Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pianist launches anti-Israel bias campaign

From the JC:

The Russian-born pianist Evgeny Kissin, who became a British citizen in 2002, has accused the BBC of “slander and bias” against Israel, broadcasting material he describes as “painfully reminiscent of the old Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda”.

Espoo mall shootings

Aamulehti has some background on the gunman who carried out the shootings at the shopping mall in Espoo, Finland, today:

The suspect, Ibrahim Shkupolli (born 1966) is a Kosovo Albanian who according to Aamulehti's information came to Finland via Norway in 1990. He was placed in the reception center at Mikkeli [Eastern Finland], which he later left to live in Espoo, Finland.

In the early 1990s he already had a Finnish girlfriend who is one of the victims of the Sello tragedy. Aamulehti understands that Shkupolli later separated from this girlfriend and married an Albanian woman. He also had children in common with her. The whole family lives in Finland.

The suspect's wife and child as well as his parents and brother live in Finland.

So far, unconfirmed reports suggest a triangle as the background to the shootings. Shkupolli may have been driven by jealousy of his former, Finnish girlfriend's new life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Caucasus asylum seekers returning to Poland

RFE/RL reports that most of the 200 asylum seekers from Chechnya, Georgia and Ingushetia who attempted to travel to Strasbourg by train but were detained at the Polish-German border yesterday are now returning to Poland, where they are being temporarily held at a refugee centre in Warsaw:

The protesters -- who boarded the train without tickets -- told RFE/RL they wanted to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to highlight their poor living conditions in Polish refugee centers and police abuse they said they have experienced.

The refugees have reportedly been refused political asylum in Poland.

Meanwhile, the pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny today that the refugee protest in Poland is an "act of desperation."

He said, "If these people return home, their rights will be protected better."

Polish journalist Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich, who writes about human rights in Chechnya, told RFE/RL that it is hard to obtain political asylum in Poland in general but the European Union law known as the Dublin Regulation does not allow refugees to leave Poland for another EU country if an asylum request is refused in Poland.
She said that creates difficulties for Polish officials, who do not know what to do with the refugees, and leaves the asylum-seekers with few options.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Israel reprimands UK ambassador

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant issued against Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Ynet News reports.  The statement reprimands British Ambassador Tom Phillips and tells him that Israel expects the UK to act against this "unethical" phenomenon, which is aimed at "violating Israel's right to defend itself."

Ambassador Phillips was summoned to the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, where Naor Gilon, deputy director for the Foreign Ministry's Western Europe desk, told him that Israeli officials will not be able to visit the UK until the threat of lawsuits and arrest warrants is removed.

Update: Britain's foreign secretary David Milliband has denounced the arrest warrant as "insufferable".

Monday, December 14, 2009

From an interview - 5

Yuri Felshtinsky: I’m simply not going to discuss the moral qualities of Chechnya’s political leader, Kadyrov, right now. Because from the standpoint of Russia’s interests Kadyrov is the worst option. I think that in a situation where after two Chechen wars the Federation had failed to resolve its internal problems, Dudayev and Maskhadov would have made far more acceptable presidents for Russia. The Chechens really became extremists almost by chance. It could have worked out differently, Russia could have chosen some other territory on which to resolve its electoral issues. Unfortunately for the Chechens, the territory chosen was Chechnya.


Mikhail Sokolov: Chechnya was unlucky.


Yuri Felshtinsky: Unlucky is not the right word, if you consider that Chechnya is scorched earth. The fact that Russians will never be able to live there again is one aspect of it. And another, more important, is that neither will the Chechens ever be able to live a normal peaceful life there, a life that merits the name. Because what is happening there now has no relation to life at all.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/2009/10/23/

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

African-Americans in Cuba race protest

Via CNN:

A group of prominent African-Americans has challenged Cuba's race record, accusing the island nation of harassing its black citizens and cracking down on civil rights activists.

Sixty intellectuals and artists, including Princeton University professor Cornel West, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and actress Ruby Dee, have signed a declaration of protest.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum, on how a problem with her car in Warsaw was transformed by Polish, Estonian and British media into an international incident.

Hat tip: Marius

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hammarberg in the Caucasus

Jamestown Eurasia Blog's Giorgi Kvelashvili writes about the four Georgian schoolboys who were kidnapped by Russian occupation forces in Georgia's Tskhinvali region on November 4, and are still being held in custody:

On November 27, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg arrived in Tbilisi and his meetings with various Georgian officials as well as those with the authorities in Tskhinvali will continue until December 4.

Georgian parliamentarians both from the ruling party and the opposition had severely criticized him for not doing enough for the release of the kidnapped schoolboys in particular and not issuing a special statement for almost one month after their kidnapping.

Both Georgia and Russia are members of the Council of Europe and despite the fact that this organization has already several times acknowledged that the Russian Federation is in breach of the August 2008 Russo-Georgian ceasefire agreement, mediated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, little, if any, action has been taken to punish Russia for violating Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The first attempt by Hammarberg to enter Tskhinvali on November 29 failed after he was stopped on the “border” by Russian forces and, according to the Georgian media, several shots were fired from the city.

The next day Hammarberg was more fortunate and managed to hold talks in Tskhinvali, but nonetheless came back to Tbilisi empty-handed. 

For more on Hammarberg's apparent difficulty in tackling Russian and Moscow-backed authorities in the Caucasus, this time in Chechnya, see Prague Watchdog.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lukyanov in Stockholm

Tobias Ljungvall took notes during a recent speech given at a Stockholm seminar by Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov. As Tobias observes, Lukyanov more or less reproduces the Kremlin's current view of world affairs and of Russia's role in them [my tr.]:

1. Russian foreign policy under President Medvedev has not undergone any fundamental change compared to the foreign policy that prevailed under Putin. The differences in nuance can be partly explained by the fact that Medvedev is a different sort of person.

2. Russia is not like the Soviet Union, partly because it lacks an ideology.The loss of empire in1991 was worse than other countries’ similar experiences (e.g, Britain's loss of its colonies) as the lost areas were extensions of the country and some were a part of the national identity. The building of the Russian state began many centuries ago in Kiev, and therefore Russia finds hard to accept that Ukraine should join NATO.

3. A key concept is the so-called multi-polar world. The United States' attempt at hegemony has failed but has made the world more unstable because it cannot rely on international law any more. Relations between emerging new poles will shape the present century.

4. While in the West the Kosovo war of 1999 was perceived positively as proof that it was possible to defend human rights by force, Russia's interpretation of the Kosovo events was that national sovereignty no longer applies in the world. Russian public opinion turned its back on integration with the West and Western ideas of morality.

5. Instead, Russia was forced to strengthen its own capability. The only real guarantee of sovereignty for Russia is its nuclear weapons. In the absence of the former capabilities of the Soviet Union, Russia has also politicized gas and oil, in a way that Lukyanov thinks ultimately does most harm to Gazprom itself. The Soviet Union never mixed business and politics in the way that is now happening.

6. So now Russia is trying to avoid new gas conflicts with Ukraine. Today it is only Ukraine’s President Yushchenko who tries to provoke them. But hopefully after the elections which are due to take place in two months’ time Yushchenko will go into political retirement. 

There is more.