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4/13/15 4/17/15

On Thursday, Azerbaijan sentenced a leading human rights

activist and government critic, Rasul Jafarov, to six and half
years in prison on business-related charges. Rasul Jafarov was
found guilty on charges of embezzlement, illegal
entrepreneurship, tax evasion, abuse of power and forgery.
Jafarov denied the allegations and his lawyer denounced the
verdict as politically motivated, declaring that they will appeal
the decision. More than 10 journalists, bloggers and social
media activists are in prison in Azerbaijan, one of the largest
numbers among the 57 OSCE member states.
VOA News
Human Rights Watch

During their joint visit to Tbilisi, the foreign ministers of

Denmark, Poland, and Sweden reiterated their support of
Georgias European integration progress and stressed the need
for Tbilisi to continue reforms. The visit carries high
importance given the upcoming European Unions Eastern
Partnership summit in Riga at which a decision to grant visa
free travel to Georgia and Ukraine might be made.

Civil Georgia

At a mass commemorating the centennial of the Armenian

genocide at St. Peters Basilica on Sunday, Pope Francis used
the word genocide to describe the mass killing of Armenians
by Ottoman Turks. Francis called the event the first genocide
of the twentieth century, a description which Foreign Minister
Edward Nalbandian said will be of universal value in gaining
recognition of the event from other countries. The statement,
however, provoked ire from Turkish politicians, who refuse to
call the event a genocide.

On Wednesday, former President Abdullah Gul said that

Turkey needs a stronger parliamentary system, not a more
powerful presidency, in clear disagreement with his successors
drive to change the constitution and increase the power of the
presidency. Gul said, Checks and balances should be written
down very carefully. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
has called for a constitutional change to create a U.S.-style
executive branch, though critics say that would allow Erdogan
to accumulate authoritarian powers.
Financial Times

President Vladimir Putin lifted a five-year ban on the sale of the

S-300 missile system to Iran on Monday. The ban was lifted
following a recent international agreement with Iran that
significantly restricts Irans ability to produce nuclear weapons
in exchange for removing economic sanctions. According to
Russia, the new agreement eliminates the need for the ban.
Russia and Iran signed the initial $800 million sales contract in
2007, but the deal was suspended three years later because of
US and Israeli objections. The revival of the deal has caused
Israel and the US to sharply criticize Russian actions.
New York Times
Washington Post

On Friday, 300 U.S. paratroopers arrived in Ukraine to train its

forces fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east. Soldiers of
the 173rd Airborne Brigade have been arriving over the last
week, U.S. army spokesman Donald Wrenn confirmed,
adding that the troops will be providing training to the National
Guard of Ukraine for the next six months. The National Guard
is a reservist force formed in 2014 to bring in militias under
government control. The U.S. move angered Russia, which
accuses the U.S. of destabilizing the region.
New York Times

Al Jazeera

Belarusian citizens have been drawing attention to a social

parasite law signed into effect earlier this month. The law is
supposed to "stimulate able-bodied citizens to engage in labor
activity," according to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. One
unemployed man, Vital Yurchanka, whose shop recently went
bankrupt due to the economy, has vocally criticized the law,
which forces unemployed citizens to pay $240 a month in
penalties to the state. While official figures list unemployment
in Belarus at around 5.8%, this number is likely inaccurate,
since many people do not register for unemployment benefits.
Belarus Digest

Moldovas economy has suffered severely from the Russianimposed embargo on fruit imports from last summer. The ban
was imposed in the wake of Chisiniaus decision to sign an
Association Agreement with the European Union. Russia has
caused around $145 million of losses for Moldova, the
economy of which largely relies on agriculture. The Moldovan
currency, the leu, has lost 30 percent of its value since the
embargo was imposed.
Yahoo! News

Business Insider

Last week, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev

participated in ceremonies to commemorate the fifth year
anniversary of the 2010 Kyrgyz revolution, which ousted
former President Kurmanbek Bakiev. He said, Today we can
firmly say that the April revolution saved the country from
economic collapse and spiritual impoverishment. It opened
the way for the revival of Kyrgyzstan. Five years ago,
thousands of protesters gathered on central Ala-Too Square to
protest the Bakiev government, where nearly 100 protesters
died from the police crackdown..
The Diplomat

In the first large-scale attack so far this fighting season,

approximately 200 Taliban fighters overran military posts in the
countrys north-east province of Badakhshan on Friday. At least
18 Afghan soldiers were killed, with an additional 12 soldiers
missing after the attack. Provincial spokesman Ahmad Nawid
Froutan addressed reporters on Monday and reported that rescue
operations are underway to locate the missing soldiers. Froutan
told reporters that Afghan soldiers killed 19 Taliban fighters,
including eight foreigners.

On Monday, Kremlin officials denied the rise of a trade war

between Russia and Kazakhstan, despite mounting import
restrictions between the two countries. In early March,
Kazakhstan imposed a 45-day embargo on Russian oil products.
In late March, Kazakhstan began pulling Russian foodstuffs
from grocery store shelves citing health code violations. In
response, Russians found health code violations in Kazakh
melon and dairy products. Kazakhstan is considered a Russian
ally and a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
Azer News
Moscow Times

On Monday, Iranian Minister of Culture Ali Jannati announced

that Iran has suspended all Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca. The
suspension is in response to allegations that Saudi security
officials sexually assaulted two teenage Iranian boys in Jeddah
airport two weeks ago. The boys were returning to Tehran after
making the Uumrah, or lesser pilgrimage. The allegations also
sparked protests outside the Saudi embassy in Iran last week.
The situation is likely to further exacerbate tensions between the
two countries, which are already at odds over the war in Yemen.

On Monday, the Tajik government announced a ban on the

Hajj for citizens under 35 years of age. Tajikistans Committee
for Religious and Cultural Issues declared that the ban is
intended to allow older Muslims the chance to make the Hajj in
light of the limits set by Saudi Arabia, which reduced the
number of Tajik citizens allow to make the Hajj from 8,000 to
6,300 this year. However, observers believe the ban is part of
an effort to prevent younger Tajiks from becoming radicalized.

World Bulletin

In a report on Wednesday, Amnesty International accused the

United States and some European Union countries of turning a
blind die to pervasive torture in Uzbekistan, which it calls a
defining feature of the countrys criminal justice system. The
report is based on dozens of interviews with former detainees,
torture survivors, lawyers and officials. The human rights
groups continues that the US and EU place security and
business interests above human rights concerns, while the US
and EU have defended a policy of engagement by saying it has
led to some improvements.

CBS News



The Guardian

Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov met with

his South Korean counterpart President Park Geun-hye during a
four-day visit to South Korea earlier this week. The two leaders
discussed economic cooperation and signed eight agreements.
The South Korean government agreed to support the
construction of a natural gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant in
Turkmenistan and the modernization of the Trkmenbays
refinery. Daewoo International and the Industry Ministry of
Turkmenistan also signed an agreement to facilitate the
construction of a $1 billion steelmaking plant in Turkmenistan.
Azer News
Business Korea

Both Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and

Hungarian President Janos Ader visited Mongolia this week. In
a meeting with Mongolian Foreign Minister Lundeg
Purevsuren, Cavusoglu promised to increase Turkish trade with
Mongolia to $250 million, up from current rates of $40 million.
Ader met with Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on
Wednesday. The two discussed future avenues for economic
cooperation between the two countries, specifically in areas of
water management and farm development.

World Bulletin

On Tuesday, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas urged

allies to send more troops to the region, calling on Germany to
take the lead in increasing military presence in the Baltics.
"Estonia sees that a more long-term stationing of European
allies in Estonia and the Baltic region could be led by
Germany - Roivas said. German Defense Minister Ursula von
der Leyen assured Estonia that Berlin will stand with the
Baltics and continue its support as the region faces possible
military aggression from Russia.
Deutsche Welle

Defense News

On Wednesday, Germanys defense minister, Ursula von der

Leyen, met with her Lithuanian counterpart Juozas Olekas in
Vilnius. At the meeting, the two defense ministers announced
a military equipment deal which will provide for the purchase
of heavy weapons from Germanys Bundeswehr. Lithuania
will purchase 12 howitzer 2000s from the German military for
15 million euros, or about $15.9 million. The announcement
follows the German defense minister visiting Estonia and
Latvia in a sign of NATO solidarity.
Defense News

Latvia is hosting Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili for

bilateral meetings this week. At the meeting, Margvelashvilis
Latvian counterpart Andris Berzins expressed his countrys
support for Georgia in the upcoming Riga Summit of the
Eastern Partnership. As president of the Council of the
European Union, Berzins noted that countries in the Eastern
Partnership remain a foreign policy priority for Latvia.

Baltic Course

Vestnik Kavkaza

Stanislav Gross, the Czech Republics former prime minister

and youngest premier to date, has died at the age of 45 due to
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that
results in the loss of muscle function. Gross was forced to
resign nine months after his inauguration due to a political
crisis, sparked by a scandal of the financing of his luxury
apartment. President Milos Zeman offered his condolences.

USA Today

On Friday, Slovak pipeline operator Eustream said that the

testing period for the new gas pipeline connecting Hungary and
Slovakia has been extended until May 31. Aimed at
diversification of gas flows in central Europe, the pipeline has
suffered number of delays. The Hungarian-Slovakian
interconnector runs for 111 kilometers and was planned to start
operating in the beginning of 2015.
Hungary Today


On Tuesday, the Hungarian Parliament voted 137-57 in favor

of a proposal to send 150 Hungarian troops to Iraq to support
United States-led anti-Islamic State efforts. The troops will
deploy in approximately five months to the Ebril training
center in Northern Iraq, where they will remain until 2017.
Estimated costs for the mission are predicted not to exceed
$71.2 million. Hungary will be the 17th country to contribute
troops to the international mission.
Wall Street Journal

Hungary Today

Plans to build Polands first nuclear power plant have been

A two-week long NATO military exercise called Wind Spring
15 began on Thursday in Romania. The exercise is being held
delayed by at least two years after state-run utility PGE decided
at the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base and the Smardan polygon,
in December to cancel a consultancy contract and take on
and will include approximately 2,200 servicemen from
research to find a suitable site itself. Sources familiar with the
project reported to Reuters that due to lack of expertise, the
Romania, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Moldova.
PGE will need more time to complete the studies. The current
According to Defense Minister Mircea Dusa, the exercise is part
plan envisions having the first unit in operation by 2025 and
of a Readiness Action Plan to safeguard the eastern flanks of
NATO and EU territory. Dusa also stated that Romania will
the entire project completed by 2035. The plans for the plant,
continue to host military exercises throughout the rest of the
in 2009 in an effort to provide alternatives to coalyear, equaling more than 340 exercises in total for the year.
fired power, estimate that the project will cost $10-15 billion.
Global Post
Radio Poland

On Thursday, Vice President of the European Commission

Jyrki Katainen said that Bulgaria needs an external
assessment of its banking system to attract much-needed
investment. Katainen, who is in charge of the EUs three-year
investment plan, told reporters that Bulgaria could benefit
from the EUs program if it provides a secure investment
climate. Bulgarias fourth-largest lender Corporate
Commercial Bank folded last year, causing the countrys
biggest banking crisis since the 1990s.


On Wednesday, the EBRDs Investment Climate and

Governance Initiative (ICGI) launched an Investment Council
in Albania. The Council is designed to enhance the business
climate in Albania, improve dialogue between the government
and the private sector, and promote good governance. Albania
was the first country to join the ERBDs Investment Climate
and Governance Initiative. The country has been the recipient
of nearly 1 billion euros of EBRD investment in 70 projects
across a variety of economic sectors.

The Financial

On Thursday, Serbia warned that it would arrest the former

minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, for alleged terrorist
activity if he travels to Belgrade next week for a conference.
Thaci, who led a Kosovar insurgency against Serbia in the
late 1990s, was invited to a conference on the theme of
reconciliation in Serbia on April 24 and is, according to his
advisors, ready to go. But the Serbian Minister of the
Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic said that the ministry would
bring him to justice. Serbia has branded Thaci a war

The United States is increasing diplomatic pressure on

Macedonia to investigate possible abuses of power and respond
to allegations of wiretapping. During a visit to Macedonia on
Thursday, as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for
European and Eurasian affairs Hoyt Lee met with Prime
Minister Gruevski. "We have urged the government and its
institutions to take the allegations, insinuations of malfeasance,
of possible illegal behavior, very seriously, at least as seriously
as the government is taking the charges against Zaev, the leader
of the opposition, Lee said to reporters after the meeting.

Czech citizen Vit Jedlicka, a member of the conservative

party of Free Citizens in the Czech Republic, declared himself
president of the independent country of Liberland between
Serbia and Croatia. What he called terra nullius, or land
unclaimed by Croatia or Serbia, is situated on the banks of the
Danube. Jedlicka is planning to send diplomatic notes
to Zagreb and Belgrade to request official recognition of


On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

welcomed Montenegros substantial reforms in the defense
and rule of law sectors, and commented that Montenegro has
demonstrated real progress towards membership in NATO.
At the meeting with Prime Minister of Montenegro,
Djukanovic and Stoltenberg noted that every country has the
sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements.


On Tuesday, French law professor Jean Paul Jacqu presented

his report on EULEXs handling of corruption allegations.
Jacqu was commissioned by EU foreign policy chief Federica
Mogherini to write the report last November, after EULEX was
accused of covering up evidence of senior staff accepting
bribes. Jacqu reported that he found no evidence of a cover-up
but criticized the missions handling of the corruption case,
arguing that an internal investigation should have been opened
sooner. Jacqu also questioned the effectiveness of EULEX and
advocated comprehensive reforms to improve its credibility.
Wall Street Journal

Heineken announced on Monday that it has agreed to buy

51.1% of Slovenian brewer Pivovarna Lako for $120.9
million. The buyout comes after debt forced Lako to put
itself up for sale last year. Lako shares gained 5 percent on
Friday before trading was suspended on Monday pending the
takeover decision. Heineken already has a presence in all four
of Slovenias neighbors, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.


On Monday, Bosnian prosecutors charged 10 former Bosnian

Serb soldiers with war crimes for the killing of 20 civilians
during the conflict in the 1990s. The suspects were arrested
last December in the first joint operation between Serbia and
Bosnia. The suspects allegedly killed 20 people after
capturing them off a train that was passing through the
Bosnian village Strpci in 1993. The Bosnian prosecutors
office said that the charges were the result of intense and
good cooperation between Bosnia and Serbia.
World Bulletin

The Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies 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,
Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas.