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Editor: Eugene Imas

Country News Digest Vol.4, Issue #13


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

On April 19 Rauf Mirqadirov, a prominent journalist for the Russianlanguage news outlet Zerkalo, was arrested by Azerbaijani authorities at Heydar Aliyev airport on espionage charges. After being deported from Turkey for unknown reasons, Mirqadirov was detained on suspicion of spying for Armenia. He is currently being held at the National Security Ministrys detention center. Articles: Thomson Reuters RFE/RL


Country News Digest


Responding to increasingly violent clashes between proRussian and pro-Ukrainian groups in Eastern Ukraine following the failed Geneva Agreement, Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated that any military actions by Ukraine would amount to conducting a war on their own people. S&P lowered Russias credit rating in light of recent tensions, causing Russias central bank to hike interest rates. Articles: Reuters CNN Money Ukrainian forces have begun operations to isolate the eastern city of Slavyansk, killing five pro-Russian militants and injuring one Ukrainian soldier in the process. Ukrainian forces have also begun reclaiming checkpoints in other Eastern Ukrainian cities, like Donetsk. Russian forces have retaliated by beginning drills on the Ukrainian border, and flying helicopters into Ukrainian airspace.

On April 17, Georgias parliament passed a nondiscrimination bill on the first reading unanimously. Human rights groups have denounced it as toothless, while Orthodox groups have criticized the inclusion of sexual orientationas a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Amnesty International has called on Georgia to not water down the bill, saying its passage is a precondition for visa liberalization with the EU and a key component of international legal obligations.



Amnesty International Articles:



Washington Post

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey offered condolences for the first time ever for the mass killing of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Erdogan refused to call the killings a genocide, leading Armenian President Sarkisian to accuse him of continuing to ignore the facts. According to Sarkisian, The Armenian genocide... is alive as far as the successor of the Ottoman Turkey continues its policy of utter denial.




Russia will increase crude oil shipments to Belarus by 10% in 2014, Russias energy ministry announced last week. Observers characterize this move as a sign of warming relations between the two countries after Russia threatened to cut fuel supplies to Belarus during a dispute in late 2013. Russia still refuses to grant Belarus an exemption on oil duties, which would allow the latter to earn up to $4 billion more in oil sales to its European neighbors.



Democratic Belarus


Belarus in Focus

On Wednesday, the Turkish government offered condolences for the first time to the descendants of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Army in 1915. However, Prime Minister Erdogans office stated that this event was not genocide. Many saw the statement as an unprecedented and positive move by the government, one that recognized the suffering of the Armenian population.


New York Times



A poll released on Wednesday by the Public Opinion Foundation, a Russian non-governmental outfit, has found that 57% of Moldova residents are in favor of membership in the Russia-led Customs Union, while 36% support ties with the European Union. Moldovas foreign minister, Natalya German, contends that almost 50% of Moldovans support the EU course, but acknowledges that the government has failed to make the advantages of EU cooperation clear to people in rural areas. Articles: All Moldova RFE/RL


A poll funded by USAID indicated that as a result of the crisis in Ukraine, Russian media outlets are expanding their reach in Kyrgyzstan. The poll found that Russian Public Television, funded by the Kremlin, is the second mostwatched channel in the country and that its popularity is increasing. Kyrgyzstans national broadcaster, OTRK, saw its popularity fall this year in the poll. Articles: Eurasianet SIAR


Country News Digest

A US official reported that the White House is considering a plan that would leave fewer than 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after 2014. These troops would be used to train and advise Afghan security forces and conduct counterterrorism missions. The final decision is stalled until a security agreement is signed between both countries, most likely after run-off presidential elections next month. Articles: Washington Post Politico


A man accused of beating a journalist in 2012 was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Thursday. The victim, Lukpan Akhmedyarov, has denounced the verdict, saying the guilt of the accused has not been proven and that the investigation has been marked by police misconduct. Akhmedyarov, who was honored by Reporters Without Borders in 2012 for his coverage of a controversial government crackdown against protesters in 2011, has suggested the attack was politically motivated.


On Wednesday Iranian cleric and judiciary head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli removed Irans chief of prisons Gholamhossein Esmaili following reports of beatings and human rights abuses on prisoners in Tehrans Evin Prison. Amoli replaced Esmaili with Asghar Jahangir, while Esmaili was promoted to the position of head of the justice department for Tehran province.





New York Times


Washington Post

A Monday ruling by the city court of Tursonzoda mandates that a market owned by Muhiddin Kabiri, head of the Islamic Renaissance Party, be demolished, and its land transferred to government hands. The court says the markets previous owner constructed it illegally on territory belonging to a public school. Witnesses, including the former mayor of Tursonzoda, contest that the construction and operation of the market have been free of administrative violations.


On 21 April a delegation led by Rovnag Abdullayev, chairman of Azerbaijans state oil company SOCAR, met with Turkmen officials to discuss the development of cooperation on energy issues between the two countries. Both countries are interested in using alternative routes for delivering Caspian oil and gas to Europe, according to press reports. Azernews


Asia Plus



Articles: Silk Road Reporters

After a visit from Spains Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Manuel Garcia-Margalit, Uzbekistan and Spain signed a memorandum of cooperation program through 2016. Garcia-Margalit and his counterpart, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, said they planned to cooperate on a wide range of issues, including regional security.


Mongolia has positioned itself as a key middleman in the resolution of an international disagreement between Japan and North Korea. Specifically, Japanese officials aim to use Mongolian officials to seek redress from North Korea, with whom they lack diplomatic relations, over Korean abductions of its citizens.




Global Post


Japan Times

On Tuesday, the United States announced that it will deploy roughly 600 US troops to Poland and the Baltic states due to increasing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Estonia, which has a 25% ethnic Russian population, has requested a greater NATO and US military presence in the region. As Estonian Defense Minister Mikser has said, I would like to see more boots on the ground and planes in the sky. Articles: Time Reuters

Country News Digest


The Pew Research Center released its 2013 Global Attitudes survey on April 15, and found that the Czech Republic is the worlds most morally relaxed country, followed closely by Japan. The topics the survey covered included issues like extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, alcohol consumption, and divorce. Daily Mail

Czech Republic


Pew Global

Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine have announced their intention to form a joint military brigade. Journalists are not sure what obligations and responsibilities such a formation will entail. This announcement comes as Lithuania joins other Baltic nations and Poland as recipients of American troops.


Delegates from Slovakia and Ukraine plan to meet in Bratislava this week in order to sign a memorandum of understanding, providing for the import of natural gas from Slovakia to Ukraine. Natural gas has typically traveled in the opposite direction, but due to pressure from Gazprom, Ukraine is seeking alternative sources of energy imports.


Washington Times Articles:

Lithuania Tribune


Articles: The Moscow Times

In an effort to counter Russian aggression, the United States announced this week that it will be sending troops to Latvia as part of a joint military exercise in the Baltic nations and Poland. Troops are expected to remain stationed in the area at least until the end of the year.


The Hungarian government has come under fire from the European Commission over possible violations of EU antitrust legislation. The charges came after PM Viktor Orban impeded an antitrust investigation into possible price-fixing of watermelons in Hungarian supermarkets.


Zee News




European Voice

This week approximately 150 US Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team arrived in the town of Swidwin from Italy for joint exercises with Polish counterparts. 450 additional troops are expected to deploy within days to join in the exercises. According to US officials troops were sent to reassure Poland of Americas military support during the Ukraine crisis.


On Saturday and Sunday heavy rainfall and melting snow caused severe flooding in 86 Romanian villages and towns, mostly in the countrys southern counties. The floods left at least three dead and caused evictions of 248 people from their homes. Interior Ministry employees were deployed to reinforce dams, provide drinking water, and evacuate water from houses.








On Thursday, Bulgarian Energy Minister Stoynev and EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger continued talks on the South Stream gas pipeline. Despite Bulgarias commitment, the fate of the project is unclear; the commissioners office suggested that the pipeline might be excluded from the EUs Third Energy Package. Bulgaria claims that this cut is politically motivated. Articles: Novinite Sofia Globe

Country News Digest



At a Wednesday meeting, Croatias and Slovenias defense ministers agreed to hold several joint land, air, and naval exercises in the next few years. The two ministers also agreed that NATO should be enlarged to include states like Montenegro and Macedonia, which have been aspiring to join the organization for over a decade. Dalje



Roughly 35 Albanians who illegally sought asylum in Britain and France have been repatriated, it was announced Friday. British officials have said more Albanians will likely be deported, as numbers of illegal asylum seekers have been increasing. Albanian emigration through legal channels has also increased, with Albanians topping the list of asylum applicants in Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Switzerland.


Reacting to Montenegros decision nearly two weeks ago to join EU sanctions against Russia, Moscow has said it may consider revising its current policy of visa-free travel and trade with Montenegro. This change could greatly affect Montenegrin exports to Russia, such as wine. Russians have invested about 2 billion euros in the country in recent years.


Top Channel


Peshka Pa Uje




On Thursday excavation began on a mass grave in the Serbian village of Rudinca near Serbias border with Kosovo. Forensic experts from Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia estimate that the grave contains at least 250 bodies of ethnic Albanians killed during the Kosovo war from 1998-1999. The excavation process is expected to take approximately 60 days.


Kosovos parliament has approved the EU-backed war crimes court, which will try ethnic Albanian ex-guerillas accused of crimes against ethnic Serbs. 89 out of 120 deputies voted in favor of the court. However, Prime Minister Thaci called the court a humiliation and injustice, and said that the international community was forcing Kosovo to make very difficult decisions that could have huge consequences for society.


Al Jazeera





Washington Post

Macedonia will hold its second round presidential runoff election on Sunday April 27, following the first round on April 13. Snap parliamentary elections will also be held on Sunday, where Macedonians are expected to re-elect Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for a third term. Gruevski, who has been head of government since 2006, belongs to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party.


An earthquake measuring between 4.4 and 4.7 on the Richter scale hit Slovenia early on Tuesday morning. The epicenter was located near the town of Knezak, about fifty kilometers southwest of Ljubljana and close to the nuclear power plant Krko. The earthquake was also felt in Croatia and along the Italian Adriatic coast. So far, there have been no reports of damage.




European Voice

Russia Today



Country News Digest

Low cost airline Wizz Air Bosnia & announced on Thursday Herzegovina that it will be adding new destinations for flights departing from Tuzla, BiHs third largest city. Along with existing service to Malmo and Gothenberg in Sweden, and Basel in Switzerland, travelers will now be able to fly into Dortmund, Germany and Eindhoven in The Netherlands. Wizz Air has been very successful in BiH during the last year, handling over 22,000 passengers in the first quarter of the year, up from one passenger in 2013. Articles: Croatian Times Shanghai Daily

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