Regional Press Review (1-5 October)
Pandora Papers reveal evidence of hidden riches of post-soviet elites.
- The huge team of investigative journalists behind the Pandora Papers document leak say they have revealed how elites in former Soviet republics, including the current presidents of Ukraine and Azerbaijan, are linked with companies that use offshore tax havens to hide their wealth. The report also links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco. (Radio Free Europe, October 4)
Russia won’t probe Pandora Papers leak after President Putin confidants exposed.
- The Kremlin stated it had seen no evidence in a massive data leak of financial documents of hidden wealth among President Vladimir Putin‘s inner circle despite allegations to the contrary from news organizations. The dump of more than 11.9 million records was published by several major news organizations on Sunday and linked various world leaders or people close to them to what it said were secret stores of wealth. The leaks published details of individuals the news organizations said were allegedly linked to President Putin in some way. (Global News, October 4)
Russian rights defender shares shocking prison videos depicting torture acts.
- A prominent Russian human rights defender says his team has obtained a large batch of videos that he claims show prison inmates being tortured by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). Vladimir Osechkin wrote on Facebook that the videos “prove” that FSB and FSIN members are using rape and other forms of torture to force inmates to cooperate with them and that they “themselves become part of the torture machine” by snitching on other inmates or by signing false testimonies prepared by investigators. (Radio Free Europe, October 5)
Facebook has removed publications with banned content in Russia, but the company still faces a billion-dollar fine.
- Facebook has removed from Facebook and Instagram publications with content banned in Russia, Roskomnadzor told Vedomosti. This happened after on October 4, Roskomnadzor drew up a protocol on Facebook for repeated non-export of illegal materials (part 5 of Article 13.41 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation). Such an offense involves a fine of 10% to 20% of the annual turnover of the Internet company. A representative of Roskomnadzor said that the protocol refers to nine publications on Facebook and Instagram that violate Russian laws. Since 2019, Roskomnadzor has sent Facebook more than 100 notifications demanding that they be removed, but the company has done nothing. (Meduza, October 5)
Uzbek Activist Detained At Moscow Airport Flies To Armenia.
- Valentina Chupik, a noted migrant rights defender who was being held at a Moscow airport and faced deportation to Uzbekistan says she has left Russia on a flight to Armenia. (Radio Free Europe, October 2)
UN International Court of Justice schedules hearings on Armenian-Azerbaijani mutual claims.
- The hearings on the claim on violations of the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” lodged by Armenia against Azerbaijan will be held on October 14 and 15; and on the similar claim of Azerbaijan against Armenia on October 18 and 19, the UN International Court of Justice has informed. (Caucasian Knot, October 2)
Iran begins war games near Azerbaijan border.
- The Iranian armed forces began holding maneuvers near the country’s border with Azerbaijan, despite criticism from Azerbaijan. The exercises took place in open areas in northwestern Iran, said state television, which showed tanks, howitzers, and helicopters firing at targets on the ground. Azerbaijani President Aliyev had criticized the Iranian war games in an interview published on Monday. “Every country can carry out any military drill on its own territory. It’s their sovereign right. But why now, and why on our border?” Aliev told Turkish news agency Anadolu. (France24, October 1)
Another Presidential Candidate to Be Registered as Independent Runner.
- Lozan Panov, the outgoing president of the Supreme Court of Cassation, has accepted a proposal from the “Justice for All Initiative” to be nominated as a Presidential candidate in the 14 November elections, the non-governmental, non-partisan association said on its website on Saturday. Panov will run as an independent, and his bid will be handled by a nomination committee to be formed later in the day. (Novinite, October 4)
Georgia’s ruling party wins nationwide vote.
- Georgia’s ruling party has won the October 3 nationwide municipal elections that outside observers said were well-run but tainted by irregularities a victory overshadowed by the arrest of returning former President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose supporters staged protests for his release on October 4. After all results from the country’s 3,743 precincts were tallied, the ruling Georgian Dream party had 46.7 percent, according to the Central Election Commission on October 4. The main opposition party, the United National Movement (ENM), had 30.7 percent. (Radio Free Europe, October 4)
Saakashvili arrested in Georgia on eve of election.
- Former President Mikheil Saakashvili has been arrested in Georgia on the eve of crucial local elections. PM Gharibashvili announced that the authorities had arrested the third Georgian President and honorary chair of the opposition United National Movement party (UNM) and that he had been transported to prison. Saakashvili has been convicted in absentia on several counts of abuse of power in Georgia, including ordering an attack on political opponent Valeri Gelashvili and illegally promising a pardon to law enforcement officers implicated in a 2006 murder of Sandro Girgvliani. (OC-Media, October 1)
Cabinet approves bill to ratify Istanbul Convention.
- The Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe on May 11, 2011. The Republic of Moldova signed it on February 6, 2017, but its ratification was put off several times. According to Minister of Labor and Social Protection Marcel Spatari, the national legislation that regulates the prevention and combating of domestic violence in 2016 and 2020 was partially brought into compliance with the provisions of the Convention, amendments being made to over 20 legal acts. (IPN, October 1)
Citu’s Government facing the first censure motion of this session.
- The head of the Government is facing two censure motions lodged in the same session, for the destitution of the Executive, one initiated by PSD and the other by the former governing partners, USR-PLUS, who were joined by the AUR MPs. On October 7, in the joint plenary of the Parliament, the censure motion lodged by PSD will be voted. The Senators and Deputies from USR-PLUS and AUR stated on many occasions that they will vote in favor of the PSD motion. (ActMedia, October 5)
Thousands rally in Bucharest against COVID-19 restrictions.
- The participants in the October 2 rally organized by the nationalist Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) blocked traffic, honked horns, and chanted slogans such as “Freedom!”. The protests came a day after seven people were killed in a fire at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients in Romania’s port city of Constanta, the third deadly hospital blaze in the country in less than a year. (Radio Free Europe, October 2)
Parliament Speaker dismisses opposition calls for early polls.
- There are no political and legal conditions for holding early polls, the Parliament Speaker has stated, recalling that the Government had changed the system into an executive-presidency model to avoid political instability in Turkey. Turkey’s next Presidential and Parliamentary elections are going to take place in June 2023, but the oppositional parties frequently urge the Government to advance the election date due to its inability to address the country’s fundamental problems. (Hurriyet, October 2)
First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine delivers a statement on Russia’s human rights violations in Crimea on behalf of 40 UN member states.
- The joint statement condemns gross human rights violations by the Russian Federation in the temporarily occupied Crimea and expresses support for the Crimea Platform. The signatories call on Russia to “comply with its obligations, in accordance with the rules of international law”, condemn all attempts by Russia to legitimize its attempted annexation of Crimea, and the holding of Russian Duma elections on Ukraine’s sovereign territory on 17-19 September, without the consent of Ukraine. (Ukrinform, October 5)
Razumkov says procedure launched to remove him as Parliament Speaker.
- The procedure for removing Dmytro Razumkov from the post of Parliament Speaker has been launched based on a motion filed by David Arakhamia, head of the Parliamentary faction of the “Servant of the People” party. The main candidate for the post of head of the parliament is Ruslan Stefanchuk, first deputy chairman of the Parliament. (Ukrinform, October 5)
Police to investigate info in Pandora Papers linked to PM and hundreds of other Czechs.
- The Czech police’s organized crime unit will look into the information contained in the Pandora Papers linked to PM Babiš and around 300 other Czechs, a spokesperson declared on Monday. Several media outlets around the world reported on Sunday that Babiš had transferred almost CZK 400 million through a series of offshore companies, using the money to buy a chateau in the south of France. (Radio Prague International, October 4)
Czech Foreign Minister summons British Ambassador over racism row.
- Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek has summoned Britain’s ambassador to Prague, Nick Archer, over insults and accusations of racism in the British media directed against a soccer crowd consisting mainly of schoolchildren who attended Thursday’s game between Sparta Prague and the Glasgow Rangers in Prague. (Radio Prague International, October 1)
V4 Defence Ministers held the first joint defense ministerial meeting in Erdőbénye.
- Hungary’s Tibor Benkő told a press conference after the meeting that the defense ministerial program for Hungary’s V4 presidency had been discussed and action plans had been approved for coordinating various procedures. The delegations reviewed the experiences to be drawn from the Afghanistan mission, such as the Takuba operations. The sides were also in agreement about the importance of maintaining peace in the Western Balkans which is also a priority for Hungary. (Hungary Today, October 2)
Hungary offers help to Romania after hospital fire.
- Foreign Minister Szijjártó offered Hungary’s help to Romania on Saturday in the wake of a hospital fire in Constanta. He declared that he has sent a letter to Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu offering his condolences as well as Hungary’s help. (Hungary Today, October 3)
Poland admits Turów mine negotiations with Czechs have broken down.
- The Czech government has taken Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the Turów mine, which lies close to the Czech border. The Czechs claim that plans to expand it threaten the environment, especially groundwater on the Czech side of the border. Talks on reaching some form of settlement between the two sides had been running for several months but collapsed after the most recent round on Thursday. (Polandin, October 4)
Anti-restriction protests put pressure on the Government.
- PM Janša declared the Government would “not cave to pressure” after Zoran Stevanović, the leader of the protests against the Covid pass mandate, called on the Government to resign or face new protests, including a blockade of the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit. He called on the competent authorities to take action. (STA, October 4)
EU leaders meeting in Slovenia.
- EU leaders are meeting in Slovenia on October 5 for an informal dinner before they are joined by their Western Balkan counterparts on Wednesday for an EU-Western Balkans summit, one of the highest-profile events hosted by Slovenia’s EU presidency. (STA, October 5)
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