News from Central and Eastern Europe, Tuesday 7th May 2013

BALKANS

SETimes: Law enforcement re-examines Islamic groups in the Balkans. ‘Unidentified Islamic groups in the Balkans have sent threatening messages to foreign diplomats, military and political representatives as well as to the international missions serving in the region, prompting law enforcement to re-examine numerous Islamic groups, security analysts said.

Measures are being taken to follow the activities of such groups to prevent potential terrorist acts, according Zoran Mitevski, former assistant director of the Intelligence Agency of Macedonia.

“These organizations are active in BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] but also in Sandzak [Serbia] and in Kosovo, and they continually try to expand their activities in Macedonia. Suspected are the Islamic Warriors, Islamic Legion, Faitah, Islamic Youth, Sheve, Hamas Turbe and others,” Mitevski said.’

Former Yugoslav nations tackle extremism in sports. ‘Organisations, teams and officials across the region are working to curb nationalistic extremism among sport fans through improved awareness of the dangerous intersection of extremist ideologies and sports.

While the conflicts of the 1990s are in the past for the nations of the former Yugoslavia, the nationalism that fueled them remains alive in Balkan society, and can be seen on display by fans at sports events, especially football matches.

“Racism, nationalism and discrimination is now an issue in football in former Yugoslavia. This was not the case when we started with our initiative some 10 years ago. There was the culture of denial of any problems of racism in football,” Michael Fanizadeh, a project leader with the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Co-operation, told SETimes.’

GREECE

Ekathimerini: Golden Dawn’s rise worries government. Top government officials are concerned that the coalition is not going to be able to stop the steady rise of far-right Golden Dawn ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections and are examining the possibility of changing the law to outlaw extremist parties of its ilk.

“Greece is going to give the watching world a nasty surprise in the upcoming Euro elections,” a close aide of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said recently with regard to Golden Dawn’s showing at the polls, which are due to be held next May. The neo-Nazi party, which took 6.9 percent of the vote in last June’s national elections, has consistently taken third place in opinion polls over the last few months with support at 10 to 12 percent.’

The Guardian: Greece’s people show the politicians how to fight Golden Dawn. ‘Yet while journalists understandably want to draw attention to the threat Golden Dawn poses, every piece of sensationalist media coverage reinforces the party’s deliberately crafted image. The violence it inspires is real enough, but Golden Dawn is far from being in a position of power. Its activist base remains small; it can not mobilise supporters in large numbers; and its rallies often take place unannounced, so that anti-fascist activists do not have time to gather and chase its members off the streets. The food handouts, staged mainly for the benefit of the media, pale in comparison with the network of solidarity initiatives like the “potato movement” – markets that allow farmers to sell their produce directly to customers, at around 30% less than supermarket prices – or volunteer-run medical clinics, or free after-school tuition for children, that are helping Greek people cope with the impact of mass unemployment and falling salaries. By contrast, as a member of Solidarity4All, a national network that co-ordinates such initiatives, described it to me, Golden Dawn’s handouts are a grim affair: “They buy the food, they make everyone listen to 30 minutes of political speeches, then they make everyone wait in line. There’s no co-operation.”

What’s more, many Greeks are simply disgusted by the presence of fascists on their political scene. They are becoming increasingly vocal about this, in public displays of solidarity with immigrants, as they did in a anti-fascist protest in Athens on 19 January, backed up by demonstrations outside Greek embassies around the world. Elsewhere, the expression has been more blunt: last month in Chania in Crete, angry residents threw the party’s parliamentary candidate into the sea. International pressure has even forced the Greek government into making noises about tackling the problem, but it is at grassroots level where Golden Dawn is being opposed most effectively, and where it will ultimately be defeated.’

The Sofia Globe: Young Greeks fight racist attacks. ‘Every year, thousands of asylum seekers arrive in Greece in a bid to build new lives but the reality that greets them is often as stark as the one they have fled from in the first place – the potential of unemployment, destitution, the ever-present threat of deportation, and more recently, the likelihood of racially motivated violence.

There are, however, many Greeks determined to change things. Amongst them, many youth activists are looking to the plight of those migrants, refugees and asylum seekers living in the country. Whilst appreciative of the difficulties of changing the current status quo, for now, they have one, concrete goal: to better understand society’s attitude towards asylum seekers.

In the shadow of Greece’s economic collapse, that attitude is one heavily influenced by Golden Dawn – the extreme-right party, which won 18 parliamentary seats last year on a violently anti-immigrant platform. Asylum may be a Greek word, but so too is xenophobia, and Golden Dawn have actively ramped up rhetoric blaming foreigners for Greece’s problems.’

KOSOVO

B92: Explosion in northern Kosovska Mitrovica. ‘Unknown persons activated an explosive device in the yard of a house in northern Kosovska Mitrovica late on Sunday, causing damage but no injuries.

The blast happened at around 23:00 CET, in the yard of the house located in the multi-ethnic neighborhood of Bošnjačka Mahala, opposite the building housing the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija in Kosovska Mitrovica.’

MACEDONIA

Interview – Balkan Insight: Macedonia Refuses to Face Its Troubled Past. ‘Macedonia has yet to face up to what happened in its 2001 conflict with Albanian rebels, says Biljana Vankovska, an advocate for Balkan reconciliation initiative RECOM.’

MOLDOVA

RFE/RL: Council Of Europe Concerned Over Moldovan Amendments. ‘The Council of Europe — a continental body that promotes the rule of law and democracy — has expressed its concerns over recent amendments to Moldova’s major laws.

The council’s secretary-general, Thorbjorn Jagland, said the amendments adopted by the parliament are in contradiction with Moldova’s constitution and European standards on constitutional justice.

Jagland said “the credibility of Moldova’s European path is at stake.”

Jagland expressed particular concern over a law passed on May 3 that gives parliament powers to sack constitutional judges and change election rules.’

RUSSIA

RAPSI: Belgorod shooter refuses to give testimony until trial. ‘Sergei Pomazun, 31, who is suspected of shooting six people dead and injuring a policeman in the western Russian city of Belgorod last month, has refused to give testimony, his lawyer Viktor Yeremeyev told RIA Novosti.

He said his client had revealed where he had hidden his weapon and ammunition. However “he is unwilling to tell either investigators or me anything else,” the lawyer said. When the investigator questioned him, Pomazun said he would tell it all in court.’

Reuters: Russian opposition struggles to revive anti-Putin protests. ‘Thousands of Russians demanded an end to President Vladimir Putin’s long rule and said they would not let him “turn the country into another GULAG” at a rally on Monday intended to revive flagging protests.

But many Russians are frustrated by the opposition’s failure to turn big rallies last year into a sustained challenge to Putin, and the joyous mood of the initial protests has given way to a subdued realization that his grip on power has tightened.’

RFE/RL: Alleged Islamic Extremists Arrested In Astrakhan. ‘Seven alleged members of an international religious extremist group have been arrested in the Russian city of Astrakhan.

Russia’s Investigative Committee spokesman Andrei Khegai said that the seven have been charged with propagating terrorism, inciting racial and ethnic hatred, and illegal explosives possession.’

Ria Novosti: Seven Suspected Extremists Arrested in South Russia. ‘Law-enforcement officers in Russia’s southern Astrakhan Region said on Monday they had detained seven members of an undisclosed extremist organization and confiscated explosives from them.

According to a statement posted on the website of the Investigative Committee’s Astrakhan Region department, officers detained 29-year-old Takhir Dzhaksibekov and six other unnamed men, who were “active members of an international religious association, declared extremist and banned in Russia by a Russian Supreme Court ruling on May 7, 2009.”

“They [the detainees] supported members of illegal armed groups active in the Middle East and North Caucasus republics, spread the ideas of ‘global jihad’ among Astrakhan Region residents, and publicly called for terrorist activities, thus recruiting new members. As a result, local residents were drawn into the activities of a banned religious organization,” the statement reads.’

Vestnik Kavkaza: Three bombs eliminated in Dagestan’s Buynaksk. ‘Three bombs have been eliminated in three houses in Dagestan’s Buynaksk this morning, RIA Novosti reports.

Militants planned to activate the bombs during celebrations on May 9. Two bombs were equivalent to 2kg of TNT and one to 3kg. A suspected was detained. The buildings with the bombs were destroyed.’

Tsarnaev brothers are devils. ‘The head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, openly expressed his views today on the Boston “bad boys” – the Tsarnaev brothers.

“I am asked a lot of questions online about the Tsarnaev brothers. People ask me why I am not interceding for them. I took a pause to figure out who they were, what they did, what their views and intentions were. Today, I can responsibly state that Tamerlan and Johar are real devils. That is why I am not interceding for them and do not intend to say a single word in their defense,” Kadyrov is quoted by Interfax.
“Tamerlan, thank God, is dead, Johar is in custody. Otherwise they would have brought sorrow to the families of innocent people,” the Chechen leader explained his position.
“It is good that they did not have enough time to complete more ambitious attacks. And the blame for everything falls on their mother. People who knew the brothers say that they were capable of anything,” Kadyrov said.’
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