Ljubljana related

20 Sep 2020, 13:37 PM

STA, 18 September 2020 - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has purchased a plot of land on the Slovenian coast for less than a third of the price the Koper municipality could have potentially fetched with the sale, Mladina reports on Friday. It suggests that Boris Popovič, the mayor of Koper at the time the land was initially sold to a Russian company, is involved.

The weekly says that Hojs purchased last July building land in the village of Kolomban, which overlooks the Slovenian coast near Koper.

The property was purchased from the Russian national Marat Idrisov, whose company had bought a larger piece of land in April 2017 at a public auction from the Koper municipality, which decided after the auction to service the land with a road and a sewage system.

The municipality, which was run by Boris Popovič at the time, sold a total of 3,894 square metres of land in Kolomban. Idrisov was the only bidder, as the land had not even been accessible by road at the time.

His company, Rjeckon, purchased the land at the asking price of EUR 262,920 or EUR 67.50 per square metre, which is a lower than the Koper municipality usually sells land plots to its residents, the weekly adds.

It notes that Rjeckon "is an unknown company, without particular references, and which prior to 2017 actually had no noteworthy revenue or assets expected from a company registered for real estate deals".

Idrisov is an acquaintance of Popovič's infrastructure advisor Radivoje Anđelković, who is believed to have helped the Russian buy the land. For instance, Anđelković allowed Idrisov to register his company at his home address in Ljubljana.

When the land was sold to Idrisov, it was still inaccessible by car, but after the sale the municipality decided to build utility infrastructure there - including a road to all land plots sold and a sewage system, the weekly notes.

Idrisov had thus actually purchased land for which other interested buyers could not have possibly known or predict that it would be provided with infrastructure at the municipality's expense.

Moreover, instead of a plot on which the local authorities built an access road, Idrisov was given the remainder of the available adjacent land to improve the functionality of the entire land plot.

Idrisov then divided his land into several plots and sold it to four persons, including Popovič, Anđelković and Hojs. The interior minister purchased 882 square metres for EUR 75,910, or EUR 86 per square metre.

Had the municipality serviced the land before selling it at auction, it could have fetched more than EUR 300 per square metre or more than EUR 1 million. In that case Hojs, would have to pay EUR 264,600 for his plot, according to Mladina.

The minister has told Mladina that he had reported the deal to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, that he had financed it with his own assets and a loan, and that Popovič had not helped him with the purchase.

In a response, Hojs told the press in parliament he had nothing to add because everything is written in the opposition Left's online bulletin - Mladina.

Hojs is defending some of his past actions in the National Assembly as MPs are discussing the opposition-sponsored motion of no-confidence in him.

03 Sep 2020, 11:39 AM

STA, 2 September 2020 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has condemned the confirmed poisoning of Alexei Navalny, as the German government announced on Wednesday that the Russian opposition politician had been attacked in Russia with a chemical nerve agent.

"The use of the nerve agent to silence an opposition leader is unacceptable. We expect clarifications from the Russian Federation and its cooperation with the international community," the ministry said on Twitter.

The German government said today that testing, initiated by a hospital in Germany and performed by the German army, had clearly confirmed that Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the novichok group.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia needed to answer the questions about the poisoning, adding that Navalny was a victim of a criminal act.

Merkel said that it was an attempt to silence the opposition politician and condemned it in the strictest terms on behalf of the German government.

The Kremlin said over a spokesperson that it was willing and interested in fully cooperating with Germany in the Navalny case.

13 Aug 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - 5G networks and energy investments were at the centre of talks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, with Pompeo saying that the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies.

The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, Pompeo said as he addressed the press alongside Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.

"I know... that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile operator Huawei criticised the move by Slovenia, saying that it would not contribute to security of networks or improve cyber security and would in fact have negative consequences of 5G networks introduction in Slovenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo's statements, saying that it was the 21st century and that it was not time any more to instigate ideological clashes.

According to its press release, the US secretary of state was accusing and attacking China and spreading incorrect information. Inciting hatred and encouraging confrontations is not in the line with the spirit of the times, it added.

The embassy said it hoped that the signing was not directed against China. "We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies."

The signing was also criticised by the left-leaning opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the Left. The latter warned that the declaration had not been coordinated with the EU, and its MEP Milan Brglez fears it may become legally binding for Slovenia.

The Left meanwhile said that the declaration was a "carte blanche for US control and abuse of ICT for military, economic and political purposes".

The party also said that Pompeo was in Slovenia to lobby on behalf of nuclear power company Westinghouse and the US military industry as Slovenia's government plans EUR 780 million worth of military investments.

While no meetings were scheduled to discuss military investments, Pompeo was seated next to Defence Minister Matej Tonin at the working lunch hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Pompeo did meet with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Janša what he said was "the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region".

He also tweeted that "energy security and independence require governments to partner with one another, private industry, and civil society to secure a brighter future for all. We welcome Slovenia's leadership on the Three Seas Initiative, and commend its innovation and dedication to clean energy."

At the press conference, Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a "quick commitment" to what he said was an "important partnership" the US is happy to fund, noting that he had announced in February the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative.

Janša in turn said that Slovenia appreciated the "US's proactive approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is reflected in strong support to alliances such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation," adding that Slovenia would strengthen its role in both of these.

Touching on business cooperation, Janša told the press the sides shared the view that there was room to boost trade and investments, also saying that Slovenian IT companies could help in the development of 5G technologies.

The talks also touched on NATO, with Janša saying that Slovenia had in the past months made steps to increase defence spending and meet its obligations toward the alliance, with Pompeo commending the country for its growing commitment to NATO.

Janša and Pompeo also discussed relations with China and Russia, sharing the view that these must be based on strategic interest "of our civilisation, which is based on the values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy," according to Janša.

Janša also warned of what he said was a poor level of awareness in the west of the threat of a hybrid attack. "We see the US as the only power of the western civilisation capable of facing this challenging threat... and Slovenia is willing to contribute its efforts toward success."

Pompeo also met President Pahor, who hosted a working lunch. The president expressed great satisfaction with the visit, telling commercial broadcaster Kanal A that Pompeo had told him that he was leaving "Slovenia with the best possible impressions and that he sees great potential for future cooperation between Slovenia and the US".

"It was very important that we did not find a very open, delicate issue that would cause divisions," said Pahor. He feels the countries are the most divided in terms of multilateralism.

"Slovenia is strongly dedicated to the existing political and legal architecture, because being a small country it sees safety in this. This is understandable, being a big country, the US may view this slightly differently."

But in general, the countries have "very, very similar views", said Pahor. "This is good. But above all, it is important that such talks end with mutual agreement that we are friends, that we trust each other and that many more things connect than divide us."

26 Jul 2020, 10:18 AM

STA, 25 July 2020 - The traditional Russian Chapel commemoration below the Vršič Pass was held on Saturday, with the keynote speaker, National Council president Alojz Kovšca calling for solidarity among nations. He said that a new opportunity was arising for nations to get connected in the efforts to preserve peace and coexistence. 

"Let us persist in determination that we have learned a lot of good lessons from history so that we do not repeat past mistakes. Let us join our powers, knowledge and influence so that peace stays and that friendship gets strengthened and upgraded," Kovšca said.

"If not for those who sacrificed their lives, let us have in mind those who come after us. Let these be happy generations who have the privilege to live in reconciliation and friendship and for whom cosmopolitanism is that original drive for preserving peace at any cost."

The small chapel on the mountain road above Kranjska Gora (NW) pays tribute to Slovenian-Russian friendship and this year the idea of the ceremony was to point to solidarity and connectedness between nations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"If solidarity failed in the last few months where it had been most expected, this time all of us have been given the opportunity to call it back", Kovšca said, labelling the Slovenian-Russian relations as friendly and going beyond a mere political inclination.

"The Russian Federation is an important economic and strategic partner for Slovenia, and we also must not overlook the cultural and artistic connections. We together can be proud of that," he added.

The Russian Chapel was constructed 104 years ago to honour Russian POWs in the First World War who were killed by an avalanche while being forced to build the mountain road above Kranjska Gora in north-western Slovenia.

On the Slovenian side, the main guests of the ceremony which was scaled back due to anti-epidemic measures, were President Borut Pahor, parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič and several government ministers.

Pahor said the friendship and cooperation between Slovenia and Russia remained solid and sincere and that Slovenia would always strive for good relations with Russia, "although we have some differing views and we are not allies in the military sense."

"But it seems right to me that we try to cherish traditionally good ties with all nations, including Russians, because there is never enough friendship in the world," the president was quoted by the public Radio Slovenija.

Unlike the previous years, the ceremony organised by the Russian Embassy, the municipality of Kranjska Gora, the Russkiy Mir foundation and the Slovenia-Russia Association did not feature high-profile representatives from Russia.

At the ceremony, the Russian Orthodox Church was represented by Tikhon Zaytsev, the Major Archbishop of the Diocese of Berlin and Germany.

The event, which used to be attended by thousands of people in past years, was preceded by a church mass in Kranjska Gora on Friday, and is followed by a meeting of members of the Slovenia-Russia Association.

25 Jul 2020, 17:44 PM

STA, 25 July 2020 - Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Timur Eyvazov has discussed the Slovenian-Russian relations in an interview for Večer. Asked about the reproaches during the term of the previous government about Slovenian foreign policy being pro-Russian oriented, he said he would not agree with such assessments.

"Slovenia is a member of the EU and NATO and, as far as I know, implements its commitments as part of these organisations one hundred percent," Eyvazov said in the interview the Maribor-based paper published on Saturday.

"At the same time, the Slovenian leadership has always understood, in our opinion, that good relations with Russia suit the interests of both the European Union and Slovenia," he added.

The ambassador believes that this is a framework within which it is possible to develop constructive relations with Russia. "We absolutely support such ambition by Slovenia, because it is also good for Russia to have good relationship with the EU and Slovenia."

Eyvazov is convinced that Slovenia and Russia could boost bilateral trade, which could, in his opinion, go up to two billion euros or more.

He sees many areas in which Russian and Slovenian technologies and capacities could work in synergy in order to produce very competitive products, which could be sold in third markets.

Eyvazov noted that the Russian market provided the opportunity for Slovenian entrepreneurs to enter the market of the Eurasian Economic Community. "This is a market of more than 200 million people and total GDP exceeding two trillion US dollars."

In the interview published on the occasion of the Russian Chapel ceremony below the Vršič Pass, the ambassador also talked about the Slovenian retailer, a part of the failed Croatian conglomerate Agrokor, which has ended up in a majority Russian ownership.

Eyvazov said that Russia was closely monitoring the situation in Mercator and Agrokor, which is owned by the bank Sberbank.

According to him, Russia understands the great importance of Mercator for the Slovenian economy. "We understand that there are a lot of Slovenian suppliers who, of course, must preserve the opportunity to get to the end buyer through Mercator."

But the ambassador noted that the Russian side did not really understand some of the actions by Slovenian institutions, in what is a reference to the competition watchdog's decision to temporarily seize Mercator shares.

"We have shown a lot of patience," he said, adding that "on the other hand, Sberbank is a state-owned bank which keeps the money of the Russian state, which is why we need to invest all effort to protect our own interests."

10 May 2020, 11:22 AM

STA, 9 May 2020 - Russian Ambassador Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov laid a wreath at the site of a former Nazi prison camp in Maribor on Saturday in memory of several thousand Russian prisoners of war who died there. He said keeping the memory alive was important to prevent history repeating again.

The building of the former Stalag XVIII D camp is being turned into a museum after the Maribor municipality has bought the plot from a private owner, while Russia is to provide the funding to create a museum.

Additional exhibition material was put on show on the occasion of Victory Day to bear witness to the developments there during Second World War.

The exhibition is expected to open to broader public in the autumn, which would make it a real museum after it has so far been open only on special occasions and mostly only to professionals.

Ambassador Eyvazov, who took office in Slovenia in January, reiterated his country's commitment to the project. "We still don't know how many people died here, but the figure must have been very high. The facility is exceptional because it has remained untouched," he told reporters.

"The project is exceptionally important in particular for the younger generations to learn the truth about the horrendous crimes that were being committed here 75 years ago. It's important to make sure such horrific history will not be repeated again." said the ambassador.

During WWII, the complex of a defunct customs warehouse in the Maribor Melje borough was part of a German Nazi prison camp. Between September 1941 and March 1942, it held several thousand Russian POWs in extremely inhumane conditions and most of them died there from exhaustion, starvation or disease.

The search through various European archives has so far yielded close to 3,000 names of Soviets who died in the camp. "We want to press on to find all 5,000 names of the Soviet POWs killed," said Janez Ujčič, director of the International Centre for WWII Research in Maribor, which manages the museum.

The plan for the museum was unveiled in 2014 during a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov but it has so far hosted only dedicated conferences. A one-storey hall, the complex does not have basic infrastructure such as electricity or toilets, but this should be tackled by autumn.

"Today's Victory Day ceremony represents the first step to museum activity in this former camp. With the present exhibition we've launched a lasting renovation of this complex," said Ujčič, adding that the museum had sparked a lot of interest in the international expert community as well as in Russian media.

The three-part exhibition chronicles Maribor's resistance in 1941, the city's German occupation, the tragedy of the Russian POWs in the camp and the joint struggle of the Rad Army and Partisan resistance movement in the former Yugoslavia.

04 Mar 2020, 21:51 PM

According to a report by Regina Mihindukulasuriya, published on ThePrint, India was the country subject to the most cyber-attacks country in the world for three months in 2019, during April, May and June, based on data compiled by Subex, a Bengaluru-based company providing analytics to telecom and communication service providers.

Of note for readers of TSN, the highest number of cyber-attacks targeting India in 2019 originated in Slovenia (74,988 attacks). This was followed by Ukraine (55,772), Czech Republic (53,609), China (50,000), and Mexico (35, 201).. The attacks are said to have targeted critical infrastructure, followed by banking, defence and manufacturing.

But why Slovenia? To quote the article, which can be read in full here:

A cyber-security expert who didn’t want to be identified told ThePrint that Slovenia tops the list as Russian state actors may be employing botnets in that country to keep an eye on India’s critical infrastructure in the oil, gas and telecom sectors.

Prayukth of Subex also told ThePrint that while an attack can be traced back to a certain physical location, it is not possible to ascertain who is controlling the botnets.

Botnets physically located in one country, he added, can be leased out to clients based in another country for as low as 30 US cents...

The same report states that the most cyber-attacked countries in 2019 was the US, followed by India, the UK, Singapore, Ukraine, UAE, Nigeria, Japan, South Korea and Spain.

All our stories on India and Slovenia can be found here

22 Feb 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 18 February 2020 - The Democrats (SDS) called on Tuesday for an emergency session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission to examine a cooperation memorandum signed last September by the state-controlled energy company Petrol with a Russian company subject to US sanctions.

The memorandum with T Plus was signed as part of a visit to Moscow by outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and envisages cooperation with the T Plus Group and Schneider Electric Russia in the field of energy efficiency.

Petrol's chairman at the time Tomaž Berločnik said the two projects planned involved work on the optimisation of district heating. He valued them at "a few million euro" and potentially at a few dozen million in the future.

However, citing documents published by the US Department of the Treasury, the SDS is pointing out that T Plus is part of the Russian Renova Group, which is subject to US sanctions along with its billionaire owner Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg.

The sanctions were introduced in April 2018 over interference in the 2016 US presidential election, with the US also freezing Vekselberg's assets.

The SDS is puzzled by how the government, Foreign Ministry and the SOVA intelligence agency could allow the memorandum to be signed, and what is even worse, to be signed during Šarec's official visit to Moscow.

The party claims all of the listed institutions as well as the PM and the management and supervisory bodies of Petrol and state asset manager SSH had obviously failed to fulfil their duties.

The SDS says that Petrol now runs the danger of becoming subject to retaliation measures on the part of the US, which could undermine government revenue and the value of state assets, while the SSH and government could also be compromised.

"The signing of the memorandum under to auspices of the Slovenian government could also bring negative consequences for other areas of transatlantic cooperation," the party wrote.

The SDS is thus proposing that the Public Finance Oversight Commission ask the government to have the SSH draw up a report on the matter, to have Petrol withdraw from the memorandum and to have authorities examine whether official duties were neglected, money laundered or terrorism financed as part of the memorandum signing.

20 Jan 2020, 20:21 PM

Ex-Yu Aviation, always on top of the region’s air travel news, has added more details to an earlier report that Russian investors are interested in reviving the name Adria Airways, with the collapsed carrier’s remaining assets – its name, some training manuals and the all-important air operator's certificate (AOC) – due to be auctioned this Thursday, with a starting price of €45,000, although this is expected to be exceeded since the average price of an AOC in Europe is €300,000.

According to the report, the  group of investors from Russian and the United Arab Emirates are, linked to Sukhoi, the Russian aircraft manufacturer, and would be using a fleet of Superjet 100. As Oleg Evdokimov, a representative of the Russian investors, told RTV SLO: "Adria Airways’ certificates allow us to operate not only out of Ljubljana but from any airport in Europe. The Slovenian market is very interesting. There is no real competition. Currently, it is only possible to fly to just ten destinations and the fares are very expensive.”

Mr Evdokimov  went on to say “We plan to start in the summer with the primary task of providing flights for Slovenians and Austrians (from Villach and Klagenfurt) to primary vacation destinations. We plan to serve these routes with SSJ aircraft. The second goal is to compete with "weak" competitors such as Lufthansa and Swiss on three important destinations from Ljubljana: Zurich, Munich and Frankfurt.”

More details can be found at Ex-Yu Aviation.

15 Jan 2020, 13:35 PM

With Adria Airways assets due to be auctioned next week, at 11:00 on Thursday 23 January, Ex-Yu Aviation reports that a group of unnamed Russian investors are interested in purchasing the collapsed airline’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and reviving the name to run services within Europe, using Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. As reported earlier on TSN, the starting price for Adria’s assets, which include various training manuals in addition to the AOC, has been set at €45,000. However, a new owner would need to take on a number of obligations that remain after the carrier’s bankruptcy.

The airline’s previous owner, the Luxembourg-based German fund 4k Invest, purchased Adria from the Slovenian government in 2016 for €100,000. Since Adria’s collapse in 2019 an investigation into the role of 4K Invest and possible mismanagement has been launched, although the fund’s decision to liquidate its assets is complicating this.

While the closure of the national carrier lead to a 60% fall in Slovenia’s international seat capacity, a number of airlines have stepped in to fill the more profitable gaps in the schedule, while the Slovenian government is said to be in talks with regard to subsidising some other routes.

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