Abkhazia president steps down, Ukraine to pay for Russian gas this week, EU forces companies to give users 'right to be forgotten', Fifa may reconsider 2022 world cup vote, Moscow goes smoke-free, Thai leaders deploy security forces.
Izvestia reports that the conflict in Abkhazia has led to the country's president, Alexander Ankvab, stepping down. On May 27 opposition activists gathered in downtown Sukhumi demanding dismissal of high-ranking government officials; unable to reach a consensus with the government, one of the opposition leaders, Raul Khadjimba announced that the Coordination council was taking power to reform the government. President Ankvab called the escalating situation an attempted coup and noted that he was in talks with members of the country’s Security Council regarding ways to resolve the situation. At the time, some of the potential scenarios included the president stepping down, the whole Cabinet stepping down and dismissal of some of the key officials. The daily notes that some representatives of the oppositon now demand a trial with the former president being accused of treason – and 60,000 of those with dual citizenship (georgian and akbhaz) should be sentenced as well, activists say. The presidential election has been scheduled for August 24; speaker of the country's parliament, Valeriy Bganba, will be acting president until then.
Ukraine's gas company, Naftogaz, is ready to repay part of its debt to Russia's Gazprom within several days after June 3, RBC Daily writes. The article notes that domestic state obligations priced at 22.3 billion hrivnas are to be sold on this day. According to Sergei Makatsariya, deputy director of the department of local budgets of Ukraine's Finance Ministry, the funds received by the country's treasury from these obligations will be transferred to Naftogaz, which, in turn, will be able to partially pay its debt for Russia's gas. Makatsariya said that Kiev will pay for the gas supplied by Russia until April 1, before the discount has been cancelled – thus, at two hundred sixty eight and a half dollars per thousand cubic meters of gas, Naftogaz will pay Gazprom over 2 billion dollars. The official stressed that this debt is recognized by the Ukrainian government. However, the country's officials believe Russia had no right to increase the price to four hundred eighty five dollars per thousand cubic meters, the spokesman noted, saying that parties are currently in talks regarding the disputed price.
Moskovskiy Komsomolets writes that the Court of Justice of the European Union has granted Europeans the “right to be forgotten”. On May 13, in a case against Google the court ruled that “even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where those data are no longer necessary in the light of the purposes for which they were collected or processed. That is so in particular where they appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to those purposes and in the light of the time that has elapsed.” From now on European citizens can contact Google if they want to have links to such information on them deleted, and the company will have to oblige. The daily talked to Anna Rogozhina, Google's press secretary, who said that the ruling requires Google to make 'tough decisions' on the 'right to be forgotten'. She said: “We're creating an expert committee to thoroughly look into these issues. We will also work with governmental bodies responsible for data protection and other organizations.”
Senior Fifa figures are for the first time seriously considering the ramifications of ordering a rerun of the vote for the right to stage the 2022 World Cup, in the aftermath of new corruption allegations against the hosts, Qatar. The Guardian writes that in Britain, there was a renewed outpouring of concern from politicians and former football executives after the Sunday Times alleged that Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari former Fifa executive committee member, paid $5m in cash, gifts and legal fees to senior football officials to help build a consensus of support behind the bid. The UK government has previously said the corruption allegations are a matter for Fifa. However, the sports minister, Helen Grant, signalled a shift, saying: "These appear to be very serious allegations. It is essential that major sporting events are awarded in an open, fair and transparent manner." Meanwhile, the former US attorney in New York is conducting a supposedly independent ongoing investigation into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, the daily notes; he is expected to pass his conclusions to the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa's revamped ethics committee later this year.
With the new package of anti-smoking measures coming into force on June 1, Russia's 44 million-strong army of smokers will be forced to adapt to a new, more marginal status in places where they can be seen in public, The Moscow Times writes. The newspaper reminds that in February 2013, President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that prohibited smoking in public places, required graphic warning labels on cigarette packs and banned advertising of tobacco products. The law has been in force since June 2013, but some of its provisions, including a total ban on smoking in restaurants, trains and hotels, only came into effect on Sunday. While Russians have largely hailed the new legislation as a victory, the country's restaurateurs have met their new obligations with irritation. For example, a Levada Center survey commissioned by the All-Russia Movement for the Rights of Smokers found that 82 percent of restaurant owners think a total ban on smoking is too rigid and that it will hurt their business.
Thailand’s ruling generals deployed thousands of security forces on the streets of Bangkok on Sunday to thwart another round of protests denouncing last month’s military coup. Hundreds of demonstrators came out and several were detained, but there was no violence, The Washington Post reports. A major downtown mall was shut down, authorities temporarily shut several subway and elevated train stations near where protests could have erupted. The daily notes that Thailand has been calm since the army overthrew the elected government on May 22, saying it had to restore order after seven months of demonstrations that had triggered sporadic violence and left the country’s political rivals in a stalemate. Meanwhile, the military has launched a major campaign to suppress dissent, summoning politicians, journalists and academics — the majority of them perceived as being critical of the new regime. Since the coup, small groups of pro-democracy protesters have come out nearly every day, marching through Bangkok and sometimes scuffling with soldiers. No injuries have been reported.