Regional Press Review (16-21 September)
Preliminary results give United Russia a constitutional majority in the elections.
- According to preliminary final results of the three-day elections, which were marred by the lack of a significant opposition presence, United Russia candidates took 112 seats in the State Duma, along with 198 single-mandate constituencies across the country. That gives the party a comfortable two-thirds majority in the Duma’s 450 seats needed to make changes to the Constitution. United Russia’s closest rival, the Communist Party, received 18.93 percent of the vote. Three other parties cleared the 5 percent hurdle required for representation in the State Duma: the Liberal Democratic Party with 7.55 percent of the vote, A Just Russia with 7.46 percent, and a newcomer party, New People, received 5.32 percent. (Radio Free Europe, September 21)
Communist Party rallies protesters in Moscow after accusing Russian authorities of vote-rigging.
- On September 20, the Communist Party (KPRF) organized a rally in downtown Moscow opposing voting rigging in the State Duma elections. Having been denied permission to hold an authorized protest, the gathering on Pushkin Square was positioned as a meeting with voters (Meduza, September 20)
Opposition candidates lose in the Russian capital as electronic voting results roll in at the last minute.
- Official election results showed that nominal opposition candidates running for the State Duma failed to win in any of Moscow’s single-mandate constituencies. Several candidates were in the lead, only to see their electoral districts flip during the final vote count. The Central Election Commission was supposed to announce the results of the State Duma elections at 2:00 p.m. Moscow time on Monday but postponed the reveal. The CEC later said that the final results are expected on September 24. (Meduza, September 20)
WHO suspends approval process for Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.
- An official at the World Health Organization (WHO) says the group has suspended its approval process for Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine after several manufacturing infringements were uncovered during an inspection in Russia earlier this year. Despite a lack of approval, Sputnik V is being used in several countries across the world. (Radio Free Europe, September 16)
The European Court of Human Rights rules Russia responsible for Litvinenko death.
- The ECHR has ruled that Russia was responsible for the assassination of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006. Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on November 1, 2006, after he drank tea that was poisoned with polonium-210, a rare, highly radioactive isotope. He died several days later in the hospital. A British inquiry concluded in 2016 that Putin probably approved a Russian intelligence operation to murder Litvinenko. In its ruling issued on the ECHR stated it had established “beyond reasonable doubt” that the killing had been carried out by 2 Russian agents. (Radio Free Europe, September 21)
PM Pashinian to seek a meeting with Turkey’s President Erdogan.
- Turkey’s President Erdogan declared on Sunday that Armenian PM Pashinian has offered to meet with him for talks on improving Turkish-Armenian relations. President Erdogan appeared to make such talks conditional on Armenia agreeing to open a transport corridor that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave. (Radio Free Europe, September 20)
Armenia takes Azerbaijan to International Court.
- Armenia has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Azerbaijan responsible for what it called anti-Armenian “racial discrimination,” mass killings, and other grave human rights abuses committed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “For decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination, with Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev himself leading the way,” reads its lawsuit announced by the Hague-based UN tribunal on late Thursday. (Radio Free Europe, September 17)
Azerbaijan starts charging Iranian trucks supplying Armenia.
- The move appears to be part of a steadily increasing effort by Baku to exert control over the road in southern Armenia that passes through pockets of Azerbaijan-controlled territory. Azerbaijani police are stopping Iranian trucks transiting a key road through southern Armenia and charging them a fee for entering Azerbaijan. (Eurasianet, September 16)
New caretaker Government in Bulgaria: PM and most Ministers keep their office.
- A Presidential decree has been gazetted Thursday with the line-up of a new caretaker government that will prepare the November 14 elections for a new Parliament and the presidential elections to be held on the same day. Most ministers from the caretaker government of Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, including Yanev himself, keep their offices. Only three ministers are different: of Economy, of Finance and Transport, IT and Communications. (Novinite, September 16)
EU Funds fraud in Bulgaria was committed on a massive scale.
- EU funds fraud in Bulgaria is comparable to the largest markets for organized crime such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and illegal fuel trade, according to the “Bulgarian Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2020“, published by NGO Center for the Study of Democracy. Abuses range from 5-15% of the funds received from the beneficiaries of the operational programs in Bulgaria, according to the report. With a total budget of 23.2 billion levs (€11.7 billion), the potential damages for the programming period of 2014-2020 are between 1.16 billion levs (€0.59 billion) and 3.48 billion levs (€1.78 billion). (Novinite, September 16)
President Sandu meets World Bank’s Eastern Europe Manager.
- President Maia Sandu today met World Bank’s Eastern Europe manager Arup Banerji, who is on a working visit to Chisinau, the presidential press service has reported. “We discussed with Mr. Banerji and Ms. Inguna Dorbaja, World Bank country manager in Moldova, about the portfolio of technical assistance projects carried out in our country and projects planned for the future,” President Sandu declared. (Moldpres, September 20)
Senate’s head insists PM Citu needs lawmakers’ permit to stay in office.
- The lawmakers should be given the right to express their vote on the new political composition of the Government, argued on Monday, September 20, Senate speaker Anca Dragu (reformist, USR-PLUS). She thus reacted to prime minister Florin Citu (liberal, PNL), who stated over the weekend that all he needs is lawmakers’ vote for his new ministers. PM Citu will nominate candidates to replace the ministers of reformist USR-PLUS that pulled out of the ruling coalition in early September. (Romania Insider, September 21)
President Erdoğan meets British PM and the UN Chief in New York.
- Turkey’s president and Britain’s prime minister held a closed-door meeting on Sept. 20 in New York. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Boris Johnson at the Turkevi Center, or Turkish House, in Manhattan across from U.N. headquarters. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and Trade Minister Mehmet Muş were also present during the meeting, which lasted 40 minutes. Erdoğan separately met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York. (Hurriyet, September 20)
Turkey blasts “provocative” Greek move in its maritime territory.
- Blasting a Greek move on its maritime territory as “provocative,” Turkey on September 20, issued a counter naval alert for its continental shelf area in the Aegean. On September 16, Greece issued a Navtex navigational alert for “scientific research” by the Nautical Geo research vessel on Sept. 16-22 east of Crete, an area including Turkey’s continental shelf, but Turkey’s Navtex challenged the Greek move. (Hurriyet, September 20)
Ukraine holds military drills with U.S. forces and NATO allies.
- Ukraine began joint military exercises with the U.S. and other NATO troops on Monday, at a time when neighboring Russia and Belarus have been holding large-scale drills that alarmed the West. Ukraine, at war with Russia-backed separatists since 2014, has long sought closer integration with Western militaries in the hope of one day joining NATO. (Reuters, September 20)
Western diplomats express concern about Ukraine’s judicial reforms after delay.
- In a move seen as an attempt to delay its implementation, the Council of Judges failed to name three experts for one of the two panels by the September 13 deadline. Western diplomats have expressed concern over Ukraine’s delay in implementing recently passed judicial legislation that is seen in Washington and Brussels as crucial to improving the nation’s rule of law and cleaning up corruption. The G7 diplomats warned against attempts to delay reforms “aimed at strengthening the rule of law. (Radio Free Europe, September 16)
Record number of women running in October’s general elections.
- The Czech Republic still lags behind most European states as regards the proportion of seats held by women in the country’s national parliament, Czech Radio reported. With a 23 percent share of female MPs in the outgoing lower house, the country is behind the majority of EU states, and mid-way down the list of post-communist countries. The OECD average is currently 31.6. (Radio Prague International, September 17)
Candidate to oppose PM Orban gets off to rocky start during opposition primary.
- A multiday primary election to find a candidate to challenge Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban got underway on September 18 but was suspended due to a system crash. Organizers blamed the early interruption of voting on a suspected cyberattack and said balloting would resume on September 20. (Radio Free Europe, September 18)
The number of job vacancies in the education sector has reached a new record high.
- According to recent data from Hungary’s Central Statistical Office (KSH), older teachers are retiring, and young people do not choose this career due to many factors, including the very low wages. Teachers’ unions are talking about a growing shortage of staff, with vacancies in schools increasing and more time needed to find suitable teachers. (Hungary Today, September 18)
Polish MEP criticizes EP resolution on LGBTIQ as being contrary to Polish Constitution.
- The European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on 14th September demanding that same-sex marriage and civil partnerships be recognized across the EU. In a resolution on “the rights of LGBTIQ people,” adopted by a majority, the institution stressed that these citizens should be able to fully exercise their rights. The PiS MEPs voted against the resolution. “The European Parliament demands solutions that are contrary to the Polish constitution,” Jadwiga Wiśniewska, MEP from the Law and Justice (PiS) declared. (Polandin, September 21)
Poland claims mounting evidence Minsk, Moscow orchestrating migrant flow across border.
- Poland officials declare having mounting evidence that Belarus, backed by Russia, is orchestrating the wave of illegal immigrants pouring across its borders and into the European Union. PM Morawiecki stated that no one believes Minsk is acting alone in sending thousands across Belarus’s borders with Poland and Lithuania in retaliation for sanctions on authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his regime following a disputed 2020 presidential election that prompted a sometimes violent crackdown on opposition politicians and independent media outlets. (Radio Free Europe, September 20)
Slovak journalists stand behind their colleagues from Dennik N. after police brought charges against two journalists.
- Monika Tódová and Konštantín Čikovský are accused of revealing confidential and reserved information, and if found guilty, they could spend up to one year in prison. The police prosecutor pressed charges following the order of the Bratislava prosecutor’s office last week. Following the accusations, media trusts condemned the charges, considering them another attempt to threaten journalists who have been revealing the missteps of those in power. (Slovak Spectator, September 21; Slovak Spectator, September 20)
Slovakia will have its first-ever representative on the WHO Executive Board.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) Committee for Europe confirmed that professor Jozef Šuvada will represent Slovakia on WHO’s Executive Board. The decision is confirmation of the expert qualities of this Slovak candidate and also the significant success of Slovak diplomacy. (The Slovak Spectator, September 16)
After being dispersed with tear gas and water cannons while protesting against the Covid pass mandate, Friday protesters file a criminal complaint against the PM.
- Anti-Government protestors gathered in Republic Square in Ljubljana on Friday evening, announcing they had filed a criminal complaint about corruption against PM Janez Janša earlier in the day, to coincide with his birthday. Every Janša Government has been marked by corruption and nepotism, which has reached new dimensions in the last year and a half, stated the Protest People’s Assembly. (Slovenian Times, September 17)
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