Regional Press Review (12-17 August)
Navalny could face more jail time as Russia announces new criminal charge.
- Russian authorities have charged Aleksei Navalny with an additional crime, a move that could prolong the jailed opposition politician’s stay behind bars if he is convicted. The Investigative Committee declared on August 11 it had charged Navalny with creating an organization that infringes on the rights and personal safety of citizens. (Radio Free Europe, August 11).
Peaceful protests ‘become almost impossible’ in Russia, according to Amnesty International.
- Russian authorities have stifled people’s right to peaceful protests to such an extent that is has become almost impossible for Russians to protest in any meaningful way, Amnesty International has stated in a report. (Radio Free Europe, August 12)
A resident of Kirov was suspected of threatening the prosecutor, who opposed the probation of Alexei Navalny.
- A resident of Kirov was detained on case about threats to the prosecutor from the process of replacing the oppositionist Navalny probation with a real one. This was reported by the Investigative Committee. According to investigators, the prosecutor received on the Internet “threats of murder and harm to health.” (Meduza, August 13)
Russian hypersonic technology expert accused of high treason.
- A court in Moscow on Thursday ordered a specialist in hypersonic technologies to be kept in jail pending trial on charges of high treason, in the latest in a series of espionage cases targeting Russian scientists. (Defense News, August 12)
Russia labels Belgian NGO “Undesirable”, effectively banning it.
- Russian authorities have effectively banned a Belgian non-governmental organization after declaring it an “undesirable” organization amid a Kremlin clampdown on civil society. The Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement on August 13 that the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) “poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation”. There were no immediate comments from the Brussels-based group, which reports on human rights developments, mainly in countries in the former Soviet Union. (Radio Free Europe, August 13)
Russian Rights Group Memorial documents ‘a minimum estimate’ of 410 political prisoners across the country.
- In the latest updated accounting of political prisoners from the Memorial Human Rights Center, it is documented that 329 people were deprived of liberty exercising their right to freedom of religion and 81 for other political reasons. (Radio Free Europe, August 17).
Four Crimean Tatars jailed on extremism charges in Russia.
- Facing sentences between 12 to 18 years from the Southern District Military Court in the city of Rostov, rights groups and Western Government have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the authorities installed in Crimea. (Radio Free Europe, August 16)
President Putin has approved a three-year anti-corruption plan.
- The Russian President has approved a national anti-corruption plan for 2021-2024. The relevant decree was published on the official portal of legal information. (Meduza, August 16)
Russia and China launch joint military drills.
- Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu flew to China to attend the drills that marked an increasingly close military cooperation, which is expected to expand further. It was the first time when Russian troops had taken part in joint drills on the territory of China, as it was stated by the Russian Defense Ministry that “the exercise was not aimed against any third country”. (Defense News, August 14)
Armenian Parliament elects Committee Chairs.
- After several days of heated debates, the Armenian Parliament elected on Thursday the Chairpersons of its 12 standing committees, among them three opposition lawmakers. The ruling Civil Contract party, which has a solid majority in the Parliament, gave the three candidates nominated by the opposition enough votes to become Committee Chairs. By contrast, only a handful of Hayastan Alliance and Pativ Unem Deputies appeared to have voted for the Committee Chairs nominated by Civil Contract. (Radio Free Europe, August 12)
Uruguay to open Embassy in Armenia.
- Uruguay’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francisco Bustillo, has announced Uruguay’s decision to open an Embassy in Yerevan. Bustillo has also expressed Uruguay’s concern over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to the international community and stressed that conflicts must be resolved without violence. (Armenpress, August 16)
Iranian President congratulated Pashinyan.
- President Raisi congratulated Armenian PM Pashinyan on his re-appointment. Raisi also added “…close and high-level relations have developed between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Armenia, based on good will, mutual respect and historical ties of two nations, which will further develop and enhance during your tenure” in a telegram to PM Pashinyan. (Armenpress, August 17)
Opposition member detained in Baku on criminal case.
- Policemen have detained Agil Gumbatov, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), in connection with the inquiry into the case of wounding a Baku resident. Agil’s wife has linked his detention with criticism of authorities. Gumbatov disappeared on August 11, according to his wife, Aigun Gumbatova. She stated that the police informed her that her husband had been detained on suspicion of committing a criminal offense. The press service of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has explained that Gumbatov “had inflicted knife wounds on the local resident because of a personal conflict. (Caucasian Knot, August 12)
Azerbaijan protests the passage of Iranian trucks through Nagorno-Karabakh without Baku’s permission.
- The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs has served a note of protest to the Iranian Ambassador for the passage of trucks through Nagorno-Karabakh without a Baku’s permit. (Caucasian Knot, August 12)
Wife of Azerbaijani oppositionist Gumbatov worried about his fate.
- The whereabouts of Agil Gumbatov, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), remain unknown. Gumabatov’s wife and other party activists have expressed doubt over the claim that Gumbatov had wounded a man, instead linking his detention with his criticism of the authorities. (Caucasian Knot, August 15)
MPs approved the resignation of Plamen Nikolov as a Prime Ministerial candidate.
- The decision was reached after a Presidential Council. The first vote was unsuccessful after the MPs from “There Is Such a People” left the plenary hall, and the GERB MPs did not vote on the draft decision and asked to submit an alternative. Due to the lack of a quorum, a break was announced and the decision on the case was sought at a Council of Representatives. GERB’s alternative proposal for a decision was not put to a vote. Thus, the Deputies decided that “the mandate to form a Government ended in failure.”(Novinite, August 12)
Without a new Government Bulgaria is sliding towards yet another election.
- The Bulgarian political world was shocked into action on August 10 when the party that won the country’s July 11 elections, “There is Such a People”, withdrew its Ministerial nominations. The party proved to be inflexible when it came to opening its cabinet nominations to potential coalition partners, leading many to believe the Ministerial nominations would likely not have been approved in Parliament. Elections are not a guaranteed outcome but are considered likely by many analysts. Government formation efforts will now shift to the second biggest party, GERB, a mainstay of Bulgarian politics, headed by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. (Novinite, August 12)
Bulgaria ready to evacuate 11 Bulgarian citizens from Afghanistan.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has information of 11 Bulgarian citizens working for international organizations in Kabul. “Their evacuation is being monitored and, if the need arises, the Ministry is ready to render the necessary assistance,” an official statement reads. The Bulgarian authorities are also examining the requests for temporary accommodation of Afghan citizens who have worked for NATO, the EU, and other foreign diplomatic missions or organizations in Afghanistan. (Novinite, August 17)
GERB party challenged the constitutionality of Presidential Decree appointing caretaker Government as Economy Minister holds dual citizenship.
- A petition to the Constitutional Court was submitted on Monday by GERB Deputy Leader Daniel Mitov. They ask the Court to check whether the Economy Minister in the caretaker Government had dual citizenship at the time the Government was formed. Economy Minister Petkov had Bulgarian and Canadian citizenship but has stated on earlier occasion that he gave up his Canadian citizenship before a notary when he was asked to join the caretaker Government. Under Bulgarian law, members of the Government are not allowed to have dual citizenship. (BTA, August 16)
Prosecutor’s Office refuses to recognize organizers of gay pride in Tbilisi as victims.
- Members of the “Ashamed” movement were not victims of attacks during the disruption of the gay pride parade in Tbilisi, and their office was not damaged, the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office declared. Caucasian Knot has reported that the “LGBT Week” was held in Tbilisi from July 1 to 5. Opponents of the gay pride parade also organized an action, which led to clashes. According to the journalists’ estimates, 53 media representatives were beaten. Lekso Lashkarava, a cameraman of the “Pirveli” TV Channel, was later found dead. By July 30, the number of detainees reached 31. The Institute for the Study of Democracy criticizes investigators for the fact that none of the organizers of the riots has yet been detained. (Caucasian Knot, August 12)
23 Georgians stuck in Kabul as Taliban takes control.
- Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Khvtisiashvili stated in a news briefing that the Government and its international partners “are actively working” to evacuate 23 Georgian citizens stuck in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Khvtisiashvili added that the Georgian Government found places for them on a Ukrainian plane on August 15, but the stranded citizens were unable to get to the airport. (Civil.ge, August 16)
Georgian Government urged to cancel deal with Belarus’s KGB.
- The Georgian Government came under criticism both locally and internationally as the news broke about a controversial deal between the Georgian State Security Service and the Belarus State Security Committee (KGB). The Human Rights House Tbilisi (HRHT), an umbrella organization uniting several local CSOs, stated that the deal will put in danger Belarussian nationals, particularly human rights defenders, and activists, who have fled to Georgia to escape persecution. (Civil.ge, August 16)
Court orders 30 days of arrest, puts Veaceslav Platon on wanted list.
- The Buiucani branch of the Chisinau City Appeals Court today accepted the request of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office to order 30 days of arrest for Veaceslav Platon and to put him on the wanted. Platon is accused of corrupting two guards of the Special Detachment “Pantera” of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions, who escorted him to the Court in December 2016. He is also accused of organizing the stealing of money from the accounts of three insurance companies in 2016, when he served as manager with a majority of shareholdings in these companies. (IPN, August 12)
Maia Sandu after meeting with Dmitry Kozak: We are ready to broadly discuss agenda of common interest.
- “I reiterated our position concerning the relaunch of a pragmatic and constructive dialogue that will be in the interests of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova,” President Sandu stated after the meeting with Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation. The meeting was centered on the export of Moldovan agricultural products to the Russian market, the new contract for the supply of natural gas to Moldova and the Transnistrian settlement process. (IPN, August 12)
Latvian Foreign Minister pays working visit to Moldova.
- Edgars Rinkēvičs, the Latvnian Foreign Minister, will pay a working visit to Chisinau on 16-18 August following an invitation by Deputy PM Popescu. The discussions will focus on the bilateral agenda, the relations between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union, and the support from Latvia for the European integration of Moldova. (Moldpres, August 16)
Romania is strengthening cooperation with Canada in the nuclear field.
- Romania strengthens nuclear cooperation with Canada after Energy Minister and Canadian Ambassador to Romania signed the Memorandum of Understanding between Romania’s Ministry of Energy and Canada’s Department of Natural Resources on consolidating Civilian Nuclear Cooperation. Nuclear cooperation has been a pillar of the 55-year relationship between Canada and Romania. (Actmedia, August 12)
President Iohannis ordered urgent involvement of Romanian Air Forces to evacuate Romanian citizens from Afghanistan.
- The president of Romania ordered on Monday, August 16, 2021, the immediate involvement of the Romanian Air Forces to evacuate Romanian citizens who are still on the Afghan state’s territory. PM Citu stated that there are still 35 Romanians in Afghanistan, and a plane will be sent to repatriate them. (Actmedia, August 17)
Romanians are still far from travelling visa-free to the US.
- The share of visa requests rejected by the American Embassy in Bucharest rose again above 10% to 10.14% in the financial year that ended last September, after the share dropped to 9.1% one year earlier. The percentage must fall below 3% (or below 2% for the two-year average) for the country to be eligible for the Visa Waiver program. (Romania Insider, August 16)
Main opposition CHP chief vows to resolve Kurdish question.
- Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has vowed to resolve the Kurdish question by abandoning politics over faith, identity and lifestyles. Kılıçdaroğlu paid a visit to the region on August 11 – 12 and met with local authorities and citizens in the southeastern province. In a self-criticism, Kılıçdaroğlu admitted that the CHP had pursued wrongful policies in the past by breaking away from the people. “But we changed this. The party that has changed the most in the last 10 years is the CHP,” he stressed.(Hurriet, August 13)
Main opposition party urges the Government not to make any deal with the West over Afghan refugees.
- Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Republican People’s Party, has demanded the Government not to make any deal with the West that would bring more refugees from Afghanistan following Taliban’s takeover of the country. Kılıçdaroğlu’s message came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested more cooperation with Turkey in handling the crisis in Afghanistan and a potential refugee influx. (Hurriyet, August 17)
Turkish Embassy in Kabul continues operations.
- Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoglu has declared in a press briefing that all necessary measures have been taken regarding Turkey’s diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan and that the Turkish Embassy will continue to operate in Kabul. (Hurriyet, August 16)
Mayor of Ukrainian city Kryviy Rih found shot dead.
- Kostyantyn Pavlov, a leading member of the Russian-friendly party “Opposition Bloc — For Life” and mayor of Kryviy Rih, has been found dead from a gunshot wound in his house in the village of Vilne. President Zelenskiy, who is a native of Kryviy Rih, issued a statement that he had taken the investigation into Pavlov’s death under his personal control. (Radio Free Europe, August 16)
Protesters clash with the Police outside Ukrainian President’s office.
- Protesters led by members of a prominent right-wing Ukrainian political group clashed with riot Police near the office of President Zelenskiy. The group was protesting a plan known as the “Steinmeier Formula” aimed at resolving the seven-year war in Donbass. (Radio Free Europe, August 14).
A truck carrying Syrian migrants crashes in Prague after police chase.
- The Czech authorities are currently searching for the driver of a truck that avoided a police check near Prague and went on to crash in the capital’s Holešovice district on Thursday morning. The driver fled the vehicle together with a group of mainly Syrian migrants, 29 of whom have thus far been detained by the Czech Foreign Police. (Radio Prague International, August 12)
Czech Republic to appeal European Commission’s refusal to pay out subsidies to Agrofert group.
- The Czech Government plans to go to court over the European Commission’s procedure regarding subsidies for companies in the Agrofert conglomerate founded by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. In a press release, Ministry of Finance spokesman Michal Žurovec stated that a letter through which the European Commission declined to pay out a subsidy for Agrofert subsidiary Fatra, a plastic producer, provides sufficient reason to seek a verdict from the Court of Justice of the European Union. (Radio Prague International, August 12)
Michal Koudelka became acting counterintelligence Chief as term ended.
- Koudelka’s term as Director of the Czech Republic’s BIS counterintelligence service ended on Sunday. Whether he should remain in the post has been a burning political issue in recent weeks, with President Miloš Zeman a long-term critic of Mr. Koudelka and the BIS as a whole. (Radio Prague International, August 15)
Hungary lends 100.000 vaccine doses to the Czech Republic, donates the same amount to Vietnam.
- The Hungarian Government has decided to lend 100.000 doses of Janssen vaccine to the Czech Republic and donate 100.000 doses of AstraZeneca and 100.000 antigen tests to Vietnam, after a request for aid. (Hungary Today, August 12)
Hungary’s GDP records exponential growth of almost 18% in Q2.
- Hungary’s second-quarter GDP grew by an annual 17.9 percent after a double-digit decline in the base period, a first reading of data released by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) on Tuesday shows. (Hungary Today, August 17)
Hungary will not agree to unrestricted admittance of Afghan migrants.
- The country will not allow an unrestricted inflow of migrants from Afghanistan, a Foreign Ministry Official declared on Monday. State Secretary Magyar stated to the public media that the world has witnessed a “complete military and political collapse in Afghanistan” following the withdrawal of international forces led by the U.S. from the country. (Hungary Today, August 16)
Parliament in favor of more funds for healthcare.
- A new bill passed on Wednesday states that Poland will slowly increase the percentage of the GDP invested in health care, aiming to reach 7% of the GDP by 2027. The law also includes provisions on the inviolability of the staff of COVID-19 vaccination points and it provides vaccination points employees with additional legal protection. This provision is associated with attacks on vaccination points and threats against medical personnel. (Polandin, August 12)
Attempts to maneuver the U.S. into condemning Poland have failed, report unveils.
- Referring to his “diplomatic source”, Eldad Beck, European Correspondent for the “Israel Hayom” emphasized that the authorities in Washington consider racist statements of the Israeli Foreign Minister towards Poles as an overreaction. On Saturday, the Head of Israeli Diplomacy announced that his country’s new Ambassador would not head to Poland. He also recommended that Marek Magierowski, the Polish Ambassador to Israel, who was on leave, should not return to the country for now. (Polandin, August 17)
Poland will issue visas for Afghans who cooperated with the country.
- Prime Minister Morawiecki has said that Poland will provide visas to Afghans who cooperated with Poles during their NATO mission in Afghanistan. (Polandin, August 16)
Serious flaw reported in the eHranica form: cyber attackers were able to send people into self-isolation.
- Ethical hackers from the Nethemba Company uncoveredtwo serious flaws in state systems, the second concerning EU vaccination. Hackers had the chance to send people into self-isolation or acquire the EU Digital Covid Certificate of a specific person by only discovering how to generate their birth number. These two gaps in the state-run systems were recently uncovered by ethical hackers from the Nethemba Company, which claimed that the National Health Information Centre (NCZI) has failed to protect the personal data of millions of people. (Slovak Spectator, August 16)
Top Court annulled parliamentary inquiries into prosecutors.
- The Constitutional Court has found the law on Parliamentary inquiry and the Parliament’s rules of procedure are not in line with the Constitution in allowing Parliamentary inquiries for concrete cases undertaken by State Prosecutors. The Court has also annulled the Parliament’s decision to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the many Court proceedings of ex-Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, now a state secretary at the Interior Ministry. (Total Slovenia News, August 12)
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