News up to 23 March
The posthumous trial of Sergey Magnitsky commenced in Moscow on Friday, a few days after Russia’s Investigative Committee cancelled the investigation into his death. Magnitsky was imprisoned on accusations of defrauding the state through unpaid taxes. Prior to this Magnitsky, who died in prison custody in 2009, had alleged large-scale tax fraud undertaken by state officials. The Kremlin’s human rights commission found evidence that he had been beaten shortly before his death. His family has refused to recognise the criminal trial and defence lawyer, Nikolay Gerasimov, stated: ‘There was no reason for this trial.’
Meanwhile, in London, the inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko was delayed until October. The inquest had been due to start this spring.
Source: The Guardian
In Georgia, the power struggle between the new Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvilli, and President Mikheil Saakashvili continues. Georgia’s parliament gave first approval to a bill that would remove the President’s right to dissolve parliament and dismiss the government on March 21. Two further votes are necessary to change the constitution. Ivanishvilli’s coalition does not have a majority in the parliament, but the shift from a presidential to parliamentary constitution looks very likely.
Source: RIA Novosti
Azerbaijan’s government has continued its repression of opposition NGOs ahead of its Presidential elections in October. The OSCE has also been formally requested to downgrade its operation in Baku. The OSCE has rated previous elections in Azerbaijan as neither free nor fair.
Among this week’s football World Cup qualifiers, Croatia versus Serbia must have raised more than a few eyebrows. The Serbian national anthem was received with a chorus of booing and the BBC reports that the chant of ‘Kill a Serb’ echoed round the stadium during the match. Relations on the pitch were amicable, and the home team’s 2-0 win puts Croatia top of their qualifying group.
Russia has rejected Cyprus’s approach for a bailout. The tax haven is formally one of the largest sources of FDI in Russia, a consequence of wealthy Russians choosing to register their businesses there. Following talks in Moscow, Cypriot finance minister Michalis Sarris must have felt deeply disappointed to leave empty-handed.