- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010


Opposition leader held at anti-Kremlin rally

MOSCOW | Police detained up to 100 anti-Kremlin protesters, including leading opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, in central Moscow Sunday, despite an appeal by rights group Amnesty International to let the rally go ahead.

Hundreds of people gathered to protest against what they say is a long-running Kremlin campaign to dismantle the constitutional right to peaceful protest, one of the few avenues open to Russia’s weak and fragmented opposition.

Mr. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, is leader of the opposition group Solidarity and one of the toughest critics of the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

At a similar rally in December, police detained 82-year-old Soviet-era activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, prompting a rebuke from the administration of President Obama.

A senior officer followed Ms. Alexeyeva throughout Sunday’s rally in an apparent effort to prevent his colleagues from detaining her. She screamed repeatedly when a line of policemen surged toward her, causing a crush.

At least 200 policemen cordoned off the square with 30 police vans before the rally. They refrained from detaining people for the first half-hour.

Later, protesters shouted “Shame!” and “Russia without Putin!” At least 300 people tried to join the meeting and 100 were detained, Interfax news agency quoted a police spokesman as saying.


First casino opens under new gambling plan

AZOV CITY | Half a year after Russia closed all of its gambling casinos and slot-machine halls, the first new casino opened this weekend under a plan to limit legalized gambling to four comparatively remote areas.

About 500 people showed up for the opening of the Oracle casino Saturday in Azov City, a gambling zone in southern Russia. But only about 100 of them appeared to be actually placing bets. The casino, in a large shed-like building in a snowy field, has about 200 slot machines and 10 table games.

The zone is about 60 miles from Rostov-on-Don, the nearest sizable city, and 120 miles from Krasnodar.

It is not clear how many Russians will be eager to travel long distances for a gambling excursion, but the casino’s operators say they’re convinced there’s a market and they plan to start building a four-star hotel for gamblers this summer.

Casinos mushroomed in Russia’s cities after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and slot machines quickly spread beyond gaming halls to shops and malls. The spread of gambling provoked distaste among many Russians over the flashy cars parked outside glittering casinos in Moscow and the harm that gambling can do to society.

All the gambling operations were closed July 1 under a law that was signed in 2006, but that many had expected never would be enforced. The law limits legalized gambling to Azov City, the Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea, the Altai region of Siberia and the Primorsky region of Russia’s Far East.


Jailed gangster issues threats on Facebook

LONDON | A British gangster is using Internet social networking site Facebook to threaten people whom he says he will target after his release, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Colin Gunn, serving 35 years for conspiracy to murder after ordering the execution of two people, said he was allowed to set up the account by prison bosses, the Sunday Times said.

In one posting, the 42-year-old wrote: “I will be home one day and I cant wait to look into certain peoples eyes and see the fear of me being there.”

Another said: “Its good to have an outlet to let you know how I am, some of you will be in for a good slagging, some have let me down badly, and will be named and shamed.”

Gunn operated his gang out of Nottingham, central England, the location of several high-profile gun killings in recent years. The paper said his account was shut down Friday.

A spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Justice said prisoners have access to the Internet only “for educational purposes” and are banned from using social networking sites.


Pack of stray dogs kills 13 zoo animals

SOFIA | A pack of stray dogs leapt the fence of Sofia’s zoo and killed 13 rare animals last week, the zoo director said Saturday.

Six dogs, probably driven by hunger in temperatures that fell to minus 15 degrees on Saturday, tore to pieces five deer and eight mouflon, zoo Director Ivan Ivanov said. Two fallow deer fought the dogs and survived.

Mr. Ivanov said the zoo’s fences had since been reinforced and gas pistols issued to security guards.

The Bulgarian capital, home to some 2 million people, has been plagued by stray dogs for years. City council officials put their number at about 9,000, and say it has grown since economic crisis hit the European Union’s poorest member state and some people abandoned their pets.


Book: Diana called in-laws ‘German family’

LONDON | Princess Diana said she “should never have married into a German family” during her divorce from Prince Charles, her attorney said in book extracts published by a British newspaper Sunday.

Anthony Julius also said Diana lived “as if in a vacuum” and seemed alienated from the world around her.

Mr. Julius was hired by Diana to handle her divorce from the heir to the British throne, which went through in 1996.

Mr. Julius’ comments came in a book he has written about anti-Semitism, extracts of which are being published in the Sunday Times.

“She was interested in Jews but had no idea about them, save that Jewish men [she had heard] were more likely than the men of her own class and background to treat women decently,” wrote Mr. Julius, himself a Jew.

“She was happy to take Jews to be hostile to everything to which she herself was hostile.

“She once said to me that she should never have married into a German family.”

The British royal family’s roots can be traced to German nobility as far back as the 18th century. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997.


Tymoshenko says rival trying to use force

KIEV | Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Sunday accused her pro-Russian rival in next week’s presidential election run-off, Viktor Yanukovych, of preparing to take power by force.

She said Mr. Yanukovych, the favorite to win the Feb. 7 vote, was massing supporters around the capital, Kiev, and preparing to use “any means” to take power.

“The electoral commission acts like everything is fine, [but] in the polling stations there are falsifications,” Mrs. Tymoshenko said in the transcript of an interview with a Ukrainian television station made available on the government Web site.

“And around Kiev, all the holiday centers are full of fighters who are ready to take power using any means,” the prime minister added.

“We remember all that from 2004. Yanukovych hasn’t changed, his methods haven’t changed, and his policies haven’t changed,” Mrs. Tymoshenko was quoted as saying.

Mass rigging blamed on Yanukovych supporters and resulting protests that brought hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians onto the streets in the Orange Revolution forced the annulment of the 2004 presidential election.

Mr. Yanukovych led Mrs. Tymoshenko by 10 percentage points in the first round.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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