News from Poland, Russia and Colombia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on February 28, 2012

POLAND – Poland, U.S. tussle over Auschwitz barrack on loan

A barrack that once housed doomed prisoners at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

WARSAW | Polish and American officials are engaged in intense talks to determine the fate of a sensitive object: a barrack that once housed doomed prisoners at the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp that is now on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Poland is demanding the return of the barrack, which has been on loan to the Washington museum for more than 20 years and is an important part of its permanent exhibition.

But the American museum is resisting the demand, saying the valuable object shouldn’t be moved partly because it is too fragile.

“Due to the barrack’s size and the complexity of its installation, removing and transporting it to Poland presents special difficulties, including potentially damaging the artifact,” the Holocaust museum said in a statement to the Associated Press.

“Both the Museum and our Polish partners have been actively discussing various proposals, and we remain committed to continue working with them to resolve this matter.” …

The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, Piotr Cywinski, accuses the U.S. institution of violating the terms of a 20-year loan on the barrack, saying the loan expired in 2009.

“We have indicated many times that this half of the barrack must return, that there is no other solution in accordance with the law,” Mr. Cywinski said.

“It’s a very important object, not just for Washington but for the integrity of Birkenau, the last authentic site of Holocaust remembrance among all the major death camps.”

The U.S. Holocaust museum confirms that the 20-year loan on the barrack began in 1989, but says that it was a renewable loan – and notes that Polish law was changed since then.

RUSSIA – Thousands form human chain in anti-Putin protest

Thousands of people wear white ribbons as they form a 10-mile human chain around the Moscow inner ring road during an opposition protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the upcoming elections in Moscow on February 26, 2012.

MOSCOW | Thousands of protesters held hands to form a 10-mile human chain encircling central Moscow on Sunday to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as he prepares to extend his rule for six more years.

Mr. Putin, who was Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, is running for a third, now six-year, term in a March 4 election. He is expected to win easily against four Kremlin-approved challengers, but an unprecedented wave of protests has undermined his image as a strong leader who rules with broad public support.

Sunday’s protest appeared to have drawn close to the 34,000 people that opposition activists estimated were needed to complete the chain along the Garden Ring, a wide road that makes a loop around the city center. Almost all of the people standing in the wet snow wore the white ribbons that have become a symbol of the peaceful anti-Putin protest movement. …

Participants in Sunday’s demonstration held up white signs in the shape of a car’s license plate that said, “We’ll drive out Putin.” The number on the plate was 04 03 12, the date of the election.

After the demonstration ended, about a thousand activists moved to a square near the Kremlin where festivities were under way for Maslenitsa, or Butter Week. The holiday, similar to Carnival in the West, precedes Lent in the Orthodox Christian calendar and ushers out the winter.

“We believe that Russia will not withstand six more years of political winter,” opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov said. “Everything will freeze completely. Therefore, we have to do everything we can to prevent that.”

The protest ended with the activists releasing bunches of white balloons.

COLOMBIA – Colombia’s FARC to give up kidnapping

Colombia’s main rebel group, commonly known as the FARC, announced it is freeing the last of the government captives it has held for years, and will abandon the practice of kidnapping.

The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said on its website that it will free 10 “prisoners of war” and says they are the last in their control.

The government says the rebel group holds at least 12.

A liberation could help advance toward negotiations to end the long civil conflict since the government says the group known as the FARC must free all the hostages it holds before talks can start. However the FARC did not say it was abandoning hostilities. …

Latin America’s last major rebel movement, the FARC was founded in 1964. It has been releasing captives piecemeal since early 2008. The new statement assured that the group will give up the practice of kidnapping.

The FARC has waged a 47-year revolutionary war against the Colombian government and numbers about 8,000 militants, according to the country’s Defence Ministry. The group has been hit hard in recent years by Colombia’s U.S.-backed military.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at on February 26 and Feb. 26, and on Feb. 26.)