Republic to allow him to enter the government. A deal on a coalition including Babis' party is expected in a few weeks.</span><br /><br /><span>The change of heart is the culmination of several trends.</span><br /><br /><span>First, the rules that have excluded tens of thousands of collaborators were designed to end the sway of the shadiest parts of the old regime on the young democracy, but it is now robust enough that those rules may be no longer necessary.</span><br /><br /><span>Second, Czechs have recognized that the law was crude in banning indiscriminately those who beat up people or snitched on friends as well as those who were forced to agree to spy under the threat of violence or persecution.</span><br /><br /><span>Finally, Czech voters are sick of official corruption and a stagnating economy, and feel there are more pressing issues than what may or may not have happened under Communist rule.</span><br /><br /><span>Babis, 59, who owns a swathe of chemicals and media companies worth $2 billion according to Forbes magazine, won 18.7 percent of the vote in last month's election, despite his widely reported past under Communism.</span><br /><br /><span>He was a Communist Party member but denies having been an informant for the Statni bezpecnost (StB), the Czechoslovak equivalent of old East Germany's Stasi secret police. He admits only to have met agents when he worked for a trading firm in the 1980s.</span></p> <p><span>"I never signed anything," he said, accusing the current political establishment of using the accusations to keep him from power. "This matrix is afraid because I can't be corrupted by anyone," he told Reuters in an interview.</span><br /><br /><span>Babis, born in Slovakia during the era of the Czechoslovak federation, has gone to court to fight the Slovak Nation's Memory Institute, which says it has a file proving he was a collaborator. The dispute may take years to resolve.</span></p> <p><span>Sobotka's comments indicated the idea might have more traction than before, or at least open the door to a less politically disputed solution.</span><br /><br /><span>Last week Sobotka agreed with Babis that parliament should quickly adopt a new public service law that would exempt ministers from screening.</span><br /><br /><span>Another way to get Babis into government would be making him a deputy prime minister, without giving him a concrete ministry to run. Some lawyers say this could change the vetting practice while formally obeying the law.</span><br /><br /><span>It would not go down well with some anti-Communists, and could cause some ripples in his own party.&nbsp;</span><span>"The most important thing is the moral justification," said Mikulas Kroupa, who heads Post Bellum, a group that collects memories of victims of communist persecution.</span><br /><br /><span>"Should this country be governed by people who snitched, beat up or in other way bullied their compatriots and loyally served the totalitarian regime? It should not."</span></p> Calls for Calm as Kiev Protests Intensify2013-12-03<p><span>Mass protests in Ukraine widened further on Monday as confrontations between opposition protestors and government forces intensified.&nbsp;</span><span>The opposition, centered around boxer Vitali Klitschko, now wants to blockade important administrative buildings.&nbsp;</span><span>With more than 100 people being injured in clashes over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned against violence at peaceful demonstrations. She urged Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his government to "do everything possible to always protect freedom of expression and the right to peaceful demonstrations."</span></p> <p><span>Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the pro-European rallies in Ukraine were sending out a "very clear message," and he added: "It is to be hoped that President Yanukovych perceives that message."&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Germany's acting foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, spoke of the "striking commitment" of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to the European Union. "This shows that the hearts of the people in Ukraine beat European." Westerwelle wants to participate at a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kiev on Thursday. he could also meet with Ukrainian opposition.</span></p> <p>The pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has been mounting since last week. Following Sunday's mass rally in Kiev at which violent clashes broke out, thousands of anti-government protestors spent the night in tents on Independence Square in the middle of the capital. With light rain falling and the temperature not rising above 4 degrees Celsius, many lit small fires to keep warm.</p> <p>Opposition leader and world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko appealed to the demonstrators not to give up control of the city center during the night. "We have to mobilize the country and must not lose the initiative," he said. Klitschko is at the head of the UDAR Party (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms; the abbreviation also translates to "strike" or "punch"). He is considered one of the strongest challengers facing Yanukovych in the presidential election scheduled for March 2015. A spokesman for the Klitschko opposition bloc announced a blockade of state administrative buildings from early on Monday.</p> <p>The head of the far-right Svoboda Party ("Party for Freedom"), Oleh Tyahnybok, said: "A revolution is starting in Ukraine. We are launching a national strike."</p> <p><span>His remarks were broadcast live by Ukrainian and Russian television stations. Klitschko and Tyahnybok, together with the Fatherland Party of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have formed a tripartite opposition alliance called the Action Group of National Resistance. Their aim is to bring down Yanukovych and set&nbsp;</span>Ukraine<span>&nbsp;back on a Europe-friendly course. The alliance wants to use the general strike to force new elections.</span></p> <p><span>The foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden, Radek Sikorski and Carl Bildt, key figures in the EU's&nbsp;</span>eastern policy<span>, issued a joint statement expressing solidarity with the protestors, while Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said: "Violence and intimidation should have no place in today's Ukraine."</span></p> <p><span>Ukraine is locked into its deepest political crisis since the Orange Revolution of 2004. It was spurred on by Yanukovych's decision to</span>cancel an association treaty with the EU<span>, originally due to be signed last Friday, after&nbsp;</span>Russia<span>&nbsp;threatened&nbsp;</span>trade sanctions<span>.</span></p>, Moldova agree deals with EU, Ukraine refuses2013-11-29<p>The EU&rsquo;s association agreements including deep and comprehensive free trade areas have been initialled with Moldova and Georgia.</p> <p>According to the President of Lithuania, they marked an effective step made by these countries towards advancement and European transformation.</p> <p>Progress was also achieved in visa liberalisation between the EU and its Eastern partners.</p> <p>The EU and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on visa facilitation at the Vilnius Summit. President Dalia Grybauskaitė welcomed the proposal put forward by the European Commission this week to introduce a visa-free regime with Moldova.</p> <p>An agreement establishing a framework for the participation of Georgia in the EU&rsquo;s international missions was signed in Vilnius. The EU and Ukraine also initialed an agreement on air services.</p> <p>Closer association between the six partner countries with the European Union as well as support for their aspirations to live by European values and principles have been placed on top of the Lithuanian Presidency&rsquo;s agenda.</p> rally against EU integration in Moldova2013-11-26<p>Some elderly participants held religious icons aloft, to decry an association deal with the EU due to be concluded at a summit in Lithuania next week.</p> <p>Accusing the pro-European government of telling lies to the people, Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin said: &ldquo;They do not ask anyone, they ignore parliament and public opinion and they are intending to sign a secret document at Vilnius.&rdquo;</p> <p>He added that&nbsp;Moldova&nbsp;could receive cheaper energy from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan&nbsp;<br />within a rival customs union led by Moscow.</p> <p>A much larger rally in favour of EU-integration was held in Moldova earlier this month.</p> <p>According to opinion polls, just over half the population of the ex-Soviet republic supports an increasingly close relationship with Brussels.</p> influences in the Transition from Communism 2013-11-26<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brown, A., 'Transnational influences in the Transition from Communism,' The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Working Paper 273, April (2000)</p> <p>Archie Brown examines the variety of transnational influences that profoundly shaped and made possible the transition from Communism in Europe. Attention is devoted to: Western influences on Eastern Europe; the impact of the West on Soviet decisionmakers; the influence of East European countries on each other; and the significance of transformative change in the Soviet Union for the East European transitions. The author argues that the interconnections among the transitions in the Eastern part of the European continent were so strong that they should be regarded as a discrete political phenomenon-a Fourth Wave of democratization rather than part of the Third Wave that began in the first half of the 1970s. Under late Communism there was significant influence on the Soviet elite from the West (in ways that have been underexplored) and, to a lesser extent, from Eastern Europe-until 1989 when the demonstration effects of successful East European rejection of Soviet hegemony had a profound impact on the Baltic states in particular. Yet, the facilitation and timing of the transition from Communism-the decisive breakthrough of 1989-was dependent, above all, on pluralizing change in Moscow and the policy choices of the post-1985 Soviet leadership.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Church-State Situation in Poland After the Collapse of Communism2013-11-26<p>Daniel, K., 'The Church-State Situation in Poland After the Collapse of Communism,' <em>Brigham Young University Law Review</em>, Iss.2 (1995), 401-419</p> <p>The changes and developments spawned by the political transition period in Poland not only reached governmental heights but also extended into the religious realm, particularly affecting the Catholic Church. This paper will describe the changed situation of the Catholic Church in Poland after the June 1989 transitional period and will also explore underlying explanations of the changes.<br />Without doubt, two things that catch our attention when we focus on the Catholic Church in Poland after the communist collapse are the significant reinforcement of its legal position on one hand and the significant decrease in its prestige in Polish society on the other. The reinforced legal position may be expected, especially in a country with a notable Catholic tradition where the Church experienced significant limitations under communism.' However, the loss of prestige is surprising and raises many questions.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Normal Country: Russia After Communism2013-11-26<p>Shleifer, A. and Treisman, D., 'A Normal Country: Russia After Communism,' <em>Journal of Economic Perspectives</em>, Vol.19, No.1, Winter (2005), 151-174</p> <p>During the 1990s, Russia underwent extraordinary transformations. It changed from a communist dictatorship into a multiparty democracy in which officials are chosen in regular elections. Its centrally planned economy was reshaped into a capitalist order based on markets and private prop- erty. Its army withdrew peacefully from eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, allowing the latter to become independent countries. Twenty years ago, only the most na ̈ıve idealist could have imagined such a metamorphosis.<br />Yet the mood among Western observers has been anything but celebratory. By the turn of the century, Russia had come to be viewed as a disastrous failure and the 1990s as a decade of catastrophe for its people. Journalists, politicians and academic experts typically describe Russia not as a middle-income country struggling to overcome its communist past and find its place in the world, but as a collapsed and criminal state.<br />In Washington, both left and right have converged on this view. To Dick Armey, then Republican House majority leader, Russia had by 1999 become "a looted and bankrupt zone of nuclearized anarchy" (Schmitt, 1999). To his col- league, Banking Committee Chairman James Leach (1999a, b), Russia was "the world's most virulent kleptocracy," more corrupt than even Mobutu's Zaire. Ber- nard Sanders (1998), the socialist congressman from Vermont, described Russia's economic performance in the 1990s as a "tragedy of historic proportions"; liberal reforms had produced only "economic collapse," "mass unemployment" and "grinding poverty."</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> and the Collapse of Soviet Communism2013-11-26<p>Beissinger, M.R., 'Nationalism and the Collapse&nbsp;of Soviet Communism,' in <em>Contemporary European History</em>, 18, 3 (2009), 331-347</p> <p>This article examines the role of nationalism in the collapse of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, arguing that nationalism (both in its presence and its absence, and in the various conflicts and disorders that it unleashed) played an important role in structuring the way in which communism collapsed. Two institutions of international and cultural control in particular - the Warsaw Pact and ethnofederalism - played key roles in determining which communist regimes failed and which survived. The article argues that the collapse of communism was not a series of isolated, individual national stories of resistance but a set of interrelated streams of activity in which action in one context profoundly affected action in other contexts - part of a larger tide of assertions of national sovereignty that swept through the Soviet empire during this period.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p>, Culture, and Communism2013-11-26<p>Sandholtz, W. and Taagepera, R., 'Corruption, Culture, and Communism,' <em>International Review of Sociology</em>, Vol. 15, No. 1, March (2005)</p> <p>Cultural factors, as measured by the two dimensions of values identified by Inglehart, explain 75% of the variation in the Perceived Corruption Index across non-communist countries. A strong &lsquo;survival' orientation contributes twice as much as a strong &lsquo;traditional' orientation to higher levels of corruption. When controlling for these cultural variables, communism and post-communism increase the levels of corruption even further, both directly and by contributing to heavier emphasis on survival values. Communism created structural incentives for engaging in corrupt behaviors, which became such a widespread fact of life that they became rooted in the culture in these societies and Political Hybridity: Patrimonial Capitalism in the Post-Soviet Sphere2013-11-26<p>Robinson, N., 'Economic and Political Hybridity: Patrimonial Capitalism in the Post-Soviet Sphere,' <em>Journal of Eurasian Studies</em>, Vol.4, Iss.2 (2013), 136-145</p> <p>Hybridity in non-democratic states can be economic as well as political. Economic hybridity is produced by the same kind of pressures that create political hybridity, but the relationship between economic and political hybridity has not been as much studied by political scientists. This article uses the concept of patrimonial capitalism to look at economic hybridity, its stability and relationship to political hybridity. Using examples from Russia and other former Soviet states it argues that economic hybridity is unstable and that it has a potentially negative affect on political stability generally.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Neo-Authoritairan Regime in the Republic of Belarus 2013-11-25<p>Usov, P., 'The Neo-Authoritarian Regime in the Republic of Belarus,' <em>Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review</em>, Iss.21 (2008), 86-111</p> <p>he political history of independent Belarus is almost entirely relatable to the rule of Al- exander Lukashenko and to the political regime that formed in the mid-90s. This regime was formed by rapidly wrapping up democratic processes and returning to authoritarian methods of political ruling of the state and the society.<br />The Belarusian political regime is the only non-democratic regime in Central and Eastern Europe. Widely supported by the Belarusian population, it has been able to successfully withstand internal and external attempts at democratisation. The hopes and forecasts that the Lukashenko regime would fall under the pressure of the Belarusian and international community have not proven true. Furthermore, it turns out that the regime has political and economic stability and is able to effectively deal with economic crises. It is quite clear that no major political changes will take place in Belarus in the near future.<br />The stability and effectiveness of the regime, as well as its ability to successfully withstand external and internal threats, allows to state that a particular type of political regime has formed in Belarus, which may be defined as a neo-authoritarian regime.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p>, Church, and State in the Post-Communist Era: The Case of Ukraine (with Special References to Orthodoxy and Human Rights Issues)2013-11-25<p>Yelensky, V., 'Religion, Church, and State in the Post-Communist Era: The Case of Ukraine (with Special References to Orthodoxy and Human Rights Issues),' <em>Brigham Young University Law Review</em>, Vol. 2002, No. 2 (2002), 453-488</p> <p>I. RELIGION, CHURCH, AND STATE IN UKRAINE ON THE EVE OF<br />THE FALL OF COMMUNISM</p> <p><em>A. Communist Religious Policy</em><br />Up to the beginning of Gorbachev's reforms in Ukraine,1 there were over six thousand officially functioning religious communities (one-third of the religious organizations in the Soviet Union). This number included four thousand Orthodox parishes (65% of the reli- gious communities in Ukraine), more than eleven hundred commu- nities of Evangelical Christian-Baptists, about one hundred commu- nities of Roman Catholics, and eighty communities of the Church of Reformation of Trans-Carphathian's Hungarians and others.<br />The "Regulations Concerning the Religious Organizations in the Ukrainian SSR" defined the legal basis for the activity of religious organizations in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.2 This law, which mainly reproduced the Stalinist legislation of 1929, was issued in 1976. In addition, a great number of special instructions existed that led to an even more severe attitude towards churches. The viola- tion of the minimal set of rights granted to believers was an ordinary phenomenon.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Marxist Mini-Dragon? Entrepreneurship in Today's Vietnam 2013-11-25<p>Dana, L.P., 'A Marxist Mini-Dragon? Entrepreneurship in Today's Vietnam,' <em>Journal of Small Business Management</em>, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1994)</p> <p>The evolution of economic developments in Vietnam are summarized, followed by a description of the current state of entrepreneurship. Without overthrowing the socialist establishment, doi moi, the Vietnamese version of perestroika, is allowing small businesses to play an increasingly important role in the economic development of the nation. There is a constant buzz of mercantile energy in Vietnam; the self-employed optimize the use of their minimal resources and manage, despite the poor infrastructure. Recent market-orinented development is making entrepreneurship more viable in Vietnam and the trend is bound to accelerate with infrastructural improvements. Given the wage structure in Vietnam, it is likely that the small business sector will eventually dominate labor-intensive industries, while state-owned firms and multicultural enterprises undertake the more complex, capital intensive tasks of development.</p> <p><a href="'s%20Vietnam.htm">Read more...</a></p>'s Security Challenges: Dilemmas of Reform Communism2013-11-25<p>Grinter, Lawrence E., 'Vietnam's Security Challenges: Dilemmas of Reform Communism,' <em>Review of Asian Studies</em>, Vol. 29 (2007), 90-103</p> <p>This article evaluates internal and external challenges to the control of Vietnam's Communist Party (VCP). The VCP presently retains a monopoly on power amid extraordinary changes and challenges accompanying Vietnam's transformation into a vibrant trading nation, with a majority of its population born after the violent reunification of 1975. The VCP is coping with gradually rising demands for more political freedom and pluralism while simultaneously seeking to deal with external challenges from China, the United States, and the globalized trading system. Although Marxism in Vietnam is steadily crumbling, Vietnam's special form of Leninist authoritarianism, led by the VCP, is likely to continue for many years to come.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> accused of Soviet tactics in drafting new history book2013-11-19<p><span>The former Soviet spy asked historians in February to come up with guidelines for new school history books that would provide a unified version of the many difficult events in Russian and Soviet history.</span><br /><br /><span>It was always going to be a tough task in a country where Communist leaders such as Josef Stalin airbrushed enemies out of photographs and saw history as a political weapon. But it is not the interpretation of events such as the mass repressions and show trials of the Soviet era that is causing a stir.</span><br /><br /><span>The guidelines, drawn up by historians of Putin's choice, contain no criticism of the president, no reference to protests against him in 2011 and 2012 and no mention of the jailed former tycoon and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.</span><br /><br /><span>"It was a simple political order - to justify the ruling authorities, to explain they are doing everything right," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a historian and former opposition lawmaker.</span><br /><br /><span>Critics portray the plans as a vanity project to boost Putin's political standing after the protests, which damaged his ratings as he prepared for a third term as president. Some see uncomfortable similarities with the Soviet past.</span><br /><br /><span>"Putin's blessing of any national high school project will mark a new version of old Soviet imperial practice," said historian Mark Von Hagen, an expert on Russia at Arizona State University in the United States.</span></p> <p><span>Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin was now looking at the guidelines and denied accusations that they were an attempt to spin the past to fit current political agenda.</span><br /><br /><span>"One cannot rewrite history. On the contrary, we (Russia) consistently stand against attempts to falsify the history," Peskov said.</span></p> <p><span>Putin, now 61, called last February for school pupils to be given a history textbook "written in proper Russian, free of internal contradictions and double interpretation."</span><br /><br /><span>In response to his request, Russia's Historical Society - led by a political ally - has presented him with an 80-page document offering guidelines for the textbook and a list of 20 "difficult questions", including one about Putin's rule.</span></p> <p><span>They also reinforce the image that Putin likes to portray of himself as the guarantor of stability after Yeltsin, restoring the country of more than 140 million people to economic health following the rouble's crash in 1998.</span></p> is going to happen to lustration in Lithuania?2013-11-14<p><span style="font-weight: normal;">Politicians who have started this process are still looking for the answer; meanwhile, lustration experts say it is time to bring it to a close. For now, lustration in Lithuania is left to operate in a sleep mode.</span></p> <p>Algimantas Urmonas, who has been supervising the Committee of Lustration for five years, hopes that the last year&rsquo;s change of the Seimas would quicken the ending of the lustration process that lasted for more than two decades. However, in 12 months&rsquo; time the parliament hasn&rsquo;t found time to discuss the matters of lustration. Experts suspect that such noncommittal situation is comfortable for the governmental authorities.</p> <p>&ldquo;Lustration does not cause callus, and when it&rsquo;s not there it does not hurt,&rdquo; figuratively explained Urmonas, who has been trying to convince the government to end the lustration process by putting a &ldquo;bold historic full stop&rdquo; to it. The director of the&nbsp;Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania Birutė Burauskaitė is of the same opinion.</p> <p>She is convinced that &ldquo;following a normal course of events&rdquo; the Seimas should pass a document, a resolution, for instance, and declare that the lustration process is being stopped and the committee stops its activities. &ldquo;I think this act of the Parliament would be reasonable, since the substantiation of one or another person&rsquo;s collaboration with KGB is meaningless. Selectivity in this area is wrong&rdquo;.</p> <p>According to Artūras Paulauskas, the head of the Seimas&rsquo; National Security and Defence Committee, if there is a need, the Committee will return to lustration, but &ldquo;no earlier than at the beginning of 2014&rdquo;.</p> <p>Based on the available KGB documents it was deduced that in the period of 1940-1991 approximately 118,000 people secretly liaised with the Soviet Lithuania&rsquo;s KGB. During its existence, the lustration committee has analysed more than 500 cases.</p> raises the stakes in gas gamble with Russia2013-11-12<p>The stoppage comes two weeks before Kyiv is due to sign an association agreement with the European Union, which has angered Moscow.</p> <p>"There have been no supplies to Naftogaz since Friday," an industry source told Reuters yesterday (11 November).</p> <p>Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Boyko announced that Ukraine planned to reduce Russian gas purchases.</p> <p>Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has said that if Gazprom refuses to revise its contract, Ukraine would stop importing gas from Russia.</p> <p>Ukraine, which pays around $400 per 1,000 cubic metres of Russian gas, one of the highest prices in Europe, has asked Moscow to ease terms it considers excessive and unaffordable for its debt-strapped economy. Meanwhile the country has been steadily reducing its Russian gas intake.</p> <p>Last month, Gazprom said Ukraine had failed to pay for August deliveries in full.</p> <p>The dispute has raised concerns of a new "gas war" over prices between the two neighbours, similar to those in the winter of 2009 which left part of Europe in the cold.</p> <p>Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters yesterday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich had met in Moscow at the weekend.</p> <p>"They held talks, comprehensively discussed trade and economic relations of Ukraine and Russia," Peskov said, without elaborating.</p> <p>According to Ukrainian political expert Valeriy Kucheruk, Kyiv has begun a real revolution in the diversification of natural gas supply for the reduction of energy dependence on Russia.</p> <p>&ldquo;Moscow's double standards in questions of gas policy left the Ukrainian authorities with no choice other than to start the process of the maximum gas diversification,&rdquo; the expert said.</p> <p>In the course of 2013, leaders of the world energy market have entered Ukraine and concluded production sharing agreements with the government. At first this was the Shell corporation, then came the turn of Chevron (both companies are to start shale gas production in Ukraine), and by the end of November an agreement on deep-water shelf gas production will be concluded with the consortium led by the American company ExxonMobil, Kucheruk said.</p> hands another 7-year mandate to incumbent Emomali Rakhmon2013-11-07<p><span>Emomali Rakhmon has been re-elected president of&nbsp;</span>Tajikistan<span>&nbsp;in a landslide electoral victory, Tajikistan's electoral commission has reported.&nbsp;</span><span>The president's closest competitor trailed with only 5%.</span></p> <p><span></span>Rakhmon faced&nbsp;<span>only token opposition; the vocal rights activist Oinihol Bobonazarova was not allowed to register for the election on technical grounds. The government has drawn criticism for its crackdown on dissent and its tight grip on the media.&nbsp;</span><span>The opposition Social Democrat Party boycotted the poll, saying the election campaign had been held amid "violations of the constitution" and with "state-organized falsifications."</span></p> <p><span>The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has&nbsp;</span><span>criticized Tajik elections</span><span>&nbsp;in the past for "serious irregularities...including a high incidence of proxy voting."&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>In the run-up to the election, the OSCE criticized Tajikistan's state-controlled media for exclusively focusing on Rahmon in their campaign coverage.&nbsp;</span>Access to YouTube, as well as a popular independent news portal, was partially blocked in Tajikistan on the eve of the poll.</p> <p><span>Rahmon's supporters credit him with securing peace and stability in the wake of the country's five-year civil war in the 1990s.&nbsp;</span>However, he is widely criticized for marginalizing the opposition, cracking down on independent media, and mishandling the economy.<br /><br /><span>Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, plagued with a struggling economy, high unemployment, and rampant corruption.</span></p> <p><span><br /></span></p> Call New Russian Counter Terror Law A Return To 'Collective Justice'2013-11-05<p><span>President Vladimir Putin signed the legislation on November 3, requiring "close relatives and acquaintances" of those who commit acts of "terrorism" to pay damages -- both material and moral -- resulting from those acts.</span><br /><br /><span>It also empowers authorities to seize property from friends and relatives of suspected militants and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years for those convicted of receiving training "aimed at carrying out terrorist activity."</span><br /><br /><span>"This is absolutely not normal. It's a return to the 1930s, when Stalin advocated collective responsibility for crimes which were carried out," Mairbek Vatchagayev, a North Caucasus analyst for the Jamestown Foundation and head of the Paris-based Center for Caucasus Research, says. "Once again, we've ended up there when Putin regards himself a supporter of Stalin and the Stalin period."</span><br /><br /><span>The legislation comes just four months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, just a few hundred kilometers from the restive North Caucasus.</span><br /><br /><span>Fears that terrorism could mar the Sochi Olympics heightened last month after a female suicide bomber from Daghestan detonated explosives on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people and injuring 30 others.</span><br /><br /><span>Analysts say the law, which was entered into parliament before the Volgograd bombing and was passed rapidly in its wake, is part of the Kremlin's hardening line in the North Caucasus.</span></p> histories stay secret, but not entirely silent: dealing with the communist past in Central and Eastern Europe2013-11-05<p>Radu, R., 'Some Histories Stay Secret, but Not Entirely Silent: Dealing with the Communist Past in Central and Eastern Europe',Romanian Journal of Political Science (02/2011)</p> <p>From 2004 onwards, a second wave of lustration proposals emerged throughout Central and Eastern Europe, at a time when EU accession already started. Among the post-communist states, Poland, already an EU member state, extended the purpose of its previous lustration law in 2006. The same year marked the heated debate over the drafting of a lustration law in Romania, where previous proposals on this issue were not validated by the Parliament. Sixteen years after the regime change in these countries, the assessment of the formal mechanisms to deal with the past permeated the public agenda in an attempt to answer the question of how much of the documented illegal activities committed during communism remained secret and purposefully uncovered. In this article, I scrutinize the lustration processes and debates up to 2008 in two countries from the region. Based on that evidence, I argue that the salience of the transitional justice controversies during the second wave of lustration proposals plays a symbolic function, rather than pursuing a consistent policy endeavor.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> the European Union's Eastern Border: Milenko Petrovic Assesses the Importance and Limits of the European Union's Eastern Enlargement for the Success of European Post-Communist (Re)integration2013-11-05<p>Petrovic, M., 'Defining the European Union's Eastern Border: Milenko Petrovic Assesses the Importance and Limits of the European Union's Eastern Enlargement for the Success of European Post-Communist (Re)integration', New Zealand International Review, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2010)</p> <p>Twenty years after the collapse of east European communism, it is obvious that transition from a communist dictatorship to multi-party democracy and from a command economy to a market economy has had strict limits. Only those ex-communist countries that were able to link their political and socio-economic reforms with association with the European Union and the accession process from the very beginning of their post-communist development have successfully negotiated the process. Many gloomy predictions and expectations were expressed throughout the 1990s, primarily concerning the negative consequences of the deep initial transitional economic crises and a corresponding lack of popular support for reforms throughout post-communist eastern Europe. Nonetheless, eight east central European and Baltic states have succeeded in solidly building and consolidating the function of institutions of multi-party democracy and market economy. While these eight have, therefore, been rewarded with European Union membership as of 1 May 2004, among the other post-communist European states only three 'late transitionists' from south-eastern Europe have shown signs of the ability to follow the same successful post-communist development path. Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the European Union in 2007, and, together with Croatia, an official candidate for EU membership since 2004, they continue speedily to introduce market reforms. Even so, they face some problems in consolidating the institutions of democracy, especially regarding the spread of corruption and the involvement of organised crime in the functioning of government institutions.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> the Deluge: The French Communist Party after the End of Communism2013-11-05<p>Wilson, F.L., 'After the Deluge: The French Communist Party after the End of Communism', <em>German Policy Studies</em>, Vol.2, No. 2 (2002)</p> <p>Although economic problems and political developments in the late 1970s and early 1980s had already started to sap its political import and erode its electoral support, since the fall of state socialism in 1989 the French Communist Party (PCF) has found itself in an even more severe identity crisis. Much of its decline can be traced to its inability to effectively define itself ideologically and its corresponding inability to formulate an attractive and relevant set of policy positions. This article presents an overview of the historical evolution of the PCF from its zenith of political relevance to its recent delicine, paying special attention to the PCF's attempt in the face of political oblivion to delineate distinctive and effective political strategies and political programs.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Khmer Rouge accused seeks acquittal2013-10-31<p>Prosecutors are demanding the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 82, for their roles in a regime that left up to two million people dead in the late 1970s.</p> <p>Nuon Chea told the country's UN-backed tribunal in closing statements that he had carried out his "duty to serve my country and my beloved people".</p> <p>"Through this trial it has been shown clearly that I was not engaged in any commission of the crimes as alleged by the co-prosecutors. In short, I am innocent in relation to those allegations," he said.</p> <p>The two defendants both insist they were unaware of the atrocities committed by the regime.</p> <p>"I would like to express my deepest remorse and moral responsibility to victims and the Cambodian people who suffered during the Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) regime," Nuon Chea said.</p> <p>But he added that based on the evidence presented to the court, "I respectfully submit to your honours to acquit me from all the charges and accordingly release me."</p> <p>Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the communist Khmer Rouge regime wiped out up to a quarter of the population through executions, starvation and overwork.</p> <p>The complex case of the regime's two most senior surviving leaders has been split into a series of smaller trials, initially focusing on the forced evacuation of people into rural labour camps and related charges of crimes against humanity.</p> <p>The defendants deny charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, to the dismay of survivors and relatives of victims seeking an admission of guilt.</p> <p>The closing statements were scheduled to end on Thursday with a verdict expected in the first half of next year.</p> <p>The allegations of genocide and war crimes are due to be heard in later hearings although no date has yet been set.</p>, Solidarnosc Leader And Poland's First Postcommunist PM, Dies2013-10-30<p><span>On news of the death of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the former prime minister, the flags above the country&rsquo;s parliament and presidential palace were lowered to half-mast.</span><br /><br /><span>This tribute to Mazowiecki, along with the copious news coverage dedicated to his life and career, reflected the stature of the man who presided over Poland as it took its first steps as a democracy after he became Poland&rsquo;s (and the former Soviet bloc's) first non-communist prime minister in forty years when he took office in August 1989.</span></p> <p><span>Mazowiecki left an indelible mark on Polish history in the revolutionary period that surrounded the demise of communism. As a leading Solidarity activist he co-authored the so called &ldquo;round-table agreement&rdquo;, which paved the way for the return of democracy. During his tenure as prime minister he oversaw the dismantling of the one-party state, introduced freedoms, a new constitution and set Poland trundling along the path that would eventually lead to European Union membership.</span></p> <p><span>Mazowiecki resigned as prime minister at the end of 1990, and never rose to high office again although he remained active in politics for a number years. In the early 1990s he also worked as the United Nations' special emissary on human rights for Yugoslavia, which had, by then, dissolved into bloody civil war. Frustrated by the unwillingness of foreign states and bodies to curb the violence in the Balkans, he quit in protest in 1995.</span></p> <p><span>With his passing Poland has lost one of the few politicians nearly all Poles felt proud of.</span></p> Brace For Growing Communist Influence After Elections2013-10-24<p>That pleases Pekny, an 88-year-old retired factory mechanic. He is nostalgic for the Communist-era trade ties that once bound Prague to its Soviet-bloc neighbors, and laments the privatization of the country&rsquo;s coal fields, which he describes as the plundering of national treasures.</p> <p><span>A number of Czechs broadly share the Pekny's sentiment -- a poll earlier this year found that one-third of respondents said life was better under the Communist regime. In addition, expected low turnout this year due to disillusionment on the part of center-right voters is thought likely to give the left a boost.</span><br /><br /><span>The center-left Social Democrats -- with around 22 percent support in the polls -- are expected to win the most votes, though not enough to form a majority government on their own.</span><br /><br /><span>That raises the potential negotiating clout of the Communists, who most polls show in second place at around 17 percent.</span><br /><br /><span>Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka has ruled out bringing the Communists into a governing coalition, in line with his party's ban on teaming up with extremist parties at a national level. But he has said his party is open to forming a minority government that relies on support from Communist lawmakers during key votes in parliament.</span></p> <p><span>Political analyst Jiri Pehe, the director of New York University&rsquo;s center in Prague and a former aide to the late President Vaclav Havel, says the left is also gaining some support because of protest votes.</span><br /><br /><span>&ldquo;Unfortunately, I think that the message of political anticommunism has been very much damaged by the performance of the previous government," Pehe says. "The government of Petr Necas was unpopular to the extent that a lot of people who previously had been anticommunist started saying, &lsquo;Well, even a government with the support of the Communists cannot be as bad as this government of Petr Necas.&rsquo; This is quite widespread.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>For a country that staged the mass demonstrations known as the Velvet Revolution -- the bloodless overthrow of the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1989 -- the possibility the Communists could end up as power broker after these elections is striking.</span></p> on Katyn Killings Highlights Russia-Poland Rift2013-10-23<p>But the court said it had no jurisdiction over the massacre itself or the subsequent treatment of the relatives of the dead, prompting an outcry in Poland and expressions of satisfaction among officials in Moscow, underscoring the deep and lingering divisions inspired by the mass killing in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are rather disappointed by this verdict,&rdquo; said Poland&rsquo;s deputy foreign minister, Artur Nowak-Far, according to Agence France-Presse. &ldquo;The ruling does not take into account all the arguments of the Polish side that have here a great moral and historic right.&rdquo;</p> <p>But in Moscow, Georgy Matyushkin, the deputy minister of justice and Russia&rsquo;s envoy to the European Court of Human Rights, told the Interfax news agency that the ruling showed that &ldquo;the court does not have the conventional duty to investigate the events at Katyn&rdquo; and that it would thus be &ldquo;illogical&rdquo; for it to address allegations of improper treatment of the victims&rsquo; relatives.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Russian authorities from the very beginning said that these events are located outside of the frame of the jurisdiction of the European court from the point of view of the time frame,&rdquo; Mr. Matyushkin said. &ldquo;And this point of view was accepted by the European court.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Polish prisoners, including nearly 5,000 senior Polish Army officers, disappeared in late 1939 and early 1940 during a period of German-Soviet cooperation, when Soviet forces occupied eastern Poland. In April and May 1940, they were taken to the Katyn woods, near Smolensk, west of Moscow, where they were executed and then buried in mass graves there and in two other villages.</p> <p>After decades of denial, Russia admitted responsibility for the massacre in 1990 and opened a criminal investigation. The investigation was closed 14 years later, but much of its findings were classified and no one was publicly held responsible.</p> <p>Relatives of the victims complained to the court in 2007 that the Russian inquiry had been ineffective and that the Russian authorities had displayed a dismissive attitude to requests for information about the event. The case was brought by 15 Polish citizens who are relatives of 12 victims of the massacre.</p> Competition in Post-Communist Europe: The Great Electoral Lottery2013-10-20<p>Innes, A., 'Party Competition in Post-Communist Europe: The Great Electoral Lottery',<em> Center for European Studies Central and Eastern Europe Working Paper,&nbsp;</em>Series 54, June (2001)</p> <p>This article suggests that the academic emphasis on rational choice and political-sociological approaches to party development has led to a misleading impression of convergence with Western patterns of programmatic competition and growing partisan identification in the Central European party political scene. As an alternative thesis, the author argues that the very character of &lsquo;transition' politics in Eastern Europe and the necessarily self-referential nature of the parliamentary game has structured party systems in those countries, and that the differences between the party systems in this region are critically related to experiences under communism (-a political-historical explanation). The paper argues that, in order to cope with a practical lack of public policy options in major areas such as the economy, parties have had little choice but to compete over operating &lsquo;styles,' rather than over substantive (ideologically based) programmatic alternatives. The development of parties incumbent in government since 1989 may be compared to the development of catch-all parties in Western Europe in terms of the competitive logic of weakening/ avoiding ideological positions in order to embrace a large constituency. However, successful parties in Eastern Europe lack the &lsquo;baggage' of an ideological past and the history of mass membership and a class or denominational clientele - their defining characteristic is that they try to appeal to all of the people all of the time.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> or Discerning: Voter Turnout in Post-Communist Countries2013-10-20<p>Pacek, A.C., Pop-Eleches and Tucker, A.J., 'Disenchanted or Discerning: Voter Turnout in Post-Communist Countries', <em>The Journal of Politics</em>, Vol.71, No.2 (2009), 473-491<br /><br />Voter turnout in post-communist countries has exhibited wildly fluctuating patterns against a backdrop of economic and political volatility. In this article, we consider three explanations for this variation: a &lsquo;&lsquo;depressing disenchantment'' hypothesis that predicts voters are less likely to vote in elections when political and economic conditions are worse; a &lsquo;&lsquo;motivating disenchantment'' hypothesis that predicts voters are more likely to vote in elections when conditions are worse; and a &lsquo;&lsquo;stakes'' based hypothesis that predicts voters are more likely to vote in more important elections. Using an original aggregate-level cross-national time-series data set of 137 presidential and parliamentary elections in 19 post-communist countries, we find much stronger empirical support for the stakes-based approach to explaining variation in voter turnout than we do for either of the disenchantment-based approaches. Our findings offer a theoretically integrated picture of voter participation in the post-communist world, and, more broadly, contribute new insights to the general literature on turnout.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> of Disengagement in Post-Communist Russia2013-10-20<p>White, S. and Mcallister, I., 'Special Issue: The Quality of Democracy in Post-Communist Europe', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol.20, Iss.1 (2004), 81-97</p> <p>The end of communist rule does not appear to have given ordinary Russians a strong sense of political efficacy, compared not just with Western countries but with other post-Soviet republics. There are low levels of trust in civic and particularly in political institutions, and Russians are less likely than Belarusians or Ukrainians to believe that elections afford them a significant opportunity to influence national policy. Membership of civic associations, particularly political parties, is also low, and low levels of membership and of political efficacy appear to be self-reinforcing. Levels of disengagement are most closely related to participation in the labour force, and there is a clear consistency in the factors that shape disengagement and in their relative magnitude across the three societies. The importance of social learning in forming patterns of political participation suggests that the legacy of the communist period may be an enduring one.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Cleavages and Post-Communist Politics2013-10-20<p>Whitefield, S.,Political Cleavages and Post-Communist Politics', <em>Annual Review of Political Science</em>, Vol.5 (2002), 181-200</p> <p>Considerable attention has been paid over the past decade to political cleavages in post-communist Eastern Europe. Investigators have attempted to establish whether such cleavages exist, to map their character, and to explain their formation theoretically. Research initially focused on whether communist rule had created distinctive forms of cleavage in the region as a whole, or indeed obliterated social capacity to form any structured social or ideological divisions. The results of this work, however, have tended to support a more differentiated and less sui generis understanding in which the character of cleavages varies considerably across the region. Debate has turned to accounting for the formation and variation in cleavages by reference to factors such as long-standing cultural legacies, forms of communist rule and modes of transition from it, the effects of social structure and individual social experience in the post-communist period, and the impact of institutions and party strategies.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p>, Distrust and Skepticism: Popular Evaluations of Civil and Political Institutions in Post-Communist Societies2013-10-20<p>Mishler, W. and Rose, R., 'Trust, Distrust and Skepticism: Popular Evaluations of Civil and Political Institutions in Post-Communist Societies', <em>The Journal of Politics</em>, Vol.59, Iss.2 (1997), 418-451</p> <p>Popular trust in social and political institutions is vital to the consolidation of democracy, but in post-Communist Europe, distrust is the predicted legacy of Communist rule. Contrary to expectations, however, New Democracies Barometer surveys of popular trust in fifteen institutions across nine Eastern and Central European countries indicate that skepticism, rather than distrust, predominates. Although trust varies across institutions and countries, citizens trust holistically, evaluating institutions along a single dimension. Both early life socialization experiences and contemporary performance evaluations influence levels of trust. The legacy of socialization under Communism has mostly indirect effects, whereas the effects of economic and political performance evaluations on trust are larger and more direct. Thus, skepticism reflects trade-offs between public dissatisfaction with current economic performance, optimism about future economic performance, and satisfaction with the political performance of contemporary institutions in providing greater individual liberties than in the Communist past.</p> <p><a href=";jsessionid=43CFD7C5DCDCF9A67559E461CC8A9C1B.journals?fromPage=online&amp;aid=6190316">Read more...</a></p> Hungarian Official Charged With War Crimes in 1956 Uprising2013-10-17<p>Prosecutors in Budapest, the capital, said the man, Bela Biszku, was on a committee of the Communist Party that ordered the shooting of civilians in Budapest and Salgotarjan, a town in northern Hungary, in November and December 1956. Historians say many civilians were killed and arrested during the uprising. If convicted, Mr. Biszku could be sentenced to life in prison.</p> <p>The charges, more than 20 years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, come as countries across the region are seeking a reckoning with the past. In September, Romanian prosecutors&nbsp;charged Alexandru Visinescu, the commander of a Communist-era prison, with genocide. He was the first Romanian to face that charge since the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was tried and executed in 1989.</p> <p>Mr. Biszku, who was Hungary&rsquo;s interior minister from 1957 to 1961, was charged under a 2011 law, championed by the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, that permits the prosecution of crimes committed during Communist times.&nbsp;</p> The KGB Founder Again Find A Place In Central Moscow?2013-10-16<p><span>The rumor surfaced on October 11, when senior Moscow Duma deputy Andrei Metelsky said the monument may be brought back to its "rightful" place on Lubyanka Square -- once home to the headquarters of the KGB, the Cheka's Soviet-era successor.</span><br /><br /><span>He was speaking a day after a city committee announced that Moscow was refurbishing seven monuments, including the one of Dzerzhinsky, for a total of over 50 million rubles ($1.5 million) in public money.</span><br /><br /><span>Metelsky, a member of the ruling United Russia party, described the statue as a historical landmark and said that since Moscow authorities had allocated the money to bring it back to life, "then the process must be completed."</span><br /><br /><span>His statement was quick to make headlines, eventually prompting Metelsky to clarify that he had only been stating his personal opinion. He accused journalists of misinterpreting his words.</span><br /><br /><span>City council speaker Vladimir Platonov later stepped in to quash the budding controversy, stressing that parliament had no say in choosing the monuments that grace the capital.</span></p> <p><span>Dzerzhinsky's statue has raised passions since the fall of the Soviet Union.</span><br /><br /><span>The Cheka, founded in 1917 by Dzerzhinsky, nicknamed "Iron Feliks," is known for having overseen a ruthless campaign of torture and repression that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the six years that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.</span><br /><br /><span>The bloodshed set the tone for the brutal repression carried out by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s.</span></p> <p><span>After the failed coup by Politburo hard-liners against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, the Dzerzhinsky monument on Lubyanka Square was toppled by a crowd of protesters, who used a crane to dismantle it in a now-iconic episode of the months leading up to the Soviet collapse.</span></p> <p><span>There have since been numerous calls to return the statue, testifying to the ambivalent feelings of Russians about their past.</span></p> <p><span>Veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva says the return of the statue is unlikely ever to happen. However,&nbsp;</span><span>Moscow's former mayor, Yury Luzhkov, has been one of those championing the statue's return.</span></p> Legitimacy: The Case of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Doi Moi2013-10-16<p>Le Hong Hiep, 'Performance-based Legitimacy: The Case of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Doi Moi', <em>Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs</em>, Volume.34, Number.2 (2012), pp.145-172</p> <p>This article examines the link between the legitimation process of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and its adoption of the Doi Moi (renovation) policy. It argues that socio-economic performance emerged as the single most important source of legitimacy for the CPV in the mid-1980s as its traditional sources of legitimacy were exhausted and alternative legitimation modes were largely irrelevant or ineffective. The CPV's switch to performance-based legitimacy has had significant implications for Vietnam's domestic politics as well as its foreign policy and has served as an essential foundation for the Party's continued rule. At the same time, however, it has also presented the CPV with serious challenges in maintaining uninterrupted socio-economic development in the context of the country's growing integration with the global economic system which is experiencing instability. It is in this context that nationalism, couched in terms of Vietnam's territorial and maritime boundary claims in the South China Sea, has been revived as an additional source of legitimacy in times of economic difficulties.</p> <p><a href=";type=summary&amp;url=/journals/contemporary_southeast_asia_a_journal_of_international_and_strategic_affairs/v034/34.2.hiep.html">Read more...</a></p> Presses Kyiv On Tymoshenko Issue2013-10-11<p><span>Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele made the comments at a roundtable in Kyiv on October 11. He also said Kyiv still has to show tangible progress in reforming its electoral law and judicial bodies.</span><br /><br /><span>Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for crimes related to a gas deal with Russia. She denies the charges.</span><br /><br /><span>The EU has long sought either a pardon for Tymoshenko or her release for medical treatment abroad.</span><br /><br /><span>Interfax quotes President Viktor Yanukovych as saying during a meeting with Fuele that he sees prospects "very soon" for a solution to the "painful" issue.</span></p> years since Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s execution2013-10-09<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Today 46 years ago Ernesto &ldquo;Che&rdquo; Guevara was shot dead. While Cubans pay </span><span>tribute</span><span> to him by bringing flowers to the <em>Bosque de los Heroes </em>in Santiago de Cuba, YAF (Young Americans for Freedom) celebrates No More Che Day for the fifth time.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Human Events</span><span> writes how the image of the man whom so many college hipsters sport on their shirts adorns Cuba&rsquo;s headquarters and torture chambers for its KGB-trained secret police. While the regime was terrifying, he was even more so. Often he would execute the prisoners of La Cabana execution yard, where he was a commander, himself. When he was occupied with other duties, he would often pleasure himself with watching the slaughter, Human Events reports. He enjoyed killing very much, as confessed by himself in his diaries: <em>My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any vencido that falls in my hands!&nbsp;</em></span>Human Events concludes that the one genuine accomplishment in Che Guevara&rsquo;s life was the mass-murder of defenceless men and boys. At everything else Che Guevara failed abysmally, even comically.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In an interview with </span><span>Newsmax</span><span>, Felix Rodriquez, a former CIA operative who was incorporated in the manhunt, said the Marxist revolutionary was little more than a criminal and devoted killer who deserves to be demystified. He also expressed his hope that people will once realise he was an assassin who enjoyed killing people, instead of a hero so many think he was.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>At the time of his capture, Guevara was in Bolivia, attempting to overthrow the government to spark a communist revolution like in Castro&rsquo;s Cuba. Guevara was wounded in a firefight and managed to convince the army to spare his life, saying he is worth more alive than dead. When Rodriquez went to see him at Higueras, he felt sorry for him. He recalls: "I had a lot of mixed feelings &hellip; When I saw him for the first time, I felt sorry for him &hellip; He looks like a beggar. He's a man who didn't even have a uniform, he didn't have any pair of boots, he had some pair of leather tied down to his foot. He was very filthy and he really looked like a beggar and it was a tremendous shock, remembering that the image when he visited [the] Soviet Union and China &hellip; [then] to see this man the way he looked at this point in time."</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For many the image of Che Guevara is of a revolutionary hero (or a rock star), but the gruesome realities of his actions need to be understood. This is the sole aim of the YAF ridden No More Che Day, celebrated annually on 9<sup>th</sup> of October with handouts, posters and flyers on college campuses in United States to raise awareness about Che&rsquo;s extremist views and atrocities.</span></p> of Post-Communist Transformation: Myths and Rival Theories about Change in Central and Southeastern Europe2013-10-09<p>Ramet, S.P., 'Trajectories of Post-Communist Transformation: Myths and Rival Theories about Change in Central and Southeastern Europe', Center for Strategic Research of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey (SAM),Vol.18, Summer (2013)</p> <p>The collapse of communism in Central and Southeastern Europe has given rise to various 
myths and debates. This article undertakes to examine and debunk two myths and to summarise the dissolution of the Soviet Union and assess four debates. The two myths are, first, that no one foresaw the collapse of communism or offered any clear prediction of that eventuality in the decade preceding 1989, and, second, that were completed relatively quickly. If one what occurred in the region between 1989 and 1991 could not be described as a revolution since, allegedly, it was masterminded by the communist authorities themselves; this article refutes these two myths. The four debates concern whether to describe the processes of change since 1989 as a transition or a transformation, what to count as democratic consolidation, and what to understand as the reasons for differences in paths of transition (or transformation), and as reasons for differences in the level of success with democratisation. The article includes some comparative measures of
 regional progress since 1989.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Reform, Democracy and Growth During Post-communist Transition2013-10-08<p>Fidrmuc J., 'Economic Reform, Democracy and Growth During Post-communist Transition', European Journal of Political Economy, Vol.19, Iss.3 (2003), 583-604</p> <p>The post-communist transition was associated with two specific phenomena. First, political liberalization was initiated simultaneously with economic reforms. Second, instead of a short J-shaped adjustment, most transition countries experienced deep and protracted recessions. Some analysts suggest that the early introduction of democracy was in fact harmful for economic growth. Similarly, proponents of reemerging authoritarian regimes claim that a strong hand is needed to restore order and reinvigorate the economy. This paper considers the stipulated trade-off between democracy and growth. The results suggest that democracy reinforces progress in economic liberalization, which, in turn, improves growth. Hence, democratization had a positive effect on growth during transition, albeit indirectly, through facilitating economic liberalization.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Industrial Restructuring: Trends in Productivity, Competitiveness and Comparative Advantage2013-10-06<p>Ahrend, R., 'Russian Industrial Restructuring: Trends in Productivity, Competitiveness and Comparative Advantage', <em>Post-Communist Economies</em>, 
Vol. 18, Iss. 3 (2006)</p> <p>This article investigates issues related to industrial restructuring in Russia. Based on extensive sectoral data it examines, more particularly, levels and changes in labour productivity, unit labour costs and revealed comparative advantages for a large number of Russian industrial sectors. The main findings are the following. First, impressive increases in labour productivity have been achieved since 1997, especially during the post-crisis period. Second, this has been true for all major sectors, with the exception of those which are still predominantly state-controlled or which suffer from strong state interference. Third, there have been significant relative adjustments within the industrial sector, as labour productivity increased more in less productive sectors. Since the crisis, relative unit labour costs have also adjusted considerably, as less competitive sectors experienced larger labour force reductions. Fourth, international competitiveness - as measured by revealed comparative advantage - remains limited to a small number of sectors that mainly produce primary commodities (particularly hydrocarbons) and energy-intensive basic goods. And finally, there has been a tendency for further specialisation in resource-based exports in recent years.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Policy, Political Parties, and the Preparation for Communist Takeovers in Hungary, Germany, and Austria, 1944-19462013-10-06<p>Mueller, W., 'Soviet Policy, Political Parties, and the Preparation for Communist Takeovers in Hungary, Germany, and Austria, 1944-1946', <em>East European Politics &amp; Societies</em>,&nbsp;Vol.24, No.1 (2010)</p> <p>A large number of similarities can be seen between Soviet and communist activities following World War II in Germany and Austria and in East Central European countries such as Hungary, which were later entirely incorporated into the Soviet bloc. In both cases, Moscow-trained communists aimed at establishing "people's democracy" and took a leading role in rebuilding the respective country's administrative apparatus. However, while they managed, with Soviet support, to take over power in Hungary, they failed to do so in Austria. In Germany, communist and Soviet action contributed to the partition of the country. This article, on the basis of Soviet and German documents, draws the conclusion that the main reason for the success or failure of communist takeover was the Soviet factor: the power Soviet authorities had in the respective countries and the priority they assigned to communist takeover.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Policies and Historical Memory in the Post-Soviet Era2013-10-04<p>Kramer, M., 'Archival Policies and Historical Memory in the Post-Soviet Era', <em>Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization</em>, Vol.20, Issue 3 (2012), 204-215</p> <p>Although the situation with Russian archives under Vladimir Putin remains deeply frustrating in many cases, it is not as bad as commonly assumed. Russian archives have always been difficult to access, and many of the current problems continue from the Yeltsin era. Russia has yet to make an honest assessment of its history, something it must do to ensure that the past does not come back to haunt it.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> the Challenges of Russia's "Failing State": The Legacy of Gorbachev and the Promise of Putin2013-10-04<p>Willerton, J.P., Beznosov, M., Carrier, M., &lsquo;Addressing the Challenges of Russia's "Failing State": The Legacy of Gorbachev and the Promise of Putin', <em>Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization</em>, Vol.13, Issue 2 (2005)</p> <p>Concerns about the prospects for democratic consolidation in Putin's Russia have been heightened with the further expansion of the hegemonic presidency and the strengthened position of the federal authorities vis-&agrave;-vis the regions. Such developments, mirroring earlier institutional reforms of the Gorbachev period, are strongly tied with late Soviet and post-Soviet political regime efforts to address the challenges of Russia's "failing state." The authors focus on the political dimension of Russia's "failing state," illuminating Putin's and Gorbachev's efforts to reinforce the state capacity for implementing those structural reforms necessary to sustain democratization. They contend that Putin's efforts to control federal-level institutional rivals and to rein in regional elites are designed not to recreate an authoritarian system but to bring balance among powerful political interests and to raise policy-making efficiency through "managed democracy." A strong parallel can be drawn with the objectives of Gorbachevian reformism, intended to bolster the "failing state" by enhancing the accountability and effectiveness of political executives throughout the country. They assert a sort of organic link between Putin's and Gorbachev's political-institutional reforms, albeit granting significant contextual differences between the ossified Soviet system of the 1980s and the corruption and post-Soviet system weaknesses of the early 2000s. The authors conclude that many judgments offered by Western (especially American) observers about the weakening of democracy have been more guided by a projection of those observers' own conceptions of democracy than by an understanding of Russia's traditions or thinking in establishing the necessary conditions for democratic consolidation.</p> <p><a href="">Read more...</a></p> Enterprise Restructuring2013-10-04<p>Bornstein, M.,&lsquo;Post-privatisation Enterprise Restructuring', <em>Post-Communist Economies</em>, Vol.13, Issue 2 (2001), 189-203</p> <p>Post-privatisation restructuring of former state-owned enterprises (FSOEs) encompasses both shorter-run 'defensive' actions and longer-run 'strategic' measures. Restructuring involves changes in corporate governance, organisational structure, management, labour, capital, technology, output and sales. Various performance indicators may measure the results of restructuring, but care is required in the selection and interpretation of indicators. In the restructuring of FSOEs foreign strategic investors have many advantages over domestic investors. The study includes examples from experience in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.<br /><br /><a href="">Read more...&nbsp;</a></p> democratization: a comparative political economy model of the vote for Hungary and Nicaragua2013-10-04<p>Anderson, L., Lewis-Black, M.S., Stegmaier, M., &lsquo;Post-socialist democratization: a comparative political economy model of the vote for Hungary and Nicaragua', <em>Electoral Studies</em>, Vol.22, Issue 3 (2003), 469-484</p> <p>For advanced democracies, models of electoral behavior are rather well developed. However, such models may explain only a part of electoral behavior in new democracies. In particular, they seem poorly suited to the emerging, post-socialist democracies, where the vote choice involves fundamental national economic and political variables. While the new democracies of Hungary and Nicaragua are different in certain obvious ways, they share the common experience of profound economic and political system shifts. In this exploratory research, we argue that, in such cases, voters decide largely on the basis of key political and economic system considerations. To support our claim, we formulate a comparative Political Economy model and estimate it by using logistic regression on survey data from the 1990 Nicaraguan election and the 1994 Hungarian election.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Afghanistan, 5000 names published killed by Communist regime in 1978-1979.2013-10-02<p class="MsoNormal"><span>During the brief time of the communist regime in late 70s, around 5000 people disappeared in Afghanistan. Recently, the list with the names was published on the web site of the Netherlands national prosecutor&rsquo;s office. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>According to the BBC, the list of almost 5,000 names emerged in the hands of an Afghan now living in Germany. It was part of the evidence collected as part of a war crimes trial in the Netherlands for a former Afghan intelligence officer, Amanullah Osman, who had originally claimed political asylum. In the New York Times it is stated that Osman admitted to signing documents concerning people who were to be executed. &ldquo;That was expected and desired of me,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t go along with it, you can never attain such a high position.&rdquo; The Dutch denied him asylum but never expelled him, and eventually opened up a war crimes investigation. That led them to a 93-year-old Afghan refugee in Germany who gave them the death lists, which she had gotten from a former United Nations official, Felix Ermacora, who had never released them. Dutch authorities said they were confident of the lists&rsquo; authenticity.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The prosecution was dropped in 2012 when Mr. Osman died, and the Dutch decided to release the lists. &ldquo;The close relatives of the deceased in this case have the right to know the truth about the circumstances of the disappearance and the final fate of their loved ones,&rdquo; the prosecutor&rsquo;s office said.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The New York Times reports that the Afghan government&rsquo;s reaction to the release of the lists was initially cautious. President Hamid Karzai was quoted as saying that reconciliation was more important than prosecutions. Yet, the death list went viral and led to mass protests demanding the prosecution of political figures tied to the Soviet-backed regime. Hafiz Rasikh, an organiser of one protest, explained:</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>"We demand the prosecution of members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, of which a number of its members still have presence in today's government and parliament&rdquo;.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>As a result of the public pressure, President Karzai declared 30<sup>th</sup> of September and 1<sup>st</sup> of October national days of mourning. </span>Mosques in Kabul and throughout the country were thronged with mourners for the victims on Monday, and many memorials were planned in rural villages that were particularly hard hit by the wave of torture and killings carried out by Afghanistan&rsquo;s intelligence service at the time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Habib Rahmam, a survivor, yet still on the death list, witnessed these horrors by his own. For months, he said that he and other prisoners in Pul-e-Charki jail lived "each day as if it was the last". After the cell doors were locked at night, 10 or 15 names would be read out, and people led out to be shot."Everybody was thinking that tomorrow night it might be me," he said. But although the list showed that his execution was ordered, he was never called out. Days after the Russian invasion, a knife was cut through the plastic sheeting that kept the weather from their cell, a blond head appeared, and a Russian soldier greeted them warmly. Days later, they were freed.</p> Havel Prize Awarded To Jailed Belarusian Byalyatski2013-10-01<p><span>"In his daily fight against violations of human rights and against injustice, arbitrariness, and authoritarianism, [Byalyatski] worked without respite so that the citizens of Belarus can one day enjoy European standards," Jean Claude Mignon, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said on September 30 in announcing the award in Strasbourg.</span></p> <p><span>Byalyatski helped found Belarus's opposition Popular Front and heads the Vyasna (Spring) human rights group.</span><br /><br /><span>He was sentenced in November 2011 to 4 1/2 years in prison on tax-evasion charges that his supporters say were politically motivated.</span></p> <p><span>The charges stemmed from Byalyatski's alleged use of personal accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for human rights activism in Belarus.</span><br /><br /><span>The U.S. State Department has called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Byalyatski and other political prisoners in the country.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience.</span><br /><br /><span>"This [prize] is an appreciation of the many years of his rights activism, his principled position, heroism, his openly standing up for human rights and freedom of his people, as well as of his love of Belarus," Byalyatski's wife, Natallya Pinchuk, said in accepting the prize on his behalf.</span></p> <p><span>The Vaclav Havel Prize rewards outstanding civil-society action in the defense of human rights in Europe and beyond.</span></p> Cuban dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe dies at 722013-09-24<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe, a dissident Cuban economist whose work was censored by the government, died in Madrid on Monday at age 72 after battling chronic liver disease and cancer, his wife, Miriam Leiva, announced on Facebook.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Three years ago, dissident Cuban economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe turned down an opportunity to fly to Spain for treatment of a chronic liver disease after Havana officials told him that he would not be allowed to return to the island. This year in March he was finally promised that he would be permitted back home and received the necessary medical treatment in Spain.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&ldquo;He sacrificed his health and his life for Cuba, and we owe him a great debt,&rdquo; said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an old friend, dean of Cuban economists and professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. &ldquo;Oscar was one of the best-informed Cuban economists,&rdquo; Mesa-Lago said. &ldquo;His columns surprised me because with all the difficulties that he faced, they were always well documented, objective and insightful.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Oscar Espinosa Chepe was born Nov. 29, 1940, in the central province of Cienfuegos and along with many of his generation was infused with revolutionary fervor following Fidel Castro&rsquo;s 1959 Cuban Revolution. He graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Havana in 1961 and began a career of mid- and high-ranking posts in the government, including as counselor to then-Prime Minister Castro in the &lsquo;60s and later as head of the powerful Office of Agrarian Reform. Mr. Espinosa also was a member of the State Committee for Economic Collaboration, specializing in a handful of Soviet bloc nations, and did a stint as Cuba&rsquo;s economic attache in Yugoslavia. He took up a position at the National Bank of Cuba upon his return in the 1980s but increasingly found himself at odds with government policy.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>According to Mr. Espinosa&rsquo;s account, in the early 1990s, after voicing disagreement with the country&rsquo;s economic policies, he was denounced by a colleague, publicly sanctioned and ultimately fired. From his later writings, it was clear that Mr. Espinosa believed the Communist government wielded excessive control over the economy, and he was a strong critic of corruption and bureaucracy.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>He reinvented himself as a writer about the Cuban economy, publishing articles and books in the United States, Spain and elsewhere, and doing some work for Radio Marti &mdash; U.S.-funded broadcasts aimed at Cuba that Havana bitterly objects to as an intrusion on its sovereignty. Mr. Espinosa also vocally opposed the U.S. embargo and economic sanctions against the island, saying it gave the Cuban government an excuse for its shortcomings and the restrictions it placed on Cubans.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Espinosa is survived by his wife, independent journalist Miriam Leiva, who was forced from her job with the Foreign Ministry at the same time as Espinosa lost his government job. While Espinosa was imprisoned his wife became a founder of the Ladies in White, an organization of female relatives of political prisoners.</span></p> communist labour camp commander accused in genocide2013-09-20<p class="MsoNormal"><span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="img-right"><img title="Ion Ficior during an interview with The Associated Press (June 20, 2013)" longdesc="Ion Ficior during an interview with The Associated Press (June 20, 2013)" src="" alt="Ion Ficior during an interview with The Associated Press (June 20, 2013)" /></p> <p>A Romanian body investigating Communist-era crimes called on prosecutors Wednesday to bring charges against the former commander of a labour camp, accusing him of causing the death of 103 detainees.&nbsp;Ion Ficior (85) was deputy commander then commander of the Periprava labor camp from 1958 to 1963. The camp in the remote Danube Delta village near the Black Sea held up to 2,000 prisoners.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Andrei Muraru, head of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, handed the request to the country's general prosecutor on Wednesday. He accused Ficior of being responsible for 103 deaths at the camp from malnutrition, beatings, a lack of medicine and from drinking dirty water from the Danube, which caused dysentery. "It was an extermination camp," said Muraru. "It was a repressive, excessive, inhuman and discretionary regime." </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The move is part of a campaign by the institute to bring 35 former prison commanders to justice, more than 20 years after the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>More than 600,000 people were sentenced and jailed in Romania for political reasons between 1945 and 1989, according to the Sighet Memorial for the victims of communism. The prosecutor's office confirmed receiving the institute's request. Ficior denied the allegations against him in an <a href="">exclusive interview</a> to Gandul newspaper.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Later on Wednesday, the Romanian government approved a draft law forcing former communist regime officials sentenced for torture and murder to pay compensation to their victims. Damages to be paid would range between 25 and 50 per cent of the monthly income of the convict. If approved by the Parliament, the measure would be unprecedented in a country where very few former Communist leaders and commanders have been prosecuted.</span></p> <p>Earlier this month, Alexandru Visinescu (87), a commander of another communist-era prison, faced the charges of genocide. The last Romanians before him to be charged with genocide were Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife who were executed on December 25, 1989.</p> Havel refused Nobel Peace Prize in 19912013-09-18<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president whose potent critique of communist rule helped foment revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall, never won the Nobel Peace Prize, a source of disappointment to his legion of ardent supporters who felt he deserved the prize given his outsize contribution to recent history.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nevertheless, as it came out last Sunday at a Forum 2000 conference in Prague, Mr. Havel had refused the nomination. Instead, he had proposed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be nominated, a Myanmar opposoition leader who was jailed by the military for the better part of two decades. She said Mr. Havel had given her the &ldquo;flame of hope&rdquo; during Myanmar&rsquo;s darkest hours and that his writings had provided solace during long years of detention. As a keynote speaker of the conference, she said in her speech that she would not have received the nomination if it wasn&rsquo;t for Mr. Havel.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&ldquo;<em>Of course, all of you know that it was thanks to him that I was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and I never made a secret of the fact that if instead of nominating me, he had accepted the nomination for himself, he would have been the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991. I will always believe that because I think it was the truth. And he believed in truth, facing the truth.</em>&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nevertheless, the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, which oversees the Nobel Peace Prize, declined to comment on Monday, saying that deliberations over nominations for the prize were confidential for 50 years after any nomination was made. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 &ndash; while under house arrest for her peaceful struggle against the military dictatorship.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>A charismatic man with a flair for self-deprecation, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of communist prisons, endured decades of police surveillance and had his many plays and essays suppressed. He led the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and served 14 years as president. All the while, he became a potent symbol in the West for the struggle against authoritarianism in communist Eastern and Central Europe. Mr. Havel died in late 2011 at the age of 75.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Mr. Sedlacek, the former Havel adviser, said Mr. Havel had never mentioned that he had turned down the nomination. &ldquo;Nobody in the country ever knew this,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It is heartening that a woman of such high moral stature, who is herself a Nobel Peace Prize winner, recognized Havel&rsquo;s role in this way.&rdquo;</span></p>,000 Poles in anti-government march, threaten strike2013-09-16<p>Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government is rapidly losing support after recently raising the retirement age, announcing a reform of the pension system and relaxing some labor code provisions that allow for longer daily and weekly working hours.</p> <p>City authorities have blocked traffic in central Warsaw to allow the demonstrators to march to the historic Castle Square with flags and balloons in national white-and-red colors, and banners saying "We are Coming to Get You", "Tusk's government Must Go," and individual plaques reading: "I am Tusk's Slave."</p> <p>They converged on Warsaw from all over Poland on the last of four days of major, peaceful protests in the city that also included meetings with politicians and debates with labor market experts.</p> <p>Some of them have camped in front of parliament since their first march Wednesday.</p> <p>The unionists said that the policies of Tusk's pro-market government hurt the interests of workers and of their families. Tusk, in his second term and sixth year in office, is Poland's longest-serving premier since the fall of communism in 1989.</p> <p>A protester, Andrzej Kulig, said the government never listens to workers' needs.</p> <p><span>OPZZ (Poland's largest union) leader Jan Guz said the march was a warning and if the government does not change its policies "we will block the whole country, we will block every highway, every road" to demand better work conditions.</span></p> <p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1379316741445_1059">Poland has experienced big strikes in the past. In the 1980s, the Solidarity freedom movement organized nationwide strikes that eventually led to democratic reforms.</p> <p>A prominent member of Tusk's Civic Platform party, Rafal Grupinski, said the workers have every right to express their discontent, but they should primarily return to the long-established negotiations with the government and employees, which they broke off in the summer over changes to the labor code.</p> million corpses in 100 years we must never forget - Survivors of Communism Summit in Alexandria2013-09-12<p class="MsoNormal">The Alexandria Tea Party sponsored &ldquo;The Survivors of Communism Summit&rdquo; on September 10, 2013. The packed Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, was spellbound by the stories of the luminaries who attended the event. Political leaders, dissidents, and activists shined a light on the legacy of communism: a death toll of approximately 100 million in the last century.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Necessity of the summit</span></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Dr. Lee Edwards, a historian and chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation said that &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a great failing of our age that the full extent of communism&rsquo;s inhumanity, it&rsquo;s not widely known. There&rsquo;s no such public ignorance of Nazism,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Ask anyone&mdash;ask yourself&mdash;how many Jews died in the Holocaust and they and you will invariably reply 6 million.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Speakers</span></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The event featured dissidents from Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, and Ukraine, each telling their stories of the horrors of communism and warning America not to repeat them.<strong></strong></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Andrew Eiva, who was born in a refugee camp in Bonn in 1948, recounted the life and stories of the Lithuanian resistance. His parents fledto the U.S. in 1949,whileas his grandfather, General Kazimieras Ladyga (chief of staff of Lithuania in 1925 &ndash; 1927), was arrested and deported to Siberia, where he was tortured and died.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Jaroslaw (Slavko) Martyniuk, a retired sociologist born in Ukraine, similarly escaped communism with his family and ended up in the U.S. He described the horrors of Siberian gulags, where survival rate was about 2 &ndash; 4 weeks. The bitter cold, the unsafe working conditions, and the hard labor killed so many that the estimate of those buried in the permafrost is at least 3 million.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Dr. Doan Viet Hoat, the recepient of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Freedom Award in 2000, was arrested and imprisoned in 1976 without charges. Released in 1988, he was again arrested in 1990 and sentencd for twenty more years of prison for writing, publishing, and editing ideas contrary to the coommunist ideology in Vietnam. While imprisoned, he never stopped writing and disseminating his work to the outside world with the help of other inmates who were sympathetic to the cause of freedom. During his brief days of freedom, he edited and published an underground magazine, Freedom Forum, that promoted human rights and democracy. He was freed and exiled in 1998 and has lived in the United States ever since.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>An Online Museum</span></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has started an </span><a href=""><span>online museum</span></a><span> dedicated to educating visitors about the negative effects of the political philosophy. Its current exhibits include a virtual tour of the Gulag and a gallery of heroes who fought against communism.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Dr. Edwards is also starting a nine-lesson high school curriculum focused on communism, which will be used for the first time at the Heights School in Potomac, Md.</span></p> <p>&bdquo;Such a curriculum is necessary when eighth graders are choosing their favorite inspirational quotes from the likes of Mao and Fidel Castro&ldquo;, Edwards said, citing a school in Chicago where students picked quotes from Communist dictators for a &ldquo;Celebrate the Value of You&rdquo; bulletin board.</p>, US back post-Soviet states amid Russian pressure2013-09-09<p><span>US Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the 28 EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Lithuania, called the EU's Eastern Partnership programme "a very important economic plan" to boost business standards, trade and jobs.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Launched in 2009, the Eastern Partnership is aimed at drawing post-Soviet states closer to the EU, something Russia sees as encroaching on its sphere of influence. The programme involves Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said all his EU counterparts expressed solidarity with the six countries in the programme, but warned that Russia would increase its pressure on key participant Ukraine.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>"Arguments should compete, not pressure - be it economic threats or some other political pressure. It is not acceptable," Linkevicius told journalists in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will host a summit in November between the EU and Eastern Partnership states. The EU expects to clinch a landmark association and free trade accord with Ukraine at the summit and start talks on similar deals with Georgia and Moldova. Soviet-era master Russia recently warned Ukraine and Moldova of retaliatory measures should they sign the accord with the EU.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>It set up its own customs union in 2010, which it currently shares with ex-Soviet Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russian President Vladimir Putin views the customs union as the foundation of a future Eurasian economic union with its own executive body and a single currency. Last week, Armenia said it would join the Russian-led customs union, thus blocking its chances of signing a free trade deal with the EU.&nbsp;</span><span>EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said there was "huge pressure" on Russia's neighbours, but warned they had to show more progress to win EU deals.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> opens inquiry against communist gulag chief2013-09-04<p>istorians say about half a million Romanians including priests, teachers and doctors were jailed as political prisoners after World War Two, and that about a fifth died in prisons such as Ramnicu Sarat.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_2"></span></p> <p>Alexandru Visinescu, 88, was chief of Ramnicu Sarat in 1956-1963. Prosecutors accuse him of subjecting prisoners to beatings and starvation, as well as refusing them health treatment and heating. The retired Lieutenant-Colonel has said he was "only following orders and doing his job".</p> <p><span id="midArticle_4"></span></p> <p>Visinescu is charged with genocide - which is listed under crimes against humanity in the Romanian penal code and includes "subjecting members of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group to conditions that are meant to physically destroy them".</p> <p><span id="midArticle_5"></span></p> <p>It is the first such genocide inquiry since the execution on similar charges of former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena in 1989.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_6"></span></p> <p>Romania overthrew communist rule in a bloody revolution but has yet to convict a single communist-era prison commander as the European Union's second poorest state has been reluctant to face its past.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_7"></span></p> <p>"We began an inquiry under charges of crimes of genocide. From his position, Visinescu, Alexandru, subjected the collectivity represented by political prisoners to conditions and treatment likely to trigger their physical destruction," Romania's prosecuting office said in a statement.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_8"></span></p> <p>Visinescu attended prosecuting hearings for about one hour on Tuesday. He declined to make any statements to the media and left the building in a taxi.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_9"></span></p> <p>Earlier this year, he told a local television station he was "only following orders and doing his job" and that he had no regrets from his time as prison commander and blamed the country's leadership of those years.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_10"></span></p> <p>Romania still bears the scars of Ceausescu's repressive rule and his predecessor Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_11"></span></p> <p>Many communist-era officials still hold prominent positions, continuing to wield influence on political policy and in the <span class="mandelbrot_refrag"><span class="mandelbrot_refrag">business</span></span> world, even though current President Traian Basescu condemned crimes committed during that era in a 2006 speech.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_12"></span></p> <p>The Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes and the Romanian Exile Memory unearthed Visinescu's case based on former convicts' testimonies and former secret police archives. It said Visinescu was among a group of 35 prison officials aged 81-99 who committed crimes.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_13"></span></p> <p>The institute said during Visinescu's time in charge of Ramnicu Sarat, there were 5 deaths which could be documented, including that of opposition party leader Ion Mihalache.</p> <p><span id="midArticle_14"></span></p> <p>Romania opened Ceausescu's execution site to the public on Tuesday. The former military army barracks is in the city of Targoviste, where he was shot dead by a firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989.</p> with Francis Fukuyama about the democratisation in Eastern Europe2013-08-28<p><strong>RFE/RL: Which sociopolitical process in Eastern Europe and Russia do you consider the most significant and determinative of the future?<br /> <br /> Francis Fukuyama: </strong>Unfortunately, I think much of what's happened in the recent past has been negative. So in Russia there's been a steady walking away from democracy ever since [Vladimir] Putin became president. And as time has gone on, I think Russia has become less democratic. There's no free competition of other political forces. There's a suppression of information, of freedom of expression, and so forth.<br /> <br /> Ukraine is particularly disappointing because I think in 2003 it really looked like there is a chance for Ukraine to become a genuine democracy. But since the last election of President [Viktor] Yanukovych [in 2010], he's demonstrated that he still has these really authoritarian instincts. So I think that a lot of the trends in the region are not good for democracy.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Why have so many post-Soviet countries found themselves under the threat of dictatorship?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> I think there are several reasons. First is the transition to and the attempt to create a democracy was very chaotic, and I think the democratic forces themselves were not united and they made mistakes. For example, in Ukraine, the Orange coalition was divided internally and they didn't do that great a job in governing.<br /> <br /> But I think the deeper problem was the absence of strong institutions from the Soviet or from communist times. And so there are no political parties, there's no civil society, or very weak civil society. You had a state that was strong in its repressive power but not particularly strong in being able to deliver services or to act without a high level of corruption; there was very weak rule of law. So if you compare the former communist world -- to let's say Latin America, which also was under dictatorship during the 1960s-'70s -- there was less to build on. This is not to say that it won't happen in the future, but these institutions are very difficult to set up and it will take a while.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: What were some of the mistakes made by the United States in the region?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> I think that there were both mistakes of policy and probably mistakes of attention. So I think that in terms of policy, many Americans thought that if you simply got rid of a dictatorship then you'd have a functioning democracy. And I don't think there was adequate attention to the need to build institutions to support a democracy.<br /> <br /> And then, I think that the United States probably could have done better, especially in Russia in the early days, to actually help try to consolidate a stronger democracy in the early 1990s. And then in terms of foreign policy, I think a lot of Russians turned against the United States because of NATO's expansion and so forth. Now this is controversial because in Eastern Europe this was something that was greatly desired, but it certainly made the Russians more skeptical about the West's intentions and so forth.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: You say that Russia is moving away from democracy. Does the fact that Russia surrounds itself with authoritarian countries and supports them also serve to consolidate its own authoritarian tendencies?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> I think that's right, that Russia doesn't have an interest in having a healthy democracy on its borders because that's going to give the wrong signals to its own people. So I think it's probably right that Russia would prefer to have other authoritarian neighbors around it.<br /> <br /> And I think [that] increasingly you're seeing a lot of cooperation between Russia and these other dictatorships in terms of trying to re-create a single trade zone or economic space and unifying it through energy policy and through transportation and so forth.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: All attention from abroad is now mostly focused on Russia. Perhaps it might be prudent to also more systematically and carefully support democratic changes in neighboring countries?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> The United States does give a certain amount of democracy support, but this has led to reaction, as you're aware, on the part of all the governments there to pass laws forbidding civil society groups from taking money. The solution in places like Ukraine and Georgia has been to seek NATO membership. In principle I think that would be a good idea.<br /> <br /> But as practical matter, that's actually not a wise thing because NATO is actually a military alliance that commits all of the other NATO members to go to war on behalf of one of their other members if they're attacked. And I think as a practical matter it's not feasible to accept either of those countries into the alliance. The EU is a different story because the EU is not a military alliance.<br /> <br /> And so I think there are things that the Europeans could do to encourage reforms of institutions in all of those countries, especially Ukraine, to try to push them in a more democratic direction. But in the end I think the leverage of both the United States and Europe is limited in that part of the world.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Why doesn't the EU offer Ukraine or Belarus membership in the EU?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> Well, I think the reason for that is pretty clear. I think there are many Europeans that think that the EU has expanded too rapidly as it is. They probably shouldn't have taken Greece in -- or at least they shouldn't have taken it into the eurozone. And many people now think that Bulgaria and Romania were let in prematurely because once they got in they've fallen backwards in terms of corruption and the functioning of their institutions.<br /> <br /> And so there's a trade-off that the Europeans have to make that for foreign-policy purposes, it's better to have a big EU and to encourage as many people to join. But in terms of the health of the EU itself, it's easier to maintain a small EU because it's easier to maintain high standards within the EU. So they have to balance these two against each other.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Concerning your view of the middle class's role in democratic change, do the middle classes in the region differ significantly from those in, say, Turkey or Brazil?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> The middle class has behaved very similarly in different parts of the world, so I don't think it's fundamentally different in Belarus, or Russia, or China, or Brazil, or Turkey. So I think more educated people have assets -- they own a house or a car or something. They're more concerned with politics, their values begin to change, they're more open to outside influence, and so forth. But it very much depends on their personal experiences.<br /> <br /> So in Russia, a lot of middle-class people lived through the 1990s under [President Boris] Yeltsin and they remember this as a time of economic chaos and weakness externally. So they have these very bad associations of that period with democracy, so some of them end up supporting Putin.<br /> <br /> But I think in the longer run there is a lot of evidence that says that once those memories fade and people can assume that the country is stable and relatively doing well economically, that they become interested in things like political participation, greater freedom, more individual choice in life, and then they don't accept authoritarian government as easily.<br /> <br /> But it's not automatic, you know. It's not as if you had a certain level of income or education and automatically you become pro-democracy. It's more complicated than that.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: How is China going to influence changes in this respect?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> I think that China and the Chinese model is going to have a difficult time in the next 10 years because the economic model is not going to work as well as it did in the past. The growth rate is going to slow. China itself has got a big middle class now and, although they've been pretty much supportive of the regime, I don't think that's going to last as the economy slows.<br /> <br /> So I think China in 10 years is going to look much less attractive as an alternative to Western democracy than it does right now.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: In your analyses, you often refer to Putin and Yanukovych but never mention Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. And this is common. You are far from the only researcher who excludes Belarus from your analysis. Why is that?<br /> <br /> Fukuyama:</strong> I think the reason is that in both Russia and Ukraine there was more hope for real democracy at a certain point. So when Putin was put in place by Yeltsin, many people were hopeful that maybe this guy could restore some degree of order in Russia but he would still be a democrat. And similarly in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution, people had great hopes.<br /> <br /> But unfortunately in Belarus you've had the same guy running the country virtually since the fall of communism. So it always seemed like a country that never had a moment when it looked like it was going to make a real breakthrough the way either Russia or Ukraine looked at some point.<br /> <br /> And I can tell you, I had students from Belarus and I talked to people from there, trying to understand why this country went on such a different path than either Russia or Ukraine, and I still don't know.</p> to victims of communism to be built near Parliament Hill2013-08-26<p>A group called Tribute to Liberty will receive up to $1.5 million from the federal government to build a memorial on the lawn between the Library and Archives building and the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Conservative cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander made the announcement today at the site of the planned memorial.</p> <p>It's expected the memorial will be finished late next year.</p> <p>The announcement coincided with Black Ribbon Day, a day of remembrance for the victims of communism and Nazism in Europe.</p> <p>A statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the day serves a reminder of the importance of upholding democracy and freedom.</p> <p><span><br /><br /><br /></span></p> monument in Bulgaria painted pink to mark Prague Spring2013-08-22<p>Unknown protesters in Bulgaria have used pink paint to transform a monument to the Soviet Red Army in Sofia. The activists painted it Tuesday night as a way of apologizing for the 1968 intervention in Czechoslovakia when Warsaw Pact troops put down the reformist Prague Spring movement against hardline Communist rule.</p> <p>The monument depicting Soviet soldiers commemorates their role in World War II. It was painted to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the crackdown in Prague, which put an end to the liberal policies of Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek. The activists wrote a message in big letters, reading in Bulgarian and Czech: "Bulgaria apologizes."</p> <p>In 1990, the Bulgarian state officially expressed regret for its involvement in the invasion. Tuesday was not the first time the Red Army monument in Sofia has been unofficially transformed.</p> <p>In June 2011, activists painted the bronze figures of the Soviet soldiers to make them resemble characters like Superman and Ronald McDonald. A year ago, colourful hoods were painted on the figures&lsquo; heads in an act of solidarity with the Russian protest punk group Pussy Riot.</p> <p>Many people in Bulgaria have demanded that the Red Army monument be demolished now that former Communist Bulgaria is a member of both NATO and the European Union.</p> Serb to be extradited from Israel2013-08-15<div class="btj_body"> <p>The Bosnian justice ministry said that war crimes suspect Cvetkovic, who is now an Israeli citizen, would be extradited on Thursday.</p> <p>&ldquo;We were informed by Israel about the extradition in late June. We hope it will be carried out successfully [on Thursday] with assistance from the border police and Interpol,&rdquo; ministry spokesperson Marina Bakic told BIRN.<br /> <br /> Cvetkovic was arrested in Israel in January 2011, after Bosnia and Herzegovina filed a request for his extradition.<br /> <br /> The Bosnian prosecution suspects Cvetkovic, a former member of the 10th Sabotage Squad of the Bosnian Serb Army, of participating in mass murders at Branjevo farm near the Bosnian town of Zvorik after Srebrenica fell in July 1995.<br /> <br /> According to Israeli media, Cvetkovic denied having participated in the massacre, claiming he was an army driver during the fall of Srebrenica.<br /> <br /> Israel&rsquo;s supreme court however dismissed his appeal against extradition.</p> <p>Cvetkovic moved to Israel in 2006. According to information from the Israeli authorities, he married an Israeli and they have two children, which allowed him to acquire citizenship of the country.</p> </div> is Moscow building another Berlin Wall?2013-08-13<p>Whenever Ilya Beruashvili hears his dog bark, he knows the Russians are at the gate. For the past five years, Beruashvili, 53, who lives on the outskirts of the Georgian village of Ditsi, has watched from his windows as Russian soldiers stationed in the neighboring separatist territory of South Ossetia have patrolled the fields he used to farm.</p> <p>They are coming ever closer. A few months ago, soldiers started building a fence just a stone&rsquo;s throw from his shed, a structure that will leave Beruashvili&rsquo;s house and fields outside of Georgian jurisdiction and inside Russian-guarded, breakaway South Ossetia.</p> <p>Under the terms of the 2008 cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Russia, the area, just a few kilometers east of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, lies in territory where Russian troops should not be. But that hasn&rsquo;t stopped the Russians from building a barrier there.</p> <p>Zigzagging through 15 Georgian villages, the 27-kilometer-long fence has divided families and cut people off from their livelihoods, separating farmers from their fields and orchards. It cuts off access to cemeteries and water supplies for ethnic Georgians, as well as health services and pensions for some ethnic Ossetian families.</p> <p>In Ditsi, the fence is made of green plastic material. In other villages, like Khurvaleti, a tiny farming hamlet about 69 kilometers west from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, it is barbed wire.</p> <p>Wherever it stretches, it stands as a reminder of Russia&rsquo;s failure to abide by the terms of the 2008 cease-fire &ndash; and of the inability of Tbilisi and the international community to hold Moscow to account. The structure, though, is nothing new. In 2010, Beruashvili recounted, Russian troops tried to set up markers to extend South Ossetia&rsquo;s frontier into his front yard. He was able to keep them out then &ndash; allegedly, by yelling at them that they were frightening his mother.</p> <p>Russian soldiers first started putting up fences in this area, in the Georgian region of Shida Kartli, after the August 8-12, 2008 war, according to Ann Vaessen, a spokesperson for the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), the lone international body observing the cease-fire line.</p> <p>But despite protests by Tbilisi, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States that the fences constituted a violation of international law, construction is continuing.</p> <p>The process has even &ldquo;intensified&rdquo; over the past several months, Vaessen said. &ldquo;Villages are divided, people can&rsquo;t talk to each other anymore, can&rsquo;t go and visit their relatives. They can&rsquo;t go to the funeral of one of their close relatives,&rdquo; she said. For Hans Schneider, the German chief of the EUMM&rsquo;s field office in Gori, the closest Georgian-controlled town to the conflict zone, the structure brings to mind the Berlin Wall, which divided the German city from 1961-1989.</p> <p>&ldquo;I saw my mother crying when she received a letter from my sister living on the other side of the barbed wire,&rdquo; Schneider said, speaking in a personal capacity not intended to reflect the EUMM&rsquo;s official position. &ldquo;I know that we cannot completely compare the situation with Georgia. But I have seen so many mixed ethnic Ossetians and Georgian families where the mother is crying for their daughter too.&rdquo;</p> <p>Locals like Beruashvili see the wall as a clear restriction on freedom of movement. &ldquo;They have already gated the high road. &hellip; Now they have turned back and moved in this direction and it seems they want these houses as well,&rdquo; he said of houses on the outskirts of Ditsi.</p> <p>Kakhaber Kemoklidze, the head of the Analytical Department at the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Tbilisi, told that the Georgian government has repeatedly raised the topic of Russia&rsquo;s fence during peace talks in Geneva and monthly meetings with Russian and South-Ossetian envoys. So far, the Kremlin has been impervious to Georgian efforts to bring about a halt in construction.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have to keep updating our partners and every country that has relations with Russia,&rdquo; Kemoklidze said. &ldquo;Russia right now does not care about the borders [between separatist South Ossetia and Tbilisi-controlled territory], but next week, next month, next year there might be an issue that they need [a] compromise on.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the end, he said, Georgia has to have &ldquo;strategic patience.&rdquo; Yet, to date, &ldquo;strategic patience&rdquo; has not produced any tangible benefits.</p> <p>Insisting that the fence runs inside South-Ossetian territory, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has refused to address the issue at Geneva. Georgian State Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili, the head of Tbilisi&rsquo;s efforts to normalize relations with the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians, admits that the Geneva process has hit a snag.</p> <p>Zakareishvili claimed that while Tbilisi has demonstrated its readiness for constructive dialogue with Moscow, the fences show that Russia is not ready to respond in kind. &ldquo;But we will step over those fences,&rdquo; he said, without elaboration. &ldquo;The Berlin Wall was destroyed, so, fences &hellip; that is just comical.&rdquo; Georgia, he added, is betting on patience and &ldquo;pragmatically looking at the situation.&rdquo;</p> <p>Locals living near the conflict line, however, have little reason for patience. Since the war, security concerns have prompted Beruashvili to move his three children out of his house. Alone with his mother, he tends to the few acres of orchards he can reach without risking arrest by the Russians. He waits for Georgian police to patrol the area before venturing to see his father&rsquo;s grave, or to gather greens, close to land now patrolled regularly by Russian soldiers.</p> <p>&ldquo;The women are afraid, the elderly are afraid, we cannot bring the children here,&rdquo; Beruashvili said. Russian soldiers have become more verbally aggressive of late, he claimed. &ldquo;They want to take this territory,&rdquo; he added. Beruashvili, like scores of other locals, remains determined to make a stand and do everything he can to prevent his house and land from becoming, de facto, part of Russian-guarded, separatist South Ossetia. &ldquo;I have set my mind to not allowing them in,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Whether such determination can succeed where international measures have failed remains to be seen.</p> a bridge for the Balkans2013-08-08<p>Bridges connect and divide the Balkans. The one in Mostar remained a symbol of the peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims, Catholics and Serbian Orthodox communities for four centuries. Built by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th Century, it was deliberately destroyed by the Bosnian Croats in 1993. The intended message was clear: enough of unity in the Balkans. The Old Bridge in Mostar was no more, and it took a great effort to rebuild it. Another Balkan bridge, once connecting the Albanians and Serbs in Mitrovica, still stands, but, having been barred for several years, it is a symbol of Kosovo&rsquo;s division.</p> <p>Spanning the banks of the River Ibar, the bridge separates the northern Serbian part of Mitrovica from the Albanian one in the south. The night belongs to the illuminated Saint Dimitri Serbian Orthodox Church, devoted to the city&rsquo;s patron, built in 2005 on a hill overlooking the area. The mornings, in turn, are dominated by the muezzins who call the faithful to prayer from the southern bank. Both sides of the river have for years lived in utter isolation, interrupted occasionally by riots.</p> <p>But this summer may see a decisive breakthrough for Mitrovica, Kosovo, and the whole region. And not only because Croatia has just become the European Union&rsquo;s 28th member state. Back in the spring, following weeks of hushed negotiations, Belgrade and Pristina reached what is referred to as a &ldquo;landmark deal&rdquo; for the Kosovo Serbs. As a reward, EU leaders agreed in June to open accession talks with Serbia while Kosovo was given green light to negotiate an association treaty, a first step to potential EU membership.</p> <p>A former Serbian province, Kosovo&rsquo;s ethnic makeup is today overwhelmingly dominated by Albanians, of which there are some 1.8 million, compared with just 140,000 Serbs. The latter have for years been sponsored by Belgrade, which pays for Serbian schools and hospitals, and which shells out (double!) salaries to public servants and police officers who have not even been to their desks for years. Serbs stress their historic right to the land. Kosovo is their national cradle.</p> <h2>Bloody supression</h2> <p>Kosovo has now been de facto independent of Serbia for 14 years. When the local Albanians started an uprising in 1998, Belgrade wanted to suppress it quickly and bloodily. Some 10,000 Albanians lost their lives, and hundred of thousands more were displaced. In retaliation, the Albanians struck against the local Serbs. The ethnic cleansing that followed ceased only as a result of Nato bombing raids. Kosovo became an international protectorate, which was no longer governed by Belgrade. In 2008, it unilaterally announced full independence, although this is not recognised everywhere. The Serbs have refused to accept the province&rsquo;s secession and even wrote into their new constitution that &ldquo;<em>Kosovo je Srbija</em>&rdquo; [Kosovo is Serbia].</p> <p>In Brussels in spring 2012, the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo &ndash; Ivica Dačić and Hashim Tha&ccedil;i &ndash; started rebuilding bridges. While Belgrade continues to refuse to recognise Kosovo&rsquo;s independence, the new deal has finally regulated the status of the Kosovo Serbs. Until now, their enclaves in northern Kosovo had functioned like parts of Serbia. The agreement brings them closer to Pristina, at the same time granting them broad, though not yet specified, autonomy.</p> <p>First of all, Serbian institutions in Kosovo are to be replaced by new ones, reporting to Pristina. Serb-inhabited communes are to form an association that will have a decisive say over a range of local matters. Also the Serb judiciary and police are to be integrated with the Kosovo state structures. The Serbs will have the right to elect their own police chief and enjoy a guaranteed quota of seats in the national parliament. They will also be granted a tax amnesty, because up until now, they have not paid tax or utility bills.</p> <p>The Kosovo Serbs had for years been opposed to a deal with Pristina, remaining &ndash; and not without reason &ndash; deeply mistrustful of the Albanians and the Pristina government. Their sense of mistrust is further fuelled by the fact that many of the agreement&rsquo;s provisions sound rather vague. Whereas it is more or less clear what will happen with the courts and the police, the future of schools, the local university, and the healthcare system is uncertain.</p> <p>Subsidised by Belgrade, the Kosovo Serbs earn relatively good money, unlike their Albanian counterparts. A Serbian doctor employed at the hospital in Mitrovica makes some &euro;1,000 a month, four times what his Kosovo Albanian colleague receives.</p> <p>But this provisional arrangement, sponsored by Belgrade, could not last forever. No jobs are available in the Serbian enclaves, except in the public sector; the best one can do is start a shop. And Belgrade itself is cash-strapped and can no longer afford maintaining the status quo.</p> <h2>A choice for their children</h2> <p>Pristina is much more optimistic today. Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj calls Serbian politicians &ldquo;our friends from Belgrade&rdquo; and presents the Brussels deal as a model that could be followed by the region&rsquo;s other conflicted states &ndash; Bosnia and Macedonia.</p> <p>Some of the liberal experts are sceptical. &ldquo;The establishment of new Serbian institutions in Kosovo threatens to divide the country, like in Bosnia where the state does not really function,&rdquo; says Ilir Deda, director of the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development.</p> <p>Experts also note the current catchphrase in both Belgrade and Pristina: &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going forward, let&rsquo;s not talk about the past.&rdquo; But, they point out, there will be no normalisation of relations, let alone a reconciliation, without historical accuracy.</p> <p>So why did Serbia agree to go for a deal after all? It had no choice. Such was the condition of commencing accession talks with the EU. Today, only European integration can produce the impulse that will put Serbia back on the track of both economic and demographic growth. Sociologists estimate that out of the official 7.2 million citizens, only 5.2 million live in the country. Serbia has 1.3 million people over 60, and median age is above 41 years, one of the world&rsquo;s highest. There are also more retirees than workers.</p> <p>&ldquo;Serbs don&rsquo;t love the EU, but they know it&rsquo;s the only choice for the country,&rdquo; says Srdjan Bogosavljevic, a sociologist at market research firm Ipsos. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re realistic and don&rsquo;t expect swift accession or EU-inspired changes for themselves. They are choosing the EU for their children.&rdquo;</p> most war crimes still not prosecuted2013-08-07<div class="btj_body"> <p>Croatia significantly improved the prosecution of war crimes over the years when negotiations to join the EU were still in progress, but questions have been raised about how this process will continue now the country has secured its membership of the European club.</p> <p>During the years of negotiations, there were verdicts in several major cases, such as the conviction of former Croatian general Branimir Glavas for crimes against Serb civilians in Osijek and the jailing of former Croatian general Mirko Norac for his involvement in the wartime killings of Serbs in the &lsquo;Medak Pocket&rsquo;.</p> <p>Several major trials have also started over the last two years, like the prosecution of Tomislav Mercep, former political strongman and interior ministry advisor, for war crimes against Serbs in Pakrac, Kutina and Zagreb. The trial of former Sisak police chief Djuro Brodarac and his deputy Vladimir Milankovic for war crimes against Serb civilians in Sisak also started recently.</p> <p>But since Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were acquitted by the Hague Tribunal in November last year, no information has been made public about new investigations into war crimes perpetrated during the 1995 military operation called Oluja (Storm), despite the fact that the Croatian president and prime minister vowed that prosecutions would continue.</p> <p>So far, only one sentence has been handed down for war crimes perpetrated after operation Storm. After in the courts, former Croatian army officer Bozo Bacelic was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison in June this year.</p> <p>Bacelic was jailed for killing 76-year-old Nikola Damjanic and 74-year-old Milica Damjanic and burning their bodies in August 1995 in the village of Prokljan in central Dalmatia after the operation ended.</p> <p>Bacelic was tried for the murders in 2002, but acquitted. The supreme court annulled the verdict and ordered a new trial, but Bacelic fled in 2007 and was only arrested in Germany in 2012. He still has the right to appeal against the new sentence.</p> <p>The arrest of nine Croatian Serbs from the village of Trpinja on July 11, for killing at least 70 Croatian civilians and prisoners of war in 1991, was the result of newly-discovered evidence indicating their guilt, the prosecutor said.</p> <p>The Trpinja arrests were one of the few new war crimes prosecutions in Croatia this year, but they raised fears among Croatian Serbs that ethnically-biased justice had returned.</p> <p>No single ethnic Croat has been arrested in the country so far this year on war crimes charges.</p> <p><strong>Ethnic intolerance helps commanders evade justice</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;It is becoming harder to prosecute war crimes,&rdquo; Eugen Jakovcic from Croatian human rights group Documenta told BIRN.</p> <p>Jakovcic warned that &ldquo;an atmosphere in which witnesses would testify against their own nation&rsquo;s suspects is still hard to create, and media interest is getting lower&rdquo;.</p> <p>On top of that, &ldquo;politicians and public figures openly express intolerance towards ethnic minorities, Serbs especially&rdquo;, he said.</p> <p>Because of this, he predicted, &ldquo;war crimes perpetrators and commanders, especially higher ones, will stay unpunished&rdquo; in Croatia.</p> <p>The Croatian prosecutor&rsquo;s office has a list of 490 war crimes to be prosecuted in the country.</p> <p>According to official sources, by the end of September last year, 316 of the perpetrators were known and 174 unknown.</p> <p>But 122 sentences were handed down by courts, representing about a fifth of all war crimes cases.</p> <p>Jakovcic pointed out that regional cooperation needs to be strengethened because &ldquo;many former members of Serbian forces are out of the Croatian judiciary&rsquo;s reach&rdquo;.</p> <p>Rights activists also claim that there is a lack of political will to help war crimes victims, almost two decades after the conflict ended.</p> <p>&ldquo;The current government continues the mistakes of the previous ones, and offers no clear and constructive solutions,&rdquo; Jakovcic said.</p> <p>The families of those killed in the war have sued the state, he explained, but they lost 90 per cent of those lost the cases, and have had to pay high court expenses, which in some cases amount to almost 15,000 euro.</p> <p>For comparison, the average Croatian monthly income is about 700 euro, and pensions are about 300 euro.</p> <p>&ldquo;The lack of definite war crimes sentences is the direct cause for the rejection of the compensation requests by the courts,&rdquo; Jakovcic said.</p> </div> Armenia walks tightrope between Russia and EU, public opinion may be shifting 2013-08-02<p><span class="firstLetter">F</span>or nearly a week now, several dozen youth activists have held a nonstop sit-in outside the office of Yerevan's mayor, protesting a rise in public-transit fares and demanding the dismissal of the officials who implemented them. <br /> <br /> The sit-in comes in the wake of much larger protests against the price rise, which the government says became necessary after Russia sharply increased rates for natural gas.<br /> <br /> The simmering tensions prompted an unusually prickly comment from Razmik Zohrabian, deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party, who told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the protesters "are being used to cause trouble in Armenia."<br /> <br /> Zohrabian added: "Armenia is no superpower, and superpowers can easily stir up internal strife here. It's not just about Russia. A rivalry of civilizations is under way over whether Armenia should go for European integration or Russia's customs union. So the fight of giants is getting some resonance on the ground here."<br /> <br /> While Armenians have long regarded Russia as their country's main protector, a spate of actions by Moscow in recent weeks has provoked an unprecedented wave of public anger at a moment when Yerevan faces a key geopolitical choice.<br /> <br /> <strong>A Fork In The Road</strong><br /> <br /> Armenia has been Russia's key strategic ally in the South Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the extent that Yerevan is largely dependent on Moscow economically and in terms of security. Now, however, the government is moving rapidly toward integration with the European Union, and Yerevan could well be on track to initial an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the bloc at a summit of Eastern Partnership countries in Vilnius in November.<br /> <br /> As that potentially momentous occasion approaches, Moscow has been applying concerted pressure on Armenia -- and on Ukraine and Moldova as well, which are both in similar situations -- to change course and instead join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. The European Union has made it clear that a DCFTA is incompatible with membership in the Eurasian Customs Union.<br /> <br /> On the surface, the government has been adamant that ties with Russia are strong. The two countries inaugurated a small free-trade zone on July 29 at a Russian-owned electronics plant in Yerevan. At the opening, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian emphasized that "Russian-Armenian relations are dynamically developing."<br /> <br /> Sarkisian likewise took pains during a cabinet meeting on July 25 to praise the Yerevan transit protests as a sign of the country's dynamically developing civil society. "We can see that this is a spontaneous movement of people that has no partisan nature. This movement has a social nature," he said. "It is for social solidarity and against poverty. Understandable motives are guiding the young people who are raising this issue."<br /> <br /> <strong>Not Very Neighborly</strong><br /> <br /> But beneath the surface there are signs that Moscow may be bungling relations with Yerevan at this crucial moment. In addition to raising natural-gas rates, Russia recently began the very public delivery of what will ultimately be $1 billion in new weaponry to Azerbaijan. The two neighbors fought a war in the early 1990s over the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians.</p> <p>But perhaps the most illustrative example is Russia's handling of the case of Hrachya Harutiunian, an Armenian citizen who was driving a truck in a Moscow suburb on July 13 that smashed into a bus, killing 18 people and injuring more than 30 others.<br /> <br /> Armenians were outraged when Harutiunian was brought into a Moscow court to face charges wearing a flowered housecoat and slippers. Appearing shocked and humiliated, Harutiunian was unable to address the court during his brief appearance. A Russian state television report broadcast in Armenia ridiculed Harutiunian's "grunting" and accentuated his ethnic origin.<br /> <br /> That incident brought hundreds of Armenians out to protest in front of the Russian Embassy.<br /> <br /> "We still remember [how] the anti-Chechen hysteria was there during the Chechen war in Russia. But even [former Chechen warlord Salman] Raduyev and others who were considered Russia's greatest enemies didn't face that kind of disgusting attitude," says Avetik Ishkhanian, a human rights activist in Yerevan who attended the protest. "The fact that [Harutiunian] was brought to court in a woman's clothing was clearly a political decision. I don't think that it was a decision by the local police."<br /> <br /> <strong>Armenians' Changing Opinions</strong><br /> <br /> In response to the anger, Russia issued a statement accusing unspecified individuals of trying to whip up anti-Russian sentiment over the case. Since then, both Russian and Armenian officials have played down the housecoat affair and stressed that Harutiunian is being treated well as his case goes forward.<br /> <br /> But public opinion in Armenia could be shifting slightly from its historically pro-Russian stance. Emma Gabrielyan, a journalist and blogger for the daily "Aravot," wrote recently that "one gets the impression the Russians are thoughtfully, with their own hands, destroying our belief in the stereotype that 'Russia is the guarantor of Armenia's security.'"<br /> <br /> "A year ago, no one could have imagined that one day the citizens of Armenia would hold protest actions in front of the Russian Embassy," she added.<br /> <br /> While Russia has profound leverage in Armenia, Moscow does not always use its advantages effectively, says James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House in London.<br /> <br /> "Russia is not well-known for playing the cards that it holds tremendously well. It could -- were it to have a more enlightened attitude toward the other former Soviet states -- as we know in so many other cases, it could be so much more attractive than it is. But it tends to slide roughshod over them," Nixey explains. "It tends to not pay them due respect, the kind of respect that Russia itself feels it deserves from Western countries, for example."<br /> <br /> He believes Yerevan has not yet made a final decision on the choice between deeper relations with the EU or joining Russia's customs union. He notes that the EU agreements entail commitments to political and economic reforms that the government might yet prove unwilling to make. The Eurasian Customs Union, by contrast, comes with no strings attached and, very likely, considerable short-term economic benefits.<br /> <br /> At the same time, public support in Armenia for EU integration appears to be growing as tangible results emerge on the horizon. And the very atypical wave of public anger toward Russia over the increase in gas prices, the Harutiunian case, and the sale of arms to Azerbaijan could signal a significant shift in the public mood. One that, Nixey says, President Serzh Sarkisian needs to take into account.<br /> <br /> "These sort of semiauthoritarian states take the temperature of public opinion very seriously and they wouldn't want to move too far beyond it," the analyst says. "And taking too much stick, taking too much punishment from Russia, too much humiliation, I think, would be very unwise for Mr. Sarkisian, politically speaking."</p> Georgia really committed to European values?2013-07-30<p>GEORGIA&rsquo;s relationship with the European Union seems to be moving in the right direction. On July 22<sup>nd</sup>, negotiators concluded talks over a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU. Progress towards visa liberalisation continues. The chances of securing an Association Agreement at the Vilnius summit in late November look strong.</p> <p>Such progress, the Georgian government insists, is based on commitment to European values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As his Independence Day address on May 26<sup>th</sup> showed, the prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is certainly keen to make the right noises in public.</p> <p>But the government&rsquo;s deeds have often failed to live up to its words. Take minority rights. UNM politicians (at central and local levels), gay rights demonstrators and Muslim worshippers have all faced angry mobs in 2013. Police protection has been inadequate, and punishment too rare. The previous government pursued order at the expense of the rule of law; the current government&rsquo;s focus on the rule of law is undermined by weakness in enforcing public order.</p> <p>The government&rsquo;s pledge to restore justice is in line with European values. But the way in which it has arrested and prosecuted scores of UNM officials leaves much to be desired. Question marks hang over the government&rsquo;s use of pre-trial detention. Statements by government officials that assert the guilt of senior UNM figures undermine the presumption of innocence. The failure to build a compelling narrative around these arrests has led to fears of selective justice amongst Georgia&rsquo;s allies, even if most Georgians do not appear to agree.</p> <p>Public attitudes further emphasise the distance between Georgia and Europe. In one recent poll, 52% of those interviewed in the same poll approved of the counter-demonstration against gay rights demonstrators on May 17<sup>th</sup>; 25% even approved of the counter-demonstrations turning violent.</p> <p>Traditionalism is deep-rooted in Georgian society. The Orthodox Church, by far Georgia&rsquo;s most respected institution, has long railed against the corrupting influences of modernity. The growing powe<a href="">r</a> of ultra-conservative clerics is making it more intolerant. Last week, the National Forensics Bureau began to certify brides&rsquo; virginity&ndash;for a fee. Hymen restoration procedures have become increasingly popular in recent years.</p> <p>Yet that only tells part of the picture. According to the same poll, 51% of those asked said that those who broke the law on May 17<sup>th</sup> should face justice. 58% think that minority rights are important. The Georgian government may have more support to confront intolerance than it thought.</p> <p>To underline the government&rsquo;s credentials, Mr Ivanishvili has pledged &ldquo;exemplary&rdquo; presidential elections on October 31<sup>st</sup>. That will require assertive policing. Stone-throwing demonstrators greeted UNM rallies in Zugdidi on July 20<sup>th</sup> and Batumi the following day. That 14 people were arrested and fined shows a belated willingness to punish. But the UNM scolded the police for failing to prevent what happened.</p> <p>These elections matter. Polls show that although Georgian Dream has high approval ratings, its presidential candidate, Giorgi Margelashvili, is much less popular than his party. In contrast, the UNM candidate, Davit Bakradze, is far more popular than his. The key question is whether Georgians will vote for the individual or the party.</p> <p>The answer will help to shape Georgia&rsquo;s future political landscape. With Mikheil Saakashvili, the president, due to step down at the end of October, and Mr Ivanishvili hinting that he will leave soon after, Georgia&rsquo;s two dominant political personalities will soon leave office. A strong showing for Mr Bakradze could cement the UNM&rsquo;s role as a legitimate opposition force.</p> <p>For that to happen, Mr Saakashvili should avoid interfering in Mr Bakradze&rsquo;s campaign. In the interests of democracy, Mr Ivanishvili should also stop trying to influence the shape of the opposition. The election campaign will provide both men with another platform to continue their feud. The best way to demonstrate their personal commitment to European values is by spurning it.</p> pledges to win Moscow mayoral election2013-07-25<div id="article-body-blocks"> <p>The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has arrived in Moscow after being released from custody, declaring that he is going to win the capital's mayoral election.</p> <p>Speaking through a bullhorn to hundreds of supporters at Moscow's Yaroslavsky station on Saturday, Navalny thanked them for their help in winning his release while an appeal is heard against his five-year sentence for embezzlement.</p> <p>"I realise that if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be standing here for the next five years. You have destroyed a key privilege that the Kremlin has been trying to keep that it is their alleged right to say to any person: 'Arrest him on the spot,'" said Navalny, who claims that the case against him was concocted for political reasons.</p> <p>Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement on Thursday in Kirov, but prosecutors unexpectedly asked for his release the next morning. They said that keeping him behind bars during the appeals process of his conviction would deprive him of his right to run for office.</p> <p>A day before the conviction, Navalny, 37, was registered as a candidate for the 8 September Moscow mayoral election, running against the incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Navalny's support is mostly limited to the urban middle class and youth.</p> <p>An opinion survey in early July by the independent Levada polling centre showed Navalny attracting only about 8% support among voters in the mayoral election.</p> <p>Hundreds of police blocked Navalny supporters from the platform of the Moscow railway station where his overnight train from Kirov arrived, but Navalny shouted over the police lines: "We are going to run in this election and we will win". His supporters replied: "We are the power."</p> <p>Navalny, a lawyer and blogger, is one of the most visible and charismatic leaders of the opposition to Putin and the governing United Russia party. His description of United Russia as the "party of crooks and thieves" has become a signature phrase of the opposition.</p> <p>The Kremlin denies clamping down on critics or using the courts to persecute them. Putin remains Russia's most popular politician despite the largest wave of street protests against his 13-year rule that were led by Navalny in 2011-12.</p> </div> labor camp Perm-36: times change, memories remain2013-07-24<p><span>The main contingent of inmates consisted of members of the so-called punitive expeditions, who served on the side of Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War. Perm 36 also housed&nbsp;</span>"political" prisoners<span>. The colony was closed down in 1988. In 1992, the decision was taken to turn it into a museum. Four years later, the "Perm 36" Museum of History of Political Repression welcomed its first visitors.</span></p> <p><span>As the only such museum in Russia, Perm 36 includes preserved and reconstructed facilities that existed at the camp (labor colony) for political prisoners, where dissidents, dissenters, human rights activists, opponents of the communist regime, champions of national independence for enslaved peoples, politicians, public figures, writers, scientists &mdash; anyone whose ideas and efforts undermined the misanthropic regime &mdash; were held in wretched conditions, suffered, and died.</span></p> <p><span>Some of the high-security camp buildings are still standing, including one of the four barracks built in 1946, an isolation ward, medical unit, bath-house with laundry facilities, the internal camp headquarters, a water tower and toilet &mdash; all in the residential zone where the prisoners actually lived. Even an alley and a grove (planted by prisoners during the&nbsp;</span>GULAG<span>reform period in 1948) have been preserved.</span></p> <p><span>However, a liberal Pilorama festival, a platform for NGOs that was to take place in the museum this summer, has been canceled and this signifies that Putin is not only after political opponents but strongly influences cultural policy. Also, the museum struggles to remain open as there is lack of funding.&nbsp;</span></p> critic Alexei Navalny convicted2013-07-18<p>A Russian court has found&nbsp;Alexei Navalny&nbsp;guilty of embezzlement in a trial widely seen as a means of silencing the popular Russian opposition leader.</p> <p>A judge in the provincial city of Kirov, 500 miles north-east of Moscow, found Navalny guilty of embezzling 16m roubles (&pound;300,000) from a timber firm while advising the region's liberal governor in 2009. Prosecutors have asked the judge to give him six years in prison and a 1m rouble fine. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.</p> <p>The trial is widely seen as a means of discrediting an opposition leader who has gained increasing support since&nbsp;Vladimir Putin&nbsp;returned to the Russian presidency against a backdrop of unprecedented protests last year.</p> <p>Navalny arrived in the provincial city by train on Thursday morning, backed by dozens of supporters.</p> <p>After building a career in opposition politics by focusing on exposing official corruption, Navalny said he would run for mayor of Moscow in snap elections called for September. In a move that surprised many, officials allowed him to register for the race last week, prompting speculation that he could be handed a suspended or delayed sentence.</p> <p>A conviction had been expected as less than 1% of Russian court cases end in not guilty verdicts.</p> <p>The sentencing will be keenly watched. His supporters have promised to gather outside the Kremlin's walls on Thursday evening.</p> <p>Navalny urged his supporters to keep courage and continue their fight in a blog on Wednesday.</p> confirms arms bound for North Korea on ship seized in Panama2013-07-17<p>Cuba<span>&nbsp;has confirmed a North Korean cargo ship seized in&nbsp;</span>Panama<span>&nbsp;was carrying missiles, fighter jets and other armaments that were loaded in Cuban ports but claimed it was "obsolete defensive weaponry" being sent away for repair.</span></p> <p><span>Panamanian authorities stopped the freighter on Monday when weaponry was found in amongst a load of 10,000 tonnes of sugar. The Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, said the ship, identified as the 14,000-tonne Chong Chon Gang, had been carrying missiles and other arms "hidden in containers underneath the cargo of sugar".&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On Tuesday the Cuban foreign ministry said the 240 tonnes of armaments consisted of two Volga and Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles "in parts and spares", two Mig-21 planes and 15 engines for those planes &ndash;&nbsp;all of which had been bound for repair in&nbsp;North Korea.</p> <p>"The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty," the statement read. It concluded by saying that Havana remained "unwavering" in its commitment to international law, peace and nuclear disarmament.</p> <p>Under current sanctions aimed at North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, all UN member states are prohibited from directly or indirectly supplying, selling or transferring all arms, missiles or missile systems and the equipment and technology to make them to North Korea, with the exception of small arms and light weapons.</p> <p><span>Luis Eduardo Camacho, a spokesman for Martinelli, said authorities had only searched one of the ship's five container sections and the inspection of all cargo would take at least a week. Panama had requested help from&nbsp;</span>United Nations<span>&nbsp;inspectors, along with Colombia and the UK, said Javier Carballo, the country's top narcotics prosecutor.</span></p> <p><span>North Korea's government made no public comment on the case.</span></p> moves to punish gulag guards2013-07-11<p><span>The names of 35 guards &mdash; now in their 80s or 90s &mdash; are to be handed to authorities starting next week for possible prosecution by a government institution tasked with investigating communist-era crimes, The Associated Press has learned.</span></p> <p>The perpetrators of communist-era crimes have long been shielded by Romania's establishment, whose ranks are filled with members of the former Securitate secret police. But the movement to expose Romanian gulag guards has a powerful champion in the Liberal Party, which is now part of the governing coalition. Members of the party were targeted by the Communists in their crackdown on all perceived dissent after it came to power in 1946.</p> <p>Of Romania's 617,000 political prisoners, 120,000 died in the gulags. The inmates included politicians, priests, peasants, writers, diplomats and children as young as 11. Most survivors died before seeing any chance of justice.</p> <p>Those still alive &mdash; about 2,800 in all &mdash; now see a glimmer of hope as the Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism and the Memory of the Romanian Exile begins probing allegations against the 35 guards on the list, as well as other communist-era crimes.</p> <p>The institute was founded by Liberal Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu in 2006. It's only since the party returned to government as a junior coalition partner last year that the institute has begun probing crimes committed in the 1950s and '60s &mdash; the darkest period of Romanian communism &mdash; aided by a Liberal-led interior ministry that has provided names and addresses. Like other former Warsaw Pact countries, Romania got rid of its top level communists during the 1989 revolution, but less than a handful were punished after former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed.</p> <p>The institute's executive director says that has to change.</p> <p>In the gulags, inmates frequently starved to death; many also died from lack of medical care. Punishments included eating excrement, long stretches of solitary confinement and carrying heavy weights to the point of collapse.</p> <p>"It would be good for the ones who are alive to go on trial, so history will mark them down as criminals," said Caius Mutiu, 79, a former detainee who testified to the institute.</p> <p><span>Marius Oprea, the first head of the institute, says Romania has been reluctant to deal with its past because so many members of the old guard have remained in power since 1989.</span></p> to Compensate Kosovo Albanians for Torture2013-07-09<p>The court in Belgrade ruled on Monday that the state must pay out 150,000 dinars (around 1340 euros) each to&nbsp;Jashar Kukaj and brothers Xheladin and Zenel Bylykbashij after they were tortured by Serbian police while they were in prison in the town of Pozarevac.</p> <p>Explaining the verdict, the court said that Serbian police arrested the men &ldquo;without any legal grounds&rdquo; at the end of May 1999 and held them in custody.</p> <p>In May 1999, Serbian forces occupied the Kosovo village of Novo Čikatovo/&Ccedil;ikatove e R&euml;, detained the Albanian men and took them away to a prison in Lipljan/Lipjan.</p> <p>According to Zenel Bylykbashi&rsquo;s testimony, he was beaten constantly while in custody in Lipljan/Lipjan, and when he was transferred to the Serbian town of Pozarevec, he was not given food or water some days.</p> <p>He was released after spending eight months in detention.</p> <p>Xheladin Bylykbashi&nbsp;and Jashar Kukaj, who were imprisoned by Serb forces in February 1999, told the court that they were interrogated and beaten by police on several occasions.</p> <p>They both claimed that the conditions in prison in Pozarevac were inhumane, adding that they were also left without food and water several times.</p> <p>The men were released after eleven months.</p> <p>Belgrade&rsquo;s Humanitarian Law Centre, which filed the lawsuit against Serbia on behalf of the men, plans to appeal against the verdict, arguing that it was &ldquo;humiliating&rdquo; because of the small payout.</p> <p>&ldquo;With this miserable compensation to victims of serious violations of human rights, the Serbian courts are relativising misdeeds committed during the 1990s for which the state was responsible,&rdquo; the Humanitarian Law Centre said.</p> Hold Coffee-Drinking Rally near Parliament2013-07-04<p>There are stands offering free coffee to demonstrators. The plastic cups are being collected carefully before being sent for recycling not only to keep the area litter-free, but to be counted to estimate the number of participants.</p> <p>Downtown Sofia is under a true blockade with all streets leading to the&nbsp;Parliament&nbsp;sealed off by the police. Security measures and police presence in the area are upped to the maximum.&nbsp;</p> <p>The increased police presence comes in the aftermath of the&nbsp;brief detention of&nbsp;journalist&nbsp;Nayo Titzin.</p> <p>Titzin was impersonating controversial Bulgarian&nbsp;nationalist leader&nbsp;Volen&nbsp;Siderov, who has assumed a provocative anti-protest stance.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the organizers of the rallies are calling on social networks for blockades of 10 key intersections in downtown Sofia during rush hour.</p> <p>The initial group of 20 people is growing. Hundreds are holding national flags, megaphones, whistles, and banners, shouting once again demands for the government's resignation.</p> <p>The series of&nbsp;anti-government&nbsp;protests&nbsp;in Bulgaria was triggered by the scandalous appointment of media mogul&nbsp;Delyan Peevski&nbsp;as Chair of the&nbsp;State Agency for National Security&nbsp;(DANS).</p> <p>Although the appointment was revoked, the people went on to demand that the cabinet resign collectively over ties with oligarchs.</p> <p><span>Protesters are also calling for Election Code amendments which will guarantee greater representation of the people in&nbsp;</span><span>Parliament</span><span>.</span></p> and festivities as Croatia joins EU2013-07-01<p>Fireworks lit the sky and festive crowds gathered on the streets on Sunday night to mark&nbsp;Croatia's entry on Monday into the&nbsp;European Union, a major milestone 20 years after the country won independence in a bloody civil war.</p> <p>Croatia became the 28th member, the first addition since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007. Though enthusiasm for the country's achievement has been dampened by the EU's financial turmoil, it is an historic turning point for the small Balkan nation of 4.2 million, which endured years of carnage after declaring independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.</p> <p><span>President Ivo Josipovic said: "In the history of a nation, there are a few events such as this one. The accession of Croatia to the EU is confirmation that each one of us belongs to the European democratic and cultural set of values."</span></p> <p>Croatia becomes the third poorest country in the EU, with an unemployment rate hovering at 20%.</p> <p>Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, said: "EU membership will offer no magic solution to the crisis, but it will help to lift many people out of poverty and modernise the economy."</p> <p>But protest movement Occupy Croatia argued that "the EU is not a solution to our problems" and entry "is an economic genocide over the people living in our country".</p> Outraged at Latvian Ban of Soviet Symbols2013-06-25<p>Latvia&rsquo;s parliament on Thursday approved amendments to ban the use of Soviet and Nazi flags, anthems, uniforms, as well as swastikas and hammer-and-sickle emblems, at all public events.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Latvian parliament&rsquo;s decision to equate symbols of a country that made a crucial contribution to the victory over Nazism, with symbols of the hateful Nazi regime evokes deep outrage,&rdquo; Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.</p> <p>The legislation was partly inspired by pro-Soviet rallies as well as SS veteran parades &ndash; both of which Latvian authorities regard as attempts to divide the country. Latvian President Andris Berzins is expected to sign the amendments into law sometime this summer.</p> <p>Latvia&rsquo;s official position is that it was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 through 1991. Russia, as a successor to the Soviet Union, does not recognize such occupation.</p> Horn, Former Hungarian Prime Minister, Dies2013-06-19<p><span>The death of Horn, who served as Hungary's prime minister and foreign minister, on June 19 was announced by the Hungarian government.</span><br /><br /><span>Horn had been hospitalized in Budapest for several years due to undisclosed ailments.</span><br /><br /><span>He was best known internationally for his announcement in 1989 as communist Hungary's then-foreign minister that Budapest would allow East German refugees to leave Hungary for West Germany, one of the key events which led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.</span><br /><br /><span>In 1994, he won elections as the head of the postcommunist Socialist Party.</span></p> Cites 'Troubling Deterioration' For Civil Society In Eurasia2013-06-19<p><span>The annual analysis of democratic development from Central Europe to Central Asia says there has been a "troubling deterioration" in conditions for civil society across Eurasia.</span><br /><br /><span>"In Eurasia, the story we saw in 2012 was one of authoritarian leadership aggressively cracking down on civil society activity," project director Sylvana Habdank-Kołaczkowska told RFE/RL in connection with the new report. "The biggest ratings change we saw on any of our indicators were related to civil society crackdowns. In some cases, this was a matter of deeply entrenched authoritarian regimes just sort of digging their heels in further, passing new legislation that further restricted civil society activities -- usually targeting freedom of assembly but on a number of issues. Sometimes it was real violence against protesters."</span></p> <p><span>Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have again been rated the worst in the region for civil society. Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Belarus were cited for increased persecution of perceived enemies, and Kazakhstan's government is faulted for cracking down on labor organizers.</span><br /><br /><span>Freedom House President David Kramer said Russian President Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s return to office last year brought a return of "the worst repression Russians have suffered since the fall of the Soviet Union."</span></p> <p><span>Legislation restricting public assembly, religious activity, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) was adopted not only by Russia but also Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. All five countries were downgraded on the group&rsquo;s Nations In Transit civil-society indicator.</span></p> <p><span>Not all the news was bad. Freedom House found that Georgia and Armenia "made strides toward more competitive and fair elections as a result of new electoral laws that emphasized equal access to campaign resources and media coverage."</span></p> opens Holocaust display at Auschwitz2013-06-13<p>The display in Block 27 places the former camp in the broader context of the Nazis' systematic attempt to wipe out Europe's Jewish population.</p> <p>It is being overseen by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.</p> <p>Earlier in Warsaw, Mr Netanyahu accused Iran, one of Israel's strongest foes, of planning a new Holocaust.</p> <p id="story_continues_2">On Thursday, he was taken around the exhibition at the former camp before making a speech at the opening ceremony, Yad Vashem reported on its&nbsp;<a href="">Twitter account</a>.</p> <p>The original Jewish exhibition at Auschwitz dated back to the 1960s and had fallen into neglect, prompting the Israeli government to decide recently on a revamp.</p> <p>An estimated&nbsp;<a href=";task=view&amp;id=14&amp;Itemid=13&amp;limit=1&amp;limitstart=1">1.1 million Jews, together with some 200,000 people of other ethnicities and backgrounds,</a>&nbsp;died in Auschwitz and the adjacent Birkenau camp, in gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labour.</p> <p>The new display features:</p> <ul> <li>a 360-degree montage of the pre-war Jewish life</li> </ul> <ul> <li>recreated drawings of some of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust</li> </ul> <ul> <li>recorded survivor testimonies</li> </ul> <ul> <li>massive volumes of books listing the names of some 4.2 million Jewish victims that Yad Vashem painstakingly managed to recover</li> </ul> <p><span class="cross-head"><strong>Iranian 'threat'</strong></span></p> <p>Mr Netanyahu used a visit to the Polish capital on Wednesday to warn that Iran was now a major threat to the Jews.</p> <p>Iranians are going to the polls on Friday to elect a new president, with the hard-line incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not eligible for a third term.</p> <p>Mr Netanyahu said the Iranian election on Friday would "change nothing" in the Islamic republic's alleged quest for nuclear weapons.</p> <p>"This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose to annihilate Israel's six million Jews," he said. "We will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust."</p> <p>Tehran denies seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.</p> <p>Iran is viewed as a threat in Israel because of its aggressive rhetoric, its support for militant groups in the region, its arsenal of long-range missiles and its nuclear work.</p> <p>However, critics of the Israeli prime minister have accused him of citing the Holocaust too frequently in the context of Iran.</p> <p><span class="cross-head"></span></p> <p>Aluf Benn, editor of liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote in an<a href="">editorial</a>&nbsp;last week: "Shoah [Holocaust] warnings have taken over the political and military discourse."</p> Extends Detentions as Bolotnoye Trial Begins2013-06-07<p>More than 400 people were detained at the anti-Kremlin protest on Bolotnaya Ploshchad on May 6, 2012, nearly 30 of whom now face criminal charges in a trial that many see as authorities' reaction to growing opposition activity in the country and that is being compared to the case against oil tycoon&nbsp;<a class="related_dotted" href="">Mikhail Khodorkovsky</a>&nbsp;in the early 2000s.</p> <p>According to one of the defendants, Maria Baronova, who tweeted online from the courtroom, defendant Sergei Krivov asked judge Natalya Nikishina to recuse herself from the trial at the beginning of Thursday's hearing.</p> <p>Krivov said she wouldn't be able to pass an unbiased verdict because she was &ldquo;employed by Putin.&rdquo; Though all of the other suspects supported Krivov's motion, the judge declined.</p> <p>The hearing lasted more than seven hours and was closed to both the media and to defendants' relatives, who had to wait by the courtroom doors and applauded every time the door opened to show support. &nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope the next hearings will be open; I haven't seen my son for a month,&rdquo; said Natalya Kavkazskaya, the mother of defendant Nikolai Kavkazsky.</p> <p>Ten of the defendants are currently under arrest, and some have spent more than a year in jail, which their lawyers say is a major violation of the presumption of innocence, the main principle of the European Court on Human Rights.</p> <p>One of the prosecutors, however, asked the court to extend detention for the suspects for the next six months and prolong travel restrictions for Baronova and house arrest for Alexandra Dukhanina.</p> <p>Despite lawyers' arguments that further arrest of their clients was unreasonable, the judge ruled to extend the arrests until Nov. 24, as well as travel restrictions.</p> <p>&ldquo;I will be in detention for more than 1.5 years, and that is too cruel a punishment for a crime that has not been proved,&rdquo; defendant Andrei Barabanov told the court, according to Baronova.</p> <p>The defendants and their lawyers insisted that the conditions of the arrest were unbearable for some of the suspects, particularly Vladimir Akimenkov, who suffers from an ophthalmic disease and has almost completely lost his vision while in detention.</p> <p>&ldquo;Such a trial and the extension of arrests for the next six months will irreparably damage Russia's image,&rdquo; said Akimenkov's lawyer, Dmitry Agranovsky.</p> <p>The judge refused to consider motions from lawyers asking to return the case to the prosecutor's office and also declined to put into the case file a pledge for the defendants' bail sent by Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh. &nbsp;</p> <p>After the hearing, lawyers said they would file a complaint on the decision to extend the arrests, Interfax reported.</p> <p>&ldquo;Of course, we will file a complaint over this illegal decision,&rdquo; said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for one of the defendants.</p> <p>&ldquo;Today's hearing was not a fair trial, as it played into the hands of only one side,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>The opposition has repeatedly demanded that the Bolotnoye case be closed at several rallies over the last year. A series of demonstrations was also held near the Moscow City Court building where the hearing was held on Thursday, featuring both supporters of defendants and opponents.</p> <p>Three people in vegetable costumes stood by with posters demanding the imprisonment of the 12 defendants and expressing support for police officers who were at the&nbsp; rally on Bolotnaya Ploshchad.</p> <p>More than a dozen opposition activists and members of the public showed up to demand the release of all Bolotnoye suspects.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a trial against those who defended other people at the Bolotnoye rally,&rdquo; said 59-year-old art historian Irina Romanova, who was at Bolotnaya Ploshchad a year ago and provided testimony for an independent public investigation into what happened at the rally.</p> <p>The results of that investigation, organized by human rights activists, were published this spring and said there were no mass riots at the rally and that all the charges were false.</p> <p>Head of Moscow Helsinki Group&nbsp;<a class="related_dotted" href="">Lyudmila Alexeyeva</a>&nbsp;and Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime minister and now an opposition figure, presented the results of the investigation to the European Parliament on Wednesday and called on the parliament to support the defendants.</p> <p>&ldquo;Many European countries have seen mass riots, but I assure you that there was no violence on the part of demonstrators on May 6 in Moscow, though there was violence by law enforcement authorities, who deliberately fictionalized the situation,&rdquo; Alexeyeva said in Brussels, Interfax reported.</p> <p>Activists who went to court to support the defendants on Thursday told The Moscow Times they did not believe the court would pass not-guilty verdicts.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don't believe the court will issue an independent decision,&rdquo; said Solidarity activist Mikhail Shneider, holding a poster that read &ldquo;Freedom to Bolotnoye Prisoners.&rdquo;</p> <p>Two people have already been convicted in the Bolotnoye case: Maxim Luzyanin received 4.5 years behind bars for participation in mass riots and violence against police, and Konstantin Lebedev has been jailed for 2.5 years for planning the riots. Both of them pleaded guilty, a move the other defendants said was a result of pressure by investigators.</p> <p>Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov is currently under house arrest on suspicion of plotting mass riots.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have received investigators' documents, according to which the number of defendants in this case will soon rise to 86 people,&rdquo; said Solidarity leader Ilya Yashin, who came to support the accused in court on Thursday.</p> <p>The Bolotnoye case has already led to the tragic death of one opposition activist, 36-year-old Alexander Dolmatov, who took part in the May 6 rally. He committed suicide in a Dutch detention center while awaiting political asylum in January after fleeing Russia for fear of being charged in the case.</p> <p>&ldquo;There are enough grounds to say that in the future, up to 100 people will be charged, making the Bolotnoye case the largest politically-motivated process since Soviet times,&rdquo; Yashin said.</p> crimes in the former Yugoslavia: Two puzzling judgments in The Hague2013-06-04<p><span>This seems to be the consensus of comments made in the wake of two landmark judgements last week. In one the Croatian state was implicated in war crimes in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war. And in another Serbian officials were acquitted.</span></p> <div class="main-content"> <p>Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, who has a long history of involvement in Balkans summed it in a&nbsp;<a href="mailto:%3cblockquote%20class=%22twitter-tweet%22%3e%3cp%3eIt%20is%20becoming%20increasingly%20difficult%20to%20see%20the%20consistency%20or%20logic%20in%20the%20different%20judgements%20by%20the%20ICTY%20war%20crimes%20tribunal.%3c/p%3e&amp;mdash;%20Carl%20Bildt%20(@carlbildt)%20%3ca%20href=%22,%202013%3c/a%3e%3c/blockquote%3e">tweet</a>: &ldquo;it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the consistency or logic in the different judgements.&rdquo;</p> <p>On May 30<sup>th</sup>Jovica Stanisic (pictured above on the right), the former head of Serbia&rsquo;s secret police, was&nbsp;<a href="">acquitted</a>&nbsp;of all crimes, along with Franko Simatovic aka Frenki (pictured above on the left), who had been his right hand man. They had been charged with persecution, murder and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia. They were alleged to have been part of a &ldquo;joint criminal enterprise&rdquo; (JCE) along with Slobodan Milosevic, the then Serbian leader, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader, Arkan, the infamous gangster and militia leader, and several others.</p> <p>On May 29<sup>th</sup>six former leaders of the Bosnian Croat wartime statelet of Herceg-Bosna and its army, known as the HVO, were&nbsp;<a href="">convicted</a>&nbsp;of &ldquo;crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions.&rdquo; Best known amongst them was Jadranko Prlic, former HVO head and then Herceg-Bosna prime minister.</p> <p>In their case the Tribunal concluded that &ldquo;in the majority of cases, these crimes were not committed in a random manner by a few undisciplined soldiers. On the contrary, they were the result of a plan put together by JCE members to remove the Muslim population of Herceg-Bosna.&rdquo; In this case the JCE included Franjo Tudjman, the then president of neighbouring Croatia, amongst other top Croatian officials.</p> <p>These two judgements come in the wake of three others which have left many people in the region shocked or confused. In 2011 Momcilo Perisic the chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav army from 1993-98, was convicted to 27 years imprisonment but in February of this year he was acquitted on appeal. Last November Ramush Haradinaj, a Kosovo Albanian and former guerrilla leader, was acquitted after a retrial. Also in November Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian general who, in 2011 was sentenced to 24 years in prison, was acquitted along with another former Croatian general.</p> <p>In the case of Mr Simatovic and Mr Stanisic the judgement describes their key role in setting up, organising, training and financing the various Serbian militias and police forces which operated in Croatia and Bosnia. It described how they murdered and ethnically cleansed non-Serbs. In the first years of the ICTY these charges would have been enough to secure a conviction. This is no longer the case.</p> <p>In one example, referring to ethnic cleansing operations in Bosanski Samac and Doboj in 1992, the tribunal found that the unit in question had committed murder, deportation and forcible transfer:</p> <p>&ldquo;The Chamber &hellip;further found that the Accused organised the involvement of the Unit in the operations in these municipalities. However, the evidence did not establish that the Accused personally directed the Unit during these operations or that they had issued orders or instructions to commit the aforementioned crimes.&rdquo;</p> <p>The judgement continued, that in this case, the assistance that they gave the unit, which committed the crimes &ldquo;was not specifically directed towards the commission of the crimes of murder, deportation, forcible transfer, or persecution. Rather, it allowed for the reasonable conclusion that the assistance was specifically directed towards establishing and maintaining Serb control over these areas.&rdquo;</p> <p>The difference between the Frenki and Stanisic case as opposed to the Bosnian Croat Six appears to be evidence of direct orders for crimes in the latter. Eric Gordy, who teaches South East European politics at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London and has followed the work of the tribunal closely, said that the judgement said, in effect, that &ldquo;it was not enough to provide the resources to commit a crime but that you needed specific knowledge of it.&rdquo; He added that the record of the recent acquittals now meant that the &ldquo;judicial record does not match the historical record".</p> <p>The point at which the ICTY appears to have changed its policy was with acquittal of General Perisic in which the judgement said that &ldquo;the provision of general assistance which could be used for both lawful and unlawful activities will not be sufficient, alone, to prove that this aid was specifically directed to crimes of principal perpetrators".</p> <p>Last week&rsquo;s judgement stunned into silence those Serbs who have always claimed that the ICTY was a kangaroo court designed only to punish Serbs. One Serbian official said, however, on the condition of anonymity, that no one should be surprised, because all of its judgements were &ldquo;political&rdquo; and pointed to Mr Stanisic&rsquo;s close&nbsp;<a href="">relationship</a>&nbsp;with the CIA. He argued that he and Frenki and probably General Perisic had benefitted from powerful outside protection.</p> <p>Chuck Sudetic, a former ICTY analyst and the co-author of a&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1370099176&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=chuck+sudetic">book</a>&nbsp;on the tribunal with Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor, said that on the basis of the standard set at the Perisic acquittal, &nbsp;&ldquo;arguably, if Hitler were being judged for crimes arising out of the Holocaust on the basis of the aiding and abetting standard now being applied by the ICTY, he might well have gotten off. Milosevic would likely have gotten off for Bosnia and Croatia. This is not blind justice. This is blindness.&rdquo;</p> <p>Mr Sudetic said that that the new rule &ldquo;turns back precedents set at Nuremberg after World War ll and does so 20 years after the establishment of the ICTY and might eventually emasculate the capacity of the institutions of international justice to bring to justice the highest-ranking persons responsible for heinous war crimes. Only the actual killers will be punished, not the mass murderers.&rdquo;</p> </div> <div class="block block-ec_blogs" id="block-ec_blogs-ec_blogs_block_prev_next"> <div class="content clearfix"><a class="prev-next-prev" href=""></a></div> </div> Rouge leader Nuon Chea expresses 'remorse'2013-05-31<p>Nuon Chea, 86, is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.</p> <p>The deputy leader under Pol Pot's regime was responding to questions from family members of those who died, at the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh.</p> <p>Fellow defendant Khieu Samphan, the regime's former head of state, also issued a rare apology to relatives.</p> <p>Up to two million people are believed to have died during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979.</p> <p>Those believed to be enemies of the regime were tortured and killed, while hundreds of thousands more died from starvation or overwork because of policies that emptied the cities and forced people into the fields.</p> <p>The regime's leader, Pol Pot, died in the late 1990s and to date, only one senior-level Khmer Rouge figure has been convicted of crimes committed during that era.</p> <p>Both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have said in the past that they believed they were acting in the best interests of the nation and had been unaware of the full extent of killings under the regime.</p> <p><span>"I feel remorseful for the crimes that were committed intentionally or unintentionally, whether or not I had known about it or not known about it," he later added.</span></p> Find New Evidence of Shady Soviet-Era Drug Trials2013-05-27<p>In all, the reports suggest, more than 50,000 East German patients served as guinea pigs&mdash;many without their knowledge or consent. That&rsquo;s according to documents acquired from the private archives of physicians and from files of the former East German Health Ministry, the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), and Germany&rsquo;s Institute for Drug Regulatory Affairs.</p> <p>Apparently drugmakers, mostly from West Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S., tested more than 600 drugs on East German patients, including prematurely born infants, alcoholics, and depressives. &ldquo;The trials resulted in several fatalities, which the participating hospitals were slow to investigate,&rdquo; writes&nbsp;<em>Spiegel International</em>. &ldquo;Some studies had to be discontinued because of serious side effects that had suddenly occurred.&rdquo; Companies involved include some that are now subsidiaries of drug giants<span class="ticker_wrap">Pfizer (<a class="ticker" href="">PFE</a>)</span>,&nbsp;<span class="ticker_wrap">Bayer (<a class="ticker" href="">BAY</a>)</span>, and&nbsp;<span class="ticker_wrap">Roche (<a class="ticker" href="">ROG</a>)</span>.</p> <p>Collaborating East German institutions included roughly 50 cash-starved hospitals in such cities as Berlin and Dresden that accepted up to 800,000 deutsche marks per study. &ldquo;It was a mutually beneficial arrangement,&rdquo;<a href="">writes&nbsp;<em>Spiegel International</em></a>&nbsp;in an article detailing how western firms bribed East German doctors. &ldquo;The companies gained access to clinical trial results at a low cost, while their partners in the East received cash, gifts and medical technology for their hospitals.&rdquo;</p> <p>The fact that such trials took place is not news in itself. Similar claims were brought up and dismissed by investigators in 1991,&nbsp;<em></em><a href="">points out Germany&rsquo;s&nbsp;<em>De</em></a><em><a href="">r</a><a href="">Tagespiegel</a>.</em>&nbsp;But the range and repercussions of the trials may be bigger than previously thought, according to a measured&nbsp;<em></em><a href="">article in Germany&rsquo;s&nbsp;</a><em><a href="">Die Zeit</a></em>.</p> <p>Contacted for comment on Thursday, Roche and Bayer did not reply, but Pfizer sent the following statement: &ldquo;Pfizer is not aware of any information indicating the activities of any companies operating in the former GDR that were subsequently acquired by Pfizer failed to comply with the legal requirements or applicable internationals standards at that time.&rdquo; (Bayer&mdash;and perhaps others&mdash;also told the German media that all its global tests were conducted according to uniform standards.)</p> <p>Germany&rsquo;s Interior Ministry, meanwhile, plans to help fund an investigation of the patient trials but expects pharma companies to pitch in, writes&nbsp;<em>Spiegel International</em>. The Bundestag is also debating whether drugs with a shady GDR past should lose their approval.</p> Ashgabat Closing Door on Foreign Donors?2013-05-24<p><span>Under a presidential decree issued in January, the text of which was recently obtained by, Berdymukhamedov ordered the creation of a state commission to supervise all foreign-funded &ldquo;projects and programs,&rdquo; as well as place strict controls on outside money granted to &ldquo;legal and physical entities&rdquo; in Turkmenistan. The decree covers all forms of non-governmental organizations, including religious groups.</span></p> <p>If implemented in its entirety, the decree would enable the government effectively to take financial control of all forms of non-profit activities in the Central Asian state. It also provides the state with a legal instrument that it could use to starve non-governmental organizations of funding.</p> <p>Berdymukhamedov&rsquo;s decree promises to create a nightmarish experience for &ldquo;foreign states, international organizations, financial institutions, foreign companies and foundations, public associations &hellip; religious groups and religious organizations&rdquo; that seek to fund projects in Turkmenistan, or give grants to local individuals or entities.</p> <p><span>In addition to the creation of a state commission for the &ldquo;coordination and control of activities for state registration of projects and programs,&rdquo; Berdymukhamedov ordered the creation of a state registry of all types of foreign donors.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>An addendum to the presidential decree makes it clear that Berdymukhamedov worries that foreign money could be used to weaken his authoritarian grip on Turkmenistan. A provision in the addendum effectively prohibits outside funding for any type of activity deemed political.</span></p> turn Soviet nuclear warhead depot into Iron Curtain museum2013-05-21<p> <p>The mighty underground cement bunker was ordered by the Soviet leadership under Nikita Khrushchev, and built in the mid to late 1960s in a forest near the village of Misov southwest of Prague, 60 km (37.5 miles) from the west German border.</p> <span id="midArticle_2"></span> <p>It was one of three such places in the former Czechoslovakia, and a dozen across Soviet Warsaw Pact allies, but the only one believed still to be intact.</p> <span id="midArticle_3"></span> <p>"This was the most secret place in Czechoslovakia. No Czechs had access there," said Vaclav Vitovec, head of the Iron Curtain Foundation that is preparing to open the site in August.</p> <span id="midArticle_4"></span> <p>Inside the bunker, buried under a forest and protected by machine-gun posts, there are thick concrete walls, two pairs of heavy iron gates and four chambers for storing up to 80 nuclear warheads that could be mounted on missiles. A twin bunker sits some 100 meters away.</p> <span id="midArticle_5"></span> <p>A succession of smaller rooms hosts the remains of equipment, from loading cranes to helium and vacuum pumps used to maintain the warheads, a diesel engine, gas masks, air filters and various<span class="mandelbrot_refrag"><a class="mandelbrot_refrag" href=";lc=int_mb_1001">tools</a></span>.</p> <span id="midArticle_6"></span> <p>All of this will be on display along with pictures and texts on the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.</p> <span id="midArticle_7"></span> <p>Historians say the site was so secret that it is not even known whether nuclear warheads were actually ever placed there.</p> <span id="midArticle_8"></span> <p>"The is no information anyone from the Czechoslovak side was ever there. And the Soviet side is silent. We do not have information that would confirm it," said Prokop Tomek, a historian at the Military History Institute. "(But) it was without doubt built for this purpose."</p> <span id="midArticle_9"></span> <p>Short- to medium-range missiles that could carry nuclear warheads were deployed in Czechoslovakia and some even provided to the Czechoslovak army.</p> <span id="midArticle_10"></span> <p>The warheads could be mounted on the rockets and fired within two hours to clear the path for the Czechoslovak army marching to&nbsp;<a title="Full coverage of Germany" href="">Germany</a>, as set in Cold War plans.</p> <span id="midArticle_11"></span> <p>The Iron Curtain Foundation leaders citing former Czechoslovak and Soviet generals, are convinced the depots were used. They say&nbsp;<span class="mandelbrot_refrag"><a class="mandelbrot_refrag" href=";lc=int_mb_1001">tools</a></span>&nbsp;and equipment found on the site also indicate the facility was in operation. A 170-strong Soviet unit under direct command from Moscow was deployed there permanently.</p> <span id="midArticle_12"></span> <p>Soviet forces that invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 pulled out after the fall of Communism in 1990-1991, including special units deployed at the three nuclear depots.</p> <span id="midArticle_13"></span> <p>Since then, the Misov bunker was used for storing tonnes of Czechoslovak banknotes which were pulled out of circulation when the country broke up in 1992, and as a storage place for the remains of 4,000 World War II German soldiers.</p> </p> to no future 2013-05-17<p>The moment of truth for a nondemocratic leader is when he needs to revive his fading authority and legitimacy. A snatched electoral victory over a year ago brought Vladimir Putin no new popularity, indeed quite the opposite. Since his return to the Kremlin, his words and actions have reflected entirely negative emotions, such as fear of his own people, distrust of the elites around him, and a desire to avenge himself on those who have dared oppose him. Much of his energy goes on proving himself right and his critics wrong: he even accuses these of working for foreign powers and endangering national security. Putin has not recovered from the humiliation and scare of last year&rsquo;s political contest, and is now facing tough economic and social challenges. The choice he has made is to try to restore his authority with a combination of targeted repression, doctrinaire ideology and an increase in control over institutions and companies. This is an unlikely recipe for success.</p> <h2>Weakened legitimacy</h2> <p>Vladimir Putin was reelected on a controversial vote in March 2012. He could have won his new mandate more honestly, had he accepted the possibility of a second round runoff, but he was determined to win an absolute majority in the first round. He wanted to humiliate the other &lsquo;authorised&rsquo; <a href=",_2012">candidates</a> by raising himself high above them, proving that he was the one and only - and a loyal Central Electoral Commission conferred on him a generous 63% of the vote. A year on, all the voters&rsquo; associations and NGOs that investigated election fraud are being harassed and some, like the <a href="">Golos</a> association, might have to close down. Key figures of the movement for free elections are also being prosecuted.</p> <p>Putin&rsquo;s election in 2000 and 2004, and Dmitry Medvedev&rsquo;s election in 2008, were &lsquo;managed&rsquo; ballots as well. This time, however, things turned out less manageable than usual. The widespread and vocal public protest of the winter of 2011-12, news of which flew around the country in a few keystrokes, exposed all of the regime&rsquo;s rottenness and trickery. And the anger of a revitalized civil society was directed at the leader in person, under the ubiquitous slogan: &lsquo;Putin, ukhodi!&rsquo; (Putin - out!). <a href="">His party</a> fared badly in the parliamentary elections of December 2011, and in Moscow itself its performance was a complete disaster.</p> <p>Throughout the 2000s, Vladimir Putin built his power and legitimacy on order, rising living standards and Russia&rsquo;s growing global status. However, he will have more difficulty delivering in all three of these areas in the months and years to come, and he will be held to account for it. Public outcry against all-encompassing corruption will also not die down, a further blow to his shaky popular legitimacy. Only 22% of Russians would like Putin to be reelected in 2018, and according to a <a href="">Levada Centre</a> poll in March 2013, 58% believe that &lsquo;there is more corruption than they have been told about&rsquo;.</p> <h2>Weaker authority - stronger repression</h2> <p>When authority is waning, the temptation is often to show force. Repression is always an option; deterrence works. Russia has not experienced such fierce repression since the darkest days of Brezhnev in the 1970s. And the consequences will be much more disturbing than a Soviet-type crackdown on dissent, for Russia today is an open country, a capitalist economy with an internet-savvy public. However, to resort to brute force means to bury the real issues and act as though nothing serious has happened in society and within the elites. Denial leads to self-deception. How can administration heads, businessmen, cultural and scientific elites show dynamism and innovation when the leadership spends more time suppressing and controlling than creating incentives for a much belated modernisation?&nbsp;</p> <p>After 14 years at the helm (since August 1999, when he became Yeltsin&rsquo;s Prime Minister), Putin has reached the limits of his capacity, but is not prepared to devolve more responsibility onto more able people. He does not fully trust his lieutenants and fosters divisions among them, as the current anti-Medvedev media campaign illustrates. Medvedev may be an easy scapegoat, but this will not help the regime - the Prime minister is, after all, part of the inner circle of power. Putin is short on ideas and policies, and needs them badly, but fears ideologies of all kinds. Consequently, he is trying to establish a doctrine that he thinks will please the ordinary Russian, reassure the elites, and keep the &lsquo;dissidents&rsquo; in check.</p> <h2>A credo, but no ideas</h2> <p>Putin has no ideology of his own, no strong beliefs. He is using classic populist tactics that rely on quick judgment and tough actions. But will others not outflank him? Is he not unleashing dangerous passions just for the sake of rebuffing democratic politicians? Is he not becoming more dependent on the Church, on the men in uniform, on corrupt judges, on thinkers and movements on the far right? Even if he himself does not share the radicalism of their positions, he is singing along to some of their tunes.</p> <p>The politically correct credo follows a few simple motifs: state-dictated nationalism, Russian and Orthodox supremacy, the foreign threat, and Russia&rsquo;s &lsquo;special path&rsquo; (osobyi put&rsquo;), all pitched against the &lsquo;liberal&rsquo; western model. No utopia, no grand design, no modernisation. Putin likes to talk of &lsquo;spiritual identity&rsquo; and &lsquo;traditional values&rsquo;, concepts recalling both Tsarist and Soviet times, as former deputy and opposition leader <a href=";view=article&amp;id=32735:putins-do-nothing-speech&amp;catid=17:2011-12-28-04-17-51&amp;Itemid=20">Vladimir Ryzhkov</a> noted after Putin&rsquo;s state-of-the-nation address in December 2012.</p> <p>The official nationalist discourse reveals serious contradictions. It promotes a &lsquo;rossiisky&rsquo; identity, by which it means a &lsquo;non-ethnically based&rsquo; Russian nation formed predominantly of &hellip; ethnic Russians! It often claims that minority ethnic groups, especially Muslims from the Caucasus area, do not quite belong to the &lsquo;rossiisky&rsquo; nation. The presidential <a href="">Council of Inter-Ethnic Relations</a> is busy producing school textbooks to teach this ideology of a &lsquo;single nation&rsquo;. Moreover, after his election on 4th March 2012, Vladimir Putin publicly stated that he was a president for all Russians, but would fight against the &lsquo;traitors&rsquo; who had endangered his rule and Russia&rsquo;s security.</p> <p>Another problem with this patriotic rhetoric is that Putin has no monopoly on nationalism. The most prominent opposition leader, <a href="">Alexei Navalny</a>, at present on trial and facing a prison sentence, calls for an end to federalism and a unitary state, and for an end to subsidies to the North Caucasus. The Kremlin propaganda machine is clearly losing steam. They can put Navalny behind bars, but they will not outwit him in the battle for ideas.</p> <p>If there is an ideological slogan in the Kremlin, it is &lsquo;the economy first&rsquo;, i.e. growth, more money to spend, more power to control people and organizations. And this is where the system breaks down. The Russian economy has now stopped growing and may go into negative figures before the end of this year. All Russian and foreign assessments are in agreement about sombre short term prospects.</p> <h2>Self-Defence</h2> <p>The economic nationalism credo is a sign not of a change of direction, but an intensification of recent trends. The regime is aging and can&rsquo;t expect a second wind. So it has few options left if it wants to stay in power and silence its now numerous critics and opponents. It must increase its control of the political space still further, and exert still more pressure on already powerless public institutions such as the Duma, the courts and the media. Putin must convince the outside world that he still wields significant power throughout Russia. And he tries to convince himself, and everyone else, that the Russian people are satisfied with his rule. But inside the ruling elites doubts and insecurity are mounting.</p> <p>Vladimir Putin is a man of action, not a man for thinking and forward planning. A state ideology is an encumbrance, imposed by the changing domestic economic and political context and rising challenges from larger and more competitive economies such as like China, India and even the USA. The more the regime clamps down on the media, NGOs and opposition movements, the more it is obliged to construct a self-serving narrative about Russian history and &lsquo;specialness&rsquo;. Putin is not, however, a neo-fascist leader seeking to strengthen his power by appealing to the masses. He is weary of crowds. That came out clearly in February 2012 when, in order to counter opposition demonstrations, he grudgingly let his henchmen organise huge pro-regime gatherings in Moscow.</p> <p>This attitude is typical of aging personalised regimes. It reveals a highly conservative and protective attitude, for the leaderships&rsquo; primary concern is self-defence. The Kremlin has to fend off the political stamina of people as different as <a href="">Navalny</a>, Udaltsov, <a href="">Nemtsov</a>, <a href="">Ryzhkov</a> and <a href="">Chirikova</a>, all of whom are more attractive, more modern, more forward-looking. Putin&rsquo;s official oratory, in contrast, is anchored in the past, and offers little to lift the spirits of young people and the aspiring middle classes.</p> <p>The key question is not whether Putin can stay at the helm until the end of this six-year term but how his succession may be managed relatively painlessly for the elites and the public alike, in 2018 or earlier. Russian observers often prefer not to think about Putin&rsquo;s impending fall because they are afraid of its consequences and they know they may be blamed for any subsequent disorder. In fact, timing is crucial here. The longer Putin clings to power, the more he will have to face the side-effects of&nbsp; &lsquo;mature&rsquo; Putinism (&lsquo;mature socialism&rsquo; was the polite way of describing the aging Brezhnev leadership), and the more unpredictable events will be.</p> <p>The Russian president made his mark on politics with the slogan &lsquo;the dictatorship of the law&rsquo;. Is he now considering a &lsquo;dictatorship of beliefs&rsquo;? Utopia is out of the question, nationalism is failing to galvanise society, and nobody wants any new wars. Only a comprehensive economic and social strategy with a compelling forward vision might succeed in reuniting the many diverse communities and regions of Russia. But such a strategy requires a political determination that Putin no longer possesses. The man is too afraid of taking risks, he will not embark on the major reforms that would imply more adherence to the rule of law, and so pave the way for a real succession contest. As the Russian joke goes, Putin is making progress, moving away from 'bezalternativnaya sistema' to 'bezperspektivnaya sistema' - from a no-alternative regime to a no-future regime.</p> inconclusive election at an unhappy time2013-05-14<p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">After a campaign marred by wiretapping scandals and accusations of vote-rigging, Mr Borisov&rsquo;s centre-right GERB party won 31% of the vote against the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which got 27% of the vote, according to preliminary official results. The Turkish minority party, DPS, came third with about 11%. The fourth party to enter parliament was Ataka, an ultra-nationalist group, which received about 7% of the votes.</p> <p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">&ldquo;For the first time in Bulgaria&rsquo;s new history a party has won two consecutive elections,&rdquo; said Georgi Markov, a former judge at the Constitutional Court. &ldquo;However, also for the first time, a party has won with such a few number of votes, just about a million.&rdquo; The outcome of the vote suggests a hung parliament, observers say. With 98 deputies GERB is well short of a majority in the 240-seat parliament. The party lost about a third of its votes compared with the elections in 2009.</p> <p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">GERB&rsquo;s slim lead means that weeks of horse trading and backroom deals are likely to ensue. This is about the last time Bulgaria needs at a time when people are angry and disillusioned with the political elite. A coalition including GERB seems unlikely because all party leaders refused to negotiate with Mr Borisov. A minority government led by GERB is also improbable. In fact, there are a few options for a stable government according to Ognyan Minchev, a political analyst. &ldquo;The results will probably be a &lsquo;hidden&rsquo; coalition, whether it&rsquo;s called a programme or expert government.&rdquo;</p> <p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">The leader of the Socialists, Sergey Stanishev, proposed such a programme cabinet led by the BSP and supported by DPS and Ataka. How such a configuration would work is unclear: the nationalist Ataka has long antagonised the Turkish minority party and wanted it banned.</p> <p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">This was a listless election at an unhappy time. Voter turnout was at a record low with just above 50%. The run-up to the election was overshadowed by scandals. A day before the elections prosecutors found 350,000 unaccounted-for ballots at a printing house whose owner is reportedly close to Mr Borisov&rsquo;s party. That led the opposition to accuse GERB of trying to rig the vote. &ldquo;This was a preparation for the total falsification of the elections,&rdquo; said Mr Stanishev. Allegations of illegal wiretapping led prosecutors to accuse GERB's campaign manager and Tsvetan Tsvetanov, a former interior minister, of "deliberately allowing his subordinates, the directors of the wiretapping department, to commit crimes". Mr Tsvetanov, who cannot be charged because he has immunity as a parliamentary candidate, has denied any wrongdoing.</p> <p class="ListParagraphCxSpMiddle">A recent <a href="">report</a> by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation said that &ldquo;what remains after the protests and the elections is the large discrepancy between those in power in politics and business and the &lsquo;simple&rsquo; citizens. It gives the impression that the Bulgarian society is split not along the &lsquo;left&rsquo; and &lsquo;right&rsquo; lines but by &lsquo;above&rsquo; and &lsquo;below&rsquo;. To overcome this division is one of the biggest future challenges for the Bulgarian policy. Otherwise there is the danger that the gap between policy and those who do not feel represented by it will grow further.&rdquo; The new government (if it can be cobbled together) has a big job at hand.</p> Latvia, V Is for Victory – or Vanquished2013-05-10<p>Five days ago, on the other side of the river, ethnic Latvians also lay flowers at a soaring monument covered with stars and heroic statues, listened to folk concerts, and ate grilled meat in celebration of the end of Soviet rule and the restoration of its independence on 4 May.</p> <p>Though relations between the two communities are largely normalized in daily life, politicians continue to argue over the rights of ethnic Russians and the country&rsquo;s other &ldquo;non-citizens&rdquo; &ndash; nearly 300,000 people who moved to Latvia during the Soviet era, and their descendants, but who were not eligible for Latvian citizenship after the fall of the Soviet Union. Those tensions often come to a head during this patriotic week in May, when two very different interpretations of history are on display.</p> <p>&nbsp;The Victory Day festivities are a particularly sore spot for Latvian nationalists, who view 9 May merely as the day one occupier left and another took its place. Ethnic Russians &ndash; who account for a quarter of the country&rsquo;s population &ndash; on the other hand, see it as an occasion to celebrate their heritage and collective identity. Or, as University of Latvia&rsquo;s social sciences dean, Juris Rozenvalds, told the Russian-language Vesti segodnya newspaper, to show the governing authorities that &ldquo;we are here, we are many, and we must be taken into account.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;Rozenvalds believes the government is weary of 9 May not because of what it represents, but because the substantial numbers (more than 150,000 people attended the events last year) seem to legitimize the Russian community&rsquo;s active presence in Latvia. He said 2012&rsquo;s failed referendum to elevate Russian to official language status or bids to make Orthodox Christmas a public holiday were similar appeals &ndash; and rejections &ndash; for recognition by Latvia&rsquo;s largest minority.</p> <p>&nbsp;Last week, Latvia&rsquo;s National Alliance Party, a junior member of the governing coalition, urged the demolition of the Soviet Victory Monument and recommended turning the site into an amusement park. &ldquo;As long as the monument stands, it will remind you of the consequences of Latvia&rsquo;s occupation and encourage Russia&rsquo;s military hopes for the restoration of the empire,&rdquo; Aleksandrs Kirsteins, a National Alliance parliamentary candidate, <a href="">told</a>. Other political leaders proposed placing an exhibit on communist crimes and Stalinist-era atrocities near the monument to serve as a reminder of what the Latvian people experienced after the Soviet liberation.</p> <p>&nbsp;The Soviet Victory Monument was already the target of a failed bomb plot in 1997, while relocating a similar memorial in Tallinn led to two days of riots in 2007. Notably, <a href="">an independent poll conducted earlier this week</a> revealed 79 percent of Riga&rsquo;s residents want to keep the Victory Monument in place and intact &ndash; 28 percent of which felt it should be restored, not destroyed. Although nearly half of Riga&rsquo;s population ethnically identifies as Russian, the poll showed even 54 percent of primarily Latvian-speakers thought the monument should remain.</p> <p>&nbsp;The National Alliance&rsquo;s suggestion comes on the heels of an unsuccessful effort to ban public displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols before Victory Day. Parliament approved the first draft of the bill in early April, but it was later downgraded from &ldquo;urgent,&rdquo; meaning it now requires three readings to pass instead of the expedited two, <a href="">RIA Novosti reported</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;Police have prepared for provocations from Latvian or Russian radicals this year, but organizers sought to avoid trouble by asking people to bring only flowers to the festival and to leave their Soviet-style flags at home.</p> <p>&nbsp;The Republic of Latvia officially commemorates the defeat of Nazism on 8 May, when the president and other government officials lay wreaths at Brothers&rsquo; Cemetery. Last year, however, Nils Usakovs, Riga&rsquo;s first ethnic Russian mayor, also laid a wreath at the Victory Monument on 9 May.</p> <p>&nbsp;At the time, he noted the veterans were able to defeat the Germans precisely because they united and did not differentiate people by ethnic background or language. The sentiment echoed Rozenvalds&rsquo; conviction that ethnic associations must be stripped from these holidays so that they become more about respecting two versions of history rather than a case of &ldquo;us&rdquo; versus &ldquo;them.&rdquo;</p> years of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic2013-05-06<p>On May 5, 1993 at the XII session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the new Constitution was adopted. Since then, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan became known as the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Constitution of the Kyrgyz SSR, adopted in 1978, has lost its power. It is an important date for all the Kyrgyz people because the adoption of a new constitution meant one of the most important stages in the state history &ndash; the independence of the Kyrgyz Republic.</p> <p>The most important key points in the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic of 1993 are the principles of independence, freedom of speech and power of the people. The Constitution has 9 chapters and 114 articles. Each of them carries unique and significant promise to the Kyrgyz nation.</p> <p>The Constitution of 1993 was revised four times&nbsp;&nbsp;in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2003 during the regimen of the first President Askar Akayev in favor of strengthening powers of the President. And on October 21, 2007, by the Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, was held a referendum which adopted the new Constitution proposed by the President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. And it was signed on October&nbsp;23, 2007.</p> <p>Further in connection with the change of government in 2010 there was a referendum on a new Constitution in 2010. An important point in the new constitution can be considered the&nbsp;strengthening of&nbsp; the role of parliament in the government. However, despite the numerous changes in the most important &ldquo;document&rdquo; of the country, the main laws and regulations of the Kyrgyz Republic have the common ground &ndash; the very first edition of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic dated May 5, 1993, which celebrates this year its 20th anniversary. And it is a really significant event for the whole nation.</p> International Relations2013-04-30<p>Although the Turkmen Constitution declares the country to be a secular democracy and a presidential republic, the country has an authoritarian government controlled by the president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, and his Democratic Party. Berdymukhamedov remained president following a February election that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights determined to have had limited choice between competing political alternatives. The three most important human rights problems noted were arbitrary arrest; torture; and disregard for civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement. Other human rights problems included citizens&rsquo; inability to change their government; interference in the practice of religion; denial of due process and fair trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; discrimination and violence against women; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on the free association of workers. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses, says the report.<br /> Source: <a href=""></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div>Turkmenistan To Report to UN Human Rights Council<br /> On April 21 &ndash; 28 a Turkmen delegation will visit Geneva, Switzerland, to report on the human rights situation in the country to the United National Human Rights Council in the Framework of the Universal Periodic Review.<br /> Source: <a href=""></a> &nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Human Rights Watch: UN Reviews Should Urge Concrete Improvements<br /> Turkmenistan&rsquo;s and Uzbekistan&rsquo;s highly repressive policies are coming up for rare international scrutiny on April 22 and 24, 2013, Human Rights Watch said on April 22. United Nations member countries gathering at the Human Rights Council in Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure should seize the opportunity to expose and denounce the ongoing repression in both countries and press for concrete steps to end abuses. The governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan stand out as among the most repressive in the world, Human Rights Watch said. Both also stand out for their failure to heed recommendations made during their previous Human Rights Council reviews, in December 2008.
&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>&nbsp;&ldquo;The extraordinarily high levels of repression in both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, coupled with their governments&rsquo; refusal to acknowledge problems, let alone to address them, underscores the need for a strong, unified message,&rdquo; said Veronika Szente Goldston, Europe and Central Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). &ldquo;Ashgabat and Tashkent need to hear, loud and clear, just how unacceptable their abusive records are, and what specific changes they need to make.&rdquo;

In submissions on Turkmenistan and on Uzbekistan, drawn up in advance of the reviews, HRW highlighted key concerns with respect to both countries, and the steps needed to address them.

One immediate step both governments should be urged to take is to end their longstanding denial of access to the UN&rsquo;s own rights monitors. Ten UN rapporteurs have requested such access to Turkmenistan, while the number of UN rapporteurs barred from Uzbekistan has reached 11, Human Rights Watch said.
 Cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is another pressing issue. On April 12, the ICRC took the unusual step of announcing publicly its decision to end prison visits to detainees in Uzbekistan. It cited its inability to follow the organization&rsquo;s standard working procedures for such visits, including being able to access all detainees of ICRC concern and to speak to detainees in private. Turkmenistan&rsquo;s prisons, too, remain closed to outside scrutiny.

&ldquo;Both governments&rsquo; exceptionally poor record of cooperation with the UN and beyond should be a key feature of their Universal Periodic Reviews,&rdquo; Szente Goldston said.

Other key concerns in Turkmenistan, noted by HRW, include:&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>- The government&rsquo;s longstanding use of imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation. As a result of more than two decades of this practice, unknown numbers of people languish in the country&rsquo;s notoriously abusive prisons on what appear to be politically motivated charges. Recently the government freed four such prisoners, two of whom had served out their six-and-a-half-year sentences in full. But their release only underscored the question of how many more remain behind bars.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>- Draconian restrictions on freedom of expression and association, which authorities enforce by threatening, harassing, or imprisoning those who dare to question its policies, however modestly. The severe repression of civil society activism makes it impossible for independent human rights defenders and journalists to work openly.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>- Interference with and control of residents&rsquo; right to leave and return to Turkmenistan through an informal and arbitrary system of travel bans commonly imposed on activists, their families, and relatives of exiled dissidents.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>&ldquo;The upcoming UPRs of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will serve as a stark reminder of just how little has changed in both countries in the nearly four-and-a-half years since their initial reviews under this procedure,&rdquo; Szente Goldston said. &ldquo;What these governments&rsquo; partners need to ask themselves is: what more can be done to bring about better compliance? The answer is clearly more, not less, pressure.&rdquo;<br /> Sources: <a href=""></a>, <a href=""></a> &nbsp;&nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Turkmen Delegation Visited Hungary to Study Education, Sports and Tourism Sectors<br /> A Turkmen delegation consisting of the Heads of the Ministry of Education, National Education Institution, National Institution for Sports and Tourism, and a number of universities visited Hungary to study Hungarian experience in education, sports, and tourism. During the visit, Hungarian and Turkmen officials agreed to conduct joint training activities for sporting events in preparation for the Fifth Asian Games in closed premises and martial arts (to be held in Ashgabat in 2017).<br /> Source: <a href=""></a> &nbsp;</div> <div><br /></div> <div>Turkmenistan Hosted XII International Exhibition and Conference &laquo;White City Ashgabat&raquo;<br /> Turkmenistan hosted the Twelfth International Universal Exhibition and Conference &ldquo;White city &ndash; Ashgabat,&rdquo; which brought together representatives of Turkmen ministries and departments andcompanies from France, Germany, Turkey, Italy, China, Russia, UAE, Holland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan specializing in the construction of transport infrastructure, town planning, architecture, power supply, the petrochemical industry, gas supply, telecommunications and services of communications, food and processing industry, public health and environmental protection, landscape gardening of territories and design, water supply, heating as well as manufacturing of consumer goods.<br /> Source: <a href="">;</a></div> <div><br /></div> <div>Turkmenistan to Take Part in UN Economic and Social Council<br /> Turkmenistan&rsquo;s Deputy Finance Minister Geldy Saryev and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Turkmenistan&rsquo;s Central Bank, Merdan Annadyrdyev, will visit New York on April 22 &ndash; 23 to take part in the meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) &ldquo;Coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of financing for sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda.&rdquo;<br /> Sources: <a href=""></a>, <a href=""></a> <br /></div> Worst Human Rights Climate in Post-Soviet Era 2013-04-24<p>The 78-page report, <a href="">&ldquo;Laws of Attrition: Crackdown on Russia&rsquo;s Civil Society after Putin&rsquo;s Return to the Presidency,&rdquo;</a>describes some of the changes since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012. The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, begun a nationwide campaign of invasive inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and in a number of cases imprisonedpolitical activists, and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies. The report analyzes the new laws, including the so-called &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law, the treason law, and the assembly law, and documents how they have been used.</p> <p>&ldquo;The new laws and government harassment are pushing civil society activists to the margins of the law,&rdquo; said <a href="">Hugh Williamson</a>, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. &ldquo;The government crackdown is hurting Russian society and harming Russia&rsquo;s international standing.&rdquo;</p> <p>Many of the new laws and the treatment of civil society violate <a href="">Russia</a>&rsquo;s international human rights commitments, Human Rights Watch said.</p> <p>Several of the new laws seek to limit, or even end, independent advocacy by placing new, draconian limits on association with foreigners and foreign funding. The &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law requires organizations that receive foreign funding and supposedly engage in &ldquo;political activities&rdquo; to register as &ldquo;foreign agents.&rdquo;Another law, adopted in December, essentially bans funding emanating from the United States for &ldquo;political&rdquo; activity by nongovernmental organizations, and bans groups whose work is &ldquo;directed against Russia&rsquo;s interests.&rdquo; A third law, the treason law, expands the legal definition of treason in ways that could criminalize involvement in international human rights advocacy.</p> <p>The report documents the nationwide campaign of intrusive government inspections of the offices of hundreds of organizations, involving officials from the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, the Justice Ministry, the tax inspectorate, and in some cases the anti-extremism police, health inspectorate, and the fire inspectorate. The inspection campaign, which began in March 2013, was prompted by the &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law.</p> <p>Although many organizations have not received the inspection results, at least two have been cited for failing to register as &ldquo;foreign agents,&rdquo; and others have been fined for fire safety violations, air quality violations, and the like, Human Rights Watch said. Inspectors examined the groups&rsquo; tax, financial, registration, and other documents. In several cases they demanded to inspect computers or email. In one case, officials demanded that an organization prove that its staff had had been vaccinated for smallpox, and in another the officials asked for chest X-rays of staff to ensure they did not have tuberculosis. In yet another case, officials demanded copies of all speeches made at the group&rsquo;s recent seminars and conferences.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government claims the inspections are routine, but they clearly are not,&rdquo; said Williamson. &ldquo;The campaign is unprecedented in its scope and scale, and seems clearly aimed at intimidating and marginalizing civil society groups. This inspection campaign can potentially be used to force some groups to end advocacy work, or to close them down.&rdquo;</p> The Warsaw ghetto uprising: A Polish-Jewish hero2013-04-19<p>Last week, more than a hundred volunteers showed up to work on cleaning and restoring the dilapidated Jewish cemetery, perhaps the strongest visual testament to the fact that this city was once one of the largest Jewish centres in the world &ndash; and is no more. Almost none of them were Jewish. They told me they had come out of a sense of duty.</p> <p>The event had been listed on a <a href="">website</a> devoted to the anniversary commemorations, which are extensive. From now until the May 16<sup>th</sup> when the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street was destroyed, marking the end of the uprising and effectively of all Jewish life in Warsaw, the city hosts ceremonies, exhibitions, concerts and lectures devoted to Poland&rsquo;s Jewish heritage.</p> <p>The new <a href="">Museum of the History of Polish Jews</a> is co-ordinating much of the proceedings. It has used the occasion to officially open as an educational centre even though its permanent exhibition is a year away from being ready evidently hoping its impressive architecture and cultural programme will trump the dubious symbolism of its emptiness.</p> <p>The guest of honour is Simcha Rotem (pictured above), <em>nom de guerre</em> &lsquo;Kazik&rsquo;. At 89, he is the only former member of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ŻOB) still in good enough health to make the trip. I met him in Israel, where he has lived since shortly after the war, last month. Though tired and in low spirits, he told our correspondent he had decided long ago that if he could possibly make it to this anniversary, he would, regardless of what kind of commemoration was planned for the sake of the memory of his comrades who are no longer alive.</p> <p>Some of those comrades did live for years after the war though&mdash;thanks to Kazik. His is an astonishing story of courage and luck in hellish circumstances. As a 19-year-old, fair-haired ruffian from the Warsaw district of Czerniak&oacute;w, Kazik did not look Jewish. For that reason the insurgent leader, Marek Edelman, chose him to go to the Aryan side and try to organise a rescue operation for the Jews trapped in the ghetto, already in flames.</p> <p>After a week on the Aryan side, Kazik finally found two sewer workers who thanks to much goading with vodka in one hand and a pistol in the other, showed him an underground route back into the ghetto. Emerging on Zamenhofa street, he found nothing but smouldering ruins.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s at that point that Simcha Rotem&rsquo;s testimony ends Claude Lanzmann&rsquo;s epic documentary, <em>Shoah</em>: he believes he is the &ldquo;last Jew&rdquo; and has nothing left to do but wait for the Germans. But that is not what he did.</p> <p>Returning to the sewers, he hears voices: a dozen or so fighters. They say there are more hiding elsewhere, and he tells them to gather and make their way through the sewers to a manhole under Prosta Street, just outside the ghetto.</p> <p>Simcha Rotem to this day does not know exactly people he saved: &ldquo;A few dozen. Do you think I had time to count them?&rdquo; he exclaims. After meeting the group in the sewer, he had returned to the Aryan side and organised for two vans to pick up the survivors at dawn. Only one van arrived, at 10am, and its driver had to be held at gunpoint to prevent him from driving off while the Jews were coming out of the manhole.</p> <p>After it seemed that no-one else was emerging from the manhole, Kazik told the van to move off. Against all the odds, the few dozen made it to safety the forests north of Warsaw. Yet some had remained underground. Simcha Rotem has had to live with the idea that perhaps he could have done better. But today he says he feels it was the only decision he could make in the circumstances: &ldquo;The Germans were 100 metres away. It was broad daylight. It was now or never.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked whether his memory of that moment is still vivid today, Simcha Rotem is almost offended: &ldquo;It is not the sort of thing a person could forget&rdquo;. His anger at the Nazis is still very much alive, too: &ldquo;I regret in a way that we didn&rsquo;t get revenge on the SS. Because they were not conscripts, they chose to do what they did. So they were murderers. And murderers should be hanged. They were not people, but animals walking upright.&rdquo;</p> <p>Fear that the world could forget the horror of the Holocaust, or that it could happen again, animates those who do remember it ever more as their numbers dwindle. Irena Boldok, who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto aged eight or nine, gives talks in schools and elsewhere as a member of the Children of the Holocaust association. She speaks gloomily about the experience: &ldquo;some of them understand, not many. It&rsquo;s hard to talk to fourteen-year-old kids. It is like a history lesson for them.&rdquo;</p> <p>According to the Polish psychologist Barbara Engelking, one reason the ghetto uprising did not happen sooner is that Jews in the Warsaw ghetto maintained the illusion that they might live: the death camps were simply beyond human imagination. With fewer and fewer survivors around to remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust, marking the anniversaries of its key events becomes an ever more important way of ensuring that we don&rsquo;t forget something that was so unthinkable at the time.</p> When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place2013-04-18<p>In January 1913, a man whose passport bore the name Stavros Papadopoulos disembarked from the Krakow train at Vienna's North Terminal station.</p> <p>Of dark complexion, he sported a large peasant's moustache and carried a very basic wooden suitcase.</p> <p>"I was sitting at the table," wrote the man he had come to meet, years later, "when the door opened with a knock and an unknown man entered.</p> <p>"He was short... thin... his greyish-brown skin covered in pockmarks... I saw nothing in his eyes that resembled friendliness."</p> <p>The writer of these lines was a dissident Russian intellectual, the editor of a radical newspaper called Pravda (Truth). His name was Leon Trotsky.</p> <p id="story_continues_2">The man he described was not, in fact, Papadopoulos.</p> <p>He had been born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, was known to his friends as Koba and is now remembered as Joseph Stalin.</p> <p>Trotsky and Stalin were just two of a number of men who lived in central Vienna in 1913 and whose lives were destined to mould, indeed to shatter, much of the 20th century.</p> <p>It was a disparate group. The two revolutionaries, Stalin and Trotsky, were on the run. Sigmund Freud was already well established.</p> <p>The psychoanalyst, exalted by followers as the man who opened up the secrets of the mind, lived and practised on the city's Berggasse.</p> <p>The young Josip Broz, later to find fame as Yugoslavia's leader Marshal Tito, worked at the Daimler automobile factory in the suburb of Wiener Neustadt, and sought employment, money and good times.</p> <p>Then there was the 24-year-old from the north-west of Austria whose dreams of studying painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had been twice dashed and who now lodged in a doss-house in Meldermannstrasse near the Danube, one Adolf Hitler.</p> <p>In his majestic evocation of the city at the time, Thunder at Twilight, Frederic Morton imagines Hitler haranguing his fellow lodgers "on morality, racial purity, the German mission and Slav treachery, on Jews, Jesuits, and Freemasons".</p> <p>"His forelock would toss, his [paint]-stained hands shred the air, his voice rise to an operatic pitch. Then, just as suddenly as he had started, he would stop. He would gather his things together with an imperious clatter, [and] stalk off to his cubicle."</p> <p id="story_continues_3">Presiding over all, in the city's rambling Hofburg Palace was the aged Emperor Franz Joseph, who had reigned since the great year of revolutions, 1848.</p> <p>Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his designated successor, resided at the nearby Belvedere Palace, eagerly awaiting the throne. His assassination the following year would spark World War I.</p> <p>Vienna in 1913 was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which consisted of 15 nations and well over 50 million inhabitants.</p> <p>"While not exactly a melting pot, Vienna was its own kind of cultural soup, attracting the ambitious from across the empire," says Dardis McNamee, editor-in-chief of the Vienna Review, Austria's only English-language monthly, who has lived in the city for 17 years.</p> <p>"Less than half of the city's two million residents were native born and about a quarter came from Bohemia (now Bavaria in Germany and the western Czech Republic) and Moravia (now the eastern Czech Republic), so that Czech was spoken alongside German in many settings."</p> <p>The empire's subjects spoke a dozen languages, she explains.</p> <p>"Officers in the Austro-Hungarian Army had to be able to give commands in 11 languages besides German, each of which had an official translation of the National Hymn."</p> <p>And this unique melange created its own cultural phenomenon, the Viennese coffee-house. Legend has its genesis in sacks of coffee left by the Ottoman army following the failed Turkish siege of 1683.</p> <p>"Cafe culture and the notion of debate and discussion in cafes is very much part of Viennese life now and was then," explains Charles Emmerson, author of 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War and a senior research fellow at the foreign policy think-tank Chatham House.</p> <p>"The Viennese intellectual community was actually quite small and everyone knew each other and... that provided for exchanges across cultural frontiers."</p> <p>This, he adds, would favour political dissidents and those on the run.</p> <p>"You didn't have a tremendously powerful central state. It was perhaps a little bit sloppy. If you wanted to find a place to hide out in Europe where you could meet lots of other interesting people then Vienna would be a good place to do it."</p> <p>Freud's favourite haunt, the Cafe Landtmann, still stands on the Ring, the renowned boulevard which surrounds the city's historic Innere Stadt.</p> <p>Trotsky and Hitler frequented Cafe Central, just a few minutes' stroll away, where cakes, newspapers, chess and, above all, talk, were the patrons' passions.</p> <p>"Part of what made the cafes so important was that 'everyone' went," says MacNamee. "So there was a cross-fertilisation across disciplines and interests, in fact boundaries that later became so rigid in western thought were very fluid."</p> <p>Beyond that, she adds, "was the surge of energy from the Jewish intelligentsia, and new industrialist class, made possible following their being granted full citizenship rights by Franz Joseph in 1867, and full access to schools and universities."</p> <p>And, though this was still a largely male-dominated society, a number of women also made an impact.</p> <p>Alma Mahler, whose composer husband had died in 1912, was also a composer and became the muse and lover of the artist Oskar Kokoschka and the architect Walter Gropius.</p> <p>Though the city was, and remains, synonymous with music, lavish balls and the waltz, its dark side was especially bleak. Vast numbers of its citizens lived in slums and 1913 saw nearly 1,500 Viennese take their own lives.</p> <p>No-one knows if Hitler bumped into Trotsky, or Tito met Stalin. But works like Dr Freud Will See You Now, Mr Hitler - a 2007 radio play by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran - are lively imaginings of such encounters.</p> <p>The conflagration which erupted the following year destroyed much of Vienna's intellectual life.</p> <p>The empire imploded in 1918, while propelling Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky and Tito into careers that would mark world history forever.</p> Korea marks Kim Il-Sung's 101th birthday 2013-04-15<p>Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and parents carried babies in pushchairs, bundled up against the spring chill as residents of the isolated, impoverished nation began observing a three-day holiday.</p> <p>There was no sense of panic in the North Korean capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts and foreign newspaper headlines speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein Pyongyang in, including a swing through the region by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try to calm down emotions and coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally.</p> <p>Foreign governments have been struggling to assess how seriously to take North Korea's recent torrent of rhetoric - including warnings of possible nuclear war - as it expresses its anger over continuing U.S.-South Korea military maneuvers just across the border. Officials in South Korea, the United States and Japan say intelligence indicates that North Korean officials, fresh off an underground nuclear test in February, are ready to launch a medium-range missile.</p> <p>North Korea's own media gave little indication today of how high the tensions are.</p> <p>The Rodong Sinmun, the Workers' Party newspaper, featured photos and coverage of current leader Kim Jong-un's overnight visit to the Kumsusan mausoleum to pay respects to his grandfather. There was only one line at the end of the article vowing to bring down the "robber-like U.S. imperialists."</p> <p>Kim Jong-un's renovation of the memorial palace that once served as his grandfather's presidential offices was opened to the public on Monday, the vast cement plaza replaced by fountains, park benches, trellises and tulips. Stretches of green lawn were marked by small signs indicating which businesses - including the Foreign Trade Bank recently added to a U.S. Treasury blacklist - and government agencies donated funds to help pay for the landscaping.</p> <p>Braving the cold, gray weather, people lined up in droves to lay bouquets of fake flowers at the bronze statues of Kim and his son, late leader Kim Jong-il, in downtown Pyongyang, as they do for every major holiday in the highly militarized country, where loyalty to the Kims and to the state are drummed in citizens from an early age. They queued at roadside snack stands for rations of peanuts, a holiday tradition. Cheers and screams from a soccer match filled the air.</p> <p>"Although the situation is tense, people have got bright faces and are very happy," said Han Kyong Sim, a drink stand worker.</p> <p>Today marked the official start of the new year according to North Korea's "juche" calendar, which begins with the day of Kim il-Sung's birth in 1912. But unlike last year, the centennial of his birthday, there are no big parades in store this week, and North Koreans were planning to use it as a day to catch up with friends and family.</p> <p>But while there has almost no sense of crisis in Pyongyang, North Korea's official posture toward the outside appears to be as hardline as ever.</p> <p>On Sunday, it rejected South Korea's proposal to resolve tensions through dialogue. North Korea said it has no intention of talking with Seoul unless it abandons what it called the rival South's confrontational posture. South Korea's unification ministry spokesman, Kim Hyung-suk, called that response ''very regrettable" but said that the South remains open to dialogue.</p> <p>A top North Korean leader, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, also told a gathering of high officials on Sunday that the North must bolster its nuclear arsenal further and "wage a stronger all-out action with the U.S. to cope with the prevailing wartime situation," according to footage from the North's state TV.</p> <p>South Korea's defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary committee in Seoul today that North Korea still appears poised to launch a missile from its east coast, though he declined to disclose how he got the information.</p> <p>Kerry, during his trip, has warned North Korea not to conduct a missile test, saying it will be an act of provocation that "will raise people's temperatures" and further isolate the country and its people. In Tokyo on Sunday, Kerry said the U.S. was "prepared to reach out" but Pyongyang must first lower tensions and honor previous agreements.</p> <p>North Korea has also pulled workers from the Kaesong factory complex on its side of the Demilitarized Zone, the last remaining symbols of inter-Korean rapprochement, in a pointed jab at South Korea. South Korean-run factories provided more than 50,000 jobs for North Korea, where two-thirds of the population struggle with food shortages, according to the World Food Program.</p> <p>North Korea has issued no specific warnings to ships and aircraft that a missile test is imminent, and is also continuing efforts to increase tourism.</p> Historians Struggle to Find Their Place2013-04-12<p>His interview followed several politically-motivated dismissals at Hrodna State University. The dismissals&nbsp;prove that the authorities are afraid of alternative initiatives and thus, exclude them from the public sphere.</p> <p>But the policy of the Belarusian&nbsp;authorities is far from consistent. On the one hand they ban the white-red-white flag of the 1918&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;National Republic (BNR), while at the same time they permit a BNR public rally in the centre of Minsk. State media even organised a roundtable acknowledging&nbsp;the role of the BNR in Belarusian history. At the same time they dropped charges against Arche magazine where many Belarusian historians have published their work.&nbsp;</p> <p>One thing is certain - the Belarusian authorities are aware of the power of pulling ''cultural-historical" strings to reach their short-term political goals. Belarusians historians know it only too well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Book on History of Hrodna&nbsp;Sparks Dismissals</strong></p> <p>The local authorities in Hrodna have a problem tolerating a different historical narrative, like the one published in a recent a book on the history of Hrodna, a regional centre in the West of Belarus. The book called 'Hrodnaznaustva' came out in Poland in 2012 and immediately raised lots of controversy. As a result several contributors to this book could not continue their work and left the university. The authorities gradually, and efficiently, appear to have gotten rid of the authors - historians who no longer are permitted to teach at the university, or any other state university.&nbsp;</p> <p>In September 2012, Andrej&nbsp;Czarniakevich, a historian who co-authored the book&nbsp;lost his job at Hrodna State University. It became clear that the region's governor,&nbsp;Siamon&nbsp;Shapiro, personally decided to dismiss the historian. The reason given was that the publication was published abroad using an 'unclear' source of financing.</p> <p>Viachaslau&nbsp;Shved, another contributor to the book is a well-recognised&nbsp;professor who has been working at Hrodna State University for many years. At the end of March he lost his position as the dean of &nbsp;the Department of&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;Culture and Regional Tourism. Later on,&nbsp;Shved&nbsp;failed to win a new round of competition for his position as professor and as a result lost his job. He has since suggested that the procedure was politically motivated.</p> <p>Another historian, Igor&nbsp;Kuzmin, left the same university in protest of the politics of the local officials who are&nbsp;clearly interested in maintaining control and censorship in the field of education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A Roundtable with the Academics:&nbsp;the BNR&nbsp;Recognised&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>However, Belarusian authorities are not always tough on different interpretations of history. Proclamations made about the first Belarusian state founded on 25 March 1918 remain a bone of contention for those who adhere to the Soviet version of the history and those who oppose it. The authorities do not recognise 25th of March as a national holiday, while the opposition does.</p> <p>Usually the authorities allow public rallies on that day. This year, while giving permission to hold the annual event, they stipulated that the organisers were not to bring white-red-white flags of the BNR to the event. &nbsp;Over a thousand people participated in the rally. Police arrested only seven people - a rather modest number by Belarusian standards.</p> <p>A major&nbsp;Belarusian state newspaper used the anniversary of the&nbsp;BNR&nbsp;as an occasion to discuss its historical importance.&nbsp;The state newspaper 'Zviazda' organised a roundtable with the participation of scholars from the National Academy of Sciences. Historians and philosophers discussed the Belarusian National Republic and the role of intellectuals in the process of forming national awareness amongst Belarusians. For Belarus, this was a very unusual event.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the participants,&nbsp;Mikalaj&nbsp;Smiakhovich from the National Academy of Sciences, highlighted the role of the&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;intelligentsia. In his opinion, historians perceive the&nbsp;BNR&nbsp;today as a national form of the&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;state: &lsquo;95 years ago the Belarusian&nbsp;nation obtained the right to have its own state&rsquo;.&nbsp;Aliaksandr&nbsp;Kavalenia, director of the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences, talked about the mission intellectuals for the further development of the&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;state.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Any Hope for Belarusian Historians?&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Aleś&nbsp;Smalanchuk's interview for Radio Svaboda, mentioned above, gives a rather sad picture of the situation with Belarusian historians and historiography. The state suppresses alternative historical narratives, though occasionally it tolerates and allows some challenging&nbsp;initiatives. At the same time, no educational institutions in the country can seriously take responsibility for the promotion and support for the independent teaching of Belarusian history.&nbsp;</p> <p>Commenting on the recent dismissals of historians in Hrodna,&nbsp;Smalanchuk&nbsp;also criticised&nbsp;the European Humanities University, a&nbsp;Belarusian&nbsp;university in exile. He noted that even at this university, which is supposed to support independent teaching and studies of Belarusian history, a number of prominent Belarusian historians such as Zakhar Shybieka and Valiantsin Holubeu have had to leave.</p> <p>According to Smalanchuk, the university no longer admits new people to study history and political science and the administration is on the verge of demonstrating contempt for the&nbsp;Belarusian language and history with its current policies.&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, Belarusian historians are struggling to find a favourable working environment not only in their home country, but abroad as well.</p> Lenin: Tajikistan's new historical narrative2013-04-09<p>In a Monday evening in May 2011, under cover of darkness and with protection from police barricades, builders dismantled the 22 metre-high Lenin statue in the centre of Khojand, Tajikistan&rsquo;s second city in the north of the country. The anecdote popular among locals is that Lenin welcomed the opportunity to relocate as, from his vantage point overlooking the city&rsquo;s football stadium, he had grown bored of watching the local football team continually lose. The tallest statue of Lenin in the world now stands on a piece of scrubland on the outskirts of town with a view of rundown Soviet-era tower blocks, dilapidated factories and cows grazing at the base of his crumbling plinth &ndash; not a spectacle that panders to the Communist ideology.</p> <p>Yet the local government, as part of a national directive, was interested in a different discourse which would emerge from the removal of Lenin and his replacement with the ninth century ruler of the Samanid dynasty and the supposed father of the Tajik nation, Ismail Somoni.</p> <p>The even taller statue that stands on Lenin&rsquo;s former plinth represents the national narrative that the Tajikistani government is embracing in their attempt to engender a sense of national identity for the inhabitants of Tajikistan, a country fragmented along ethnic, regional and religious lines. (&lsquo;Tajikistani&rsquo; refers to the inhabitants of Tajikistan and &lsquo;Tajik&rsquo; to the ethnic group).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Reviving the past</strong></p> <p>In 1991 frenzied crowds toppled the statue of Lenin in the capital, Dushanbe, but the outbreak of civil war in 1992 stalled progression. Peacekeeping and stabilisation took precedence over establishing legitimacy for the existence of a country, which the Soviets founded as a constituent republic in 1929 but had never existed as an independent state. Often the government of a country which has undergone social and political change chooses to rewrite the country&rsquo;s history, highlighting elements favourable to current and future policies. Yet, in contrast with other countries which found independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the five-year civil war and continued political instability meant that the building of a Tajikistani national narrative has been tentative.</p> <p>In neighbouring Uzbekistan, soon after <em>perestroika,</em> President Islam Karimov ordered the removal of all the Lenin statues that littered the country&rsquo;s urban landscape. The purging of statues of the Soviet leader not only eliminated constant reminders of the Soviet past, but also facilitated the government&rsquo;s progression towards a new historical focus for the nation: the narrative associated with the Turco-Mongolian ruler Amir Timur. Born on Uzbekistani soil, the founder of the Timurid dynasty, Timur, conquered Persia, Northern India and Syria and established the now Uzbek city, Samarkand, as the capital of his empire.&nbsp; He is more commonly known in the West as Tamerlane or Tamburlaine, deriving from the Turkic epithet &lsquo;Timur the lame&rsquo;, referring to his battle injuries rather than his capabilities. Thus the monuments to the fourteenth-century conqueror, which sprung up across Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, were associated with an attempt to appropriate a history for the country which went back further than its inception as a Soviet republic in the 1920s.</p> <p>As the nucleus of the national narrative, references to Somoni in Tajikistan are hard to avoid. Over the past fifteen years, it has been becoming more prominent in the public arena: for example you could fly to Somoni Peak (renamed from Communism Peak in 1998) on Somon Air (established in 2008) and pay with somoni (the currency replaced the ruble in 2000). The Tajikistani President, Emomaili Rakhmon commented &lsquo;we must regard the history of our nation like a pure and holy mirror.&rsquo; He is presumably eager to emulate the celebrated features of Somoni, who presided over a dynasty renowned for strong leadership, triumphs in the sciences and arts and for opening a new trade route which absorbed business from the Silk Route. The rewriting of history and the construction of a historical myth assert Tajikistan&rsquo;s presence as an independent state with a unique history, rather than just a sovereignty of Soviet conception.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A narrative to unite</strong></p> <p>The recent removals of Soviet figurehead statues in Tajikistan and their replacement with Somoni and a select few other Persian cultural figures are the latest indication of government emphasis on eradicating the Soviet past by emphasising the narrative of Somoni. &nbsp;The renewed momentum came ahead of twentieth anniversary celebrations of Tajikistan&rsquo;s independence in 2011 and in anticipation of the presidential elections later this year.</p> <p>In the build up to the 2006 elections, the government declared a year of celebrations to mark the fifteenth anniversary of independence and the 2700th anniversary of the Year of <a href="">Aryan Civilisation</a>.&nbsp; The joint celebrations of Tajikistan&rsquo;s independence and the ancient inhabitants of the same territory provided a rallying point to unite the population in celebration of its past in an election year. Rakhmon went on to receive 79% of votes.</p> <p>In the current climate, analysts do not foresee Rakhmon losing power in the 2013 elections after twenty one years as head of state. Nonetheless the state is weary of the opposition voice, all too evident when at the end of 2012 a staggering 131 websites of Tajikistani, Russian and European origin were blocked in one fell swoop. Popular dissatisfaction with increasing poverty and poor social conditions make the state fearful of the risk of contagion from the surrounding region, namely from the north with Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s 2005 Tulip Revolution, China&rsquo;s troubled Xinjiang province to the east, continuing instability to the south in Afghanistan and the international shake-up/stir following the Arab Spring.</p> <p>The French political scientist, Olivier Roy, demonstrates that Tajikistan is ostensibly divided according to ethnic and religious groups, yet the real allegiances of the people lie with local community networks. The influences of these regional sub-loyalties are less predictable and more difficult to manipulate from the national level.</p> <p>Moreover, the Tajikistani government attributes the increased internal instability to rifts in the Islamic population, more specifically to the growth of Islamic extremism. The country is predominately home to Sunni Muslims, President Rakhmon included in this number, with a growing Shi&rsquo;a Muslim population. The validity of the Islamic threat is questionable as little more than hysteria on the part of a government keen to delegitimise the nearest political rivals, even if they have little chance of achieving power.</p> <p>The greatest threat to Rakhmon&rsquo;s leadership, however, is the Islamic Renaissance Party, which has been tarred with the label of extremism. Since 11 September, the Tajik government has manipulated global anti-Islamic sentiment in order to further invalidate the Islamic voice in the eyes of the public. 2011 witnessed Tajikistan&rsquo;s first suicide bombing which the government attributed to Muslim extremists. Predating Islamic presence in the region, the historical narrative of Somoni unsettles historical justification for the existence of Islam in Tajikistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Grandfather Lenin and Mother Russia</strong></p> <p>The Lenin in Khojand was taken down without prior public consultation, at night when few people were on the streets, and consequently only a few dozen people gathered to watch the dismantling process. The authorities had successfully avoided public demonstrations, which could have sparked greater unrest, considering the divergent population and extensive political, social and economic grievances in the region.&nbsp;</p> <p>That said, the removal of the Lenin was not accepted as if the local authorities had just been rearranging the city&rsquo;s street furniture. In Parliament, the Communist Party accused the government of discrediting and snubbing a large chunk of the country&rsquo;s cultural history. Public reaction, however, has been mixed, as evidenced by the heated debates which ensued in the national blogosphere. On the one hand bloggers question why the country is being encouraged to erase from its memory a system which brought the country into existence and facilitated the social benefits and industrial investments associated with being a Soviet republic. On the other, people are only too pleased for the destruction of statues which act as reminders of the pain and suffering of life under rule from Moscow. Discusssing the statues, one well-known blogger claimed there was little difference between the brutalities inflicted by Lenin and Hitler.</p> <p>By relocating the Lenin statues, as in Khojand, or removing them completely as in other parts of the country, the government is encouraging the population to partake in &lsquo;collective amnesia&rsquo;, a term coined by Benedict Anderson in his celebrated <a href="">book</a> <em>Imagined Communities</em>. The Soviet narrative accounts for two-thirds of Tajikistan&rsquo;s existence and is still part of the population&rsquo;s active memory, so the success of collective forgetting this narrative is questionable. Somoni lacks relevance to the population that was educated under the Soviets: even if children are now growing up being taught about the country&rsquo;s early history in the classrooms, they play under the bust of Grandfather Lenin still found in most school grounds.</p> <p>Despite the flaws inherent in being a Soviet republic, many in the country yearn for the financial and social advantages they remember under that system. After the dissolution of the USSR, independence brought Tajikistanis a decade wracked by civil war and social unrest, followed by an era of high unemployment, decreasing literacy levels and a ranking among the twenty countries worst hit by escalating food prices in 2011.</p> <p>The Soviet myth is kept alive through the close connection Tajikistan has retained with its former hegemony. In the past five years the country has attracted interest from the world&rsquo;s major powers, highlighted by Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s 2011 announcement of the creation of a &lsquo;New Silk Road.&rsquo; Tajikistan is in the enviable position of being a participant in the game of playing Russia against China, as both countries are keen to establish Central Asian trading partners. Yet the country is not in a position to remove the crutch of Mother Russia, &nbsp;still considered as a vital source of finance by Tajikistanis. Tajikistan&rsquo;s high unemployment is most noticeable in Russia where there are currently 600,000 Tajikistani migrant workers &ndash; the unofficial figure is purported to be much higher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Back to the USSR</strong></p> <p>Eighteen months ago, the directions I had been given to my accommodation in the small northern city of Istaravshan related to the Lenin statue which stood on the corner of the main bazaar. Unfortunately for me, the locals I stopped for help could not recall the statue which had been removed little more than a week prior to my arrival. Yet, once I eventually found my destination, I ventured 50 metres inside the market to find the <em>USSR Caf&eacute;</em>. In a Tajikistani backwater, I discovered an establishment filled with Soviet kitsch, Stalin quotes and Lenin paraphernalia, catering not for tourists, but the local market-goers, daydreaming of a more prosperous era for the country as they eat their Central Asian staples of <em>plov</em> and <em>shashlik</em>.</p> <p>The Tajikistani government is trying to institute a fabricated narrative of an ancient population to carpet over the issues which threaten national security. A referendum reverted the city of Leninabad to its pre-Soviet name, Khojand, in 1991; the region in which it is located was Leninabad until 2000 when it was renamed Sughd; the statue of the eponymous Soviet leader was surreptitiously removed in 2011; yet the main street continues to bear the name of the founder of the Soviet state. Even if the Somoni construct holds for the presidential elections later this year, the fractured population remembers the prosperous, stable and developing country characterised by Soviet rule.</p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> microcosm of Bulgarians' plight 2013-04-08<p>Kaolinovo is the town with the highest unemployment rate in Bulgaria. Over 64% of the workforce in this municipality in north-eastern Bulgaria are without a job, five times the national average. Bulgaria ranks among the worst performing European Union (EU) countries for employment trends since the beginning of the global economic crisis, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Almost 430,000 jobs have disappeared since 2008. More than half of unemployed have fallen below the poverty line. As a consequence of poverty, unemployment and high utility bills, Bulgaria saw the largest nationwide protests in 16 years during the last two months.&nbsp; The demonstrations put an end to Boyko Borisov&rsquo;s centre-right government. Six people set themself on fire during the demonstrations. Four of them have died.</p> <p>Back in Kaolinovo, Dimitrina, a middle-aged shopkeeper, admits she doesn&rsquo;t understand politics. She points to the shelves in her store: &ldquo;I have 40 breads and I cannot sell them since yesterday. People are penniless.&rdquo; A few who work on &ldquo;the Project&rdquo; are employed, she says meaning the couple of dozens construction workers renovating the main square and the children&rsquo;s playground , a project financed by the EU. The rest of the municipality&rsquo;s 12,000 people, predominantly of Turkish ethnic origin, are either jobless or work on the tobacco fields. Few lucky ones, says Dimitrina, have a job at a nearby mining facility for kaolin, &nbsp;a white rock used in the paper and porcelain industry that gives the town its name. &ldquo;Before the factory employed 500 people, now it&rsquo;s no more than 20-30,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>A few hundred metres away from her store, Sevdalin has a similar story to tell. The old man runs a &ldquo;Store for 1 Lev&rdquo;, a cheap shop that sells everything from cosmetics to church candles with prices that rarely exceed one Lev (half a euro). Despite the prices, however, the store is empty. &ldquo;Whatever it costs, when you don&rsquo;t have any money, you simply can&rsquo;t buy anything,&rdquo; says Sevdalin with a sad smile on his wrinkled face.</p> <p>Six years after joining the EU, Bulgaria remains its poorest member. People in the country earn an average monthly wage of &euro;400 ($520) with pensions of less than half that. &nbsp;According to a new <a href=";catId=89&amp;newsId=1852&amp;furtherNews=yes">report</a> by the European Commission, nearly half of the population&nbsp;(which stands at 7.3m)&nbsp;is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Unemployment rose to above 12% in February, the highest since 2005.</p> <p>&ldquo;The half a million job losses in the last four years are the main reason for the stagnating household incomes and the increasing burden on the social budget,&rdquo; says Georgi Angelov, an economist at the Open Society Institute in Sofia. Excluding EU funds, nearly half of the state budget is allocated for social spending.&nbsp; The employment crisis hit those without educational qualifications the worst: just 15.5% of Bulgarians with a basic education are employed.</p> <p>This helps explain the high jobless rate in Kaolinovo where two thirds of the people have never made it to middle school. &ldquo;I may not have been to university, but I can count the money I made so far today,&rdquo; says Sevdalin. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s zero.&rdquo;</p> about Slovakia's past2013-04-02<p class="ecxmsonormal">Just under 60% of survey respondents named Father Tiso when asked to name an official who worked with the collaborationist government. Hardly anyone could name another official and about one-third of those surveyed said they could not name a single state official from that era. Younger people knew much less. "Particularly striking is the level of ignorance and lack of information in the youngest age group," said Monika Vrzgulov&aacute;of the Holocaust Documentation Centre, which organises education programs. She spoke during the mid-March unveiling of this privately-financed study, staged in a palace that served as the German embassy between 1939 and 1945.</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">Father Tiso was hanged for treason in 1947. His body was buried in secret so as to not attract mourners. Still, his place in history has remained contentious as fringe elements have revived his name as a symbol of Slovak nationalist pride and sought to cast him as man who had little choice but to cooperate with Nazi Germany. Asked what she recalled of the image presented of Father Tiso during her school education, Nat&aacute;lia Semianov&aacute;, a 19-year old from the western Slovak town of &Scaron;a&scaron;t&iacute;n-Str&aacute;že said: "I was confused. We didn't go deep into it." &nbsp;</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">Among the survey&rsquo;s bright spots were signs that Tiso-apologism is on the decline. The number of people who perceive Father Tiso positively is nearly half what it was 20 years ago, with just 14% of respondents saying they viewed him in a good light. Results were less rosy among those aged 17-24. Six in ten were unable to utter even Father Tiso when asked to name a collaborationist official. Three-quarters answered "I don't know" when asked to define the word "Aryanisation&rdquo;. Few were able to give any estimate of how many Jews had lived in Slovakia before the war. There was no sign that youth doubted the occurrence of the Holocaust, they just had not learned much about it.</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">Slovakia was home to labour camps at Nov&aacute;ky, Sereď and Vyhne, which were also used as transit points for deporting Jews and Roma to extermination camps, like Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland. Temporary camps also existed at one time or another in Žilina, Poprad and the capital&rsquo;s Patr&oacute;nka district. About 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported during the war, and an estimated 60,000 of them perished. Slovakia has only five million residents even today.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">Historical research on the Vyhne camp in particular is scarce and the picture is complicated by the so-called Vienna Award of 1938, a Nazi-brokered deal that gave a third of Slovakia's territory back to Hungary, its former ruler. In the postwar years both Slovakia and Hungary have avoide<a href="">d</a> responsibility for what happened on that territory, which includes Slovakia's second largest city, Ko&scaron;ice.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">An admittedly unscientific survey of students at Comenius University in Bratislava by our correspondent found that most had some knowledge of this unfortunate chapter of Slovak history. &ldquo;We are educated enough to know that it was not made up,&rdquo; said Miroslava Germanov&aacute;, 23, of Trebi&scaron;ov, who noted that her parents had taken her to the Terez&iacute;n concentration in the Czech Republic so that &ldquo;we saw it with our own eyes. Still there was a notable concern that racism and racists were increasingly common among their contemporaries.&nbsp;"I can call some of them my friends," said Roman Cuprik, 22, a native of Ko&scaron;ice. "When we meet we aren't discussing these topics because it can spark a bad mood. What worries me is that racism is more sophisticated, that it is hiding behind certain words." &nbsp;</p> <p class="ecxmsonormal">Ms Semianov&aacute; contends that racism is a problem within her generation, a group of people only now reaching an age where they will enter the work force. Eventually, they will become political leaders of the country. "I hadn't thought about it, but that is kind of terrifying," she said.</p>'Lasting Liberty Day' Celebrated, US Congratulates Estonia 2013-03-27<p>The one-time holiday is being marked with various events, such as a Government Office-sponsored <a href="">quiz</a> (Estonian only) and the deadline of ERR News's own short story writing contest.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a brief address, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the day was a chance to think about "where we were when we started out the second time [in 1991]." "It is not at all a day for parties. It is a day of dispelling fears, a day of hope," he said.</p> <p>Today is also an official flag day, and church bells will peal at noon.</p> <p>The republic has lasted for 34,730 days since 1918, with a Soviet occupation lasting nearly 19,000 days from1940 to 1991. <br /><br />The US, one of the countries that did not recognize the loss of de jure independence, congratulated Estonia on the occasion, sending greetings through Ambassador Jeffrey Levine</p> New Pressure on Civil Society2013-03-25<p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">A wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations in Russia is intensifying pressure on civil society since the adoption of a series of restrictive laws in 2012. Teams of officials from a variety of government agencies have inspected at least 30 groups in the past two weeks in Moscow, and many more in at least 13 other regions of Russia.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">The inspections appear to target groups that accept foreign funding and that engage in advocacy work, and are part of a broader crackdown on civil society that began in 2012, the organizations said. The Russian prosecutor&rsquo;s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 nongovernmental organizations in each of Russia&rsquo;s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country. According to media reports, the prosecutor&rsquo;s office in St. Petersburg alone plans to inspect about 100 groups.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">&ldquo;The scale of the inspections is unprecedented and only serves to reinforce the menacing atmosphere for civil society,&rdquo; said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. &ldquo;The Russian authorities should end, rather than intensify, the crackdown that&rsquo;s been under way for the past year.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">On March 21, 2013, five officials from the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Tax Inspectorate arrived without warning at Memorial society, one of Russia&rsquo;s most prominent nongovernmental groups, to conduct an inspection.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">A television crew from NTV, a pro-Kremlin station, arrived with the inspectors to film the proceedings. It is not clear how NTV learned about the inspection since most government inspections in the current wave are unannounced.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">Nevertheless, later that day, the station aired a news report alleging that Memorial may be in violation of the &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law. In recent years, NTV has broadcast numerous shows seeking to portray Russia&rsquo;s political opposition as foreign-sponsored.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">&ldquo;The foreign agents law was, from the start, aimed at demonizing advocacy groups in Russia,&rdquo; Williamson said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s distressing, but sadly unsurprising, that NTV is part of the effort to discredit independent voices.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">Also on, March 21, the prosecutor&rsquo;s office inspected the offices of at least four other human rights organizations, all in St. Petersburg.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">Pavel Chikov, head of Agora, a human rights group that provides advice about laws governing nongovernmental groups, said that the inspections are to determine whether groups are complying with a raft of regulatory laws. The laws include one adopted in November that requires any group that accepts foreign funding and engages in &ldquo;political activity&rdquo; to register as a &ldquo;foreign agent.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">&ldquo;There has long been a fear that Russia&rsquo;s new NGO law would be used to target prominent critical organizations,&rdquo; said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International&rsquo;s Europe and Central Asia director. &ldquo;The spate of inspections in recent weeks appears to confirm this suspicion. The bigger fear is that this is just round one, and that, after the smearing, the forced closures will come.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">The &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law was roundly criticized in Russia and abroad, including by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">For months after the law&rsquo;s adoption it was not clear how and whether it would be enforced. However, at a February 14 meeting with the Federal Security Service, President Vladimir Putin said, &ldquo;We have a set of rules and regulations for NGOs in Russia, including rules and regulations about foreign funding. These laws, naturally, should be enforced. Any direct or indirect interference in our internal affairs, any form of pressure on Russia, on our allies and partners is inadmissible.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">In late February, the media began to report on inspections of nongovernmental groups by the prosecutor&rsquo;s office in the Saratov region in southern Russia, and then on March 5, the wave of inspections began in Moscow.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">In most cases the inspections are carried out by a team of prosecutorial, Justice Ministry, and tax officials. In some cases the inspectors also examine whether a group&rsquo;s work is &ldquo;extremist,&rdquo; in response to an alleged complaint filed by an individual or government agency. Some inspections have included agents from the Federal Security Service, fire department, sanitation department, and other agencies.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">The scope of the inspections appears to be far-ranging. Memorial and several other groups that were inspected said that officials showed the representatives of the groups documents referring to the officials&rsquo; authority to check for &ldquo;compliance with the laws of the Russian Federation&rdquo; in general.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">But a document leaked to the media that provides instructions to local prosecutors&rsquo; offices for conducting inspections specifically urges them to analyze sources of foreign funding for the groups and their involvement in political activities, as well as any evidence of &ldquo;extremism.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">In many cases the officials have provided no advance notice about the inspection. In some cases, the officials have refused to present documents authorizing the inspection but have ordered the representatives of the group to provide immediately all documents the inspectors demand. Several organizations stated on social media that officials thoroughly examined the premises and attempted to probe more intrusively into the groups&rsquo; offices, searching libraries for &ldquo;extremist&rdquo; literature and requesting to look into computers.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">&ldquo;The inspections are initiated by the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, which has a wide-ranging jurisdiction,&rdquo; Dalhuisen said. &ldquo;This allows the authorities to bypass some of the legal protections groups have under laws regulating NGOs.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">Since Putin&rsquo;s return to the presidency in May 2012, a parliament dominated by members of the pro-Putin United Russia party has adopted a series of laws that imposed dramatic new restrictions on civil society. A June law introduced limits on public assemblies and raised relevant financial sanctions to the level of criminal fines. Two more laws were passed in July. One re-criminalized libel, while the other imposed new restrictions on internet content. Another law, adopted in November, expands the definition of &ldquo;treason&rdquo; in ways that could criminalize involvement in international human rights advocacy.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">In December, Putin signed a law allowing the suspension of nongovernmental organizations, and the freezing of their assets, if they engage in &ldquo;political&rdquo; activities and receive funding from US citizens or organizations. Organizations can be similarly sanctioned if their leaders or members are Russian citizens who also have US passports.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">Russian law envisages unannounced inspections of nongovernmental groups under a variety of circumstances. The &ldquo;foreign agents&rdquo; law, for example, authorizes &ldquo;unannounced&rdquo; (<em>vneplanovye</em>) inspections upon a request by the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, among other grounds.</span></p> <p><span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: small;">&ldquo;This ongoing harassment of human rights defenders is contrary to Russia&rsquo;s international commitments and indicates a fear of free and open discussion about the human rights situation in Russia,&rdquo; said Andrew Anderson, deputy director of Front Line Defenders.</span></p> Praises Georgia, Moldova, Armenia In Neighborhood Report 2013-03-21<p>The package will be a key factor in determining how much EU funds that will be granted to the individual member states later this year.<br /> <br /> Stefan Fuele, the EU commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, said in Brussels that the EU needs to increase efforts to help the countries in the report meet goals to become members of the European Union.<br /> <br /> "The Eastern Partnership countries need our continued support to deliver on their commitments, and it is my conviction that they deserve an ambitious future," Fuele said.<br /> <br /> This year's report shows that Georgia, Moldova, and to a certain extent Armenia have reformed the most in the recent year and will benefit from additional funds from Brussels.<br /> <br /> Here are highlights of the report that pertain to countries in RFE/RL's broadcast area.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong><big>Armenia</big></strong><br /> <br /> The commission has urged the Armenian government to step up its work to implement and enforce human rights legislation. The report also underlined the need to address shortcomings in Armenia's recent presidential elections. It stated that freedoms of assembly and expression were generally respected but media independence remained insufficient.<br /> <br /> The report also took note of Yerevan's efforts to reform its judiciary and fight corruption. On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the EU urged Armenia to intensify efforts with Azerbaijan to reach an agreement and ensure "unimpeded access" for EU representatives to the area and surrounding regions.<br /> <br /> Despite the criticism, the EU still said that Armenia qualifies for its "more for more" principle in which extra reforms lead to additional EU funds for the upcoming year.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong><big>Azerbaijan</big></strong><br /> <br /> Azerbaijan has come under heavy criticism again in the commission's report. The report stressed the need for Baku to "make significant further efforts to meet its commitments in building deep and sustainable democracy" in areas such as the electoral process, the protection of human rights, and the independence of the judiciary. The Azerbaijani government was also urged to increase efforts to investigate cases of harassment against journalists and activists as well as to enact legislation on freedom of media and assembly in line with international standards.<br /> <br /> The report called for Baku to reach an agreement with Armenia over its separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The document noted progress on issues mentioned in past reports, such as the forced evictions and demolitions<br /> from homes in Baku for modernization projects.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong><big>Belarus</big></strong><br /> <br /> The European Union has again refrained from issuing an assessment of Belarus within its annual EU neighborhood reports. Instead of the detailed recommendations like those issued for five other Eastern neighbors, Brussels instead published an overview of the current political and economic situation in Belarus. The EU still lacks an agreement on a political action plan with Minsk.<br /> <br /> The document mentioned grave concern about the lack of respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles. It stressed that the EU remains committed to a policy of critical engagement towards Belarus, including support for the country's civil society and contacts with Minsk on technical issues.<br /> <br /> The EU still has 243 individuals on a visa ban and assets freeze list after the violent crackdown on the opposition following the country's presidential election in December 2010.<br /> <br /> <strong><big>Georgia</big></strong><br /> <br /> The EU's annual neighborhood report contains mostly praise for Georgia. The document notes Tbilisi has acted on most of the previous EU recommendations such as strengthening the freedom of expression, fighting corruption, continued judicial reform, and improving the lives of internally displace people. October's parliamentary elections, which resulted in the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia's history, were deemed broadly free and fair.<br /> <br /> The report stressed the need to respect the roles of the prime minister and the president after several months of political infighting between the two offices. Brussels also underlined that the country suffers from a lack of judicial independence and labor rights need to be improved.<br /> <br /> Along with Moldova, Georgia is set to get the majority of the additional EU funds available for neighbors that carry out most reforms.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong><big>Moldova</big></strong><br /> <br /> The European Commission has praised Moldova's progress toward fulfilling the criteria meant to bring the country closer to European integration. The report singles out Moldova as one of the top reformers among the former Soviet republics. The document highlights a Constitutional Court decision which validated the election of a new president, ending a long political and constitutional deadlock.<br /> <br /> It also endorses reforms in areas such as social assistance, health and education, but notes that political uncertainty has returned with the fall of the ruling coalition earlier in March.<br /> <br /> The report urges more efforts to combat corruption and more reforms in justice and law enforcement. It calls on Moldova to "engage pro-actively" with its separatist Transdniester region in order to find a solution to the conflict.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong><big>Ukraine</big></strong><br /> <br /> The commission has told Ukraine that "much remains to be done" by Kyiv in order to implement the bloc's recommendations made in an association agreement initialed last year. The report said that among the top priorities are the need to fight against conflict of interest and corruption in the judiciary.<br /> <br /> The report urges the establishment of a reliable electoral system, clear rules for balanced media access for candidates and for the authorities to address the cases of politically motivated convictions. Other demands include the need to stop the introduction of protectionist trade measures.<br /> <br /> Ukraine, the only former Soviet republic to have initialed an association agreement with the EU still hopes to sign the deal by the end of this year.</p> overtakes UK to become world's fifth largest arms exporter 2013-03-20<div class="firstPar"> <p>It is the first time Britain has not figured in the top five weapons suppliers since 1950, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report.</p> </div> <div class="secondPar"> <p>China's arms exports in 2008-2012 grew by 162 percent compared to the previous five years, with 55 percent going to Pakistan "due to large outstanding and planned orders for combat aircraft, submarines and frigate".</p> </div> <div class="thirdPar"> <p>"China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan," Paul Holtom, a research director at SIPRI said in a press release.</p> </div> <div class="fourthPar"> <p>"A number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states."</p> </div> <div class="fifthPar"> <p>Pakistan has long been China's key ally in South Asia. The report also named Myanmar, Bangladesh and Venezuela as importers of Chinese arms.</p> <p>The global arms trade grew by 17 percent in 2008-2012 over the previous period, the report said, with the US and Russia still the main exporters, holding market shares of 30 percent and 26 percent respectively.</p> <p>They were followed by Germany and France in the rankings.</p> <p>European countries beset by economic troubles were attempting to re-sell recently acquired combat aircraft to cut costs, the report added, with Portugal and Spain looking for buyers for F-16 and Eurofighter aircraft respectively.</p> <p>East Asian countries are seeking to boost their naval capabilities amid territorial disputes, the document said, adding that the top five importers of major conventional weapons worldwide were all Asian.</p> <p>India was the world's biggest buyer, followed by China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore. Both India and China obtained most of their imports from Russia.</p> <p>China has boosted its domestic weapons production since it faced bans on Western military imports following the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.</p> <p>Beijing does not release arms export figures but foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that it always takes "a responsible and prudent attitude towards international arms sales" and abides by UN Security Council resolutions.</p> <p>"China has three principles on arms exports," he said at a regular briefing. "Firstly, they must relate to legitimate defence purposes. Secondly, they must not threaten regional and global stability. Thirdly, they must not interfere with countries' internal affairs."</p> </div> Yerevan Keen to Opt Out of New Russian-Led Bloc2013-03-15<p>Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who won a second term in a disputed election in February, has successfully navigated apparent Russian pressures and moved his country closer to the West &ndash; the European Union, in particular &ndash; while maintaining, and even deepening, Armenia&rsquo;s military alliance with Russia. After a meeting with Russia&rsquo;s President Vladimir Putin on March 12, Sargsyan gave no indication that his administration&rsquo;s multi-vector policy will change.</p> <p>The press services of the two leaders announced in early March that the talks at Putin&rsquo;s Novo-Ogaryovo residence near Moscow would touch upon &ldquo;integration processes&rdquo; in the former Soviet Union. It was a clear reference to Armenia&rsquo;s possible accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. But the talks themselves did not appear to produce a breakthrough on the issue.</p> <p>Putin makes no secret of his hopes to turn this trade bloc eventually into a closely-knit Eurasian Union of loyal ex-Soviet states, a grouping that Kremlin critics regard as an attempt to partially recreate the USSR. The Kremlin-linked speakers of both houses of Russia&rsquo;s parliament promoted the idea during separate visits to Yerevan in July last year.</p> <p>Putin and Sargsyan reportedly discussed the possibility of Armenian membership in the Customs Union during their three meetings in 2012. Armenian leaders gave no such promises in their public statements made after those talks. Armenian media commentators speculate that Putin wants a final answer from Yerevan soon. <br /><br />Official Russian and Armenian sources did not report or hint at any agreements on the matter after the Novo-Ogaryovo meeting. Putin and Sargsyan similarly did not mention it in their televised opening remarks. Putin merely praised Russia&rsquo;s &ldquo;special relations&rdquo; with Armenia,saying they are &ldquo;successfully developing&rdquo; in both economic and political areas. &ldquo;We have big, promising, good joint investment plans,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;If there were even tentative agreements on the Customs Union, they would have probably been reflected in the official press releases on the meeting,&rdquo; commented Alexander Markarov, a political scientist heading the Armenian branch of the Moscow-based Commonwealth of Independent States Institute.</p> <p>&ldquo;In all likelihood, there were no major changes in the two sides&rsquo; positions on this issue and Serzh Sargsyan again succeeded in at least winning time,&rdquo; the Yerevan-based news service agreed in a commentary.</p> <p>Over the past year, Armenian leaders have publicly objected to joining the Customs Union, arguing that their landlocked country has no common borders with Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus. Citing Russia&rsquo;s Kaliningrad exclave, Viktor Khristenko, the Russian head of the Customs Union&rsquo;s executive body, has questioned this line of reasoning.</p> <p>In a February interview with the Russian daily Moskovskie Novosti, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan came up with another argument against Customs Union membership &ndash; that Armenia has a more liberal trade regime than any of the union&rsquo;s three member states and lacks vast natural resources.</p> <p>Yerevan is reluctant to acknowledge publicly another, arguably more important reason: joining the Russian-led union would essentially preclude the signing of a comprehensive Association Agreement between Armenia and the European Union. A key element of that agreement is the creation of a &ldquo;deep and comprehensive free trade area,&rdquo; which envisages not only the lifting of all trade barriers, but also harmonization of Armenian and EU economic laws and regulations. A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the EU&rsquo;s foreign and security policy chief, told RFE/RL in December 2012 that Armenian entry into the Moscow-led Customs Union &ldquo;would not be compatible&rdquo; with the Association Agreement.</p> <p>The Armenian government has since continued to express strong interest in concluding its association talks with the EU in time for a planned November 2013 summit in Vilnius on the EU&rsquo;s Eastern Partnership program for six ex-Soviet states. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian discussed preparations for the summit at a March 7 meeting with Philippe Lefort, the EU&rsquo;s special envoy for the South Caucasus.</p> <p>The Armenian push for integration with the EU reflects President Sargsyan&rsquo;s broader strategy of complementing the alliance with Russia with closer partnership with the West.</p> <p>During his first term, Sargsyan earned plaudits in Western capitals for stepping up cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and embarking on a US-backed rapprochement with Turkey. Analysts believe this is one reason why US President Barack Obama and other Western leaders congratulated him on his disputed reelection.</p> <p>Remarkably, there have been few indications of Russian discontent with this policy. Russian policy-makers might be safe in the knowledge that, with no solution to the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh in sight, Armenia will remain heavily reliant on military ties with Russia in the foreseeable future.</p> <p>Sargsyan was instrumental in securing a 2010 deal that extended the presence of Russian troops in Armenia until 2044, and Putin has responded accordingly.</p> <p>In January, he authorized his government to sign a new Russian-Armenian defense accord that calls for joint arms manufacturing. Russia&rsquo;s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Valery Gerasimov, discussed the planned deal during subsequent trips to Armenia. Sargsyan thanked Putin on March 12 for &ldquo;good progress&rdquo; in defense cooperation.</p> <p>But appearances can be deceiving, cautioned analyst Markarov.</p> <p>&ldquo;Armenia has been trying to circumvent the Customs Union, while favoring other, bilateral formats of cooperation with Russia,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It has to listen to Russia more than any other foreign power. But listening doesn&rsquo;t mean always obeying.&rdquo;</p> Ask President Not to Approve Amendment2013-03-12<p> <p>The parliament passed the amendments earlier on Monday, with a sweeping majority of the governing Fidesz party&rsquo;s lawmakers voting in favor of the amendment.</p> <p>In a reaction to the move, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland said the amendments raise concerns on the rule of law, EU law and Council of Europe standards.</p> <p>&ldquo;Unfortunately, experts from the Council of Europe and from the European Commission did not have the opportunity to discuss and clarify in detail the content of these amendments before their adoption,&rdquo; the European officials said in a joint letter to the Hungarian parliament.</p> <p>Protesters were gathering Monday evening on Budapest&rsquo;s picturesque hill to call the president&rsquo;s attention with signs saying, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t sign, Janos!&rdquo;</p> <p>Mr. Ader, a former official at governing Fidesz party, is widely expected to smooth the path to the amendments&rsquo; passage.</p> <p>The protesters were forced out of the square in front of the presidential palace as the counterterrorist unit TEK closed the area citing security reasons.</p> <p>In a response, Student Network, a group of undergraduates asked Prime Minister Viktor Orban to lend them his wrench, recalling the moment in 2007 when, as part of the opposition, he used it to take apart cordons around the parliament.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re mostly students and young people, we haven&rsquo;t got much money,&rdquo; the organization said.</p> <p>Protests also took place in front of the Hungarian embassy in Berlin Monday as Mr. Ader is there at a meeting with his German counterpart.</p> </p> Korea vows end to nonaggression pacts after U.N. vote2013-03-08<p><span>A day after the isolated regime in Pyongyang had threatened a possible "preemptive nuclear attack" -- something analysts say they think it is unlikely and currently unable to do -- its official news agency reeled off a number of agreements with South Korea that it said would no longer apply.</span></p> <p><span>It's the latest installment in a week of furious rhetoric from the North, fueled by its anger over&nbsp;</span>the U.N. vote on the new sanctions<span>, a response to the Pyongyang's recent nuclear test, and joint military drills by the United States and South Korea, which take place in the region each year.</span></p> <p><span>North Korea watchers and</span>&nbsp;U.S. officials say<span>&nbsp;that the recent frenzy of ominous language from North Korea under its young leader Kim Jong Un makes the situation on the Korean Peninsula more worrying and unpredictable.</span></p> <p><span>South Korea has warned the North that it will retaliate strongly and sternly if its citizens are threatened.&nbsp;</span><span>South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who took office late last month, said Friday that Seoul would respond strongly to any provocation from Pyongyang, the semiofficial news agency Yonhap reported.</span></p> <p><span>A military clash could risk drawing in the United States, which has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as part of the security alliance between the two countries.</span></p> <p><span>The most recent skirmish between the two Koreas took place in November 2010, when the North shelled an island on the South's side of the border, killing several people. Pyongyang claimed Seoul had provoked it by carrying out training exercises off their shared coast.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A week of strong threats</strong></p> <p><span>The North's comments Friday doubled down on statements it had made earlier this week, promising to abolish the armistice agreement that stopped the Korean War in 1953, and threatening strikes on the United States and South Korea.</span></p> <p><span>Claiming its enemies are "hell bent on confrontation and war fever," Pyongyang said it was now revoking "all agreements on nonaggression reached between the north and the south," a declaration it has made in previous years</span></p> <p><span>It also said it was nullifying the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North, which conducted its third underground nuclear test last month, had said recently that denuclearization of the region was "impossible" because of what it described as the United States' hostile policy toward it.</span></p> <p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph16">And it stated that it was immediately cutting off the "north-south hotline," three days after it had already said it planned to terminate its military telephone line with the United States. The phone line is meant to serve as a tool to defuse potential flash points along the heavily militarized border between the two Koreas.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph16">&nbsp;</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph16"><strong>New U.N. measures</strong></p> </p> <p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph21">Tensions are particularly high at the moment because of the new measures against the North adopted unanimously Thursday by the U.N. Security Council.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph22">"These sanctions will bite, and bite hard," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said after the vote.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph23">China, North Korea's key ally, could have used its veto power to block the sanctions. Instead, after weeks of negotiating, it signed on to the final draft.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph24">"China is a country of principle," China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said. "We are firmly committed to safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean peninsula."</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph24"><span>The goal of</span>&nbsp;the new sanctions<span>&nbsp;is to stymie the activities of North Korean banks and cash couriers who might be funneling money to the secretive regime's nuclear and missile programs.</span></p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph24"> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph27">The U.N. resolution also outlines measures to step up scrutiny of suspicious sea shipments and air cargo. And it expands restrictions to encompass several institutions and senior officials in the North's weapons industry, as well as a range of materials and technology known to be used in uranium enrichment. It also blocks the sale of luxury goods -- such as yachts and certain high-end jewelry -- to North Korea.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph28">&nbsp;</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph28"><strong>Questions over sanctions</strong><strong>'</strong><strong>&nbsp;effectiveness</strong></p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph28"> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph31">Some doubt whether the new measures will make much difference.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph32">Sanctions imposed after previous nuclear tests and rocket launches have failed to deter Pyongyang.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph33">China will go a long way toward determining whether the new sanctions really do have "bite," analysts say.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph34">"As long as China allows North Korea to operate, as long as China provides food, energy assistance, and investment, the sanctions really don't matter," said Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute.</p> <p class="cnn_storypgraphtxt cnn_storypgraph35">North Korea notoriously allows many of its people to live in malnutrition and starvation. Still, the country needs a functioning economy, partly to finance its military, Bandow explained.</p> </p> </p> </p> <p><span><br /></span></p> And Stalin: ‘What Is Not Positive In History, They Prefer To Forget’2013-03-04<p><span>RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson asked Aleksei Levinson, social research director of the independent Levada Analytical Center in Moscow, about these changing views and how we can understand them.</span></p> <p><span></span><strong><em>RFE/RL: According to your research, what is the view of Stalin in Russia at present and what sort of dynamic in that opinion have we seen in recent years?</em></strong></p> <p><strong>Aleksei Levinson:</strong><span>&nbsp;The evaluation of Stalin might seem a little bit contradictory because, according to the results of our survey conducted in February, people on the one hand agree that Stalin played a positive role in the life of our country. About 49 percent say that. And somewhat fewer -- 32 percent -- say that he played a negative role. That is, a majority think that Stalin played a positive role.</span></p> <p><span></span>But when asked about the significance of Stalin's death, more than half -- 55 percent -- say that they associate his death with the end of terror and mass repressions and the release from prison of millions of innocent people. Considerably fewer -- just 18 percent -- say that the death of Stalin meant the loss of a great leader and teacher.</p> <p>I think it is important to explain this contradiction. I think that this is just an apparent contradiction because Russian public opinion is attempting to extract the positive moments from Stalin's life -- saying he played a positive role and, of course, they mention the victory in the Great Patriotic War, the victory of Russia over fascist Germany. But also they extract positive moments from Stalin's death -- that wrongly condemned people were released.</p> <p><span>This also corresponds with the way that Russians remember the repressions of the Stalin period. They unambiguously approve of the rehabilitation of those who were wrongly convicted -- and, in fact, the rehabilitation process went quite far in our society. But there has been virtually no lustration. There have been no trials of those who participated not in the role of victims but in the roles of executioners or compromised judges.</span></p> <p><span></span>According to our surveys, Russians do not want such a trial to take place. Again, we see that they want to take as much that is positive from history -- even such a bloody and difficult history -- as they can. And as for what is not positive -- they prefer to forget about it.</p> <p><strong><em>RFE/RL: Is the process of evaluating Stalin somehow coming to an end or do you expect to see more changes in the future?</em></strong></p> <p><strong>Levinson</strong><span>: This process, as far as we can tell, has stabilized to a considerable extent. We saw over the last decade, over the Putin period, that Stalin has been transformed from one of the practically forgotten figures of the past into the most important figure. Of all the figures of the past that are recalled in the Russian public consciousness, only Stalin has had such an extraordinary career over the last 15 years. I think this must be connected with how Putin is trying to position himself and with how he is viewed.</span></p> <p><span></span>Contemporary Russians, for the most part, see a kind of equation of the old authorities and the current ones, most of all from the concept of the strong leader. But I would say it isn't that they consider Putin to be the modern Stalin, but rather the reverse -- today's image of Putin is taken into consideration when we look at Stalin. This is an important distinction.</p> <p><strong><em>RFE/RL: Have you asked Russians about where they get their information about Stalin from &ndash; from the state media or schools or politicians?</em></strong></p> <p><strong>Levinson:</strong><span>&nbsp;I would say here that information about Stalin is not needed at all. It does not change the situation -- it is not needed. For the public mind, the eroding mythical image that already existed is sufficient. They don't really know anything in particular about Stalin. They know three things -- he was great; he won the war; he spilled a lot of blood of Soviet people.</span></p> <p><span>From these three elements is formed the ambivalent image that can be viewed from both a positive side and a negative one. That is why, in a real sense, it is not definable. Criticizing Stalin doesn't produce any effect. People already know that he was a tyrant and a murderer. Praising Stalin also doesn't add anything to his image. Praising or criticizing him is just a symbolic way of conducting the struggle between various groups within contemporary Russian society -- or between different layers of the Russian public consciousness.</span></p> <p><strong><em>RFE/RL: You wrote in one article that Russians realize that Stalin is viewed much more negatively in the West than in Russia. How do they feel about this difference?</em></strong></p> <p><strong>Levinson:</strong><span>&nbsp;The thing is that these days, anti-Western rhetoric and anti-Western positions are very widespread in Russian society. So it isn't difficult in such an environment to include the idea that the West is trying to deprive us of our glory; that they want to minimize our role in the victory over Germany. In this context, these fit together logically. This context is very broad because quite a few people believe that the West in general is encroaching upon not only Russia's history but also on Russia's wealth and on everything that Russians value. These ideas are very widespread at present.</span></p> <p><strong><em>RFE/RL: Is there anything else that you think is important to add about Russians' attitudes toward Stalin?</em></strong></p> <p><strong><em></em></strong><strong>Levinson:</strong><span>&nbsp;I would like to emphasize once again that the present situation in Russia is one of great tension in the realm of symbols. There isn't so much going on in terms of real political changes in either direction. But there are a large number of attacks and parries in the symbolic sphere where opinions are clashing within the public consciousness. This is characteristic of the present situation and this -- by the way -- is a huge contrast to Stalin's times, when in addition to these kinds of tensions, there were also real actions such as the repressions and other huge-scale processes.</span></p> <p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p> Intellectuals Urge Ratifying Rights Treaty2013-02-27<p style="text-align: justify;">The petition calling on the party-controlled National People&rsquo;s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came a week before the congress holds its annual full session, which is to install Xi Jinping as China&rsquo;s president, succeeding Hu Jintao.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Copies of the document appeared on Chinese blogging Web sites and Internet forums, but were often quickly removed. It was unclear whether government censors demanded the removals.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Ratification of the treaty would &ldquo;promote and realize the principles of a country based on human rights and a China governed by its Constitution,&rdquo; the petition said. &ldquo;We fear that due to the lack of nurturing of human rights and absence of fundamental reverence and assurances for individuals&rsquo; freedom, rights and dignity, if a full-scale crisis breaks out, the whole society will collapse into hatred and brutality.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The call, also circulated by e-mail, carried the names of 121 backers, including several who said they lived in Hong Kong or Macau.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The petition was the latest display of the demands for political change confronting China&rsquo;s new leadership. Several people who signed it said they hoped to press Mr. Xi and his colleagues to live up to vows of greater respect for the rule of law and citizens&rsquo; rights that Mr. Xi and other officials have made since he became Communist Party leader in November, when Mr. Hu retired from that post.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;This has become increasingly important because on the one hand violations of rights have become so common, while on the other hand citizens&rsquo; awareness of their rights has risen sharply,&rdquo; said Cui Weiping, a translator and essayist in Beijing who signed the petition. &ldquo;This proposal is really quite mild,&rdquo; said Ms. Cui, who formerly taught at the Beijing Film Academy. &ldquo;I see this as giving the government a chance to show that it is willing to make improvements.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Since Mr. Xi came to power, Chinese advocates of political liberalization have urged the Communist Party to abide by the Constitution, which in theory offers some protection of free speech and other rights. Some reform advocates see some signs of hope in the government&rsquo;s vow to overhaul &ldquo;re-education through labor,&rdquo; which is used to jail citizens without trials, and some point to Mr. Xi&rsquo;s own promises of greater official accountability.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;Any organization or individual must act within the scope of the Constitution and the laws,&rdquo; Mr. Xi said Saturday at a meeting of the Communist Party&rsquo;s 25-member Politburo, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Mr. Xi has, however, also said that the top-down, one-party rule must remain sacrosanct, and the drafters of the petition took care not to challenge the party directly, instead calling on it to live up to past vows to respect citizens&rsquo; rights.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;This is an important moment when the new leadership has expressed its commitment to rule of law, and we want those words to be acted on,&rdquo; said He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University and a prominent advocate of political liberalization, who confirmed he signed the petition.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But the Chinese government appears reluctant to ratify the treaty, despite saying over many years that it was preparing to do so, said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch. The Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998, but ratification by the legislature would bring greater international scrutiny through a monitoring committee, Mr. Bequelin said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The covenant came into force in 1976, and 167 states are party to it. Yet even North Korea has acceded to the treaty, with no discernible improvement in its harsh treatment of its people, Mr. Bequelin said. &ldquo;What is at stake in ratification for the Chinese government is not so much the international legal obligations that would come, but rather the domestic pressures to live up to its own promises,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The New York Times</p>'Auschwitz volunteer' reports win US THE PROSE award2013-02-26<p> <p>Captain Witold Pilecki&rsquo;s reports, published by the independent Aquila Polonica publishing house in the United States, received the award from the Association of American Publishers, which brings together over 300 large American publishing houses.</p> <p>Pilecki&rsquo;s reports,&nbsp;<em>&lsquo;The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery&rsquo;</em>, was awarded in the 'biographies and autobiographies' category.</p> <p>The book has also been named Editor&rsquo;s Choice by the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>.</p> <p>Captain Pilecki&rsquo;s reports have been translated by Jarek Garliński, the son of the historian and Auschwitz prisoner J&oacute;zef Garliński.</p> <p>The 400-page book has an introduction by the renowned historian Norman Davies and a foreword by Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland.</p> <p>In September 1940 Witold Pilecki volunteered to be captured and imprisoned in Auschwitz to bring out the story of German atrocities.</p> <p>In 1943 he escaped from the camp, reached Warsaw and a year later fought in the Warsaw Rising. After the war he went to Italy and joined the Second Corps but was subsequently sent by the Polish intelligence to Poland as a spy.</p> <p>However, he was captured and executed by the communist authorities in 1948.</p> <p>He was rehabilitated in 1990 and in 2008 received posthumously the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state distinction.&nbsp;<strong>(mk/pg)</strong></p> </p> leases planes to Cuba, writes off Soviet debt2013-02-22<p style="text-align: justify;">Moscow will write off part of the $30 billion debt and will offer a 10-year refinancing plan for the remaining amount, according to the preliminary agreement, Russia's industry and trade minister Denis Manturov told reporters on the sidelines of the talks.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"There was an accumulated debt on loans allocated by the Soviet Union and we have now prepared an agreement that should undergo all the necessary procedures," he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Manturov said the final decision on debt settlement will be signed by the end of the year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Russia will also lease three Ilyushin-96-400 long-haul jets, three AN-158 regional planes and two TU-204SM mid-range aircraft to Cuba under the agreements inked in the presence of Medvedev and Cuban leader Raul Castro.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Moscow will provide sovereign guarantees to a syndicate of Russian banks financing the deal, Manturov said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Medvedev and Castro were seen chatting informally and broadly smiling during the ceremony. The Cuban leader greeted reporters in Russian.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Russia and Cuba enjoyed close relations during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and Washington.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The volume of trade between the two countries last year was roughly $200 million. Oil companies from Russia, the world's largest energy exporter, are drilling into Cuba's offshore oil deposits.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reuters</p> Court Annuls Ban on Fascist, Communist Symbols2013-02-22<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The decision sparked a nationwide outcry, with the government now seeking alternative ways of banning the symbols. Jewish organizations said the decision hurts all Hungarian Jews, while Hungary&rsquo;s communists said the move does nothing to address the issues it fights for.The ban was too broad and imprecise, the court ruled. Banning symbols of tyranny may be justified in the interest of defending human dignity and the constitutional order, but the regulations in place disproportionately restrict freedom of expression, it said. In its Tuesday decision, the court reversed a verdict from 2000. In doing so, it pointed to the example of the European Court of Human Rights, which struck down the ban on symbols of tyranny.</p> <p>The president of Mazsihisz, the alliance of Hungary&rsquo;s Jewish communities, said the case highlights the importance of treating fascist and communist symbolism differently within the law.</p> <p>&ldquo;The current decision is just like throwing out the baby with the bathwater,&rdquo; Mazsihisz President Peter Feldmajer said.</p> <p>&ldquo;This decision doesn&rsquo;t mean we&rsquo;ll start marching up and down the streets wearing red stars, this isn&rsquo;t what our fight is about,&rdquo; said Zsuzsanna Fogarasi, vice-president of the Hungarian Communist Workers Party, a minor left-wing opposition that still adheres to the ideas of communism. She said the ruling doesn&rsquo;t solve issues such as unemployment.</p> <p>Ms. Fogarasi also said it was &ldquo;weird&rdquo; that the court enabled the usage of fascist symbols.</p> <p>&ldquo;People marching under flags with a swastika think about killing other people,&rdquo; she added.</p> <p>Antal Rogan, the governing Fidesz party&rsquo;s parliamentary group leader, said the decision offends not only Jewish communities but also all the living victims of communism in Hungary.</p> <p>&ldquo;The decision could have grave consequences because anybody can walk around in the streets with SS-badges, red stars and swastikas from May 1 onward,&rdquo; Mr. Rogan said, adding the Basic Law may need to be modified to keep the symbols out of sight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> government to resign2013-02-21<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PM said he had decided to go after protesters against rising electricity prices clashed with police in Sofia. At least 14 people were injured during Tuesday's demonstrations.</p> <p>"I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people," Mr Borisov said.</p> <p><span>The street protests across Bulgaria - the EU's poorest country - which began two weeks ago, were initially over high electricity prices but soon took an anti-government turn.&nbsp;</span><span>The PM tried to calm the protests on Tuesday by promising to slash prices and by sacking his finance minister.&nbsp;</span><span>He also pledged to punish foreign-owned power companies that he said charged too much. But m</span><span>any Bulgarians remain deeply unhappy over high energy costs, power monopolies, low living standards and corruption.</span></p> <p><span>Parliament will vote on the resignation on Thursday. If it is accepted, President Rosen Plevneliev, a political ally of the prime minister, will have to appoint an interim government to rule until the next parliamentary elections.&nbsp;</span><span>It was not immediately clear whether or not a parliamentary election scheduled for July would now be brought forward.</span></p> <p>Many of the protesters in Sofia and other major Bulgarian cities had demanded the resignation of the centre-right GERB party government and the re-nationalisation of power distributors. The government lost support after it abandoned plans in March 2012 to build a new nuclear power station at Belene, close to the Romanian border. A controversial referendum last month on whether to build a second nuclear power plant was invalidated by a low turnout, although more than 60% of those who voted backed the idea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Ambassador: Lithuania was incorporated into Soviet Union “rather peacefully”2013-02-15<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The published archival materials undeniably show that Soviet Lithuania existed. By the way, it is noted in the introductory article containing references to archival materials that Lithuania&rsquo;s incorporation into the internal system of the Soviet Union happened rather peacefully,&rdquo; the Russian diplomat said.</p> <p>&ldquo;The documents, in my opinion, have great importance for the description and evaluation of a period of common history difficult for all of us and not only all of us. To my mind, it&rsquo;s very important also because efforts have recently been made in historical literature as well to falsify the truth, to diminish the Soviet Union&rsquo;s role in the victory against Fascism,&rdquo; Chkhikvadze said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The introductory article written by Ceslovas Laurinavicius of the Lithuanian Institute of History says the periods between August, 1940 until August, 1945 can be divided into four stages. According to Laurinavicius, the first stage could be considered the period between August, 1940 until June, 1941 when stepped-up destruction of Lithuanian state institution and the country&rsquo;s incorporation into the Soviet Union&rsquo;s internal system took place.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is worth noting that this process started without any clear signs of resistance (apart from protests by Lithuanian diplomats accredited to foreign countries), and, unfortunately, this circumstance has so far been subjected to speculations of various kinds,&rdquo; Laurinavicius writes.</p> <p>Later in the article, the historian also describes the fourth stage from 1944 until the end of 1945.</p> <p>&ldquo;Liberation from Nazism did not mean the restoration of statehood for Lithuania. A cruel Stalinist regime came into the country, which only heated up rising national resistance. The inertia of cruelties continued in Lithuania, a guerilla war was long and bloody,&rdquo; the article says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Journalists are self-censoring and reporting only on what are considered safe topics2013-02-13<p><span>Appearances can be slightly deceiving when it comes to gauging the operating environment for reporters in Kyrgyzstan. Reporters Without Borders, in its 2013 World Press Freedom Index, indicated that Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s media climate is the most favorable in Central Asia, ranking it 106th, out of the 179 countries evaluated.&nbsp;</span></p> <p> <p>The Reporters Without Borders report looks at Kyrgyzstan as a whole. Local observers, however, say that conditions in the northern and southern sections of the country are markedly different. Southern Kyrgyzstan was the scene of widespread inter-ethnic violence in 2010 and&nbsp;tensions have remained highthere since then, with ethnic Uzbeks feeling particularly skittish. Given the situation, the quality of&nbsp;journalism in the region&nbsp;is suffering, according to a Bishkek-based media watchdog, called Journalists.</p> <p>&ldquo;The sad reality is that journalists in southern Kyrgyzstan try to defend themselves by heavy self-censorship,&rdquo; Aigul Matieva, a media lawyer and attorney for Journalists, told &ldquo;Media people do not dare to write openly about their concerns, as they are low-paid and vulnerable.&rdquo;</p> <p>Local officials in southern Kyrgyzstan deny that the media climate is repressive. &ldquo;The government does not interfere in work of journalists,&rdquo; Kamil Sydykov, the head of the Osh Mayor&rsquo;s Press Service, told &ldquo;They decide how they write and what they write about. We do not control them, and do not give them instructions.&rdquo;</p> <p>Journalists in southern Kyrgyzstan contend that authorities don&rsquo;t need to be heavy-handed because, based on what has occurred in the region over the past&nbsp;two-plus years, it&rsquo;s easy for anyone to anticipate what can happen to those who contradict the official line. Cholpon S., a local journalist from Osh, who asked to change her name for security reasons, readily admits that she avoids writing anything critical of the policies and practices of government officials, both on the local and national level.</p> <p><span>Cholpon is not an exception as many journalists admit to being concerned about their personal security. Stanislav Polishuk, a freelance reporter based in Osh, says journalists self-censor their stories because they realize &ldquo;in case of trouble nothing can protect him or her.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>Begaim Usenova, the head of Institute for Media Policy in Bishkek, says the threat of lawsuits is a significant factor in media self-censorship.&nbsp;</span>Kyrgyz courts<span>&nbsp;are not deemed independent and officials have been known to use the judicial system to enforce their political will.&nbsp;</span></p> </p> Government Detains Outspoken Critics2013-02-08<p><span>In January, mass protests in the town led to clashes with police.&nbsp;</span><span>On February 4, 2013, Baku&rsquo;s Nasimi District Court remanded the two men &ndash; Ilgar Mammadov, a political analyst and chair of the opposition group &ldquo;REAL,&rdquo; and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and a journalist with opposition daily&nbsp;</span><em>Yeni Musavat</em><span>&nbsp;&ndash; to two months&rsquo; pretrial custody. A court also remanded Ismayilli residents Mirkazim Abdullayev and Elshen Ismayilli to two months&rsquo; pretrial custody on the same charges.</span></p> <p><span>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re concerned that last month&rsquo;s&nbsp;</span>violence<span>&nbsp;will be used as a pretext to silence two outspoken government critics,&rdquo; said&nbsp;</span>Giorgi Gogia<span>, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. &ldquo;The authorities should release Mammadov and Yagublu from pretrial detention and produce credible evidence that the charges are justified.&rdquo;</span><br /><br /><span>According to a charge sheet issued by the Prosecutor General&rsquo;s Grave Crimes Investigation Department, Mammadov and Yagublu are accused of instigating protests and violence on January 24 in Ismayilli, a regional center about 200 kilometers northwest of Baku.</span></p> <p><span>In a January 29 joint statement, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Interior and prosecutor general&rsquo;s office said that Mammadov and Yagublu went to Ismayilli on January 24 and &ldquo;urged residents to resist police, [and] block the traffic in order to violate socio-economic stability.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>&ldquo;Azerbaijan&rsquo;s harsh political climate and this government&rsquo;s record of imprisoning people for political reasons suggests retaliation in this case,&rdquo; Gogia said. &ldquo;We fear that the authorities are trying to put the blame for protests on government critics, instead of investigating the roots of the unrest.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>The recent arrests in Baku and Ismayilli came shortly after the Council of Europe&rsquo;s Parliamentary Assembly&nbsp;</span>adopted<span>&nbsp;a report highly critical of the Azerbaijani government&rsquo;s human rights record. The assembly said that &ldquo;it is alarmed by reports &hellip; about the alleged use of so-called fabricated charges against activists and journalists.&rdquo; It further elaborated that &ldquo;the combination of the restrictive implementation of freedoms with unfair trials and the undue influence of the executive, results in systematic detentions of people who may be considered prisoners of conscience.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p> jails activists for subversion amid crackdown on dissidents2013-02-04<p style="text-align: justify;">A court in Vietnam has sentenced a man to life in prison and given jail terms of up to 17 years to other defendants after they were found guilty of "subversive activities", according to the state-run Vietnam Television.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The verdict follows a series of harsh punishments handed down for dissent in the communist-ruled country, at a time of reported political infighting among the leadership centred on how to reform the economy and tackle management problems at big state firms that have led to bad debt.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The people's court of Phu Yen province gave a life sentence to Phan Van Thu, head of a group that wanted to establish a new government in Vietnam, the television station said in a news bulletin.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Jail terms of between 12 and 17 years were handed to others in the case, the television station said without elaborating. "Their action has seriously violated the laws," it added.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">People's Police newspaper, run by the public security ministry, said Thu and others had joined forces in a tourist resort in the central province of Phu Yen from 2004, printing anti-government documents until their arrest in February 2012.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Thu had spent time in prison for anti-government activities in the late 1970s, the newspaper said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In January, 13 political activists were found guilty of anti-state crimes and sentenced to prison, a ruling condemned by rights activists as part of a crackdown on dissidents.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Late last month police arrested the human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan in Hanoi after he wrote an article criticising the Communist party, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2013, published on Friday.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The Vietnamese government is systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule," the report stated.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Among other cases, on 24 January security forces detained a blogger in the northern province of Hung Yen and sent him to a mental institution, according to a letter to Vietnam's leaders from the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Last week, the authorities deported Nguyen Quoc Quan, a US national of Vietnamese origin, after keeping him in prison without trial since April last year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Quan was accused of subversion and of being a member of Viet Tan, an outlawed pro-democracy group based in the US, the Communist party newspaper Nhan Dan wrote.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Quan's trial, which had been scheduled for 22 January, was dropped, He was freed on 30 January, the Viet Tan group said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Guardian</p> Ashgabat Talks Privatization and WTO, Surprising Observers 2013-01-31<p style="text-align: justify;">For almost two decades, Turkmenistan took steps to seal itself off from outside influences and tightened the state&rsquo;s grip over all aspects of the economy. But now, Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the country&rsquo;s self-proclaimed protector, is signalling a desire to open up his country&rsquo;s Soviet-style command economy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Given Berdymukhamedov&rsquo;s poor track record on making good on his liberalization promises, few are taking him at his word. Since assuming power in 2006, Berdymukhamedov&rsquo;s many reform initiatives, such as efforts to expand educational opportunities, broaden access to the Internet and create a competitive political system -- have all gone unfulfilled.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But past performance hasn&rsquo;t stopped Berdymukhamedov from making grand assertions about future results. In early January, he announced that his government would start selling off select state-owned assets. A week later, on January 19, Berdymukhamedov ordered the establishment of a governmental commission to start membership talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It is unclear what is up for grabs, and if foreign firms can participate, but one official told Reuters the sell-off would not extend to the lucrative oil and gas sector -- the cash cow of Turkmenistan&rsquo;s economy. The sectors eyed for privatization, the official indicated, would include transport, construction and communications.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Observers say it will be hard for Turkmenistan &ndash; which has no experience with large-scale privatization, has an anaemic private sector, and is listed in global rankings as one of the world's most corrupt and repressive countries &ndash; to attract investment outside its oil and gas industries.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The privatization drive and WTO membership &ldquo;are promising on paper, but in reality are simply red-herrings and are unlikely to be realized successfully under the current Turkmen administration," said Kate Mallinson, a senior political risk analyst at the London-based GPW think-tank, noting that Berdymukhamedov also promised in 2011 to introduce international accounting standards and a national stock exchange. Little has been said since about those projects.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Mallinson believes that the small circle of corrupt elites running most of Turkmenistan&rsquo;s economy has no incentive to change. "The Soviet-style command economy is currently tightly controlled by a few elite members close to the president and the government, which is continuing its monthly carousel rotation of ministers and neo-patrimonial power mechanisms,&rdquo; she said. This group &ldquo;is under-qualified to undertake such a significant transition to a market economy."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Turkmenistan ranked 170th out of 176 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in 2012, while the World Bank does not even include Turkmenistan in its annual Doing Business report.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It will be vital for any investors venturing into Turkmenistan's opaque economy to schmooze with top members of the regime, says Alice Mummery, a Central Asia analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. "The state apparatus is secretive and close relationships with political insiders are essential for conducting business. Only the most risk-inclined investors will be prepared to enter the country," Mummery told</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Dmitry Alexandrov, head of research at Moscow-based Univer Capital, says he views the promised reforms with caution, but believes that should Berdymukhamedov manage to create a clear "ladder of responsibility and a [road]map" for investors, the government&rsquo;s privatization drive might attract some interest. Privatization is a good starting point, Alexandrov said, because it makes it possible to "tune and check the mechanism of counteraction and collaboration between investors and government." Future membership in the WTO would hinge on a successful privatization campaign, Alexandrov added.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Even if the Turkmen government manages to carry out its privatization plan for 2013-2016, drafted in November and endorsed by Berdymukhamedov this month, the country would still struggle to liberalize the economy, Mummery said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"It is highly unlikely that privatization in some areas of the non-oil economy will lead to any substantial opening up of the Turkmen economy. The authorities will remain overwhelmingly dependent on revenue from the energy sector, which limits their incentive to pursue market-friendly reforms," Mummery said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Turkmenistan also must improve the regulatory environment, Mallinson at GPW believes, easing the Byzantine tax regime and introducing a transparent judiciary to attract foreign companies outside the energy sector. "The only foreign companies queuing up outside the Turkmen governments&rsquo; doors are international oil and gas companies eager to access Turkmenistan&rsquo;s vast gas reserves,&rdquo; she told Turkmenistan is believed to have the world&rsquo;s fourth-largest gas reserves.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;Turkmenistan&rsquo;s isolation from Western markets also thwarts anything but the largest players from entering the market,&rdquo; Mallinson added. &ldquo;Consequently, the main winners of the forthcoming privatization are likely to be Russian, Turkish and Chinese companies." China is already the leading destination for Turkmenistan&rsquo;s gas.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">When it comes to WTO membership, the experience of neighboring countries with far more open economies has shown accession to be a lengthy process. Before joining in 2012, Russia negotiated for 19 years; Kazakhstan, which opened membership talks in 1996, is still negotiating. Turkmenistan&rsquo;s WTO aspirations are hampered by the "leadership's commitment to 'permanent neutrality,' which tends to guide policy in the closely related areas of foreign relations and diversification of gas export routes." Moreover, she added, the openness required of WTO membership could destroy &ldquo;the economic mechanisms by which the rule of the competing cliques around the president are [&hellip;] maintained."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Whether economic liberalization could possibly lead to wider democratic reforms may hinge on Turkmenistan's choice of foreign partners. "Human rights reform is unlikely to accompany any kind of economic liberalization, particularly with the exponential growth of Chinese influence on the Turkmen economy," Mallinson cautioned.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Originally published by <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> Korean Leader Vows ‘High-Profile’ Retaliation Over New U.N. Sanctions2013-01-29<p style="text-align: justify;">Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has ordered his top military and party officials to take &ldquo;substantial and high-profile important state measures&rdquo; to retaliate against American-led United Nations sanctions on the country, the North&rsquo;s official media reported Sunday.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">North Korea did not clarify what those measures might be, but it referred to a series of earlier statements in which Mr. Kim&rsquo;s government has threatened to launch more long-range rockets and conduct a third nuclear test to build an ability to &ldquo;target&rdquo; the United States.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Mr. Kim threw his weight behind his government&rsquo;s escalating standoff with Washington when he called a meeting of top security and foreign affairs officials and gave an instruction in his name. He inherited the posts of supreme party and military leaders from his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">By calling such a meeting and having it reported in state news media, Mr. Kim appeared to be asserting his leadership in what his country called an &ldquo;all-out action&rdquo; against the United States, unlike his father, who tended to remain reclusive during similar confrontations.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;At the consultative meeting, Kim Jong-un expressed the firm resolution to take substantial and high-profile important state measures in view of the prevailing situation,&rdquo; said the North&rsquo;s Korean Central News Agency, or K.C.N.A. &ldquo;He advanced specific tasks to the officials concerned.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The K.C.N.A. dispatch, which was distributed Sunday, was dated Saturday, indicating that the meeting in Pyongyang, the capital, took place then. That was the same day on which the North&rsquo;s main party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said that the United Nations Security Council&rsquo;s resolution last Tuesday calling for tightening sanctions against the North left it with &ldquo;no other option&rdquo; but a nuclear test.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The resolution was adopted unanimously &mdash; with the support of the North&rsquo;s traditional protector, China &mdash; as punishment for its Dec. 12 rocket launching. The Security Council determined that the launching was a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology and a violation of its earlier resolutions banning North Korea from conducting such tests.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The North rejected the old resolutions, as well as the latest one, insisting that launching rockets to put satellites into orbit was its sovereign right. Its successful rocket launching in December, coming after a failure last April, was the most visible achievement that Mr. Kim&rsquo;s government could present to its people, who have suffered decades of poverty and isolation. In North Korean propaganda, defending the rocket program is likened to protecting national pride and independence &mdash; even if the country has to pay a high economic price.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Last Thursday, North Korea said that its drive to rebuild its moribund economy and its rocket program, until now billed as a peaceful space project, would be adjusted and redirected toward efforts to foil hostilities by the United States. On Sunday, it said the Security Council&rsquo;s action &ldquo;has thrown a grave obstacle&rdquo; in the way of its efforts to focus on &ldquo;economic construction so that the people may not tighten their belts any longer.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Still, it said it had to &ldquo;defend its sovereignty by itself&rdquo; because &ldquo;different countries concerned&rdquo; failed to &ldquo;fairly solve the problem.&rdquo; In the past few days, North Korea, without citing China by name, expressed bitterness and defiance against its longtime Communist ally for endorsing the American-led Security Council resolution. On Saturday, Rodong Sinmun reaffirmed its dislike of &ldquo;sadae,&rdquo; or toadying to big countries, including China.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">China provides all of North Korea&rsquo;s fuel and remains its biggest trading partner, but analysts believe that its influence on the recalcitrant government in Pyongyang is limited. China has been thus far reluctant to use its economic leverage, fearing that it would only drive its neighbor into more provocations, which would be a blow to China&rsquo;s interest in maintaining stability in the region.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">International attention has focused on the Punggye nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea, where the country conducted its two previous underground nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009. Enough preparations have been made there recently that a third test could happen on short notice from the North Korean leadership, South Korean officials said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In a report issued Sunday, the Institute for National Security Strategy, a research organization affiliated with South Korea&rsquo;s main intelligence service, said that North Korea might use provocations this year to tame the government of President-elect Park Geun-hye, who will be sworn in next month.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;It will wait and see until the new government&rsquo;s North Korea policy shapes up,&rdquo; it said. &ldquo;If the policy is not favorable, the North may lash out with provocations.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times</p>'s economy grows 7.5 pct in 20122013-01-22<p style="text-align: justify;">Tajikistan said its economy grew 7.5 percent last year, slightly faster than in 2011 and buoyed by remittances from migrant workers and growth in its mining industry despite a slump in key export, aluminium.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan, which borders China and Afghanistan, is the poorest of the 15 post-Soviet republics and is a net importer of oil and gas. It relies heavily on aluminium and cotton exports, as well as remittances from the approximately 1 million of its 7.5 million citizens who live and work abroad, mainly in Russia.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In nominal terms, Tajikistan's gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 36.161 billion somoni ($7.6 billion) last year, the state statistics agency said on Monday. In the previous year the economy grew 7.4 percent. Industrial output growth accelerated to 10.4 percent in 2012 from 5.9 percent in 2011. It was driven by a 24 percent rise in the extraction of mostly oil, gas, coal, non-metal ores and edible salt, and by a 9.5 percent rise in manufacturing production. Worker remittances rose 13.2 percent in January-September from a year earlier to $2.4 billion or 46 percent of gross domestic product, but full-year data is not yet available.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Easing inflation, which slowed to 6.4 percent by the end of 2012, from 9.3 percent a year earlier, helped the economy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">However, Tajikistan's foreign trade deficit widened to $2.4 billion last year from $1.9 billion in 2011, as exports of primary aluminium dropped by 18.9 percent to $556 million in 2012.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The country has implemented reforms to try and transform to a market economy and hopes to join the World Trade Organisation this year after getting the go ahead in December after 11 years of talks. It would be only the second Central Asian republic after Kyrgyzstan to join the trade body.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Russia extended its military presence in Tajikistan for 30 years in October to secure the southern fringes of its former Soviet empire after NATO troops leave Afghanistan. As part of the deal to prolong its presence, Moscow provided a package of agreements that could bolster Tajikistan's economy, including better terms for Tajik migrant workers in Russia. Other deals pledged cooperation building hydropower facilities and removing import duties on Russian light oil products used in Tajikistan.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Russian military and economic support is particularly important to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, whose rule has been challenged by chronic poverty, the growth of radical Islam and sporadic outbreaks of violence.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reuters</p> Tibetan burnings increase, China seizes residents, TVs, goes on propaganda offensive2013-01-21<p> <p>The measures include criminalizing the suicides, arresting protesters&rsquo; friends and even confiscating thousands of satellite TV dishes.</p> <p>The harsh measures provide an early indication that the country&rsquo;s new leadership is not easing up on Tibet despite the burning protests and international condemnation.</p> <p><span>For months, as Tibetans across western China doused themselves in gasoline and set themselves alight, authorities responded by sending in security forces to seal off areas and prevent information from getting out, but those efforts did not stop or slow the protests. The self-immolations even accelerated in November as China&rsquo;s ruling Communist Party held a pivotal leadership transition.</span></p> <p><span>Then the government went on the offensive in December, announcing through a state-owned newspaper that the burnings are the work of foreign hostile forces keen on separating Tibet from the mainland and that those who help others self-immolate are liable to be prosecuted for murder. Arrests quickly followed.</span></p> <p><span>Nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire since 2009, calling for Beijing to allow greater religious freedom and the return from exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.</span></p> <p><span>This week, police in Gansu province of western China announced the arrests of seven people accused of helping a Tibetan villager self-immolate in October and said investigations showed that two of the men were members of the overseas-based Tibetan Youth Congress, which they said had &ldquo;masterminded&rdquo; the protest.</span></p> <p><span>It was only the latest example of harsher measures being used in an effort to stem the unrest. Last month, authorities in Qinghai province announced they had detained &ldquo;major&rdquo; suspects allegedly involved in five self-immolations, while police in a county in Sichuan province said a monk and his nephew were being held for similar reasons.</span></p> <p><span>Qinghai authorities said on Monday they had conducted a sweep of households in restive Tongren county and seized and destroyed more than 1,800 illegal satellite TV dishes. Local newspapers have run commentaries condemning the Dalai Lama and decrying what they describe as the &ldquo;slaughter of life.&rdquo; State broadcaster CCTV has aired documentaries of the same theme and a historic drama series about the life of a Tibetan serf-turned-Chinese patriot.</span></p> </p> rights chief seeks international investigation on North Korea2013-01-14<p style="text-align: justify;">U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called on Monday for an international investigation into what she said were decades of serious violations in North Korea.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">She voiced regret that there had been no improvement since Kim Jong-un took power a year ago.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Pillay, in a rare statement on North Korea, said: "Because of the enduring gravity of the situation, I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst - but least understood and reported - human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Pillay regretted that international concerns over North Korea's controversial nuclear program and rocket launches were overshadowing "the deplorable human rights situation in the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)".</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The reclusive country's network of political prison camps, believed to contain 200,000 people or more, were marked by rampant violations, including rapes, torture, executions and slave labor, she said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"There were some initial hopes that the advent of a new leader might bring about some positive change in the human rights situation in DPRK," she said. "But a year after Kim Jong Un became the country's new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reuters</p> to reform controversial forced labor camps2013-01-07<p style="text-align: justify;">China's "re-education through labor" system, in place since 1957, empowers police to sentence petty criminals to up to four years' confinement without going through the courts, a system that critics say undermines the rule of law and is used against political activists.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The announcement by state news agency Xinhua contradicted earlier media reports that cited domestic security head Meng Jianzhu as saying China would scrap the system. Those reports were removed from media websites without an explanation.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The Chinese government will this year push the reform of its controversial re-education through labor system, according to a national political and legal work conference on Monday," Xinhua reported.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">State broadcaster CCTV had said earlier on its microblog site, citing the party's newly appointed Political and Legal Affairs Committee head, Meng, as saying: "Use of the re-education through labor system will end this year, after approval from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The labor camp system has come under fire from intellectuals, rights lawyers and activists, and even state media.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">State media has taken up the case of people it believes have suffered miscarriages of justice under the system such as Ren Jianyu, a village official sentenced to a labor camp after he criticized the government.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Media also rallied to the defense of Tang Hui, a woman who was sent to a labor camp in August for demanding that the men who had raped her daughter be given harsher punishment. She was later released.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">China has 350 labor camps throughout the country, housing about 160,000 inmates, according to Xinhua, which cited the bureau of "re-education through labor" under the Ministry of Justice.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Whether China reforms the system hinges on the power of security agencies, which are responsible for reining in social unrest that threatens the party's efforts to maintain stability.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reuters</p> media accepts controversal financial aid2013-01-07<p>Under the decade-long rule of President Ilham Aliev, Azerbaijan has earned one of the worst press freedom records in the world. Journalists face harassment, attack, and blackmail, landing Aliev on Reporters Without Borders' list of "predators of press freedom" for six years running.</p> <p align="left">But Baku also supports the very same media that local journalists and rights monitors like Reporters, Amnesty International, and Freedom House say are under attack. Indeed, since 2010 the government has handed out millions of dollars to newspapers and other outlets through the State Support Fund for the Development of Mass Media.</p> <p align="left">&nbsp;</p> <p align="left">For many news outlets, the aid is the only thing keeping the proverbial presses running in Azerbaijan's anemic advertising market. Prominent editors say they have no choice but to apply for the money despite the conflict of interest and other drawbacks, namely the risk of self-censorship.</p> <p>And while some journalists insist that accepting the taxpayer-funded aid doesn't necessarily jeopardize their reporting or integrity, Arif Aliev, chairman of the Yeni Nesil (New Generation) journalists' union, suggested that recipients are making a deal with the devil.</p> <p align="left">"But I cannot blame them," he said, adding that foreign support is falling alongside ad spending. "The media have three options: close; continue with the money [they have] and see quality deteriorate; or get state aid and betray journalistic principles."</p> <p align="left">&nbsp;</p> <p align="left">DESPERATE TIMES, DESPERATE MEASURES</p> <p align="left">&nbsp;</p> <p align="left">Established in 2009 under the auspices of the president, the mass-media support fund claims to contribute to media independence and development, as well as freedom of thought, through direct aid and funding for special reporting projects on important social and political issues. So far, 5.4 million manats ($6.9 million) have been distributed to dozens of independent, opposition. and state-run news outlets.</p> <p align="left">The twin Azeri-language&nbsp;<em>Ayna&nbsp;</em>and Russian&nbsp;<em>Zerkalo</em>&nbsp;newspapers together make up one of the most read independent publications in Azerbaijan with a circulation of roughly 8,000. Last April, one of&nbsp;<em>Ayna/Zerkalo</em>'s reporters was beaten by security officers of the State Oil Company as he tried to film the company-ordered demolition of houses in Baku's Sulutepe district. But the papers have also received 198,500 manats from the fund, according to government figures, to report on social issues like the family's role in society.</p> <p align="left">Editor in chief Elchin Shikhli said he doesn't like taking the money, but that he has no choice with monthly ad revenue down some 50 percent since 2009. Baku doesn't try to influence story structure or content, he said, but the aid does come at a cost.</p> <p align="left">"It leads to self-censorship," Shikhli said. "Unconsciously, it is always in my mind that I need that money, and I try to avoid things that could affect our future, even if I haven't been warned."</p> <p align="left">Though figures on the larger advertising market are scarce, other prominent Azerbaijani media are just as desperate as&nbsp;<em>Ayna/Zerkalo.</em></p> <p align="left">"Journalism is about to die in this country," said Rauf Arifoghlu, editor of the popular opposition newspaper&nbsp;<em>Yeni Musavat</em>. "Instead of closing, we prefer to continue publishing. Devoting one page to an issue mandated by the government is better than closing the newspaper after more than 20 years."</p> <p align="left">Arifoghlu spent 17 months in prison for helping organize mass protests in October 2003, after then-Prime Minister Aliev was declared the winner of elections to succeed his ailing father Heydar as president. Yet as editor of&nbsp;<em>Yeni Musavat</em>, he has accepted 223,500 manats in aid for covering the secessionist Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over the mostly Armenian-populated territory in the early 1990s, and a tenuous ceasefire is in place today.</p> <p align="left">Arifoghlu said he rarely clashes with officials because the newspaper's coverage of Nagorno-Karabakh often scans with the government's anti-Armenia position, though it occasionally faults Baku's approach to resolving the conflict.</p> <p align="left">"When we do that, we get friendly criticism from the government," he said, laughing. "But in general, [the state aid] does not affect our freedom to criticize the government."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p align="left">"IT IS OUR MONEY"</p> <p align="left">&nbsp;</p> <p align="left">Aliev of the New Generation journalists' union insisted that government aid to media, whether independent, opposition, or state-run, can't help but lead to dependence and self-censorship. At the same time, he said, the support is doing little for the press.</p> <p align="left">"The quality of newspapers and their websites is not improving. It is shameful to have [such a low] quality of newspapers in a country with so much money," Aliev said, referring to Azerbaijan's considerable oil wealth. "Newspaper circulation is not increasing, and the advertising market is very poor. The assistance isn't changing anything."</p> <p align="left">But Rashad Majid, a member of the council responsible for overseeing the media support fund and a newspaper editor himself, said the aid is more about providing a critical lifeline.</p> <p align="left">"We should understand that the financial assistance aims to save collapsing media - to help them survive, not to develop them," he said. "To do [the latter], the advertising market needs to improve."</p> <p align="left">Ad money is so scarce, experts say, because Azerbaijan's economy is dominated by energy majors like British Petroleum and Lukoil on fat government contracts, not small and medium sized businesses that need advertising to promote their goods and services. Majid also noted peculiarities within Azerbaijani society, citing the country's thriving construction industry, which, for cultural reasons, doesn't see advertising as key to business development.</p> <p align="left">Outlets which back the opposition, especially, struggle to find advertisers. But Aflatun Amashov, chairman of the Press Council, a pro-government media monitor, said last summer that legislators are working on a strategy to distribute advertising equally across the country's 40 daily newspapers, 200 online papers, over 20 television stations and various other media, though it's unclear how this would work in practice.</p> <p align="left">For its part, Baku stridently defends the fund. Bakhtiyar Sadigov, a legislator with the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, editor of the state-run&nbsp;<em>Azerbaycan</em>&nbsp;newspaper, and a member of the media fund's oversight council, recently called "ridiculous" accusations that Baku is trying to manipulate the press financially. The aid program is voluntary, he said, and the government must support media while the advertising market remains weak.</p> <p align="left">Some journalists are sympathetic to this view. Yadigar Mammadli, chairman of the Democratic Journalists' League, said the aid needn't necessarily lead to self-censorship because it is taxpayer money and targeting it to the country's development, including the media environment, is an appropriate use.</p> <p align="left">"Media should take advantage of it," he said. "The money is from the state budget, not the personal account of any official. Those media that receive the assistance should show that they cannot be manipulated and should feel absolutely free to criticize the government. That is how they can make the government realize that it cannot suppress the voice of society with its own money."</p> <p align="left">Rahim Hajiyev, deputy editor of the opposition newspaper&nbsp;<em>Azadliq</em>, which has seen several staff members arrested and even attacked for their reporting, echoed Mammadli. While the fund is little more than a PR campaign to improve Baku's image abroad, he said, accepting assistance doesn't compromise&nbsp;<em>Azadliq</em>.</p> <p align="left">"It is our money," Hajiyev said. "No one can ever tell me what to write because he or she allocates money to me from the state budget, a budget formed by all Azerbaijani citizens for their own future."</p> shuts website of leading reformist magazine2013-01-04<p style="text-align: justify;">China shut the website of a leading pro-reform magazine on Friday, apparently because it ran an article calling for political reform and constitutional government, sensitive topics for the ruling Communist Party which brooks no dissent.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Yanhuang Chunqiu" (China Through the Ages) is an influential Beijing magazine that features essays from reformist retired officials.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In a message posted on its official Sina Weibo microblog, the magazine said that it had been informed on Thursday that the site's registration had been canceled and that it had not been given a reason. "The magazine is trying to find out details," it said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Attempts to open the website ( bring up a cartoon picture of a policemen holding up a badge and the message that the site has been closed.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">However, the article which seems to have offended the censors, written in the form of a new year's message, is still up on the magazine's microblog.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"In more than 30 years of reform, the abuses caused by political reform lagging economic reform have become daily more visible, and the factors for social instability have gradually accumulated. Promoting reform of the political system is an urgent task," the piece says.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Analysts have been searching for signs that China's new leaders might steer a path of political reform, whether by allowing freer expression on the internet, greater experimentation with grassroots democracy or releasing jailed dissidents.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But the party, which tolerates no challenge to its rule and values stability above all else, has so far shown little sign of wanting to go down this path, despite president-in-waiting and party chief Xi Jinping trying to project a softer and more open image than his predecessor.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Weibo users flocked to offer their support for the magazine and to excoriate Xi.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"People who are putting their hopes in Xi need to wake up," wrote one.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Xi, who became party boss in November, takes over from Hu Jintao as president at the annual meeting of parliament in March, part of a generational leadership change.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Last month, a prominent group of Chinese academics warned in a bold open letter that the country risks "violent revolution" if the government does not respond to public pressure and allow long-stalled political reforms.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reuters</p> to pay compensations to those who refused service in Soviet army2013-01-03<p>Lithuania will this year pay monetary compensations to persons who refused service in the Soviet army and were thus aggrieved, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.&nbsp;</p> <p>The one-off compensation of 4,000 litas (EUR 1,159) will be available to persons who refused to serve in the Soviet Armed Forces after Lithuania declared independence on March 11 1990 and were consequently taken to Soviet army divisions by force, sentenced to jail for withdrawal from the Soviet army or boycott of call-up, were forced to return and continue their service until Sept. 7 1991.</p> <p>The one-off compensations will be paid in line with a resolution of the 2008-2012 parliament.</p> <p>Some 150,000 litas are envisaged for the purpose in the Defense Ministry's budget this year. Should the compensation sum exceed the amount, other compensations will be paid out in January of 2014.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> cuts state payroll, private sector jobs grow 23% in 20122012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Cuba's drive to slash state payrolls and spur private-sector growth picked up surprising steam in 2012 as President Raul Castro moved ahead with reforms to the Soviet-style economy, according to figures unveiled recently with little hoopla.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The number of private or "non state" workers rose 23 percent in 2012, while state sector employment dropped 5.7 percent, according to a report from Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez. The unemployment rate grew to a record 3.8 percent, not including Cubans who did not seek work.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The wide-ranging year-end report to the National Assembly, which met in Havana last week, indicated the government is quietly making progress toward its goal of moving toward a more market-oriented economy while maintaining the socialist system in place the last half century.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Just a few years ago, the state employed more than 85 percent of Cuba's labor force, but that is changing as the government battles heavy indebtedness, economic stagnation, poor retail services and pilfering.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The report said the government cut 228,000 public jobs in 2012, on top of the previously announced 137,000 in 2011, closing in on its goal to slash 20 percent, or nearly a million jobs, from its bloated payrolls, by 2016.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">At the same time, the number of private, or "non-state" workers as Cuba calls them, rose to 1.1 million jobs, double the number reported two years ago.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Starting in 2013 the state plans to turn more than 200 medium-sized businesses, from shrimp breeding and produce markets to construction and light manufacturing, into private cooperatives. The experiment will be expanded if successful.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Yzquierdo reported that unemployment was a record 3.8 percent in 2012, or a bit more than 250,000 out of a potential labor force of 6.8 million people. He admitted that the figure did not include a million Cubans who he said "did not actively seek employment."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Many of those without jobs still enjoy free health care, education, subsidized food ration and other government services while also dealing in Cuba's vast black market, engaging in minor business activity and trading on the margins of the law.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Marc Frank, Reuters</p>, Lust, and Lies under Communism: Family Values and Adulterous Liaisons in Early East Germany2012-12-28<p>Port, A.I., 'Love, Lust, and Lies under Communism: Family Values and Adulterous Liaisons in Early East Germany', <em>Central European History, </em>Vol. 44, No. 3 (2011), 478-505.</p> <p>According to a joke that made the rounds in the former Soviet Union, women from different countries held on to their husbands in different ways: the German by her skills as a housewife, the Spaniard by her passionate lovemaking, the Frenchwoman by her refined elegance&mdash;and the Russian by the party committee. This sexist quip was a not so oblique reference to the ways in which the communist party intervened in the private domestic affairs of its members. But&mdash;even leaving aside the obviously offensive&mdash;it was not entirely accurate, for the practice was just as common in other communist countries as well. This included the eastern half of postwar Germany, where, as in the Soviet Union, the wives of adulterous members of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) sometimes appealed to local functionaries for assistance with their straying husbands.</p> <p><a href=";aid=8365938&amp;fulltextType=RA&amp;fileId=S0008938911000409" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Visions of Family Life in the Stalin-Era Soviet Union2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Kaminsky, L., 'Utopian Visions of Family Life in the Stalin-Era Soviet Union', <em>Central European History, </em>Vol.44, No.1 (2011), 63-91.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Soviet socialism shared with its utopian socialist predecessors a critique of the conventional family and its household economy. Marx and Engels asserted that women's emancipation would follow the abolition of private property, allowing the family to be a union of individuals within which relations between the sexes would be &ldquo;a purely private affair.&rdquo; Building on this legacy, Lenin imagined a future when unpaid housework and child care would be replaced by communal dining rooms, nurseries, kindergartens, and other industries. The issue was so central to the revolutionary program that the Bolsheviks published decrees establishing civil marriage and divorce soon after the October Revolution, in December 1917. These first steps were intended to replace Russia's family laws with a new legal framework that would encourage more egalitarian sexual and social relations. A complete Code on Marriage, the Family, and Guardianship was ratified by the Central Executive Committee a year later, in October 1918. The code established a radical new doctrine based on individual rights and gender equality, but it also preserved marriage registration, alimony, child support, and other transitional provisions thought to be unnecessary after the triumph of socialism. Soviet debates about the relative merits of unfettered sexuality and the protection of women and children thus resonated with long-standing tensions in the history of socialism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";aid=8195196&amp;fulltextType=RA&amp;fileId=S0008938910001184" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> from Less: Ideological Gambling with the Unity of Economic and Social Policy in Honecker's GDR2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Allinson, M., 'More from Less: Ideological Gambling with the Unity of Economic and Social Policy in Honecker's GDR', <em>Central European History</em>, Vol. 45, No.1 (2012), 102-127.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the numerous analyses of the economic failings of the German Democratic Republic, considerable attention and blame have attached to the extensive social policy program of Erich Honecker, leader of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) after 1971. The &ldquo;unity of economic and social policy&rdquo; encompassed the GDR's entire political economy under Honecker. It was an attempt&mdash;a last-ditch attempt, as it transpired&mdash;to incentivize higher production, but also to fulfill the party's promise of higher living standards. In sum, the intention was to secure both the GDR's long-term economic viability and popular support via (modest) consumerism and an extensive program of social welfare measures. In so doing, the SED would prove the economic, social, and political theories that underpinned the whole ideology of &ldquo;real existing socialism.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";aid=8508375&amp;fulltextType=RA&amp;fileId=S0008938911001002" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> About Health and Well-Being in Post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Abbott, P. &amp; Wallace, C., 'Talking About Health and Well-Being in Post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, </em>Vol. 23, No.2 (2007), 181-202.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Residents of Ukraine and Russia perceive their living conditions and health as very poor. This is coupled with concerns over access to social services and health care. There is a strong interaction between the poor quality of life after the economic and political collapse and the views of individual citizens about their ability to take responsibility for their health. The collapse of the former supportive system was a &lsquo;cultural trauma&rsquo; that affected citizens' capacity for looking after their own health and well-being. In such a context of transition economies, the concept of agency is of limited explanatory value.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Evolution of Human Rights Thinking in North Korea2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Weatherley, R. &amp; Jiyoung, S., 'The Evolution of Human Rights Thinking in North Korea', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol.24, No.2 (2008), 272-296.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The official discourse of human rights in North Korea has shown signs of evolution in recent times, reflecting a variety of philosophical foundations and a need to respond to mounting criticism from the West. While Confucianism and Marxism have been key in influencing North Korean rights thinking, some of the more recent official pronouncements on rights have a distinctly nationalistic or &lsquo;<em>juche</em>-oriented&rsquo; complexion. This shift in emphasis reflects the growing importance of <em>juche</em> to North Korea's state ideology in light of what is perceived as an increasingly hostile international environment that has confronted North Korea since the end of the Cold War and in particular in consequence of its highly controversial nuclear weapons programme.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Unholy Alliances in Chechnya: From Communism and Nationalism to Islamism and Salafism2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Moore, C. &amp; Tumelty, P., 'Assessing Unholy Alliances in Chechnya: From Communism and Nationalism to Islamism and Salafism', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, </em>Vol.25, No.1 (2009), 73-94.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The end of the Cold War ushered in a new period of instability in the Caucasus, as groups formerly associated with the Communist Party sought to wrest power from newly formed political movements, which themselves sought independence from the successor to the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the immediate post-Cold War period a number of alliances, formed by groups with radically different agendas, shaped the ensuing political uncertainty across the region. In Chechnya, a number of historical relationships influenced the formation of nationalist and communist coalitions, particularly in the early and latter part of the twentieth century. Moreover, in the post-Soviet period, a series of coalitions and alliances &ndash; such as the Abkhaz Battalion &ndash; melded together national and regional groups, which themselves had an impact on the first Russo-Chechen War of the 1990s. Following the end of the first war in 1996, a series of other alliances, partially influenced by religion, linked members of the Chechen diaspora community with indigenous radical figures and foreign jihadis who espoused Salafism. This, in turn, expanded what had ostensibly been a nationalist movement into a regional conflict beyond the borders of Chechnya, a development that sheds light on the second Russo-Chechen War.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p>‘Enverists’ and ‘Titoists’ – Communism and Islam in Albania and Kosova, 1941–99: From the Partisan Movement of the Second World War to the Kosova Liberation War2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Schwartz, S., '&lsquo;Enverists&rsquo; and &lsquo;Titoists&rsquo; &ndash; Communism and Islam in Albania and Kosova, 1941&ndash;99: From the Partisan Movement of the Second World War to the Kosova Liberation War', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol.25, No.1 (2009), 48-72.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&lsquo;Enverists&rsquo;, or supporters of Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha, and &lsquo;Titoists&rsquo;, referring to sympathizers with the architect of communist Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, are terms used in Albanian discourse over Kosova. But they are generally misconstrued to suggest differing orientations towards the rival regimes, when they more properly refer, as Albanian sources demonstrate, to attitudes about the fate of Kosova itself. &lsquo;Enverists&rsquo; in Kosova very rarely supported Hoxha and &lsquo;Titoists&rsquo; were not necessarily loyalists of Yugoslavia. Rather, the terms signify a distinction between those who saw the Albanian national question as one involving all Albanians, in Albania proper, Kosova, and neighbouring territories (&lsquo;Enverists&rsquo;) and those who viewed the problem of Kosova as a separate question (&lsquo;Titoists&rsquo;).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Reform and Transition to 'Coloured Revolutions'2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Cheterian, V., 'From Reform and Transition to 'Coloured Revolutions', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, </em>Vol.25, No.2/3 (2009), 136-160.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Peaceful revolutions known as &lsquo;coloured revolutions&rsquo; have overthrown the previous paradigm known as &lsquo;transition&rsquo;: rapid privatization and democratization reforms, to move post-socialist societies to a Western model of governance. In a number of post-Soviet countries, transition did not lead to the promised results. To understand this failure, the economic side of transition &ndash; mass privatization &ndash; should be contrasted with the political side &ndash; democratization and political pluralism. The coloured revolutions reflected the rehabilitation of political change after a decade of change driven by economic priorities. Yet the recent wave of revolutions, in their turn, are led under neo-liberal banners, promising more privatization, restructuring, and cutting of social spending, an ideology that seems anachronistic when set against the needs of our times.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> the Political Economy of Conservative Transition: The Case of Vietnam2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Fforde, A. 'Rethinking the Political Economy of Conservative Transition: The Case of Vietnam', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, </em>Vol. 26, No.1 (2010), 126-146.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The transition &lsquo;from plan to market&rsquo; under a politically conservative regime in Vietnam, where the communist party remains in power, can be seen as an example of a process in which evolving endogenous forces drove and resourced institutional change. Two sets of phenomena are analytically important. The first may be understood as the creation and seeking out of economic rents in the &lsquo;neo-classical&rsquo; sense of resources available &lsquo;below economic costs&rsquo;; the second, more &lsquo;classical&rsquo;, concentrates upon the central importance of &lsquo;appropriable resources&rsquo;. These two are both important because, in trying to understand emergent capitalism after transition, they push to the fore the historical emergence of factor markets (land, labour and capital). Social networks created during transition for &lsquo;rent-switching&rsquo; later support advantageous access to resources created for plan implementation and may then, as a form of capitalism emerges, be used to access resources in forms appropriate to market-oriented activity. It becomes clear that &lsquo;rent-switching&rsquo; may have effects upon static economic efficiency that are positive during transition but negative afterwards, so that the significance of &lsquo;rents&rsquo; depends upon context.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> and Opportunities of Transformation: The Impact on Health2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Rose, R. &amp; Bobak, M., 'Stresses and Opportunities of Transformation: The Impact on Health', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, </em>Vol. 26, No.1 (2010), 80-100.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The combination of stresses and opportunities following the transformation of the communist bloc countries affected the health of individuals in contrasting ways. Since individual health reflects an accumulation of conditions over a lifetime, the differential evolution of the mean level of health in communist bloc countries and OECD countries has been maintained subsequently. Within-nation differences in individual health have also continued. A multiplicity of explanations exist for health differences, including individual socio-economic resources, stresses, opportunities and national context. Survey data from the 13-country New Europe Barometer, which spans ten new EU member states, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, show that psychological resources affecting how individuals respond to the combined stresses and opportunities of transformation are of particular importance, and so too is living in a society transformed from part of the communist bloc to part of the European Union.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Versus Intellectuals in the Lustration Debates in Transitional Latvia2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Zake, I., 'Politicians Versus Intellectuals in the Lustration Debates in Transitional Latvia,' <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol. 26, No.3 (2010), 389-412.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The process of transitional justice in Latvia after 1991 and the public debates that surrounded it created a number of controversies. One such notable conflict dealt with lustration, and it involved Latvia's political establishment and intelligentsia. While the politicians supported the public's right to have full access to the secret KGB files, the intellectuals demanded that Latvia's society should be protected from making mistakes in its judgments and therefore the available documentation should be studied first by state-appointed experts. Each position addressed the issue of lustration from a distinctive perspective, and these reflected not merely political disagreements. Instead, they reflected conflicts of vision that had deep historical roots.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Party Isn't Over: An Analysis of the Communist Party in the Czech Republic2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Lach, J., LaPlant, J.T., Peterson, J. &amp; Hill, D., 'The Party Isn't Over: An Analysis of the Communist Party in the Czech Republic', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol. 26, No. 3 (2010), 363-388.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the first decade of the 21st century, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) has remained electorally relevant in the Czech Republic. An analysis of the historical roots of the party within the context of the other communist parties in Central Europe can help illuminate the factors that have contributed to the resilience of the party. Furthermore, an exploration of the party platform and leadership reveals how the party has endeavoured to remain relevant. The KSČM averaged 17 per cent of the vote across seven elections in the first decade of the century. A multivariate analysis of electoral support for the KSČM across the seven elections highlights the conspicuous influence of unemployment, population density, and the crime rate. The party is a study in contradictions and its continued electoral success will ensure weak coalition governments in the Czech Republic.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Politics of Corruption: Political Will and the Rule of Law in Post-Communist Romania2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Ristei, M., 'The Politics of Corruption: Political Will and the Rule of Law in Post-Communist Romania', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol. 26, No.3 (2010), 341-362.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Once a rarely discussed issue, corruption has become one of the most debated problems in the past 15 years, particularly in the context of democratization. For post-communist countries, corruption has represented a particular challenge, undermining their process of democratic consolidation. Even in the absence of a tradition of the rule of law and of democracy, there is promise in the fight against corruption when there is political will to combat it. The case of Romania demonstrates that European Union (EU) pressure, electoral pressure and the political will of the domestic political leadership combined to secure the establishment of the rule of law and combating corruption in the Romanian judiciary between 1997 and 2006.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> for the Twenty-First Century: The Moldovan Experiment2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Tudoroiu, T., 'Communism for the Twenty-First Century: The Moldocan Experiment', <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol. 27, No.2 (2011), 291-321.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract. </em>For most of the first decade of the present century, Moldova was governed by the Party of Communists of Moldova, led by Vladimir Voronin, who displayed impressive political skills as the president of the republic and party leader. In office, the party engaged in a political reorientation towards Europe in 2004&ndash;5 and an ideological transformation in 2008, yet the party remains a superficially reformed, non-transmuted communist successor party. During eight years in office, 2001&ndash;9, it led a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime similar to the neo-communist constructs of Ion Iliescu in Romania and Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria. The crisis of 2009 weakened the party, however, with defections of leading communists to other parties. Moldova has thus returned to a situation of &lsquo;pluralism by default&rsquo; and a hybrid political regime, in which the communists, though weakened, remain a potent political force.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Management in Belarus: Transcendent Retrogession2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Danilovich, H. &amp; Croucher, R., 'Labour Management in Belarus: Transcendent Retrogession' , <em>Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics</em>, Vol. 27, No.2 (2011), 241-262.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Labour management practices at enterprise level in Belarus are more negative for workers than those under the Soviet system. Welfare has largely disappeared, as has Soviet-style informal bargaining; wage payment may be in kind; training is minimal; job insecurity is extreme and trade unions perform a corporatist role. Thus, as Burawoy argued, &lsquo;involutionary retrogression&rsquo; has indeed taken place, but in what may be denominated a &lsquo;transcendent&rsquo; form.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p>, Neo-Modernisation, and Comparative Democratisation in Russia2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Sakwa, R., 'Modernisation, neo-modernisation, and comparative democratisation in Russia', <em>East European Politics, </em>Vol. 28, No.1 (2012), 43-57.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">There has long been a debate over whether development is a prerequisite for democracy, and by the same token, whether democracy is a precondition for development. This debate is part of the larger literature examining problems of &lsquo;transition&rsquo;, a term which is at best no more than a code word for the processes shaping accelerated and conscious transformation of a society from one type of social order to another. For some three decades, the field of comparative democratisation has focused attention on the mechanics of political transition and the creation of new democracies, accompanied by analysis of the reasons for &lsquo;failed transitions&rsquo;. While linear versions of modernisation theory have been discredited, the creation of capitalist democracies on the western model has encountered resistance. The two versions of the neo-modernisation paradigm (critical and civilisational) help us to examine the &lsquo;transition&rsquo; dynamics of developing societies as well as providing a framework to critique existing theories.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> the Post-Communist State: Government Alternation and Senior Civil Service Politicisation in Central and Eastern Europe2012-12-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Meyer-Sahling, J-H. &amp; Veen, T., Governing the post-communist state: government alternation and senior civil service politicisation in Central and Eastern Europe', <em>East European Politics</em>, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2012), 4-22.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Recent debates on the transformation of the state in Central and Eastern Europe have centred on the impact of political competition on state politicisation. The presence of robust competition, including coherent governments and critical oppositions are said to reduce the potential for state politicisation. This article challenges this perspective. It concentrates on the impact of patterns of government alternation on senior civil service politicisation. The article emphasises problems of political control of senior bureaucrats, which are argued to emerge after regular wholesale alternations between ideological blocs as opposed to other types of alternations. The article relies on data from an expert survey that was conducted in eight Central and Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004. It develops an index of politicisation that captures the range and intensity of senior civil service politicisation. It then conceptualises senior civil service politicisation as a mode of governing the post-communist state and traces the variation in politicisation to patterns of government alternation in Central and Eastern Europe since their transition to democracy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="">Read more...</a></p> the Post-Soviet Space? EU Policies and Approaches to Region-Building2012-12-27<p style="text-align: justify;">Laure Delcour, <em>Shaping the Post-Soviet Space? EU Policies and Approaches to Region-Building</em> (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This book offers an insightful analysis of the policies designed and implemented by the European Union in the former Soviet Union from the angle of region-building. The author provides a comprehensive analysis of the EU&rsquo;s various approaches to regional co-operation with and between post-Soviet countries, in concurrence with the EU&rsquo;s attempts to encourage inter-regionalism. The book is a timely contribution to the literature, which has focused more on the bilateral relations between the EU and newly independent states (NIS), or the specific initiatives of the EU, rather than on regionalism or the NIS. As a result, Delcour&rsquo;s book fills a gap in the literature by providing an extensive focus on regionalism and inter-regionalism between the EU and the NIS&hellip; The volume presents a theoretically informed, empirically rich and methodologically sophisticated analysis&hellip; Overall, Delcour has written a comprehensive and highly convincing book. It should be regarded as an important contribution to European studies, and therefore is highly recommended to those interested in the EU&rsquo;s external policy and relations with Russia and the neighbourhood countries.<br /><em>Journal of Common Market Studies</em></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="&lsquo;This book offers an insightful analysis of the policies designed and implemented by the European Union in the former Soviet Union from the angle of region-building. The author provides a comprehensive analysis of the EU&rsquo;s various approaches to regional co-operation with and between post-Soviet countries, in concurrence with the EU&rsquo;s attempts to encourage inter-regionalism. The book is a timely contribution to the literature, which has focused more on the bilateral relations between the EU and newly independent states (NIS), or the specific initiatives of the EU, rather than on regionalism or the NIS. As a result, Delcour&rsquo;s book fills a gap in the literature by providing an extensive focus on regionalism and inter-regionalism between the EU and the NIS&hellip; The volume presents a theoretically informed, empirically rich and methodologically sophisticated analysis&hellip; Overall, Delcour has written a comprehensive and highly convincing book. It should be regarded as an important contribution to European studies, and therefore is highly recommended to those interested in the EU&rsquo;s external policy and relations with Russia and the neighbourhood countries.&rsquo; Journal of Common Market Studies" target="_blank">See more...</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Blocks Scores of Websites as Election Looms2012-12-27<p style="text-align: justify;">Tajikistan blocked access to more than 100 websites on Tuesday, in what a government source said was a dress rehearsal for a crackdown on online dissent before next year's election <span class="mandelbrot_refrag"></span>when President Imomali Rakhmon will again run for office. Rakhmon, a 60-year-old former head of a Soviet cotton farm, has ruled the impoverished Central Asian nation of 7.5 million for 20 years. He has overseen constitutional amendments that allow him to seek a new seven-year term in November 2013.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Internet remains the main platform where Tajiks can air grievances and criticize government policies at a time when the circulation of local newspapers is tiny and television is tightly controlled by the state.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Tajikistan's state communications service blocked 131 local and foreign Internet sites "for technical and maintenance works". The blocked resources included Russia's popular social networking sites and VKontakte (, as well as Tajik news site and several local blogs.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The government has ordered the communications service to test their ability to block dozens of sites at once, should such a need arise," a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Predominantly Muslim Tajikistan, which lies on a major transit route for Afghan drugs to Europe and Russia, remains volatile after a 1992-97 civil war in which Rakhmon's Moscow-backed secular government clashed with Islamist guerrillas.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Rakhmon justifies his authoritarian methods by saying he wants to oppose radical Islam. But some of his critics argue repression and poverty push many young Tajiks to embrace it.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Tighter Internet controls echo measures taken by other former Soviet republics of Central Asia, where authoritarian rulers are wary of the role social media played in revolutions in the Arab world and mass protests in Russia.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The government this year set up a volunteer-run body to monitor Internet use and reprimand those who openly criticize Rakhmon and other officials.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In November, Tajikistan blocked access to Facebook, saying it was spreading "mud and slander" about its veteran leader.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The authorities unblocked Facebook after concern was expressed by the United States and European Union, the main providers of humanitarian aid for Tajikistan, where almost a half of the population lives in abject poverty.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Asomiddin Asoyev, head of Tajikistan's association of Internet providers, said authorities were trying to create an illusion that there were no problems in Tajik society by silencing online criticism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"This is self-deception," he told Reuters. "The best way of resolving a problem is its open discussion with civil society."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Moscow-based Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov told Reuters that Rakhmon's authoritarian measures could lead to a backlash against the president in the election. "Trying to position itself as the main guarantor of stability through repression against Islamist activists, the Dushanbe government is actually achieving the reverse - people's trust in it is falling," he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span id="articleText">Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters<br /></span></p> Between Georgian President, Premier Turns Even Uglier2012-12-27<p><span>President Mikheil Saakashvili responded on December 21 to the arrest of several former senior officials in connection with suspected bribery and tax evasion by implicitly threatening to dismiss Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and the government he heads.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Ivanishvili&rsquo;s Georgian Dream (KO) coalition defeated Saakashvili&rsquo;s United National Movement (ENM) in a close-fought parliamentary election on October 1. Since then, the new leadership has arrested a number of former senior officials, including former Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaya, who is&nbsp;</span><span>widely suspected of condoning torture and abuses</span><span>&nbsp;in the country&rsquo;s jails.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>It has also announced its&nbsp;</span><span>intention</span><span>&nbsp;to reverse some crucial decisions taken by the ENM, including the relocation of the Georgian parliament from Tbilisi to a new building in Kutaisi (Georgia&rsquo;s second-largest city) that cost some 360 million laris ($217.5 million).&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Saakashvili and his closest associates, including former parliament speaker David Bakradze and Ivanishvii&rsquo;s predecessor as prime minister, Vano Merabishvili, have retaliated by accusing the new government of incompetence, failing to deliver on its election campaign promises, and of seeking to destroy everything positive the ENM accomplished during its nine years in power. They have also c</span><span>riticized as politically motivated</span><span>&nbsp;reprisals the arrests of Akhalaya and other senior members of Saakashvili&rsquo;s team.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>That criticism, and the&nbsp;</span><span>concern expressed</span><span>&nbsp;by NATO, EU, and U.S. State Department officials over the resulting perception of &ldquo;selective justice&rdquo; have not deterred the new government from what it says are its ongoing efforts to bring to justice former officials suspected of serious financial and other crimes.</span><br /><br /><span>At the same time, it is conceivable that Saakashvili has interpreted that international concern as an expression of tacit unequivocal Western support for himself and his team, just as some argue he misconstrued crucial U.S. communications on the eve of the ill-fated attack on Tskhinvali in August 2008 that triggered a brief but devastating conflict with Russia.</span><br /><br /><span>The most recent escalation of tensions began on December 19, when former Energy Minister Aleksandre Khetaguri, former Justice Minister Nika Gvaramia (since last month head of the TV channel Rustavi-2), and four other people were&nbsp;</span><span>arrested</span><span>&nbsp;in connection with the alleged payment of a $1 million bribe to avert a tax inspection that could have uncovered tax evasion on the part of the Telasi electricity distribution company, which is partly owned by the Russian energy giant RAO EES. Overriding a request by the prosecution, the Tbilisi City Court released Khetaguri, Gvaramia, Telasi head Devi Kandelaki, and former Deputy Economy Minister Kakha Damenia three days later on bail of 30,000 laris ($18,127) each.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Then on December 21-22, the Interior Ministry summoned former Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, former Finance Minister Dmitry Gvindadze, and former Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Vera Kobalia for questioning in connection with what the&nbsp;</span><span>Interior Ministry termed a deliberate attempt by unspecified government agencies</span><span>&nbsp;to bankrupt Ivanishvili&rsquo;s Cartu Bank.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>Also last week, the Georgian parliament's KO faction passed in the first reading draft legislative amendments changing the composition of the High Council of Justice, the&nbsp;</span><span>body empowered to appoint, dismiss, and discipline judges</span><span>. In addition, parliament discussed draft legislation that would subordinate the state protection service responsible for ensuring the security of the president and other top officials to the prime minister. It is currently&nbsp;</span><span>subordinate to the president</span><span>.&nbsp;</span></p> on streets as Slovenian star wanes2012-12-21<p style="text-align: justify;">A startling crisis has hit Slovenia, a small country hailed until recently as the star of post-communist transition in eastern Europe and a promising new member of the euro zone. Recent revelations of political graft and cronyism, coupled with economic downturn, have led to public demonstrations against the current political elite. Two of the rallies directed against Maribor's mayor Frack Kangler turned violent in early December - dozens were arrested after protesters hurling firecrackers and chunks of concrete clashed with riot police.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Protesters accused Kangler, who took office in 2006 and was re-elected two years ago, of overseeing a corrupt administration that has sold municipal utilities and services to favoured partners while local people have lost jobs in the slump. Among irritations to push people onto the streets, was a city contract for a private company that installed speed cameras around Maribor in October. Hundreds of fines, typically of 250 euros - an average week's salary - were handed out on the first day, enraging motorists. Word that the private contractor would keep 90 percent of the money caused new talk of city hall graft.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Consequently, Kangler has promised to step down on December 31 to make way for a new election of mayor.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">However, the Maribor mayor is not unique in his legal problems. Premier Jansa himself faces a trial on charges of taking bribes from a Finnish arms exporter during a previous term in office. And Kangler's counterpart in the capital Ljubljana has also been questioned over corruption allegations.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Prime Minister Janez Jansa's conservative coalition, which benefited from recession to oust the centre-left a year ago, faces no scheduled election until 2015. But the fury of the crowds against Kangler, a coalition ally, has revealed the weight of pressure for change and a potential for instability.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Further protests are planned for Friday the 21st, both in Maribor and other towns including the capital Ljubljana. Police, who turned water cannon and tear gas on demonstrators in Maribor, are preparing.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But until this year, Slovenia was widely seen as a calm and prosperous trailblazer among its more troubled in the former Yugoslavia. It joined the European Union in 2004 and three years later, as the IMF put it at the time, "sound macroeconomic policies were crowned with success when Slovenia entered the euro area" - the first ex-communist state to do so.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Despite warnings from the IMF, underlying problems, stemming from generous state benefits, a rigid labour market or state support for favoured businesses, were largely hidden until the global crisis that hit Europe's credit markets in late 2008.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Things went sour with the onset of the global downturn. From GDP growth in 2007 of 6.9 percent, the highest in the euro zone, Slovenia's export-oriented economy hit a wall, weighed down by lack of demand at home and abroad and a credit crunch caused by mismanagement of local banks. The government expects GDP to shrink 2 percent this year and a further 1.4 percent in 2013. And with unemployment at 12.1 percent, people are unhappy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"We expected we would easily take over the positive sides of capitalism but were not ready to give up the privileges of the previous system and were not ready to work hard enough to preserve a welfare state with a lot of social security," said Borut Hocevar, a political analyst at Finance daily newspaper.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Exporting Renault cars, Gorenje household appliances and drugs made by Krka and Lek, Slovenia's per capita GDP had reached 91 percent of the EU average in 2008, by far the highest among ex-communist members. But it fell to 84 percent by 2011.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Looking ahead to Friday's rallies, Finance's Hocevar said they reflected a wide spread of discontent over issues ranging from poor local administration and corruption to government efforts to cut welfare benefits inherited from communist times:</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"At the moment," he said, "It is not clear whether this wave of dissatisfaction will persist or whether the protests will calm down."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Based on Zoran Radosavljevic and Marja Novak/ Reuters</em></p> Cold Snap Sparks Energy Emergency2012-12-18<p> <p>Temperatures in Bishkek have been hovering around -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) since December 14 and are forecast to drop further this week. When the cold hit, Kazakhstan cut its supplies of gas to northern Kyrgyzstan, citing cuts from Uzbekistan. The chain reaction, resulting in an immediate shutoff across most of Bishkek, prompted many residents to turn to electricity for heating and cooking, which overloaded the system, causing widespread blackouts.</p> <p>The government has said little about the crisis, but a representative of Kyrgyzgaz, the state-controlled gas-import monopoly, told that residents could expect gas supplies to resume within &ldquo;a week.&rdquo;</p> <p><span>At least eight homeless people froze to death over the weekend, the news service reported. On December 17 a handful of residents gathered in central Ala-Too Square to protest the three-day-old gas cutoff, but they quickly dispersed due to the extreme temperatures. Later in the day, a prominent newspaper editor called on residents to burn tires in the streets.</span></p> <p> <p>The shortages should come as no surprise. Even before the latest cold snap, Bishkek mayor Isa Omurkulov said on December 7 that the city faces up to 900 outages per week, quoted him as saying.</p> <p>Part of the problem is that Bishkek has roughly doubled in population since the Soviet collapse in 1991: by some estimates the city is home to over a million people, though no one knows for sure. But the impoverished independent country does not have the resources to expand or even maintain the aged energy grid.</p> <p>Industry experts have warned that Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s energy system faces, in the words of a 2011 American government-sponsored study, a &ldquo;catastrophic breakdown.&rdquo; The study warned that without urgent attention and investment, a failure could take months to repair, and said infrastructure needs investments of between $1.5 and $2.1 billion, or up to 35 percent of GDP, simply to become reliable.</p> <p>For years experts and multilateral donors, such as the Asian Development Bank, have told Kyrgyzstan to&nbsp;increase its energy tariffs, which are among the lowest in the world. But successive governments have avoided the delicate issue, fearing a public backlash. A sudden spike in energy prices&nbsp;helped precipitate&nbsp;the fall of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010.</p> <p> <p>Officials acknowledge the need to increase tariffs to encourage conservation and raise funds for repairs. Sayragul Doolatova, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Energy and Industry, says that next April most consumers can expect a 10 percent rise in energy fees.</p> <p>Critics say that is not enough. But they also point out that widespread corruption makes such measures effectively meaningless.</p> <p>MP Omurbek Abdyrakhmanov, a member of parliament&rsquo;s Committee on Budget and Finance, says corruption infiltrates every level of Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s energy system, from distributors and importers to individual households and large companies.</p> <p><span>Some believe Kazakhstan&rsquo;s sudden gas cut-off, at such a sensitive time, was designed to pressure Kyrgyzstan to sell Kyrgyzgaz to Russia&rsquo;s Gazprom. A Kyrgyz delegation is scheduled to fly to Moscow on December 18 to discuss the sale. Kazakh media reported on December 17 that Kyrgyzgaz owes KazTransGas, its Kazakh counterpart, $26.6 million.</span></p> </p> </p> </p> Restores Worker Award of Soviet Era2012-12-13<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When secretaries, financial analysts and the like spilled onto the streets of Moscow in antigovernment protests last winter, Vladimir V. Putin&nbsp;took one look and dismissed them as a crowd of "office plankton."</p> <p>And then he set about burnishing his credentials as a champion of real, working-class Russians, a project that continued on Monday with his decision to dust off a relic of Soviet heraldry: the set of lapel pins called the Hero of Socialist Labor award, now conspicuously shortened in these capitalistic times to the Hero of Labor.</p> <p>Mr. Putin, who was elected this year to his third term as president, has brought back the Soviet anthem, military parades and political repression. But until now he had not set about restoring the grandeur of the Soviet lapel pin collection for civilians - awards marked by the heads of Lenin and ribbons that once caused jackets to sag.</p> <p>"Of course, I think that it would be good for us to revive the Hero of Labor award, only we need to think - we shouldn't make a complete copy of it from the Soviet times," Mr. Putin told a meeting of political supporters, the Interfax news agency reported Monday. "We need to be sure it covers working people, no matter where they work, and those who work with their heads and their hands."</p> <p>Igor Kholmanskikh, a rough-hewed, working-class former tank factory foreman who started a pro-Putin movement in the Ural Mountain industrial area, first proposed reviving the award in August.</p> <p>Mr. Putin is believed to be swiveling to the political left through the embrace of movements like Mr. Kholmanskikh's. The intention is to co-opt expected discontent in industrial regions, where support is still stronger than in the urban centers, in case the price of oil, the mainstay of the Russian economy, declines in coming years.</p> <p>As wages level off, medals and awards that raise status without costing hard currency might substitute as compensation, as practiced in the Soviet period, beginning principally in the 1930s, when such status symbols, rather than salaries, measured accomplishment.</p> <p>By the 1980s, medal inflation had rendered such awards all but meaningless, as nearly everybody had some, and they became the objects of near universal derision - eventually sold by the hundreds in canning jars on the sidewalks of East bloc countries.</p> <p>The Hero of Socialist Labor award was created in 1938. It went to coal miners, milkmaids, tractor drivers and others who applied more than the typical amount of elbow grease to their work, thus contributing to "the growth of the might and glory of the U.S.S.R.," according to an entry about the award in the Big Soviet Encyclopedia.</p> <p>The award came in the form of two pins - a ribbon and a medal with a cameo of Lenin.</p> <p>A revision of the rules in 1949 clarified that workers who received the award three times would also have a bronze bust made in their likeness, along with the six pieces of chest decoration. Mr. Putin did not say whether the new award would lead to any busts for repeat winners.</p> <p>Other awards went to so-called shock workers who took on difficult jobs. Mothers who had 10 children or more were called Hero Mothers.</p> <p>But in the late 1980s, after the devaluation of lapel pins under Leonid Brezhnev, the government scaled back to ban multiple awards to the same person, then abolished the Hero of Socialist Labor award altogether with the Soviet Union's demise<br />.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> protest to be held against corruption in Bulgaria2012-12-12<p>Disgruntled Bulgarians are organizing themselves on social networks to stage on Wednesday, December 12, a repeat of the "<strong>Tomato</strong>&nbsp;<strong>Revolution</strong>."&nbsp;The rally is called for 4:30 pm, this time in front of the central Court building in the capital Sofia. It is organized by a group of citizens, who took part in a "tomato" protest in front of the building of the&nbsp;<strong>Parliament</strong>&nbsp;on November 24.</p> <p>They have submitted a request with the City Hall to have a permit to hold the demonstration, listing the goal as a civil protest against&nbsp;<strong>corruption</strong>&nbsp;and the meddling of the&nbsp;<strong>executive power</strong>&nbsp;in the&nbsp;<strong>justice system</strong>&nbsp;and voicing demands for judicial reform under the recommendations of the last&nbsp;<strong>EC monitoring report</strong>&nbsp;- a full overhaul of the Supreme Judicial Council,&nbsp;<strong>VSS</strong>, decentralization of the&nbsp;<strong>Prosecutor's Office</strong>, an effective&nbsp;<strong>Chief Prosecutor</strong>, and civil control on the&nbsp;<strong>judiciary</strong>.</p> <p>One of the organizers has been summoned at the City Hall Tuesday and asked to sign a warning protocol, which he refused.&nbsp;The demonstrators now say that this was an intimidation attempt, and pledge to approach the&nbsp;Prosecutor's Office&nbsp;on grounds the Meetings and Manifestations Act has been violated.&nbsp;They also inform that the protesting Bulgarians will bring tomatoes, but will throw them only if their calls remain unheard.</p> <p>The first "Tomato" protest took place Saturday, November 24, and was organized in support of Bulgarian&nbsp;<strong>dissident</strong>, poet and publicist,&nbsp;<strong>Nikolay Kolev</strong>&nbsp;<strong>Bosiya</strong>&nbsp;(The Barefooted), who was threatened with up to two years behind bars for throwing a&nbsp;<strong>tomato</strong>&nbsp;at the&nbsp;<strong>Parliament</strong>&nbsp;on November as an act of protest against the rampant&nbsp;<strong>corruption</strong>&nbsp;in the country.</p> <p><strong>Bosiya</strong>&nbsp;recently sent a letter to the&nbsp;<strong>Parliament</strong>, the President, the Prime Minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio, threatening to throw tomatoes at their buildings, as he deemed them responsible for the widespread&nbsp;<strong>corruption</strong>, crime and lack of media freedom in&nbsp;<strong>Bulgaria</strong>.&nbsp;He also specified the date (November 20) and the order of his "tomato&nbsp;assault," saying he would start from the&nbsp;<strong>Parliament</strong>&nbsp;at 10 am.</p> <p>"I can no longer remain a hostage to hope and good manners. Go to hell!" the letter ends.</p> <p>Kolev's threat did not go unnoticed and he was anticipated by some 40 police officers as he approached his first target. He was arrested after he threw one&nbsp;<strong>tomato</strong>.&nbsp;He is to take part in the Wednesday rally and will be one of the speakers.</p> <p>Nikolay Kolev, 61, was imprisoned several times during the communist regime in&nbsp;<strong>Bulgaria</strong>&nbsp;(1944-1989) for opposing the communist dictatorship.</p> Much Control is Enough? Monitoring and Enforcement under Stalin2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Markevich, A. 'How Much Control is Enough? Monitoring and Enforcement under Stalin', <em>Europe-Asia Studies</em>, Vol. 63, No. 8 (2011), 1449-1468.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> The article examines the control system that Stalin established to enforce his orders. Historical records demonstrate that Stalin designed the system's scope, organisation and credentials to maximise its cost-effectiveness. On several occasions Stalin deliberately limited the system's size and stimulated whistle-blowing in an attempt to mitigate running costs. In contrast, distorted preferences and constraints on inspectors&rsquo; loyalty contributed to the multiplication of the number of monitoring agencies. Because his orders were incomplete, Stalin authorised his inspectors not only to monitor, but also to intervene in operational matters wherever necessary.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Prospects of Economic Reform in North Korea: Comparisions with China, Vietnam and Yugoslavia2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Szalontai, B. &amp; Choi, C. 'The Prospects of Economic Reform in North Korea: Comparisions with China, Vietnam and Yugoslavia', <em>Europe-Asia Studies </em> Vol. 64, No. 2 (2012), 227-246.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> The article investigates the political and diplomatic factors influencing the prospects of North Korea's post-2002 experiment with market-oriented economic reforms. Comparing the North Korean situation with the experiences of Yugoslavia, China and Vietnam, it concludes that a certain degree of political liberalisation, the successful normalisation of P'y[ocheck]ngyang's relations with the US, South Korea and Japan, and the decoupling of foreign economic assistance from military negotiations are essential preconditions of a successful reform process in North Korea. In the absence of these preconditions, economic crises alone are insufficient to stimulate a comprehensive reform programme, although they might inspire certain superficial corrective measures.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Years of Transitional Justice in the Czech Lands2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">David, R. 'Twenty Years of Transitional Justice in the Czech Lands', <em>Europe-Asia Studies</em>, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2012), 761-784.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract. </em> Nascent democracies usually adopt measures of transitional justice to deal with the legacies of undemocratic regimes. This article examines one of the most comprehensive programmes of transitional justice which has been implemented in the Czech Republic since 1990. Based on a survey conducted in 2010, 10 policies are assessed by means of descriptive statistics, and by examining their effect on the perception of justice, truth and reconciliation. Property restitution is viewed as the most successful policy for dealing with the past; it contributes to the positive perception of both justice and truth but it undermines the perception of reconciliation.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Terror in Eastern Europe: Elite Purges and Mass Repression2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">McDermott, K. &amp; Stibbe, M. (eds). <em>Stalinist Terror in Eastern Europe: Elite Purges and Mass Repression </em>(Manchester &amp; New York; 2010).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This wide-ranging collection of essays is the first book in English to examine the impact of Stalinist terror on Eastern Europe in the years 1940 to 1956. Covering the Baltic states the authors investigate terror both "from above," in the form of elite purges and show trials, and "from below" in the guise of large-scale arrests and deportations of ordinary people. Key questions addressed include the relative importance of Soviet influence versus "local" factors; the persecution of particular groups, such as 'kulaks," church leaders, the middle-class intelligentsia and members of non-communist left-wing parties; cases where repression was more, or conversely less, intense than elsewhere; and the relevance of key events such as the Tito-Stalin split of 1948, the Rajk trial of 1949 and the Sl&aacute;nsk&yacute; trial of 1952. This book highlights areas of considerable diversity, making this volume an excellent starting point for all scholars and students interested in the wider history of political trials, forced labor and state-sponsored violence in the twentieth century&rsquo;s "age of extremes."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";redir_esc=y" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Mark, J. <em>The Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe</em> (New Haven, CT &amp; London; 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">While the West has repeatedly been sold images of a victorious people's revolution in 1989, the idea that dictatorship has been truly overcome is foreign to many in the former Communist bloc. In this wide-ranging work, James Mark examines how new democratic societies are still divided by the past. While some view 1989 as a betrayal and defeat, and continue an 'unfinished struggle' against the former regime, others seek to heal the divisions of history, and ex-Communists proclaim themselves to be the real liberators from dictatorship. This book also presents the voices of ordinary people who lived through Communism to uncover the variety of ways in which they now come to terms with their choices and experiences. Drawing on a broad range of themes and sources - speeches, public ritual, protest, international disputes, museums, memorials, forensic archaeology, secret police archives, and interviews - this is the first work to integrate the study of politics, culture, and social memory across east-central Europe.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Society 1928-19532012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Edele, M. <em>Stalinist Society 1928-1953</em> (Oxford University Press: Oxford; 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Stalinist Society offers a fresh analytical overview of the complex social formation ruled over by Stalin and his henchmen from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Drawing on declassified archival materials, interviews with former Soviet citizens, old and new memoirs, and personal diaries, as well as the best of sixty years of scholarship, this book offers a non-reductionist account of social upheaval and social cohesion in a society marred by violence. Combining the perspectives from above and from below, the book integrates recent writing on everyday life, culture and entertainment, ideology and politics, terror and welfare, consumption and economics. Utilizing the latest archival research on the evolution of Soviet society during and after World War II, this study also integrates the entire history of Stalinism from the late 1920s to the dictator's death in 1953. Breaking radically with current scholarly consensus, Mark Edele shows that it was not ideology, terror, or state control which held this society together, but the harsh realities of making a living in a chaotic economy which the rulers claimed to plan and control, but which in fact they could only manage haphazardly.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> of Revolution: The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik Dictatorship, 1918-19232012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Smith, S.B. <em>Captives of Revolution: The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik Dictatorship, 1918-1923</em> (Pittsburgh; 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> The Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) were the largest political party in Russia in the crucial revolutionary year of 1917. Heirs to the legacy of the People&rsquo;s Will movement, the SRs were unabashed proponents of peasant rebellion and revolutionary terror, emphasizing the socialist transformation of the countryside and a democratic system of government as their political goals. They offered a compelling, but still socialist, alternative to the Bolsheviks, yet by the early 1920s their party was shattered and its members were branded as enemies of the revolution. In 1922, the SR leaders became the first fellow socialists to be condemned by the Bolsheviks as &ldquo;counter-revolutionaries&rdquo; in the prototypical Soviet show trial. Scott B. Smith presents both a convincing account of the defeat of the SRs and a deeper analysis of the significance of the political dynamics of the Civil War for subsequent Soviet history. Smith reveals a complex and nuanced picture of the postrevolutionary struggle and demonstrates that the Civil War&mdash;and in particular the struggle with the SRs&mdash;was the formative experience of the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> History Matters: Baltic and Polish Reactions to the Russo-Georgian War2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">La&scaron;as, A., 'When History Matters: Baltic and Polish Reactions to the Russo-Georgian War', <em>Europe-Asia Studies</em>, Vol. 64, No. 6, 1061-1075.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The outbreak of the Russo-Georgian war sparked a very strong and swift reaction from the Baltic states and Poland. In contrast to other European states, they did not hesitate to accuse Russia of initiating the conflict and sought to punish it for its alleged imperialist ambitions. Traditional variables of national economic, geopolitical or security interests fall short of accounting for such acute sensitivity by Baltic and Polish politicians. Instead, this article argues that identity politics driven by historical&ndash;psychological legacies provide the most plausible explanation. The case illustrates how third parties decide their level of engagement in conflicts that have limited strategic importance to them.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> Role of the Soviet Past in Post-Soviet Memory Politics through Examples of Speeches from Estonian Presidents2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">J&otilde;esalu, K. 'The Role of the Soviet Past in Post-Soviet Memory Politics through Examples of Speeches from Estonian Presidents', <em>Europe-Asia Studies, </em>Vol. 64, No6 (2012), 1007-1032.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract. </em>This article analyses the dynamics of memory politics in post-Soviet Estonia from the 1990s to the present day. It focuses on speeches by Estonian presidents, which are treated as a specific type of commemorative activity and studied in relation to other social memories. The analysis seeks to link the meaning conveyed in the speeches to the presidents&rsquo; personal experiences during the Soviet period. The article shows that in these speeches, the primary discourse used with regard to Soviet times was that of &lsquo;rupture&rsquo; as well as the related discourse of &lsquo;resistance&rsquo;.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Barnes, S.A. <em>Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society </em>(Princeton, NJ &amp; Oxford; 2011).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Death and Redemption</em> offers a fundamental reinterpretation of the role of the Gulag--the Soviet Union's vast system of forced-labor camps, internal exile, and prisons--in Soviet society. Soviet authorities undoubtedly had the means to exterminate all the prisoners who passed through the Gulag, but unlike the Nazis they did not conceive of their concentration camps as instruments of genocide. In this provocative book, Steven Barnes argues that the Gulag must be understood primarily as a penal institution where prisoners were given one final chance to reintegrate into Soviet society. Millions whom authorities deemed "reeducated" through brutal forced labor were allowed to leave. Millions more who "failed" never got out alive.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Drawing on newly opened archives in Russia and Kazakhstan as well as memoirs by actual prisoners, Barnes shows how the Gulag was integral to the Soviet goal of building a utopian socialist society. He takes readers into the Gulag itself, focusing on one outpost of the Gulag system in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan, a location that featured the full panoply of Soviet detention institutions. Barnes traces the Gulag experience from its beginnings after the 1917 Russian Revolution to its decline following the 1953 death of Stalin.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Death and Redemption</em> reveals how the Gulag defined the border between those who would reenter Soviet society and those who would be excluded through death.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> in Russia: An Interpretive Essay2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Sakwa, R. <em>Communism in Russia: An Interpretive Essay</em> (Studies in European History, Houndsmills; 2010).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">After the Revolution in October 1917, Soviet Russia tried to establish an alternative form of social organization based on the ideology of communism and the practices of Soviet democracy. This system inspired millions and achieved the industrialization of Russia, but ultimately it failed. The dissolution of the communist order by 1991 was accompanied by the disintegration of the country.<br /><br /><em><span style="text-decoration: none;">Communism in Russia</span></em><span style="text-decoration: none;">:<br />&bull; provides a fresh, clear and concise view of the history of communism and Russia in the twentieth century, and the interaction of the two<br />&bull; offers an original analysis combining the history of an ideology and the fate of a nation<br />&bull; traces the connections and tensions between communist ideology and Russian realities, and explains the reasons for the collapse of the system<br />&bull; Incorporates the latest research and scholarship on the subject. </span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="">Read more...</a></p>, Murder and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Gregory, P.R. <em>Politics, Murder and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina</em> (Stanford, C.A., 2010).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"A story told to show the horrors of fate, of personal mistreatment and suffering of real people."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">(From the foreword by Robert Conquest)</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A founding father of the Soviet Union at the age of twenty nine, Nikolai Bukharin was the editor of <em>Pravda</em> and an intimate Lenin's exile. (Lenin later dubbed him "the favorite of the party.") But after forming an alliance with Stalin to remove Leon Trotsky from power, Bukharin crossed swords with Stalin over their differing visions of the world's first socialist state and paid the ultimate price with his life. Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina, the stepdaughter of a high Bolshevik official, spent much of her life in prison camps and in exile after her husband's execution.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In <em>Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina</em>, Paul Gregory sheds light on how the world's first socialist state went terribly wrong and why it was likely to veer off course through the story of two of Stalin's most prominent victims. Drawn from Hoover Institution archival documents, the story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina begins with the optimism of the socialist revolution and then turns into a dark saga of foreboding and terror as the game changes from political struggle to physical survival. Told for the most part in the words of the participants, it is a story of courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, misplaced idealism, missed opportunities, bungling, and, above all, love.</p> <p><a href=";printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false ">Read more...</a></p> National Communism: Joining the Latvian Komsomol under Stalin2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Swain, G. 'Before National Communism: Joining the Latvian Komsomol under Stalin', <em>Europe-Asia Studies</em>, Vol. 64, No. 7 (2012).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> In 1959, Indriks Pinksis, Eduards Berklavs and Vilis Krūmiņ&scaron; were among the prominent targets of Moscow's National Communist purge of supposed &lsquo;bourgeois nationalists' operating within the leadership of the Latvian Communist Party. A decade earlier all three had been active leaders of the Latvian Komsomol. This article explores the Stalin years of the Latvian Komsomol, and argues that the Komsomol was only able to win an acceptable number of recruits when it abandoned attempts to recruit on the basis of wartime activity or class allegiance and focused on recruiting ethnic Latvians. However, this raised the same issues later faced by the National Communists: as membership was extended to those with a &lsquo;doubtful&rsquo; background, and the press played down &lsquo;proletarian internationalism&rsquo;, Moscow took fright. In early 1953 the Latvian Komsomol experienced a purge similar in tone to that which would take place within the Latvian Communist Party more broadly in 1959.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=" " target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> and the Transformations in Eastern Europe2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Cox, T. (ed.). <em>1989 and the Transformations in Eastern Europe</em><span style="font-style: normal">, <a title="Europe-Asia Studies Special Issue" href="" target="_blank">Europe-Asia Studies Special Issue</a>, Vol. 63, No.9 (2011).</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Introduction</em> by T. Cox</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the first decade after the regime changes that brought an end to communist rule in Eastern Europe, a central focus of academic writing on the events of 1989 was a theoretical debate on the significance and character of the changes. Among the issues raised were the question of whether they should be understood as revolutions, or as a hybrid of reforms and revolutions, whether they marked a shift from traditional to modern society, or a transition from state socialism to capitalism, or from totalitarianism to liberal democracy, or some more nuanced form of transformation. On the whole, the debate made a significant contribution to our understanding of the complexity of the issues involved in the changes taking place in Eastern Europe and helped to bring a focus on the region into the mainstream of comparative social and political research.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In contrast, much of the academic work on 1989 that has been produced in the period around its 20<sup><span style="font-style: normal">th</span></sup><span style="font-style: normal"> anniversary has adopted a more cautious attitude to the big issues and a more detailed focus on empirical enquiry. This shift in focus reflected in the essays collected here, which provide detailed examinations, thoughtful and considered appraisals of developments, and 'middle-range' theoretical discussions of patterns of cause and effect. <a title="Read more..." href="">Read more...</a></span></p> <p>Contents:</p> <li>Kramer, M. '<a title="The Demise of Soviet Bloc" href="">The Demise of Soviet Bloc</a>', 1535-1590.</li> <li>Bartha, E. '<a title="Welfare Dictatorship, the Working Class and the Change of Regimes in East Germany and Hungary" href="">Welfare Dictatorship, the Working Class and the Change of Regimes in East Germany and Hungary</a>', 1591-1610.</li> <li>Szirtes, G. '<a title="New Life: The Poetics of Transition" href="">The Poetics of Transition</a>', 1611-1626.</li> <li>Cox, T. '<a title="The Picnic on the Border: An Interview with L&aacute;szl&oacute; Vass" href="">The Picnic on the Border: An Interview with L&aacute;szl&oacute; Vass</a>', 1637-1638.</li> <li>Gledhill, J. '<a title="Three days in Bucharest: Making Sense of Romania's Transitional Violence, 20 Years On" href="" target="_blank">Three days in Bucharest: Making Sense of Romania's Transitional Violence, 20 Years <span style="font-size: x-small;">O</span>n</a>', 1639-1669.</li> <li>Swain, N. '<a title="A Post-Socialist Capitalism" href="" target="_blank">A P</a><a title="A Post-Socialist Capitalism" href="" target="_blank">ost-Socialist Capitalism</a>', 1671-1695.</li> <li>Lee, A.S. '<a title="After the Party, the After-Parties? The Effects of Communist Successor Parties on Economic Reform in Central and Eastern Europe" href="" target="_blank">Reform in Central and Eastern Europe</a>', 1697-1718.&gt;</li> <li>Lyons, P. and Bernardyov, A. '<a title="Satisfied, Sceptical or Simply Indifferent? Current Public Opinion towards the Fall of Communism in the Czech Republic" href="" target="_blank">Satisfied, Sceptical or Simply Indifferent? Current Public Opinion towards the Fall of Communism in the Czech Republic</a>', 1719-1744.</li> <li>Blitz, B.K. '<a title="Evaluating Transitions: Human Rights and Qualitative Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe" href="" target="_blank">Evaluating Transitions: Human Rights and Qualitative Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe</a>', 1745-1770. </li> <p>&nbsp;</p> the Party, the After-Parties? The Effects of Communist Successor Parties on Economic Reform in Central and Eastern Europe2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Lee, A.S. 'After the Party, the After-Parties? The Effects of Communist Successor Parties on Economic Reform in Central and Eastern Europe', <em>Europe-Asia Studies, </em><span style="font-style: normal;">Vol. 63, No. 9<span style="font-size: x-small;"> (201<span style="font-size: x-small;">1</span>),</span> p. 1697-1718.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> With the rise of globalisation and the diffusion of neoliberal economic reform throughout the world, the relevance of partisanship for economic reform has become the subject of much controversy. Set against the existing scholarship of partisan effects in the OECD countries and Latin America, post 1989 Central and Eastern Europe presents an intriguing case for several reasons. As in the developed and developing countries alike, countries from Central and Eastern Europe also faced global economic pressures, but unlike them, they simultaneously needed to construct a market economy. Indeed, after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the creation of a liberal capitalist system became one of the central goals proclaimed by the new democratic governments. This goal became reinforced by the desire for and the concrete steps taken towards rapid economic and political integration with the European Union (EU).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a title="Read more..." href="" target="_blank">Read more...</a></p> Developmentalism and the Political Economy of Russia's Electricity Sector Liberalization2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Wengle, S. A. 'Post-Soviet Developmentalism and the Political Economy of Russia's Electricity Sector Liberalization', <em>APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper </em>(2010)<em>. </em></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> Observers of Russian state market relations typically consider the state as an entity engaged in creating rent-seeking opportunities for bureaucrats, or for the most powerful economic interests. The trajectory and outcomes of electricity sector reforms demonstrate the limits of this perspective and serve to highlight a developmental strand in Russian economic policy, which I call post-Soviet developmentalism. I found that post-Soviet developmentalism is key to understanding the patterns of market institutions that have emerged in the newly liberalized electricity sector. A close analysis of the institutional underpinnings of new electricity markets suggest that they were shaped in political bargains, in which the government sought to enlist Russia&rsquo;s oligarchic conglomerates for its developmental agenda. Institutional patterns cannot be adequately explained if the state is largely seen as a predator or as captured by oligarchic interests. Finally, the paper suggests an analytical lens to understand the role of industrial geography in the creation of market institutions.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a title="Read more..." href="">Read more...</a></p> by Revolution: The Political Economy of Autocratic Stability in Uzbekistan2012-12-11<p>Murtazasvili, J. 'Coloured by Revolution: The Political Economy of Autocratic Stability in Uzbekistan', <em>Democratization, </em><span style="font-style: normal;">Vol. 19, Issue 1 (2012).<em></em></span></p> <p><em>Abstract.</em> Uzbekistan contains all the ingredients that observers have long argued would lead to not only regime change but civil war: economic, political and religious repression. Despite the presence of these factors, the autocratic regime in Uzbekistan has remained remarkably stable in the face of revolutions in neighbouring countries. This article suggests three complementary reasons why the regime has remained firm as others crumbled around it, including relatively strong economic performance, state capacity to repress revolutionary aspirations and government co-optation of local institutions. Understanding autocratic stability requires that we move beyond the &lsquo;agency-structure&rsquo; debates that pervade the literature on post-communist institutional development toward a more encompassing explanation that recognizes how institutional and structural factors both liberate and constrain individual choices.</p> <p><a title="Read more..." href="">Read more...</a></p> <p><span style="font-family: Segoe UI,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;"><br /></span></span></p> States and Markets after Communism: The Perils of Polarized Democracy2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Fry, T. <em>Building States and Markets after Communism: The Perils of Polarized Democracy </em>(Cambridge, 2010).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract.</em> Does democracy promote the creation of market economies and robust state institutions? Do state-building and market-building go hand in hand? Or do they work at cross-purposes? This book examines the relationship between state-building and market-building in 25 post-communist countries from 1990 to 2004. Based on cross-national statsitical analyses, surveys of business managers, and case studies from Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Uzbekistan, Timothy Faye demonstrates that democracy is associated with more economic reform, stronger state institutions, and higher social transfers when political polarization is low. But he also finds that increases in political polarization dampen the positive impact of democracy by making policy less predictable. He traces the roots of political polarization to high levels of income inequality and the institutional legacy of communist rule. By identifying when and how democracy fosters markets and states, this work contributes to long-standing debates in comparative politics, public policy, and post-communist studies.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a title="Read more..." href=";printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false ">Read more...</a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> New Grand Bourgeoisie under Post-Communism: Central Europe, Russia and China Compared2012-12-11<p style="text-align: justify;">Szel&eacute;nyi, I. 2010. 'The New Grand Bourgeoisie under Post-Communism: Central Europe, Russia and China Compared', <em>World Institute for Development Economics Research Working Papers.</em></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Abstract. </em>In the former socialist redistributive economies, the transition to market economy and the conversion to private ownership followed different trajectories. The paper offers an overview on how a new class of grand burgeoisie was formed in three different regions of the transition: Central Europe, Russia and China. In Central Europe this new class often was recruited from the ranks of the socialist technocratic elite who used their managerial skills, inside knowledge and politial connections to convert public property into private wealth. The large propertied class of Central Europe is well formed, and private property rights are secure. In Russia, the new grand burgeoisie was typically 'appointed' by the top political boss, and as leadership changed, the members of this class had to assure the new leader of their loyalty. Failure to do so meant loss of property, exile or jail. In China, the transition to market economy occurred 'from below'. Many of the wealthy started out with small private businesses that expanded over time. Once they became known to be wealthy, they needed political protection and were vulnerably to political rivalry. Private property in China &ndash; much like in Russia &ndash; is still rather insecure, and politics are in command.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=""><span style="font-style: normal;">Read more...</span></a></p> against discrimination in Romania's elections2012-12-06<p>In Romania's strident political environment, dominated by ex-spooks, dodgy businessmen and their sons and daughters, Iulian Craciun is a refreshing exception. If elected on December 9th, the 34-year old IT expert would be the first disabled person ever to enter the Romanian Parliament.</p> <p>Mr Craciun's first task would be to see that the marble staircase leading to the "House of the People", a monstrous building designed at the orders of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the 1980s and now housing the Romanian parliament, is fitted with wheelchair ramps. For now, the guards have instructed him to use the back door of the parliament where there is such a ramp.</p> <p>Mr Craciun's bid reaches beyond rights for disabled persons. "I am sick and tired to see that the majority of young Romanians have no models in life, no will and no motivation to do something with their lives," he told our correspondent. After having run for two years a motivational project called StartEvo, which had famous artists, journalists and entrepreneurs tell their success stories and offer mentoring to young Romanians with a business idea or an unexploited talent, Mr Craciun hopes to replicate this effort at national scale. He joined the ranks of the Civic Force, an offshoot of the larger Democratic-Liberal Party (PDL) of President Traian Basescu, because&nbsp; it was "the least worse option". All political parties in Romania are guilty of something, he says. All have weird members. The new party, whose candidates are running on joint lists with the PDL, is "the newest political entity and there are a lot of fresh people".</p> <p>The Senate race for Mr Craciun's Bucharest constituency is an uneven one, as his main opponent from the Social-Liberal bloc (USL) of Victor Ponta, the prime minister, is no other than Dan Voiculescu, one of the most influential media moguls and a former Securitate (secret police) operative. Mr Voiculescu, whose wealth is estimated at &euro;650m ($850m), is on trial for corruption and money laundering and has used a trick to avoid sentencing: Earlier this year, he resigned from the Senate so that his file is sent to another court. If elected, the court would be changed again and meanwhile, his alleged deeds may hit statute of limitations.</p> <p>"I started with almost zero chances. He is one of the wealthiest Romanians, I am a normal person. He has thousands of employees, I have thousands of friends. He owns 40% of all media in Romania, I have a Facebook page," Mr Craciun admits. But he is confident that Romanians will listen to his message of hope, of changing something in his country, first by starting with practical education and "resetting" the role models in society. His trump card is the fact that he has made it against all odds, that he graduated from university, got a job and started his own business despite his muscular atrophy and a society which offers few opportunities for disabled persons. "Yes, Mr Voiculescu's TV channels tried to diminished my presence. They say I am being used by others and I should stay home and take care of my health. Fortunately, I am totally different that any other candidates and I am un-attackable: I was not enrolled in the old Securitate, I did not work with the state, I did not steal."</p> <p>Opinion polls this week show a strong lead for the USL, at over 60%, while Mr Craciun's party is rated at a meagre 17%. But the mere fact that Mr Craciun is running, against all odds, is a sign that perhaps not all hope is lost for the young generation in Romania.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> and Russia concerned over North Korean rocket launch plans2012-12-04<p>China<span>&nbsp;has expressed concern over its ally&nbsp;</span>North Korea<span>'s plans to&nbsp;</span>launch a long-range rocket in mid-December.&nbsp;<span>All sides should work for stability and avoid acts that raise tensions, the foreign ministry said in a brief statement. It acknowledged North Korea's right to the peaceful use of outer space, but said that had to be harmonised with restrictions including those set by the United Nations Security Council.</span><span>The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on December 3 that a launch would be in violation of UN resolutions.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div>Pyongyang says the rocket will carry a satellite into orbit.&nbsp;Many view it as a disguised test for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could carry nuclear warheads.&nbsp;<span>The North Korean launch, set for 10 December to 22 December, is likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul as&nbsp;</span>South Korea<span>&nbsp;plans to hold a presidential election on 19 December and President Barack Obama prepares to begin his second term.</span></div> <div></div> <div><span>South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a government source in Seoul, reported that the first stage of the rocket has already been placed in position at the North's Sohae satellite launch station.&nbsp;</span><span>It would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong-un, who took power following his father Kim Jong-il's death nearly a year ago. That first launch eight months ago earned North Korea widespread international condemnation, despite ending in an embarrassing misfire.</span></div> <div> <p>The United States, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are all involved in the stalled six-party talks with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program.</p> <p><span></span>China is North Korea's only major political ally and its main source of food and fuel for keeping the North's moribund economy from collapsing.&nbsp;However, Beijing has been highly resistant to using any of its leverage to moderate North Korea's behaviour, fearing that could cause an implosion leading to political chaos and a wave of refugees crossing its border.</p> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> to pay taxes in Communist Cuba2012-11-28<p>The landmark regulations will change the relations of Cubans with their government and are a signal that market-oriented reforms, launched since President Raul Castro succeeded his brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008, are here to stay.</p> <p>The recently published code constitutes the first comprehensive taxation in Cuba&nbsp;since the 1959 revolution abolished just about all taxes.</p> <p>In the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country's main benefactor, the Cuban government imposed a few scattered taxes, but mostly preferred to maintain low wages so it could fund free social services.</p> <p>The government's free market reforms introduced over the last two years, are designed to encourage small businesses, private farming&nbsp;and individual initiative, along with plans to pay state workers more. Under the new tax code the state hopes to get its share of the proceeds.</p> <p>The government also envisions replacing subsidies for all with targeted welfare, meaning that the largely tax-free life under a paternalistic government is on its way out.</p> <p>"This radically changes the state's relationship with the population and taxes become an irritating issue," said Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence analyst who lives in Miami and writes often about Cuba.</p> <p>The new code covers 19 taxes, including such things as inheritance, environment, sales, transportation and farm land, various license fees and three contributions, including social security.</p> <p>A sliding scale income tax - from 15 percent for earnings&nbsp;of more than 10,000 pesos (about $400) annually, to 50 percent for earnings&nbsp;of over 50,000 pesos, (about $2,000) - adopted in 1994, remains in the new code for the self-employed, small businesses and farms, but it also includes a series of new deductions to stimulate their work.</p> <p>TAX DEDUCTIONS</p> <p>For example, farmers may deduct up to 70 percent of income as costs, and small businessmen, who are taxed by income not profit, up to 40 percent, plus various fees and secondary taxes they pay.</p> <p>A labor tax of 20 percent will gradually be reduced to 5 percent by 2017, and small businesses with five employees or less are exempt.</p> <p>Eventually all workers will pay income taxes as well as a new 2 percent property tax, but both measures are suspended until "conditions permit" them to go into effect.</p> <p>The government admits, with an average pay of about 450 pesos per month, or $19, many workers do not earn enough to make ends meet.</p> <p>"They collect taxes for all these things around the world, it's normal," said Havana economist Isabel Fernandez.</p> <p>"But here we face two problems. On the one hand we are not used to paying for anything and on the other our wages are so low we can't spare a single peso," she said.</p> <p>Under the old system, large and small state-run companies, which accounted for more than 90 percent of economic activity, simply handed over all their revenues to the government, which then allocated resources to them.</p> <p>The reforms call for large state-run businesses to be moved out of the ministries and become more autonomous.</p> <p>Under the new tax system they will pay a 35 percent tax on their profits, but can take advantage of a myriad of deductions ranging from amortization and travel to sales taxes, insurance and environmental protection.</p> <p>Many smaller businesses will become cooperatives or be privately leased and taxed based on income.</p> <p>The state-owned Cuban National News Agency said Cuba had studied the tax systems of a number of other countries, including several with capitalist economies.</p> <p>"The experiences of&nbsp;China,&nbsp;Vietnam,&nbsp;Venezuela,&nbsp;Brazil,&nbsp;Spain and&nbsp;Mexico&nbsp;were taken into account, but they were refined to the particularities and conditions of the island," the new agency said.</p> <p>The new code is not etched in stone - it can be amended each year as part of the annual budget passed by the National Assembly, and temporarily modified for different reasons by the executive branch of government.</p> <p>"Like the reforms, it is a work in progress, a work that has barely begun and will take time to put in place," said a Western businessman who has worked in Cuba for almost two decades.</p> <p>But, he added, "this is of course a major step forward toward the 21st century and a modern state."</p> New Documentary focuses on Communist Ideals in Eastern Europe2012-11-27<p>Slavoj Zizek's new film,&nbsp;<em>The Pervert's Guide to Ideology,</em>&nbsp;is meant to be a wake-up call, not a propaganda film. While most things we see on the big screens are idealised, romanticised, stereotypical versions of reality (and especially of morality), the "big problems" eat away at us because public opinion avoids tackling them. This is especially true for Eastern Europe, where years of dictatorial regimes taught the population to not ask too many questions and less than 25 years of democracy haven't yet produced a particularly opinionated generation. In several short scenes, Zizek, the Slovenian philosopher, film-maker and the protagonist of the movie, uses examples from film, music, history and current events to discuss various ideologies.</p> <p>One of the fascinating points Zizek makes in the film is how the financial crisis became a source of violent outbursts and protest movements across Europe. He believes Europe no longer faces "an accident", something that can be fixed, but rather is undergoing a structural phenomenon. Crisis has become a way of life, with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer until the poor act out. What these protests lack, though he says, is a coherent agenda. Putting it this way, most of the manifestations of protest in Europe, including the Eastern countries, have been nothing but rage episodes or wannabe-copies of what a public manifestation should look like.</p> <p>And Zizek may have a point. In May 2010, one of the biggest Romanian protests of the past decade took place in Bucharest. Over 30,000 people protested against the Emil Boc government and the austerity measures he had implemented. Far from touching on any violent frustration, the protest turned into what will be remembered as one of the largest-scale dance parties in Eastern Europe. People performed carefully synchronised choreographies on a well-known Romanian party-classic: the Penguin Dance. It's on YouTube. And thus the grand reason why everyone gathered was forgotten. As Zizek would say, it started out from a spirit of revolt, but wasn't followed by an actual revolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Communist past, leftist future?</strong></p> <p>It is impossible to watch&nbsp;<em>The Pervert's Guide to Ideology</em>&nbsp;without stumbling upon the fact that Zizek is a self-confessed communist with a declared interest in Lenin. What people need, he argues, is "a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness". He believes the socialism implemented in Eastern Europe went terribly wrong and that Stalinism was a perverse torture inflicted upon citizens. However, he wonders why the emancipatory movement ended up so tragically and points out that an attempt at social change - even a leftist one - should not be thought to end in disaster.</p> <p>Wherever you might fall in the political spectrum, Slavoj Zizek's film is proof of a larger phenomenon - a modern version of communism that is becoming fashionable and targeting the young, cinema-consuming audiences. This re-emergence of leftism has been obvious in Europe since the beginning of the financial crisis and it is only growing stronger with the liberals' failure to overcome it. We now have modern socialist parties that advocate free health care and the right to state pensions, promise stability in the job market, and oppose war and the expansion of NATO. Most importantly, they challenge the status quo of capitalism. It is the case with the main opposition party in Greece, Syriza, which in 2012 became the second largest group in the Greek Parliament. A much less radical version of this is the Romanian USL, the liberal-socialist coalition that won the local elections in June.</p> <p>Within this context it is even more crucial to distinguish between ideology and strategy - most of these parties are socialist only by name and televised speeches. The USL is not leftist, it is nothing. It is a bunch of people taking advantage of a void in the political landscape - namely a serious alternative to the capitalist waste Slavoj Zizek criticises. In the long run, people will always end up regretting having voted for them. The restless search for leftist solutions by young generations and mavericks like Slavoj Zizek is a sign that neither of these parties have filled or will ever fill that void.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Leftism in the East</strong></p> <p>Having leftist views is still a delicate subject in Eastern Europe, especially for youngsters - people don't say it loudly, they only share their opinions in the voting booth. Politically correct society usually perceives such people as those who learned nothing from the past and it is slow in drawing a line between historical communism and modern leftism. This is another reason why Slavoj Zizek has become extremely popular - he has always been outspoken about his beliefs, even ostentatious.</p> <p>Eastern Europe hasn't forgotten its past. But more and more people want a leftist approach in running their countries and bringing the economy to life. They want a different approach, something that has nothing in common with Leninism or life under&nbsp;Nicolae Ceaușescu. Wanting a liberal left capable of producing solutions in a time when democratic capitalism is failing is not unreasonable. It just takes a bit of courage - and escaping ideology, says Zizek - to admit it.</p> <p>In his new movie, Slavoj Zizek takes that courage and multiplies it by a million. He talks about adopting leftism with passion and naturalness. He adds some of the most iconic films and cultural trends of the past century to this mix and invokes a myriad of arguments for his positions. Some are logical and reasonable, others provocative, and some are difficult to imagine - like releasing oneself from all ideologies, living uninfluenced by anything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Looking at Everything</strong></p> <p>At its heart then, Zizek proposes that we should constantly question our past and our present, as well as how we imagine our future. He puts communism back on the table and invites us to think about it once more, from a different point of view, with new information at hand. He encourages us to demand a real change in the social and economic order and go beyond the capitalism we've come to accept.</p> <p>Putting aside his efforts to turn us into little Leninists, Zizek's film lets us admit that we're disappointed with our leaders, our political options and our world. So, let's get our hands out of our pockets and admit that we need to re-examine our options - maybe create new ones. Let's look at everything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> A country in A Coma2012-11-23<p>Bosnia and Herzegovina at the moment is in a serious political crisis, to the point that it could be compared to a comatose state. Since the signing of the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, there have been more or less important crises, but today is by far the biggest. There has been no progress on the Euro-Atlantic path from the second half of the last government's term (2006-2010), but rather constant setbacks. The last step was taken in 2008, with the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. Stagnation has increased under the government ushered in by the parliamentary elections of 2010.</p> <p>I believe that the cause of all that is the failure of the so-called "April package" of constitutional amendments. Since then, the international community has stepped out of the decision-making process. The leaders of different political parties continue to act only on a national [ethnic] basis, and in recent years have clearly demonstrated that they cannot agree, and often do not even want to, because the introduction of European legislation puts them at a disadvantage. Their goal is to keep Bosnia in a state of disorder as long as possible, because this is the only way political leaders, under the guise of defending alleged national interests, can remain in power. Bosnia was way ahead in the process of approaching the EU, but in a very short time it ended up at the bottom of the race on a regional level.</p> <p>The creation of a new parliamentary majority in June, a few months after the formation of the Council of Ministers, has only deepened the divisions within the country, behind the screen of a false defense of national interests. People were expecting a lot more from the social-democratic option, particularly from [Bosnian Serb leader] Milorad Dodik's Independent Social Democratic Party (SNSD) and [Bosnian Muslim leader] Zlatko Lagumdzija's Social Democratic Party (SDP). In the end, however, it turned out that these two parties, in combination with the nationalists, are the main generators of the crisis. This will surely last up to the elections in 2014, with possible aggravations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ROOTS OF THE PARTY CONFLICT</p> <p>The SDP, after a decade in opposition, had developed a strong desire to go to the government, especially to strengthen its position in the state-owned companies, where power is concentrated. The government of the [Muslim-Croat] Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities into which the country is divided, for months after its formation has dealt exclusively with the appointment of directors of companies and public institutions. Allegedly, conflict broke out between the SDP and the Bosnian Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) because of the SDA's opposition to the adoption of the budget for 2012. In fact, the reasons are much deeper.</p> <p>The SDP wanted to amend the Law on Internal Affairs of the federation in order to dismantle the independence of the police and rule the media, primarily the federal television. The SDA opposed this. The SDP also got companies formerly run by the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Stranka za BiH), SDA's partner in the previous government. The financial situation of these companies was not brilliant, so the SDP sought to expand its influence, finding the only chance in telecommunications - the Telekom is the most profitable state company. The SDA, however, tenaciously defended this company from being controlled by the SDP. I think this was the straw that broke the camel's back.</p> <p>The SDP decided to discontinue any relationship with the SDA and began to fire its public servants. It found a strong partner in the BiH Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), another party only interested in positions of power. The bitter rivals joined to pursue the division of the state treasury in the interests of the party, under the false claim of defending national interests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A RECENT SERB-BOSNIAK AGREEMENT</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>A detailed look at the recent agreement between the Serb SNSD and Bosniak SDP shows that Lagumdzija and Dodik want to turn Bosnia and Herzegovina into another Belarus and play the role of undisputed lords. Lagumdzija would become the lord of the Federation, Dodik of the country's other political entity, the Republika Srpska. Dodik already is, but the agreement with Lagumdzija would keep him there for years, perhaps decades. Just consider that the proposed amendment to the electoral law, contained in the agreement, provides for the closure of the list of candidates, which means that the next seats in parliaments and assemblies would belong to political parties rather than those who are elected. The introduction of the so-called "imperative mandate" is the worst form of suffocation of democratic processes and demonstrates the complete disregard of citizens' will.</p> <p>Lagumdzija and Dodik also want to eliminate the main center of the counting of votes at the state level, which only in the last elections unveiled 100 attempts at electoral fraud. Were it not for this control system, all those irregularities would have passed and the election results would have been far different in many municipalities. If the elections were conducted by the electoral commissions of entities and municipalities, as suggested in the agreement, not only would the electoral process in Bosnia fall apart, but this would open up the possibility of manipulation and electoral engineering.</p> <p>This is a really crucial aspect that would guarantee the presidents of SDP and SNSD maximum durability in power, no matter the will of voters, who have significantly soured on these two parties in the last administrative elections. SDP and SNSD fear defeat in the 2014 elections, and with this agreement they seek to avoid it. Civil society organizations, for the first time, have joined together to oppose the agreement and urged local and international institutions, primarily the Council of Europe, to do something in defense of democracy in Bosnia.</p> <p>The agreement between Dodik and Lagumdzija also contains an attack on the independence of the judiciary, in particular through the proposed amendments to the system of appointment of judges, which would be transferred from the High Council of the Judiciary to parliament. Other problematic issues relate to the functioning of the Central Bank and public energy companies. The verdict of the Strasbourg Court in the case of Sejdic-Finci, [which struck down the country's constitutional provision that sets aside high political offices only for Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks] was not taken into account simply because it would be against the interests of political leaders and in favor of citizens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONALS</p> <p>In recent years, the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina has adopted a rather passive role. The Office of the High Representative has virtually disappeared, the OSCE mission now acts more as a consultant than anything else, just like the office of the Council of Europe. The same can be argued for the delegation of the European Commission in Sarajevo and its representative, Peter Sorensen, from whom we expected much more pressure on local politicians to lead the country along the Euro-Atlantic integration path. Instead, everyone constantly repeats that the whole responsibility lies with local leaders. I agree, but Brussels must have seen that local politicians do not have a shred of sense of responsibility.</p> <p>The interests of parties continue to be dominant over those of citizens, which is why we are where we are: in a coma. Rumor has it that the Lagumdzija-Dodik agreement is supported by the international community, but I do not believe it. Otherwise, Stefano Sannino, director general for EU enlargement, would not have written to the Bosnian government warning it not to touch the resources of the state electricity company. The international community, however, could and should do more.</p> <p>I think it is imperative that Bosnia become part of NATO and an EU candidate at least. If the international community exerted more pressure on the government to achieve these goals, many things would change. Citizens may breathe a sigh of relief, and international officials could reduce their influence. Invitations to local leaders to assume their responsibilities, however, will not bring anything. The greatest progress and reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina were made between 2002 and 2006, when the international community had an important role in decision-making. Sad, but true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A SOLUTION</p> <p>Simply, party leaders should work for the welfare of citizens. But they have already proved they do not want to. Since I do not think it possible to have an agreement without the SDA, nor even a functioning parliamentary majority, the political crisis will last two more years for sure.</p> <p>The 2014 elections will be an opportunity to finally solve things. I think it is necessary to amend the electoral law and introduce compulsory voting at least for this election. It is not an anti-democratic measure; it is also applied in developed countries such as Finland, Belgium, and Australia. This system would discredit forever the parties' claim to have the citizens' full support. That 40 percent to 45 percent of voters who now do not go to polls, because they are totally disappointed with the present state of things, could change the situation. Should the situation remain the same after 2014, however, we could say that it is the will of the citizens of Bosnia. Until then, neither Dodik nor Lagumdzija can be leaders in Bosnia, because the votes they obtained is hardly 10 percent of the whole electorate.</p> Prime Minister Necas warns of loss of historical memory2012-11-20<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is being constantly confirmed that freedom and democracy are not granted, Necas said.</p> <p>"I firmly believe this and I want to believe that we are not losing historical memory," Necas said.</p> <p>The Communists' success in the autumn regional and Senate elections as well as the Communists having their first regional governor 23 after the fall of the Communist regime is a certain warning, he added.</p> <p>In the regional elections, held in mid-October, the Communists scored excellent results, having received the second highest number of votes nationally after the Social Democrats and having won in two regions.</p> <p>Necas said the anti-government demonstration of trade unions and civic group to be held in Prague later today was a right of people in a free society.</p> <p>"We are free people in a free country, we have the right to express freely our views, this is part of democracy," he added.</p> <p>November 17 is a state holiday in the Czech Republic, the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy commemorating the start of the anti-communist "velvet" revolution in 1989 and of the Nazi persecution of Czech university students in 1939.</p> <p>The student demonstration on November 1989 was held exactly 50 years after the Nazi rule brutally suppressed a rally against it, detaining a number of students some of whom were eventually executed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Jinping: the 'big personality' taking charge in China2012-11-16<p>Xi Jinping<span>, who has been confirmed as the man who will lead&nbsp;</span>China<span>&nbsp;for the next decade, cuts a contrasting figure to his predecessor, Hu Jintao.</span></p> <p> <p>While Hu is determinedly anonymous, Xi is "a big personality", according to those who have met him. Standing over 6ft tall, he is confident and affable. He boasts a ready smile and a glamorous second wife &ndash; the renowned People's Liberation Army singer Peng Liyuan. He has expressed his fondness for US war movies and, perhaps more surprisingly, praised the edgy independent film-maker Jia Zhangke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is, in part, a generational and social shift. Xi is 59 and, like the other rising stars in Chinese politics, grew up in the era of reform and opening.</p> <p><span>Xi was born in 1953 to Xi Zhongxun, a Long March hero who later became a vice-premier, and Qi Xin. He grew up in the relative comfort of Zhongnanhai, the party elite's red-walled Beijing compound.&nbsp;</span><span>But when he was only nine his father fell from grace with Mao Zedong. Six years later, as the cultural revolution wreaked havoc, young Xi was dispatched to the dusty, impoverished north-western province of Shaanxi to "learn from the masses".</span></p> <p><span>Although he has openly criticised the cultural revolution, Xi embraced the party; in a WikiLeaks cable an academic who knew Xi as a young man suggested he "chose to survive by becoming redder than red".&nbsp;</span><span>Family links helped him to win a place studying chemical engineering at the elite Tsinghua University, followed by a post as aide to a powerful military leader, Geng Biao &ndash; the beginning of his useful People's Liberation Army (PLA) connections.</span></p> <p><span>He transferred to southern Fujian province in 1985, climbing steadily upwards over 17 years. Most of his experience has been earned in China's relatively prosperous, entrepreneurial coastal areas, where he courted investors and built up business, proving willing to adopt new ideas.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>After the toppling of Shanghai's party secretary, Chen Liangyu, in a corruption scandal, Xi took charge of the city in 2007. Barely six months later his elevation to the politburo standing committee &ndash; the top political body &ndash; signalled that he was expected to succeed Hu. In October 2010 his appointment as vice-chair of the central military commission cemented his position.</span></p> <p> <p>Some hope he shares his father's liberal sympathies: Xi senior was not only a noted economic reformer, but an ally of reformist leader Hu Yaobang. Some say he criticised the military crackdown on Tiananmen Square's pro-democracy protests in 1989.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They say that grassroots organisations burgeoned during the vice-president's stint in Zhejiang, and there was progress in the election of independent candidates at local polls. But the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network has argued the province also saw "zealous persecution" of dissidents, underground Christians and activists: "His track record does not bode well," it wrote. Other China watchers point to shattered hopes that Hu might prove politically liberal.</p> <p><span>In any case, to read Xi as a man in sole control of the agenda is to fundamentally misunderstand the Chinese political system. He will be "first among equals" in the nine-member standing committee, say analysts. Hu and other former leaders will still exert influence; and 2011's five-year plan has plotted the immediate course.&nbsp;</span><span>His leadership will be shaped by his colleagues and framed by external forces.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> </p> </p> nationalism: Punching for Poland2012-11-13<p><span>In recent years the occasion has been a chance for small groups of demonstrators with extremist views to try their luck against the law-enforcement arm of the Polish state.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a day of relatively peaceful marches, the riots in the evening resulted in 22 police injuries and 176 arrests. Most of the trouble was around representatives of Poland's tiny far-right organisations, the&nbsp;<em>Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski</em>&nbsp;[National Revival of Poland]&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<em>Młodzież Wszechpolska&nbsp;</em>[All Poland Youth], who attacked the police with flares, bottles, bricks and even petrol bombs. They were dispersed with truncheons, tear gas and verbal warnings that rubber bullets were about to be used.</p> <p>Of the several &nbsp;marches that took place, one included Polish anti-fascist demonstrators with banners that crossed out swastikas and the "white power" symbol.&nbsp;Another with 10,000 attendees was led by president Bronisław Komorowski, a political centrist, who called on Poles to put political differences to one side. "Today public life is poisoned by excessive rows," he said. "We should be critical, but criticism should not mean mutual destruction." Roman Giertych, the former leader of the radical-right League of Polish Families,&nbsp;walked&nbsp;at the president's side, apparently a changed man.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Groups Slam Azerbaijan Over Freedom Of Speech2012-11-09<p><span>The condemnation came as Baku this week is hosting the United Nations-sponsored Internet Governance Forum, an international meeting to discuss public-sphere Internet policies.</span><br /><br /><span>In Baku on November 7, Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, called the crackdown by Azerbaijani authorities on journalists, rights supporters, and protesters an &ldquo;embarrassing trend&rdquo; for the oil-rich Caucasian nation.</span><br /><br /><span>Mijatovic said she met with President Ilham Aliyev and other top Azerbaijani leders. The OSCE representative called for reforms, including decriminalizing alleged defamation to a civil offense.</span></p> <p><span>She suggested that abuses of freedom of speech had become routine in Azerbaijan and said she had raised the issue with Azerbaijani authorities.</span><br /><br /><span>​​"I don't think there is a need for me to repeat that all the cases that happened in Azerbaijan in relation to free speech, particularly related to the safety of journalists, and bloggers, and media activists," she said. "We raised all of them and continue to raise this with the authorities [of Azerbaijan]."</span><br /><br /><span>Human Rights Watch has called on Azerbaijani authorities to mark its hosting of the Internet forum by releasing at least eight imprisoned journalists and three human rights defenders.</span><br /><br /><span>In its report, the U.S.-based rights watchdog said freedom of expression is &ldquo;severely limited&rdquo; in Azerbaijan.&nbsp;</span><span>The report describes what it calls &ldquo;Azerbaijan&rsquo;s record of imprisoning journalists, human rights defenders, and political opposition activists, in most cases on bogus criminal charges, in apparent retaliation for their investigative journalism or political activism.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>The Human Rights Watch report says that since early 2006, Azerbaijani authorities have not authorized a single opposition protest in the center of Baku, instead forcing all demonstrations into designated zones on the outskirts of the capital.</span><br /><br /><span>It says such a blanket ban on assembly in central Baku runs counter to Azerbaijan&rsquo;s international obligations to respect freedom of assembly and expression.</span></p> <p><span>On November 2, the Azerbaijani Parliament adopted amendments to the law on public gatherings to significantly increase fines &ndash; to up to $10,000 -- for organizing or participating in illegal demonstrations.</span></p> a truly incorruptible state?2012-11-06<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Could those who believe that the recent arrest of dozens of corrupt ticket inspectors will make fare dodging less common in Romania in two years time please raise their hands? You there holding up both your hands, do you also believe that revenue from customs and excise has increased because in February 2011, a number of customs officers and border guards were arrested?&nbsp;Well, you are wrong. Only one thing is certain, we have spent a small fortune on investigation and the infiltration of police forces etc... We have had spectacular arrests in the middle of the night that were followed by release orders issued by the courts a day later. Innumerable cases have been opened, some of which went to court for hearings which will require the hindsight of a few years to assess their utility or futility. But on fundamental level, nothing has changed.</p> <p>Of course, the customs agents and the ticket inspectors clearly were at fault. But the manner in which we have chosen to fight systemic corruption is completely ineffective.</p> <h4> <p>Productivity that never took off</p> </h4> <p>Systemic corruption only occurs when there is a major discrepancy between what the state claims to do (or to offer) and what it really does. For example, the state claims to provide medical treatments at prices in-line with the state health insurance system, but the reality is that the insurance system is doubly inadequate. First and foremost because if it were true and everyone began to request these services (tests, surgery), state insurance funds would be not be enough to cover a quarter of the resulting costs. And secondly, because the state pretends to believe that doctors and nurses can do their work for the wages they are paid, which is simply not possible. The shortfall between the official cost of services and the real cost of work is therefore offset by bribes paid by patients to supplement their insurance cover. This is how the balance is established between supply and demand and more realistic prices are set. Arrests are not about to change this. Let's not forget that &nbsp;they have proved to be ineffective since the time of Nicolae Ceauşescu, who arrested various managers in the hope of boosting productivity, which consistently failed to take off.</p> <p>The problem of the health service can only be resolved by correcting failed public policy. This also applies for the Romanian rail network (CFR), where fare dodging soared after the virtually simultaneous implementation of the IMF's clever advice to raise ticket prices and a no less brilliant homegrown plan to cut ticket inspectors wages by 25%. Likewise for customs services and the bid to eradicate cigarette smuggling which peaked in January 2010, in the wake of the government's decision to raise excise duties. Notwithstanding the European Commission reports that have praised the DGA (Anti-Corruption General Directorate), two thirds of Romanians consider - and I am inclined to believe them - that corruption has continued to increase.</p> <h4> <p>Structural imbalances</p> </h4> <p>If we are to have any success in building a modern state, we will have to put a stop to public policies that create conditions for systemic corruption that cannot be eliminated by repression in the form of the Anti-Corruption General Directorate. The DGA can effectively be deployed to combat large-scale corruption - which is what it was created to do. However, the bulk of corruption in this country, which has been generated by poor policies, can not be eradicated by prosecutors. It can only be tackled by action to redress the imbalances that have been introduced by the state. And such action has nothing to do with repression. However, no initiatives of this kind have been implemented, while repeated arrests, which do not change anything, have become increasingly common. Why?</p> <p>The answer to this question is, I am afraid, very simple. To forge ahead with a policy of modernisation, you have to have modernists led by a head of state or of government who understands the issues at stake and wants to change the state - a system reformer like Mikheil Saakashvili. I regret to inform you that we have no such leader: neither our ex-president Emil Constantinescu, or our current President Traian Băsescu have any desire to change the system. And that is not to mention post-revolutionary president Ion Iliescu, who deliberately sought to establish the current system guided by the mistaken belief that more state control reduces corruption, whereas in fact the opposite is the case.</p> <p>The launch, on the insistence of the European Union, of a number of anti-corruption agencies, which have partial political autonomy has highlighted a major anomaly: politicians do not behave as they should, and even behave as they shouldn't by obstructing anti-corruption agencies. At the same time, anti-corruption agencies with a brief to provide reports to Brussels try to do what they can, and even attempt to do something they are unable to do when instead of fighting corruption, they target ill-conceived policies - although perhaps they engage in this exercise simply to impress Brussels.</p> <p>It makes you wonder: is this strategy designed to ensure that those who are arrested will be replaced by others who do exactly the same thing, while the state is dragged into court cases that will carry on for years? Prosecutors are resorting to repression in their attempt to address structural problems in the fields of customs and railways. But these problems can only be resolved by improved policies, and most importantly by politicians who have the will to take action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> pays off communist dept2012-11-01<p>Edward Gierek, Poland's communist leader for 10 years, fueled the boom while accumulating almost $40 billion in debt in the process from the 'London Club' of financiers.</p> <p>"Before the maturity date, we will have bought the last of the bonds," said Piotr Marczak, director of the Department of Public Debt in the Ministry of Finance. Poland was able to sell of its debt by selling government bonds to organizations of private creditors, such as the London and Paris Clubs.</p> <p>In the 1970s, Gierek took advantage of foreign loans and raised Poles' expectations of a Western consumerism lifestyle.</p> <p>Gierek's relatively reformist regime was described as the "human face of socialism" although the reforms came at a high price.</p> <p>At the time, the Polish people were less concerned about when and how they would have to pay off the debt. Many decisions were made under the slogan: "For Poland to grow strong and the people to live prosperously."</p> <p>In the 1980s, when it came time for Poland to pay off the borrowed money, it didn't have the means. Polish creditors went to organizations which help countries to pay off commercial banks. In the 1990s, Poland was able to make a repayment schedule and pay the Paris Club in three years. Up until yesterday, the last of the outstanding communism loans was to the London Club.</p> <p>Edward Gierek rose to power in the 1950s and 1960s organizing communist control over coal mines and industrial plants. He soon became the recognized leader and in 1970 was the first secretary of the Polish Communist Party. Gierek replaced Władyslaw Gomułka, who was swept aside during food riots in which scores of workers were killed by the police.</p> <p>Gierek promised the Polish people a higher standard of living. He kept good relations with Western politicians and was able to receive western aide. The country acquired the license to build Fiat cars and sell items such as Coca-Cola and Marlboro cigarettes from America. Warsaw was able to build the main train station and a major highway, the Wisłostrada.</p> <p>Nonetheless, Gierek's reforms were still bound to the Soviet Union, which had controlled Eastern Europe since the end of World War II. The economy started to shift in the 1973 and by 1976 price increases were inevitable. Protests broke out on the streets because store shelves were empty.</p> <p>The credits given to the regime were squandered on consumer durables, and not investment, and soon ran out, paving the way for a rise in anti-communist sentiment and riots in 1976, which culminated in the foundation of the Solidarity trade union in 1980.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Of Soviet Repression Honored2012-10-30<p><span>On the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions,&nbsp;human rights activists in Russia and other ex-Soviet states are expected to hold vigils.</span><br /><br /><span>They will remember the millions of people who fell victim to state-executed repressions, such as mass deportations and imprisonment in forced labor camps, from the 1917 October Revolution to the 1991 collapse of the communist regime.</span></p> <p>Also, in Moscow, a<span>&nbsp;rally in&nbsp;support of&nbsp;political prisoners will take place on&nbsp;New Pushkin Square on&nbsp;Tuesday evening to&nbsp;coincide with a&nbsp;national day of&nbsp;remembrance for&nbsp;victims of&nbsp;political repression.</span></p> <p>City Hall granted permission for&nbsp;the rally, which will run from&nbsp;7 to&nbsp;9 p.m. and&nbsp;has a&nbsp;maximum sanctioned turnout of&nbsp;2,000 people, after an&nbsp;application was lodged by&nbsp;rights groups including the&nbsp;Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial and&nbsp;For Human Rights.</p> hints at move to strengthen Communist rule2012-10-23<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>State news agency Xinhua did not elaborate on what the amendments could be, though they have previously formed the guiding principles on which major policy decisions such as moving&nbsp;<a title="Full coverage of China" href="">China</a>&nbsp;in the direction of a market economy have been based.</p> <p>"The meeting stressed the importance of making a draft amendment to the CPC (Communist Party of China) Constitution that conforms to the needs of the CPC's theoretic innovation, practice and development and will also promote the CPC's work and strengthen its construction," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the meeting of the politburo.</p> <p>The party "constitution" is less a legal document and more an organizational guide and compilation of the ideological justifications that China's Communists have accumulated - and often quietly shelved - in their evolution from a party of Mao Zedong and mass revolution to one of mass markets and dynamic growth.</p> <p>heng Li, an expert in Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, told Reuters the amendments could include new language on the rule of law and intra-party democracy.</p> <p>The constitution has also cemented legacies of previous leaders, enshrined landmark policies such as letting capitalists into the party, and stressed economic modernization as a priority of the nation.</p> <p>In 2007, the party issued an amended version of its charter enshrining the slogans and enhanced influence of President Hu Jintao, who steps down as party leader on November 8 at the 18th Congress.</p> <p>The changes were a symbolic victory for Hu in this top-down one-party state where ideological jargon is the language of power, telling officials and citizens which leaders to heed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> City to Review Azerbaijan Statue2012-10-23<p>Mexico City's government has appointed a&nbsp;committee to&nbsp;review and&nbsp;recommend a&nbsp;solution to&nbsp;the controversy over a&nbsp;statue of&nbsp;Azerbaijan's "founder of&nbsp;the nation" that was erected on&nbsp;the city's main boulevard, authorities said Monday.</p> <p>The&nbsp;Stalinesque bronze statue of&nbsp;the late authoritarian leader Geidar Aliyev was erected by&nbsp;the Azerbaijani Embassy, which paid for&nbsp;the renovation of&nbsp;part of&nbsp;the city park where the&nbsp;statue sits.</p> <p>A&nbsp;second statue donated by&nbsp;the Caucasus republic appears in&nbsp;another park Azerbaijan paid to&nbsp;renovate in&nbsp;downtown Mexico City.</p> <p>Protesters have said they are offended by&nbsp;a monument to&nbsp;an authoritarian figure like Aliyev, who led Azerbaijan first as Communist Party boss during Soviet times and&nbsp;then as president from&nbsp;1993 to&nbsp;his death in&nbsp;2003.</p> <p>The&nbsp;city's leftist government said it had appointed a&nbsp;three-member commission of&nbsp;academics and&nbsp;experts to&nbsp;review complaints about the&nbsp;statues.</p> <p>Felipe Leal, the&nbsp;head of&nbsp;the city's department of&nbsp;urban development and&nbsp;housing, said the&nbsp;commission should look at&nbsp;the monument "with objectivity, a&nbsp;critical eye, to&nbsp;recommend what should be done in&nbsp;this case."</p> <p>The&nbsp;secretary for&nbsp;Azerbaijan's ambassador in&nbsp;Mexico, Manuel Luna, said the&nbsp;city could run into&nbsp;problems if it removed the&nbsp;statue in&nbsp;the park.</p> <p>The project in&nbsp;the park involved a&nbsp;signed agreement that stipulates the&nbsp;statue must remain in&nbsp;place for&nbsp;99 years," Luna told local media, adding that the&nbsp;issue "could affect our diplomatic relations."</p> <p>Leal acknowledged that an&nbsp;agreement had been signed but said that "the city has to&nbsp;respond to&nbsp;the concerns of&nbsp;the community ... and&nbsp;evaluate what repercussions there might be."</p> <p>He said the&nbsp;committee should take only a&nbsp;couple of&nbsp;weeks or so to&nbsp;make its recommendations, adding that the&nbsp;whole affair "may lead us to&nbsp;re-evaluate how these [project] approvals are made."</p> <p>Azerbaijan's ambassador to&nbsp;Mexico, Ilgar Mukhtarov, wrote that Azerbaijan has lavished attention on&nbsp;Mexico because it was one of&nbsp;the first countries to&nbsp;recognize Azerbaijan after the&nbsp;breakup of&nbsp;the Soviet Union.</p> <p>"This monument is not intended to&nbsp;improve anybody's reputation, because the&nbsp;world's perception of&nbsp;Heydar Aliyev does not require any rescuing," Mukhtarov said.</p> <p>The&nbsp;second Azerbaijani statue downtown depicts a&nbsp;woman, her arms uplifted in&nbsp;mourning, commemorating Khojaly, a&nbsp;village where hundreds of&nbsp;Azerbaijanis were reportedly killed during the&nbsp;Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.</p> <p>Advocates say a&nbsp;monument to&nbsp;Mexican suffering would have been more appropriate for&nbsp;a site once used as a&nbsp;police interrogation and&nbsp;torture center.</p> <p>And&nbsp;Armenian sympathizers said the&nbsp;second statue's reference to&nbsp;genocide in&nbsp;Khojaly cannot be compared to&nbsp;the mass killings of&nbsp;some 1.5 million Armenians in&nbsp;the region in&nbsp;1915.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> opens the door for travelling2012-10-18<p>It has taken half a century but Cuba has finally bowed to the inevitable and announced the lifting of foreign travel restrictions on its citizens. From next January they will no longer require exit permits to go overseas, leaving North Korea as the only communist state left that continues to immure its own people. The move - announced on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis - is the most significant act of liberalisation yet from Ra&uacute;l Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel as Cuba's president four years ago.</p> <p>His cautious programme of economic modernisation, which has already seen modest moves towards private ownership and some market reforms, was ratified by last year's party congress, the first for 13 years. There is no doubting Mr Castro's reforming instincts but the speed of change is woefully slow. Cuba remains an impoverished country - the average monthly salary is $20 - where corruption and cronyism are rampant. But the lifting of travel restrictions may mark a step change in the process. Freedom of movement will inevitably sharpen Cubans' appetite for greater economic freedoms - or even more dramatic developments. After all, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall that triggered the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.</p> <p>This latest move will be watched with keen interest by the United States, which will be the destination for most Cubans who decide to use their new-found freedom of movement. Since 1966 Washington has granted Cubans automatic residence if they can reach the United States - as many thousands have, usually in makeshift vessels. Ra&uacute;l Castro has dropped his brother's anti-American posturing, recently declaring that good relations between the two countries would be "mutually advantageous". He seems to be backing his words with actions.</p> Asks Afghanistan for Help With Soviet MIAs2012-10-16<p>Russian ambassador Andrey Avetisyan said the two countries are preparing an agreement that would regulate future efforts to recover the servicemen, who went missing during a decade of guerrilla warfare in the impoverished nation.</p> <p>Difficulties remain, he noted, in accessing some areas believed to contain soldiers' graves because of the current war between international forces, the Taliban and other insurgents.</p> <p>"We are talking about places where nobody goes, remote points where fighting is still heavy," he told reporters.</p> <p>The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979, telling the world it aimed to transform Afghanistan into a modern socialist state. Moscow sought to prop up a communist regime facing a popular uprising, but left largely defeated on Feb. 15, 1989 by anti-communist mujahedeen forces receiving massive support from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others.</p> <p><br />A Russian veterans group says 265 soldiers remain unaccounted for. About 20 are thought to have resettled in other countries after they deserted, while 30 to 40 may still be in Afghanistan or Pakistan.The Soviets maintained a garrison of about 80,000 troops in Afghanistan through much of that war. Nearly 700,000 rotated through the country and about 15,000 died in the 10-year conflict.</p> <p>One of those was Nikolai Bystrov, an army lieutenant captured by guerrillas fighting the Soviet occupation. He later became the personal bodyguard of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud who battled the Taliban during the 1990s.</p> <p>Aleksander Lavrentyev, deputy head of a veterans group searching for Soviet MIAs, said his group had received excellent help from Afghan authorities, the Red Crescent, NGOs and ordinary citizens - including those who had fought on the opposing side - in locating the remains of 15 soldiers in the past 4 years. Of those, five were positively identified while the rest were still undergoing forensic testing.</p> <p>"But now time is passing and it is becoming more and more difficult to find witnesses of those events," he said.</p> <p>The move to resolve the remaining MIA cases comes as the U.S.-led NATO coalition is preparing to draw down its forces in Afghanistan and hand over responsibility for the war in 2014 to the Afghan security forces.</p> <p>Despite the presence of up to 140,000 foreign troops, NATO has not been able to defeat the guerrillas who have successfully regrouped after their crushing defeat by U.S.-led forces in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.</p> <p>Russia has backed the international coalition in the war, providing air and land transit routes for troops and equipment. But Moscow has been critical of the alliance's plans to pull out while the Taliban remain undefeated.</p> Soviet Union Planned To Leave 100 Nukes On Cuba2012-10-12<p><em>The Soviet Union secretly planned to leave 100 nuclear weapons on Cuba after the end of the crisis but were so scared by Fidel Castro's instability that they made up a law to retrieve them.</em></p> <p>Documents released by the US National Security Archive disclose how close Cuba came in 1962 to becoming Latin America's first nuclear power.</p> <p>Minutes of a meeting with Anastas Mikoyan, the Soviet deputy prime minister, show Castro was furious at the USSR ending the crisis by agreeing to remove its strategic missiles.</p> <p>Unknown to Washington, the Soviets had left 100 tactical nuclear weapons on Cuba, and documents suggest they planned to train Cubans how to use them.</p> <p>But Mikoyan was so concerned at Castro's erratic behaviour during a diplomatic visit that he wrote back to Moscow that they must urgently take back the remaining bombs.</p> <p>"What do you think we are?" an emotional Castro asked during the four-hour November 22 meeting. "A zero on the Left, a dirty rag. We tried to help the Soviet Union to get out of a difficult situation."</p> <p>Mikoyan was driven to cite a non-existent Soviet law banning the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to other countries. "And when are you going to repeal that law?" Castro asked. "We will see," he said.</p> <p>The documents, which came from the archives of Mikoyan's late son, feature in a new book titled The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis.</p> of Post-Soviet System?2012-10-08<p>The post-Soviet world, so painfully built, is now collapsing. Along with its collapse, the fate of Ukraine lies in the balance. President Yanukovych is not a politician suited for his times and will himself soon realise that his authoritarian tendencies are a decade too late.</p> <p>Many representatives of Ukraine's political, media and business elite are gearing up for a long life in the underground. What else can they do? For over two years of being in power, President Viktor Yanukovych has gathered almost all of the power in the country up into his hands. What he has done, together with other politicians from the Party of Regions, cannot be called anything else than a simple&nbsp;<em>coup d'etat</em>. By changing the constitution he has brought back old privileges to the institution of president, which, incidentally, he currently holds. He has marginalised the role of the government, parliament, and the judiciary, subordinated the defence sector, and switched off the voice of the people and the opposition.</p> <p>Right now in Ukraine something is being born which resembles Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus. There is only one difference: Lukashenko took several years to become a dictator, while Yanukovych has become one by exploiting the rights he enjoys as president, something which has happened with the complete indifference of Ukrainian society. All this, once again, confirms the thesis of the analysts who are not driven by romantic ideals but by realistic views of politics. And these analysts openly say that the Orange Revolution of 2004 was not Ukrainian society's aspiration for democracy, but for wealth. An irresponsible populist during the "revolution", Viktor Yushchenko became, for a short time, the idol of millions of Ukrainians.</p> <p>But his reputation of being the country's "messiah" was not the result of his pro-democracy slogans or promises to imprison those who made fortunes out of bribes and kick-backs. Viktor Yushchenko became a "messiah" because of his competence, when he was still prime minister, to make sure that salaries and pensions were paid on time in the public service sector - something unprecedented in the history of independent Ukraine. This is when the real revolution took place.</p> <p>Thus, a person who voted for Yushchenko wasn't expressing his or her support towards freedom, but to prosperity. The mindset of such a voter was simple: since Yushchenko can pay us on time, he can also provide prosperity to Ukraine. Today, the same disappointment, felt a few years ago by those who originally voted for Yushchenko,&nbsp;is now being felt by the poor, marginalised and deprived Yanukovych electorate.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;">The consumerist state</span></p> <p>Why would one compare Yanukovych to the president of Belarus? The analogies are there, but the conclusions will be different. Lukashenko has been ruling Belarus for 18 years now, whereas his "Ukrainian" twin-brother is not likely to stay in power that long. First of all, the Belarusian dictatorship has a very consumerist nature, meaning the regime doesn't understand what economic reforms are.</p> <p>The Soviet understanding of entrepreneurship and development clearly still prevails in Belarus, as well as the social policy model based on the assumption that it is the state that protects the citizen. The majority of goods are, of course, funded with Russian money. Moscow has been subsidising Belarus in many different ways: cheap oil and preferential loans. This consumerist financing of the Belarusian regime has been taking place for the last two years.</p> <p>But once the Kremlin decides to stop financing its younger brother, Belarusian society will experience real poverty. And poverty will lead to the collapse of the system. This collapse will not be accompanied with spectacular social protest but will be rather quiet and led by internal problems: collusions and fights within the power elite, and mistakes being made by the ruling elite. On the other hand, should Russia start having economic problems, which is most certainly going to happen, Moscow will no longer be able to continue sponsoring the Belarusian regime and it will collapse in less than a few months.</p> <p>Lukashenko will either get eliminated by those in his closest circles or delivered, by them, to justice. Ukraine is different to Belarus as it has always supported itself. It is true that we have been getting cheap natural gas, something which was arranged by Leonid Kuchma through reaching an agreement with the former Russian leader, Boris Yeltsin. Th is gas helped the unreformed branches of Ukraine's enterprises to survive. But this policy has ended for good. Moscow won't help Kyiv in the way it has been helping Minsk. It cannot and does not want to.</p> <p>At the present stage of the collapse of the post-Soviet world, pains are being felt by Kyiv, but the same pains are being felt by all post-Soviet states. These countries can be called consumerist but only in a sense that their elites and societies together still use Soviet resources and means. There are, of course, countries - such as Georgia - where these resources have reached their end; the government in Tbilisi has been forced to give some freedom to small businesses as well as combating corruption.</p> <p>But there are also countries where the natural resources are more bountiful. Among them is Ukraine and Russia. Their end, however, is also near and will be tragic. It was foreseen in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR when voices could be heard that without economic reforms, the natural resources that he post-Soviet countries would run out in 20 or 25 years. And today, that collapse of the post-Soviet space is starting to take place.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold;">Time is up</span></p> <p>Yanukovych is simply late. Had he been Ukraine's president in 1994 (like Kuchma), he would still be governing Ukraine today and we would be wondering when the end of this 18-year old nightmare might be; just as we are wondering: when Lukashenko's dictatorship will end? Even if Yanukovych had become president a little bit later, perhaps in 2004, he would also have been able to enjoy a few years of leading an unlimited authoritarian regime; all until the arrival of the economic crisis.</p> <p>And yet oddly enough, it was this economic crisis that brought Yanukovych to power. And that is why his regime is protected. However, the age of collapse, which is now fast approaching, requires dialogue and trust, not repression and theft of all that is still left in the country. Yanukovych clearly does not fit into the former category.</p> <p>Another issue will emerge on the day when Yanukovych's time is up. This is the most interesting question and one for which there is still no single clear answer. Ukrainian society is wrapped up in the jacket of paternalism and hasn't grown up to face its serious challenges. It lacks a sense of civic obligation. And for that reason alone, Ukraine will not be Georgia. It will be more like a Georgia if it were governed by an opposition who doesn't want to take up any reforms. We are awaiting a time of terrible populism.</p> <p>The face of this era could be Yulia Tymoshenko or somebody like her, although this person may perhaps create a political climate in which the debate about reforms will start. These reforms will be taken up by new generations of politicians and economists, although none of them will happen particularly quickly.</p> <p>Between the collapse of the authoritarian regime and the first reforms, we should expect to wait, at least, between four to seven years. And the reforms themselves will need between three to five years to be implemented. The maths is simple: in about fifteen, or perhaps even as little as eight years time, Ukraine will be a relatively normal country. Only then will it start resembling today's Poland.</p> <p><em>Translated by Iwona Reichardt</em></p> <p><strong>Vitaly Portnikov</strong>&nbsp;is a Ukrainian journalist with Radio Svoboda and the independent television channel TVi.&nbsp;</p> dig launched in Poland for victims of communist terror2012-10-05<p>A mass grave has been located which historians believe may be the resting place of members of the National Armed Forces (NSZ), one of the chief Polish resistance groups to stay active following the end of the Second World War.</p> <p>Victims appear to have been shot in the back of the head, a characteristic trait in executions carried out by Poland's Soviet-modelled secret police.</p> <p>Researchers have indicated that the remains may belong to the underground division of Captain Henryk Flame (codename Bartek).</p> <p>Captain Flame was himself shot down by a policeman in a restaurant in the Lower Silesian village of Zabrzeg on 1 December 1947.</p> <p>Today's excavation comes under the auspices of a nationwide programme entitled "The search for unknown burial places of victims of communist terror in the years 1944-1956."</p> <p>The work is being carried out with the cooperation of two state-backed bodies, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), and the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (ROPWiM).</p> <p>This August excavations were also held at unmarked graves in Warsaw's historic Powazki cemetery, where a number of Poland's most noted resistance fighters are believed to have been buried.</p> <p>DNA tests have been carried out on relatives of about 100 prominent victims of Stalinist repressions that may have been interred at the Warsaw cemetery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Lost, Georgian Dream Becomes the Ruling Party2012-10-03<p>The polls got it wrong. And so did most Western observers. Despite widespread fears of a deadlocked, disputed election and protests on the streets, Georgia is -- so far --&nbsp;on the path&nbsp;toward a surprisingly orderly transfer of power following parliamentary elections of Monday, Oct. 1. Mikheil Saakashvili, the hyperactive reformist president who has governed Georgia since coming to power following a peaceful uprising in 2003, conceded defeat in a televised statement on Tuesday. Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream party will now control Parliament and, crucially, will be in place when constitutional reforms go into effect next year devolving key powers to the prime minister.</p> <p>Most opinion polls had been predicting a victory for the governing party, the United National Movement (UNM), and most of the mental effort in Western capitals had been focused on the problem of how to persuade Georgian Dream to accept defeat gracefully. I realized something was wrong with this conventional wisdom when I&nbsp;traveled through western Georgia&nbsp;two weeks ago and encountered a palpably pro-opposition mood, even in the booming port city of Batumi, which has been the showcase of Saakashvili's new Georgia. But I also got it wrong, predicting that the two main parties would divide the popular vote equally but that the UNM would win the most seats.</p> <p>The missing factor in most calculations was Georgia's silent majority: the large number of voters who responded "don't know" and "refuse to answer" in the pre-election polls. (That said, the late-breaking scandal&nbsp;of leaked video footage of abuse in Georgian prisons surely also shifted a large number of undecided voters.) But one can't discount that Georgian politics remain quite feudal. Many Georgians voted for Ivanishvili because he successfully projected himself as the country's next leader and attracted the crowds on the street to prove it. The momentum simply went Ivanishvili's way, and many voters deserted one ship for another.</p> <p>Constitutional deadlock beckons. Saakashvili will still serve as president, with the same powers he currently possesses, for a year or more, while a new opposition-dominated Parliament challenges him and probably forms a new government. The new constitution, which endows the job of prime minister with stronger executive powers, takes effect only when Saakashvili's term ends. The French call what happens in the meantime "cohabitation," but it will be taking place in a political culture with an aversion to compromise, where the two sides just recently declared each other mortal enemies and without European rules or institutions to buffer the country against shocks. There are also bound to be calls for an early presidential election and questions about the legitimacy of Georgia's rather lax<strong>&nbsp;</strong>rules on election timing. In January 2013, Saakashvili will have completed the full five years of his second term in office, but Georgian legislation allows for elections to be held at any point in the calendar year of 2013, permitting Saakashvili to serve out the entire year of 2013, should he choose to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And there will be tensions not just between the two new big players in Georgian politics but within their ranks. Georgian Dream is a coalition of very diverse politicians, united mainly by their opposition to Saakashvili. And the president's UNM combines real reformers with do-nothing bureaucrats. Expect it to take a while for a working government to emerge out of all this.</p> <p>Whatever happens, this is the beginning of the end of the Saakashvili era. The president has earned his place in history as a state-builder and modernizer. But this election shows that Georgia was tired of his furious and divisive style of government. Georgia's revolutionary phase is now over. Saakashvili is a supremely talented politician, and still only 44, but it is hard to imagine a scenario where he comes back to power. He has made too many enemies.</p> <p>But it is more than plausible that one of Saakashvili's allies will win high office in the future, when the political mood in Georgia changes again. One key Saakashvili lieutenant, the mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, keeps his job in any case and probably has ambitions for the future. But what's immediately clear is that this was not an election Saakashvili wanted to lose -- indeed he used all the means at his disposal to win it by making liberal use of state resources and the power of the country's two most powerful television stations.</p> <p>That strategy failed -- and it is to the credit of Saakashvili and his government that they are accepting their defeat. The key factor in ensuring Georgia's historically democratic election was the massive and close Western scrutiny of the election. Western officials will now inevitably be involved behind the scenes in helping manage and mediate the messy political transition as Georgian politicians now find themselves in unknown territory, forced to actually negotiate with each other.</p> <p>They will need time to get to grips with the new reality of how, as the president&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">d</a>eclared, "democracy works."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Writer Vladimir Voinovich Builds Optimism On A Foundation Of Pessimism 2012-09-28<div id="ctl00_ctl00_cpAB_cp1_cbcContentBreak"> <div class="zoomMe"><span class="firstLetter">W</span>riter Vladimir Voinovich burst onto the Soviet literary scene in the 1970s with the satirical novel "The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin." <br /> <br /> But as the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union ossified, he soon fell afoul of the authorities. Stripped of his citizenship and expelled from the Soviet Union in 1980, Voinovich settled in Munich and worked for RFE/RL's Russian Service.<br /> <br /> In 1986, he published his classic dystopian novel "Moscow-2042," which depicts a totalitarian Soviet Union run by a combination of the KGB, the Orthodox Church, and the Communist Party.<br /> <br /> Ahead of Voinvovich's 80th birthday on September 26, RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Yury Vasilyev spoke with the author about how present-day Russia compares to his dark vision of the future.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Did you think that you would see so much of what you predicted in "Moscow-2042" already in 2012?</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Vladimir Voinovich:</strong> Well, there are only 30 years left until 2042.... But, to be honest, I didn't expect this. I described a future that I hoped would never happen -- it was not a utopia, but a dystopia. But now reality, it seems, is already exceeding what I wrote then. In my novel, the country is ruled by the KPGB -- the Communist Party of State Security.<br /> <br /> And there was an ideological pentagon -- patriotism, security, religion, and so on. I have heard many times that the patriarch is sometimes referred to as Father Zvyozdony [editors' note: Father Zvyozdony was the major general of religious service in "Moscow-2042"].<br /> <br /> But the stupidity and vulgarity that are becoming the banner of our times -- no one could have expected that. The most idiotic laws are passed, the most monstrous trials are going on. Take the notorious Pussy Riot case. That exceeded everything that could be written in satire.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: "Moscow-2042" was published in 1986 -- a time of transition, perestroika. Now many in Russia are speaking of another looming transition. Do you see such a thing coming?</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich:</strong> In 1986, perestroika was just getting under way. But already then -- in its very first stages, I viewed it with enormous hope. But, to get back to the novel -- since those times I have begun to think that reality somehow moves in the other direction and, God willing, things won't turn out as they did in my novel.<br /> <br /> But then I look and I see -- no, things are unfolding as I imagined them, as if someone didn't want reality to drift too far [from the novel]. I don't consider myself a prophet. But some things really do seem prophetic.<br /> <br /> But it wouldn't be right to compare the present with those times because the beginning of perestroika was the beginning of hope. But events now produce a despairing pessimism, the kind that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Then can you compare the present with the years before perestroika, when you were expelled from the Soviet Union. Did the hopelessness of those times differ from the current hopelessness?</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich</strong>: The situation then, surprisingly, fostered hope. I could see that the Soviet authorities were doing stupid things that would ultimately lead to destruction or to an attempt at renewal, which, in fact, happened in the mid-1980s with the arrival of [Mikhail] Gorbachev. When I left in 1980, I was saying all the time that radical change would begin in the Soviet Union in five years. Maybe I was off by a couple of years, but that isn't important -- I turned out to be pretty correct. If you build your optimism on the expectation of collapse, then I guess you can say the same thing about the present.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Let's take a look at the ideological pentagon of your novel. Populism -- we already have that. Party loyalty -- only about half of what we had back then, but we still have it. Religiosity -- no doubt about that. State security -- well, of course. Vigilance -- we have that. Four and a half out of five. What can we expect going forward, according to "Moscow-2042"?</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich:</strong> I already said that we are once again in a phase when it is possible to make optimistic forecasts based on pessimistic assumptions.<br /> <br /> This is because all branches of power are working as one. The Duma writes some laws; the courts try Pussy Riot; the church does its work -- in short, all the social institutions and branches of power are approaching some sort of explosion. That explosion will definitely come because it isn't possible to upset such a large -- and daily growing -- number of people day after day.<br /> <br /> Someone once said that you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: That someone was Abraham Lincoln, and he didn't really have Russia in mind.</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich: </strong>Yes -- our history shows that most of the people can be fooled for a very long time. But now all this idiocy is coming into clear contradiction with the fact that we have some level of openness: RFE/RL's Russian Service exists, there are some opposition publications, the Internet can't be controlled, although they try to restrict it.<br /> <br /> But against this background, it all looks very stupid. A naked person only seems natural in a sauna. When he goes out into the street, people will either laugh at him or stone him.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: People often say about you that your predictions were self-fulfilling.</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich:</strong> Yes, they have said that. They've even proposed that I write another book -- with an optimistic view of the future. It really does seem that reality is trying to imitate my imaginings -- so if I think up something optimistic, then reality will imitate that.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: And do you take such suggestions seriously?</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Voinovich:</strong> As soon as we finish this interview, I'll start working. I'll write a glorious future -- communist -- and then we'll [see]&hellip; By the way, in Soviet times they more or less said the same thing -- that writers must depict the glorious future and then people will imitate it and it will be brought about.<br /> <h6><br /> Translated from Russian by Robert Coalson</h6> </div> </div> Real Freedom in Belarus Elections2012-09-25<p>Many OSCE commitments on citizen&rsquo;s democratic rights to associate, to stand as candidates and to express themselves freely were not respected in yesterday&rsquo;s parliamentary elections in Belarus, concluded the international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).</p> <p>The elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy, the observers found.</p> <p>&ldquo;This election was not competitive from the start,&rdquo; said Matteo Mecacci, Special Co-ordinator, who led the short-term OSCE observer mission. &ldquo;A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office, and we didn&rsquo;t see that in this campaign. We stand ready to work with Belarus to take the steps forward that are in our common interest.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The lack of neutrality and impartiality on the part of election commissions severely undermines public confidence in the process,&rdquo; said Antonio Milo&scaron;oski, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission. &ldquo;Citizens should feel confident that their votes are counted as cast, but the lack of proper counting procedures or ways for observers to verify the results raises serious concerns.&rdquo;</p> <p>While there was an increase in the number of candidates put forward by parties, prominent political figures who might have played a role remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record. Arbitrary administrative decisions also constrained the field of contestants, limiting voters&rsquo; choices.</p> <p>Despite improvements made to the electoral law in amendments in 2010 and 2011, the legal framework does not adequately guarantee the conduct of elections in line with OSCE commitments and international standards.</p> <p>On a positive note, political parties could, for the first time, nominate candidates in constituencies where they maintained no regional office, increasing the number of political party nominations. Nonetheless, overly technical application of the law resulted in the exclusion of one in four nominees.</p> <p>The election campaign was barely visible throughout the four-week campaign. Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and there is a high number of media outlets, coverage of the campaign did not provide a wide range of views. Candidates who called for an election boycott had their free access to media coverage denied or censored. Media coverage focused on the President and government, with minimal attention given to candidates.</p> <p>While early voting and election day procedures were assessed positively, the process deteriorated considerably during the count. A significant number of observers were not given a meaningful opportunity to observe the count and evaluated the process negatively in a significant number of the polling stations observed. The continued lack of properly delineated counting procedures meant that an honest count could not be guaranteed.</p> Group Head Alekseyeva: Refusal of USAID Means Return To Soviet Way2012-09-20<p>The Kremlin has ordered the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to cease its operations in Russia.<strong></strong><br /> <br /> The move will be a serious blow to the many nongovernment organizations and rights groups that relied on USAID for a significant part of their funding.<br /> <br /> RFE/RL correspondent Tom Balmforth spoke to human rights veteran Lyudmila Alekseyeva about the likely impact of the cessation of USAID's financing on the Moscow Helsinki Group she heads and Russia's human rights sphere as a whole.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: How important has USAID funding been to your organization?<br /> <br /> Lyudmila Alekseyeva:</strong> It's not [just] about our organization. It's about the human rights sphere in [Russia]. I think it really helped.<br /> <br /> In 1997, USAID issued a large grant for us to monitor the human rights situation in Russia. Of course, the Moscow Helsinki Group could not conduct work of this scale on its own and it worked together with human rights organizations from 80 different regions. Each of these collected material and compiled reports on the situation. We then did reports on the basis of this material.<br /> <br /> We of course taught them how to work. This three-year grant helped lay the ground for monitoring work in our country.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: What impact will the cessation of USAID funding have in general in Russia?<br /> <br /> Alekseyeva:</strong> Of course it will have very sad consequences. It will reduce the effectiveness of human rights organizations. But I think that the cessation of the work of USAID is entirely logical after the law on NGOs came into force requiring social organizations financed from abroad to register themselves as foreign agents.<br /> <br /> If we decline to do this and if organizations like us decline to do this, then [the authorities] will still stop our activates and won't allow us to make use of their bank accounts. If we agree to register [as foreign agents], we also won't be able to [to work effectively] because a certain section of the population will stop trusting us because the authorities have created a psychological understanding that everything from abroad is hostile and aimed at Russia's demise.<br /> <br /> Even worse, the Kremlin will probably issue an order to bureaucrats telling them not to cooperate with organizations that have registered themselves as foreign agents.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: In what ways will the Moscow Helsinki Group suffer specifically from the cessation of USAID funding?<br /> <br /> Alekseyeva:</strong> We will remain without funding because we don't receive Russian financing. The state won't finance us because we defend citizens whose rights are violated by Russian bureaucrats. Our state won't fund that kind of organization. Business here won't finance us either because every businessman understands that if he finances an organization that is not useful to the authorities, then he puts his own business under threat.<br /> <br /> We don't have any other sources of financing apart from abroad. It will seriously reduce the efficiency of our work. We won't be able to continue, for instance, our educational projects that we've had for many years.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: So how will you get around this problem in practice?<br /> <br /> Alekseyeva:</strong> The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in 1976 during the Soviet period, when of course there was no financing whatsoever either from abroad or from Russia. It received its first grant only in 1993, when it was already an internationally renowned organization.<br /> <br /> We will lose the efficiency of our work. We will return to the way we worked in the Soviet Union. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, human rights workers find themselves once again in the same position.<br /> <br /> [We'll get around it by] volunteering. Back [in Soviet times], we distributed our documents on human rights violations through samizdat. Now it is much easier than it was back then.<br /> <br /> Information will come to us -- we can find out things through the Internet and people approach us directly via telephone or online. We will put out material on citizens' human rights violations.<br /> <br /> <strong>RFE/RL: Why do you think the Russian authorities have made this move now?<br /> <br /> Alekseyeva:</strong> Because now a serious attack is being carried out on all the rights of citizens -- on their voting rights as well as their right to expression and on the right to unite. All of these rights are guaranteed by our constitution, but the authorities have already long forgotten about its existence.</p> and North Korea Agreed to Decrease the Debt from the Soviet Era2012-09-19<p>Russia and North Korea have signed a deal to decrease DPRK's debt of previous eleven billion dollars. The deal on settlement was revealed by Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak to Prime news Agency on Tuesday. Pyongyang's debt to Russia now includes the conversion from the rubles to dollars which gives an initial discount of 90 per cents of total. The negotiations over the issue has been current for the last four years without a mutual outcome. Remaining 1 billion debt would be used in a "debt for aid exchange" which means plans to assist with joint education, health and energy projects in North Korea.</p> detains suspect for killings after 1956 uprising2012-09-12<p><span>It was the first time that any of the Soviet-backed leaders of the time is brought to justice in the country.&nbsp;</span><span>More than two decades after the fall of communism, the prosecution of&nbsp;</span><span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347293236_0">Bela Biszku</span><span>, 90 - who has been detained on suspicion of&nbsp;</span><span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347293236_3">war crimes</span><span>&nbsp;- could reopen old wounds in the central European country which has still not fully faced up to this tragic chapter of its history.</span></p> <p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_262">The ruling Fidesz party, led by fiercely anti-communist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, pushed through a law last year which stipulated that war crimes and&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347293236_1">crimes against humanity</span>&nbsp;do not lapse, opening the way to dealing with crimes committed after the 1956 uprising.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_264">On Monday Biszku was detained on suspicion of war crimes for having directly supervised a Military Council that ordered the shootings of civilians during protests in&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347293236_2">Budapest</span>&nbsp;and in the eastern Hungarian town of Salgotarjan in December 1956.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_425">Hungary's uprising in 1956 was the first serious blow to the Soviet bloc established after Soviet tanks drove out Nazi German troops from Central Europe at the end of World War Two. Though the uprising was crushed, its impact was lasting and it played a role in the collapse of Soviet rule three decades later.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_427">Large numbers of civilians were killed in the backlash against the uprising, whose figurehead Imre Nagy was executed for treason for establishing a government in defiance of Moscow's rule over eastern Europe.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_442">In Salgotarjan, 46 people were shot dead by Hungarian and Soviet armed forces, the prosecutors said.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_440">"Today ... prosecutors have detained and heard as a suspect Bela Biszku, one of the key designers and one of those responsible for the reprisals that followed the 1956 revolution and uprising," Tibor Ibolya, acting Budapest chief prosecutor, told a news conference.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_438">He said Biszku had denied the accusations. He could face a life sentence if found guilty.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_436">Biszku came to public attention in 2010 when a documentary film was aired on his role in the suppression of the uprising.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_434">"This is a symbolic case that has been long overdue since the regime change (collapse of communism)," said Maria Schmidt, director of Budapest's House of Terror Museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazi and communist terror regimes.</p> <p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_448">Biszku said in an interview in 2010 that the fight for the communist system in 1956 was a "just" struggle, and as interior minister he had worked to restore public order.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_446">"First of all I believe this was not a revolution, but a counter-revolution," Biszku told Duna television in 2010.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_444">"Biszku had serious responsibility in the retaliation that followed the 1956 uprising," said Laszlo Eorsi, a historian working at Budapest's Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.&nbsp;<span>But Eorsi also said the timing of the detainment could serve to distract public attention from other sensitive issues, like tough credit talks with the IMF.</span></p> <p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_460">Prosecutors refused last year to launch criminal proceedings against Biszku, saying whatever he had done was too far in the past.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347439089778_458">But the ruling parliament majority pushed through a law last year, in line with a convention adopted by the United Nations in 1968, which stipulated that war crimes and crimes against humanity do not lapse.</p> </p> </p> </p> show US hushed up Soviet crime2012-09-11<p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_263" class="first">In 1943 they saw rows of corpses in an advanced state of decay in the&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347312791_1">Katyn forest</span>, on the western edge of&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312792_2">Russia</span>, proof that the killers could not have been the Nazis who had only recently occupied the area.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_256">The testimony about the infamous massacre of Polish officers might have lessened the tragic fate that befell&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312791_28">Poland</span>&nbsp;under the Soviets, some scholars believe. Instead, it mysteriously vanished into the heart of American power. The long-held suspicion is that President&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347312791_0">Franklin Delano Roosevelt</span>&nbsp;didn't want to anger&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347312791_13">Josef Stalin</span>, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312792_3">Germany</span>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312792_4">Japan</span>&nbsp;during World War II.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_265">Documents released Monday and seen in advance by The Associated Press lend weight to the belief that suppression within the highest levels of the U.S. government helped cover up Soviet guilt in the killing of some 22,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in the&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1347312791_2">Katyn forest</span>&nbsp;and other locations in 1940.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_310">The evidence is among about 1,000 pages of newly declassified documents that the&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312792_0">United States</span>&nbsp;National Archives released and is putting online. Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who helped lead a recent push for the release of the documents, called the effort's success Monday a "momentous occasion" in an attempt to "make history whole."</p> <p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_489">Historians who saw the material days before the official release describe it as important and shared some highlights with the AP. The most dramatic revelation so far is the evidence of the secret codes sent by the two American POWs &mdash; something historians were unaware of and which adds to evidence that the Roosevelt administration knew of the Soviet atrocity relatively early on.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_495">The declassified documents also show the United States maintaining that it couldn't conclusively determine guilt until a Russian admission in 1990 &mdash; a statement that looks improbable given the huge body of evidence of Soviet guilt that had already emerged decades earlier. Historians say the new material helps to flesh out the story of what the U.S. knew and when.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_25_1347346342484_308">The Soviet secret police killed the 22,000 Poles with shots to the back of the head. Their aim was to eliminate a military and intellectual elite that would have put up stiff resistance to Soviet control. The men were among&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1347312791_29">Poland</span>'s most accomplished &mdash; officers and reserve officers who in their civilian lives worked as doctors, lawyers, teachers, or as other professionals. Their loss has proven an enduring wound to the Polish nation.</p> </p> </p> published the names of KGB officers2012-09-06<p> <p><span>The records list specific activities and names of the agents from the 1980s. </span></p> <p><span>&ldquo;These lists were published for the first time and there is information about all districts&rdquo; said Terese Birute Burauskaite, the director of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania. &ldquo;There was a central unit in KGB- we published the materials according to departments, governing agencies, and also the sub-divisions in cities and districts.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span>There were five KGB departments in the bigger cities of Lithuania, and 44 sub-divisions in other districts.</span></p> <p><span>Burauskaite said that she cannot state the exact number of people in the lists but suggested there are at least a few hundred. </span></p> <p><span>According to the calculations of the Baltic News Service the lists contain the names of 53 KGB staff officers who worked in Vilnius, around 300 names from Kaunas and 98 from Klaipeda areas.</span></p> </p>, Armenia and the axe-murderer cause a diplomatic storm2012-09-05<p> <p>It has pulled in Russia, America and the European Union, and led to a new war of words in one of the world&rsquo;s most volatile regions.</p> <p>Safarov used an axe to murder a sleeping fellow student, an Armenian officer called Gurgen Margarjan, while both men were at a NATO English-language course in Budapest in 2004. Safarov&nbsp;justified himself&nbsp;by referring to Armenian atrocities against Azerbaijan in the conflict of 1988-94. He told the court that Lieutenant Margarjan, an Armenian, had taunted him about the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh from where he was a refugee.</p> <p>Hungary sent Safarov home, it says, on the understanding that he would serve the rest of his sentence in prison there. But on arrival in Baku, he was immediately pardoned, hailed as a national hero and promoted to major.</p> <p>Armenia has&nbsp;reacted with fury&nbsp;and has severed diplomatic relations with Budapest. Angry protestors burnt the Hungarian flag in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, and pelted the consulate with tomatoes. Serzh Sarkisian, the president of Armenia, said the country was ready to fight if need be. &ldquo;We don't want a war, but if we &nbsp;have to, we will fight and win. We are not afraid of killers, even if they enjoy the protection of the head of state."</p> <p>Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the U.S. State Department,&nbsp;said&nbsp;that the United States was &ldquo;extremely troubled&rdquo; by the pardon of Safarov and would be seeking an explanation from both Budapest and Baku.</p> <p>Russia, which has been deeply involved in efforts to ease relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, said that the actions of the Hungarian and Azerbaijani governments &ldquo;contradict internationally brokered efforts&rdquo; to bring peace to the region.</p> <p>Hungary condemned the decision to release Safarov and said it had been misled by the Azerbaijan government. Hungarian officials said they had received assurances from Azerbaijan that Safarov would be released on parole only after serving at least 25 years.</p> <p>The Hungarian media has reported that Azerbaijan has been pressing Hungary to release Safarov since his conviction. Many scent a dirty deal behind the scenes.&nbsp;<span>The main&nbsp;theory is that &nbsp;Azerbaijan had promised to buy state bonds from Hungary&nbsp; in exchange for Safarov&rsquo;s release.</span></p> </p> celebrates 1980 Solidarity August agreement anniversary2012-08-31<p> <p>President Bronislaw Komorowski will present honours to 40 activists of the democratic opposition and members of the Solidarity trade union.</p> <p>The centrepiece of the celebrations will be a special Mass attended by Lech Walesa, held at St. Brigid's Basilica in Gdansk, northern Poland, where strikes which started at the Lenin Shipyard led to the historic signing of the social contract with the communist authorities.</p> <p>This morning, flowers will be laid at the foot of the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers at the Gdansk shipyard and 300 pigeons will be released into the sky.</p> <p>An exhibition, "Anna Walentynowicz. + Legend + Solidarity 1929-2010, prepared by the Institute of National Remembrance, will be opened, in remembrance of one of the leading lights of the Solidarity movement, who died in the Smolensk air disaster in April 2010.&nbsp;</p> </p> Anti-Roma Marches2012-08-27<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On August 5th, Devecser, a village in western Hungary, was inundated by neo-Nazis. In a village of little more than 5,000, most of the indignant mob was bused in.</p> <p>Devecser is sadly notorious: two years ago it was hit by a wall of caustic red sludge when the retaining wall of a waste reservoir of a nearby aluminium plant collapsed. The disaster killed four and injured 120.</p> <p>The leaders of the groups marching included Gabor Ferenczi of Jobbik, a far-right party that won 16% of the vote in the last election in 2010. The party, though no stranger to such set-piece confrontations, had previously shied away from sharing a podium with certain neo-Nazi groups.</p> <p>This time was different. Zsolt&nbsp;Tyirity&aacute;n, a leading figure in the Outlaw Army, stood in front of the village church arguing for racial warfare and the need to "exterminate Roma from public life". Devecser's mayor, Tamas Toldi, a member of the ruling rightist Fidesz party, says he was unable to stop the gathering, which he had been told was a peace march.</p> <p>Mr Toldi says he was "really angry" at the speeches, but it would have been "unwise" to try and stop proceedings in mid-flow because the police would not have been able to assert their authority. The 200 or so on duty were mustered locally and not trained or equipped to deal with an angry hoard of neo-Nazis.</p> <p>Not a peep of condemnation has come from Fidesz, which controls a two-thirds majority in parliament. With an election due in early 2014, Fidesz, which has lost voters to Jobbik, knows that there are hardly any votes in standing up for the Roma.&nbsp;The party also doesn&rsquo;t want to alienate its lunatic fringe or create a barrier to Jobbik voters who might be tempted to switch to Fidesz.</p> <p>"At the time we were really scared," says Ibolya Domotor, one of four elderly Roma women sitting in the shade of a tree on a street the march passed through. Roma and Hungarians have rubbed along there for decades without serious problems, she says. A police patrol is reassuring, as long as it lasts.</p> <p>It all began with a slanging match down the street when a Roma driver was blocked by a car on July 23rd. Two days later the row escalated into two bloody scuffles, allegedly involving knives, baseball bats and spades. The only previous trouble was when some of a Magyar family's nine Rottweilers&mdash;the same family whose guest had blocked the Roma driver&mdash;crawled under a fence and killed their neighbour's German shepherd. (The Roma driver also happened to be the father of the owner of the killed German shepherd.)</p> <p>The precise details and motivation of the neighbourly battle after the car incident are murky. But within days a post on, a far-right propaganda web site, called for &ldquo;real Hungarians&rdquo; to come to the aid of compatriots facing oppression from Roma. "The problem is that the minority do not accept the laws of the majority," says Akos Nemeth, lawyer for the Hungarian side. "I am afraid it will become civil war."</p> <p>The village's Roma population of around 30% are unrepresented on the council and struggle to secure jobs. Like anyone else those Roma who own houses have seen their value plummet. But the re-housing programme brought by the red mud disaster saw a few Roma, who previously lived in Roma-only neighbourhoods, re-housed in mixed areas. Some of them have found it hard to adapt to their new surroundings, says Alfred Kiraly, a Roma member of an initiative to coordinate the recovery effort after the sludge disaster.</p> <p>The majority of the inhabitants of Devecser still supports the Roma, but no one of any note is prepared to speak up. Mr Toldi says he is privately called a "Roma-lover" for arranging for Roma to work for their welfare and in trying to reconcile differences with committees of local representatives to agree on codes of neighbourly conduct.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Eastern Approaches Blog -&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> Korean leader seeks trip to China for economic help2012-08-24<p>&nbsp;</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_266">It is not clear whether&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1345808288_3">China</span>&nbsp;will be prepared to host him, as requested, in September when&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1345808288_4">Beijing</span>&nbsp;will be preoccupied with its own leadership change. The leadership may also have its doubts about the unproven Kim Jong-un, who after only four months in office, defied his giant neighbor by conducting a long-range rocket test.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_264">A source with ties to both&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1345808288_2">Pyongyang</span>&nbsp;and Beijing told Reuters on Friday that Kim's uncle,&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1345808288_8">Jang Song-thaek</span>, effectively the second most powerful figure in Pyongyang, had asked for the visit when he met Chinese leaders on a visit to Beijing last week.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_387">"It will be a state visit. This was one of the most important missions of Jang Song-thaek's visit," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_385">China's foreign ministry declined to comment on the proposed visit, which would be Kim's first trip abroad since he took office and became the third of his line to rule North Korea.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_383">Kim, in his late 20s, appears to be trying hard to soften the dour image of his dictator father whom he succeeded in December.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_396">He has appeared waving and smiling at public events, even attending a pop concert that included Disney characters, and at times - just as unusually for a North Korean leader - accompanied by his wife.</p> <p>But for most of North Korea's 22 million people, who are among the Asia's poorest, little has changed.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_271">Some analysts see Jang as the driving force behind&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1345808288_7">the North</span>'s promise of economic reform. Kim's uncle made his trip to China to press its leaders to provide greater backing for an economy brought to its knees by decades of mismanagement and international sanctions over missile and nuclear tests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MAY BE LOATH TO HOST KIM</p> <p>Beijing may be loath to host Kim in September at a time when China is preparing its own leadership change and because of the April rocket test, analysts said.</p> <p>"North Korea has been nice to China only in the past one and half months," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.</p> <p>"Heaven knows whether North Korea will change again in a few months."</p> <p>The proposed visit also comes when there are doubts over how willing Chinese companies are to put money in their neighbor, with its complex and contradictory investment laws.</p> <p>One Chinese mining company this month took the rare step of turning to the Internet to air grievances over what it saw as the North's unfair business practices.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_453">Observers said new special enterprise zones in North Korea, aimed at building up business with China, have met with little or limited success.</p> <p>United Nations estimates show that a third of North Korea's population is malnourished and it says the economy still has to regain output levels seen in the 1990s, when a devastating famine and the withdrawal of Soviet aid hit the country hard.</p> <p>Chinese investment is the only viable large-scale option for the North.</p> <p>"Jang Song-thaek went to China and discussed economic issues but the visit did not turn out to have the major impact that was expected. So Kim Jong-un will go to ask for the economic aid and long-term cooperation that they need," said Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NUCLEAR THREAT</p> <p>China will expect to extract a price from Kim and will want the North to commit to return to talks with regional powers, so-called Six Party talks, aimed at defusing the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula, Yoo said.</p> <p>For the reclusive North, that nuclear threat has long been its only real diplomatic leverage with the outside world, especially the United States.</p> <p>Kim's father oversaw two nuclear tests and his long range missile tests were seen by the United States as attempts to develop a ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.</p> <p>While the most recent missile test in April went spectacularly wrong, and saw sanctions even further tightened, the North is believed to be pushing ahead with plans to conduct a third nuclear test.</p> <p>The source who disclosed Kim's request for a visit said that the North retained the capacity to carry out another test.</p> <p>"There is no doubt North Korea has the capability, but China is strongly opposed to it," the source said. The source predicted the first nuclear test in 2006 and correctly identified Jang's rise to power in Kim Jong-un's administration</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_262">"<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1345808288_1">North Korea</span>&nbsp;wants a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice in exchange for dropping plans for a third&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1345808288_6">nuclear test</span>. It's been 60 years and time to (formally) end the war with a peace treaty," the source added.</p> <p>A formal peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War, rather than the armistice in place, has been a longstanding demand from Pyongyang, which wants diplomatic recognition from the United States.</p> <p>Washington and its ally South Korea, which is host to some 28,000 troops, insist the North give up its nuclear ambitions before any peace treaty and large scale economic aid.</p> <p>With the U.S. presidential election and Chinese leadership change this year, Pyongyang has little leverage beyond its nuclear threat, analysts say.</p> <p>But they add that Beijing cannot give up on Pyongang, which acts as a buffer to U.S. ally South Korea, and knowing that the North's collapse could send columns of refugees fleeing across its border.</p> <p>Recent satellite images have shown North Korea making progress in tunneling associated with a nuclear test, although it has been impossible to independently verify the images.</p> <p>Siegfried Hecker, a U.S. nuclear expert who has visited the North's main Yongbyon nuclear facility four times since 2004 and was the last foreign expert to visit the site in late 2010, wrote in a report published on August 6 that the North could be technically ready for a test within two weeks.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_475">Hecker and co-author Frank Pabian wrote that North Korea might conduct a simultaneous test using plutonium and highly enriched uranium.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_473">The North's previous tests have used plutonium and the use of highly enriched uranium would give Pyongyang a second route to a nuclear weapon.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_471">"Whether and when North Korea conducts another nuclear test will depend on how high a political cost Pyongyang is willing to bear," Hecker and Pabian wrote.</p> <p id="yui_3_5_1_24_1345816333228_469">"Beijing has continued to expand aid and trade with North Korea, but has also applied significant diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang not to test."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Benjamin Kang Lim for Reuters -&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> openly accuses the west of instigating Syrian opposition groups2012-08-23<p> <p class="ap-story-p">Moscow has been Syria's key protector throughout the 17-month uprising that has evolved into a full-blown civil war, shielding Assad's regime from international sanctions and providing it with weapons despite an international outcry.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Russia's Foreign Ministry said the West "has done nothing" to urge the Syrian opposition to start a dialogue with the government.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">"Instead, they are engaged in openly instigating it to continue their armed struggle," it said in a statement.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">It claimed that the Western approach to the Syrian civil is "hypocritical" and is not helping to resolve the conflict that has killed an estimated 19,000 people.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Russia and China, both veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members, have blocked proposals to call on Assad to step down.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Russia has said that its opposition to sanctions against Syria is driven not by support for Assad himself, but by a respect for international law that forbids foreign military intervention in internal conflicts without U.N. Security Council authorization.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Russia has called for talks between the Syrian regime and its foes. It staunchly opposes any plans that would demand Assad's ouster, saying that only the Syrian people can decide the country's fate.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">In New York, U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council that the United Nations views the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria "with growing alarm."</p> <p class="ap-story-p">He said about 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance while the number of displaced people in Syria and the flow of refugees to neighboring countries is growing.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Syria last week, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters that U.N. agencies last month provided food for more than 820,000 people across Syria.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">"But when you're talking about 2.5 million people affected, we need to do a lot more," she said.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Feltman and Amos appealed for additional funds to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrians still in the country and the refugees.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">During her visit, Amos said she appealed to the Syrian government to allow international aid agencies to deliver food and humanitarian supplies to the needy.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">But she said the government will only authorize aid from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and local partners because it is worried that international aid will go to the rebels - despite her repeated assurances that humanitarian aid is neutral and impartial.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">The deeply divided Security Council is scheduled to hold a ministerial-level meeting on Aug. 30 on the humanitarian situation in Syria.</p> </p> <p class="ap-story-p">---</p> <p class="ap-story-p"> <p class="ap-story-p">Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.</p> <p class="ap-story-p"><a href=";SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT">;SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT</a></p> </p> Of Kazakh Opposition Leaders Opens2012-08-17<p><span>Kozlov, who is the leader of the unregistered Algha (Forward) opposition party, and the others face charges of forming and leading an illegal group, inciting social hatred, and calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional structure of Kazakhstan.</span><br /><br /><span>The charges are connected to last year's mass strike by oil workers in the western part of the country that ended in violence in December 2011 when 17 people were killed, most of them in the town of Zhanaozen.</span><br /><br /><span>Kozlov and the others claim the charges against them are politically motivated.</span><br /><br /><span>Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said in Almaty on August 15 that the United States will closely follow the Kozlov's fate.</span><br /><span>&nbsp;</span><br /><span>Blake expressed hope that the trial is conducted fairly and does not set back democratic reforms in Kazakhstan.</span></p> signals strong support for decaying North Korea economy2012-08-15<p> <p>Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian, writing in Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said priority would be given to two economic zones China and&nbsp;North Korea&nbsp;set up just over a year ago and which would represent a rare major foray by isolated Pyongyang into international commerce.</p> <span id="midArticle_2"></span> <p>The comments coincide with this week's trip to China by Jang Song-thaek, the powerful uncle of young dictator Kim Jong-un and seen as likely to be a driving force for reforms.</p> <span id="midArticle_3"></span> <p>"We will support big Chinese companies who are willing to invest in North Korea to broaden the economic and trade cooperation with North Korea, to push the two sides to upgrade two-way trade and investment structures and study the feasibility of cooperation on big projects," Chen wrote.</p> <span id="midArticle_4"></span> <p>In a statement issued after a meeting between Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Jang, the ministry said the joint economic zones had "entered a substantive development phase".</p> <span id="midArticle_5"></span> <p>Their development has "important meaning for further consolidating and developing traditional friendly relations and ... for promoting regional peace and prosperity", it added.</p> <span id="midArticle_6"></span> <p>North Korea's official media said Jang had gone to China to discuss commercial projects between the two countries.</p> <span id="midArticle_7"></span> <p>The trip is seen as the latest sign that Kim is looking seriously at ways to revive his reclusive country's decaying economy which has been in decline for years and is unable even in years of good harvests to feed its 24 million people.</p> <p> <p>North Korea already relies heavily on China to support its economy, dragged down by decades of mismanagement and international sanctions over its weapons programmes.</p> <span id="midArticle_9"></span> <p>China, for its part, lives in terror of a political or economic collapse in North Korea which could send a wave of refugees into its poor northeast.</p> <span id="midArticle_10"></span> <p>"Only North Korea's economic opening up can truly ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," said Wei Zhijiang, an expert on the two Koreas at Zhongshan University in southern China.</p> <span id="midArticle_11"></span> <p>"China wants to play an important constructive role in North Korea's economic opening up and integration into the international community," he added.</p> </p> </p> orders Sweden to close its Minsk embassy2012-08-09<p>Belarus<span>&nbsp;has ordered&nbsp;</span>Sweden<span>&nbsp;to close its embassy in Minsk by the end of the month, days after it expelled the Swedish ambassador. The incident is the latest dispute between Belarus and western nations, in particular EU states that have challenged the former Soviet country and its longtime leader,&nbsp;</span>Alexander Lukashenko<span>, over a perceived stifling of human rights.</span></p> <p> <p>An EU spokesman, S&eacute;bastien Brabant, reiterated the 27-member bloc's "grave concern" over the decision earlier this month to bar the Swedish ambassador and said it was "urgently seeking clarification" over Minsk's latest move.</p> <p>Sweden said its envoy, Stefan Eriksson, had been expelled because he had met the Belarus opposition and because Sweden had given books containing material on human rights to a Belarussian university.</p> <p>Belarus, however, said it merely chose not to extend the envoy's accreditation, but added that Eriksson's activities were aimed at the "destruction" of Belarussian-Swedish relations.</p> <p>Sweden responded by barring the Belarussian ambassador from entering Stockholm and asking two Belarussian diplomats to leave.&nbsp;Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, tweeted that Lukashenko's "fear of human rights (is) reaching new heights".&nbsp;"Lukashenko has now chosen to step up the conflict with Sweden even further," he wrote. "The purpose is most likely to make it as difficult as possible for the various co-operation programs we have (there) concerning &ndash; not the least &ndash; civil rights and freedom."</p> <p>Lukashenko, known in the west as "<a title="More from on Europe" href="">Europe</a>'s last dictator", has ruled Belarus's population of 10 million since 1994, repressing opposition groups and independent news media while preserving a quasi-Soviet economy with about 80% of industry in state hands.</p> <p>The latest diplomatic row comes weeks after a pair of Swedish activists were reported to have used a plane to drop hundreds of teddy bears bearing human rights messages into Belarusian territory.&nbsp;Lukashenko fired two generals over the incident. Bildt, however, said there was no word that the toys were connected to the expulsion.</p> </p> Opposition Plans New Wave Of Protests2012-07-31<p><span>That near certainty is, however, unlikely to deter the opposition Public Chamber from stepping up its ongoing efforts to create the &ldquo;level playing field&rdquo; that it considers a prerequisite for truly free and fair elections.</span><br /><br /><span>The Public Chamber comprises representatives of several long-established opposition parties. It&nbsp;</span><span>was established</span><span>&nbsp;some two months after the November 2010 parliamentary election in which mainstream opposition parties failed to win a&nbsp;</span>single<span>&nbsp;one of the 125 mandates.</span></p> <p><span>The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE)&nbsp;</span><span>assessed that ballo</span><strong>t</strong><span>&nbsp;as failing to meet a number of key conditions for democratic elections.</span></p> <p><span>Two senior Azerbaijani officials -- presidential adviser Ali Hasanov and Ali Akhmedov, who is one of the deputy chairmen of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) founded by Aliyev&rsquo;s father and predecessor as president, Heidar Aliyev -- have&nbsp;</span><span>affirmed in recent weeks</span><span>&nbsp;that YAP will nominate Aliyev as its presidential candidate. Those statements put to rest persistent speculation that Aliyev&rsquo;s wife Mehriban might run in his place.</span></p> <p><span>A second YAP functionary, party deputy executive secretary Mubariz Gurbanly, similarly affirmed that Aliyev is YAP&rsquo;s only candidate for next year&rsquo;s ballot.</span><br /><br /><span>He dismissed as &ldquo;incomprehensible&rdquo; and &ldquo;a lie&rdquo; opposition speculation to the contrary.</span><br /><br /><span>Gurbanly also rejected as lacking any legal foundation the argument adduced by Ali Kerimli, head of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and a leading Public Chamber member, that Aliyev does not have the right to seek a third presidential term because the amendments to the Azerbaijan Republic constitution passed in 2009 that abolished the ban on one person serving more than two consecutive terms are not retroactive.</span><br /><br /><span>At a session in Baku on July 22, Public Chamber members reached agreement on launching a new wave of protests this fall to demand the creation of conditions conducive to a free and fair ballot.</span><br /><br /><span>Specifically, they plan to call for the release of political prisoners, guarantees of freedom of assembly and the media, and amendments to the Electoral Code.</span></p> to scrap “Eastern Europe”2012-07-24<p> <object width="425" height="350"> <param name="src" value=";feature" /> </object> </p> <p>Eastern Approaches -&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> Chechen's Cry From A Russian Jail -- 'Do These People Have Hearts?'2012-07-23<p><span>Imran -- who asked that his full name not be used out of fear of reprisals from the Russian authorities -- is now serving an 18-year sentence on a collage of terrorism-related charges in a prison in Russia's far-northern Arkhangelsk region.</span><br /><br /><span>Speaking by telephone exclusively to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Imran claimed he had a good idea what was coming when the security forces took him away that day because they'd already come for him before.</span><br /><br /><span>"The first time they picked me up during a sweep in 2003, in September, at six in the morning," he said. "They were Russian troops. For three days they held me in a cell -- they beat me, tortured me. When they weren't able to make me confess to any crimes, they said: 'Just confess to anything. It doesn't matter to us -- it only matters that you confess.'"</span><br /><br /><span>According to Imran, he was released after those three days, but the authorities held on to his passport. The second time was far worse than the first:</span><br /><br /><span>"For 10 days they beat me," he said. "They tortured me until I lost consciousness. If my relatives hadn't found out where I was being held, they would have simply killed me. Then they handed me over to prosecutors. When they did that, I saw that my passport was in the hand of the investigator. They had prepared the case against me in advance."</span><br /><br /><span>Imran admits he fought in the first Chechen independence war in the early 1990s, but says he had lived peacefully since that uprising ended in 1996. He says that he wanted to leave the war-ravaged republic but that he had to remain to take care of his elderly mother.</span><br /><br /><strong>'Sufficient Proof Of Torture'</strong><br /><br /><span>Imran's case has been taken up by local legal-rights activists with the Russian Justice Initiative (RJI), who have filed a complaint on his behalf with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.</span><br /><br /><span>Anastasia Kushleiko, a lawyer with RJI, confirmed the details of Imran's case. She believes the ECHR should overturn the entire prosecution.</span><br /><br /><span>"In Imran's case, his entire sentence is ultimately based on confessions that were obtained as a result of the torture he underwent, repeatedly, beginning right after he was detained and continuing during the investigation," she said. "And there is sufficient proof of this -- actually, I'd say more than sufficient, very strong evidence that he was tortured."</span><br /><br /><span>Activists claim that the Chechen and Russian authorities have carried out a policy of removing as many men from Chechnya as possible through questionable legal processes.</span><br /><br /><span>The office of Chechnya's human rights ombudsman says 20,000 Chechens have been sent to serve prison terms in other parts of Russia for "security reasons," while independent activists say that figure is more like 30,000.</span><br /><br /><span>The case against Imran was also based largely on the testimony of a boy who was 16 at the time.</span><br /><br /><span>Imran says when the boy was called to testify at his trial, he recanted his evidence, saying he'd been tortured and only agreed to the statement to save his own life. That witness was then sentenced to seven years in prison as Imran's co-conspirator.</span><br /><br /><strong>Evidence Discrepancy</strong><br /><br /><span>Among the charges against Imran and the boy was that they carried out a bombing in May 2003. However, the charge sheet also said that Imran illegally acquired the explosives for that attack in June 2003 -- one month after the blast. In Imran's words, when his lawyer asked the judge about this discrepancy, the judge was scornful.</span><br /><br /><span>"The judge answered my lawyer, laughing in his face: 'If we let him go, then we'll have to let the boy go too. We'd have to admit our mistakes, and we don't want to admit them,'" Imran said.</span><br /><br /><span>Repeated requests to the office of Chechnya's human rights ombudsman to comment on this case went unanswered.</span><br /><br /><span>Imran's 18-year sentence on a hodge-podge of charges based on questionable evidence stands in stark contrast to the few cases of Russian officers prosecuted for crimes committed in the North Caucasus.</span><br /><br /><span>Russian Army Colonel Yury Budanov, for instance, was sentenced in 2003 to 10 years in prison for raping and murdering an 18-year-old Chechen women in 2000.</span><br /><br /><span>Budanov was granted early release in 2009 -- and was murdered on a Moscow street in 2011. A monument has been erected in his honor at the site.</span><br /><br /><span>Now all Imran's hopes for justice lie in Strasbourg. But lawyer Kushleiko laments that the wheels of justice at the European Court of Human Rights turn achingly slowly.</span><br /><br /><span>"The problem with the European Court of Human Rights is that all cases of this type take a very long time to be processed," she said. "For example, Imran's complaint was filed in 2007 and it has not yet been communicated. That means the court has not yet begun considering it and hasn't issued an inquiry to the [Russian] government that we could discuss. The complaint remains with the court. We know that it has been received, but unfortunately such cases take a very long time."</span><br /><br /><span>In the meantime, Imran waits in his far-northern prison. He says there are about 20 Chechen prisoners serving time with him and that they are poorly treated compared to Russian prisoners. He claims that their sentences are longer and that they regularly spend time in solitary confinement for little or no reason.</span><br /><br /><strong>No Hope Of Parole</strong><br /><br /><span>Imran says his relatives are technically allowed to visit him once a year, but that he doesn't encourage them to make the trip because prison officials generally find excuses to cancel or postpone the visit.</span><br /><br /><span>Although Imran believes he is technically eligible to apply for parole after serving 12 years, he has no hope it would be granted.</span><br /><br /><span>"With the [baseless] violations that I have and which all the Chechens here have, we will never in our lives see any parole," he says. "No matter how hard I tried to be a model prisoner, they won't let me get by without violations. They just make them up -- it is obvious what they are doing.</span><br /><br /><span>"If you don't break any rules, they just pin something on you. Not just once, but over and over. Will I ever get parole? There is not a single Chechen here without violations -- we all have reports, we have all been in solitary."</span><br /><br /><span>Imran has a lot of time to think about what has happened to him since the day more than eight years ago when the soldiers came to his house. He has also though about the thousands of young Chechens who have stories just like his.</span><br /><br /><span>"They sent us away to Russian prisons for 15, 20 years for nothing," he said. "Who is going to pay attention to this? Why doesn't anyone do anything? And I wonder -- do these people have hearts? Do they have any honor?</span><br /><br /><span>"Could it be that their mothers gave birth to them without hearts? I think about this a lot. Can such injustice really exist -- can't something be done about it? We are waiting for a miracle. We are hoping. But&hellip;"</span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span></span><span>Amina Umarova for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty</span></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> the Monitors - Online Censorship In China2012-07-12<p>The 500m people who use the internet in China have long been aware of the presence of the censors who watch their movements online and delete their more inflammatory posts. Now those monitors may have to get used to someone watching over their shoulders.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Teams at Harvard and the University of Hong Kong have been using new software that allows them to watch the censoring of posts on Chinese social-media sites more closely than before. And now they have started to release some of their key findings.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>According to one report, a team of researchers at Harvard found that 13% of all social-media posts in China were censored.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&ldquo;The Chinese government made the decision to allow its people to have social media, but they also built a vast machine to monitor what is said,&rdquo; says Gary King, a professor in the university&rsquo;s government department and the report&rsquo;s lead author.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Mr King and his team used programs developed by a company he co-founded, Crimson Hexagon Inc, to monitor activity surrounding 85 sensitive topics, ranging from last year&rsquo;s<span>protests in Inner Mongolia</span>&nbsp;to&nbsp;Ai Weiwei, China&rsquo;s best-known artist overseas, as well as governmental policies and other subjects that might conceivably spur mass protests. Their monitoring has been able to identify when posts bearing these terms appear and disappear&mdash;and with that, how long it takes for each to be taken down.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The team has built up a database comprising more than 11m posts that were made on 1,382 Chinese internet forums. Perhaps their most surprising result is that posts critical of the government are not rigorously censored. On the other hand, posts that have the purpose of getting people to assemble, potentially in protest, are swept from the internet within a matter of hours.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&ldquo;We thought they were concerned with how they looked, but that&rsquo;s not the case,&rdquo; says Mr King. &ldquo;Clearly the goal is actually to repress people gathering.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Rebecca MacKinnon, the author of &ldquo;<span>Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom</span>&rdquo;, agrees. &ldquo;The goal has never been total control. The goal is to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Total, stifling, straitjacket control is not possible unless they want China to be North Korea, which they don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In contrast to the Harvard team&rsquo;s approach, researchers at the University of Hong Kong have developed a program that concentrates solely on China&rsquo;s most popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo. The program monitors the accounts of 300,000 users who each have more than 1,000 followers: &ldquo;the most influential group&rdquo;, according to<span>King-wa Fu, an assistant professor and one of the developers of&nbsp;WeiboScope.</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>They found that by monitoring Sina Weibo&rsquo;s account-holders&rsquo; profiles at different times of day they were able to witness the work of the censors almost in real time and to identify individually the posts that they disappeared. The researchers then examined the removed posts to try divining what had made them objectionable to the censors.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&ldquo;What we are finding is a constantly morphing list of keywords, a cat-and-mouse contest between people and censors,&rdquo; said Mr Fu.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>These programs mean that, increasingly, researchers are able to create a more transparent picture of censorship in China&mdash;and to pinpoint the most sensitive topics at any given time. More intriguing perhaps, with a bit of luck and savvy researchers might be able to predict when something big is about to happen in a certain sector or to a certain individual.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>When Mr King&rsquo;s team analysed data connected to the Bo Xilai scandal, to the arrest of Ai Weiwei and to other recent censor-worthy news they found clear signals in retrospect: a noticeable ramping up of censorship related to those topics, days before the news broke.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Put simply, if these database-researchers happen to be looking in the right place, the censors might inadvertently become their best tipsters.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>So far the teams have been focused on looking back on data regarding past events. Having reached their initial conclusions, they are ready to chase more elusive quarry. &ldquo;Now we will watch going forwards,&rdquo; says Mr King.</span></p> <p><span>Censors beware: you are being watched.</span></p> <p><span>Via Analects -&nbsp; </span></p> Russia Locks Up So Many Entrepreneurs2012-07-05<p> <p>Businessmen have complained for years that people have been able to frame commercial rivals - by paying corrupt police officers to plant evidence and make arrests to order. But only now are they being taken seriously.</p> <p>More and more well-heeled entrepreneurs have been joining, even leading street protests in recent months, with reform of the courts one of their main demands.</p> <p>Perhaps those protests influenced President Putin's decision last month to create a post of "ombudsman for business rights" - but he might also have been persuaded by the $84bn in capital that left Russia last year, a record amount. Russians are investing overseas because they fear for the safety of their businesses at home.</p> <p> <p id="story_continues_2">"The economy will be completely destroyed," says entrepreneur Vladimir Perevezin. "Because businessmen are not safe in our country - anyone could be sent to jail."</p> <p>Perevezin knows what it's like. He was imprisoned for more than seven years after being framed, he says, for money laundering.</p> <p>His friend Valery Gaiduk was also imprisoned for three years, convicted of fraud. "I'm 100% sure that a rival paid to have me arrested," he says. He had been co-owner of a successful dental practice, but he claims police officers took a $500,000 bribe to frame him.</p> <p>At the root of the problem is the criminal justice system itself. Statistically, once officially accused of a crime in Russia, there is little chance of proving your innocence. Less than 1% of all criminal cases that make it to court result in a not guilty verdict or acquittal - and that figure comes from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.</p> <p>Critics say that in practice, if not in theory, courts operate on an assumption of guilt. The prosecution takes the word of the police, and the judge takes the word of the prosecution - no matter how unconvincing the evidence may be.</p> <p>"If a person ends up in a police cell as a suspect - he will find himself in court no matter what, and the court will find him guilty. That's guaranteed," says Marat Khisamutdinov, a former police officer.</p> <p> <p id="story_continues_3">It's not surprising then that, off the record, many Muscovites are prepared to admit paying bribes to police officers when arrested - even if they're innocent.</p> <p>"It's best to solve the problem as soon as possible, at the police station," Khisamutdinov says.</p> <p>"You only really need to pay the lowest arresting police officers. The rest of the machine works automatically."</p> <p>It's much more expensive, by all accounts, to buy your release once the wheels of justice have begun to turn. Valery Gaiduk says he was offered freedom for $300,000, but did not pay as he was unsure the deal would be honoured.</p> <p>One of the few judges prepared to talk openly about the failings of Russian courts is Sergei Zlobin, who resigned as head of the Volgograd regional criminal board four months ago. His portrait of life as a modern Russian judge is extraordinary.</p> <p>"Often there are huge gaps in the evidence," Zlobin says.</p> <p>"Investigators make serious mistakes, but the system is such that even these mistakes are used as evidence against the defendant, and the guilty verdict must be issued anyway - otherwise the judge will face problems."</p> <div class="caption"><span>Khisamutdinov says he would not advise his son to join today's police</span></div> <p>Zlobin says that in the thousands of cases he heard in the 15 years he was a judge, he only ever issued seven not guilty verdicts - and five of them were later overturned. Issuing a not guilty verdict, he says, was not only a "waste of time" it was risky.</p> <p> <p>Judges come under all kinds of pressure from the Federal Security Service, prosecutors and the chairman of the court not to acquit defendants, he says, including blackmail. The result? Many innocent people are locked up.</p> <p>Zlobin and his family have received threats and abusive messages since his resignation. He knows it's risky to speak openly, but says his conscience compels him to do so.</p> <p>"Sometimes I just had to follow the instructions from above. Now, with hindsight, I understand that what I was doing was wrong, and moreover, it was illegal... and I deeply regret it."</p> <p>Several judges and lawyers told me that the system acts to protect itself, rather than the letter of the law.</p> <p>Asked if he had ever accepted a bribe to arrest someone on false charges, former police officer Marat Khisamutdinov refuses to answer.</p> <p> <p id="story_continues_4">Would an officer would feel guilty about framing an innocent person? "No" he answered. "You don't know him, you'll never see him again, and you get a financial reward - so why do you care?"</p> <p>The business community will be watching Boris Titov's next move very closely.</p> <p>He has hinted at a possible amnesty for prisoners serving time for "economic crimes", if it is their first offence.</p> <p>This could affect more than 100,000 businessmen.</p> <p>It would not, however, have any implications for the most famous jailed businessmen - Mikhail Khodorkovsky (once Russia's richest man) and his partner Platon Lebedev - as both have been convicted more than once.</p> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rebecca Kesby for BBC News</p> </p> </p> </p> </p> Loneliness of the Autocratic Ruler2012-07-04<p><span class="firstLetter">I</span><span>f President Vladimir Putin's legislative intentions toward Russia's fledgling civil society are not clear by now, it's not for lack of trying on his part.&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>New legislation is reportedly in the works that would create a register of websites with illegal content -- and require providers to block such sites. The legislation's original stated purpose was to combat child pornography and pedophilia. But as&nbsp;</span><span> reports</span><span>, quoting members of the ruling United Russia party, it will also be used to battle "extremism" -- the Kremlin's favorite euphemism for any opposition activity.</span><br /><br /><span>The legislation, currently being considered by the State Duma, comes as lawmakers are also set to debate a bill requiring any NGO receiving funding from abroad to register as a "</span><span>foreign agent</span><span>." And, of course, it comes on the heels of a&nbsp;</span><span>recently passed law</span><span>&nbsp;imposing draconian fines on participants in unsanctioned demonstrations.</span><br /><br /><span>Likewise, it is also becoming clear that Putin doesn't plan to show much mercy for disloyal former friends and allies.</span><br /><br /><span>Just ask Federation Council deputy Lyudmila Narusova, the mother of socialite-turned-social activist&nbsp;</span><span>Ksenia Sobchak</span><span>&nbsp;and widow of the man who launched Putin's political career -- the late former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.</span><br /><br /><span>Prosecutors are reportedly pouring over a television interview Narusova gave, looking for&nbsp;</span><span>evidence of extremism</span><span>. Additionally, the ruling United Russia party is seeking to expel Narusova from the upper chamber of parliament.</span><br /><br /><span>Part of the assault on Narusova can surely be traced to the Kremlin's increased irritation with her daughter's opposition activities. And part of it was likely sparked by her vocal opposition to the law imposing harsh penalties on anti-regime demonstrations.</span><br /><br /><span>Narusova would not be the first Putin ally to fall from grace.&nbsp;</span><span>Sergei Mironov&nbsp;</span><span>lost his perch as Federation Council speaker when he was too vocal in his support for a second term for Dmitry Medvedev and too critical of United Russia. State Duma deputy&nbsp;</span><span>Gennady Gudkov</span><span>&nbsp;saw his taxes investigated and his security company eviscerated when he became a vocal critic of the regime.</span><br /><br /><span>The ramping up of the pressure on civil society and the retribution against perceived turncoats suggest that the ruling elite -- or at least the part of the elite that currently has Putin's ear -- is spooked by the longevity and intensity of the opposition to the Kremlin since December.</span><br /><br /><span>In a thoughtful piece published on&nbsp;</span><span></span><span>, Maxim Trudolyubov, the opinion-page editor at the daily "Vedomosti" wrote that ever since popular uprisings in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, "Putin's main concern has been to avoid revolution," but his actions might paradoxically lead to one:</span><br /></p> <div><em>Despite all their efforts, it is the country's current rulers that have created the conditions for revolution. By rewriting Russia's electoral legislation (the last few years have seen amendments to 55 laws relating to electoral processes), the Kremlin's political managers have made elections controllable. Businesses have been intimidated by expropriation, their owners prevented from financing undesirable political activity. The development of a civil society has been strangled by restrictions on the not-for-profit sector. The entire thrust of Putin's policies has been to eliminate everything natural and unpredictable.<br /><br />The result has been that all genuine, not imitation, political activity has been excluded from the political arena. The Kremlin's apparatchiks spent years working out how to restrict the opposition's legal room to maneuver, and they succeeded: they destroyed the conditions necessary for the development of a political mainstream. And by doing so, they created a powder keg.</em></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span><br /><span>Trudolyubov isn't the first respectable commentator to suggest that Russia is on the brink of serious upheaval.&nbsp;</span><span>Olga Kryshtanovskaya</span><span>, one of the country's leading sociologists; the&nbsp;</span><span>Center for Strategic Research</span><span>, a top think tank; and former Finance Minister&nbsp;</span><span>Aleksei Kudrin</span><span>&nbsp;have come to the same conclusion.</span><br /><br /><span>It is not just that Putin is creating a powder keg. With his pressure on civil society and his moves against former supporters, he is also isolating himself and his increasingly shrinking inner circle.</span><br /><br /><span>And with potential economic</span><span>&nbsp;storm clouds</span><span>&nbsp;on the horizon -- either from&nbsp;</span><span>volatile commodities prices</span><span>, or contagion from Europe, or both -- isolated is not where he needs to be. If the crisis comes, Putin will own it -- and he'll be mostly all alone.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brian Whitmore for The Power Vertical blog</p> and China, Challenges for Liberal Democracy2012-06-28<p><span>Liberal democracy faces a new and decisive challenge &mdash; figuring out how to deal with the &ldquo;post-Communist oligarchies&rdquo; of Russia and China. These regimes &mdash; authoritarian, capitalist and eagerly integrated into the global economy &mdash; are without precedent. Figuring out how to deal with them is the greatest strategic and moral question the West faces today. How we answer it will determine the shape of the 21st century, much as the struggle with Communism and fascism shaped the 20th.</span></p> <p> <p>This is the assertion Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian intellectual and former leader of the Liberal Party, made in a powerful lecture in the Latvian capital, Riga, at the beginning of this month. Mr. Ignatieff&rsquo;s thesis came to mind during the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, held last week as the gracious former imperial capital for which the forum is named glowed in the pure white light of the summer solstice.</p> <p>Central to Mr. Ignatieff&rsquo;s argument is his insistence that &ldquo;history has no libretto.&rdquo; It isn&rsquo;t marching toward any particular destination, including liberal democracy: &ldquo;As late as Benedetto Croce, liberals still thought of their creed as being the wave of the future and thought of history as the story of liberty.&rdquo;</p> <p>When it comes to Russia and China today, we still hope we will all eventually sing along to this seductive libretto. &ldquo;It is a clich&eacute; of optimistic Western discourse on Russia and China that they must evolve toward democratic liberty,&rdquo; Mr. Ignatieff argued. Sadly, though, we&rsquo;re wrong: &ldquo;But we should not assume there is any historical inevitability to liberal society.&rdquo;</p> <p>As Mr. Ignatieff explained to me in a telephone conversation this week: &ldquo;The simple point is that we thought they were coming towards us. What if they are not?&rdquo;</p> <p>The optimistic Western clich&eacute; Mr. Ignatieff described was very much the conventional wisdom in St. Petersburg. It is what the visiting Western business titans wanted to believe, and it is what the presiding Russian government chiefs wanted them to believe.</p> <p>Klaus Kleinfled, the chief executive of Alcoa and chairman of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, said in an interview that President Vladimir V. Putin&rsquo;s opening speech at the conference was &ldquo;very, very good. He was basically clear that he stays on the course of reforms. He stays on the course of modernization.&rdquo;</p> <p>When I suggested that Mr. Putin might instead be taking Russia backward &mdash; freedom of assembly was sharply curtailed this month and several activists, including Putin&rsquo;s goddaughter, were questioned by the police and had their homes searched &mdash; Mr. Kleinfeld demurred.</p> <p>Referring to the reformist promises of Mr. Putin&rsquo;s speech, Mr. Kleinfeld said, &ldquo;We have to take that at face value.&rdquo; Mr. Kleinfeld also said that Russia&rsquo;s progress needed to be judged in historical context.</p> <p>&ldquo;How the country has emerged in the last 20 years, I think, is pretty amazing. I think most people that are easy with their criticism measure Russia against countries that had much, much more time to go into a market economy,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Some of these processes take a little time to struggle themselves through. They are on a good path.&rdquo;</p> <p>What is striking is what you might call the &ldquo;libretto&rdquo; assumption in these remarks: Russia is on the right path, just give it time.</p> <p>At least when they speak English, this is a view that Mr. Putin&rsquo;s people are eager to endorse. When I asked Igor Shuvalov, the suave and sharply dressed first deputy prime minister what he made of Mr. Putin&rsquo;s speech he, too, spun it as proof that Russia is on the path to becoming more like us.</p> <p>&ldquo;I was very pleased that yesterday what he announced was completely in line with a new generation. It was everything which any citizen of the European Union, or other developed countries, wants. It&rsquo;s exactly how Putin sees the future for Russia in just a few years,&rdquo; Mr. Shuvalov explained.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are passing the way all developed countries pass,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p><span>This is a useful theory for Russian leaders &mdash; and for Chinese ones, too &mdash; and a comforting one for their Western business partners. It is useful because assurances that you are on the path toward Western-style liberal capitalism can serve as a catch-all justification for whatever illiberal policy you happen to be pursuing at the moment. Think of it as the dictator&rsquo;s version of St. Augustine&rsquo;s prayer to be made good, but not yet.</span></p> <p> <p>Believing that the duo Mr. Ignatieff calls the &ldquo;post-Communist oligarchies&rdquo; are on the liberal capitalist path is comforting for the liberal capitalist companies that do business with them, too. After all, for all the kowtowing required to do business in Russia and China, the rewards are vast.</p> <p>Consider the experience of BP, the oil giant based in London, which paid $7 billion in 2007 to establish a 50 percent stake in TNK-BP, its Russian joint venture. BP&rsquo;s trials at the hands of both its Russian partners and the Russian state are the stuff of legend. But shareholders and the board care more about the $19 billion BP has received in dividends since making the deal. That&rsquo;s quite apart from BP&rsquo;s share of TNK-BP, which analysts think could be worth between $25 billion and $30 billion.</p> <p>The optimistic clich&eacute; of inevitable liberal evolution is convenient and comforting. But that doesn&rsquo;t make it right.</p> <p>If Russia and China really are not marching inevitably toward liberal democracy, as Mr. Ignatieff argues, that is a problem not just for their repressed people, but also for us.</p> <p>Mr. Ignatieff says that our attitude toward Russia and China is a question of such great import because both countries &ldquo;are attempting to demonstrate a novel proposition: that economic freedoms can be severed from political and civil freedom, and that freedom is divisible.&rdquo;</p> <p>He is right that this is the fundamental operating proposition of Russia and China, and he is right that it poses the most serious challenge that the very idea of liberal democracy faces anywhere today.</p> <p>It is no surprise that this question was not on the agenda in St. Petersburg. But surely it should be much more squarely on the agenda in Western capitals &mdash; and even in Western boardrooms.</p> <p>Chrystia Freeland for The New York Times</p> </p> </p> Europe's coming labor force implosion2012-06-27<p><span>Although the collapse of communism in&nbsp;</span>Eastern Europe<span>&nbsp;was overall clearly a good thing, one has to concede that the transition away from it did cause a lot of hardship for many people, especially since it was usually done in an incompetent and corrupt way. As a result of this widespread hardship, many felt that they couldn't afford children and birth rates across Eastern Europe plummeted in the early 1990s.</span></p> <p><span>In&nbsp;</span>Poland<span>&nbsp;for example, the crude birth rate (births per 1000 people) fell from 18.2 in 1985 to only about 10 in the 1990s. Because it has been roughly 20 years since the early 1990s and because people born then would therefore be in their late teens now, we can see this collapse in the change in the number of 15-19 year old.</span></p> <p>In&nbsp;Estonia&nbsp;for example, the overall population was roughly unchanged at 1.34 million between 2007 and 2011, but the number of 15-19 year olds&nbsp;fell by nearly 28%, from 102,500 to 74,400 Some people, when analyzing Baltic state demographics has misinterpreted these numbers as signs of mass emigration as 15-19 year olds are usually counted as part of the working age population. Yet in reality most 15-19 year olds are still in school something that both means that they usually still live with their parents and therefore don't make decisions about emigration and it also means that they are effectively not part of the working age population even if official statistics say they formally are. The latter means that though the formal labor force in Estonia and other Baltic and Eastern European countries have already begun to shrink significantly, the number of people that really have jobs or are searching for them hasn't begun to shrink significantly-yet.<br />If we look at the next age group, 20-24 year olds, it has only shrunk by about 0.5% between 2007 and 2011 and the number of 25-29 year olds actually increased, numbers that first of all refute the hypothesis of mass emigration at least for Estonia and secondly means that in 2011, the labor force hadn't effectively shrunk even though it had formally done so because of the massive drop in the number of 15-19 year olds.</p> <p>However, 15-19 year olds in 2011 will of course be 20-24 year olds in 2016 and 25-29 year olds in 2021, and as the 2011 15-19 year group gradually move to the 20-24 year group, this means that the real labor force will start to shrink rapidly in the coming decade. This will only get worse as the number of 10-14 year olds in Estonia was even fewer than the number of 15-19 year olds, 61,400 compared to the 74,400 who were 15-19 year olds and the 105,700 who were 20-24 year olds.</p> <p>The total drop in the number of young workers will therefore over the next decade or so will therefore be more than 40%! The exact magnitude of this demographic collapse probably differ somewhat between different Eastern European countries, but given that Estonia was one of the best run of the Eastern European countries after communism, it is at least as likely that the numbers in most countries will be worse, not better, than in Estonia.</p> <p>As Estonia and most other Eastern European countries have high unemployment, this needn't put a stop to growth during the coming years.&nbsp;Germany&nbsp;for example have managed to grow somewhat in recent years despite a shrinking working age population by both reducing unemployment and increase the labor force participation rate. However, as the labor force will begun to shrink dramatically, growth in Eastern Europe will be strongly inhibited, especially since their relative poverty (GDP per capita was only &euro;12,000 in Estonia in 2011, compared to &euro;32,000 in Germany) will make it more difficult for them than for Germany to attract the kind of workers they need.</p> <p>By Stefan Karlsson for The Christian Science Monitor</p> will ask foreign experts to estimate the damage of Soviet occupation2012-06-22<p> <p>Committee has to come up with an action plan in only couple of weeks. Although Lithuania is constantly proposes to consider the damages made, Russia refuses to even talk about it. Victims do not believe that the day when they will receive Russia&rsquo;s apology or financial compensation will ever come.</p> <p>The chairman of Lithuanian Union of Political Prisoners and Deportees, Povilas Jakučionis told INFO TV that foreign experts, that have the necessary experience in negotiatiting compensations, are being approached . &ldquo;What we have in mind is Balkans, some countries in Africa, where genocide took place and was recognized,&rdquo; he told and expressed the hope to finish the work before 1 July.</p> <p>The Committee also asks the Government for additional money to fund the experts&rsquo; work.</p> </p> To Build Museum for Victims of Communism2012-06-20<p><span>Dr. Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOCMF), announced last week that Hungary&rsquo;s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had made a &ldquo;major commitment&rdquo; to a &ldquo;brick-and-mortar museum&rdquo; that morning.</span></p> <p> <p>&ldquo;We are confident that our other friends and supporters here in America and around the world will step forward and join the international campaign to build an international museum on communism on or near the Mall, here in Washington,&rdquo; he said at a June 12 event celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial.</p> <p>A nonprofit educational organization, the VOCMF was founded by an act of congress to commemorate the over 100 million victims of communist rule, the organization&rsquo;s website states.</p> <p>The VOCMF presently runs the online Global Museum on Communism, the only museum on the Internet dedicated to telling the story of communism, Dr. Edwards said.</p> <p>The site not only includes timelines, maps, individual country sections, and profiles of tyrants and heroes, but also provides interactive areas to upload personal experiences and provide feedback.</p> <p>Edwards said the online museum has had over 125 thousand hits from over 180 countries including from China, Vietnam, and Cuba.</p> <p>A leading historian of American conservatism, Dr. Edwards also announced the rollout of an educational curriculum on communism for high school students that incorporates the Global Communism Museum.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is a dynamic, interactive 10-lesson plan for teachers to help them instruct their pupils about the history, philosophy, and legacy of communism,&rdquo; he said.</p> </p> Parliament Moves To Shield Aliyev, Family From Scrutiny2012-06-15<p><span>Lawmakers approved a bill that would grant wide-ranging immunity from arrest and prosecution to Aliyev and his wife for any crime committed during his presidency or while acting in his capacity as president.</span></p> <p><span>Pro-government lawmaker Alasgar Mammadli tells RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the country's "political landscape makes such protections necessary."</span></p> <p><span>More controversially, parliamentarians adopted amendments to a 2005 law on commercial information that bars government officials from distributing information about companies if doing so "contradicts the national interests of Azerbaijan in political, economic, and monetary policy, the defense of public order, the health and moral values of the people, or harms the commercial or other interests of individuals."</span><br /><br /><span>It also says that corporate information can only be revealed with the permission of all individuals named in the records.</span><br /><br /><span>Heretofore, data on corporate ownership and shareholders has been available on the website of the Tax Ministry, which was required by law to provide registry details to citizens within one week of receiving a written request.</span><br /><br /><span>Activists and journalists are alarmed and concerned that the new bill -- which must be signed by the president before becoming law -- will seriously restrict the public's ability to monitor corporate activity and uncover corrupt practices.</span></p> <p><span>The new amendments were submitted by the parliamentary committee on legal policy and state building, and committee Chairman Ali Huseynli rejects the allegations, saying the measure merely clarifies the process for obtaining information.</span></p> <p><span>Civil society activists believe the amendments were prompted by a spate of investigative reports exposing details of the business interests of Aliyev's family -- particularly his daughters, Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva.&nbsp;</span><span>Reports by RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Khadija Ismayilov</span>a<span>&nbsp;and others have used corporate records in Azerbaijan and other countries to link the Aliyev daughters to lucrative interests in telecommunications, mining, and construction.</span></p> <p><span>Civil society activists in Azerbaijan have vowed to fight the amendments and are urging Aliyev not to sign them. Rasul Jafarov, head of the Baku-based Human Rights Club, told that his group will campaign locally and internationally against the measure."</span></p> <p><span>Corruption is a serious problem in oil-rich Azerbaijan. The country ranked 143rd out of 183 countries in the latest corruption index by the NGO Transparency International.&nbsp;</span></p> Parliament Honors Baltic Deportation Victims2012-06-15<p>On Wednesday, t<span>he remembrance ceremony was opened by MEP Tunne Kelam, who called the 1941 deportations a tragic episode of a shared European past, crimes against humanity that were carried out during peacetime.</span></p> <p> <p>"These were the first mass deportations in the territory of the current members of the European Union,&rdquo; Kelam said in a speech.</p> <p>Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis also spoke at the event, saying it was essential to build awareness among other nations of the totalitarian crimes of communist regimes.</p> <p>By tradition, the event took place next to a memorial plaque, placed on a wall in the European Parliament's guest entrance hall, that was presented to the European Parliament by a Baltic delegation six years ago.</p> <p>Also speaking at the event were the European Parliament's former president Jerzy Buzek; former Latvian foreign minister Sandra Kalniete, who was born in Siberia to deported parents; the president of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, G&ouml;ran Lindblad, who, as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe initiated a resolution on the crimes of communist regimes; and the head of the Swedish delegation to the European Parliament, Gunnar H&ouml;kmark, who started the so-called Monday movement.</p> </p> Serb military chief Ratko Mladic's genocide trial under way at UN war crimes court2012-05-17<p><span>On the second day of the 70-year-old's genocide trial, Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prosecutors will focus on the bloody climax of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, when Serb forces systematically executed some 8,000 Muslim men and boy in the U.N.-protected enclave in northeastern Bosnia and buried them in mass graves.</span></p> <p> <p class="ap-story-p">Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of murder and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of territory they considered part of Serbia. His troops rained shells and snipers' bullets down on civilians in the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">He has refused to enter pleas, but denies wrongdoing.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">On Wednesday, the frail, 70-year-old defendant had an angry exchange of hand gestures with the families of massacre victims in the public gallery, separated by the bulletproof glass in the courtroom.&nbsp;"Vulture!" said one woman in the gallery.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Mladic fled into hiding after the war and spent 15 years as a fugitive before international pressure on Serbia led to his arrest last year. Now he is held in a one-man cell in a special international wing of a Dutch jail and receives food and medical care that would likely be the envy of many in Bosnia.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">But the fact that he is jailed and on trial is seen as another victory for international justice and hailed by observers as evidence that - more often than not - war crimes tribunals get their indicted suspects, even if years later.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Prosecutors say they will use evidence against Mladic from more than 400 witnesses, although very few of them will testify in court. Much of their evidence already has been heard in other cases and will be admitted as written statements.</p> </p> invites Germany to cooperate in creating ambitious EU Eastern partnership policy2012-05-17<p><span>&ldquo;The Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius will be the biggest event during Lithuania&rsquo;s Presidency and its success will depend on cooperation between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries at an early date. We hope to work very closely with Germany, our friend and partner, in creating an ambitious Eastern Partnership policy,&rdquo; the Minister said.</span></p> <p> <p>The interlocutors also discussed the EU&rsquo;s multi-annual financial framework, the future of Europe and issues of energy security.</p> <p>&ldquo;Saving has enabled Lithuania to return to growth &ndash; we have overcome the crisis on our own. However, the Commission&rsquo;s proposed provisions of the new multiannual financial framework related to the cohesion policy so far would only punish the Baltic States despite our rally and excellent abilities to absorb the assistance. This is totally unacceptable to us. We expect understanding from our EU partners and Germany&rsquo;s support for decisions that reflect our efforts,&rdquo; Ažubalis said.</p> <p>Link emphasized that the Baltic States set a positive example, as countries which efficiently absorb and use the EU support for smart growth. The meeting discussed possibilities to boost growth in the EU by exploiting all the possibilities of the internal market, for example, better implementation of the services directive and the common patent system.</p> <p>Ažubalis stressed that German support for the elimination of &ldquo;energy islands&rdquo; in Europe was very important to Lithuania. The Minister presented the Visaginas nuclear power plant project as a very important one for Lithuania&rsquo;s energy independence.</p> <p>The meeting discussed further strengthening of bilateral partnership, which would enhance political, economic and cultural ties between the countries, and contribute to the creation of Europe&rsquo;s future.</p> </p> Stays EU-Focused2012-05-11<p><span>The two parties&rsquo; coalition in parliament will have 111 seats &ndash; enough to rule but by only a slim margin, and may cause difficulties for the coalition in the near future.&nbsp;</span><span>The opposition party, the Serbian Progressive Party which was recently criticized for, ironically unlike its namesake, being "far right"&nbsp;</span><span>did not win the election after all</span><span>, despite winning the most number of seats in terms of a single party.</span></p> <p> <p>The presidential election will go into a second round. According to the Serbian-based Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, the incumbent president, Boris Tadic,&nbsp;won at least 26 per cent of the vote.&nbsp;&nbsp;Many criticized his opponent, Tomislav Nikolic for swaying to wherever &ldquo;the wind blows&rdquo; . &nbsp;The Democratic Party and the Socialists have been on good terms since 2008 and offered their support to Tadic. He is expected to win in the run-off election on May 20th 2012. &nbsp;</p> <p>Serbia is also criticized for not having come to terms with its past. May 9th was the 62nd anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, putting the idea of reconciliation and coming to terms with the past in everybody's minds. This also brought up the sooner-than-later possibility of Serbia&rsquo;s membership to the EU as a topic to be discussed as early as next year.</p> <p><span>But will the focus on EU membership for Serbia have any effect on the attitudes of Serbs? One of my sources from Belgrade wrote in reference to the elections, &ldquo;We just don't support any of those choices given there.&rdquo; The best thing the West can do is to &ldquo;help Serbia [through] more investments, which can help suppress monopolies. Although that is not the best solution, with this kind of politics and political leaders Serbia has now, nothing else seems to do anything good for [the] Serbian people.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>However, investments and more money is not the only answer. Jelena Petrovic, a PhD candidate in the War Studies Department of King&rsquo;s College London, wrote in her essay (which won the St. Gallen&rsquo;s Wings of Excellence Award at the annual St. Gallen&rsquo;s Symposium in Switzerland).</span></p> <p><span>She identified several factors as &ldquo;weak links&rdquo; in the chain contributing to this increase. They are the lack of the familial unit&rsquo;s proactive involvement, the low quality of the educational system, the lack of objectivity in the media, and the &ldquo;political elites&rsquo;&rdquo; use of &ldquo;historical revisionism&rdquo; to win seats in their respective parliaments. In other words &ndash; more money is not the only solution.</span></p> </p> swap in Russia completed2012-05-09<p> <p>Putin did not much like the startlingly critical questions Medvedev faced from lawmakers before the vote.&nbsp;Communists and leftists challenged Medvedev over his failed reforms and the lack of progress on modernizing Russia's economy, the stated priority of his four years as president.</p> <p>In characteristically colorful language, Putin struck back by blaming the economic difficulties on the Communists who ruled the Soviet Union until 1991. The Soviet economy was based on heavy industry and produced shoddy consumer goods.</p> <p> <p>Putin, who had just exited the prime minister's office, began a third presidential term on Monday and immediately fulfilled his promise to nominate Medvedev for his old job.</p> <p>The job switch, which was announced in September, offended many Russians by its implication that their votes were no more than a formality in the highly controlled political system that Putin created after coming to power in 2000. This anger helped galvanize a protest movement that brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets of Moscow for a series of unprecedented demonstrations.</p> <p>Parliament, where the Kremlin party has a majority, approved Medvedev's appointment on Tuesday with a vote of 299-144.</p> <p>But before the vote, lawmakers from all four factions were allowed to question Medvedev.</p> <p>The harshest criticism came from Just Russia, a leftist party created by the Kremlin, which has become more critical in recent months as some of its members have joined the anti-Putin protest movement.</p> <p>Just Russia lawmaker Nikolai Levichev reminded Medvedev of his promise in 2008 to promote innovation, investment, institutions and infrastructure as part of a program called the four I's.</p> <p>"These did not become the bases of the economic development of the country," Levichev said. "Instead of this a fifth 'I' appeared: the imitation of all these reforms."&nbsp;<span>After the vote, the mild-mannered Medvedev thanked the parliament members for their support.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Meanwhile the p</span><span>olice dispersed about 100 people who spent the night in a downtown Moscow street in a silent protest against Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s return to the presidency.&nbsp;</span><span>The series of anti-Putin protests resumed in Moscow as ex-premier&nbsp;</span>Vladimir Putin was sworn in as president<span>&nbsp;for a third term on Monday.&nbsp;</span></p> </p> </p> and Belarus among World's Worst Media Censors2012-05-04<p><span>In a new report released on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said all three countries are guilty of seeking to cut off access to information by muzzling journalists and blocking websites.</span></p> <p><span>In Uzbekistan, where the regime of longtime leader Islam Karimov has maintained a stranglehold on the press, the CPJ says all independent media outlets have been effectively eliminated.</span><br /><br /><span>Mahoney also notes that five reporters are currently serving prolonged prison terms in the country, which ranks sixth on the CPJ list.&nbsp;</span><span>These include Muhammad Bekjannov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov of the "Erk" opposition newspaper, who were imprisoned in 1999 and have now been jailed longer than any other reporters worldwide.</span><br /><br /><span>"No independent media outlets are based in Uzbekistan," Mahoney says. "Access to some outside websites and even key words are blocked. Five reporters are serving extended prison terms. Foreign journalists are excluded."</span></p> <p><span>In Belarus -- 10th place on the CPJ list -- the controversial 2010 reelection of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka was seen as delivering the death blow to what remained of the country's free press.</span><br /><br /><span>Mahoney says even before the elections and the massive public protests that followed, Lukashenka's regime had routinely subjected journalists to criminal prosecution and failed to investigate the suspicious deaths of at least three journalists.</span><br /><br /><span>These include Aleh Byabenin, the founder of the outspoken Charter 97 website, who was found hanged at his family's dacha in 2010.</span><br /><br /><span>"The government of Belarus has raided newsrooms, confiscated equipment, imprisoned journalists, and banned reporters from traveling," Mahoney says. "The remnants of its independent press operate underground. Independent websites are blocked and access to the Internet requires identification."</span><br /><br /><span>Other countries on the CPJ's top 10 censorship list include Equatorial Guinea, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and China were listed among the runners-up.</span></p> <p><span>CPJ's censorship list ranks countries according to website access, journalists' freedom of movement, and the presence of privately owned media.</span></p> Heads Vow To Skip Euro 2012 Over Tymoshenko2012-05-02<p><span>Georg Streiter said that any travel plans by Merkel are "conditional on the fate of Ms. Tymoshenko and conditional on the rule of law in Ukraine."</span><br /><br /><span>EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso have also indicated they are prepared skip all Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine because of mounting concern over Tymoshenko, the former heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution and runner-up to Viktor Yanukovych in a 2010 presidential race.</span><br /><br /><span>Spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told reporters in Brussels on April 30 that Barroso has no plans to travel to Ukraine unless officials in Kyiv take steps to address the "very, very serious situation" involving Tymoshenko.</span><br /><br /><span>"It is clear that as things stand now, [Mr. Barroso] has no intention of going to Ukraine or participating in events in Ukraine at this point in time," Ahrenkilde said.</span><br /><br /><span>Viviane Reding and Stefan Fuele, the EU's justice and enlargement commissioners, have likewise called off travel plans to Ukraine, which is co-hosting the Euro 2012 championship with Poland.</span><br /><br /><span>Dennis Abbott, the spokesman for Androulla Vassiliou, the EU education, culture, and sports commissioner, said Vassiliou might travel to matches in Poland but would steer clear of Ukraine as long as the human rights situation there remains unchanged.</span><br /><br /><span>"If the current situation stands, this situation regarding human rights in Ukraine, and in particular the situation regarding the treatment of Mrs. Tymoshenko and other opposition figures, then the commissioner [Androulla Vassiliou] feels that it would be entirely wrong to go to Ukraine," Abbott said.</span></p> <p><span>The mounting calls for a boycott come amid claims by Tymoshenko that she has been beaten by prison guards in the Kharkiv prison where she is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office in a case that she and many rights activists say is politically motivated.</span><br /><br /><span>Tymoshenko, 51, has also declared a hunger strike and has repeatedly refused medical treatment for severe back pain related to a herniated disk.&nbsp;</span><span>A new trial against her on charges of tax fraud allegedly committed during the 1990s began on April 19.</span><br /><br /><span>The European Union and the United States say they also believe the pro-Western Tymoshenko's jailing last autumn was politically motivated, and have called for her release.</span></p> communist rebels 'kill 11 soldiers'2012-04-27<p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_197">A three-vehicle Philippine army convoy was ambushed by New People's Army (<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1335351252_0">NPA</span>) rebels near the mountain town of Tinoc on the main island of Luzon, said&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1335351252_2">Major-General Rommel Gomez</span>, army commander of the&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1335351252_5">northern Philippines</span>.&nbsp;"These people are terrorists," Gomez said of the attackers. "We are still on pursuit operations."</p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_203">An army captain was among 11 soldiers killed in the early morning attack, army spokesman&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-visible" id="lw_1335351252_1">Colonel Loreto Maguddayao</span>&nbsp;told AFP, and a civilian who played in a military brass band also died.&nbsp;Two other soldiers and another civilian were wounded.</p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_370">"This is considered one of the most daring attacks by the NPA in this area in recent years," Maguddayao said.</p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_206">The apparent target was the local battalion commander,&nbsp;<span class="yshortcuts cs4-ndcor" id="lw_1335351252_3">Lieutenant-Colonel Eugenio Batara</span>, who was also in the convoy as it drove back to camp after visiting a remote mountain outpost but escaped unhurt, Maguddayao added.</p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_373">About 100 soldiers, policemen and police aides were killed in NPA attacks across the country last year, down from 184 in the previous year, the military has said.</p> <p id="yui_3_4_0_29_1335517088906_377">The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and has been waging one of Asia's longest running communist insurgencies since 1969.</p> </p> Opens Museum Wing Depicting 'Communist Terror'2012-04-25<p><span>According to museum director Luan Malltezi, a similar section opened in 1996, but this has a more complete depiction of the communist terror in Albania.</span><br /><br /><span>"We set up a working team of museologists, conducted thorough research at the Ministry of Interior archives and [consulted] with politically persecuted people. This section was rebuilt from the beginning and it has a time line from 1945 -- before Enver Hoxha came to power -- until 1991. It includes murders from before the country&rsquo;s liberation. Enver Hoxha was criticised for this by his comrades, but still he continued to strengthen his power," Malltezi told SETimes.</span><br /><br /><span>There were 23 prisons and 48 deportation camps in Albania. According to partial records kept by the interior ministry, 5,157 people were killed; another 9,052 died in political prisons; 17,900 were imprisoned and 30,383 were deported during this period.</span><br /><br /><span>In addition to this wing at the National Museum of History there is also the National Liberation War section.</span><br /><br /><span>The exhibit has not escaped the attention of active communist party members. "I have seen this section passing by, driven by curiosity. Of course it has some truth in it, but it depends on how you interpret the facts," party leader Hysni Milloshi told SETimes. "My personal opinion is that society today doesn&rsquo;t need a section against communism, [rather] one for these last 20 years of pluralism.</span></p> <p><span>Ejsi Hysa, 22, was one of the first to visit the new exhibition. He told SETimes, "I think it is necessary that young people learn what is communism, to comprehend that Enver Hoxha was child of this communism and to understand that no ideology can bring heaven on earth."</span></p> On The Brink As Leaders Try To Calm Ethnic Tensions2012-04-19<p><span>Ethnic animosity has been simmering between Macedonia's two largest ethnic communities for a decade, since an armed rebellion by ethnic Albanians was brought to an end with the help of Western diplomacy.</span><br /><br /><span>In March, violence erupted in the capital, Skopje, after two ethnic Albanians were killed in the western town of Gostivar by an off-duty police officer during an apparent argument over a parking space.</span><br /><br /><span>On April 13, fears of ethnic conflict were stoked further by the discovery of five slain Macedonian fishermen beside a lake at the village of Smiljkovci north of Skopje. Four of the victims were in their late teens or early 20s. The fifth was a man in his 40s.</span><br /><br /><span>Authorities have not announced a motive for the killings nor named any suspects. But speculation about the gangland-style executions has focused on tensions with ethnic Albanians.</span><br /><br /><span>Skopje resident Violeta Mitreska tells RFE/RL she hopes such speculation does not bring a return to the ethnic violence seen in Macedonia a decade ago.</span></p> <p><span>But not all temperaments are so cool in the former Yugoslav republic. On April 16, hundreds of angry young Macedonian Slavs marched in Skopje to protest the Smiljkovci killings. They chanted nationalist slogans and blamed ethnic Albanians for the killings.</span><br /><br /><span>Riot police later clashed with the stone-throwing demonstrators and prevented them from marching across a bridge to a mainly Albanian neighborhood in the capital. The police action won praise from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).</span></p> <p><span>Meanwhile, fearing ethnic conflict could escalate out of control, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has issued calls for restraint and a speedy investigation into the Smiljkovci killings.</span><br /><br /><span>Macedonia's interior minister, Gordana Jankulovska, also warned that speculation about who carried out the Smiljkovci killings could fuel ethnic tensions.</span><br /><br /><span>"The Ministry of Interior appeals to all citizens to restrain from speculation and not to encourage the fueling of passions or to encourage interethnic intolerance," Jankulovska said.</span></p> <p><span>Macedonian political analyst Jove Kekenovski says the two communities should have developed peaceful coexistence by now. But instead, he says, poverty and unemployment have contributed to social frustration and rising tension.</span></p> Welcomes Release of Political Prisoners in Belarus2012-04-18<p> <p>Belarussian authorities released over the weekend&nbsp;former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov&nbsp;and&nbsp;his campaign manager Dmitry Bondarenko.</p> <p>&ldquo;This, coupled with previous releases, represents a significant step,&rdquo; spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement on Monday.</p> <p>&ldquo;We urge the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally free all remaining political prisoners and ensure the full restoration of their civil and political rights,&rdquo; the statement said.</p> <p>Both Sannikov and Bondarenko were arrested in 2010 on charges of&nbsp;inciting mass riots after presidential elections.</p> <p>Hundreds of demonstrators attempted to storm the government headquarters in protest against President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election for a fourth term. Dozens were arrested and went on trial, receiving various prison terms.</p> <p>The United States and the European Union have demanded that Minsk release all political prisoners. Only Sannikov and Bondarenko&nbsp;asked Lukashenko for a pardon.</p> <p>&ldquo;Enhanced respect for democracy and human rights remains central to improving relations between the United States and Belarus,&rdquo; Toner said.</p> </p> Korea rocket launch fails2012-04-13<p> <p align="left">The reclusive communist state admitted today in an announcement on state TV that a satellite launched hours earlier from the west coast failed to enter into orbit. The US and South&nbsp;Korea&nbsp;also declared the launch a failure.</p> <p align="left">The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, along the west coast, at 7.38am (11.38pm Thursday BST) but failed to reach orbit, the state-run&nbsp;Korean Central News Agency said.&nbsp;"Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," KCNA said.</p> <p align="left">US and South&nbsp;Korean officials said hours earlier that the rocket splintered into pieces about a minute after lift-off over the Yellow Sea, calling it a provocative failed test of missile technology.</p> <p align="left">In response to the launch, Washington announced it was suspending plans to contribute food aid to the North in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programmes.</p> <p align="left">The US North American Aerospace Defence Command said it detected and tracked the launch of the rocket - which it called a missile - over the Yellow Sea; the first stage fell into the sea 100 miles west of Seoul, South&nbsp;Korea, while stages two and three failed.&nbsp;"At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat," Norad said in a statement.</p> <p align="left">The US, Japan, Britain and other nations had been urging North&nbsp;Korea&nbsp;to cancel a launch seen as a covert test of the rocket technology also used to send a long-range missile to strike the US</p> <p align="left">North&nbsp;Korea&nbsp;refused to back down, saying the rocket would carry only a civilian satellite, touting it as a major technological achievement to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, on Sunday.</p> <p align="left">Still, the rocket failure is a major embarrassment for Pyongyang, which has invited dozens of international journalists to observe the rocket launch and other celebrations.</p> </p> Opposition Protests Staged In Baku2012-04-10<p><span>The protesters also demanded the release of a dozen political activists detained during antigovernment protests last year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>The demonstration on April 8 was the first that have been sanctioned by Azerbaijani authorities after similar protests last year ended in a violent government crackdown.</span><br /><br /><span>Organizers of the rally claimed that more than 10,000 people took part in the demonstration.&nbsp; Baku police, however, put the number of protesters at around 1,200.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><br /><br /><span>A statement by Baku police said the protesters were members and supporters of several opposition movements, including the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, (APFP), Musavat (Equality), and the People's Party, as well as several nongovernmental organizations and youth groups.</span><br /><br /><span>Ali Kerimli, the leader of the APFP made a speech at the rally calling for greater freedoms in the country.&nbsp;</span><span>"The Azerbaijani government led by Ilham Aliyev is carrying out a policy that has been destroying the Azerbaijani opposition, and stifling independent voices &ndash; by banning demonstrations &ndash; over the past seven years," he said.</span></p> <p><span>Isa Gambar, the leader of the Musavat opposition party, likened the situation in Azerbaijan to Arab countries that experienced a wave of popular uprisings leading to regime changes last year.</span><br /><br /><span>"We have always been sure the wave of the changes, democracy and freedom in the world will come to Azerbaijan, too,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;However, at the same time, we want this process to take place in peaceful ways, without confrontation and &ndash; unlike the Arab countries -- without bloodshed.&nbsp; That is our choice.&nbsp; If events take a different turn, the responsibility for that would lie with Aliyev's government."&nbsp;</span></p>'s positive portrayal of dictator Stalin sparks row2012-04-05<p> <p>Sales of the notebooks, which show Stalin wearing full military uniform and numerous medals, have been brisk.&nbsp;But human rights groups say a man blamed for millions of deaths should not be shown in such a positive way.</p> <p>The publisher has refused to withdraw the book, which is part of a "Famous Russians" series.&nbsp;Artyom Belan, art director of the Alt publishing house that produced the notebooks, told Associated Press that he deserved to be included.&nbsp;"If we do a series of great Russians, should we strike the 20th century from the list altogether?" he said.</p> <p>AP says a large store in Moscow specialising in academic books ran out of stocks of the Stalin book on Wednesday.</p> <p>The books have attracted criticism from the Russian Public Chamber, a government oversight committee.&nbsp;"When children see this magnificent cover with handsome mustachioed Stalin, they perceive him as a hero," said historian Nikolai Svanidze in a statement seen by AP.</p> <p>Russian Education Minister Andrey Fursenko said he did not like the books but added that he had no powers to stop their sale.</p> <p>Stalin ruled the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1953, and&nbsp;historians say&nbsp;he was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.&nbsp;But he is also praised for his leadership during the Second World War, and since Vladimir Putin came to power he has attracted a much more positive portrayal in Russia.</p> </p> The Communist Party sticks to its principles and the economy stalls2012-04-04<p><span>The most immediate concern is inflation, which last year rose to above 20% for the second time in three years (see chart). Vietnam now has Asia&rsquo;s highest inflation rate, a fact that government censors have asked local journalists to stop reporting. Thousands of businesses have gone bankrupt, property prices have collapsed and banks and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are riddled with bad debts.</span></p> <p> <p>The reversal has been sudden. Vietnam&rsquo;s GDP increased by more than 8% a year from 2003 to 2007, when the country attracted a surge of foreign investment. Now the World Bank is predicting that growth will average 6% a year in the five-year period up to the end of 2012. McKinsey, a consultancy, argues that unless Vietnam boosts its labour productivity by more than half, growth is likely to dwindle to below 5%. That will be well short of the government&rsquo;s target of 7-8%. As McKinsey argues, &ldquo;the difference sounds small, but it isn&rsquo;t.&rdquo; By 2020, Vietnam&rsquo;s economy could be almost a third smaller than it would have been had economy continued to grow at 7% a year.</p> <p>Everyone, even communist leaders, agrees on the main reasons for the slowdown. The poorly run, corrupt and wasteful SOEs, which account for about 40% of output, weigh the economy down. The formula of low-wage, low-cost manufacturing no longer works as it once did. Countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh now undercut Vietnam in cheap manufactures. Yet the country has failed to move up the value-chain into more productive activities and higher-tech goods.</p> <p> <p>Frustratingly, however, realising this and doing something about it seem to be two different things in the minds of Vietnam&rsquo;s communist rulers. A few optimists were hoping for changes at a three-day meeting of senior party cadres last month. Alas, there was a lot of breast-beating and little else. Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Communist Party, urged the party to reform if it wanted to avoid an existential threat. But although his speech was made public, the rest of the meeting&mdash;in time-honoured fashion&mdash;took place behind closed doors.</p> <p>Calls by the party to reform or die are not new. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve been saying that for 20 years,&rdquo; says Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnamese politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. What is missing, now as in the past, is any detailed plan about how to implement reforms such as restructuring the clunky state-owned sector, streamlining public investment and improving transparency.&nbsp;</p> </p> </p> exile who set self on fire in India dies2012-03-28<p><span>Jamphel Yeshi, 27, set himself alight Monday at a demonstration in New Delhi. He ran screaming past other protesters and the media before falling to the ground, his clothing partly disintegrated and nearly his entire body covered in burns.</span></p> <p> <p class="ap-story-p">About 30 people have set themselves on fire over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest against Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Tibet. Activists say China's crackdown is so oppressive in those areas, Tibetans have no other way to voice their protests.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">On Tuesday, a U.S. Senate panel passed a nonbinding resolution mourning the deaths and calling on China to end what it describes as repressive policies targeting Tibetans.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Beijing has blamed the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India for decades, for inciting the self-immolations and has called the protesters' actions a form of terrorism.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">President Hu Jintao is in New Delhi for a summit for the BRICS summit that includes India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa on Thursday.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Wednesday also marked the day China calls Serfs Emancipation Day, when in 1958 government troops took control of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Indian police and soldiers have orders to restrict the movement of New Delhi's Tibetan population while Hu is in town, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. Police have surrounded the city's Tibetan neighborhoods, erecting barricades and refusing to allow young people to leave, except for medical or court appointments under police escort.</p> <p class="ap-story-p">Hundreds of Tibetan activists have been rounded up, including poet Tenzin Tsundue, who had just finished speaking to the Tibetan Woman's Association when he was taken into custody Tuesday night under laws that allow "preventative detention."</p> <p class="ap-story-p"> <p class="ap-story-p">Activists condemned the crackdown.&nbsp;"This action is unlawful and a complete surrender to the Chinese pressure and the surrender of our own national pride," Indian intellectual Rajiv Vora said in a statement.</p> </p> </p> Lit to Remember Victims of Soviet Regime2012-03-26<p> <p>During the four days in March 1949, families were given only an hour or two at night to pack their belongings. They were then herded into railroad cattle cars, regardless of age or sex, to be taken to their new destinations, either forced labor camps or collective farms. Some managed to escape; many perished on the way, others never made it back to Estonia.</p> <p>According to Tanel Tsirgu, head organizer of the memorial event, candles are ignited by students so that people would stop and give thought, at least for a moment, to the fundamental values of life. One candle will be lit for every deported person. "If the memory of the crimes committed against innocent people is kept alive, deportation will never happen again," Tsirgu said.</p> <p>Candles will also be lit by expat Estonian organizations in Finland, the United States, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium and Latvia.</p> </p> executes two men accused of Metro bombing2012-03-21<p> <p>The EU and human rights groups have strongly condemned the execution of two young men in&nbsp;Belarus&nbsp;following their conviction for a deadly attack on the Minsk metro last April.</p> <p>Late on Saturday, state television reported that Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov, both 26, had been put to death. In Belarus, execution is performed by a shot to the back of the head. Kovalyov's mother said she had received a note from the authorities saying the death sentence on her son had been carried out.</p> <p>European governments said they were dismayed by the sentence and described the men's trial as deeply flawed. The Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko, described as "Europe's last dictator" by the former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, had rejected pleas for clemency from the EU.</p> <p>"Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes people," Thorbj&oslash;rn Jaglan, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, said. "With its disrespect of basic human rights and democratic standards, the government of Belarus is increasingly isolating its country and its people from the rest of the world."</p> <p>Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said she sympathised with the families of the 15 people who died and the 300 injured in the metro bombings, but stressed there was clear evidence that the two accused were not accorded due process "including the right to defend themselves".</p> <p>Human rights activists said they were appalled by the executions, saying they deprived society of the opportunity to learn the truth. "The government was in a rush to throw a white shroud over all the contradictions and discrepancies," Lyudmila Gryaznova said. "The execution of the so-called terrorists, whose guilt remains under suspicion, gives the appearance that the government is concealing the traces of the crime."</p> <p><span>The two executed men were convicted in November last year after what activists said was a clumsy show trial. Kovalyov consistently protested his innocence. Investigators claimed he was aware of the plans to bomb the subway but failed to tip the authorities off. Defence lawyers said the evidence presented in court was circumstantial and inconclusive.</span></p> <p><span>Belarusians angered by the executions came to lay flowers or light candles outside the subway station. "The government shot these boys so quickly that I have even more doubts about their guilt," Tatyana Snezhinskaya, a teacher, said. "The death penalty should be abolished. We should not take the lives of people, especially of those who might be the victims of judicial errors or political orders."</span></p> </p> President Calls for End to Interethnic Violence2012-03-15<p><span>Since last week, at least 14 people have been injured in clashes in Skopje and the Albanian-dominated northwestern town of Tetovo.&nbsp;</span><span>Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 percent of Macedonia's 2-million-strong population.</span><br /><br /><span>The clashes were the worst ethnic violence in the country since an armed conflict in 2001 between security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.&nbsp;</span><span>Ivanov said Macedonia has "turned a new page" and vowed that "all those who use violence...will be punished."</span><br /><br /><span>The OSCE secretary-general, Lamberto Zannier, on a visit to Skopje on March 13, condemned the recent violence and welcomed the quick response of authorities.</span></p> removes top leadership contender Bo from post2012-03-15<p><span class="focusParagraph"> <p>Bo Xilai has been sacked from his post as head of the city of Chongqing in a move that exposes growing ideological divisions just as a new generation readies to take power.&nbsp;His abrupt downfall, announced on Thursday by the official Xinhua news agency, threatens to kindle tension between his supporters, who favor a more traditional, state-dominated version of socialism, and liberal critics, who saw him as a dangerous opportunist.</p> </span> <p> <p>Bo was removed as party boss of Chongqing, a sprawling urban region in the southwest that he turned into a bastion of Communist revolutionary-inspired "red" culture and egalitarian growth, a day after being rebuked by Premier Wen Jiabao in a news conference broadcast across the country.</p> <span id="midArticle_3"></span> <p>The telegenic Bo had been a strong contender for top leadership, but his career prospects came under intense speculation after Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, his longtime police chief, went to ground in February in the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu until he was coaxed out and placed under investigation.&nbsp;In a separate statement, Xinhua said Wang had also been removed from his post. It gave no other details.&nbsp;Xinhua said Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang will replace Bo.</p> <span id="midArticle_6"></span> <p>While Bo might be kept on in some role until the Communist Party leadership succession later this year, his hopes for promotion to a top job were finished, said Chen Ziming, an independent scholar in Beijing who follows party politics.&nbsp;<span>"This will affect the leadership politics for the 18th Congress, because this opens up new uncertainties about who is in contention," said Chen.</span></p> <span id="midArticle_9"></span> <p>The 18th Party Congress late this year will see China's biggest leadership transition in nearly a decade, with Party Chief Hu Jintao and other elders due to retire and hand power to a younger generation headed by Vice President Xi Jinping.</p> <p><span>"Well, the good news I guess, is that the risks of leftism and extremism in Chinese politics have just taken a nose dive," said David Zweig, a scholar of Chinese politics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.&nbsp;</span><span>But Bo has plenty of fans in&nbsp;</span>China<span>, attracted to the idea of a "Chongqing model" of development that promises greater social equality. They are likely to be riled by his removal.</span></p> <p><span>The man who takes over Chongqing from Bo, Vice Premier Zhang, studied economics in&nbsp;</span>North Korea<span>&nbsp;and is a former party boss in the export-dependent southern province of Guangdong.&nbsp;</span></p> </p> </p> wins support for joining EU2012-03-02<p> <p>Serbia&nbsp;took a large step towards integrating with mainstream&nbsp;Europe&nbsp;on Tuesday when&nbsp;European Union&nbsp;foreign ministers called for the country to be made a candidate for union membership.</p> <p>The breakthrough came despite surprising resistance from neighbouring Romania, and followed a deal last week when Belgrade abandoned boycotting the attendance of&nbsp;Kosovo&nbsp;at regional and international meetings because it views Kosovo as part of Serbia and refuses to recognise its independence.</p> <p>The decision by the foreign ministers, which needs to be endorsed by EU government heads at a Brussels summit on Thursday, puts Serbia on the path to EU membership, leaving behind the legacy of the 1990s when Balkan wars and ethnic pogroms earned it the status of an international pariah.</p> <p>But while Belgrade now faces long years of arduous negotiations before it can become a member, Brussels has not yet named a date for opening the negotiations. EU governments will push for greater rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo before agreeing to start talks.</p> </p> Korea starts the cat-and-mouse nuclear game again2012-03-01<p><span>North Korea watchers are wearily familiar with the game of diplomatic cat-and-mouse, which played out in 2002 and 2009, where the leadership in Pyongyang offers concessions in return for short-term economic gains, and then reneges on its side of the deal.</span></p> <p> <div class="secondPar"> <p>Those who oppose this latest engagement argue that it will serve only to bolster the regime which has pledged to make their near-destitute country "prosperous" by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of their 'Great Leader', Kim Il-sung.</p> </div> <div class="thirdPar"> <p>It is for this reason that Hillary Clinton was adamant yesterday that<strong>&nbsp;</strong>North Korea's<strong>&nbsp;</strong>leaders would be judged 'by their actions', in an attempt to reassure the sceptics that the Obama administration will not be lead on the same merry dance as George W Bush was in 2009.</p> </div> <div class="fourthPar"> <p>Then, in a leap of faith that turned out to be woefully misplaced, President Bush &ndash; having declared the North part of the 'Axis of Evil' in 2002 &ndash; agreed to remove Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2007, only for negotiations to founder when the North refused to meet its commitments to disarm.</p> </div> <div class="fifthPar"> <p>President Obama initially pledged that he would not repeat that mistakes, promising "strategic patience" with Pyongyang, a vision that has now been modified in the hope that talks, while not necessarily leading to disarmament, might yet slow the process of nuclear weaponisation down.</p> <p> <p>But there are, as yet, few concrete reasons to believe that negotiations will be any different this time round, since North Korea has no obvious motivation for giving up the nuclear weapon that represents its sole bargaining chip in its negotiations with the US.</p> <p>The danger is that when talks resume, Pyongyang negotiators will seek to manipulate them into a creeping, de facto acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear state, a position the US has promised to avoid.</p> <p>In Beijing there are hopes that Kim Jong-un, the babyfaced son of Kim Jong-il might yet embrace Chinese-style economic opening up and reforms, but in Washington analysts saw yesterday's announcement not as a departure from the old leadership, but in continuity with it.</p> </p> </div> </p> Official Arrested, Suspected of Selling Classified Materials to Russia2012-02-23<p><span>A senior national security official, Aleksei Dressen, along with his wife Viktoria, were detained Wednesday morning at Tallinn Airport, and are under investigation for selling classified information to the Russian Federation's intelligence service, the FSB.</span></p> <p><span></span><span>Allegedly, Dressen was in possession of a storage device containing classified documents when he was arrested. The official's wife is suspected of acting as a courier.&nbsp;</span>According to the charges, Dressen, 43, has in recent years sold information to the FSB in return for monetary rewards.&nbsp;Dressen has been working as an investigator for KAPO, Estonia's national security agency, since 1993.</p> <p>In 2009, Herman Simm, who is serving a 12.5-year prison sentence for selling classified NATO information to Russia, became the only Estonian to be convicted of treason after restitution of independence.</p> <p>The case that became public today has no relation to Simm, according to the Prosecutor's Office, although in late 1990s, Dressen served with Simm on a government committee supervising trade and transit of strategic goods, headed by then minister of foreign affairs, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.</p>'s failed referendum2012-02-22<p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Around 75% of those taking part in the poll voted against the idea</span><span>, on a 70% turnout. But if the organisers wanted to polarise Latvian society, they may count the result as a success. It revived long-standing disagreements about history: was Latvia "occupied" by the Soviet Union in 1940, or merely "annexed", or simply "incorporated", and with what degree of legitimacy? Are the mainly Russian migrants of that era "occupants"? Has Latvia, which returned to the map of the world in 1991, been amazingly generous in allowing them to stay, or despicably stingy in not giving them automatic citizenship?&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In practice, Latvia is a kind of bilingual society, with some awkward asymmetries. Almost all ethnic Latvians (around two-thirds of the population) know at least some Russian, though they may resent speaking it. Some Russians have Latvian citizenship anyway, if they or their ancestors were citizens of the pre-war republic. Others have adopted Latvian citizenship enthusiastically (as of April last year the number of naturalisations was &nbsp;135,840). Others are bilingual but refuse to consider applying for citizenship; others defiantly refuse to speak Latvian at all, even after 22 years of independence. There are other quirks too: the language people speak at home is not necessarily the same as their declared ethnicity; Latvia has plenty of mixed marriages (unlike neighbouring Estonia). Some people who are nominally part of the Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian minorities may be Russophone in practice.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In recent years the language issue has been off the boil. International human-rights bodies have largely accepted the Latvian argument that having some sort of language hurdle for citizenship is justified. The number of non-citizens (around 300,000, or one in six of the population) is in slow decline, though more because of demography than naturalisation, which has</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>slowed to a trickle</span>. Non-citizens have restricted voting rights and are barred from some jobs (and rules about knowing Latvian also apply to jobs dealing with the public).</span></p> <p><span>The referendum has pushed the issue up the political agenda, and entrenched Latvian fears of assimilation and intimidation by the big eastern neighbour. They fear that the local Russians (and Russia itself) regards Latvian independence as a temporary aberration. Russia does little to counter that impression: its Russia Today television channel habitually smears Latvia (and Estonia) as</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>Nazi-loving</span></span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>ethnocracies</span>.</span></p> <p><span>Latvia's neighbours are worried too. The Estonian MP Marko Mihkelson</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>said</span>&nbsp;&nbsp;"Russia's official position, in which it does not recognize the results of the referendum as fair, unfortunately convinces us that polarization and deepening of internal tension in Latvia are in Moscow's interests."</span></p> <p><span>In an extended polemic, the Lithuanian commentator Rimvydas Valatka</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>argues</span>: "The central issue is the fact that such a referendum, so humiliating to Latvians, could take place in a NATO and EU country in the first place." Instead of encouraging Latvian Russians to accept reality and integrate "Russia continues to pit part of the population against the Latvian state," he says.</span></p> </p> in north Kosovo reject ethnic Albanian rule2012-02-17<p> <p><span>The step is seen as a slap in the face to efforts by Serbia and the EU to resolve differences over the territory.</span></p> <p><span>Many Kosovo Serbs fear that Belgrade, which is hoping to win official EU candidate status in March, will eventually give up its claim to Kosovo, leaving them at the mercy of the ethnic Albanian government.</span></p> <p><span>As expected, the results of the vote showed almost 100-percent rejection of the authority of the Kosovo government, but it has no legal weight and has been dismissed by both Belgrade and Pristina as well as the international community.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The referendum, which asked voters if they accept Pristina institutions, was held ahead of the fourth anniversary on Friday of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, a move rejected by Belgrade.</span> "Out of those who voted, 99.74 percent answered 'no' to the referendum question" if they accept Pristina institutions, Ljubomir Radovic, a spokesman of the referendum commission told reporters after all the votes were counted.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In all four Serb-dominated municipalities in northern Kosovo, where 75 percent of voters cast ballots out of the 35,500 eligible to vote, only "69 votes were with marked 'yes'," Radovic said.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The vote has been dismissed by the international community as little more than an opinion poll that could damage prospects for more EU-sponsored talks between Belgrade and Pristina.</span></p> </p> Chief Hails Kyrgyzstan's Peaceful Transfer of Power2012-02-17<p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Ban&nbsp;<span>said at a meeting on February 16<strong>&nbsp;</strong></span>in Vienna with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev that the Central Asian country's "peaceful transfer of power" consolidated Kyrgyz democracy and set an example for other countries in the region.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Protesters ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiev in April 2010 after which Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections in October 2010 and presidential elections in October 2011.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Kazakbaev and Ban also discussed the reconciliation process in Kyrgyzstan, as well as cooperation against drug trafficking and peace efforts in Afghanistan.</p> </p> new government, old problems2012-02-10<p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Traian Basescu, now Romania&rsquo;s president, has lost his prime minister, the low-key Emil Boc, amid protests over austerity, corruption and general incompetence.</span> In January Mr Basescu, in typically impulsive style, phoned a live television programme to denounce Raed Arafat, a popular Palestinian-Romanian who founded and ran the ambulance service, for his &ldquo;leftist views&rdquo;. Mr Arafat promptly resigned. After violent demonstrations, the government junked plans to privatise the emergency services and reinstated Mr Arafat. Two members of the Senate then defected to the opposition, costing Mr Basescu&rsquo;s Democratic Liberal party, which languishes in the low teens in the opinion polls, its hold on the upper house.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>The street protests have continued. Their causes range from ecological to monarchist, but are mostly about government arrogance. After two weeks Mr Basescu apologised. Mr Boc, in office since 2008, stepped down on February 6th, along with his cabinet, to &ldquo;diffuse social tensions&rdquo; and stabilise the economy. By the standards of nearby Hungary and Greece, Romania&rsquo;s economy is actually quite stable.&nbsp; This year&rsquo;s growth forecast is 1.5-2%, only marginally down on previous estimates despite the euro-zone crisis. That said, the deal still requires Romania to cut the budget deficit from 4.4% of GDP in 2011 to 1.9% this year.</span> The government plans to adopt the euro in 2015. Romanians, weary of tax rises, pay cuts and poor public services, would find austerity policies more palatable if politicians stole less and communicated better.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Another big task is meeting European Union worries about the rule of law, which are holding up Romania&rsquo;s accession to the Schengen passport-free travel zone. An ex-prime minister, Adrian Nastase, has just been sentenced to two years in jail for fraud (part of a vendetta by Mr Basescu, say his supporters). But no big fish have been netted on big charges; a culture of impunity is barely dented. An EU report on February 8th praised some modest progress in corruption prosecutions, but bemoaned &ldquo;clear shortcomings&rdquo; in dealing with criminality among judges.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Mr Basescu has nominated Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as prime minister. A polyglot Oxford-educated historian who previously headed the foreign-intelligence service, he should win approval this week in parliament&rsquo;s lower house.&nbsp;</span></p> </p> will hold another sham election2012-02-10<p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Turkmenistan will hold a presidential election 12 February. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has been president since the country&rsquo;s last president-for-life died in office in December 2006, will win It is only Turkmenistan&rsquo;s third presidential election since it gained independence in 1991. Berdymukhamedov&rsquo;s predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, won the first contest in 1992 with 99.5 percent of the vote. In February 2007, Berdymukhamedov, who at the time was acting president, took 89 percent of the vote.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>A leading election monitoring group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, announced in January that it would not monitor the poll. It noted that Turkmenistan places &ldquo;undue restrictions on the right to stand as a candidate&rdquo; and lacks laws that provide for the registration of political parties.</span><span>&nbsp;The OSCE will, however, send a team to Turkmenistan to further review election laws and processes.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Meanwhile, Yevgeniy Sloboda, chief of an election monitoring team from the Commonwealth of Independent States, told reporters last week, "All candidates contesting for the post of president of Turkmenistan have equal opportunities for carrying out the election campaign." Sloboda said Turkmenistan&rsquo;s leaders &ldquo;are set to further democratize society and ensure transparency of the election and openness of the election process for international observers.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Oddly, these &ldquo;candidates&rdquo; have all been announced less than two months before the election. That does not leave them enough time for an election campaign. But then again, the only one really campaigning is Berdymukhamedov. There are no rallies, no speeches, no posters, no advertisements, none of the trappings of a regular democratic election.&nbsp; All of the &ldquo;candidates&rdquo; are male. Radio Free Europe&nbsp;<span>reports</span></span>&nbsp;that a female schoolteacher from Ashgabat had her application rejected. It&rsquo;s hard to say whether it was because she&rsquo;s a woman or because her candidacy was supported by the Civil Society Movement, an actual NGO.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> </p> is engaged in the most repressive crackdown on Tibetans since 20082012-02-02<p> <p><span>The government in Beijing is calling the new campaign the &ldquo;Nine Must-Haves.&rdquo;</span> Beginning in early December, the government is forcibly imposing the policy throughout ethnically Tibetan regions in several western provinces, including Sichuan, Qinghai and&nbsp;<span>Tibet</span>. It calls for communist officials at every level in this vast area to vigorously implement the nine specific measures.</p> <p><span>The nine measures, or Nine Must-Haves, require every Tibetan monastery, school, community center and household to have a composite portrait of&nbsp;Mao Zedong,&nbsp;<span>Deng Xiaoping</span>,&nbsp;<span>Jiang Zemin</span>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<span>Hu Jintao</span>, representing four generations of Chinese communist leadership; a Chinese national flag known as the Five-Starred flag, with the biggest yellow star at the center symbolizing the core leadership of the Chinese Communist Party; and a road leading to the facilities so it is easier for forces from outside to visit. The policy also demands these entities to have a supply of water; a source of electricity; radio and television sets, which will be powered by the mandatory availability of electricity; access to movies; a library; and copies of the Communist Party of China state-controlled newspapers, the People&rsquo;s Daily and Tibet Daily.</span></p> <p><span>The ideological campaign is aimed at forcing Tibetans, who are deeply religious and devout toward their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to give up their Buddhist beliefs and declare loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders. Portrait of the Dalai Lama or any other forms of his image are banned in&nbsp;<span>China</span>.</span></p> <p><span>Last week, the&nbsp;<span>Tibetan government</span>&nbsp;in exile, based in&nbsp;<span>India</span>, published an open letter to&nbsp;<span>Hu Jintao</span>, the current Chinese Communist Party leader, expressing &ldquo;deep concerns&rdquo; over the repressive policies.</span></p> <p><span>According to reports from the region, Chinese troops since Jan. 23 have indiscriminately shot and killed at least six Tibetans in Tibetan regions of Sichuan province. Scores more were wounded.&nbsp;</span></p> </p> President Remembers Victims of Communism2012-02-02<p> <p><span>On Wednesday Bulgaria marked&nbsp; for the second time the official Day of Gratitude and Homage to the Victims of the<span>&nbsp;</span>Communist Regime.</span></p> <p><span>"Freedom<span>&nbsp;</span>and<span>&nbsp;</span>democracy<span>&nbsp;</span>ought not only be used, but also fought for, including in hard times," said Plevneliev upon laying a wreath at the monument.&nbsp;</span>"Getting to grips with our recent history is a necessary condition for taking in earnest the values on which our society is founded," added the Bulgarian President.&nbsp;"The deaths of those Bulgarians who fell at the hands of the<span>&nbsp;</span>communist regime<span>&nbsp;</span>is one of the most vivid symbols of repression against the Bulgarian people," stated Plevneliev.</p> <p><span>February 1 was chosen for commemoration because on this date in 1945, the so-called People's Tribunal sentenced to death 3 regents, 67 members of the parliament, 22 ministers, 40 generals and colonels of the royal army and a number of other public figures. The sentences were executed on that same day.</span></p> <p><span>"In the history not only of Bulgaria, but also of many other European countries, the 20th century has been marked by ideologically motivated violence. We must do more to remember the victims who fell," said the Bulgarian President.</span></p> <p><span>Members of the diplomatic corps in Bulgaria, cabinet representatives and MPs were also present at the ceremony at Bulgaria's Memorial for the<span>&nbsp;</span>Victims of<span>&nbsp;</span>Communism.</span></p> </p> in Cuba: the Communists Convene2012-01-27<p> <p><span>Castro has lowered expectations for any new economic reform announcements, saying that internal party affairs will be the business at hand. But many Cubans will be watching for signs of who is rising in the party's ranks &mdash; and who could take over after Raul and Fidel Castro, both in their 80s, are gone.</span></p> <p><span>During the 47 years that Fidel Castro ruled this island, he often surrounded himself with younger, hand-picked proteges like economic planner Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque. They were always on TV, seemingly groomed as the next generation of Cuban leaders. But in 2009 they were sacked, caught on secret recordings disparaging the Castros and their trusted circle of aging comrades. Raul Castro has made clear that the island's next leaders will have to rise through the party ranks in Cuba's provinces, says Rafael Hernandez, editor of the Havana journal<span>&nbsp;</span><em>Temas.</em></span></p> <p><span>Cuba's old leadership was a debate topic this week for Republican primary candidates in Florida facing questions about what would happen if Fidel Castro dies. The retired<span>&nbsp;</span><em>comandante</em><span>&nbsp;</span>fired back in one of his opinion columns Wednesday, calling their contest "the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance" he has ever heard.</span></p> <p><span>That's about all Fidel Castro does these days. He's 85 and hasn't appeared in public in months. His brother Raul is firmly in charge, and whoever succeeds him is likely to follow the example he has set, gradually opening the economy to ease Cubans' frustrations. But major political reforms are not in the offing, says Miriam Leiva, a former diplomat who became a dissident writer in Havana.</span></p> <p><span>"The main thing is that they don't let the population decide anything. And they want to [stay] in power and decide everything," Leiva says, "because the Cuban population is accustomed to just accepting what comes from power, and Cubans know they cannot change anything."</span></p> </p>’s Oponent Yavlinsky Loses Chance to Run for Kremlin2012-01-25<p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Some analysts said the removal was part of the Kremlin&rsquo;s plan to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to win in the first round of the vote, though others denied ulterior motives behind the decision.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Yavlinsky collected two million signatures in support of his bid as required by law, but two consecutive checks, the second of which was wrapped up Tuesday evening, showed 25.66 percent of them to be invalid, commission secretary Nikolai Konkin said. The law caps the amount of faulty signatures at five percent. &ldquo;The commission will hold a session later this week to officially refuse registering Grigory Yavlinsky&rdquo; for the March 4 vote, Konkin said.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">The commission also refused registration to Irkutsk Governor Dmitry Mezentsev, an alleged Kremlin ally, also over faulty signatures. But it approved the two million signatures collected by billionaire-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Prokhorov will be the only independent to be included on the ballot, along with candidates from the four parliamentary parties, who were not required to collect the signatures. One of the four is Putin, fielded by the ruling United Russia party and expecting to return to the presidency after two consecutive terms in office in 2000-2008. Yabloko&rsquo;s senior party boss Ivan Bolshakov promised the party would fight Yavlinsky&rsquo;s removal, reported.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Yabloko party's founder, Yavlinsky, is set to appear at the anti-government rally in Moscow on February 4, which 21,000 have signed up for on Facebook as of Tuesday evening. Yavlinsky, 59, has been active in politics since the late 1980s, and ran for president twice, in 1996 and 2000. He is known for his critical stance on the Kremlin, and retains a small, but viciously loyal core constituency among intelligentsia and the middle class in big cities.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said the two to four percent that Yavlinsky could have garnered may be crucial for Putin&rsquo;s first-round victory. Yavlinsky&rsquo;s removal &ldquo;was precisely because they&rsquo;re banking on winning in the first round,&rdquo; Petrov said.</p> </p> PM likened to Chavez over controversial laws2012-01-20<p> <p><span>Orban, in Strasbourg to defend his government, pledged on Wednesday to row back on disputed laws which have triggered EU</span><span>&nbsp;legal proceedings </span><span>against</span><span>&nbsp;Budapest&nbsp;</span><span>and inspired MEPs to liken him to Cuba's</span><span>&nbsp;<span>Fidel Castro</span>&nbsp;</span><span>or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Brushing aside the charges, Orban said he stood up for "Christian and family values" and claimed to have brought Hungary back from the brink in 18 months -- decreasing debt, overhauling taxes and health and protecting minorities.</span></p> <p><span>The EU commission on Tuesday threatened to drag Budapest to court for reforms undermining the independence of its central bank, judiciary and data protection authority. It gave Orban a month to reverse the laws.</span> The right-wing Hungarian leader is hoping to obtain a credit line from the<span>&nbsp;<span>European Union</span>&nbsp;</span><span>and the International Monetary Fund but talks were suspended in December amid concern over the controversial legislation. But he told a press conference after the debate that lasted most of the afternoon that he would not allow government policy to be dictated.<br /></span>&nbsp;</p> <span>Barroso said he and Orban would be working over the coming days to find legal solutions, vowing to handle "with the highest priority" an issue that spawned accusations Orban was building a "totalitarian" regime. "Today I received a letter by PM Orban. He has indicated to me his intention to modify the relevant legislation," he told the parliament. Wider principles of democracy and freedom in general needed to be addressed, Barroso said, referring to "concerns expressed regarding the quality of democracy in Hungary".</span></p> apologises for using Che Guevara image2012-01-17<p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The high-end car company, known for its impeccable - and pricey - motor vehicles, used the late leader to promote a new car-sharing program, much to the horror of Cuban activists and political conservatives. </span><span>In place of the star that adorns Guevara's beret in the original, Mercedes affixed its corporate<span>&nbsp;</span>logo.</span></p> <p><span>Activists reacted with horror to the appropriation of Guevara, whom many political conservatives and Cuban-Americans consider a mass murderer who helped subjugate Cuba.</span> <span>In a statement Thursday to, Daimler said the image was just "one of many images and videos in the presentation," which it said was intended to represent "the revolution in automobility enabled by new technologies, in particular those associated with connectivity."</span></p> <p><span>"Daimler was not condoning the life or actions of this historical figure or the political philosophy he espoused," the company said, adding: "We sincerely apologize to those who took offense."&nbsp;</span>Daimler's statement was welcomed by Ernesto Suarez, who organized an<span>&nbsp;</span>online petition calling for Mercedes-Benz to apologize.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Here's Daimler's full statement to;</span>In his keynote speech at CES, Dr. Zetsche addressed the revolution in automobility enabled by new technologies, in particular those associated with connectivity. To illustrate this point, the company briefly used a photo of revolutionary Che Guevara (it was one of many images and videos in the presentation). Daimler was not condoning the life or actions of this historical figure or the political philosophy he espoused. We sincerely apologize to those who took offense.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Jong-il body will be embalmed and put on display in tradition of communist rulers2012-01-15<p>Following a communist tradition that dates back to the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, whose embalmed body is still on display at a marble mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow, Kim's body will have its organs removed before being soaked in a chemical bath. The body is likely to be exhibited in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, where his father, Kim Il-sung, is on display, <a href="" target="_blank">Independent</a> reports.</p> <p>The procedure is likely to be performed by an institute in Moscow that looks after Lenin's corpse. The institute worked on the body of the older Kim, as well as on the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, Czechoslovakia's Klement Gottwald and Angola's Agostinho Neto.</p> <p>Last month, one of the institute's specialists gave a rare interview to a Russian tabloid in which the embalming process was discussed: "It's not a pretty sight," said Pavel Fomenko, who was part of the team that embalmed Kim Il-sung. "First, all the internal organs are extracted, the veins are dissolved and the blood taken from the tissues," he said.</p> <p>"The body is placed in a glass bath filled with the embalming solution, then closed and covered with a white sheet... Gradually, the water in the cells of the body is replaced by the solution." Mr Fomenko said the process takes around six months, and that the embalmed body then requires meticulous aftercare every week.</p> <p>Mr Fomenko, now 78, said that Russia was prepared to help with the embalming of Kim Jong-il, and recalled that the North Koreans had paid around $1m for the embalming of Kim Jong-il's father.</p> <p>"I remember that when Kim Il-sung died, there were reports that he had been buried. But at the same time they were asking us to prepare our products and some days later we took off for Pyongyang."</p> <p>Kim senior is now on display inside a glass coffin on the top floor of the Kumsusan Palace. Visitors are required to bow three times when viewing the body, and must first pass through a full-body dust-remover, to prevent contamination.</p> <p>When Kim Jong-il's body is laid to rest alongside his father's, it will be the first time that two embalmed leaders have been displayed together since Joseph Stalin's body was removed from the Lenin mausoleum in 1961, eight years after his death.</p> <p>Kim died of a suspected heart attack on 17 December, aged 69, and his body was put on display before his carefully choreographed funeral on 28 December. It was also announced yesterday that memorial towers will be built for him in Pyongyang, and that his birthday, 16 February, will become a national holiday known as "Day of the Shining Star".</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Jong-il obituary2012-01-12<p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span><span>Kim Jong-il</span>, who died aged 69 after a heart attack, was the general secretary of the Workers' party of Korea and head of the military in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). He was one of the most reclusive and widely condemned national leaders of the late 20th and early 21st century, and left his country diplomatically isolated, economically broken and divided from&nbsp;<span>South Korea</span>.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Kim's early life was spent in the shadows of his father Kim Il-sung, who returned to Korea in 1945 after independence from Japan, and established, initially with Soviet and Chinese support, the DPRK. He was to witness the Korean war from 1950 to 1953, in which hundreds of thousands of Koreans, Chinese and Americans as part of a UN force fought across the country, returning almost to the point at which they had started. The armistice signed in 1953 settled the border between South and&nbsp;<span>North Korea</span>&nbsp;at the 38th Parallel.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>With the arrival of the cold war, relations between the two countries were almost completely broken off, with whole families split for the ensuing decades, some for ever. This event led to the creation of the wholly unprecedented worship of Kim Il-sung.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Kim Jong-il was educated at the newly founded university in Pyongyang, graduating in 1964. The 1960s and early 1970s were the golden years for the DPRK. It undertook rapid industrialisation, economically outstripped its southern competitor and enjoyed the support of both the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. A state ideology, mixing nationalism and basic Marxist economics, going under the name "Juche", was constructed, and Kim Il-sung effectively silenced, disposed of and cleared away any opposition, isolating the country and exercising an iron grip on the military, the state media, the government and party apparatus.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>In 1973 he became party secretary of the propaganda department, and, in 1974, was designated his father's successor, creating in effect the world's first communist family succession. In 1980 he was elevated to the Politburo, and was granted the title "Dear Leader", as opposed to "Great Leader", which had been granted by his father to himself. In 1991, he was named commander of the DPRK armed forces. The death of his father in 1994 led to his being appointed general secretary of the Workers' party, the ultimate seat of power.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Kim inherited the very worst legacy of the cold war, a country torn apart by colonisation and war. The economic template for the country had been set in the 1950s and 1960s, long before he had any say. Its unsustainability only became clear in the very final years of Kim Il-sung's life. Kim Jong-il finally had to deal with a complex network of interests in the army and party after his father's death, something which, combined with the immediate impact of bad harvests, created the terrible famines that claimed up to a million North Korean lives from 1995 until 1999. North Korea progressed towards its own nuclear programme in 2003. The election of Barack Obama as US president in 2008 served to provoke a period of harsh rhetoric, nuclear testing, missile launches, and diplomatic aggression.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>International politicians who met him were impressed by his memory for facts and his quick and easy wit. But there is little dispute about his responsibility for a system that saw widespread human rights abuses and perhaps the worst record for press freedom and government transparency in the world.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Death of the Playwright-President: Vaclav Havel (1936–2011)2012-01-12<p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Havel's death at age 75 was announced on Dec. 18. The man who wrote absurdist dramas that ridiculed the brutal communist flunkies who ruled his country &mdash; indeed, the Soviet bloc &mdash; had had severe health problems for years.<span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Havel was no longer President after the end of his term in 2003. But he remained iconic and relevant, even after reformers and other dissidents &mdash; such as Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia and Lech Walesa in Poland &mdash; lost their luster.<span>&nbsp;</span></span><span><br /></span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Havel spent most of his life feeling like an outsider. As a child, he was a shy bookworm embarrassed by his family's real estate fortune.<span>&nbsp;</span>In 1948 Havel became a different kind of pariah when the communists seized power in postwar Czechoslovakia, confiscating his family's property and barring him from high school.<span>&nbsp;</span>Drafted into military service, Havel wrote a rousing drama for his battalion that army officials praised until they took a closer look and realized that this chubby, polite soldier was making fun of them. After the army, he got a job as a stagehand at Prague's Theater on the Balustrade.<span>&nbsp;</span>He wrote acerbic plays that stuck audiences' noses in the ridiculousness of their totalitarian world.<span>&nbsp;</span>These were the relatively relaxed political days leading up to the 1968 Prague Spring, when the communists allowed some criticism.<span>&nbsp;</span>After invading Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring, the authorities banned Havel's writings and harassed friends who talked to him. Those were lonely years, but Havel beat back depression and wrote plays, started an underground press and founded the human-rights group Charter 77. That earned him prison time; the longest stretch began in 1979, when Havel received a 4&frac12;-year sentence.</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>When they released him, he kept being Havel and got arrested again; his last arrest came just months before the Velvet Revolution.</span><span> Havel didn't start the revolution &mdash; that happened when police beat unarmed students on Nov. 17, 1989 &mdash; but he masterminded it.<span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>He told the beaten-down Czechs they could prevail. They believed him and filled Wenceslas Square, giddy with their own courage.</span><span> And Havel, backed by these people who had rediscovered their backbone, negotiated the communists out of power.</span></p> <span> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Then he was President, an East European leader utterly unlike the geriatric robots who preceded him.</span><span> Havel performed the normal duties of Presidents, but to Czechs, his most important role was as a guide, even a talisman.<span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>Havel resigned as President of the soon-to-be-defunct Czechoslovakia and returned six months later as President of the newly formed Czech Republic.<span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <span> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>Toward the end of his life, Havel hit hard times. His wife died in early 1996, leaving him too lost to even help in planning her funeral. Within a year, doctors had removed half his cancerous right lung</span><span>.</span></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span>However, the democratic revolution had not built the civil society he had dreamed of. He himself would leave government after the end of his presidential term in 2003.&nbsp;</span>What he did leave help build, however, was an intellectual renaissance, not just for Czechs and Slovaks but also for the half of Europe that had lived behind the metaphorical Iron Curtain and was desperate to reconnect with the free West after five dehumanizing decades as Soviet satellites. Eastern Europeans had looked to Havel's writing and political activism and heard the voice of 600 years of enlightened humanism.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> </span><span></span></span></p> Republic will pay anti-communist fighters2011-12-03<p><strong>An anti-communist resistance law was passed in Czech Republic. Those who participated in the struggle against the communist regime are now entitled to demand recognition of their actions - the appropriate status and one-time financial compensation.</strong></p> <p>People who until 1989 took part in the fight against a totalitarian dictatorship will be able to demand formal recognition of the status of the fighter with the communist regime and one-time financial compensation, <a href="" target="_blank"></a> reports.</p> <p>Claims for recognition can be submitted to the Ministry of Defence, which has launched dedicated Internet portal and the telephone line.</p> <p>The law came into force on a symbolic day when the Czech Republic recalls the 22-th anniversary of the "velvet" revolution, which resulted in the communist regime collapse.</p> <p>According to law members of resistance will receive 100 000 Czech korunas (about 3850 euros). Spouses of deceased participants of resistance will be receive half of that amount. If the resistance fighter pension is lower than the average, the state will as a gift enhance their pension to the level of the average.</p> <p>Those who are denied recognition of the status of the fighter with the communist regime will apply to the so-called ethics committee which will consider the request again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Hungary must close post-communist chapter2011-12-02<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><strong>Hungary must end its prolonged post-communist period, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the founding session of the Hungarian Diaspora Council in parliament. </strong><span><br /></span></p> <p>Orban said post-communism was not just a "feeling" but a structure, one where constitutional institutions are generally weak, where old social networks from the previous regime triumph over market regulation, and where monopolies and cartels squeeze out competition, <span><a href="" target="_blank"></a> reports.</span></p> <p>He said whereas the Czech Republic had shred this system within five to six years and Poland managed to close the era within a decade, Hungary is among the last states to put an end to post-communism.</p> <p>Such an attempt was seen at last year's elections, when very many people voted for Fidesz who had never thought of doing this before in the belief that a substantial parliamentary majority was needed to end post-communism, Orban said.</p> <p>The prime minister said now the government saw its mission to close the post-communist chapter, which is why the past 18 months had been so hectic, charged with debate over changes to the labour code or the public education system, which he said were all logical consequences of the government's efforts to draw a line under the post-communist period.</p> <p>Orban told the Council, comprising representatives of the Hungarian communities all over the world, that the policy of the nation had proven successful over the past twenty years, but efforts to unite Hungarians scattered over the globe had so far been in vain.</p> <p>Orban said that in times of economic hardship, the nation needed all its members to help out in efforts to boost economic growth. "14-15 million Hungarians can do much more than 10 million," he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> official of the Russian Orthodox Church is outraged by glorification of Stalin2011-11-13<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion, who is considered to be second person in current hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, gave a negative assessment to the statements made among the clergy and monastic, which give a positive attitude towards Stalin's role in history and condemn intelligentsia.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"I think that history has made everything clear and nostalgia for stalinism, especially from the lips of a priest, to me sounds like some kind of blasphemy"- Metropolitan Hilarion said in an interview published in newspaper <a href="" target="_blank">"Rossiyskaya Gazeta"</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Metropolitan Hilarion made that remark after newspaper asked him to comment on the statements of the Secretary of the Ivanovo eparchy abbot Vitaly Utkin, who in his blog, made no secret of respect for Stalin.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"How can someone worship the Holy New Martyrs and at the same time respect Stalin? It's like to worship John the Baptist but at the same time have respect for Herod, who beheaded him. How can we glorify the victims and executioner simultaneously?" - Metropolitan Hilarion wondered.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This is not the first time Hilarion publicly condemned Stalin. In 2009 being senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church he called him &bdquo;a monster", accusing him of genocide, shortly before a European security forum equated the crimes of Stalin and Hitler.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">At that time his words have stirred heated debate in the Russian media and blogosphere, <a href="" target="_blank">American Orthodox Institute</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"I think that Stalin was a spiritually-deformed monster, who created a horrific, inhuman system of ruling the country," Archbishop Hilarion had said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"He unleashed a genocide against the people of his own country and bears personal responsibility for the death of millions of innocent people. In this respect Stalin is completely comparable to Hitler.", he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> allows private home sales first time in 50 years2011-11-06<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Cuba has approved a law allowing individuals to buy and sell homes for the first time since the early days of the revolution, official media say.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The law, which takes effect on 10 November, applies to citizens and permanent residents only. Correspondents say this is the most important reform so far in a series of free-market changes introduced by President Raul Castro, <a href="" target="_blank">BBC News</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A housing shortage has meant that many Cubans live in overcrowded apartments.<br />An article in the Communist Party daily Granma said details of the new law would be published in the government's official gazette.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The change follows the legalisation in October of the purchase and sale of cars, though with restrictions that still makes it hard for ordinary Cubans to buy new vehicles.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Black-market </strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The ban on property sales took effect in stages after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959. <br />Parents were able to pass property on to their children, but buying and selling property was not allowed.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The rules have meant that for decades Cubans could only exchange property through complicated barter arrangements, or through even murkier black-market deals, often involving illegal payments and bribes.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">With the new law, Cubans will be allowed to own a maximum of two properties - their main home and a holiday home. A popular aspect of the law will be the abolition of the government agency which regulated house swaps - a system much open to abuse.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Currently, three to four generations of a single family often live together in small apartments, because of the severe housing shortage. Divorced couples have often been forced to live together for years while they seek separate housing.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Many people have lived and live with the fear of losing their homes because they acquired them in an illegal way. Now they'll be able to legalise them and to sleep in peace," said Osmel Gonzalez, a self-employed food vendor in Havana.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Raul Castro has said repeatedly that the Soviet style system in Cuba is not working since he took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, but he has vowed that Cuba will remain a socialist state.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> King of Romania makes historic speech and calls to break with the bad habits of the past2011-10-30<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>The former king of Romania and the last wartime leader still alive addressed the Romanian parliament for the first time since his forced abdication in 1947.</strong><br /> <br />Sitting resplendent on a throne-like chair King Michael I, 90, called for politicians to provide greater democracy and to restore the dignity of a country that has struggled to bring wealth and prosperity to all of its people since the overthrow of the despotic regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, <a href=" " target="_blank"></a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The king had been afforded the rare privilege of addressing both houses of the Romanian parliament in honour of his 90th birthday.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The time has come after 20 years to ... break for good with the bad habits of the past", said the king. Taking a swipe at the country's present ruling elite, often chided for apparent self-interest and corruption, he added in 2011 "demagogy, selfishness and attempts to cling to power" should not have their place in Romania.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"All united, we have to pursue our efforts in order to become once more respected and dignified", he said in a speech that won a standing ovation and shouts of "Long live the King!" from some MPs.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Michael ruled Romania as a child from 1927 to 1930, and again from 1940 to 1947, overseeing a tumultuous period for the country which saw the country fall under fascist then communist rule, while in the meantime switching sides in the Second World War. In 1947 he abdicated after the communist government said it would shoot 1,000 people if he failed to step down. Michael left for exile and was only allowed to return in 1992.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Despite the genuine warmth the king's address received not all politicians were happy with his presence in parliament. President Traian Basescu refused to attend, describing Michael's abdication as a "betrayal" and calling him "Russia's servant".</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Although there is little sentiment in Romania for the re-establishment of the monarchy some politicians resent the king's willingness to use his position to highlight their shortcomings and the country's problems.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">After his address to parliament the king attended a glittering birthday meal attended by members of other European royal families, including King Carl Gustaf of Sweden and Queen Sofia of Spain.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> is planning to cut pensions of its communist-era leadership2011-10-29<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>More than 20 years after the fall of communism in Hungary, legislators are considering slashing the pensions of the leadership that ran the dictatorship.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Those pensions are often much higher than the average &euro;300 ($418) a month received by Hungarian retirees today because of the high salaries the apparatchiks paid themselves, <a href="" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Deputies from Hungary's governing Fidesz party say they favor imposing a "reparations tax" on the pensions of thousands of former functionaries from the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party - which ran the country during most of the communist regime ending in 1990.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Other parties want to recalculate individual pensions to exclude wages received for political duties.<br />Maria Wittner, the Fidesz lawmaker who initially proposed the legislation, said Tuesday that any savings stemming from the pension cuts should benefit veterans of the 1956 anti-Soviet revolution.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In 1957, Wittner was condemned to death for taking part in the uprising. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, from where she was released in 1970.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Communist-era decision makers continue to reap the advantages of having served the dictatorship through their higher pensions, said Janos Lazar, head of the Fidesz parliamentary faction.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"They need to give back to society the part of their pensions above the bare minimum," Lazar said, adding that while the rules to determine whose pension would be cut have yet to be determined, in 1987 the communist party had some 5,700 people in leading positions.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Lawmakers from four of the five parliamentary parties - all except the Socialist Party, the former communists - met to coordinate their proposals and agreed that pensions would not be cut below minimum living standards.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A preliminary draft of the legislation is expected to be ready within two weeks.</p> may make unprecedented move and impose term limits on leaders2011-10-23<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>The Communist Party of Cuba has announced that it will consider President Raul Castro's unprecedented call for term limits for all government officials. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A statement said the party conference in January would discuss a maximum of two five-year terms. The document also called for the promotion of qualified young leaders, <a href="" target="_blank">BBC</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Earlier this year, President Castro said Cuba must prepare a new generation to take over. Raul Castro, who is now 80, said the same limits would apply to him. He took over from his brother, Fidel, in 2008. Between them, they have ruled Cuba for 52 years since 1959.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The statement on the proposal for term limits will be discussed at party meetings in the coming months. It said the aim was to achieve a "gradual renewal in leadership".The proposal also spoke of a need to promote racial and gender diversity in positions of responsibility.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">However, it reaffirmed the Communist Party's position as the only one allowed in Cuba. The document also warned that the government's foreign enemies were "lurking and waiting to pounce".</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The imperialists pin their hopes on the supposed vulnerability of the new generations... They try to foment division, apathy, dismay... and a lack of confidence in the leadership of the revolution and the party," it said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">President Castro raised the issue in April at the start of the first congress of Cuba's ruling Communist Party for 14 years. He said the party leadership was in need of renewal and should subject itself to severe self-criticism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In his speech then, Raul Castro said the limit of two consecutive five-year terms would apply to "the current president of the Council of State and his ministers" - a reference to himself.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The proposal is unprecedented under Cuban communism.</p> anti-communist activist dies in Romania2011-10-16<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Ion Diaconescu, an anti-communist activist who helped Romania's push toward democracy, has died. He was 94.</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">Diaconescu, whose was imprisoned for 17 years by the communists for his political beliefs, died Tuesday night, said former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. No cause of death was given, but Diaconescu had recently been treated for heart problems,<span> <a href="" target="_blank">Associated Press</a> reports.<br /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Parliament held a minute of silence last week on Wednesday for Diaconescu who was acclaimed as a politician who was guided by principles, not personal interests.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Today's politicians only think about their own interests. ... That is why Romania is crawling along," said Romania's best-known political dissident, Doina Cornea. Like Diaconescu, Cornea was put under house arrest by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu for criticizing the communist regime.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Ion Diaconescu understood that faith and principles are national treasures, and he didn't betray these (values), enduring 17 years in communist prisons," said Cornea.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Diaconescu entered politics in the late 1930s as a member of the youth organization of the Peasant Party. He was arrested in 1947 after the Communists came to power in Romania and survived prison, unlike tens of thousands of Romanians who died in the communist gulags.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">He was released under an amnesty for political prisoners in 1964 and helped re-establish the center-right Peasants' Party after communism ended in Romania in 1989.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Diaconescu was speaker of Parliament's Chamber of Deputies from 1996 to 2000 and headed the Democratic Convention, a loose governing coalition that was marred by political infighting. A consensus seeker, he was widely respected, even by his political rivals.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu and current President Traian Basescu both paid tribute to him Wednesday. Basescu said Diaconescu remains "a symbol of the fight against communism."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu said Diaconescu was "a symbol of communist resistance in Romania and Eastern Europe, and a symbol of honesty and honor" in politics.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Diaconescu's open coffin was put on display at the Peasant's Party headquarters on Wednesday. He was not survived by any close relatives.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">He was buried in Bucharest on Thursday.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> says faith suffered "acid rain" under communism2011-10-15<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Pope Benedict has praised Catholics in eastern Germany who held on to their Christian beliefs despite the "acid rain" that corroded their faith under the Nazis and communism.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The pope said mass for some 30,000 people in the medieval main square of this city in former communist East Germany, where only about seven percent of the people are Catholic, <a href="" target="_blank">Reuters</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"You have had to endure first a brown and then a red dictatorship, which acted on the Christian faith like acid rain," he told the crowd from the altar, set against a hill dominated by Erfurt's cathedral and another Catholic church.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">About two hours before the mass a man fired an air gun at security staff at a checkpoint in Erfurt, police said. Detained on the spot, the unidentified man told police he was protesting at the strict security measures.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The pope's third trip to his homeland since his election in 2005 has attracted small crowds and some protests against the church's positions on homosexual marriage and birth control, and a sexual abuse scandal.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The 84-year-old praised those who remained faithful despite the pressures of the Nazi and communist regimes but appeared disappointed there had been no resurgence in faith since German reunification in 1990.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Benedict held a surprise meeting in Erfurt with victims of sexual abuse by priests. Church officials said on Saturday there were three men and two women present, chosen from many victims around Germany who had asked to meet the pope.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"There was no dispute, that wasn't the atmosphere of the conversations, but to really listen, and it was obvious that the Holy Father felt deep regret, he expressed that clearly," said Bishop Stephan Ackermann.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">About 700 Germans have filed for compensation for abuse by priests and Church personnel. A record 181,000 Germans left the Church last year, many in protest at the abuse scandal.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A Vatican statement after his meeting with victims at the Erfurt seminary said the pope had been "moved and deeply shaken" and had assured victims the Church was "committed to the promotion of effective measures to protect children".</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Victims' associations have said the Vatican has not done enough to bring the perpetrators of abuse to justice. German victims joined 8,000 protesters on a march through Berlin, where the Pope began his visit.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> Kong snubs North Korea leader's "lovely" grandson 2011-10-15<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">A 16-year-old grandson of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has reportedly been denied a visa to study in Hong Kong, despite being described by his prospective school as a "lovely kid" with a "good sense of idealism",<span> <a href="" target="_blank">Telegraph</a> reports.<br /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Kim Han-sol was accepted by an international school run by the United World Colleges (UWC) network but his visa bid was turned down despite several requests, the former school principal said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Hong Kong's immigration department declined to confirm whether the teenager had applied for a visa, saying it did "not comment on individual cases", but suggested such a decision would be in line with general policy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The department said people from countries including North Korea, Nepal and Cambodia were barred from obtaining a student visa - although exceptions are given in certain cases based on merit.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The government will take into account factors which include immigration and securities considerations, economic, social and cultural ties between Hong Kong and the country," it said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Former school principal Stephen Codrington, who interviewed Kim Han-sol, described him as a "lovely kid, very bright, charismatic" with "good English" and a "good sense of idealism", the South China Morning Post reported.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The 16-year-old's father is Kim Jong-Nam, the North Korean leader's exiled eldest son, according to the Post. The pair are said to have lived in Macao - an hour's ferry ride from Hong Kong - since the father fell out of favour with Kim Jung-Il years ago.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Kim Jong-Nam is understood to have once been the front-runner to succeed the North Korean leader. But youngest son Kim Jong-Un is now being groomed to take over one of the world's most isolated countries.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Following the visa denial in Hong Kong, Kim Han-Sol was enrolled at another UWC school - in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar. A school spokesman said last Friday he was still waiting for a Bosnian visa and was yet to arrive. The Bosnian school said the enrolment was the result of the UWC's special outreach programme for North Korea.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The UWC is a worldwide network of schools and colleges, which promotes international understanding and is attended notably by pupils from war-affected areas.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Earlier this week a Facebook account believed to belong to Kim Han-sol was unearthed, depicting a trendy teenager with dyed hair who believes in democracy and lists 'Love Actually' as his favourite film.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> of European Memory and Conscience to be established in Prague2011-10-14<p><strong>On Friday, 14<sup>th</sup> October, heads of 19 organisations dedicated to researching and raising awareness of the European totalitarian legacy will sign the founding document of the platform. Among the initiators there are six organisations from the Baltic States. </strong></p> <p>The ceremony will take place in the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague and will include the Czech Republic&rsquo;s Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Vice-President of the European Parliament L&aacute;szl&oacute; T&ouml;k&eacute;s.<br /><br />Mr Uve Poom, head of one of the founders&mdash;the Unitas Foundation&mdash;expressed his enthusiasm for the newly created platform: &ldquo;So far we have mainly focused more on the Baltic co-operation and this will make the creation of Pan-European projects considerably easier. The Unitas Foundation has a special focus on innovation in education and we hope to share our activities with other platform members. For example, our project &ldquo;Different Nations&mdash;Shared Experiences&rdquo; could be of help to other European nations wishing to share their history and raise consciousness on past events.<br /><br />The Platform of European Memory and Conscience unites governmental and non-governmental institutions and organisations active in research, documentation, awareness raising and education on totalitarian regimes. The European Parliament and the European Commission were among the numerous institutions which called for the creation of a Pan-European co-operation network to increase collaboration among national research institutes specialising in the subject of totalitarian history.<br /><br />Other founders from the Baltic States in addition to the Unitas Foundation include the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, the Occupation Museum Association of Latvia, the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, and the Occupation of Latvia Research Society.<br /><br />The Unitas Foundation was established in 2008 by the former two-time Prime Minister of Estonia, Mart Laar, the US philanthropist Mr Damian von Stauffenberg and entrepreneur Meelis Niinepuu with a mission to build reconciliation within and between societies divided by totalitarianism.</p> Speaker: Communism is still alive in Malaysia2011-10-09<p style="text-align: justify;">Deputy speaker of Malasian parliament Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar says the communist ideology is still very much alive in the country today, and urges the people to be aware, <a href="" target="_blank">Borneo Post</a> reports.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">According to him, the ideology was more subtle this time; the proponents waging psychological warfare against the government. "Even though they have ended the physical war against us, the communist element is still very much alive", he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Their former leader Chin Peng is still active spreading the ideology. It is not physical but psychological warfare," said Wan Junaidi.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">He said that Chin Peng had admitted that the ideology was still there, thus the people must be very careful. Recently, Malaysian Ex-servicemen Association (PBTM) president Datuk Muhammad Abdul Ghani acknowledged in the association's website that there were some irresponsible groups using schools and colleges to revive the communist ideology.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"What is regrettable is that they are undermining the peace and the rule of law in this country, and discrediting the present government," he said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> opens Museum of socialist art2011-09-28<p style="text-align: justify;">Twenty-two years after the fall of its communist regime, Bulgaria opened last week its first-ever museum of the state-sponsored, propaganda art characteristic of that era.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia exhibits some 77 sculptures, 60 paintings and 25 smaller plastic art works created between 1945 and 1989 by the most renowned sculptors and painters of the time, <a href="" target="_blank">YAHOO!7 NEWS</a> reports. <br /> <br />Mostly commissioned by the regime for propaganda purposes, the collection contains numerous full-length statues, busts, heads and portraits of the Soviet Union's founding father Vladimir Lenin, Bulgaria's first communist leader Georgy Dimitrov and long-ruling dictator Todor Zhivkov.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Innumerable stone and bronze sculptures, paintings, statuettes, red stars and hammer-and-sickle symbols adorned public squares and key buildings across Bulgaria during the 45-year reign of its communist regime.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Other works glorify the life of the working classes and the feats of the partisan movement that brought communism to Bulgaria in 1944. "It was high time to put that era where it belongs -- in a museum," Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said at the opening.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Displaying them, however, was expected to turn into "one of Sofia's biggest tourist attractions to both foreigners and younger Bulgarians, who did not live Communism," Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>'s Ilia State University has launched a master’s program in Soviet and post-Soviet systems2010-11-05<p>TBILISI - The 1968 student movement in Germany was the first time young people en masse asked their parents publicly: were you a Nazi? Many historians cite the era as the start of the country&rsquo;s reassessment of its Nazi past.</p> <p>&nbsp;In Eastern Europe, the reassessment of the totalitarian past began in the 1990s and continues. Lustration laws were adopted almost simultaneously in the mid-1990s in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states.</p> <p>&nbsp;But despite 70 years under the Soviet regime, that period of history has not been systematically studied in Georgia. The facts that most people think they know are superficial and mainly based on oral accounts.<strong> </strong></p> <p>The country has produced practically no serious literature analyzing the period. And the national security archives<strong>,</strong> which might have provided fruitful ground for scholars, were opened only several years ago and are not complete; some records were destroyed in the 1990s and some material remains in Russia.</p> <p>This year, however, scholars will start to fill in the blank spots. Ilia State University has launched a master&rsquo;s program in Soviet and post-Soviet systems, an organization was launched devoted to researching the Soviet past, and a trickle of young people has begun studying the security archives.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Soviet era for us is the past that hasn&rsquo;t become history. Actually we still live with those traditions, because we haven&rsquo;t studied our most recent past,&rdquo; said Sergo Ratiani, director of the university&rsquo;s new Soviet studies program, which has attracted 14 students in its inaugural year.</p> <p>&nbsp;The courses will start in January, with lectures by Georgian and foreign professors. The university will also have books and other foreign materials translated into Georgian and will make information from the country&rsquo;s security archives more accessible to students, Ratiani said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tako Tolordava, a third-year social sciences student at Ilia State University, was one of the first to sign up. She became interested in Soviet history last year when she attended lectures on the Soviet regime and its legacy.</p> <p>&ldquo;I discovered that my knowledge of the Soviet past was really spotty. If we don&rsquo;t analyze that period properly, the problems that we have today won&rsquo;t get solved, we won&rsquo;t even be able to create a civil society for a long time,&rdquo; Tolordava said.</p> <p>Lasha Bakradze, a historian and critic who teaches a course on the fundamentals of Soviet history at the university, said Georgians may have been reluctant to confront this part of their past because they live in a small society, with many clan connections. Genuine<a href=";IdLanguage=1&amp;NrIssue=365&amp;NrSection=3&amp;NrArticle=21254" target="_blank"><span style="color: #0000ff;"> lustration</span></a> and research into security archives could unearth uncomfortable information about people close to them.</p> <p>Bakradze also cautioned that these new studies must not be co-opted by ideologues and that Georgians must not think of themselves only as victims. &ldquo;We were victims and we were offenders. This must be a scientific pursuit without ideological pressure,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Keeping that distance could be a challenge, said Timothy Blauvelt, country director for the American Councils for International Education in Georgia. Blauvelt has lectured on the history of Sovietology in Western countries. &ldquo;I know that when you have experienced it yourselves, it&rsquo;s hard to stay objective, but if you want to research and study the issue from the scientific point of view, it&rsquo;s better to be distanced from the epoch and from your own feelings&rdquo; Blauvelt said.</p> <p>But Ratiani, the program&rsquo;s director, said objectivity should not necessarily be the scholar&rsquo;s goal. He said the Soviet Union, just like Nazi Germany, was a definite evil and to look for the positive sides of the regime would be misguided. &ldquo;We must find the reasons that led us to totalitarianism. We must stand for our principles and values.&rdquo;</p> <p>Though it lacks a similar program in Soviet studies, Tbilisi State University has seen mixed interest in the subject in the last two years. A Russian studies program launched there in 2008 includes courses on the history of the Soviet Union and on the ideology of the Soviet system. Still, only 10 students have enrolled in Russian studies at the university.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The director of the program, Dali Kandelaki<strong>,</strong> blames the university for not properly promoting the courses.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">According to one of the program&rsquo;s students, however, it also suffers from a lack of literature and professors sufficiently versed in the subject. David Jishkariani, 24, who said he supplements his studies with outside research, chose Russian studies as his master&rsquo;s program after the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. &ldquo;I finally came to the conclusion that we need to study Russia thoroughly, especially the Soviet and post-Soviet epoch. We&rsquo;re in a transitional period in Georgia and if we want to get over it successfully, we must know where we&rsquo;ve been,&rdquo; he said.<strong> </strong>Jishkariani is researching the Stalinist persecutions of 1937 in Georgia, during which thousands were murdered or deported.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Along with Bakradze, the historian, Jishkariani and a handful of others helped launch a new organization called the Soviet Past Research Laboratory. Its first project will be a map of places in Georgia<strong> </strong>connected with terror and repression, including houses where the repressed families lived, prisons, places of execution, and houses where secret organizations met. By the end of the year the group plans to launch a website where it will upload photos and texts about the Soviet period as well as some materials from the country&rsquo;s security archives.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Bakradze said Georgia can learn from Germany&rsquo;s experience. &ldquo;No real changes will come until we investigate and understand the past.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Source</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=""></a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> Journalist and Youth Activist Violently Arrested after National Civic Resistance Front Meeting 2010-11-04<p><span><span style="font-size: small;">A group of activists from the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front held a meeting in the P&aacute;rraga Municipality of the City of Havana to restructure the organization, which coordinates nonviolent resistance actions on a national level. Upon walking out to the street, they noticed officers from the Castro regime's political police and Rapid Response Brigades surrounding the household, in preparation for a repudiation rally. The activists then began to shout anti-dictatorship and pro-freedom slogans, and sang the national anthem.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&ldquo;<span style="font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span>Agent Juan had the audacity to enter the household and we began to shout anti-Castro slogans, and he ran off due to our shouts for freedom and democracy. At that time, a group of opposition activists from different organizations were meeting in Havana,&rdquo; stated Eriberto Liranza Romero, from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, and one of the coordinators of the Front in the City of Havana. </span></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;" lang="es-ES"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">According to a later statement made his wife Yaim&iacute; Alfonso Lirea during a telephone conversation with the Cuban Democratic Directorate, the activists were attacked by political police around 5:30 PM, and Liranza was violently arrested.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;" lang="es-ES"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">Some of the activists in attendance at the meeting were: Rafael Hern&aacute;ndez Fajardo from the Hard Line Front, Niola Camila Araujo from the Cuban Civic Foundation, Erm&oacute;genes Inocencio Guerrero G&oacute;mez and Boris Rodr&iacute;guez Jim&eacute;nez Frente from the Hard Line Front and the Frank Pa&iacute;s 30th of November Democratic Party, Eriberto Liranza Romero and Ra&uacute;l Parada Ram&iacute;rez from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, Modesto Leopoldo Valdivia Varela from the Unity and Liberty Cuban Movement for Human Rights, Ernesto Herrero Viel from the Independent Union of Light Industrial Workers affiliated with the National Independent Workers Confederation ofCuba/Confederaci&oacute;n Obrera Nacional Independiente de&nbsp;Cuba (CONIC), Eli Hern&aacute;ndez Rodr&iacute;guez of the Pa&iacute;s 30th of November Democratic Party and Benito Aguirre De la Cruz of the Marti Civic League.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">The activists stated that they were supported by the residents of P&aacute;rraga while the police attacked the household, placing themselves between activist Eriberto Liranza Romero and an aggressor from the Rapid Response Brigade known as Michel who was holding a machete, in order to protect the activist. <span>According to Yaim&iacute; Alfonso, the neighbors also helped to remove the children who were inside the household to protect them from the attacks.</span></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><br />Source</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><a href=""></a></p> Journalist and Youth Activist Violently Arrested after National Civic Resistance Front Meeting 2010-10-28<p><span><span style="font-size: small;">A group of activists from the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front held a meeting in the P&aacute;rraga Municipality of the City of Havana to restructure the organization, which coordinates nonviolent resistance actions on a national level. Upon walking out to the street, they noticed officers from the Castro regime's political police and Rapid Response Brigades surrounding the household, in preparation for a repudiation rally. The activists then began to shout anti-dictatorship and pro-freedom slogans, and sang the national anthem.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&ldquo;<span style="font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span>Agent Juan had the audacity to enter the household and we began to shout anti-Castro slogans, and he ran off due to our shouts for freedom and democracy. At that time, a group of opposition activists from different organizations were meeting in Havana,&rdquo; stated Eriberto Liranza Romero, from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, and one of the coordinators of the Front in the City of Havana. </span></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;" lang="es-ES"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">According to a later statement made his wife Yaim&iacute; Alfonso Lirea during a telephone conversation with the Cuban Democratic Directorate, the activists were attacked by political police around 5:30 PM, and Liranza was violently arrested.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;" lang="es-ES"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">Some of the activists in attendance at the meeting were: Rafael Hern&aacute;ndez Fajardo from the Hard Line Front, Niola Camila Araujo from the Cuban Civic Foundation, Erm&oacute;genes Inocencio Guerrero G&oacute;mez and Boris Rodr&iacute;guez Jim&eacute;nez Frente from the Hard Line Front and the Frank Pa&iacute;s 30th of November Democratic Party, Eriberto Liranza Romero and Ra&uacute;l Parada Ram&iacute;rez from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, Modesto Leopoldo Valdivia Varela from the Unity and Liberty Cuban Movement for Human Rights, Ernesto Herrero Viel from the Independent Union of Light Industrial Workers affiliated with the National Independent Workers Confederation ofCuba/Confederaci&oacute;n Obrera Nacional Independiente de&nbsp;Cuba (CONIC), Eli Hern&aacute;ndez Rodr&iacute;guez of the Pa&iacute;s 30th of November Democratic Party and Benito Aguirre De la Cruz of the Marti Civic League.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: x-small;">The activists stated that they were supported by the residents of P&aacute;rraga while the police attacked the household, placing themselves between activist Eriberto Liranza Romero and an aggressor from the Rapid Response Brigade known as Michel who was holding a machete, in order to protect the activist. <span>According to Yaim&iacute; Alfonso, the neighbors also helped to remove the children who were inside the household to protect them from the attacks.</span></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><br />Source</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in; line-height: 100%;"><a href=""></a></p> sentences for VietNam labour activists condemned2010-10-27<p><span style="font-size: x-small;"><span class="yshortcuts">Amnesty International</span> has condemned the nine and seven-year prison sentences given to three activists in <span class="yshortcuts">Viet Nam</span> for carrying out their legitimate work on labour rights. <br /><br />Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and <span class="yshortcuts">Nguyen Hoang Quoc</span> Hung were today convicted and sentenced after a <span class="yshortcuts">speedy trial</span> yesterday for &lsquo;disrupting security&rsquo;. They had distributed leaflets and supported workers&rsquo; rights at a factory. <br /><br />&ldquo;The authorities should immediately release three labour organisers, and stop this needless crackdown on government critics and peaceful activists&rdquo; said Donna Guest, Amnesty International&rsquo;s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific. <br /><br />&ldquo;Today&rsquo;s harsh sentences, and the continuing arrests of activists and bloggers, paint an increasingly bleak picture of freedom of expression and association in Viet Nam.&rdquo; <br /><br />Doan is a founding member of the unofficial United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO) and previously spent 18 months in prison between 2007 and 2008 on the charge of &lsquo;abusing democratic freedoms&rsquo;. Do and Nguyen are members of Victims of Injustice, a petitioners&rsquo; movement. <br /><br />The three activists are the latest to be convicted in an ongoing wave of arrests and trials of activists, organisers and bloggers. &nbsp; <br /><br />There have been at least seven other trials of 17 dissidents in Viet Nam since September 2009, and seven further arrests in the last five months alone. <br /><br />There have been two arrests of Vietnamese bloggers in the last few weeks: Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anh Ba <span class="yshortcuts">Saigon</span> and Nguyen Huong Tra, known as Do Long Girl. &nbsp;The prominent imprisoned blogger and journalist <span class="yshortcuts">Nguyen Hoang Hai</span> known as Dieu Cay completed a prison sentence for politically-motivated charges last week, but instead of being released, is now under investigation for &lsquo;spreading propaganda against the state&rsquo;. <br /><br />Four more activists are awaiting trial for &lsquo;attempting to overthrow the state&rsquo; following their arrests in July and August. &nbsp;Three of them - Nguyen Thanh Tham, Tran Thi Thuy and Pastor Duong Kim Khai - have campaigned for social justice for farmers, while the fourth, Professor Pham Minh Hoang, had protested against bauxite mining in the Central Highlands. All are members of the overseas Vietnamese network Viet Tan, which calls for political reform. <br /><br />At least 30 <span class="yshortcuts">prisoners of conscience</span> are currently imprisoned in Viet Nam, including members and supporters of banned political groups, independent trade unionists, bloggers, businessmen, journalists, and writers. <br /><br />The trial, conviction and sentencing of the three labour activists comes on the eve of the ASEAN summit in <span class="yshortcuts">Ha Noi</span>, beginning on 28 October.&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p> <p>Source</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> Vietnam labour activists on trial2010-10-26<p class="articleabstract" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">A founder of an independent trade union and two other labour activists went on trial in Vietnam Tuesday charged with disrupting security, a court official said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Doan Huy Chuong, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and Do Thi Minh Hanh, are on trial in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, said the official who declined to be named.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">"A verdict is going to be issued Wednesday," she said. "The accused have not asked for defence lawyers."</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">US-based Human Rights Watch said the trio, all in their twenties, were arrested in February for distributing anti-government leaflets and helping workers to organise strikes for better pay.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Chuong was earlier arrested in October 2006 after helping to found the United Workers-Farmers Organization (UWFO), which Vietnam has banned. He was later sentenced to 18 months' jail by a court in southern Dong Nai province for "spreading distorted information to undermine the state," government-controlled media reported at the time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Vietnam</span><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"> bans labour unions that are independent of the ruling Communist Party.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">The charge of disrupting security is punishable by between two and 15 years in prison upon conviction.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Source</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><a href=""></a></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> monks sentenced to varying prison terms in Tibet's Dhingri2010-10-26<div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;">Dharamsala, October 26 - 3 monks of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Dhingri in south western Tibet under Shigatse prefecture have been sentenced to varying prison terms, the <em>Voice of Tibet</em> reported Monday. <br /><br />Tenzin Gephel and Ngawang, both monks of Shelkar Choede monastery, have been sentenced to 12 years in prison while another monk of the same monastery has been sentenced to 5 years in jail. However, the dates of trial and verdict announcement are not known as of now. <br /><br />The 3 were arrested along with 10 others on May 19, 2008 when Chinese work team officials arrived at the monastery to force patriotic reeducation upon the monks in the monastery. <br /><br />The monks were forced to denounce the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama during the patriotic reeducation campaign but the monks stood defiant despite warnings of expulsion and even arrest saying that the Dalai Lama was their root religious teacher and that they revered him greatly. <br /><br />A total of 13 monks were arrested on May 19, 2008. 10 were released after a year in 2009. The local Chinese authorities have stopped admission of new monks to the monastery since the incident.</div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;">Source</div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;"><a href=";article=3+monks+sentenced+to+varying+prison+terms+in+Tibet's+Dhingri">;article=3+monks+sentenced+to+varying+prison+terms+in+Tibet's+Dhingri</a></div> Youth Congress:China has no "moral right" to host Asian Games2010-10-26<p><span id="lblUrl">By Phurbu Thinley<br /><br /></span></p> <div style="text-align: center;"> <div class="newsPhoto" style="clear: both; padding-right: 0px; padding-left: 5px; float: right; padding-bottom: 5px; margin: auto; width: 260px; padding-top: 5px;"><a title="Click to enlarge" onclick="'/images/news/articles/1010260215044F.jpg','','scrollbars=1, resizable=1,top=25,left=25,width=579,height=377'); return false" href=""></a>&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style="text-align: justify;">Dharamsala, October 26: The largest pro-independence Tibetan youth organistion on Tuesday protested against China's hosting of the Asian Games next month, saying it lacks "moral right" to hold such an important international sporting event.<br /><br />"Generally the spirit of any international games represents friendship, solidarity and promotion of peace and freedom. The Asian Games in particular is about helping weaker countries, helping them rehabilitate and develop an understanding of mutual friendship and cooperation," the Tibetan Youth Congress said in a press statement. <br /><br />The statement said a country hosting such an important event "essentially should not only represent but respect these principles."<br /><br />Calling China the "biggest colonizer" in modern times, TYC said it should not have been given the right to host the forthcoming 16th Asian Games to be held in Guangzhou from November 12 to 27. Instead of "promoting peace and friendship", the organisation said China continues to use its "military and economic might to stifle smaller and weaker countries".<br /><br />"So long they do not conclude the occupation of Tibet, words such as freedom, truth and peace for the Chinese government is just another rhetoric. Therefore China has no moral right to host such an important sporting event," the organisation said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">read more</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";article=China+has+no+%22moral+right%22+to+host+Asian+Games%3a+TYC">;article=China+has+no+%22moral+right%22+to+host+Asian+Games%3a+TYC</a></p> <p><a href=";t=0"><span style="color: #0000ff;"></span></a></p> plans to relax its stance toward Cuba2010-10-26<div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;"> <p style="text-align: justify;">The European Union plans to relax its firm position toward Cuba and has instructed its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, <strong>Catherine Ashton</strong>, to explore ways to improve trade and diplomatic relations with the Castro regime, a European diplomatic source told Agence France-Presse.<br /><a style="float: right;" href=""></a>The firm position will remain in place for now, however.<br /><a style="float: right;" href=""></a> Ashton was asked by the E.U. foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg to consider a revision of the European Union's 1996 policy toward the Cuban government in the light of the recent release of political prisoners, the source said.<br />This policy, called the "common position," prevents the normalization of relations with the island in the absence of improvements in human-rights observance and democratic progress. A dialogue has existed since 2008 but remains very limited.<br />The idea is to "explore ways to try to move forward" on the issue, said the European diplomat.<br />Ashton intends to report on her efforts in December, possibly at a meeting of foreign ministers, the source told AFP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Source</p> <p><a style="color: #003399;" href=""></a></p> </div> held in Cuba expresses regret to Raul Castro2010-10-25<div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;"><em></em><br /> <p style="text-align: justify;">Judy Gross said that in the letter, which Castro read but did not respond to, she pleaded with him to free her husband Alan because their daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and he is needed at home.</p> <span id="midArticle_2"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">Alan Gross, 61, who worked for a Washington-area company contracted under a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba, was arrested at the Havana airport on December 3 and has been held on suspicion of espionage and subversion.</p> <span id="midArticle_3"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">In an interview this weekend, his wife denied he was a spy and said he went to Cuba five times last year to help Havana's Jewish community gain Internet access to Jews worldwide.</p> <span id="midArticle_4"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">Cuban officials say Gross committed "serious crimes" by giving restricted satellite communications equipment to local dissidents, but no legal charges have been filed.</p> <span id="midArticle_5"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">His detention has stalled efforts by Washington to improve ties with the communist-led island.</p> <span id="midArticle_6"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">Judy Gross criticized the White House for not doing enough to seek release of her husband, whom she called a "pawn" caught up in a decades-old ideological feud between the United States and Cuba. She said she has heard nothing from President Barack Obama.</p> <span id="midArticle_7"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">The White House said on Sunday it shared her "concern and frustration with the continued unwarranted detention of her husband."</p> <span id="midArticle_8"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Administration officials have repeatedly made clear to Cuban authorities that Alan Gross should be released immediately to be able to rejoin his wife and family -- and we will continue to do so," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.</p> <span id="midArticle_9"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">In an August 4 letter to Castro, she wrote, "I recognize today that the Cuban government may not like the type of work that Alan was doing in Cuba."</p> <span id="midArticle_10"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">"But I want you to know that Alan loves the people of Cuba, and he only wanted to help them. He never intended them, or your government, any harm," she said.</p> <span id="midArticle_11"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">"To the extent his work may have offended you or your government, he and I are genuinely remorseful," she wrote.</p> <span id="midArticle_12"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">She told Castro her family needed Gross home since his 26-year-old daughter, whose name she asked not be used, was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.</p> <span id="midArticle_13"></span> <p style="text-align: justify;">The only response came at a meeting this month with Jorge Alberto Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, who offered mother and daughter visas to visit Gross in Cuba. He said President Castro had read her letter.</p> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">&nbsp;Source</span></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> Free Peaceful Bloggers and Government Critics2010-10-25<p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Human Rights Watch</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><span id="lw_1287817249_0"><span class="yshortcuts">New York</span></span>, <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_1">October 23</span></span>, 2010</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_2">Vietnam</span></span> should immediately drop charges against the peaceful online critics Nguyen Van Hai, known as Dieu Cay, and Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anhbasg, and release them, <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_3">Human Rights Watch</span></span> said today. The government&rsquo;s politically motivated prosecutions of independent bloggers and critics of the government violates their rights guaranteed under international law and spotlights the country&rsquo;s poor human rights record, Human Rights Watch said.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">On <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_4">October 20</span></span>, 2010, the day the blogger Dieu Cay&rsquo;s 30-month prison sentence on trumped-up &ldquo;<span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_5">tax evasion&rdquo; charges</span></span> was to finish, police officials refused to release him. Police said he would be held pending investigation of a new charge that he had violated article 88 of the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_6">Penal Code</span></span> by carrying out &ldquo;propaganda against the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_7">Socialist</span> Republic</span>.&rdquo; His former wife, Duong Thi Tan, who was preparing to pick him up from the prison,&nbsp;was detained and interrogated by police in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_8">Ho Chi Minh City</span></span>, and authorities searched her house.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;The Vietnam government is shameless in constructing charges and rationales to keep peaceful critics like Dieu Cay behind bars,&rdquo; said <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_9">Phil Robertson</span></span>, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. &ldquo;The pre-Party Congress crackdown is swinging into full gear and government critics are being targeted.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Dieu Cay is the founder of an <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_10">independent group</span></span> called the Club of Free Journalists. The tax charges were widely viewed as a pretext to muzzle his criticism of the government and its policy toward <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_11">China</span></span>. On <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_12">October 18</span></span>, police in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_13">Ho Chi Minh City</span></span> also arrested Phan Thanh Hai, another member of the group. Two other members, Ta Phong Tan and Uyen Vu, both bloggers, were placed under intrusive police surveillance at their homes. Police also briefly detained a democracy activist, Do Nam Hai, on <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_14">October 19</span></span>.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;In a country where the state controls all traditional media outlets, independent bloggers have emerged as important sources of news, information, and social commentary,&rdquo; Robertson said. &ldquo;The government should embrace the key role that independent bloggers are playing in society instead of harassing and imprisoning them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">The repressive measures against bloggers have coincided with a recent wave of arbitrary arrests that appear to be part of an official effort to stifle critical voices in the months before the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_15">Vietnamese Communist Party Congress</span></span>, in January 2011. Vietnam bans opposition political parties and independent media and requires all associations, religious groups and <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_16">trade unions</span></span> to come under government control. </span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">On August 13, the police arrested Pham Minh Hoang, known by his pen name, Phan Kien Quoc, of <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_17">Ho Chi Minh City</span> Polytechnic</span> University, who is a contributor to a website critical of Chinese-operated bauxite mines in <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_18">Vietnam</span>&rsquo;s Central Highlands</span>. Police accused him of working with Viet Tan, an overseas <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_19">opposition party</span></span>, and attending meetings at which methods of <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_20">nonviolent resistance</span></span> were discussed. Others arrested for alleged involvement with Viet Tan in recent months include Duong Kim Khai, a Mennonite pastor arrested on August 10 in Ho Chi Minh City; and land-rights petitioners Tran Thi Thuy, arrested on August 10 in Dong Thap, and Nguyen Thanh Tam, arrested on July 18 in Ben Tre. &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Three <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_21">labor rights</span></span> activists &ndash; Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_22">Nguyen Hoang</span></span> Quoc Hung &ndash; are scheduled for trial in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_23">Tra Vinh</span></span> province on <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_24">October 26</span></span>, charged with &ldquo;disrupting security.&rdquo; The three were arrested in February for distributing anti-government leaflets and helping workers to organize strikes for better pay. Also scheduled for trial next week are six villagers from Con Dau parish in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_25">Da Nang</span></span> province who were arrested in May when police forcibly dispersed a funeral procession to a cemetery located on disputed land.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">The 17<sup>th</sup> summit of the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_26">Association of Southeast Asian Nations</span></span> (ASEAN), which begins on <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_27">October 28</span></span> in Hanoi, provides an excellent opportunity for <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_28">ASEAN heads of state</span></span> and other governments to raise concerns about the persecution of government critics, Human Rights Watch said.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;Participants to the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_29">ASEAN summit</span></span> should ask their Vietnamese hosts what they think a &lsquo;people-centered ASEAN&rsquo; really means to a Vietnamese blogger in prison,&rdquo; Robertson said.&nbsp; &ldquo;ASEAN should insist that Vietnam immediately release these prisoners and respect the ASEAN Charter&rsquo;s <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_30">human rights principles</span></span>.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt; text-align: justify;"><strong><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">For more Human Rights Watch Reporting on Vietnam, please visit:<br /></span></strong><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><a style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single;" href="" target="_blank"><span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_31"></span></span></a><br /></span></p> Tibetan students detained, protests over language continue in Tibet2010-10-25<p>More protests against the Chinese government's education policy have been reported on Sunday as thousands of students took to the streets of Chentsa County to demand that the government revert its decision to replace Tibetan language as medium of instruction in Tibetan schools by Chinese language. <br /><br />Sources also said that 20 students were detained following protests on Saturday in Chabcha County. <br /><br />Sources say that teachers and school staff also joined the protest on Sunday that started around 7.30 in the morning yesterday. Students in Chentsa also protested on 19th and 21st October.<br /><br />Meanwhile, similar protests have been reported from other areas as well. The first protests were reported from Rebkong on 19 October when Tibetan students from 6 different schools carried out protests demanding &ldquo;Equality of People, Freedom of Language&rdquo;.<br /><br />The past few days saw protests by thousands of Tibetan students in Chabcha, Chentsa, Khrigha, Golok and Beijing where 400 Tibetan students held protests against the forced replacement of Tibetan language by Chinese as the medium of instruction. <br /><br />Meanwhile, a letter of appeal signed by several teachers was submitted to the Qinghai government on October 15 urging the provincial government to reconsider its decision to change the medium of instruction from Tibetan to Chinese., a Tibetan language blog says it has obtained a part of the letter submitted in both Tibetan and Chinese. <br /><br />The incomplete letter, says, contains signatures of 103 teachers but adds about 300 teachers signed the original letter.<br /><br />Citing the Chinese constitution, the teachers wrote in the letter that the Article 4 of the Chinese constitution provides for all ethnic groups the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Source</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";article=20+Tibetan+students+detained%2c+protests+over+language+continue+in+Tibet">;article=20+Tibetan+students+detained%2c+protests+over+language+continue+in+Tibet</a></p> on Eurasia: Moscow’s Unwillingness to Support Russian Nation Reflects Its Own Imperial Agenda, Kazan Scholar Says2010-10-25<p>by <em><strong>Paul Goble</strong></em></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Like their Soviet predecessors, the current powers that be in the Russian Federation are quite prepared to sacrifice the national interests of the ethnic Russian people in the pursuit of an imperialist agenda, but this sacrifice will not serve either Russian national interests or Moscow&rsquo;s imperial goals, according to a Kazan sociologist.<br />Aleksandr Salagayev further argues that &ldquo;the legal vacuum which characterizes the situation of ethnic Russians in the Russian Federation and the position of the powers that be who are ignoring this contradiction is the source of inter-ethnic conflicts with migrants, the extremism of Russian organizations in Russia and the weakness of Russian diasporas abroad.<br />In a 3200-word essay posted on the news agency, Salagayev, a specialist on social and political conflicts at the Kazan State Technological University, traces the long and complicated history of the relations between the ethnic Russian nation and the states within which it has existed (<br />Prior to 1917, he notes, &ldquo;Russians were an imperial nation.&rdquo; The state&rsquo;s slogan, &ldquo;Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality,&rdquo; applied only to them, but the Russian nation included the Great Russians, the Little Russians (Ukrainians), and the Belarusians, as one might expect an imperial people, as opposed to a nation, to do.<br />The country&rsquo;s nationality policy changed dramatically with the coming to power of the Bolsheviks. Their ideas about &ldquo;proletarian internationalism,&rdquo; Salagayev argues, instituted &ldquo;a double standard&rdquo; with the rights of the non-Russians being protected and the rights of the ethnic Russians as a community being ignored or at least slighted.<br />While that balance shifted over time, the Kazan scholar says, many now believe that &ldquo;the main cause of the destruction of the USSR was the weakening of the Russian ethnos and the loss of its role in economic and state-political life which took place after the October 1917 coup&rdquo; that brought the Bolsheviks to power.<br />In the first years of Soviet power, the communist tilt toward the non-Russians was most pronounced, with the non-Russians being given republics and the ethnic Russians, routinely denounced for &ldquo;great power chauvinism,&rdquo; being denied one repeatedly. Salagayev notes that efforts to form a Russian republic were blocked by Soviet leaders in 1922, 1923, 1925, and 1926. <br />After Stalin declared &ldquo;the final solution of the nationality question in the USSR&rdquo; in 1934, the Russian nation was redefined. No longer was it &ldquo;the former oppressor nation&rdquo; with a historic &ldquo;debt&rdquo; to the others, but rather the Russian nation became the elder brother &ndash; or as &ldquo;Leningradskaya Pravda&rdquo; put it in 1937, &ldquo;the eldest among equals.&rdquo;<br />But despite the rhetorical change, Russians were still expected to provide funding for the non-Russians to help them catch up with modernity, a policy that continued throughout the rest of the Soviet period and one that by &ldquo;ignoring the interests of the Russian people [was] inevitably accompanied by Russophobia&rdquo; on the part of the regime.<br />That is because this attitude &ldquo;was expressed not so much in the denial of the &lsquo;positive features of the Russian nation and its positive contribution to world history&rsquo; as in a fear of the Russian national factor &hellip; and the possible resistance from the side of the most numerous people of the communist reconstruction of the country and the world.&rdquo;<br />Indeed, KGB and then CPSU leader Yuri Andropov famously observed, Salagayev recalls, that &ldquo;the chief concern for us is Russian nationalism; as to the dissidents, we would take them all in one night.&rdquo;<br />In short, &ldquo;self-determination of the Russian people was assessed as chauvinism but the self-determination of other peoples was considered as a necessary condition of their national development,&rdquo; Salagayev says. And as a result, &ldquo;the national interests and the interests of Russians in autonomous formations were simply ignored.&rdquo;<br />With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this policy continued. &ldquo;Ethnic mobilization&rdquo; seized &ldquo;all the ethnic groups&rdquo; of the country except the ethnic Russians &ldquo;who despite the actual loss of their imperial status preserve the illusions about their imperial destiny, responsibility for the fate of Russia and other such myths.&rdquo;<br />Ethnic mobilization among ethnic Russians thus has been dominated by marginal groups like the RNE and Primorsky partisans and by &ldquo;the spontaneous ethnic mobilization of Russians&rdquo; in relatively small cities such as Kondopoga. In his article, Salagayev lists 22 such cases of the latter since 1999.<br />None of these efforts can be called successful, he says, largely because Moscow opposed all of them. The 1996 law on national-cultural autonomy did not apply to Russians and efforts beginning in 2001 to adopt &ldquo;a law on the Russian people&rdquo; were blocked by the powers that be and have come to nothing.<br />&ldquo;In thus preserving the imperial ambitions of Russians,&rdquo; Salagayev continues, &ldquo;the powers that be are not showing any interest in the fate of the Russian people and in fact are struggling against those who recognize the real situation, calling such people Russian extremists or Russian fascists.&rdquo;<br />Moscow continues to subsidize the non-Russian republics at far greater rates than the predominantly Russian areas, but its failure to support the Russian nation is undercutting its own imperial strategy because it is leading ever more ethnic Russians to flee non-Russian areas back to the center of the country.<br />In Salagayev&rsquo;s opinion, &ldquo;the situation is very similar to the policy of support of the national borderlands of the Soviet Union at the expense of the central oblasts which are populated primarily by Russians, a policy which in the final analysis led to the collapse of the USSR. It is obvious that such a policy will preserve the territorial integrity of Russia.&rdquo;<br />The Kazan scholar suggests that there are two possible solutions to this situation, a &ldquo;radical&rdquo; one in which ethnic Russian oblasts would be formed and non-Russian republics liquidated, and a &ldquo;moderate&rdquo; one in which ethnic Russians would gain the same right to form national cultural autonomies that other nations now have.<br />Salagayev adds that some combination is likely, and he concludes by suggesting that Moscow must address the Russian question at home if it is to have any hope of protecting compatriots abroad, many of whom have been reduced to the status of &ldquo;second class citizens&rdquo; there in a way paralleling that of ethnic Russians in the Russian Federation itself.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Source</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=""></a></p> Free Peaceful Bloggers and Government Critics2010-10-24<p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Human Rights Watch</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><span id="lw_1287817249_0"><span class="yshortcuts">New York</span></span>, <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_1">October 23</span></span>, 2010</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_2">Vietnam</span></span> should immediately drop charges against the peaceful online critics Nguyen Van Hai, known as Dieu Cay, and Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anhbasg, and release them, <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_3">Human Rights Watch</span></span> said today. The government&rsquo;s politically motivated prosecutions of independent bloggers and critics of the government violates their rights guaranteed under international law and spotlights the country&rsquo;s poor human rights record, Human Rights Watch said.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">On <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_4">October 20</span></span>, 2010, the day the blogger Dieu Cay&rsquo;s 30-month prison sentence on trumped-up &ldquo;<span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_5">tax evasion&rdquo; charges</span></span> was to finish, police officials refused to release him. Police said he would be held pending investigation of a new charge that he had violated article 88 of the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_6">Penal Code</span></span> by carrying out &ldquo;propaganda against the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_7">Socialist</span> Republic</span>.&rdquo; His former wife, Duong Thi Tan, who was preparing to pick him up from the prison,&nbsp;was detained and interrogated by police in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_8">Ho Chi Minh City</span></span>, and authorities searched her house.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;The Vietnam government is shameless in constructing charges and rationales to keep peaceful critics like Dieu Cay behind bars,&rdquo; said <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_9">Phil Robertson</span></span>, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. &ldquo;The pre-Party Congress crackdown is swinging into full gear and government critics are being targeted.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Dieu Cay is the founder of an <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_10">independent group</span></span> called the Club of Free Journalists. The tax charges were widely viewed as a pretext to muzzle his criticism of the government and its policy toward <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_11">China</span></span>. On <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_12">October 18</span></span>, police in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_13">Ho Chi Minh City</span></span> also arrested Phan Thanh Hai, another member of the group. Two other members, Ta Phong Tan and Uyen Vu, both bloggers, were placed under intrusive police surveillance at their homes. Police also briefly detained a democracy activist, Do Nam Hai, on <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_14">October 19</span></span>.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;In a country where the state controls all traditional media outlets, independent bloggers have emerged as important sources of news, information, and social commentary,&rdquo; Robertson said. &ldquo;The government should embrace the key role that independent bloggers are playing in society instead of harassing and imprisoning them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">The repressive measures against bloggers have coincided with a recent wave of arbitrary arrests that appear to be part of an official effort to stifle critical voices in the months before the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_15">Vietnamese Communist Party Congress</span></span>, in January 2011. Vietnam bans opposition political parties and independent media and requires all associations, religious groups and <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_16">trade unions</span></span> to come under government control. </span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">On August 13, the police arrested Pham Minh Hoang, known by his pen name, Phan Kien Quoc, of <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_17">Ho Chi Minh City</span> Polytechnic</span> University, who is a contributor to a website critical of Chinese-operated bauxite mines in <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_18">Vietnam</span>&rsquo;s Central Highlands</span>. Police accused him of working with Viet Tan, an overseas <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_19">opposition party</span></span>, and attending meetings at which methods of <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_20">nonviolent resistance</span></span> were discussed. Others arrested for alleged involvement with Viet Tan in recent months include Duong Kim Khai, a Mennonite pastor arrested on August 10 in Ho Chi Minh City; and land-rights petitioners Tran Thi Thuy, arrested on August 10 in Dong Thap, and Nguyen Thanh Tam, arrested on July 18 in Ben Tre. &nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Three <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_21">labor rights</span></span> activists &ndash; Doan Huy Chuong, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_22">Nguyen Hoang</span></span> Quoc Hung &ndash; are scheduled for trial in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_23">Tra Vinh</span></span> province on <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_24">October 26</span></span>, charged with &ldquo;disrupting security.&rdquo; The three were arrested in February for distributing anti-government leaflets and helping workers to organize strikes for better pay. Also scheduled for trial next week are six villagers from Con Dau parish in <span class="yshortcuts"><span style="cursor: pointer;" id="lw_1287817249_25">Da Nang</span></span> province who were arrested in May when police forcibly dispersed a funeral procession to a cemetery located on disputed land.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">The 17<sup>th</sup> summit of the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_26">Association of Southeast Asian Nations</span></span> (ASEAN), which begins on <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_27">October 28</span></span> in Hanoi, provides an excellent opportunity for <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_28">ASEAN heads of state</span></span> and other governments to raise concerns about the persecution of government critics, Human Rights Watch said.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;Participants to the <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_29">ASEAN summit</span></span> should ask their Vietnamese hosts what they think a &lsquo;people-centered ASEAN&rsquo; really means to a Vietnamese blogger in prison,&rdquo; Robertson said.&nbsp; &ldquo;ASEAN should insist that Vietnam immediately release these prisoners and respect the ASEAN Charter&rsquo;s <span class="yshortcuts"><span id="lw_1287817249_30">human rights principles</span></span>.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"></span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Source</span></p> <p class="yiv1081471451msonormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;"><a href=""></a></span></p> refuse to be freed if they cannot resume political activism2010-10-22<div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: justify; text-decoration: none;">The Cuban government might release this weekend several political prisoners who have refused to be sent to Spain, says the Spanish daily <a href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #0253b7;">El Mundo</span></a>.<br />One of the prisoners, Pedro Arg&uuml;elles Mor&aacute;n, told the newspaper that he and others had been informed by the authorities that they could be released as early as today Sunday.<br />The release would come one day before the meeting in Luxembourg of the European Union, where the continuation of the Union's "common position" toward Cuba will be debated. <br />According to El Mundo, the prisoners who refuse to leave the island say that they will accept their release only if they can "continue their political and journalistic endeavors as human-rights activists."<br />They also want the authorities to expunge their police records.<br /></div> <div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;"></div> <div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;"></div> <div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;">Source</div> <div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: left; text-decoration: none;">&nbsp;<a style="color: #003399;" href=""></a></div> see award to Fariñas as fourth setback in a week to the Castro regime2010-10-22<div style="overflow: hidden; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; text-align: justify; text-decoration: none;">A prestigious human rights prize awarded to dissident <strong>Guillermo Fari&ntilde;as </strong>on Thursday was the fourth admonition to the Cuban government this week that its reforms are not enough, Cuba watchers said Thursday.<br />&nbsp;Fari&ntilde;as, 48, a psychologist and independent journalist whose 135-day hunger strike earlier this year put him near death, was awarded the Sakharov prize and more than $60,000 by the European Parliament.<br />The Ra&uacute;l Castro government had no immediate comment on Fari&ntilde;as' prize, but Cuba watchers noted that it was the latest in a string of setbacks that Havana suffered just this week:<br />&bull; President Barack Obama declared that Cuba has not changed enough to merit U.S. gestures.<br />&bull; Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, often criticized as too friendly to Havana, was replaced.<br />&bull; The European Union was reported unlikely to end a policy that ties assistance to Cuba's human rights record.<br />"These are four messages to Cuba that it's not doing enough, that it needs a more defined policy of change," dissident Havana economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe told El Nuevo Herald. <br /><br />Read more: <a style="color: #003399;" href=""></a></div> dissidents plan their own WikiLeaks2010-10-22<div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;">by <em><strong>Choi Chi-yuk<br /></strong></em><br />A group of Chinese dissidents plan to launch their own version of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks to expose central government secrets and promote democracy.<br /><br />The organisers have signalled their intentions through social networking sites such as Twitter. They aim to launch "Government Leaks" on June 1 next year and they are calling on people to upload confidential government information to their database.<br /><br />"I think by making government secrets open we can promote democracy in China. This is a fight against the dictatorship, and to return the right to information to the people. I believe it will advance China's political reform," said the founder of the website, who identified himself as "Deep Throat" when talking to the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) .<br /><br />Deep Throat said a team of professionals had been aseembled to run the site, including journalists, editors, lawyers and hackers - who would help defend against possible cyberattacks.<br /><br />The founder said he was inspired by Watergate, the US scandal of the 1970s, and the success of WikiLeaks, which gained worldwide recognition after it published a massive trove of US intelligence documents relating to the war in Afghanistan, a move that infuriated the Pentagon and energised opponents of the war.<br /><br />Ironically, the founders of WikiLeaks include some Chinese dissidents, according to its website, and it has recently launched a Chinese language version. The Chinese WikiLeaks has not so far published any sensitive information on the Beijing government though.<br /><br />Deep Throat said at first he tried to form a partnership with WikiLeaks. "I sent them a letter on October 1, to all three e-mail accounts listed by WikiLeaks. I told them that I wanted to co-operate with them. But the e-mails never went through as their system was always down. I ended up with three undelivered e-mails in my box," he said.<br /><br />"Government Leaks has no relations with WikiLeaks, but you can call us the copycat version of WikiLeaks in China," he said.<br /><br />Unlike WikiLeaks, which is based in Europe where the freedom of speech and rights to information are guaranteed by the European Union's constitution, Government Leaks would inevitably anger the central government.<br /><br />Many technology-savvy net activists on the mainland feel Government Leaks is too open in its approach. They say the idea is naive and dangerous. Some fear it could become a trap for the authorities to round-up whistle-blowers.<br /><br />John Kennedy, the Chinese language editor of Global Voices Online, who is more widely known in China by his pseudonym Feng 37, described it as "a blind man riding a blind horse" - a Chinese idiom of things doomed to fail.<br /><br />Kennedy, a Canadian national, said five out of the seven e-mail service providers of Government Leaks are based on the mainland - meaning they would be subject to severe surveillance by the authorities. "No one would send them anything, except those stupid guys," he said. He also criticised the website for lacking encrypted links to protect informers.<br /><br />Another mainland net activist, calling himself Zola, also questioned if the security technology of Government Leaks could provide enough protection to whistle-blowers. "In the worst case, the informer could be prosecuted for illegally possessing state secrets," he warned.<br /><br />He cited the example of mainland journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 for leaking state secrets. Shi was incriminated by the central government after the authorities obtained a secret document he sent to an overseas website through a mainland-based Yahoo China server.<br /><br />Deep Throat said informers' safety would be treated as the most important issue. Government Leaks would not use normal e-mail accounts to communicate with informers. It is also studying encrypted technologies to receive reports. "We will also keep contacting WikiLeaks and see if they can help," he said.<br /><br />Another challenge for the website is verifying information and fact checking. Deep Throat said he would invite well-known public figures to help authenticate documents.<br /><br />"We are not formally launched yet. But once the site is up, we will definitely run things through them before publishing them."<br /><br />Since making the open call for information a few months ago, Deep Throat said Government Leaks was receiving four or five documents on average each week.<br /><br />But he said most of the information would hardly be considered classified. "Some are out-dated. Some is actual information that is available on the internet. So far we have got only one document that really fits the bill."<br /><br />Zola said he would not send any sensitive information to Government Leaks unless he was 100 per cent certain about safety.<br /><br />He does not suspect Deep Throat's motives and background, but he is sceptical over Government Leaks' ability to overcome the daunting technological and legal challenges it faces.<br /><br />"They have got to have the right mentality in terms of the seriousness of security in the first place. Then they have a chance of being in full command of the network technology. Only then, can privacy and, hence, the safety of both the website operators and potential informers be secured."<br /></div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;">Source</div> <div style="padding-top: 5px; text-align: justify;"><a href=";article=Chinese+dissidents+plan+their+own+WikiLeaks">;article=Chinese+dissidents+plan+their+own+WikiLeaks</a></div> students' protests reach Beijing2010-10-22<p style="text-align: justify;">by <em><strong>Barbara Demick </strong></em><br /><br />Between 200 and 300 students at the Central University for Minorities protest plans to elevate Chinese to the main language of instruction in Tibetan schools in Qinghai Province. Earlier in the week, as many as 9,000 people protested in Tibetan communities in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces with banners reading "Equality for minorities; equality for languages."<br /><br />The protests were set off by plans of education officials in Qinghai to use only Chinese-language teaching materials except for language lessons in Tibetan and English. Qiang Wei, the province Communist Party chief, has been quoted recently speaking out in favor of students learning a "common language" &mdash; shorthand for Mandarin Chinese.<br /><br />"Chinese law says that ethnic minorities have the right to study their mother tongue first in school &mdash; that's why the students are angry," Xiong Kunxin, a professor at the Central University for Minorities in Beijing, said on Friday.<br /><br />A source at the university who did not wish to be identified said between 200 and 300 students participated in the two-hour protest at midday, after which the president of the university and teachers called them into classrooms and asked them to write out their complaints in Chinese.<br /><br />Among Tibetans, the language of instruction in schools is a flashpoint for protest. While many families wish their children to learn Chinese in order to attend college and apply for better jobs, they also worry that Chinese officials are seeking to diminish their language, culture and religion.<br /><br />The largest of the protests this week was in Tongren, known as Repkong in Tibetan, a city in Qinghai province that has frequently been the scene for ethnic clashes. These were the largest demonstrations by China's Tibetans since 2008, when clashes erupted in the city of Lhasa and spread through most of the Tibetan communities in China.<br /><br />As many as 6,000 people were reported to have demonstrated Tuesday, although there were no reports of violence. Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy group, said that police did not interfere with the protests.<br /><br />"The Chinese are enforcing reforms which remind me of the Cultural Revolution. This reform is not only a threat to our mother tongue, but is in direct violation of the Chinese constitution which is meant to protect our rights," the group quoted a former middle school teacher from Tongren saying.<br /><br />"The Chinese have been talking more and more about promoting the 'common language,' but now they are re-allying implementing these policies with textbooks and also broadcasting," said Tsering Shayka, a Tibetan historian based in Canada, who has been blogging about the protests.<br /><br />In July, there were protests in Guangdong about plans to switch the language of many television shows from Cantonese, the language widely spoken in southern China, to Mandarin.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Source</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a href=";article=Tibetan+students'+protests+reach+Beijing">;article=Tibetan+students'+protests+reach+Beijing</a></p>’s detention prolonged illegally, two other bloggers arrested2010-10-21<p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><strong><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Nguyen Hoang Ha</span></strong><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">i, a blogger better known by the pen-name of <span class="spipsurligne"><strong>Dieu Cay</strong></span>, should have been released yesterday or the day before on completing a two year jail-sentence, but he is still being held and has reportedly been transferred to a different prison. His wife was also briefly arrested.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">&ldquo;The authorities seem to be seeking a pretext for keeping <span class="spipsurligne">Dieu Cay</span> in detention and are acting in a completely illegal manner,&rdquo; Reporters Without Borders said. &ldquo;He must be released without delay and the harassment of his family members must also stop.&rdquo;</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Arrested on 19 April 2008, <span class="spipsurligne">Dieu Cay</span> was sentenced by a Ho Chi Minh City court on 10 September 2008 to two and a half years in prison on a trumped-up charge of tax fraud designed to silence a troublesome dissident.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">He had written about the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay prior to the 2008 Beijing Games and was arrested just before the torch was paraded through Ho Chi Minh City. He had been under close police surveillance since taking part in protests at the start of 2008 against China&rsquo;s claim to sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Reporters Without Borders also calls for the immediate release of two other Vietnamese bloggers who have reportedly just been arrested.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">One of them is <strong><span style="font-family: Arial;">Phan Thanh Hai</span></strong>, who is also known by the blog name of Anh Ba Saigon. The police reportedly arrested him at his home on 18 October, seizing three computers. He is facing a possible four-month jail sentence on a charge of &ldquo;propaganda against the state,&rdquo; according to his wife.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">She quoted the police as say he was arrested for posting false information in his blog, in which he writes about Vietnam&rsquo;s territorial disputes with China and the bauxite mining being carried about China in Vietnam. He has also expressed his support for other Vietnamese dissidents.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">A series of hacker attacks on dissident websites, including the site of To Hai, a famous composer who became a dissident, is also currently under way. Reporters Without Borders condemns the increase in these cyber-attacks, which are designed to sabotage websites that tackle sensitive issues.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">Vietnam is ranked 165th out of 178 countries in the <a style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single;" href=",1034.html">world press freedom index</a> that Reporters Without Borders released yesterday.</span></p> <p class="para" style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p class="para">Source</p> <p class="para"><a href=""></a></p> dissident wins Sakharov Prize2010-10-21<p style="text-align: justify;">STRASBOURG, France&mdash;The European Parliament awarded its annual human-rights prize on Thursday to Guillermo Farinas, the Cuban dissident whose 134-day hunger strike helped draw attention to the plight of political dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Cuba began freeing the 52 political prisoners earlier this year after an agreement ironed out with the help of the Roman Catholic Church, prompting Mr. Farinas to end his protest.</p> <div class="insetContent insetCol3wide embedType-image imageFormat-D" style="text-align: justify;"> <div class="insetTree"> <div class="insettipUnit insetZoomTarget" id="articleThumbnail_1"> <div class="insetZoomTargetBox"> <div class="insettipBox"> <div class="insettip"> <p>Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas spoke on the phone at his home in Santa Clara after hearing news of his winning the Sakharov Award.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="insetFullBracket" id="articleImage_1" style="visibility: hidden;"> <div class="insetFullBox"> <div class="insetButton"><a class="insetClose"></a></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: justify;">A 48-year-old psychologist and freelance journalist, he has spent more than 11 years in prison for a variety of offenses, though he wasn't behind bars during the hunger strike. He decided to launch his protest after the death of a jailed political prisoner following a long hunger strike.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Cuba's government considers him a common criminal paid for by Cuba's enemies in Washington, and notes that some of his legal troubles include an assault on a co-worker and other violent behavior. Mr. Farinas has said all the charges are linked to his activism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Reached by telephone at his humble home in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, Mr. Farinas said the award sent a strong signal to the government in Havana.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The award is a very direct message to Cuba's leaders, who have done so little" to respect human rights, he said. Mr. Farinas warned he will begin another hunger strike if the Cuban government doesn't fulfill its July 8 pledge to free all 52 political prisoners jailed in 2003 within four months. To date, 39 have accepted exile in Spain in return for their freedom. At least some of the remaining 13 appear to be holding out because they don't want to leave Cuba.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The European Parliament said it will invite Mr. Farinas to come to Strasbourg on Dec. 15 to collect the assembly's 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The prize carries a cash award of &eur