Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP News Update from Europe – November 2012

LDESP NEWS UPDATE FROM EUROPE: 30 November 2012

Disclaimer: The purpose of the LDESP news brief is to increase your situational awareness concerning events that may impact your mission. Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

BALKANS

 

Islamic leader calls for common language to reduce tensions

Informal initiatives and a common language is needed to bring Muslim groups in Macedonia together after the construction of a mosque by Roma Muslims in Prelip threatened tensions, one Islamic leader said. “Muslims must find a common language and reach an agreement about building mosques, regardless of ethnicity. The Albanians, even though are a majority, should listen more to others about their religious needs. Islam dictates that we are together. By fostering informal initiatives to get closer with one another, we expect relations to warm up soon,” Muarem Tairi, 56, an ethnic Albanian and an Islamic elder in Saraj near Skopje, told SETimes. The construction of a mosque for Roma Muslims in the Trizla neighbourhood of Prelip, Macedonia, intensified tensions between the Roma and the Islamic Religious Community (IRC). The IRC, which is comprised mainly of Albanian Muslims, will not sanctify the mosque since it is being constructed without the approval of its imams. “Albanians consider that these parallel Muslim institutions must be immediately repressed. This must not be permitted. The mosque should be either constructed with the permission of the Islamic Religious Community or it should be tumbled down,” Jakup Sinani, an Albanian Muslim from Skopje, told SETimes. However, according to Tairi, the construction should have been expected. “When the Roma demanded a mosque, we did not build it, and now they are building it themselves,” he said. But the Roma Muslims claim that the IRC is trying to exert control over them. “The Islamic Religious Community was pushing us couple of few times and asked the Roma Muslim communities from Prilep to stop the plans for construction of a mosque. It is not possible for only one nation in one country to have the right to Muslim religion. We are Muslims as well and we want our own mosque,” Rusid Sabanoski, a Roma Muslim from Prilep, told SETimes. The growing discord between Muslims from different nationalities may adversely affect the co-existence in the country, analysts said. “These cases may slowly, but surely, destabilise the country, as well as the region … I think that in these kind of cases maybe radical Islam has its fingers in the pie. It is a matter of misuse of religion for political purposes,” Ivan Babamovski, university professor and former superintendent in the National Security Service in Macedonia, told SETimes. “If the situation continues without finding a common language between ethnic communities with the same religion, then we would have multilayer front in future … which is dangerous at any rate,” Babamovski added. (SETimes)

Region takes measures to increase prison security

Governments in the region are increasing security at prisons due to the number of escapes and illegal activities happening inside the facilities. In order to make progress, however, the main obstacle of prison overcrowding must be overcome by unburdening the existing correctional facilities and building new ones, experts said. Three prisoners suspected of terrorism escaped this month from Dubrava, the biggest jail in Kosovo, and another from the jail in Prizren in August, bringing to light the overcrowding that poses a challenge to effectively overseeing inmates. Overcrowding is a source of most of the security concerns of jail administrators, confirmed Milan Radovic, member of Montenegro’s Civic Alliance, a local NGO. “There are frequent cases of attacks by prisoners and prison guards. The new administration has started suspending officers blamed for violations against prisoners,” Radovic told SETimes. In Albania, prison escapes have become so frequent that authorities recently fired the directors of the Tirana and Peqin prisons. Overcrowding is one of the three main challenges of managing prisons in Serbia, together with understaffing and lack of finances. There are more than 11,000 prisoners in Serbia’s prisons, which were designed to house 7,500 inmates. Serbia is implementing a short-term solution to the three challenges by adopting this month a new amnesty law, which would provide greater leeway for the least severe criminal offences. At the same time, a new high-security prison in Padinska Skela, which houses 450 inmates, was completed last year, and the government has upgraded surveillance systems in several prisons. Similarly, Macedonia is adding 11 new buildings to the country’s main Idrizovo prison, which will nearly double the current capacity to house 800 inmates. Currently, there are 2,500 prisoners in Macedonia and 500 detainees. (…) In Kosovo, as a preventive measure in the Dubrava jail, prison management increased the number of observation towers, as well as the number of armed prison guards, and installed two sets of cameras. There are more than 1,800 prisoners in Kosovo in facilities built to hold less than 1,200, and the number of convicts is growing. Prison management is made more complex due to technical advancements used by prisoners and corruption among prison guards, according to Sokol Zogaj, director general for security at the Kosovo corrections service. (…) Kosovo is constructing a new high-security prison near Podujevo for the most violent convicts. It will house 300 prisoners and will begin operating in August 2013. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are nearly 1,800 prisoners, including those who serve their sentences at home under electronic bracelet monitoring, but 859 convicted individuals are waiting to become inmates when cells open. (SETimes)

Agreements on classified information enhance regional security

Kosovo and Albania signed an agreement to exchange and protect classified information earlier this month in Tirana, and security experts said the move is an important step in building national security structures based on NATO standards. “We are in the initial phases of filling in the institutions, but also in meeting the required standards,” Bajram Rexhepi, Kosovo interior minister, said. The agreement defines the basic standards for the exchange of classified information, defined as such by a law approved in the Kosovo parliament, according to Fisnik Rexhepi, political adviser to Kosovo’s ministry of interior. In July 2010, Kosovo approved the Law on Classified Information and Clearance Verification, which calls for a punishment of up to 12 years in prison for leaking confidential, secret or top secret information. “Any information that gets into the frame of this definition should be treated, exchanged and preserved based on the standards defined in that agreement,” Rexhepi told SETimes. The agreement also defines the procedures for obtaining a security clearance in both countries, a process which recently began in Kosovo. A main requirement of the new agreement is for the country receiving classified information not to pass it to third parties without the prior written approval of the providing country. (…) Security experts said these agreements provide a framework for the protection of classified information, and enhance regional security. (SETimes)

Gender mainstreaming contributes to regional security

The defense ministries of Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are focusing on improving women’s involvement in the military through a unique project to achieve greater gender equality. The gender mainstreaming plan, which is part of the security sector reform project, was developed by the four countries’ militaries based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, a fundamental document that defines and promotes women’s full participation in the military-security sector. “The activities are related to gender sensitisation programmes via instructors training; support to revise curriculum which would include both gender equality and security; establish a regional trainer network to consolidate existing projects and create synergies in the region,” Jovanka Saranovic, director of the Strategic Research Institute of Serbia’s Defence Ministry, told SETimes. The four countries’ defence ministry representatives met last month in Skopje, Macedonia. Participants found that joint planning, information sharing and consulting on common issues had the greatest benefit in improving co-operation among the militaries while promoting gender equity, Saranovic said. (…) The number of women in the regional militaries is relatively small, but is steadily increasing. (SETimes)

Balkan NGOs want their voices heard

Civil society participation in policy-making is necessary to produce quality laws, but NGOs must be more assertive to advance this goal, according to organisation representatives. “Many countries in the region have started to set up an institutional framework for co-operation between the NGOs and public institutions,” Karin Shultz, director of development consulting at the Swedish Institute for Public Administration, an organisation that specialises in capacity building and institutional development in coun-tries in transition, told SETimes. “What they now need is to implement and truly utilise these frameworks,” Shultz said. Promoting civil sector participation in policy-making is required under the EU accession process, including in sensitive issues such as defence policy. (SETimes)

Albania

Albania Celebrates 100 Years Since Declaration Of Independence

Albania is marking 100 years since declaring independence. The main event of the day was held in the port city of Vlore, where Albanian leaders declared independence from the Ottoman Empire on 28 November 1912. Festivities are also planned in the capital, Tirana, with an evening of celebrities and dignitaries. Albanian President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci are expected to join tens of thousands of people for celebrations lasting until late into the night. During World War II, Albania was occupied by fascist Italy, and then by Nazi Germany. After the war, a communist dictatorship under Enver Hoxha took power. After the fall of communism, Albania also embarked on reforms to become a parliamentary democracy. Albania joined NATO in 2009, and is applying for EU membership. (RFE/RL)

Kosovar War Vets Force Albanian PM To Cancel Visit

Protesting Kosovar war veterans disrupted plans for Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to attend a ceremony to open the new Pristina-Tirana highway. Several hundred veterans, most from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), occupied the stage at an opening ceremony on November 27 in the Kosovar town of Gjurgjica. They were demanding the release of former KLA commander Fatmir Limaj from detention. Limaj was charged in 2009 with ordering the killing of two Serb captives and torturing another during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo. He was acquitted, but Kosovo’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial. Limaj was taken into custody on 24 November. A helicopter carrying Berisha turned back after hearing about the protest. Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who was also scheduled to attend the opening, did not show up. (RFE/RL)

Bosnia

Israel Court Rules Bosnian Serb Can Be Extradited Over Srebrenica

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that a Bosnian Serb accused of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre can be extradited to Bosnia to face war-crimes charges. Aleksandar Cvetkovic, who has been living in Israel since 1996 and holds Israeli citizenship, was arrested last year. In August, a lower court ruled he can be sent back to Bosnia. On 29 November, the Supreme Court upheld that ruling. Prosecutors accuse Cvetkovic of being part of a firing squad that executed up to 1,200 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995. He said he was just an army driver when Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys after they overran the town. The Srebrenica massacre was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II. (RFE/RL)

Envoy Says Bosnia Faces Growing Threat

The international peace envoy to Bosnia says the territorial integrity of the fragile Balkan state is under threat. Valentin Inzko pointed to a rise in anti-state, secessionist rhetoric by Bosnia Serb officials. Inzko highlighted Bosnian Serb efforts to dissolve Bosnia’s armed forces. Inzko made the comments to the UN Security Council on 13 November. In his 27-page report, Inzko singled out the president of the autonomous Serb Republic, Milorad Dodik, as “the most frequent, although certainly no the sole, proponent of (Bosnian) state dissolution.” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Inzko’s report was written in “alarmist tones.” Churkin blamed Bosnia’s Muslims for a rise in tensions. Churkin also called for abolishing the Office of the High Representative and handing over authority to the Bosnians. Bosnia has been ruled by a weak central government since the 1990s war that killed an estimated 100,000. A 2010 election ended with political stalemate as leaders from the different ethnic groups failed to form a national government. The impasse was broken in 2011 although divisions remained. (RFE/RL)

Kosovo

UN Court Acquits Former Kosovar Prime Minister, Two Others

Former Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has returned to Kosovo after the UN war crimes court acquitted him of war crimes charges during the 1998-1999 conflict. Haradinaj’s two codefendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, were also acquitted. All three had been accused of the murder and torture of Serbs as ethnic Albanian rebels fought for independence from Serbia during the 1998-99 conflict. All three denied the charges. The verdict came during the first-ever retrial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In the first trial in 2008, Haradinaj and Balaj had been acquitted. Brahimaj was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. An appeals chamber later overturned the verdicts and ordered a retrial, citing intimidation of prosecution witnesses. Haradinaj was a prominent leader of the rebel ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), where Balaj and Brahimaj were also commanders. They had been accused of a role in the torture and murder of Serbs and their supporters at a UCK detention camp. “There is no evidence that suggests, let alone proves beyond reasonable doubt, that Ramush Haradinaj prompted or instructed the [Kosovo Liberation Army] soldiers, who forcefully removed [Kosovo Albanian men] Naser Lika and Fadil Fazliu from [the village of] Zhabel, to commit these acts or that he aided and abetted this crime,” Presiding Judge Bakone Moloto said. Upon return to Pristina, Haradinaj pledged to return to political life. (RFE/RL)

Top Kosovar Court Orders War Crimes Retrial

Kosovo’s Supreme Court has ordered a war crimes retrial for Fatmir Limaj, a former Kosovar government minister and prominent politician. Limaj, a former commander of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army that fought Serbian rule in 1998-99, was tried on charges of torturing prisoners but acquitted in May. The European Union’s law-enforcing mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said that a Supreme Court panel of EULEX and local judges had annulled that verdict and ordered a retrial after an appeal from prosecutors. Limaj has also been tried by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague but was acquitted in 2005. Limaj is a close ally of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Last week, EULEX prosecutors charged Limaj and six others with corruption, accusing them of embezzling 2 million euros ($2.55 million). (RFE/RL)

Serbia

Ending corruption would help Serbia’s economy

A successful effort to reduce corruption in Serbia would have a significant improvement in the struggling state economy, officials and NGOs agree. The financial damage to the Serbian economy — considered one of the worst in Europe — is in the billions of euros, bringing the government to the brink of bankruptcy. “The funds that would be saved if we overcame and prevented further corruption, especially in state institutions, could help the economy and improve the social situation. In that I’m primarily referring to public procurement, where abuse is the greatest,” Rasim Ljajic, deputy prime minister and minister of trade and telecommunications, told SETimes. The faltering economy was the biggest issue in elections earlier this year, according to polls, and for good reason. Foreign debt has grown to more than 15 billion euros, 55 percent of GDP, breaching the legal limit of 45 percent of GDP. The dinar has lost more than 13 percent of its value against the euro. The IMF lowered its earlier estimate of 1.5 percent growth this year to 0.5 percent, while international credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard and Poor’s lowered Serbia’s credit rating to BB minus. Meanwhile, the agency that is charged with addressing corruption, the Serbian Anti-Corruption Agency Committee, is looking for a new leader after its director, Zorana Markovic, was removed in light of a corruption investigation. Media reports say that Markovic attempted to allocate a state-owned apartment in Belgrade for herself. She has denied the allegations. Transparency Serbia Director Vladimir Goati said that if Serbia managed to crack down on corruption it would also benefit from the arrival of foreign investors, because the country would be safer for investment. (…) Goati believes Serbia has a long way to go in that fight. (SETimes)

Macedonia

Macedonia, region prepares for potential terrorist threats

Facing a global threat of terrorist attacks means that Southeast European region must be prepared for every eventuality, experts said following a recent anti-terrorist exercise in Ohrid, Macedonia. “What is happening in our neighbour [countries] tells us that we must be prepared for everything,” Toni Jakimovski, a commander of the WAVE 2012 action, told SETimes. More than 100 members of Macedonia’s Internal Affairs Ministry participated in a three-day anti-terrorist exercise this month at Ohrid’s St. Paul Airport. Among the participants was the special anti-terrorist police unit Tigers. The police utilised the airport building and other facilities in the tactical exercise named WAVE 2012. This was the first “on the scene” large-scale anti-terrorist exercise in Macedonia. The unit was tasked with dealing with a simulated crisis in which an airplane was hijacked by terrorists. The goal of the exercise was to improve the co-ordination and joint communications of all security structures responsible for handling security threats. The simulation envisioned several phases during the exercise, beginning with the news that an airplane had been hijacked, to the practice of overcoming terrorists at various areas of the airport building and in the airplane. “The goal was to show willingness to see all the anomalies in the execution of terrorist attack. The airports in Macedonia are safe,” Jakimovski said. He said that when it comes to anti-terrorism, the police force co-operates with all foreign offices and airports. (SETimes)

Montenegro

Djukanovic Likely To Return As Montenegrin PM

Milo Djukanovic is likely to return as Montenegro’s prime minister. President Filip Vujanovic told reporters in Podgorica that he has asked Djukanovic, the president of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), to form a new government. Vujanovic said he would officially inform parliament about his decision later in the day. The DPS and its allies secured a governing majority on 14 October parliamentary elections. If endorsed by parliament, it will be Djukanovic’s sixth time in office during the past 21 years. It will also be his second comeback from self-imposed retirement. Djukanovic has also served one presidential term, from 1998 to 2002. Opponents blame Djukanovic for widespread corruption, and accuse him of running Montenegro with his family and cronies as if it were a private business. (RFE/RL)

CAUCASUS

North Caucasus

Daghestani Brothers Struggle To Bridge Religious, Political Divides

An uneasy peace holds between Ruslan and Rustam Shapiyev in the Daghestani village of Komsomolskoye. Younger brother Rustam, who has taken the name Abubakar, says he loves and respects his older brother, who has adopted the name Magomed. “Of course, a brother is a brother. We are obligated to maintain kinship ties,” Abubakar says. “Magomed is my older brother. When he enters the room, I stand. I serve him food. I respect him and seek his advice. We help one another.” But when it comes to religion, things are not so harmonious. “When he tells me, for instance, that I shouldn’t celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, I answer: ‘Stop. This is where this conversation must end,'” Abubakar says. Twenty-eight-year-old Abubakar is a Sufi Muslim, a branch of Islam that is officially recognized in Daghestan. Magomed, 31, is a devotee of Salafism, a confession that is banned under the republic’s 1999 law on Wahhabism and other perceived forms of extremism. Four of the brothers’ cousins have also adopted Salafism. In this volatile republic, Magomed, who declined to be photographed for this article, might easily be whisked off the streets by police at any moment and held without explanation. In fact, Magomed says, it happens frequently. “I am not going to kill my brother, but [the authorities] are coming to kill me,” he says. “If I even try to go out in public and speak about my desire to live in a Shari’a-based state, I would disappear. I’ve been taken to the police station many times. Many of my friends have disappeared. “I remember one morning when I was on my way to prayers,” he continues, “a police van stopped next to me and they shoved me in without any explanation. At the police station, they asked me why I was running away from them. I answered: ‘I didn’t run anywhere. I was walking to morning prayers at the mosque.’ They threatened me, tried to scare me.” He claims that two of his friends are serving time in prison after confessing under torture to crimes they say they didn’t commit. Independent human rights organizations estimate some 800 men in Daghestan between the ages of 18 and 40 have been killed so far this year in the insurgency, official reprisals, and sectarian violence. About 600 of them were ethnic Avars, like the Shapiyev brothers. Abubakar is also uneasy about the violence. (…) According to Abubakar, Magomed turned to Salafism while he was living in the Russian city of Veliky Novgorod and running a small business in 2009-11. Abubakar says his brother was influenced at that time by “extremist websites.” Magomed, however, insists that Salafism is distinct from Wahhabism and that the authorities are using official media to create a false impression of Salafism as violent and extreme. The brothers say they are working hard to stay close, for the sake of their 51-year-old mother. Magomed says he tries to avoid theoretical conversations with his mother and focuses instead on aspects that the two strands of Islam have in common. (RFE/RL)

Alleged Terrorist Leader Killed In Daghestan

Interior Ministry officials in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Daghestan say a long-wanted militant leader has been killed. Taimas Taimasov, the alleged leader of a terrorist cell in the eastern village of Gubden, reportedly barricaded himself in a house there on 20 November. Police say he refused to surrender and opened fire on security forces, killing one officer and seriously wounding another. Security forces stormed the house. Police say Taimasov was killed in the operation, but an associate who owned the house managed to escape. Violence between suspected Islamic militants and security forces in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region leaves scores of people dead and injured each year. The region’s violence-plagued republics include Daghestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Kabardino-Balkaria. (RFE/RL)

Kadyrov Attacks Ingushetia’s President Over Alleged Terrorists’ Burials

The leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has harshly criticized the president of neighboring Ingushetia over burials of alleged terrorists killed in special operations. Speaking to jouralists on November 12, Kardyrov expressed strong disagreement with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s stance on such burials. Yevkurov wrote on his blog last week that the bodies of terrorists should be returned to their relatives for Islamic burials in order to prevent anger among the families of the dead. Kadyrov attacked Yevkurov’s statement, saying that Chechen Grand Mufti Sultan Mirzaev had announced earlier this month that terrorists “cannot be buried in regular Muslim cemeteries for they are criminals having nothing to do with Muslims.” Kadyrov and Yevkurov have been at odds for some time over border issues and cross-border terrorist attacks by militants. (RFE/RL)

‘Chechenization’ To ‘Daghestanization’ — Curious Changes In Russia’s Armed Forces

Russia’s Interior Ministry has given the green light for the creation of a special experimental Daghestani battalion, which will be the destination for some of the young men drafted into the Russian armed forces from that republic this fall. It is not yet clear what the purpose of the “experiment” is and whether it heralds a reversal of the dramatic decline in recent years in the number of Daghestanis serving in the Russian armed forces. Daghestan has the largest population, and one of the highest birthrates, in the North Caucasus. Every year some 25,000 students graduate from high school. The number of young men eligible for military service this fall was estimated at 40,000, but only some 180 were accepted. All of them without exception will serve in either the Interior Ministry Internal Troops or the Emergency Situations Ministry Forces, not the Russian Army. According to Zulfia Magomedova, who heads the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Daghestan, until 2008 some 15,000-20,000 young men from the Caucasus republic were inducted into the armed forces every year. Since then, however, the number has plummeted. The weekly “Chernovik” reported that in 2011 only 1,010 young Daghestanis were accepted to serve in the Interior Ministry’s troops. At least three different explanations have been offered for that steady decline, none of them mutually exclusive. Magomedova attributed it primarily to disciplinary problems arising from cultural differences. (…) “Chernovik” quoted an unnamed Defense Ministry official as saying that desertion among the Daghestani contingent, especially those stationed in the Russian Far East, is among the highest for any ethnic group. (…) A third factor is that Daghestanis are widely regarded as ideologically unreliable. “Chernovik” quoted an unnamed military official as saying that the top brass are extremely concerned that recruits from Daghestan have recently begun propagating religious extremism among their fellow servicemen. He said that creates a threat to national security. The paper claims to be in possession of a memorandum banning the induction into the Russian Army of any “citizens of North Caucasian nationalities” — not just young men from Daghestan. Failure to comply with that directive, the paper said, has led to the dismissal of some senior officers from the Southern Military District. Despite that purported ban, Regnum reported last month that 18,000 young men from the North Caucasus and Southern Russia Federal Districts would be drafted this fall, compared with 24,000 in the spring draft. More than 700 of them are from Karachayevo-Cherkessia. That is the North Caucasus republic where the Islamic insurgency is least active, which lends credence to the suggestion by “Chernovik’s” unnamed informant that fear of Islamic extremism is one of the factors behind the decision to reduce to a minimum the number of conscripts from Daghestan. In addition to artificially increasing the level of unemployment among high school graduates, barring young Daghestani men from military service has other negative social repercussions. Magomedova noted that some parents would refuse to allow their daughter to marry a young man who had not performed his military service. “Chernovik” points out that only young men who have served in the armed forces are considered qualified for employment with the Interior Ministry. President Magomedov told “Izvestia” he had personally asked (the now former) Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to consider raising the quota of draftees from Daghestan from a couple of hundred to 3,000-5,000, but Serdyukov refused. Magomedov said he hopes Serdyukov’s successor, Sergei Shoigu, will reconsider that refusal. Shoigu is himself a member of an ethnic minority and, as a former longstanding minister of emergency services, he might approve the idea of Daghestanis serving in that ministry’s troops. (RFE/RL)

Kadyrov Picks New Quarrel With Ingushetian Counterpart

For a period of six weeks this summer, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov and his Ingushetian counterpart, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, engaged in a protracted and acrimonious public polemic, until ordered by presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District Aleksandr Khloponin to desist. An initial disagreement between the two over the circumstances of the death on Ingushetian territory of two senior Chechen fighters mushroomed into a dispute over the administrative border between their respective republics. Following a two-month hiatus, Kadyrov has now issued a new public statement taking issue with Yevkurov’s criticism of a ruling earlier this month by Chechen mufti Sultan Mirzayev that slain insurgents may not be given a religious funeral and buried in official cemeteries. Mirzayev’s stated rationale was that “criminals who are guilty of the death of other Muslims should not be buried in cemeteries alongside normal people.” He added, “The bodies of terrorists and murderers can be buried only outside cemeteries.” Russia’s law on terrorism precludes handing over to their relatives for burial the bodies of “terrorists.” But the Chechen authorities tend to apply that term indiscriminately and subjectively to many insurgents who do not strictly speaking fall into that category: Kadyrov routinely brands all insurgents “terrorists” and “Wahhabis.” Mirzayev, however, did not explicitly affirm that all fighters are terrorists. The family of Chechen Republic-Ichkeria President Aslan Maskadov has repeatedly appealed to the Russian government since his death seven years ago to hand over his remains, but to no avail. The bodies of some of the men killed during the multiple attacks on police and security forces in Nalchik in October 2005 were clandestinely cremated, even though their participation in the assault on the Kabardino-Balkaria capital was open to question. While Kadyrov consistently urges the Chechen security forces to track down and kill every last insurgent, Yevkurov has adopted a less draconian approach, one that former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev openly commended. Over the past three years, Yevkurov has repeatedly appealed to young insurgents to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. He has even made public his phone number to enable them to call him personally, promising that they will be treated fairly. Last year, Ingushetia followed the example of Daghestan and set up a government commission to provide advice and assistance to those fighters who want to surrender. In line with that emphasis on clemency, Yevkurov suspended the ban on handing over the bodies of “terrorists” to their families, arguing that “there is no point in making people bitter.” (RFE/RL)

Daghestan Becomes Hotbed Of North Caucasus Insurgency

Suicide bombings in police stations. Muslim clerics gunned down in broad daylight. Shoot-outs between insurgents and security forces. These have become run-of-the-mill headlines in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region of Daghestan. (…) Like Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and to a lesser extent Chechnya, Daghestan is a hotbed for the militant Islamist insurgency led by Doku Umarov that seeks to create a so-called pan-Caucasus Islamic caliphate. cWdespread unemployment, poor living standards, rights abuses, and resentment of local and federal authorities have spurred new generations to join the insurgency — or “to go to the forest,” as locals say. The difference in Daghestan’s case, however, is the cachet that Islam wields in the republic. Analysts say more radical Islamic ideologies such as Salafism have gained a greater foothold in Daghestan than in other North Caucasus republics. This, according to Aleksei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, sets Daghestan apart from its neighbors. “The difference consists in the [presence of] very strong nonofficial Islam and very strong Islam within the opposition,” he says. “There is also a difference in the level of Islamization. Daghestan is the most Islamized republic in the region.” This distinction aggravates many of the rifts in Daghestan. It cuts directly along the fault lines that divide adherents of traditional from nontraditional Islam; the Islamic opposition from the local administration; and the adherents of Shari’a law from the population that opposes cultural and social drift from Russia’s orbit. Analysts say imams make for attractive targets because they are high-profile public figures and also physically vulnerable to attack. In contrast with those in Chechnya, imams in Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria do not receive official armed guards. Malashenko estimates that in the last six years, over 37 imams and muftis have been killed across the North Caucasus from Karachai-Cherkessia to Daghestan. (…) Putin confirmed what many analysts have long claimed — that the Russian military is involved in the “counterterrorist” operations in Daghestan. Malashenko speculates that the use of the army will not alleviate the situation. He says the move instead underlines the failure of Kremlin policy in the republic. “The only way that exists in Putin’s brain is to fight — to send more and more military men,” he says. “It leads to nothing. They have done this so many times and in practice it proves that there is a civil war in Daghestan.” (RFE/RL)

Armenia

RA Defense Ministry: Baku transferred 6 Armenian hostages to 3rd country

Armenia returned Azerbaijani citizen Telman Javashiroglu Aliyev, to Baku on 30 November. “Azerbaijani side seemed to extend quite normal welcome to Aliyev, asking as to the way he was treated in Armenia and how he crossed the border,” Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said after the transfer of Aliyev, adding that Azerbaijani media as a rule immediately start sympathizing with Azeri hostages. “The fate of Azerbaijani hostages in motherland is already determined, they will be sentenced to at least several years in jail,” Mr. Hovhannisyan said, adding that the issue of Armenian hostages in Azerbaijan was also raised during the transfer. “Baku currently claims there are no Armenian hostages in Azerbaijan. We presented a list of 90 names to International Committee of the Red Cross, who are alive or held hostage, as we know. However, we were given no proper answer. According to the latest data, 6 Armenian citizens were transferred to a third country, with the ICRC confirming the fact,” he said. “An Azerbaijani citizen who voluntarily surrendered to Armenia after serving only 4 months in the army is currently held hostage in the country. He requested to be transferred to a third country, rather than Azerbaijan,” Mr. Hovhannisyan further said, adding that the issue is being discussed with ICRC officials. (PanArmenian Net)

Turkmen President Arrives In Armenia

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov arrived in Armenia on a two-day visit. The Turkmen leader held talks scheduled with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, as well as other senior Armenian officials. Officials say discussions were focusing on trade and energy, with several agreements due to be signed. A topic likely to get extra attention is a Turkmen offer to supply Armenia with electricity through Iran’s energy grid, an idea first proposed in 2010. (RFE/RL)

Azerbaijan

Mexico Panel Rejects Aliyev Statue

An advisory commission in Mexico City has recommended the removal of a statue of Azerbaijan’s late President Heydar Aliyev that has been erected along a main boulevard of the Mexican capital. Gabriel Guerra, a member of the panel, said on November 23 that the commission has called for the bronze statue to be removed from the high-profile Chapultepec Park, along Reforma Avenue, and transferred to another less “emblematic” location. Azerbaijan’s government paid around $5 million for the renovation of the section of the park where the statue was erected and other public works. That corner of the park was named the “Mexico-Azerbaijan Friendship Park.” Baku has warned of damage to Azerbaijan’s relations with Mexico if the statue is removed, including the potential closure of its embassy and the suspension of Azerbaijani investments in Mexico. Azerbaijan says Mexico City’s government signed an agreement stipulating the monument should be allowed to remain on the spot for 99 years. Human rights protesters have said they are offended by the monument to Aliyev, who is regarded by many as having led an authoritarian, rights-abusing regime during his years as ruler of the energy-rich Caspian Sea country. Aliyev was Azerbaijan’s longtime Communist Party chief during the Soviet era. He ruled as independent Azerbaijan’s president from 1993 until shortly before his death in 2003. Aliyev’s son Ilham succeeded his father as Azerbaijan’s president. The decision on the future of the life-sized statue now rests with Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who has faced criticism over the monument. Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Mexico, Ilgar Mukhtarov, said he didn’t agree with the commission’s recommendations and planned to discuss the situation with city authorities. (RFE/RL)

Baku To Protest Uruguayan Delegation’s Visit To Separatist Region

Baku is planning to officially protest the visit by Uruguayan delegation of Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev told journalists on November 14 that a protest note will be handed to Uruguay’s foreign minister soon. He said that “these kinds of visits undermine the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and might lead to very bitter consequences for Armenia.” A delegation headed by Jorge Orrico, chairman of Uruguay’s House of Representatives, visited Nagorno-Karabakh and held talks with the region’s Armenian separatist leaders on 13 November. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in conflict for more than two decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a majority Armenian population. A fragile cease-fire has been in place since 1994. (RFE/RL)

Azerbaijani Police Break Up Opposition Protest

Police in Azerbaijan have arrested around 30 opposition activists who tried to stage a protest in Baku demanding the president’s resignation and the dissolution of parliament. Around 100 people, called to join the protest via Facebook, took to the streets, shouting, “Dissolve the parliament!” and “The president should resign!” Police officers broke up the demonstration by wielding truncheons and pushing some of the demonstrators onto city buses. Some journalists at the scene were beaten by police when they tried to take photographs of the arrests. The protest, which did not have official authorization, was organized by the youth wings of opposition parties forming part of the Azeri Public Chamber. Among the biggest opposition parties that are members of the Public Chamber are the Popular Front Party and Musavat. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Interfax)

Four Suspected Terrorists Go On Trial In Baku

Four suspects accused of planning terrorist attacks on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in May went on trial in the Azerbaijani capital on 15 November. All four are Azerbaijani citizens. Investigators say all four cooperated with members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards organization but only one of the four has been charged with spying. Official media previously reported that some 40 members of an alleged armed terrorist group were arrested in raids in Azerbaijan early this year. Several suspects have gone on trial in Azerbaijan in recent months for allegedly cooperating with Iran’s secret service. (RFE/RL)

EU Official Denied Baku Prison Hospital Visit Despite Presidential Promise

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands was barred from visiting a penitentiary hospital in Baku, despite President Ilham Aliyev’s permission to do so. Kroes told journalists in Baku that she met with Azerbaijan’s president on 6 November and he agreed she could visit the hospital to observe the conditions for inmates there. Kroes said that when she arrived at the prison hospital, officials would not allow her into the building. She said that in her country, “if a president says something, it is always done, as in any democratic country.” A spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Penitentiary Service, Mehman Sadiqov, told RFE/RL that Kroes’ visit to the penitentiary hospital did not take place because of “protocol issues.” (RFE/RL)

Rights Groups Slam Azerbaijan Over Freedom Of Speech

An official of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has come to Baku to deliver scathing criticism of Azerbaijan’s poor record on freedom of speech. The condemnation came as Baku this week is hosting the United Nations-sponsored Internet Governance Forum, an international meeting to discuss public-sphere Internet policies. In Baku on7 November, Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, called the crackdown by Azerbaijani authorities on journalists, rights supporters, and protesters an “embarrassing trend” for the oil-rich Caucasian nation. Mijatovic said she met with President Ilham Aliyev and other top Azerbaijani leders. The OSCE representative called for reforms, including decriminalizing alleged defamation to a civil offense. (…) She suggested that abuses of freedom of speech had become routine in Azerbaijan and said she had raised the issue with Azerbaijani authorities. Human Rights Watch has called on Azerbaijani authorities to mark its hosting of the Internet forum by releasing at least eight imprisoned journalists and three human rights defenders. In its report, the U.S.-based rights watchdog said freedom of expression is “severely limited” in Azerbaijan. The report describes what it calls “Azerbaijan’s record of imprisoning journalists, human rights defenders, and political opposition activists, in most cases on bogus criminal charges, in apparent retaliation for their investigative journalism or political activism.” It says authorities have “failed to hold accountable the people responsible for assaults and other attacks and harassment against journalists.” (…) The Human Rights Watch report says that since early 2006, Azerbaijani authorities have not authorized a single opposition protest in the center of Baku, instead forcing all demonstrations into designated zones on the outskirts of the capital. It says such a blanket ban on assembly in central Baku runs counter to Azerbaijan’s international obligations to respect freedom of assembly and expression. The report says that as recently as 20 October, police rounded up dozens of protesters at an unsanctioned rally in central Baku, roughing them up, and forcing them into police cars and buses. It says at least 13 were sentenced to up to 10 days of detention on misdemeanor charges. On 2 November, the Azerbaijani Parliament adopted amendments to the law on public gatherings to significantly increase fines – to up to $10,000 — for organizing or participating in illegal demonstrations. (RFE/RL)

Georgia

EU’s Ashton Urges Georgia ‘Cohabitation’

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called for Georgia’s president and prime minister to cooperate more closely in the interest of the Georgian people. Ashton, who was on a brief visit to Tbilisi, spoke after talks with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who represent rival political forces. “We talked about the need to find good ways to have what I think we call cohabitation in every language between the president and the prime minister [of Georgia] and their teams and to ensure that their interest is in working for the people of Georgia into the future,” EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Ashton said. Her visit comes nearly two months after parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 1 brought Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream political coalition to power. She urged both Saakashvili and Ivanishvili to continue “to contribute constructively to Georgia’s good governance.” In a separate statement released after the talks, Ashton said that there should be “no retribution against political rivals.” Ashton’s statement comes days after 12 Georgian Interior Ministry officials were charged with abuse of office. Ivanishvili’s ruling coalition says the officials from Saakashvili’s United National Movement party are suspected of illegally wiretapping senior Georgian politicians, including Ivanishvili himself before he became prime minister. Earlier this month, investigations were launched against Georgia’s former interior minister, the armed forces chief of staff, and a Georgian Army brigade commander. Ashton’s statement also reiterated that “the European Union is committed to Georgia’s territorial integrity.” Georgia and Russia fought a short military conflict in August 2008 over the separatist region of South Ossetia. (RFE/RL)

Russia

Rasul Mirzayev Trial In Russia Inflames Ethnic Tensions

A world martial arts champion from Russia’s southern Caucasus region was convicted on 27 November of involuntary manslaughter, but set free after a trial that inflamed ethnic tensions. The verdict led to protests by nationalists outside the court and prompted Russian riot police to flood the wide square outside the Kremlin to prevent possible violent clashes between nationalists and ethnic minorities from the Caucasus. Rasul Mirzayev had punched former police academy student Ivan Agafonov outside a Moscow nightclub in 2011 after the drunken 19-year-old offended Mirzayev’s girlfriend. Agafonov fell down, hitting his head on a sewer grate, and died four days later. Mirzayev’s trial had raised the anger of nationalists, who accused him of deliberately killing the Russian student. The athlete’s supporters argued that Agafonov had provoked the lethal punch and his killing was accidental. The Zamoskvoretsky court ruled on 27 November that since Mirzayev had already served his sentence while in custody awaiting trial he could walk free. There are significant tensions between ethnic Russians, who make up two-thirds of the country’s 142 million people, and dark-complexioned Muslims from the Caucasus, where there are more than 100 ethnic groups. Hundreds of thousands of Caucasus natives have flooded central Russia in search of jobs, causing a clash of cultures that aggravates deeply ingrained xenophobia. Mirzayev, a bearded and lean 26-year-old, comes from Dagestan, Russia’s most multiethnic province. Dagestan has for years been an epicenter of an Islamic insurgency that stems from separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya. (Huffington Post)

WESTERN EUROPE

UK

UK warns Israel against lashing out at PA after successful UN bid

The UK has warned Israel against taking any actions against the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the UN General Assembly on 30 November granted Palestine observer status. It has also called on the US to lead the international community to reactivate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of achieving a two-state solution. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Israel “to avoid reacting in a way that undermines the peace process and a return to negotiations.” “We would not support a reaction which sidelined [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas or risked collapse of the Palestinian Authority,” he said in a statement. Israel had threatened to topple Abbas and eliminate the PA if the Palestinians insisted on taking their case to the UN. The UN General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution that endorsed a Palestinian bid to upgrade the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s status from “entity” to “non-member observer state.” During the vote at the UN, the UK abstained because Abbas refused to give guarantees to return to negotiations without preconditions. The UK government also insisted on assurances that the Palestinians would not immediately seek action against Israel at the International Criminal Court. London says that such action would likely make a return to negotiations impossible. “In the absence of these assurances from President Abbas, the UK abstained on the vote,” Hague said. “It is now time to redouble our efforts to restart the peace process,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told Ahram Online. He called on Israel to stop building illegal Jewish-only settlements, and Palestinian factions to reconcile with each other in order to restart peace talks. The international community, led by the US and supported by European nations, should exert efforts to revive the peace process, the spokesperson added. The UK government pledged to actively support any US-led peace efforts to “give the Palestinian people the state that they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to through a negotiated two-state solution.” (Ahram Online)

Germany

German foreign minister tells Berlin to boost embassy security

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged the mayor of Berlin on 30 November to tighten security at foreign embassies in the city; a day after 30 protesters stormed the grounds of the Iranian mission and pelted the building with stones. Westerwelle asked mayor Klaus Wowereit in a letter to act swiftly to remedy security shortcomings, citing 13 occasions over the past two years when embassies, including those of Libya and Nigeria, were attacked or occupied. “Just as we expect other states to provide adequate protection for our embassies, so we must ensure German authorities are doing everything possible to protect diplomatic missions,” Westerwelle’s spokesman said on 30 November. Berlin police said in a statement that masked protesters used rope-ladders on Thursday to climb into the grounds of the Iranian embassy, where they tore down a flag and torched it, and defaced the building. Police officers assigned to protect the building were overwhelmed and threatened by the protesters. A spokesman for Wowereit said embassies were receiving suitable protection. (Reuters)

Israel’s Netanyahu to meet Germany’s Merkel next week following UN vote on Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet will travel to Germany next week — a visit that comes after Berlin abstained in a U.N. vote on recognition of a Palestinian state. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, says the German leader will have dinner with Netanyahu on Wednesday [5 December] ahead of Thursday’s annual meeting of Cabinet members. Germany is traditionally one of Israel’s staunchest allies in Europe. It abstained in Thursday’s U.N. General Assembly vote — saying it feared the Palestinians’ move could further harden positions in the stalled Middle East peace process — but stopped short of voting no to their call for recognition. Merkel said earlier this week that nothing would be gained either by unilateral Palestinian bids for recognition or by continued Israeli settlement-building. (Washington Post)

German Lawmakers Back Latest Round of Aid for Greece

Lawmakers in Germany’s lower house of Parliament easily passed the next round of financial support for Greece on 30 November, despite growing doubt among members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition and opposition parties that the measures will be sufficient to resolve the Greek problem. As expected, a clear majority of 473 out of 584 lawmakers casting ballots voted in favor of the package of measures agreed to by European finance ministers and international lenders last week that will unlock loan installments totaling €43.7 billion, or $56.7 billion. One hundred lawmakers voted against the measure and 11 abstained. Germany is one of Greece’s largest creditors and support from Berlin is crucial for the success of the program. Yet with a parliamentary election scheduled for Sept. 22, German politicians from all sides have been reluctant to take on extra financial burdens. (NY Times)

France

French PM makes ‘dreadful’ gaffe while wooing Germany

Jean-Marc Ayrault travelled to Germany on 15 November in a diplomatic charm offensive to patch up bad relations between the German Chancellor and his boss, Francois Hollande, the French president. But Mr Ayrault, a former German teacher, made a serious blunder in a Berlin speech to businessmen when he mixed up the word furchtbaren, or dreadful, for fruchtbaren, or fruitful, the expression he wanted to use to describe the relationship between France and Germany. The Prime Minister was defending France, against German criticism over the new Socialist administration’s management of the French economy when he made his mistake. “There have been some recent articles in the German press that do not correspond to reality,” he said. “My challenge, the government’s challenge, is to reform what isn’t working, to correct what is too weak, but to keep the profound values that make France what it is.” The mix-up comes at a low point in Franco-German relationship and deep mutual mistrust between Chancellor Merkel and the Socialist French president. (The Telegraph)

Spain

Spain May Escape European Bailout, Gonzalez-Paramo Says

Former European Central Bank Executive Board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo said Spain may escape a bailout, as the country has already confounded expectations by continuing to raise its own financing this year. “It is by no means excluded that a bailout will not be requested, if a sequence of good news is produced in terms of the deficit and other things,” Gonzalez-Paramo, 54, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London on 29 November. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continues to postpone a decision on whether to seek a bailout that would allow the ECB to buy Spanish debt. As the country’s bond yields have fallen more than 2 percentage points from a record 7.75 percent in July, the Treasury has already sold all the bonds slated for sale this year and is building a buffer for 2013. “If you had asked in July whether Spain would be in the situation it is now in terms of funding, you would never have bet that this would be the case, but you see what you see,” Gonzalez-Paramo, a Spaniard who now teaches at IESE business school in Madrid, said. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

BLACK SEA

Russia

Russian Warships on Standby to Evacuate Nationals from Gaza

Russian warships will be on standby in the eastern Mediterranean in case of need to assist Russians leaving Gaza, a source in the Navy’s high command said. “A detachment of ships from the Black Sea Fleet has arrived in the designated area in the Mediterranean Sea and will wait for an order to evacuate Russian nationals,” the source said. The Russian Navy monitors the ongoing situation in the area and studies possible options for the evacuation of Russians in case of the conflict escalation, the source said. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas Islamist group came into effect on Wednesday. However, on Friday, Israeli soldiers killed one person and injured around 15 more in Gaza. (RIA Novosti)

Romania

Exxon Seeks to Award Black Sea Drilling Contract in Romania

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)’s Romanian unit called for bids from companies interested in providing offshore drilling services in the Black Sea under a contract estimated to be worth $250 million to $750 million. The contract is for the duration of 48 months and includes drilling one to seven wells in the Black Sea, where Exxon is looking for natural gas together with Romania’s biggest oil company OMV Petrom SA (SNP), according to a European Union procurement document published on 27 November. Bidders can submit offers until Jan. 7, 2013 for the contract, which will be financed by Exxon from its own funds, according to the document submitted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Romania Limited Nassau. Austria’s OMV AG (OMV), the majority-owner of Petrom, said on Feb. 22 that it discovered what may be its biggest gas find in the Black Sea well it is exploring together with a unit of Exxon. The Domino-1 well, which is operated by the Exxon unit, encountered 70.7 meters of net gas pay, resulting in a preliminary estimate for the accumulation ranging from 1.5 to 3 trillion cubic feet (42 to 84 billion cubic meters), OMV said. Drilling operations started at the end of 2011 and the total depth of the well is estimated to be more than 3,000 meters below sea level. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Ukraine

Ukraine Reducing Russian Gas Imports

Ukraine’s Minister of Energy Yuriy Boyko has appeared on television to speak about plans to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian supplies of natural gas, including the possibility of Russia taking his country to international court. On the Inter television channel on the evening of 16 Novembe, Boyko said Kyiv is dissatisfied with the price Russia’s gas giant Gazprom charges Ukraine for gas. “We know there will be arguments, even court battles with our Russian colleagues,” he said, but Ukraine intends to defend its national interests. Ukraine signed agreements on gas prices with Russia in 2009 during a dispute between the two countries about the transit of gas. That dispute resulted in a suspension of Russian gas supplies through Ukraine and left areas in eastern and central Europe facing severe shortages of gas during one of the coldest periods of the year. EU leaders pushed the two countries to quickly resolve their bilateral problem and allow gas exports to reach European destinations. Ukrainian authorities later jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office over signing a deal with then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that allowed gas shipments to Europe to resume. Ukraine has been attempting to convince Russia to renegotiate the Tymoshenko-Putin gas agreement. Boyko said Ukraine is purchasing some 26 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas this year, which is 1.5 bcm less than the contract for 2012. Vadim Chuprun, the deputy chairman of Ukraine’s state gas company Naftohaz, was cited by the Russian business newspaper “Vzglyad” on November 17 as saying Ukraine would cut gas imports from Gazprom further in 2013 and would only purchase up to 20 bcm. Russian government and Gazprom officials have insisted Ukraine pay for all the gas it agreed to purchase, whether it accepts the full volume or not. (RFE/RL)

Work Starts On New Chornobyl Shelter

Workers have raised the first section of a structure that will eventually cover the exploded reactor at Ukraine’s Chornobyl nuclear power station. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is leading the project, hailed the progress on 27 November as a major step toward cleaning up the aftermath of the 1986 explosion, the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. Vince Novak, the EBRD’s director for nuclear safety, said the jacking operation to complete the first stage of lifting was one of the most crucial phases of the project. The initial lifting operation raised around 5,000 tons of steel to a preliminary height of up to 22 meters. Victor Zalizetsky, the deputy head of the Project for New Safe Confinement Construction at Chornobyl, said the structure should stop the spread of radiation from the damaged reactor. (REF/RL)

U.S., EU Ambassadors Meet Jailed Ukrainian Ex-Minister

The U.S. and EU ambassadors to Ukraine have visited jailed former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko at a prison labor camp. U.S. Ambassador John Tefft told journalists after the meeting on 26 November that he and EU Ambassador Jan Tombinski will inform their governments about Lutsenko’s health. He added that the U.S. government has stated several times in the past that Lutsenko’s case is an example of selective justice and that the former minister should be released. Tombinski said that the EU will monitor Lutsenko’s appeal hearings. Lutsenko is serving a four-year prison term for embezzlement, abuse of office, and ordering illegal surveillance of suspects while investigating the poisoning of former President Viktor Yushchenko during his 2004 presidential campaign. Lutsenko denies any wrongdoing, saying his imprisonment is politically motivated. (RFE/RL)

Turkey

Deploying missiles in Turkey could take several weeks: NATO

NATO allies are expected to take several weeks to deploy Patriot surface-to-air missiles to defend Turkey from a spillover of Syria’s civil war, a NATO spokeswoman said on 30 November. Turkey formally asked for the Patriot missiles earlier this month after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile) border. NATO experts are in Turkey looking at sites to place the missiles. If deployed, they would be under the control of NATO’s top command. Once the team has reported back to NATO, commanders will draw up a recommendation to alliance ambassadors who are expected to give a go-ahead early next week, according to NATO diplomats. “I would expect that if the decision is taken it could take several weeks to deploy, rather than months,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. Germany, the Netherlands and the United States have Patriots available. Some of those countries may need parliamentary approval to send the missiles and Lungescu said she did not want to judge how long those national procedures would take. Turkey has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the frontier and responded in kind to stray Syrian shells flying into its territory. Syria, Iran and Russia have all criticized Turkey’s request for Patriots, saying the move would deepen instability in the region. Lungescu said U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, would have ultimate operational command of the missiles, but he would delegate that responsibility to NATO military commanders on the ground. “Who has the finger on the button? It’s NATO, and Turkey is a full member of NATO,” she told a media briefing. Asked about Iranian warnings to Turkey not to deploy the Patriots, Lungescu said: “In terms of Iran or any other country in the region, Turkey has made it very clear in its request that this is purely a defensive measure. It is in no way linked to any offensive measures or to support a possible no-fly zone.” Ankara asked for the missiles to defend its people and territory and to “deter any threat of aggression from anybody outside Turkey so that anybody who might think of threatening or attacking Turkey would have to think twice,” she said. (Reuters)

Turkey to press Putin on negotiating end to Assad’s rule

Turkey will press Russian President Vladimir Putin next week [3-7 December] to cooperate in engineering as rapid an end as possible to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and try to assuage his fears Moscow could lose out after Assad’s departure. He is likely to face an uphill struggle. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sees Putin as key to quelling a conflict that has sent over a hundred thousand refugees fleeing to Turkish soil and stirred warnings of a sectarian war beyond Syria’s borders. Turkey’s carefully nurtured relationship with Russia, governed by its need for energy supplies and mutual security interests across an array of regional hotspots, has already been strained by differences over Syria. Moscow, one of Syria’s closest allies, has vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Assad, blocking Turkish, Western and Arab efforts to provide U.N. support for the rebel forces trying to topple him. There is little sign of a change in stance ahead of Putin’s visit to Ankara beginning on 3 December. “At the moment, Russia is holding the key … Russia’s attitude is crucial,” Erdogan said this week on his way back from a visit to Spain, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper. Turkish officials say Russia must be assured it does not stand to lose from the going of Assad, who has been Moscow’s chief Middle Eastern ally. (…) Turkey will reason that the longer the conflict continues, the greater will become the traction of those very forces. Time is of the essence. “A stake in what you might refer to as a new Syria shall be the only way. You can’t bribe a global power such as Russia. You should try to create a win-win situation,” he said. (…) Ankara is worried about Syria’s chemical weapons, a growing refugee crisis, and Syrian support for Kurdish militants on its soil. It has been a major opposition backer, leading calls for international action and repeatedly scrambling jets to the border in a warning to Damascus. “The Syrian stalemate can’t go on for ever … The remedy is not to continue but to stop the conflict,” said Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser. “If Assad goes today, what will the world lose? Now is the time to talk.” (Reuters)

As always, we’re eager to hear feedback on the usefulness of this service as well as your suggestions on improving it.

LDESP Staff
ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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