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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #7


02/24/14-02/28/14

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

On Friday the Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ismail Alper met Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov in Baku. In meetings Alper and Hasanov discussed bilateral military cooperation between the Azerbaijani and Turkish armed forces and a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.

Azerbaijan

Country News Digest


Russia

Azernews

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Trend.az

Riots broke out in Moscow this week after eight people arrested in connection with the Bolotnaya Square protests in 2012 were given sentences ranging from two and a half to four years in prison. Over two hundred people were temporarily detained, and several prominent activists and political figures, including Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina were arrested. Articles: New York Times RFE/RL

Vano Merabishvili, the general secretary of former president Mikheil Saakashvilis United National Movement, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail on Thursday. A Tbilisi City court determined that Merabishvili had exceeded official powers through the use of violence against protesters in May 2011, when he served as Interior Minister. Merabishvili has said the charge is politically motivated.

Georgia

Civil.ge

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A new interim government has taken control of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev and Berkut has been disbanded, yet Ukraine continues to face challenges. The economy is in a precarious state, and protests have broken out in the southern and eastern parts of the country, particularly in the Crimea, where ties to Russia are strongest. Presidential elections are set for May 25. Ousted President Yanukovych, speaking at a Moscow press conference on Friday, termed these illegal.

Ukraine

RFE/RL

CNN

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Washington Post

On Wednesday, the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Vangelis Meimarakis, arrived in Armenia for a two day visit. Meimarakis stopped in Tsitsernakaberd to commemorate the Armenian genocide, and also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Nalbandian to discuss Armenian-Greek relations. Meimarakis and Nalbandian discussed trade cooperation and decentralization as means of furthering ties between their countries.

Armenia

NA of RA

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The head of the staterun light industry entity Bellegprom and the director of a spinning mill have been arrested on suspicion of corruption, officials announced Thursday. Media reports have hinted that the arrests may reflect the governments desire to demonstrate a tough stance on corruption, in light of fears of a Ukraine-like scenario. President Aleksandr Lukashenka remarked on February 23 that if citizens catch us stealing, then we deserve a Maidan in Belarus.

Belarus

Armradio

RFE/RL

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Belnovosti

Conflict in Turkey escalated this week over audio tapes were released that allegedly include discussions between Prime Minister Erdogan and his son over how to hide large sums of money when police raided houses during a corruption inquiry in December. Erdogans office called these recordings a fabrication to undermine his party before elections next month. Turkish opposition is calling for his resignation.

Turkey

Bloomberg

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Euro News

The European Parliament on Thursday voted unanimously to cancel visa requirements for citizens of Moldova. The chair of the European Parliaments committee for civil liberties, justice, and internal affairs has announced that the visa-free regime could start as early as July 1. The regime would allow Moldovans visa-free entry into all participant countries in the Schengen agreement, including non-EU members. The decision is widely seen as a reward for Moldovas efforts at EU-inspired reforms. Articles: Europe Online Charter 97

Moldova

On Tuesday, the last US tanker aircraft supporting military operations in Afghanistan departed Kyrgyzstans air base, Manas. The agreement allowing the US to operate in Manas expires in July, and was initially opened in late 2001 to support the invasion of Afghanistan. US reports show that more than 33,000 missions have flown from Manas and that the facility was a critical transit point for international troops. Articles: RIA Novosti Trend.az

Kyrgyzstan

Country News Digest

President Obama ordered the Pentagon to plan for a full pullout of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 as a result of Afghan President Karzais unwillingness to sign an agreement allowing some US troops to stay. Obama said that while he would prefer a small military presence to stay post2014, he is prepared to install contingency plans if Karzai does not sign a bilateral security agreement. Articles: Guardian Reuters

Afghanistan

On Monday a district court in Almaty ordered the closure of the opposition newspaper Pravdivaya Gazeta, citing a series of alleged administrative violations. Representatives of the paper said they would appeal the decision to a higher court, and then, should this appeal prove unsuccessful, to the UN Human Rights commission. The OSCEs Representative on Freedom of the Media voiced concerns about the verdicts implications for media freedom in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan

On Thursday Reuters reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last year shelved the releasing of a report that may have contained more information regarding Irans nuclear program due to the thaw in Tehrans relationship with the West. IAEA denies the existence of such a report.

Iran

Respublika

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Azzatyq

Jerusalem Post

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Reuters

A court in Dushanbe ruled Tuesday that the editor of the independent newspaper Asia Plus must retract a controversial editorial and pay damages to the offended parties. The suit was filed by five of the countrys artistic unions, who objected to the authors use of the Lenin quote the intelligentsia are not the countrys brains; they are its sh-t. They claim the label sh-t ... does not conform to reality. Opposition figures say the charge stems from an order from above.

Tajikistan

On February 25 Secretary General of the Energy Charter Urban Rusnak met with Turkmen President Gerbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Ashgabat to discuss future bilateral cooperation on energy. In the meeting Rusnak stated that Turkmenistan is one of the most reliable sources of supplying natural gas to Europe, according to press reports. Cihan

Turkmenistan

Avesta

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Ozodi

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Azernews

The Uzbek government and Korean company Posco Engineering and Construction have signed a contract to reconstruct an 85 kilometer road section that stretches from Guzar to Beyneu. The deal is worth $175.2 million, and will replace two-lane asphalt pavement with four-lane cement. This is the second deal between the Uzbek government and Posco, and should be completed by 2016.

Uzbekistan

Trend.az

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AzerNews

The former leader of Rio Tintos Mongolian operations, Cameron McRae, has identified better relations with the Mongolian authorities as a factor that has improved the investment climate in Mongolia. Although he is no longer involved with the Oyu Tolgoi project, McRae praised the Mongolian governments decision to handle disputes with mining companies behind closed doors instead of in the political spotlight. Articles: Kincora Reuters

Mongolia

On Sunday, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip announced he would step down from his position March 4. Ansip has stated that the move is in anticipation of approaching elections in 2015, particularly allowing for the nomination of a replacement candidate from his own party which is facing waning support. Ansip was in office for nine years, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Estonian history. Articles: ABC Reuters UK

Country News Digest

Estonia

The Czech Olympic hockey coach Alois Hadamczik has resigned because of pressure from the Czech hockey federation for his poor performance at the Sochi games. The Czechs only recorded two victories in the tournament. Hadamczik came under fire for omitting many NHL players from the roster in favor of Czech league players, including his sonin-law. He has been the national teams coach since 2010. Articles: Prague Monitor ESPN

Czech Republic

Dalia Grybauskait, the President of Lithuania, has characterized Gazproms latest offer to the country as unacceptable. Although the offer promises much lower prices for gas supplies, the President criticizes the deal for the conditions that it would impose, including measures concerning Lithuanias arbitration proceedings against it in Stockholm and a legal requirement for Gazprom to divest its 37 percent stake in grid operator Amber Grid.

Lithuania

Slovakia is willing to join Poland in a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The games would be hosted in Krakow, Poland, but some alpine events would take place in Slovakias Low Tatras mountain range. Slovakia took the step this week of earmarking 177 million euros to be spent in preparation for the games.

Slovakia

Baltic Course

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Bloomberg

Slovak Spectator

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Businessweek

Vitalijs Pavlovs, a forward for Latvias Olympic ice-hockey team, tested positive for a banned substance and was expelled from the Olympic Games this week. Pavlovs claimed that the presence of the banned stimulant methylhexanamine in his test results was due to food supplements that his trained recommended.

Latvia

Hungary has condemned Ukraine after the countrys new leadership revoked a law that protected minority languages, including Hungarian. In all, nearly 150,000 Hungarian-speakers live in Ukraine. Hungarian populations concentrated in the region of Transcarpathia often complain of mistreatment by right-wing nationalist political groups.

Hungary

Toronto Sun

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Olympic.org

Focus

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Global Post

The Polish Foreign Ministry, in a joint statement with French and German counterparts on Friday, expressed the EUs concerns over the unstable situation developing in Crimea, Ukraine. The foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany last week led a mission to Kyiv to broker peace negotiations between the Yanukovych administration and opposition leaders.

Poland

On Tuesday Romanias ruling coalition government split, after the junior Liberal Party voted to withdraw its political alliance with the majority Social Democratic Party (SDP), citing disagreements with SDP leader and Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The split comes several months ahead of the countrys presidential election in November.

Romania

Global Post

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Reuters

Fox News

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Reuters

This week, Ukraines Verkhovna Rada canceled the State Language Policy Act, which grants the status of regional language to minority groups with more than 10% of residents in an area, in an effort to curb Russian influence. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Vigenin has criticized the move, claiming that Bulgarian communities in Ukraines southern Bessarabia region should be considered a regional language. Articles: Montreal Gazette Novinite

Country News Digest


Croatia

Bulgaria

The economy of Croatia shrank 1.2% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2013, the countrys statistics office reported Friday. 2013 is the fifth consecutive year in which the economy has shrunk, meaning Croatia is in its longest recession since the war of the 1990s. The EU has expressed concern about the countrys high public debt, and has asked the government to produce an action plan by May to tackle the problem. Articles: Dalje Bloomberg Bulgarian President Plevneliev paid a visit to Montenegro on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Plevneliev met with Montenegrin President Vujanovic to discuss bilateral relations, especially in the economic and cultural spheres, as well as Montenegros route to NATO membership, which Bulgaria has supported. Plevneliev also met with Montenegrin Prime Minister Djukanovic to discuss business investment opportunities.

The parliament initiated an amendment to the criminal code this week that would introduce a 10-year prison sentence for Albanians who take part in conflicts abroad. The amendment comes amid growing concerns about the apparent participation of Albanians in violence in the Middle East. The International Center for the Study of Radicalization, a London think tank, has estimated that about 300 Albanians have joined Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria.

Albania

Montenegro

Balkan Insight

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Focus

Focus

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Novinite

On February 24 Director General of Serbias stateowned natural gas company Srbijagas met with Chairman of the management committee of Russia gas-giant Gazprom in Sochi. The two representatives discussed cooperation in the oil and gas sectors, including Russian natural gas supply, underground storage, joint infrastructure, and the South Stream gas project.

Serbia

Mayoral elections in Mitrovica North have led to the election of a hardline Kosovo Serb, Goran Rakic, based on preliminary results. This vote was the fourth attempt in four months to elect a new mayor; one candidate was gunned down in January and another has been indicted for war crimes and murder in 2000. No incidents were reported during the election, in part because of EU and NATO presence to keep the peace.

Kosovo

EIN News

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UPI

Al Jazeera

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Balkan Insight

Macedonian police on Thursday arrested eight individuals suspected of the theft of over 162 piece of jewelry from Museum of Macedonia storage areas between 2011 and 2013. The suspects, among them a former senior heritage official and the head of the museum, are being charged with reckless conduct, abuse of power and illegal possession of cultural artifacts.

Macedonia

The Slovenian parliament approved a reshuffling of the cabinet on Monday, which will fill several posts, including the posts of Minister of Health, Minister of Economics, and Diaspora Minister. Alenka Trop Skaza, an epidemiologist, was appointed Health Minister; Metod Dragonja, former CEO of drugmaker Lek, was appointed Economy Minister, and lawyer Gorazd Zmavc was elected Diaspora Minister.

Slovenia

Washington Post

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MINA

Reuters

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MINA

Country News Digest


On Monday, Bosnian Bosnia & Prime Minister Vjekoslav Herzegovina Bevanda commented on the recent protests that have swept through the nation, calling them a local fire that can be extinguished by raising living standards. Bevanda made this comment at a London-based economic forum this week, targeted at increasing western investment in West Balkan countries.

RFE/RL

Articles:

Global Post

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