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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #4
02/02/14-02/07/14

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

On Thursday co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group announced that Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart have agreed to minimize ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh during the Winter Olympics. This announcement comes after several weeks of increased tensions between the countries over disputed territory.

Azerbaijan

Country News Digest
Russia

Asbarez

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Global Post

The independent news television channel Dozhd is in danger of closing after posting a controversial online poll last week over whether or not the Soviet Union should have surrendered Leningrad during World War II to avoid a siege. The survey immediately provoked ire from government officials and others and has led to the channel being dropped by every major satellite broadcaster. Articles: RIA Novosti BBC

Two Georgians serving sentences for espionage in Russia have been granted early release, according to an announcement made Wednesday by Georgian officials. The two former inmates were arrested after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and sentenced to eight and nine years respectively. Georgia’s authorities say they are now working to secure the release of an undisclosed number of Georgian citizens who remain imprisoned in Russia on similar charges.

Georgia

Civil.ge

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At least twelve people were killed and five others injured when a train and a minibus collided in northeastern Ukraine on Wednesday. Reports from the site of the collision near the town of Vyry say that the bus was dragged approximately 1,000 feet from the tracks and that it was mainly transporting teachers and children from school. The cause of the collision is still under investigation, although some reports claim that the minibus driver ignored an oncoming train signal.

Ukraine

RFE/RL

CNN

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RFE/RL

Retired police colonel Khachik Martirosyan was arrested on Wednesday on charges of spying for Azerbaijan. Matirosyan has been accused of selling Armenian military secrets to Azerbaijan, after the Armenian National Security Service intercepted the information en route to Baku. Matirosyan could be found guilty of high treason, which carries a 15-year prison sentence.

Armenia

RFE/RL

Articles:

“Abel,” a feature film based on the disputed presidential election of 2010, began production late last week in Minsk. The film is sponsored by Belarus’s Ministry of Culture, and is produced by a private company owned by a functionary of the pro-government movement White Rus. “Abel’s” producer says it will present a “true” picture of the 2010 post-election protests that led to the imprisonment of opposition candidates and a fresh round of western sanctions against Belarus.

Belarus

Global Post

Belarus Digest

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RFE/RL

During a trip to Berlin, Prime Minister Erdogan asked Germany to give stronger support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU. German Chancellor Merkel remained tentative in her assessment of Turkey’s chances, claiming she was skeptical about Turkey’s progress on most issues still pending in the accession talks. Merkel added that she thought Germany could help Turkey in judicial matters after its recent corruption scandal. Articles: Euro News Bloomberg

Turkey

Prime Minister Iurie Leanca has called a referendum held on February 2 in the autonomous region of Gagauzia “more than regrettable.” According to Gagauzia’s electoral commission, 97% of voters opposed the country’s deepening ties with the EU, 98% expressed a desire for closer ties to the Russia-led Customs Union, and 99% endorsed the region’s right to declare independence should Moldova choose to join Romania. Observers say the results are symptomatic of the region’s political marginalization. Articles: RFE/RL All Moldova

Moldova

Russian Defense Minister Shoigu announced that Russia will reinforce the air force base in Kyrgyzstan, cooperating with the local Kyrgyz military in order to respond to new threats after the US withdraws from Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz military will receive updated equipment and support from the Russian military securing their border with Afghanistan, as well as four ground attack aircraft, in 2014. Articles: RT AzerNews

Kyrgyzstan

Country News Digest

Afghan President Karzai’s spokesman announced that Karzai has been holding secret talks with the Taliban to try to negotiate peaceful settlement three weeks ago. Western and Afghan officials say the talks have not yet proven useful, but Karzai remains optimistic. Analysts think that Karzai’s willingness to negotiate with the Taliban is a result of an increasingly tense relationship with the US as troops are withdrawn. Articles: Reuters Bloomberg

Afghanistan

Baikonur aerodrome has released its first rocket of 2014, which launched a resupply vehicle towards Russia’s International Space Station. The vehicle’s 2.5 million tonnes of cargo include a container of goldfish as well as flatworms and mosquito larvae. The creatures are to be subjects in a RussianJapanese experiment examining how closed ecological systems respond to zero-gravity conditions.

Kazakhstan

On Thursday the US issued penalties to over three dozen individuals and companies for allegedly evading international sanctions against Iran. Spokesman for Iran’s UN mission Alireza Miryusefi criticized the Obama administrations actions, calling them “a lack of the US government good faith,” referring to recent cooperation between Iran and Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran

Tengri News

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Voice of Russia

New York Times

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Reuters

Tajikistan’s national energy company announced on Thursday that contrary to statements it made last week, electricity prices would not rise in the coming months, and that it had begun to pay off the roughly $4 million owed to its employees in overdue salaries. Last week the company announced that its inability to pay its workers would necessitate a rise in electricity tariffs, causing non-governmental organizations to question its financial management.

Tajikistan

In an address to his Cabinet of Ministers on Thursday President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced plans to increase the country’s export of electricity to Afghanistan. Electricity export is one of the country’s leading branches of the economy and is expected to increase by 27.4 billion kilowatt/hours by 2020. Trend.az

Turkmenistan

Avesta

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Asia Plus

Articles:

AzerNews

Uzbekistan had to suspend shipments of gas to the South Kazakhstan Oblast this week because of a technical problem with the a gas pipeline. Pipeline management were forced to drastically reduce the gas flow, leaving thousands of residents of Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan without gas for cooking and heating. Authorities on Wednesday said that the pipe had been repaired and that they were resuming normal operations. Articles: Tengri News 24

Uzbekistan

Mongolian lawmakers have ignored pressure from US legislators, who are calling on them to rescind travel restrictions on an American businessman seeking to leave the country. Justin Kapla, the former president of mining firm SouthGobi Sands, has not been allowed to leave Mongolia since October 2012, when he was identified as a witness in a high-level corruption case.

Mongolia

Bloomberg

Articles:

Cihan

The central bank of Estonia has warned citizens to avoid purchasing Bitcoins or other digital currencies, as the user must assume all risks, and that the currencies could be little more than Ponzi schemes. Part of this fear is likely related to Estonia’s economic recession in 2008, reflecting caution on behalf of banks who want investors to avoid risky, unregulated currencies.

Country News Digest

Estonia

Bloomberg

Articles:

CoinDesk

Prague’s mayor Hudecek announced Wednesday that local authorities would not help organize Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s trip to Prague in April. Hudecek said they would not arrange any social events or receive him at the town hall, and that Yanukovych would not land at their airport. Prague authorities are also donating 500,000 Czech koruna in humanitarian aid to support the Ukrainian opposition. Articles: Moscow Times RFE/RL

Czech Republic

Ukrainian opposition figure Dmitry Bulatov has taken refuge in a Lithuanian hospital after surfacing from a week-long abduction. Doctors at the hospital in Vilnius have confirmed that Bulatov’s wounds are consistent with torture. After pressure from foreign diplomats, Ukrainian authorities have agreed to drop charges of organizing “mass disorder” previously leveled against Bulatov.

Lithuania

RFE/RL

Articles:

Authorities in the region of Nitra have come under fire for their handling of a neoNazi attack outside of a bar in October 2013. The district prosecutors failed to make arrests in the case until media outlets published a video of the beatings last week. The suspects have been released as the investigation continues. One of their targets was reportedly the owner of the bar, an activist with the Slovak non-governmental watchdog organization People Against Racism.

Slovakia

Reuters

SBS

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Slovak Spectator

Latvia stands to lose millions of euros due to a Russian ban on imported pork. The ban, instituted last week in response to a swine flu outbreak in Lithuania, will cost Latvia around 13 million euros, according to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Latvia

The Hungarian legislature has approved a bilateral agreement with Russia, which will see Russian atomic energy company Rosatom construct two new reactors at Hungary’s only power plant. Opponents are criticizing the deal for its opaque bidding process and its potential to increase Hungarian dependence on Russian energy.

Hungary

Baltic Times

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Baltic Course

ABC News

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BBC

On Thursday the US government returned to Poland an 18th century painting that was looted by Nazi forces during World War II. The painting, titled “St. Saint Philip Baptizing a Servant of Queen Kandaki” and vauled at $40,000, was returned to Poland’s US ambassador in New York after missing for 75 years.

Poland

Fox News

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On Thursday Romanian Finance Minister Daniel Chitiou announced his resignation amid graft allegations against his wife and loss of support from his Liberal Party. Chitiou denies the resignation is due to his wife’s scandal, and party sources told media that lost support of his policy after failing to inform party officials of plans to reschedule bank debts to low income borrowers.

Romania

Reuters

Reuters

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Straits Times

Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin told journalists Friday that while he does not expect a decision on Bulgaria’s Schengen bid to be announced before July, he does think this accession issue would be resolved by the end of 2014. Vigenin said he was optimistic about further negotiations later in the year, but that the European Parliament elections in May would affect the timeline of further discussions. Articles: BSANNA News Novinite

Country News Digest
Croatia

Bulgaria

Retired Croatian general Ante Gotovina has been removed from the US Treasury Department’s blacklist after nearly eleven years. Gotovina was indicted by the Hague Tribunal in 2001 for war crimes allegedly committed following the 1995 Croatian military offensive Operation Storm. In 2011 he was convicted on eight counts and sentenced to 24 years in jail, but he was fully acquitted in 2012. Slobodna Dalmacija Articles: Dalje A controversy has erupted in Montenegro regarding a church fresco in Podgorica that depicts Tito, Marx, Engels, and others roasting in the flames of hell. The painting was done in the newly built Church of Resurrection and has led to debates among priests and believers, many of whom feel that the painting is inappropriate and that religion and politics should remain separate. Others feel the painting gives a fair representation of crimes committed under communism.

Albania’s environmental ministry has announced a two-year ban on all hunting in order to protect endangered fauna, including brown bears and eagles. The ministry says it plans to use the two-year moratorium to establish stronger coordination mechanisms with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which issues hunting licenses, in order to facilitate legal and sustainable hunting once the ban elapses.

Albania

Montenegro

Shekulli

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Phys.org

Raw Story

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News Observer

Due to extreme winter weather more than 1,000 people have been evacuated from cars, buses and trains by army, police, and emergency personnel in northern Serbia on Saturday. Snowfall and wind have created snowdrifts up to 3 ½ meters high in some areas, causing the government to close roads and ban boat travel on the Danube River.

Serbia

ABC News

Articles:

Ongoing student protests demanding the resignation of a university dean in Pristina turned violent when police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd on Friday. Between five and thirty police officers and a dozen protesters were injured when students starting throwing rocks and paint at the dean’s office. Students are protesting because professors are accused of publishing work in fake online journals to receive academic credentials.

Kosovo

RFE/RL

Reuters

Articles:

RFE/RL

On Saturday Macedonia announced April 13 as the date for the next presidential elections. The current coalition government is led by the VMRO-DPMNE party, though the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party, which represents the large ethnic Albanian population in Macedonia, has threatened to leave the coalition.

Macedonia

Over three days last week, Slovenia was hit by a series of severe blizzards, which left about 120,000 households without power and 1.2 million acres of forest ravaged. The southwestern part of the country was hit hardest, with railways, cars, gas stations, and ATM machines icing over. The Slovenian government has requested material and technical assistance from its neighbors under the EU civil protection mechanism.

Slovenia

Focus News

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Reuters

Reuters

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BBC

Country News Digest
Workers in the northern Bosnia & town of Tuzla have Herzegovina been protesting against unemployment and governmental corruption since Tuesday, after factories were bankrupted and closed due to privatization. Police have responded aggressively, throwing tear gas at the protesters, sparking parallel demonstrations in other cities across the country. The unemployment rate in the country currently stands at 27.5%.
Al Jazeera

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ABC

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