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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #11


03/31/14-04/04/14

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

On April 2 Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with an Austrian delegation led by Second President of the National Council Karlheinz Kopf in Baku. During meetings the two leaders emphasized bilateral ties and economic development between the two countries. The delegation also met with Azerbaijani Speaker of Parliament Ogtay Asadov, where Kopf expressed support for Azerbaijans European integration efforts. Articles: News.az Azernews

Azerbaijan

Country News Digest


Russia

On Thursday, Russia raised gas prices for Ukraine for the second time this week. Ukraine now pays 80% more for gas than it did on Monday, the date of the initial price increase, and the highest rates in Europe, at $485 per 1,000 cubic metres. According to Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, the price hike is due to the introduction of an export duty. However, Ukrainian and Western officials view the move as strictly political. Articles: Voice of America Reuters The Ukrainian interim government has now formally accused ousted President Yanukovych of ordering snipers to attack protesters in Kiev and of employing gangs of thugs to terrify the opposition. However, they have not provided direct evidence linking Yanukovych to the violence and death in Kiev during the increased hostilities, which peaked on February 20. The government also claimed to that the Russian FSB aided Yanukovychs governments attempts to suppress the opposition.Articles: New York Times Guardian

Giga Bokeria, former secretary of the National Security Council and current foreign secretary of the opposition UNM party, was summoned by state prosecutors for questioning on Friday. Prosecutors said Bokeria would serve as a witness in an investigation into the misspending of large amount of budgetary funds by the National Security Council under UNMs rule. UNM has said the summons is part of a campaign of political persecution against UNM members.

Georgia

Ukraine

Interpressnews

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Civil.ge

Some Armenian lawmakers have expressed concern over the fate of ethnic Armenians in the northwestern Syrian city of Kessab. Reports state that 600 families have had to flee after being attacked by groups believed to be associated with al-Qaeda affiliates. Armenian NGOs and civic groups have been raising funds for the displaced, but members of the ruling HKK party have criticized the international community as having not given an adequate response.

Armenia

RFE/RL

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Belarus assumed the chairmanship of the CIS on Friday, as the CIS Foreign Ministers Council met in Moscow under the leadership of Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey. Makey said Belarus would use its chairmanship to focus on coordinating the industrial sectors of the various CIS members, and implementing the CIS free trade zone. Ukraine had been due to chair the CIS, but announced on March 19 that it was relinquishing its chairmanship.

Belarus

A One Plus

Vestnik Kavkaza

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Belta

Local elections for mayors and other officials on Sunday led Prime Minister Erdogan to claim victory after his Justice and Development party received more than 45% of the vote. While Erdogan was not running for office, he believes this strong turnout is a mandate for him to run for the presidency in August. The pro-secular main opposition party, the Republican Peoples Party, received 28% of the vote. Articles: New York Times Economist

Turkey

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pledged $10 million to support border security efforts in Moldova during a visit to Chisinau last weekend. Nuland also refuted claims by Vladimir Putin that Chisinau had imposed a blockade on Transnistria, saying the movement of both people and goods across the TransnistrianUkrainian border had been proceeding freely. Putin raised the alleged blockade to Obama over the weekend, and reiterated his concerns with Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Articles: Moldova.org RFE/RL

Moldova

Rosneft began negotiations to purchase a majority stake in Manas International Airport, a state-controlled company that owns all civilian airports in Kyrgyzstan. Manas previously hosted US troops en route to Afghanistan, but their withdrawal limited options to remain profitable are left. Sechin signed a non-binding memorandum in February about Rosnefts intention to buy at least 51% of Manas shares. Articles: EurasiaNet 24

Kyrgyzstan

Country News Digest

Two Associated Press journalists were shot in Afghanistans eastern Khost province on Friday ahead of presidential elections on April 5. They were traveling in a convoy of election workers when a unit commander of the Afghan National Army opened fire on them. Anja Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning German photographer, was killed. Kathy Gannon, a Canadian reporter, is in stable condition. Articles: CNN Guardian

Afghanistan

President Nazarbaev signed a decree on Wednesday appointing Presidential Administration head Karim Massimov, an economist fluent in Chinese, Arabic, and English, to the post of Prime Minister. Nazarbaev hinted that outgoing Prime Minister Serik Ahkmetov had failed to take adequate measures to bolster the countrys economy, which was rocked by the 19% devaluation of the tenge in February. Massimov has pledged that he will always be [Nazarbaevs] helper.

Kazakhstan

Regional press reports announced on Friday that Pakistan-based Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl released four Iranian border guards after being kidnapped in February. Jaish alAdl, which operates in Pakistans North West Frontier Province, released the prisoners in response to appeals from an Iran-based Sunni cleric.

Iran

Trend

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Azattyq

BBC

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US News

Tajikistans authorities passed an order on Wednesday to increase excise taxes on imported oil products by 5 to 20 euros per ton. Tajikistan, which has no oil and gas resources of its own, taxes more for oil imports than any country in Central Asia, and has the highest gas prices in the region. Tajikistan plans to import more that one million tons of oil products from Russia this year.

Tajikistan

On Wednesday delegations from all Caspian Sea littoral states met in Ashgabat for the 26th Caspian Sea Legal Regime to discuss issues surrounding the legal status of the Caspian Sea. During the meeting officials prepared points and negotiations for an upcoming minister-level summit on Caspian legal issues to be held in Astrakhan, Russia. RIA

Turkmenistan

Asia Plus

Articles: Nezavisimoe Mnenie

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Fars News

The World Bank reported that it is considering a loan to Uzbekistan for $200 million to construct the Angren-Pap railway line, which began construction in summer 2013 and will pass along the border with Tajikistan. The loan would cover the necessary equipment and machinery and will be financed by the state budget, the Uzbek Reconstruction and Development Fund, and international finance institutes.

Uzbekistan

In a celebration of 65 years of diplomatic relations, delegates from Mongolia joined their counterparts in Albanias capital city, Tirana, for a series of cultural exchange events this week. The festivities included performances of traditional Mongolian dances and throat singing, as well as a photography exhibit from a prominent Mongolian photojournalist.

Mongolia

AzerNews

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Interfax

Balkans

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UB Post

At the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels on Tuesday, newly sworn in Prime Minister Roivas emphasized Estonian civic activity in Africa and stressed the countrys willingness to help Africa develop e-governance. Estonian involvement on the continent already increased earlier this year, when the country agreed to send 55 troops to the Central African Republic as part of an EU military operation. Articles: Estonian Govt Global Post

Country News Digest

Estonia

Carlsberg, the Danish brewer, has purchased a 51% stake of the Czech brewer Zatec, its first foothold into the Czech market. Zatec was built in 1801 in Zatec castle, and produces up to 200,000 hectolitres per years. The Czech market is the largest beer market per capita; Czechs drink 148.6 litres per capita each year. Global Post

Czech Republic

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Reuters

Lithuania has banned the television program RTR Planeta for three weeks. The decision follows the programs broadcast of a show that claimed that undercover Lithuanian agents, not Soviet forces, killed 13 civilians in 1991 when Soviet authorities attempted to forcibly quell Lithuanias independence movement.

Lithuania

In a shocking victory, independent businessman Andrej Kiska convincingly defeated Prime Minister Robert Fico in the decisive runoff round of the presidential election this week. Kiska gained 59% of the votes compared to 41% of Ficos, despite Ficos last-ditch efforts to smear his opponent by accusing him of ties to Scientology.

Slovakia

Reuters

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Baltic Course

Economist

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Guardian

Russian press outlets are reporting that Latvias parliament is considering legislation that would make the white-washing or denial of the Soviet or Nazi occupation a criminal offence, punishable by up to three years in prison. Characterizing Latvias historical experience during the Soviet period as an occupation remains contentious, given Latvias large Russian-speaking population.

Latvia

Hungarys PM Viktor Orban has expressed his opposition to sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea. Analysts point to close energy ties between Hungary and Russia, as well as concerns surrounding the large population of ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine as motivations for the PMs position.

Hungary

RAPSI

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RT

Reuters

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Politics.hu

On April 1 during a meeting of foreign ministers from NATO countries Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski requested two heavy brigades of armored infantry totaling around 10,000 troops to be stationed in Poland. The request comes as a result of Russian military movements near Ukraines eastern border; Poland shares a 144-mile border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

Poland

On Wednesday a US defense official announced the deployment of 175 additional Marines to the several hundred already stationed at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the coastal city of Constanta as a response to recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The Romanian government stipulates that up to 600 US Marines may be stationed in Romania at any given time.

Romania

Telegraph

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RT

Marine Corps Times Articles:

Reuters

There was dispute this week over the fate of the South Stream Pipeline through Bulgaria. While Brussels has suspended talks with Moscow about its development, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Vigenin said that technical studies were still being carried out and that he did not believe that there was a long term threat to the pipeline.

Country News Digest


Croatia

Bulgaria

Reuters

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EurActiv

In an effort to reduce dependence on energy imports, Croatia published an international tender for oil and gas exploration in the Adriatic Sea on Wednesday. The tender will run for seven months, and the government plans to issue contracts in early 2015. 29 block areas ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,600 square kilometers are being auctioned off, and each bidder may compete for an unlimited number of blocks. Articles: Reuters Dalje A recent series of arrests in Montenegro of highranking officials and public figures has been part of the renewed national effort to reduce corruption and organized crime per EU Chapters 23 and 24. Among the arrests made last month were the mayor of the coastal city of Budva, the privatisation adviser to Prime Minister Djukanovic, and the deputy director of Prva Bank.

Prime Minister Edi Rama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday to lobby for Albanias selection as an EU candidate. While the European Commission issued a recommendation for Albanias candidacy last year, the EU Council of Ministers decided to postpone granting it candidate status at its meeting in December, citing the need for a longer record on fighting corruption and organized crime.

Albania

Montenegro

Balkan Insight

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Bundesregierung

SETimes

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Balkan EU

On Tuesday Czech President Milos Zeman arrived in Belgrade for a two-day official visit with leaders of Serbian government, including President Tomislav Nikolic. During these meetings Zeman publicly supported Serbias integration with the European Union and decried terrorism and drug trafficking during the opening of an exhibition on Czech-Serbian military cooperation.

Serbia

Prague Post

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NATO announced on Friday that airspace above Kosovo would be open for civilian flights for the first time in 15 years, saving time and money for commercial airlines operating in the region. The plan was finalized after Hungary agreed that it would provide air traffic control for these flights. Eurocontrol, the European air traffic organization, estimated that this route will cut operating costs by 18 million euros and reduce flights by 370,000 nautical miles per year in total.

Kosovo

Prague Monitor

Reuters

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Stars and Stripes

On Friday Macedonias State Electoral Commission announced the competing parties and the ballot order for snap parliamentary elections later this month. A total of fourteen parties are registered in elections set for April 27, which is the smallest number of competing parties in an election in the countrys history. Presidential elections are also scheduled in Macedonia for April 13.

Macedonia

The Slovenian government is now seeking bids for a 75.6% stake in Telekom Slovenije. The company is the largest of the fifteen selected by the government for privatization following a 3.2 billion euro bailout last year. The deadline for bids is April 23, and there is already some speculation that Deutsche Telekom might be interested. The estimated value of Telekom Slovenije is currently 1.2 billion euro.

Slovenia

Sofia Globe

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Focus News

Bloomberg

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Reuters

Country News Digest


Actress Angelina Jolie Bosnia & toured Bosnia and Herzegovina Herzegovina last week with British Foreign Secretary Hague to promote a campaign to end sexual violence against women during war. Jolie and Hague travelled to Sarajevo and Srebrenica to talk to victims of rape during the war from 1992-1995, during which an estimated 20,000 women are believed to have been raped. Jolies initiative was partially inspired by her role in an upcoming film about a Bosnian woman who was raped during the war. Articles: Reuters BBC

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