Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #6

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

On Friday Azerbaijani Energy Minister Natig Aliyev met with members of the Caspian-European Club, where at a press conference he announced Azerbaijan’s intentions to increase energy production. Aliyev told media that a predicted 43 million tons of oil will be extracted from Azerbaijan in 2014, and production is intended to increase by 2020.


Country News Digest




The value of the Russian ruble against the eurodollar basket has fallen to historic lows this week, forcing Russia to cancel bond auctions for the third time this month. The ruble has fallen 6% against the euro-dollar basket (8% against the dollar) in 2014 alone, and is hovering near the upper limits of its target corridor. Should the ruble stray beyond the corridor, the central bank may need to intervene. Articles: RIA Novosti BusinessWeek

Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania announced Thursday that his country had accepted a proposal to join the EU military operation in the Central African Republic. Georgia will send a company-sized unit to the six-month mission, which was established by an EU resolution on February 10 and is due to begin in May. The Ministry’s decision is subject to approval from parliament. Georgia is currently the fifthlargest contributor to ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan.




Anywhere from 70-100 people were killed in Kyiv protests on Thursday alone, according to leaders of Ukraine’s opposition. The government puts Thursday’s death toll at 39. The EU and US announced sanctions on the Yanukovich regime late on Thursday; on Friday Yanukovich signed a deal with opposition leaders to hold early presidential elections before the end of the year, and parliament voted to release jailed opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko.





New York Times

The Armenian government has stated that construction of the Southern Armenian Railway could begin as early as 2016. The rail is expected to cost $3.2 billion, and while Dubai-based investment company Rasia FZE is still looking for investors, Chinese banks have already pledged to fund 60% of the project. Eventually, the rail is expected to link Armenia and Iran.




The Belarusian minister of agriculture announced Thursday that the country’s 2013 milk production fell short of the previous year’s level by 20,000 tons, a decline he hoped to reverse through a campaign to raise the per-cow milk output by roughly 1,000-1,500 tons within the next two years. He also said he was happy to comply with a recent Russian request to investigate whether Belarus was flouting free trade principles by oversubsidizing domestic milk production.






This week the Parliament approved a controversial new law that will allow the Ministry of Justice more control over the HSYK, Turkey’s judicial system. The justice minister will be able to initiate disciplinary procedures against HSYK members and appoint members to all three chambers of the board. Detractors say that this new law violates the separation of powers and rule of law and gives the executive too much power over the judiciary. Hurriyet Daily News Articles: Today’s Zaman


Moldova’s Labor Ministry announced Wednesday that it would offer job placement services and requalification courses to former migrant laborers now banned from entering the Russian Federation. According to data made public by the Ministry on Tuesday, 21,000 Moldovans are prohibited from entering Russia due to alleged administrative violations. Moldova is heavily dependent on the roughly $1 billion it receives from labor remittances annually. Articles: Moldova.org All Moldova


Kyrgyz police on Monday arrested six people on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks. A representative of the State Committee for National Security said that some had been trained in Syrian camps and were planning attacks in Bishkek and Osh. All six suspects are Osh residents and were arrested while attempting armed house burglaries to fund their future attacks. Articles: RIA Novosti UPI


Country News Digest

On Tuesday Afghan officials reported that two roadside bomb attacks killed six Afghan soldiers and three civilians. In Kapisa Province, a blast destroyed an army vehicle and killed six soldiers who were returning from a firefight with militants in the Alasay district. In Paktia Province, a roadside bomb killed three civilians and wounded seven others. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks yet. Articles: Washington Post Global Post


Banks in Kazakhstan’s financial capital of Almaty have seen a rush of customers seeking to withdraw their deposits this week, after the country’s currency was devalued by nearly 19% on February 11. Public concern over the consequences of devaluation appears to have been heightened by a series of anonymous text messages that began circulating last week, warning of the impending failure of three of the country’s major banks.


On February 20 Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi confirmed that Iran has re-opened direct diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom through non-resident Charges d’Affaires and officials. Bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries ceased in November 2011 after a group of Iranians stormed the UK’s Tehran embassy.








President Rahmon hosted CSTO general secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha in Dushanbe on Wednesday, where the two discussed efforts to secure Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan ahead of the NATO withdrawal. Bordyuzha noted that while he was impressed with Tajikistan’s efforts to equip its border patrol and establish new checkpoints, the country would require “fairly serious help” in preventing a spillover of violence into the Central Asian region.


On February 20 the Turkmen government opened up a consulate in Aktau, a city in western Kazakhstan. According to press sources, Aktau is an important city for Turkmenistan due to its position on the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railroad and the presence of a large Turkmen diaspora in the region. Times of Central Asia Articles: Trend.az




Asia Plus

The General Prosecutor’s office detained three close associates of Gulnara Karimova during a search of her apartment for potential involvement in large-scale tax evasion and concealing foreign currency. Karimova has been tied to moneylaundering investigations in Sweden and Switzerland and her media-holding company Terra Group is being investigated for bribe-taking.


Mongolia and Taiwan signed an agreement that formalized their future cooperation in the generation of renewable energy. The Memorandum of Understanding that was signed this week in Taipei stipulates that the two countries cooperate in the areas of solar PV, wind power, energy audits and energy efficiency management.




RIA Novosti

China Post

Articles: Energy Live News

After more than 20 years of debate, Russia and Estonia signed a treaty on Tuesday setting their joint border. Tallinn and Moscow had been at odds over various issues regarding the treaty, including Estonia’s desire to include language related to Soviet occupation, and fears by Russia of discrimination towards Estonia’s ethnic Russian population. The treaty still needs to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries. Articles: ABC Reuters

Country News Digest


President Milos Zeman has opposed the privatization of the Budejovicky Budvar brewery, because it could be taken over by AnheuserBusch InBev. Budvar is the only national company in the Czech Republic, and has been fighting with AB InBev since 1907 about the use of the Budweiser name. It won a trademark dispute on Wednesday in Portugal granting it exclusive rights to the brand. Articles: Yahoo Finance Prague Monitor

Czech Republic

Lithuania will hold a referendum to determine whether or not to renew a law that bans the sale of land to foreigners. Analysts believe the referendum will garner the necessary 50% of votes to pass based on opinion polling that shows the law has broad popular support. Renewing the law will put Lithuania in direct violation of EU regulations which hold that member countries cannot restrict the free flow of capital.


The Foreign Minister of Slovakia has joined the chorus of politicians calling for action against the individuals responsible for the escalation of violence in Ukraine this week. Miroslav Lajčák called on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to engage the opposition in substantive talks and emphasized Slovakia’s national interest in a stable, democratic Ukraine.




EU Observer

Slovak Spectator

Articles: Wall Street Journal

A map appearing in a Latvian textbook has soured the country’s diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan this week. The map marks the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh with the flag of the separatist regime. In response, Azerbaijan presented Latvian diplomats with an official note of protest.


The Foreign Minister of Hungary has voiced his support for the imposition of economic sanctions on Ukraine if its political leaders fail to resolve the conflict between protesters and the police that is playing out on the streets of Kyiv. Hungarian leaders have stressed the need for Ukraine’s leaders to respect the rights of the protestors and has condemned any use of violence in the conflict.



Articles:Public Radio Armenia




Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday to hold meetings with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych aimed at ending unrest in Ukraine. Sikorski, at the behest of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, led the mission to Kyiv with his French and German counterparts, who are engaging in ongoing negotiations between parties.


The Romanian government since September has been confronting the issue of stray dogs in its capital Bucharest and reported that approximately 250 people were bitten in January, compared to over 800 in January 2013. A total of 6,756 dogs out of an estimated 64,000 have been taken in since September, of which over 4,900 have been adopted.




Voice of Russia

Romania Insider


Washington Post

On Saturday in Sofia, almost 300 right-wing extremists marched in honor of a proNazi Bulgarian World War II general who was known for his anti-Semitic repression, Hristo Lukov. The mayor of Sofia outlawed their march, but the marchers changed their route and continued without police interference. The government has accused nationalist groups of increasing ethnic tensions and promoting racism and xenophobia. Articles: Washington Post Jerusalem Post

Country News Digest


Croatia’s parliament has postponed its review of a controversial labor bill which, among other things, would make it easier for employers to terminate employees without warning. In the meantime, the Ministry of Labor will seek an agreement with the country’s unions, who have threatened to strike if the bill goes through. Dubrovnik Press



Over 5,000 Albanians took part in a protest on Thursday led by the opposition Democratic Party. Party head Lulzim Basha called the protest the beginning of a new movement, and blamed Socialist prime minister Edi Rama for the country’s failure to secure EU candidate status. The EU says candidate status will be contingent upon progress in fighting corruption and organized crime, problems Rama says became entrenched under his Democratic predecessor.


Nine riot policemen were injured and 20 protesters detained as a result of antigovernment riots in Podgorica last weekend. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowds, who were lobbing stones at the police. The protesters said they were fighting against high rates of unemployment, economic mismanagement, and governmental corruption, while showing solidarity with their Bosnian counterparts.




SOT News

Balkan Insight


Al Jazeera

On Thursday the Serbian government formed a working group in preparation for the country’s upcoming chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2015. The working group is tasked with coordinating activities for the chairmanship, including greater cooperation on military issues, economy, environmental protection and human rights.


Kosovo celebrated six years of independence on Monday with a reception in Ankara and a congratulatory message from US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry confirmed America’s commitment to an independent, sovereign and multiethnic Kosovo. In turkey, Kosovar Deputy Prime Minister Tahiri said that Kosovo had made progress in terms of democracy and was grateful for foreign support.








An explosion in the Macedonian village of Tetovo on Sunday injured five Roma children, who are being treated for injuries in the capital Skopje. Authorities have arrested three suspects connected to the explosion, but have not yet determined the type of device that caused the explosion or possible motives of the suspects.


Washington Post


Fox News

In what has been dubbed a “miracle”, Slovenia’s men’s ice hockey team advanced to the quarterfinals in the Sochi Olympics, where they were defeated by the Swedes. The team defeated the likes of Austria and Slovakia, surprising international viewers and Slovenians alike. As Slovenian forward Marcel Rodman commented on the game with Austria, “I got a text message saying that half of the nation was on vacation to watch the game.” Articles: USA Today NHL


Country News Digest
The EU announced it would Bosnia & shift its focus in Bosnia Herzegovina from constitutional changes to economic and judicial reform to address the root causes of recent protests. It also called for Bosnian leaders to heed their citizens’ demands for more transparency after the Enlargement Commissioner met with Bosnian politicians and protest delegations. Until now, the EU has primarily focused on resolving inter-ethnic strife within the country, which has prevented Bosnian EU membership. ABC



The Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies is a U.S. Department of Education Title VI-funded National Resource Center (NRC) that strives to increase understanding and appreciation of the cultures and challenges of the region stretching from Central Europe to the Pacific and from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas

© 2013 by Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies; School of Foreign Service; Georgetown University * CERES is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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