Regional Press Review (2-9 November)
Russia’s Gazprom declines to book extra capacity on Ukraine’s and Poland’s pipelines.
- Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom declined to book more pipeline capacity via Ukraine and Poland to ship gas to Europe in the first three quarters of next year, in a sign it may be waiting for approval of the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany. Russia has been accused of exacerbating the energy crisis to advance approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea. (Radio Free Europe, November 2)
Siberian Orthodox priest jailed again for publicly backing former Governor.
- A court in Siberia has sentenced an Orthodox priest to 10 days in jail, his sixth jail term, for publicly expressing support for the former Governor of the Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, who was arrested on murder charges that he and his supporters have rejected as politically motivated. Large anti-Government protests in the region erupted last year after Furgal’s arrest in July 2020, highlighting discontent in the Far East over what demonstrators viewed as Moscow-dominated policies that often neglect their views and interests. (Radio Free Europe, November 3)
CIA Chief meets head of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow.
- Burns and Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, “discussed Russian-U.S. relations,” the council’s press service said in a short statement. U.S. President Joe Biden has said that, despite tensions, his administration is looking to cooperate with Moscow on specific issues, including strategic arms reductions, the Iran nuclear talks, and countering ransomware and other cyberattacks. (Radio Free Europe, November 2)
Prominent islamic scholar sentenced to 6 and a half years in prison.
- Gabdrakhman Naumov was sentenced by a court in Kazan for leading a branch of the Islamic Nur movement. Naumov is well-known in Tatarstan as a professor at the Russian Islamic University and the former imam of a mosque in Kazan. He was arrested in March 2020 and charged with being the leader of the Nur movement in Tatarstan. The Nur movement was founded in Turkey by prominent Islamic scholar Said Nursi, who before his death in 1960 had advocated against communist secularism and for the integration of modern science and logic into Islam. (Radio Free Europe, November 2)
Russian Defense Minister claims U.S. presence in the Black Sea is a provocation.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has called the presence of the U.S. Navy in the Black Sea a provocation after another ship entered the strategic waters. The Black Sea has become a hot spot in relations between the Kremlin and the West after Russia annexed Crimea, a move that gives it access to the peninsula’s Black Sea coast. Most countries do not recognize Russia’s annexation and continue to seek permission from Ukraine to traverse the waters near Crimea. (Radio Free Europe, November 7)
Russia and Iran call for restoring Nuclear Deal to its original form.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, have called in a telephone conversation for the Iran nuclear deal to be restored to its original form. The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018 under President Trump, and Iran has since consistently increased activity in its nuclear program, including expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, arguing that it was no longer subject to the terms of the vacated deal. Trump’s successor, President Biden, has expressed interest in rejoining the pact if Iran returned to full compliance. However, indirect negotiations between the deal’s signatories that started in April in Vienna were put on hold in June after the Islamic republic elected hard-liner Ibrahim Raisi as president. (Radio Free Europe, November 6)
Russian LGBT Network, along with exiled lawyer Ivan Pavlov, declared “foreign agents”.
- The Russian Justice Ministry has made two high-profile additions to its registries of “foreign agents”, the rights group “Russian LGBT Network” and exiled human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov. (Meduza, November 8)
Google fined again for violating internet law.
- A Russian court has ordered Google to $28,085 for violating the country’s rules on banned content. In recent months, Russian courts have ordered Google to pay fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to delete banned content on its search engine and YouTube. Russian courts have also fined Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, and TikTok on similar charges. Google confirmed the November 8 fine, but gave no additional comment. (Radio Free Europe, November 8)
Relatives of soldiers missing in action demand a meeting with Pashinyan.
- Participants of protest action in front of the Government building blocked traffic on the street to secure a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. However, the Prime Minister said he was very busy and refused to meet the protesters. The relatives of those killed and missing in action have been threatened with more radical forms of protest if Nikol Pashinyan does not set a date for the meeting. (Caucasian Knot, November 3)
Protests in Yerevan as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed the trilateral agreement.
- On November 10, 2020, the trilateral agreement signed by Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia on the cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh came into force. On the same day, residents of Yerevan, dissatisfied with the signing of the peace agreement with Azerbaijan, broke into the building of the Armenian Government and demanded the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan. On November 8 another protest action against the trilateral peace agreement has taken place. Protesters claim Pashinyan was not entitled to sign the agreement and that the issue concerning the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be resolved exclusively within the OSCE Minsk Group. (Caucasian Knot, November 8)
Bulgarian Presidential candidate charged over violent attack on LGBT center.
- A right-wing nationalist candidate has been detained and indicted over a weekend attack on an LGBT community center in the capital. Boyan Rasate was detained for 72 hours and is facing charges of hooliganism and infliction of an injury, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement three days after his legal immunity as a presidential candidate was lifted, opening the way for the prosecution. (Radio Free Europe, November 3)
The Chief of Defense: Modernization of our Army can’t keep up with the pace in neighboring countries.
- Admiral Emil Eftimov, the Chief of Defense, called for a broad political consensus on projects to modernize the Bulgarian Army as it currently “does not correspond to the pace of armament and rearmament of neighboring countries”. For this reason, when in the first quarter of 2022 our country receives a response to the request for 8 new fighter jets, there must be a parliament to approve the new financial parameters, added Eftimov. (Novinite, November 5)
Mikhail Saakashvili was transferred to a prison hospital.
- A doctors’ council unanimously supported the decision to transfer Mikhail Saakashvili to a multifunctional clinic. The penitentiary service reported on the transfer of the former president of Georgia to a prison hospital. According to the doctor, the council’s recommendation to transfer the patient to a multifunctional clinic implied a civil clinic, since prison hospitals did not meet the requirements. (Caucasian Knot, November 8)
More protests are planned in Georgia after ex-President alleges abuse in prison hospital.
- Opposition parties in Georgia are planning more protests after jailed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike for more than a month, said he had been abused by guards at a prison hospital. (Radio Free Europe, November 9)
Moldovan Government approves social security agreements with Italy and Greece.
- The Government has formally approved a social security agreement signed with Italy in June 2021 and a similar one signed with Greece in September before their ratification by the Moldovan Parliament. (IPN, November 3)
Moldova to sign US$3.8 m agreement on promotion of exports to EU.
- The Republic of Moldova and the International Finance Corporation are to sign an agreement of cooperation to the value of US$3.8 million for implementing the Moldova Investment Climate Reform Project. (IPN, November 3)
Charges were brought against Vlad Plahotniuc in the Metalferos case.
- Criminal charges have been filed against the former Democratic Party leader Vlad Plahotniuc in the case of the state-owned company Metalferos. Prosecutors today also requested the Ciocana District Court to issue an arrest warrant against the fugitive oligarch. The Court is to decide on the matter until November 10. (IPN, November 5)
The chief prosecutor of Ciocana district under arrest.
- The chief prosecutor of Ciocana district Igor Popa, deputy chief prosecutor of the municipality of Chisinau, was arrested. Anticorruption prosecutors, together with officers of the Ministry of the Interior, are carrying out investigative measures in a case of unjust enrichment. (IPN, November 9)
Citu: There are high chances for a coalition to be rebuilt.
- National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Florin Citu declared after the meeting with the Save Romania Union (USR) representatives, that there are high chances to rebuild the coalition between the two parties, specifying that the discussion that the two parties had “looked a lot like group therapy.” He pointed out that there was no discussion about a prime minister’s name, but about the principle that the prime minister is from the PNL. (Act Media, November 4)
The U.S. Announces $25 Million to support access to clean nuclear energy.
- As part of the Nuclear Futures Package, the United States is partnering with Poland, Kenya, Ukraine, Brazil, Romania, and Indonesia, among others, to support progress on meeting their nuclear energy goals. Efforts include capacity building, equipment, feasibility and siting studies, demonstration projects, study tours, site visits, technical collaboration, and more. (Act Media, November 4)
Romania will include, by 2028, small modular reactors in the national energy production system.
- President Iohannis met in Glasgow with U.S. President Special Representative for Climate John Karry, with the talks also focusing on the inclusion of small modular reactors in the national system of energy production in Romania. Romania will include in the national system for the energy production the small modular reactors (SMR) until 2028, which will strengthen the partnership with the USA in the civil nuclear field, said the Romanian Presidential Administration. (Act Media, November 3)
Kelemen Hunor: We decided to start negotiations to form a PNL-PSD-UDMR grand coalition.
- The Council of Union Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) has decided in its Monday session that the Union will start negotiations for the formation “of a grand coalition” with the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), with the support of the Parliamentary group of national minorities. (Act Media, November 9)
Romanian Foreign Minister to visit the U.S. for talks with State Secretary Blinken.
- Talks between Aurescu and Blinken will aim to identify concrete ways to develop and deepen bilateral political, security, defense, and energy cooperation, strengthening economic cooperation, including promoting strategic interconnection projects that are a priority with Romania: Rail2Sea and Via Carpathia, as well as civil nuclear co-operation. (Act Media, November 8)
Top Turkish, Greek officials hold talks in Turkey’s capital.
- Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Greece’s migration and asylum minister met in the Turkish capital Ankara. Soylu and Notis Mitarakis as well as accompanying delegations met behind closed doors and discussed migration and the fight against terrorism along with security issues. (Hurriyet, November 3)
Turkish President meets with representatives of Bosnian NGOs.
- Highlighting that Turkey mobilized all its resources in support of Muslims during the Bosnian War, in which massacres and crimes against humanity took place, Erdoğan said his country will continue to stand by the Bosnian people “in a much stronger and different way.” Erdogan also added that “We aim to increase our bilateral trade, which was $650 million last year despite the pandemic, to over $1 billion in a short time”. (Hurriyet, November 8)
Ukraine says 90,000 Russian troops stationed near the border.
- Ukraine says Russia has kept tens of thousands of troops near its border following military exercises, in what Kyiv described as part of Moscow’s attempts to exert pressure on its neighbor. Earlier this week, the U.S. news outlet Politico reported that commercial satellite photos supplied by the U.S. space company Maxar Technologies showed around 1,000 military vehicles near the Russian town of Yelnya. At the time, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said it had not observed any Russian military buildup near the border. (Radio Free Europe, November 3)
CoE Secretary-General to pay an official visit to Ukraine.
- Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric will pay an official visit to Ukraine on November 3-5 at the invitation of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. According to the report, Kuleba and Pejcinovic Buric will hold talks on the implementation of Council of Europe resolutions, the protection of human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and other topical issues of cooperation between Ukraine and the Council of Europe. (Ukrinform, November 3)
Ukrainian President signs “Anti-Oligarch Law”.
- The legislation introduces a legal definition for an oligarch, creates a register of tycoons, and requires officials to declare contacts with oligarchs or their representatives. It also prohibits oligarchs from financing political parties, political ads, or demonstrations, and excludes them from the privatization of state assets. The United States and European Union have long called on Ukraine to rein in the handful of oligarchs who wield enormous political influence from behind the scenes to the detriment of everyday citizens. However, critics of the law have warned that it opens the door for subjective targeting. (Radio Free Europe, November 5)
Ukraine receives nearly 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from UN funds.
- The deliveries are part of a UN program aimed at helping stop the spread of the virus in countries that don’t have the financial resources to buy them. Ukraine has now received more than 7.4 million free doses under the UN program. The deliveries come as the country faces its worst wave of the pandemic. (Radio Free Europe, November 7)
Zelensky, Duda discuss counteracting Nord Stream 2 and the situation on the border with Belarus.
- According to the report, “particular attention was paid to the coordination of the parties’ positions on counteraction to the Nord Stream 2 project. The interlocutors were unanimous in their assessments of Nord Stream 2 primarily as a security threat and reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to further opposition to the project”. In addition, the parties paid special attention to promising projects of cooperation in the energy sector, in particular, on the establishment of alternative ways of gas supply. Zelensky informed Duda about the development of the security situation in the east of Ukraine. (Ukrinform, November 9)
Election-winning blocs agree to a coalition deal.
- Two blocs that ran in recent Czech general elections have reached an agreement on a coalition deal. Together, featuring the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and TOP09, and the Pirates & Mayors have 108 seats in the lower house. The five parties are due to sign an agreement on Monday under which there will be 18 cabinet members, including in the new posts of Minister for legislation, for the EU, and science, research, and innovation. (Radio Prague International, November 3)
ANO party nominates two for deputy speaker positions in the Chamber of Deputies.
- The current speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Radek Vondráček, and the former governor of the Karlovy Vary Region, Jana Mračková Vildumetzová, have both been nominated by their own ANO party for the position of future deputy speakers of the Lower House of Parliament. (Radio Prague International, November 3)
Czech Republic takes in Romanian Covid patients.
- The Government of Romania, which has very high infection rates, had appealed to other European states, including the Czech Republic, for help. The Romanian patients, a man and woman, were flown to the Czech Republic by a special government plane. (Radio Prague International, November 7)
New Czech Government to “review” relations with Russia.
- Five Czech parties have signed a power-sharing deal to form a coalition government following the country’s parliamentary elections last month, vowing to anchor foreign policy to the European Union and NATO, while putting relations with Russia and China “under review.” The agreement stated that it’s foreign policy “will be based on anchoring in the European Union and NATO and on good relations with all neighboring states.” It adds that “we will continue to deepen cooperation with democratic partners in the Asia-Pacific areas such as Taiwan, Japan, the Republic of Korea and others” and that “we will review relations with Russia and China.” It does not explain what the review of relations will entail. (Radio Free Europe, November 8)
Orbán in Talks with Salvini, Morawiecki on New EU Political Group.
- Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held a video conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s League party, on a new political group in the European Union, the PM’s press chief said. (Hungary Today, November 3
V4 PMs, South Korean President to meet in Budapest.
- Poland’s PM Morawiecki is scheduled to take part in a meeting between heads of Government from the regional Visegrad Group (V4) and the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, in Budapest. Piotr Müller, the spokesman for the Polish Government, told reporters that the Budapest meeting would provide an opportunity to debate “mutual relations, particularly trade and investment, energy and infrastructure, cooperation in science and culture, as well as the role of the International Visegrad Fund.” (Polskie Radio, November 4)
Satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party to run alone at upcoming election.
- The Satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) has confirmed they will run alone in the upcoming general elections. This comes after the opposition cooperation’s newly-elected prime ministerial candidate had been reportedly trying to convince them not to run separately. Recent surveys say MKKP may well jump over the Parliamentary threshold in the upcoming elections. (Hungary Today, November 8)
Pegasus Case: Opposition to contact NSO to uncover details of suspected misuse.
- After a Fidesz politician admitted that the Government purchased and used Pegasus Spyware, which targeted journalists, or anti-Government figures, the Israeli manufacturer of the spyware spoke of potential sanctions against the Hungarian Government. Meanwhile, the opposition is assessing legal steps and demands consequences. (Hungary Today, November 8)
Poland summons Belarusian envoy over border intrusion.
- The Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “unidentified uniformed individuals armed with long guns” crossed into Poland from Belarus earlier this week. The head of Poland’s Border Guard has sent a letter to his Belarusian counterpart, requesting an explanation. (Polskie Radio, November 3)
President Duda signs special law on building “wall” on the border with Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.
- Both chambers of the Polish parliament supported the draft law last week. The new special law envisages the construction of a modern high barrier, equipped with video surveillance and motion detection systems, worth more than 1.6 billion zlotys (more than US$400 million). The project will be implemented beyond standard tender procedures in a streamlined model. The project is invested by a senior official of the Polish Border Guard Service. (Ukrinform, November 3)
Further provocations against Polish troops at Belarus border.
- Poland’s defence ministry on Friday accused Belarus of staging “further provocations” against Polish troops helping protect the European Union’s external border, saying that a Belarusian soldier tried to fire a flare gun at Polish soldiers, while five armed Belarusians attempted to destroy the border fence. (Polskie Radio, November 5)
Polish President to visit Slovakia.
- President Duda is scheduled to meet with the Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová and Prime Minister Eduard Heger to talk about bilateral ties and “hybrid threats from the East”. “Poland and Slovakia are very close partners in the EU, NATO and the Visegrad Group, and they also carry out joint projects as part of the Three Seas Initiative,” the Polish President’s foreign policy adviser Jakub Kumoch told reporters. He added that Duda’s talks in Bratislava would focus on topics including an escalating migrant crisis on Poland’s border with Belarus. (Polskie Radio, November 9)
Slovenia to join Powering Past Coal Alliance at COP26.
- The Slovenian Government has decided to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance as part of the Energy Day at the COP26 conference in Glasgow on Thursday, dedicated to enhancing global energy transition, and will also sign a statement of public support for the clean energy transition. (Slovenia Times, November 2)