News from Central and Eastern Europe, Tuesday 12th March 2013

GREECE

Ekathimerini: WWII hero, SYRIZA MP Glezos in hospital with respiratory infection. ‘Second World War hero and SYRIZA MP Manolis Glezos has been admitted to hospital in Athens after complaining of breathing problems.’

Greek Reporter: Greece Denies Turkish Terrorist Report. ‘Reports in the Turkish media that Greece closed down two Kurdish terrorist camps near Athens following talks in Ankara between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are baseless, the Greek government said.

“The Turkish newspapers’ claims are groundless and a product of the imagination,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras in a statement.’

HUNGARY

Deutsche Welle: Hungarian parliament passes controversial constitutional changes. ‘Hungary’s ruling conservative party has pushed through controversial changes to the constitution, despite warnings from the EU. Opponents say the changes will greatly limit the powers of the constitutional court.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, approved a controversial amendment Monday afternoon.

Critics say the vote, known as the “fourth amendment,” will limit the power of the constitutional court and increase government controls over the judiciary and higher education.’

MACEDONIA

Washington Post: Macedonia remembers tiny Jewish community, killed in Holocaust; apology sought from Bulgaria. ‘Macedonia on Monday marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of nearly its entire Jewish community to a Nazi death camp during World War II, while a U.S.-based diaspora group called on neighbor Bulgaria to apologize for its role in the Holocaust.

Culture Minister Elizabeta Milevska led the memorial to honor the 7,144 people who were deported. Only about 50 of them survived.’

POLAND

Polskie Radio: 1941 rape and murder of Jews by Poles was ‘genocide. ‘Announcing the discontinuation of an investigation into the 1941 rape and murder of Jewish women by Polish men in Bzury, north east Poland, an investigator has said that the incident was an example of “racial genocide”.

“I am convinced that such a fate would not have been met by any other women. These were Jewish women. It was racial genocide,” Prosecutor Radoslaw Ignatiew said on Friday, adding that the investigation into the brutal murder of 20 Jewish women in Poland in August 1941 was to be discontinued due to the inability to name either the victims or most of the Polish perpetrators.’

Majority of Poles oppose Walesa’s stance on gay MPs, survey claims. ‘Contrary to comments made by Lech Walesa, 31 not 95 percent of Poles support the former president’s statement that gay MPs should sit in the back row of parliament “or behind a wall”, a survey claims.

The poll was carried out by the Homo Homini research institute following Walesa’s outspoken 1 March remarks– which also included a claim that homosexuals “must know they are a minority and adapt themselves to smaller things” – during an interview with the TVN television station.’

RUSSIA

Comment – Foreign Affairs: The Putin Doctrine. ‘Much in Russian foreign policy today is based on a consensus that crystallized in the early 1990s. Emerging from the rubble of the Soviet collapse, this consensus ranges across the political spectrum — from pro-Western liberals to leftists and nationalists. It rests on three geostrategic imperatives: that Russia must remain a nuclear superpower, a great power in all facets of international activity, and the hegemon — the political, military, and economic leader — of its region. This consensus marks a line in the sand, beyond which Russia cannot retreat without losing its sense of pride or even national identity. It has proven remarkably resilient, surviving post-revolutionary turbulence and the change of political regimes from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin.’

Comment – Jamestown Foundation: The Nursi Movement in the Former Soviet Union: Islamic Radicals or Agents of Turkish Influence? ‘According to Maria Kravchenko, a member of the Russian human rights center “Sova,” Russian authorities continue to persecute the followers of Said Nursi, a Turkish theologian who died in 1960. Kravchenko notes that Nursi’s followers are often sentenced to 1.5 years in prison (Kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 1, 2012). Yet, Bayram Balci, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Center for International Peace, argues that those individuals actually belong to two distinct movements (often confused as they are historically and ideologically close): namely followers of Said Nursi, commonly called the “Nourdjou,” and followers of Fethullah Gulen, commonly referred to as the “Fethullahci.” Both movements are active not only in Russia but also elsewhere in the former Soviet space—especially in Central Asia and Azerbaijan’

Kyiv Post: Chechen accused in plot to kill Putin fears for his life in Odesa prison. ‘Chechen national Adam Osmayev, suspected of masterminding a terrorist attack against Russian President Vladimir Putin last year, said he fears “physical annihilation” by state security services in an Odesa pre-trial detention center, where he spent the last year.’

Reuters: Russian forces kill three suspected militants in Caucasus. ‘Russian security forces killed three suspected militants in the restive North Caucasus province of Kabardino-Balkaria on Tuesday, the Interfax news agency reported.

The suspected militants were killed when security forces fired on two cars whose drivers did not respond to demands to show identification documents, Interfax cited unidentified law enforcement officials as saying.’

RFE/RL: Islamic Party Of Turkestan Cell Leader Arrested In Russia. ‘Moscow police have arrested an alleged leader of the Islamic Party of Turkestan.

Russia’s Interior Ministry said on March 11 that Uzbek citizen Abdulkhofiz Kholmurodov was arrested on March 1 and is suspected of leading the party’s cell in Moscow.’

SERBIA

Balkan Insight: A traditional walk commemorating Prime Minister Zoran Djindjiccalled the “Walk for Zoran,” was due to start in Belgrade on Tuesday at 11am.

The first stop was to be the government building where politicians were to lay wreaths and flowers. The rally was due to end at his grave.

The Prime Minister was assassinated in front of the government building on March 12, 2003.

The walk was organised by the opposition Democratic and Liberal Democratic parties, which were both under one roof under Djindjic.’

TURKEY

Associated Press: Turkey links Syria to deadly car bombing at border. ‘Turkey’s interior minister blamed Syria’s intelligence agencies and its army for involvement in a car bombing at a border crossing last month that killed 14 people, after he announced Monday that police detained five suspects.

Four Syrians and a Turk are in custody in connection with the Feb. 11 attack at the Bab al-Hawa frontier post. No one has claimed responsibility, but a Syrian opposition faction accused the Syrian government of the bombing, saying it narrowly missed 13 leaders of the group.’

Der Spiegel: Warning from Ankara: Turkey Suspicious After German House Fire. ‘The Turkish government is demanding a detailed investigation into a housefire which killed eight people with Turkish backgrounds in the southern German town of Backnang on Sunday morning. The suspicion shows that trust has not yet returned between Ankara and Berlin.

German officials say that initial investigations show no sign of a xenophobic arson attack. But following a devastating fire early Sunday morning in the southern German town of Backnang — in which eight people with Turkish backgrounds were killed, including seven children — Turkey is demanding that all doubt about the cause of the fire be removed.’

UKRAINE

The Jewish Chronicle: Lviv to stop using Jewish gravestones as paving. ‘The municipality of Lviv, Ukraine, has announced that it will stop using Jewish headstones as construction material.

The Soviet Red Army used the tombstones in the years following the Second World War to pave the town’s streets and the central market, and to rebuild buildings that had been destroyed in the fighting.

The municipality came to its decision following an outcry by Lviv’s Jewish community in Lviv, who protested that the practice was still in place.’

RAPSI: Ukrainian Supreme Court may be given the right to amend the constitution. ‘Ukrainian parliament Speaker Volodymyr Rybak has proposed adding the Supreme Court to the list of agencies which have the right to initiate amendments to the Constitution, the parliament’s press service said.

“The Supreme Court had the right to do this until 1996. Practice shows that a large section of legislation deals with the activity of judges, and the Supreme Court’s initiatives on modernizing the country’s legal system and individual laws would benefit the legislative branch,” Rybak said on Monday at a special meeting to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Supreme Court.

The Ukrainian opposition has denounced the speaker’s initiative, which they see as the presidents attempt to introduce direct presidential rule. The opposition believes that the country’s judicial system is subordinate to the authorities.’

Ria Novosti: Ukrainian Reporter Escapes from Syrian Captivity. ‘Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva, abducted by Syrian militants in October and held for a $50 million ransom, has escaped and is now safe, she told RIA Novosti by telephone on Monday.’

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