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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #1


01/12/14-01/17/14

Contributors: -Risa Chubinsky -Glyn Cozart -Joseph Gates -Thomas Hyde -Katharine Quinn-Judge

Azerbaijans state-owned oil company SOCAR shut off exports of natural gas to Russia for technical reasons on Monday morning, according to Russian state energy company Gazprom. Since 2010 Azerbaijan has provided Russia with up to 3 million cubic meters of gas daily. SOCAR supplied Russia with 1.37 billion cubic meters in 2013, down 31.5% from 2012. Articles: RIA APA

Azerbaijan

Country News Digest


Russia

On Wednesday, a federal siege in the Russian republic of Dagestan left seven dead and five wounded. Three of those killed were Russian security force members; the other four were Islamist militants, including Marat Idrisov, the man responsible for last months bombing in Pyatigorsk. The siege was part of a regional security sweep, as authorities step up security measures ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Articles: CBS BBC

ventilated gas heater. but his family has suggested it may have been a politically motivated killing.
RIA Novosti

Officials in Georgia announced Thursday that the body of former prime minister Zurab Zhvania would be exhumed in efforts to determine the cause of his death. Zhvania, a key figure in the 2003 Rose Revolution, was appointed Prime Minister in 2004, and died in 2005 from carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigators at the time blamed his death on a poorly

Georgia

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The Ukrainian Culture Ministry has written a letter to leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, warning that they must cease holding open-air services in Kievs Independence Square, or face legal repercussions. The ministry called the services a violation of Ukrainian legislation regarding the freedom of conscience and religious meetings, but the churchs Archbishop has said the services were directly requested by the pro-European protesters in the square.

Ukraine

RFE/RL

RFE/RL

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Interfax

This week, the Armenian government approved the sale of 20% of its shares in joint Russian-Armenia gas company ArmRusgasprom to Russian gas corporation Gazprom. This sale means that Russia now controls 100% of ArmRusgasprom. The original agreement between the two countries regarding the sale and purchase was signed early last December during a visit from Russian President Putin.

Armenia

Armenpress

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Russia has taken steps towards establishing its first airbase in Belarus, which it hopes to open in 2015. The move has prompted concern from Belaruss NATO-member neighbors, as well as a modest public protest on Thursday in Warsaw. Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on the joint protection of the two countries airspace in 2009. They have yet to agree on financial terms for the new base, but observers say Moscows eagerness gives Belarus considerable leverage.

Belarus

News.am

EurasiaNet

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Hartia97.com

Prime Minister Erdogan is calling an investigative reporter a traitor after he published leaked documents about a corruption scandal surrounding his administration on Twitter. Erdogans previously tight control over the media is slipping, as reports of purges of police officers investigating the corruption and documentation of bribes to public officials continue to surface. Since the scandal broke, almost 2,000 policemen have been removed or reassigned. Articles: New York Times LA Times

Turkey

Moldovas CCA, the official body in charge of media regulation, has excluded three major news channels from the list of channels that private cable providers are required to air. Opponents of the measure call it politically-motivated censorship. Employees of one of the channels, Jurnal TV, held protests outside of CCA headquarters on Monday and Tuesday. The OSCE and US Embassy have also called on Moldova to reconsider the measure, stressing the need for media pluralism. Articles: All Moldova Moldova.org

Moldova

At least three border guards are wounded in a shootout on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, just days after both governments signed an agreement to ease tensions on the disputed border. The CSTO, Russias military bloc that has sworn to provide security for the Central Asian region, has been notably absent. Domestic political actors claim the CSTOs absence is causing it to lose credibility in the region. Articles: EurasiaNet 24.kg

Kyrgyzstan

Country News Digest

The Afghan government has awarded the license for the Balkhab copper deposit to Afghan Gold and Minerals Company Ltd. The license area is believed to hold more than 100 million tons of copper. AGMCs joint venture, the TurkishAfghan Mining Company, also won a tender to develop the Badakhshan gold project in northern Afghanistan. Project will not begin for 18 months. Articles: Khaama Press RFE/RL

Afghanistan

The North Caspian Operating Company, which runs Kashagan oilfield, has said it will have the results of a test determining the cause of Octobers gas leak in February. After 13 years and 50 billion dollars worth of development, the giant offshore field began operating in September, only to be shut down within weeks after the discovery of the leak. Preliminary tests have suggested the leak was caused by microscopic cracks in steel pipelines.

Kazakhstan

Sources from Iran and Russia have recently confirmed that Tehran and Moscow are finalizing an oil-for-goods deal worth $1.5 billion per month, where Iran would supply Russia with up to 500,000 barrels per day in exchange for goods and equipment from Moscow. The alleged deal has raised international concern as it would undermine international sanctions imposed on Irans oil exports.

Iran

Reuters

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Azzatyq

Reuters

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Al Jazeera

After a shoot-out between the border patrols of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan left several wounded on January 11, officials from the two countries border authorities met Wednesday to sign a protocol regarding conduct in disputed border territories. Officials agreed to withdraw extra troops that had been stationed in the conflict zone since the 11th by Friday. Observers have called on the two countries to demarcate their vague Soviet-era borders.

Tajikistan

At a cabinet meeting on January 10, Turkmen President Gerbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced the reshuffling of several key government posts. Turkmen state media reported the replacement of the energy minister and deputy energy minister, chief of the state-owned Turkmengaz gas company, the head of the state central bank, and the chairman of taxation services. RFE/RL

Turkmenistan

Ozodi

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Asia Plus

Articles: Times of Central Asia

Gulnara Karimovas home in Switzerland was broken into by exiled Uzbek dissidents, who claimed that the home was full of items taken from the Uzbek national museum illegally. The group posted photos of the items online, documenting pieces that a former official in the Uzbek culture ministry confirmed were paintings originally placed in state collections. Karimova accused her security of letting the dissidents into her home in order to hurt her reputation. Articles: Hurriyet Daily News Telegraph

Uzbekistan

One week after the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolias rating outlook was downgraded from stable to negative by Moodys Investor Service, the lender announced the sale of Mongolias first Dim Sum Bond. The bond, which is denominated in Chinese currency, is expected to yield 10.25%, according to an insider.

Mongolia

Finance Asia

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Bloomberg

Russia criticized Estonia for burying Estonian Nazi Harald Nugiseks, who fought against Soviet troops in World War II, with full military honors. Russian officials claim that the burial glorifies Nazism in Estonia, but Estonians view Nazi collaboration as an unfortunate necessity in the fight for Estonian independence.

Country News Digest

Estonia

RIA Novosti

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UPI

Czech journalist and former dissident Petruka ustrov was denied a visa from the Belarusian Embassy in Prague. She was planning on attending a meeting commemorating late Czech President Havel in Minsk. She is one of the cofounders of the Civic Belarus group as well as an election monitor, and is known for her support of civil society development in Belarus. Articles: Prague Post Charter 97

Czech Republic

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, has promised to resign if the country fails to join the Eurozone by January 1, 2015. The government has approved a bill that provides for the adoption of the euro in a years time. It remains unclear whether the popular support exists to pass the bill, or whether Lithuania will be able to meet the strict economic entry criteria.

Lithuania

Slovakias fourth direct presidential election since independence has proven to be a popular one, for candidates at least. A total of 15 people have gathered the 15,000 signatures or 15 parliamentary endorsements necessary to stand for election. Slovak citizens will take to the polls on March 15, with a potential run-off round slated for March 29.

Slovakia

RIA

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Voice of Russia

Business Standard

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ABC News

European Central Bank Articles:

Latvia has successfully completed its transition to the Eurozone this week with the closing of a two-week period of dual circulation of lats and euros. Beginning on Wednesday, the euro is the only legal tender in the Baltic country. The date marks the culmination of efforts that started in November, when Latvias national bank began distributing euro banknotes to banks, retailers, and other businesses. Latvia is the 18th EU member state to join the Eurozone.

Latvia

Hungary and Russia deepened their energy ties this week. In a sign of warming relations between the two countries, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded a deal that will grant Russian nuclear power company Rosatom the contract to construct two new units to Hungarys largest nuclear power plant.

Hungary

RTT News

RIA

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Reuters

On Wednesday, new Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak announced plans to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan from approximately 1,600 to 500 by May of this year. This plan expedites Polands previous timeline for troop withdrawals, which foresaw the retention of approximately 1,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2014.

Poland

The Constitutional Court of Romania rejected a proposed law granting immunity to elected officials charged with corruption while still in office and criminalizing libel on Wednesday. The vote, which passed parliament in December, was heavily criticized by President Traian Basescu and Western governments.

Romania

Reuters

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RFE/RL

Washington Post

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World Bulletin

Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev made a threeday visit to China this week, the first by a Bulgarian head of state in 15 years. Plevneliev and Xi Jinping agreed to double trade volume over the next five years. Plevneliev offered up a range of business opportunities for Chinese firms, including the construction of the planned Black Sea motorway, and the concession of Black Sea and Danube ports. Articles: Balkan Insight Sofia Globe

Country News Digest


Croatia

Bulgaria

A Zagreb court ruled last week that Josef Perkovic, a former Croatian secret police chief, could be extradited to Germany, where he is accused of complicity in murder. Perkovic is thought to have plotted the death of Yugoslav dissident Stjepan Djurekovic, who was killed in Bavaria in 1983. Perkovics

defense and the Zagreb County Prosecutor have both appealed the extradition on technical grounds.
Dalje.com

Articles:

Deutsche Welle

The Council of Europes commissioner for human rights has called on Albania to intensify judicial reform, saying that corruption in the judiciary undermines public trust in justice and the rule of law in Albania. The CoE called for the increased independence of the High Council of Justice, and said the General Prosecutor should be subject to majority approval by parliament. Transparency International ranks Albania as the most corrupt country in the Balkans.

Albania

The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry has stated that it would like to join diplomatic offices with other countries in the region, following the Scandinavian model. To this end, it has signed an agreement with Macedonia to join diplomatic and consular offices. Montenegro signed a similar agreement in 2007 with Serbia, who is now pushing for joint diplomatic missions as well.

Montenegro

Balkan Insight

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Koha Jone

Turkish Weekly

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B92

On Tuesday, Serbias organized crime prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic announced the arrest of two former state security officials, Ratko Romic and Milan Radonjic, in connection to the 1999 murder of opposition journalist Slavko Curuvija. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vucic announced that formal charges will be filed in March.

Serbia

Washington Post

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Reuters

Nearly 400,000 residents in and around Pristina are facing a water shortage because of drought and a fall in the water levels in the two artificial basins that supply the capital. Europes winter has been unusually warm and dry, and Kosovos underdeveloped weather monitoring caused it to be unprepared for such dramatic fluctuations. Even if it does snow in the next few weeks, experts say that the system is unprepared to capture the snow melts it needs.

Kosovo

Deutsche Welle

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Fox News

On January 8 the two top officials in Macedonias main opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), met with EU Commissioner of Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule in Brussels. Fule said Macedonia needed to raise its level of political discourse and conduct reforms on rule of law, press freedoms, and electoral processes for future successful EU integration.

Macedonia

Prime Minister Bratusek has announced that construction on the Sostanj coal-fired power plant will continue, even though its cost has now reached $2 billion. The project, financed largely by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, will replace two existing units at the plant, adding an additional 600 megawatt unit and increasing output capacity by 30%.

Slovenia

MINA

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Balkans.com

Reuters UK

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PennEnergy

Country News Digest


On Wednesday, the World Bosnia & Bank approved a $5.58 Herzegovina million grant to promote sustainable management of Bosnia and Herzegovinas forests. The grant is part of the Sustainable Forest and Landscape Management Project, which will help protect the countrys two million hectares of forest from degradation. The World Bank has stated that protecting Bosnia and Herzegovinas natural resources will bolster general economic development. World Bank

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Balkans.com

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