Re-run Run-up.

Speaking to reporters during the Russian-German governmental consultations, Russian President Putin confirmed that he will respect the result of the – less manipulated – re-run of the Ukrainian Presidential election next Sunday.

“I know Mr Yushchenko as I do the current Prime Minister Mr Yanukovich … He has also been a member of President (Leonid) Kuchma’s team, like Yanukovich, and so I don’t see any problem.”

Mr Putin also dismissed interpretations of the event that suggest he has been dealt a personal defeat. Not that anybody expected anything else, but I suppose hearing this will prevent some more people in Ukraine from playing electoral games this time.

Meanwhile, on Monday night Ukrainians could witness a tv debate with a kafkaesquely transformed Yanukovich. His increasing political isolation apparently became most evident when he, who had earlier accused his opponent, Mr Yushenko, of being an American puppet, suggested that the “Orange Revolution” was staged by the incumbent President Kuchma, with the knowledge of the opposition’s leader, in order to prevent him from opposing the Oligarchic system.

Mr Yanukovich, who had very recently supported secessionist sentiments in Eastern Ukraine, now sent his campaign staff to explain that it would be still unceratain if Yanukovich supporters would tolerate a Yushenko victory on the 26th, while he attempted to present himself as savior of national unity with an offer to create a government of “national unity”, and even asked for to be forgiven for insulting the Orange Protesters.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine (German) and the Kyiv Post have more, also on the poisoning of Mr Yushenko.

Hungary Ratifies EU Constitution.

It is probably a mere coincident that the last troops of Hungary’s Iraq contingent completed their withdrawal from the current coalition of the willing as the Hungarian Parliament voted 322 to 12 in favor of the European Constitution yesterday, more than the required two-thirds majority. President Ferenc Madl’s signature on the law will formally make Hungary the second country to ratify the document (via AP, AFP).

Torture does not pay

As you consider the ongoing saga of US treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere, spare a thought for Wolfgang Daschner. As I wrote in an earlier post, Daschner, Frankfurt’s former deputy police commissioner, faced trial for threatening one Magnus G?fgen with torture. G?fgen had kidnapped young Jakob von Metzler, and the police were trying desperately to find the boy. What they didn’t know at the time was that G?fgen had murdered him very shortly after the abduction and disposed of his body in a lake.

Daschner struck me as a model of the “well-meaning torturer”. He couldn’t have known that Metzler was already dead, and was frantic to find him. But when G?fgen kept shtum, Daschner decided to use torture as an ultima ratio. Well, he didn’t actually use it; but he threatened it, and that was enough both to make G?fgen talk and to make Daschner face criminal charges. In my earlier post, I had said that, if the court found Daschner guilty,

he should be punished. I would hope that the court, in meting out a punishment, would take into account the inhumanly impossible position Daschner found himself in (and the Criminal Code does allow for significantly milder penalties for criminal coercion than a three-year prison term)…. But I cannot accept that his deed be dismissed … because he was acting in good faith and sought to achieve a desirable result.

As the S?ddeutsche reports (in German, alas), the State Court in Frankfurt has now found Daschner guilty. His punishment, though, is mild indeed.
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“The second highest level ever recorded in humans”

More information about the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko is coming out as the doctors analyse the samples more, and what’s being found out is frankly scary:

Tests have revealed that the chemical used to poison Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was pure TCDD, the most harmful known dioxin.
TCDD is a key ingredient in Agent Orange – a herbicide used by US troops in the Vietnam war and blamed for serious health problems.
Blood samples taken in Vienna, where Mr Yushchenko was treated, were sent to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, for further analysis.

“It is a single chemical, not a mix,” Prof Abraham Brouwer of the Free University in Amsterdam told the Associated Press.

“This tells us… there is no way it occurred naturally because it is so pure.”

He said there were some small signs which could reveal where it was made.

Initial tests had shown the level of poison in Mr Yushchenko’s blood was more than 6,000 times higher than normal – the second highest level ever recorded in humans.

Go directly to jail, do not pass go…

After much public outcry over his pardoning of Miron Cozma, Iliescu today revoked his decision. Cozma was arrested again in Timisoara today. Apparently, he tried to flee the country after hearing that his pardon had been revoked. There’s a clip that’s been playing over and over again on the news — it shows Cosma grabbed, surrounded by police and (protesting vigorously) herded into the paddy wagon.

He had huge, rock-star hair, great curly masses of it. Maybe he just let it grow in prison? I didn’t know that was allowed.

Anyway. One bad guy down, good.

The voice of the people has been heard and acted upon, also good.

The public mess and the impression this must leave in the international community, not good at all.

This whole affair has turned into a farce but nobody is laughing. Romanians wonder what has gotten into Iliescu. All my acquaintances today were outraged or depressed by the news of the pardon, confused and bewildered by the revocation. Wild rumors are flying but since they change every hour, it’s no use documenting them. Can you revoke a pardon, anyhow? Or are they claiming that the pardon wasn’t issued properly? That’s still not clear — at first it seemed the latter (Nastase said he didn’t counter-sign it?) but now it seems the former. Maybe we will know more in a day or two.

Then again, maybe not.

Halfway There

This spring, the German newspaper whose web site isn?t quite as bad as another?s began publishing a series of 50 Great Novels from the Twentieth Century. It?s an admirable project in many ways — not least a cover price of EUR 4.90 per hardback. Thirty-seven books have been published so far, and I?ve now read about half of the whole list. Which is as good a point as any for taking stock.

I haven?t quite read 25 of the 50, but let?s face it, with Deutschstunde (German Hour, Siegfried Lenz, no. 28) clocking in at nearly 800 pages, and hefty volumes such as Jorge Semprun?s What a Beautiful Sunday! (Was f?r einen sch?nen Sonntag, no. 17) and Juan C. Onetti?s The Short Life (Das kurze Leben, no. 11), it?s going to be quite a while before I manage all of them.
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Agenda 2020.

New Europe?
Late Thursday night, the European Council approved, as widely expected, the Commission’s recommendation to open membership negotiations with Turkey, largely without imposing additional conditions to be met prior to the beginning of the talks on October 3, 2005. “The time to start negotiations with Turkey has come,” Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso said. Council President, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, will discuss the EU proposals Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, over breakfast on Friday.
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One last favor

It was one of his last days in office, and president Illiescu decided to pay one last favor to an old friend.

Miron Cosma is hardly known outside of Romania. “King Coal”, as he’s dubbed sometimes, is a dangerous demagogue, a ruthless criminal, and adored by his followers.

Miron Cosma is a leader of miners. In 1990, he led his men into Bucharest to help President Illiescu solve a problem: protesting students. The miners tore through the city like a natural disaster. They pillaged and ransacked the city as if they were a horde of barbarians. Illiescu thanked them for their patriotic help.
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