Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #12

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

This week Azerbaijan hosted a jointly-organized conference with NATO and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry. During the conference NATO’s assistant secretary-general for emerging security challenges Sorin Ducaru praised Azerbaijan’s military cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan.


Country News Digest




On Thursday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to exclude Russia from the assembly’s managerial body for the rest of the year. This excludes Russia from the PACE Bureau, Presidential Committee, and Permanent Council, and will also strip Russia of the right to vote and to participate in election observation missions. Russia declined to take part in the vote. Articles: BBC RIA Novosti

Alexander Chikaidze, Georgia’s 28 year-old interior minister, said in a Monday interview that the opposition UNM party may attempt to “destabilize” the country in order to “overthrow state institutions.” He alleged that UNM had been purchasing tires, possibly with a view to setting up barricades, and that they had “brought in Euromaidan activists from Ukraine.” UNM lawmakers have termed the allegations “very unserious” and “delirium.”




After a week of proRussian demonstration in eastern Ukrainian cities, Acting President Turchynov promised on Thursday that protesters who leave occupied buildings peacefully will not be prosecuted. Adding to Ukrainian-Russian tensions, Putin has threatened to cut off gas if Ukraine doesn’t pay up front for new supplies and pay off existing debt. NATO claims satellite imagery shows there are approximately 40,000 Russian troops on the eastern Ukrainian border.






Former Prime Minister Sargsyan met with members of the I Am Against movement on Wednesday, who were agitating against the mandatory component of the new pension law. Sargsyan resigned late last week after the Constitutional Court ruled the pension law unconstitutional, and after a vote of no-confidence in the ruling party by the opposition. Protesters were demanding ministerial compliance with the Constitutional Court’s decision.




On a Thursday meeting on the state of the country’s beer industry, Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko criticized beermakers for failing to capitalize on a series of reforms implemented to increase the industry’s competitiveness. Lukashenko noted that in 2007, 80% of the country’s beer producers were privatized, and $300 million were invested in improving the capacity of beer producers, yet beer imports has risen in the past three years, while production had fallen.





Vecherniy Brest

Defying court orders and citizen protest, Turkish authorities have reaffirmed a ban on YouTube. Prime Minister Erdogan ordered the ban because recordings of top secret security talks are being spread on the site, in what he describes as a ‘dirty campaign’ to remove him from power. An earlier ban on Twitter has already been lifted, but court rulings that banning YouTube violates human rights have been ignored. Articles: Reuters RT


Russia has banned imports of Moldovan pork, according to a Tuesday statement from the Russian service for oversight of the agricultural sector. Russia says the ban is a result of Moldova having sent it pork products that were processed in an EU member state. Russia imposed an embargo on EU pork in January, ostensibly due to reports of swine flu outbreaks. Russia has placed numerous bans on Moldovan food products in recent years, which are widely seen as politically motivated. Articles: Beyluxe Moldova.org


Regional police in JalalAbad arrested six alleged members of Hizb utTahrir, a banned Islamic group. The group is a Londonbased Sunni political organization that has been branded ‘extremist’ in Kyrgyzstan and other former Soviet republics. Those arrested were suspected of recruiting fighters for the Islamic insurgency in Syria and spreading materials about their cause throughout the Suzak District. Articles: RFE/RL Interfax


Country News Digest

Afghan presidential elections were held on Saturday, with reports of fraud throughout the country. However, the election appears to be cleaner than the widely discredited 2009 election, leading many analysts to feel optimistic about the prospects for Afghan democracy. Campaigns from all candidates filed reports of fraud, and it will be several weeks before initial results are reported. Articles: New York Times Newsweek


Kazakhstan’s houses of parliament have passed amendments to the Law on Communications, allowing for the blocking of access to internet content and communications devices without a court order. The amendments state that when platforms for mass communication are used “to harm the interests of an individual, society, or the state,” the national prosecutor’s office will order service providers to block content, networks, or devices within three hours.


On Friday the US announced that it will not issue a visa to Iran’s proposed Ambassador to the United Nations Hamid Aboutalebi, effectively barring him from his position in the UN. Aboutalebi has been accused by Washington of involvement in a student group that took part in taking American hostages in Tehran during the 1979 revolution.




Tengri News




32% of Tajikistan’s population regularly lacks adequate nutrition, according to the Social Progress Imperative’s annual Social Progress Index, released last week. In the index’s overall rankings, which are based on factors including life expectancy, literacy, and quality of elections, Tajikistan placed 95th out of 132 ranked countries, behind every other country in Central Asia.


During a meeting on Friday with government officials Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced plans to begin construction of the Turkmenistan-AfghanistanPakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline in 2015. The TAPI pipeline has been in negotiations with member countries since 2010. Azernews






Washington Post

Uzbekistan’s parliament has approved several amendments to the Constitution which expand the powers of the parliament and strengthen state governance.The amendments include requiring the government and regional authorities to submit annual reports on social and economic policies to Parliament. These policies aim to democratize Uzbekistan and must now be approved by the head of state.





Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Mongolia this week on a 10-day tour of Asia. Hagel praised Mongolia as “one of the world’s fastest-growing economies…[with] a growing stake in regional security.” Hagel met with with Defense Minister Dashdembere to sign a joint statement, promising to increase military cooperation and training. Hagel also received a literal gift horse during his visit, whom he named Shamrock.


Washington Post



Prime Minister Roivas stated on Tuesday that tightening EU sanctions against Russia in response to its continuing aggression in Ukraine, as suggested on Saturday by Angela Merkel, would be economically painful but possibly necessary. 11% of Estonian imports currently go to Russia, while Estonia is 100% dependent on Russia for gas.

Country News Digest





The Czech energy group CEZ has canceled a tender to build two reactors for the Temelin nuclear power plant, citing low wholesale power prices and a lack of governmental price guarantees as the causes of the cancellation. CEZ explained that the project was not feasible given current market prices, and the state encouraged creating a new tender that received more bidders. Articles: RFE/RL Reuters

Czech Republic

A United Nations body declared this week that Lithuania violated the human rights of its former president Rolandas Paksas, when it introduced legislation barring impeached individuals from serving in high government positions only weeks after Paksas had been impeached. Paskas argued that the law was passed to target him, and it seems that the UN agrees.


UN News Centre Articles:

Slovakia has begun investigating the possibility of altering its pipelines to allow for flow in the opposite direction, in order to offer Ukraine an energy alternative to Russia. However, PM Robert Fico has cautioned that all parties involved must ensure that such a move does not violate any contracts with Gazprom before taking action. He called for a meeting between Ukraine, Russia, and the European Commission to examine the issue.


Voice of Russia

RIA Novosti



Latvian officials are investigating one of the country’s Russian-speaking Members of European Parliament, Tatjana Zdanoka, of being a Russian agent of influence. Fellow Latvian MEP Karlis Sadurskis accused Zdanoka of having an affiliation with an organization intent on reestablishing the Soviet Union. Zdanoka called the allegations “stupid.”



Articles: Wall Street Journal

Incumbent PM Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party was victorious in the polls this week, gaining 133 of 199 seats. This result guarantees that Fidesz will form the next government by a margin wide enough for it to amend Hungary’s constitution. Orban has faced widespread international criticism for anti-democratic initiatives that favor his own party, but he has dismissed this, claiming that he has received an “unquestionable” mandate.





On Wednesday Polish prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former local executive of US-based IT company Hewlett-Packard (HP) for corruption, alleging he paid over $500,000 in bribes to win contacts for the supply of computers to Polish police headquarters. Poland cooperated with the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission as part of the investigations.


Romanian officials this week appealed to US and NATO leaders to increase military presence in Romania and other Black Sea states. Romanian official Bogdan Aurescu spoke with his US counterpart Victoria Nuland about troop increases, and in an April 10 press conference Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean requested NATO and US presence.




Voice of America


Articles: Romanian Insider

Secretary-General of NATO Rasmussen met with Bulgarian officials to reaffirm their relationship. Rasmussen was awarded the ‘Sveti Georgi’ Medal of Honor by Defense Minister Naydenov for his contribution to collective defense. The meeting comes at a complicated time for Bulgaria, which has deep historical ties with Russia and has been conflicted over the potential of further EU sanctions. Articles: Novinite Reuters

Country News Digest


Having predicted earlier that Croatia’s GDP would grow by 1.5% in 2014, the IMF announced on Tuesday that it was forecasting a 0.6% contraction in GDP. Finance Minister Linic attributed the change in forecast to new measures to reduce public debt. The European Commission recommended earlier this year that Croatia cut its deficit to 2.3% of GDP within three years, down from its current level of over 5%. Articles: Croatian Times Dalje President Djukanovic met with US Vice President Biden on Tuesday at the White House. The two leaders discussed the events in Ukraine and the Balkans, as well as Montenegro’s efforts at meeting NATO requirements for membership. Biden encouraged Djukanovic to continue to strengthen democratic institutions and to promote defense, security and judicial reforms.

A Tirana-based watchdog group has said that the government handed out 1,360 hectares of land from a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006. Land inside the Butrint archeological park, a 3,000 year-old site established by the ancient Greeks, was allegedly allocated to citizens who had their land confiscated under the Hoxha regime. The group has called on Prime Minister Edi Rama to annul the allocations, which took place under his predecessor.



World Bulletin


Balkan Insight

White House



On Friday Serbian archaeologists excavated the skeleton of a female mammoth from the Kostolac coal mine in eastern Serbia using cranes and bulldozers. The mammoth, named “Vika,” is estimated to be one million years old and was discovered five years ago. Vika is planned to be transported to an exhibition nearby as to not disturb coal mining operations at Kostolac.


The EU is planning to organize an international tribunal to focus on war crimes allegedly committed by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians during the war with Serbia, and is expected to start proceedings next year. The court will seek to address the war crimes committed by the rebels, who were supported by western allies. The court has not yet been approved by Kosovo’s assembly, but will be reviewed in May.


Fox News


Washington Post

Boston Globe

Articles: Human Rights Watch

This week international election observation groups have announced plans to participate in election monitoring in Macedonia’s upcoming presidential elections later this month. On Wednesday the Council of Europe announced its intention to send a 13-member delegation for monitoring, adding to groups from other nations.


Sofia Globe


Turkish Press

A statement by the central bank on Tuesday and a recent report from the IMF have both predicted growth in the Slovenian economy for 2014, as opposed to continued contraction. The bank has predicted 0.6% growth for 2014, as opposed to a previously stated 0.7% contraction, and has estimated growth of 1.4% in 2015 and 1.7% in 2016. IMF estimates are more conservative, with 0.3% growth predicted for 2014 and 0.9% growth in 2015. Articles: Europe Online FriedlNews


Country News Digest
On Tuesday, Croatian Bosnia & President Josipovic visited Herzegovina the southern Bosnian town of Mostar to pledge his county’s help in BiH’s attempt to join the EU. The visit took place at the International Trade Fair, where Josipovic also stressed increased cooperation between the two countries. Josipovic will continue on to Sarajevo, where he will meet with BiH officials, stopping to meet with members of the Croatian community along the way. Shanghai Daily


Croatian Times

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

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