Regional Press Review (20-27 October)
Turkey apprehends six men suspected of planning attacks against Kadyrov’s critics.
- Turkish authorities have arrested four Russian citizens, one Ukrainian citizen, and one Uzbek national on charges of “military and political espionage” linked to alleged plans to attack Chechen opposition activists residing in Turkey. The men are also suspected of buying weapons to use against Turkish-based critics of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. (Radio Free Europe, October 21)
NATO Chief: relations with Russia at the lowest point since the Cold War.
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described relations with Russia as hitting a new low following a fresh spat that saw Kremlin envoys to the alliance stripped of accreditation and NATO’s office in Moscow due to close. Earlier this month, NATO expelled eight Russians accredited to the alliance, saying they were intelligence agents. NATO also halved the number of accredited positions for Russia to 10. (Radio Free Europe, October 21)
Russian jailed after playing fictional Ministry Spokeswoman in online series.
- A Court in Russia’s Far East has sentenced a woman to three months in prison after she played the role of an Interior Ministry spokeswoman in an online satirical series about a fictional official. Police in the Primorye region said on October 21 that 43-year-old Larisa Krivonosova was sent to prison for a parole violation. The satirical online show about mocks the everyday life of ordinary people and the behavior of local authorities in Russian provinces. (Radio Free Europe, October 22)
Putin will not attend the COP26 Climate Summit.
- Russian President Putin will not fly to Scotland for the COP26 climate summit at the end of the month. No reason was given for the decision, which is being seen as a blow to efforts to get world leaders to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures. COP26, which starts on October 31, is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. (Radio Free Europe, October 20)
Tatarstan opposes federal draft law on retitling the Republic’s President.
- The State Council of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, the region’s legislature, has refused to support a draft law that would retitle the Republic‘s President. The bill, which was submitted to the State Duma in late September, proposes establishing “head” as the standardized title for all of Russia’s regional leaders. According to Tatarstan’s State Council, the provisions of the bill “contradict the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation as a democratic, federal, law-based state.” The decision not to support the bill was adopted unanimously. (Meduza, October 25)
Moscow slams Washington’s decision to add Russians seeking U.S. visas to “homeless nationals” list.
- The move allows Russians to apply for U.S. visas in Warsaw instead of their home country after the U.S. Embassy stopped processing most visa applications in May due to Moscow’s ban on employing embassy staff in Russia. The U.S. State Department lists as “homeless” applicants from countries in which the United States has no consular representation, or where consular staff cannot issue visas due to the political or security situation. (Radio Free Europe, October 24)
Russian investigative journalist added to “wanted list”.
- Sergei Reznik, who specializes in anti-corruption investigations, has been added to the Interior Ministry’s wanted list. No details for his placement on the list were provided. Reznik maintained his innocence and continued to work as an investigative journalist after serving prison terms. He declared that a total of seven criminal cases have been opened against him with all of the alleged victims being prosecutors, judges, or police officials. (Radio Free Europe, October 25)
Russia issues arrest warrants for the prison-torture whistle-blower.
- The Interior Ministry issued the warrant without specifying the crime that the whistle-blower Syarhey Savelyeu is accused of. Savelyeu is a former prison inmate who has admitted to releasing graphic video evidence of hundreds of cases of inmate torture by other inmates at the direction of prison officials. According to the prisoners’ rights NGO Gulagu.net, which published some of the videos and reported on their contents, Moscow intends to send documentation on Savelyeu to Interpol to seek his extradition. (Radio Free Europe, October 23)
Turkish President Erdogan and Azerbaijan President Aliyev open an airport near Nagorno-Karabakh.
- The ceremony was held on October 26, hours after Erdogan arrived in Fuzuli, the capital of the district with the same name adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh that was placed under Baku’s control as part of a truce signed in November following a 44-day war between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces. Fuzuli was the first town that Azerbaijan recaptured from ethnic Armenian forces during the war last year. (Radio Free Europe, October 26)
Azerbaijan releases Iranian truck drivers at the center of diplomatic disputes.
- Azerbaijan has released two Iranian truck drivers whose arrest last month on charges of illegally entering the country strained ties between the two neighbors. The release of the Iranian citizens on October 21 comes a week after Azerbaijan and Iran’s Foreign Ministers agreed to dial back heated rhetoric and engage in dialogue to defuse diplomatic crises. (Radio Free Europe, October 21)
Bulgarian political parties ask for Health Minister Katsarov’s Resignation.
- Three parties have officially adopted positions against the new anti-epidemic measures imposed by Health Minister Katsarov and have even called on him to resign. At the same time, mass outrage against him erupted on social media, both against the restriction of movement and visits to various sites, but also because the measures are too late and ineffective. (Novinite, October 20)
In September, the number of detained migrants in Bulgaria has increased by 28.9% compared to August.
- A total of 1,626 foreign nationals were detained in Bulgaria, according to statistics from the Ministry of Interior. Of these, 154 people were detained at the entrance to the state border, 128 at the exit without registration, and 1344 were found to be staying illegally in the interior of the country. During the period of January-September 2021, a total of 6,560 foreign nationals were detained. (Novinite, October 22)
The European Commission started the evaluation of the Bulgarian recovery plan.
- The spokesman of the European Commission Eric Mamer has announced that the European Commission has started an evaluation of the Plan for Reconstruction and Development of Bulgaria. Mammer declined to comment on whether the evaluation could be completed before the end of the year or continue thereafter. (Novinite, October 25)
Saakashvili’s lawyer says his client’s health state has dramatically worsened.
- Saakashvili was arrested hours after he announced he had returned to Georgia following an eight-year absence. He immediately went on a hunger strike, while his arrest triggered a protest by tens of thousands of his supporters in Tbilisi. One of his lawyers, Dito Sadzaglishvili, has stated that Saakashvili may need resuscitation assistance again given his current condition. (Radio Free Europe, October 25)
Moldova to use Ukraine’s expertise in gas import.
- An agreement was reached by Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Popescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, in a meeting with Naftogaz CEO Yuriy Vitrenko. The officials conferred on the technical solutions that can be implemented in cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities to make sure that Moldova is supplied with natural gas on a permanent basis. (IPN, October 22)
PM Gavrilița will ask Parliament to declare state of emergency.
- PM Natalia Gavrilița declared she will go to Parliament to ask to declare a state of emergency so as to be able to derogate from particular procedures and laws in the purchase of gas from alternative sources. The official announced in a press briefing in the morning of October. (IPN, October 22)
Ursula von der Leyen: EU will help Moldova to face its gas supply issue.
- President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen expressed her satisfaction with the telephone conversation she had with President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu. “Good phone call with Maia Sandu. We are in regular contact to help Moldova face its gas supply issue. The EU stands with Moldova. Our experts are on the ground to help with the situation. We are currently looking into additional support measures,” von der Leyen had declared. (IPN, October 25)
Moldova makes its first purchase of gas from alternative sources in its history.
- The state-owned enterprise Energocom and the Polish company PGNiG signed a contract for a trial purchase of 1 million cubic meters of natural gas. The purchase price of gas is not specified, but the Government assures that the tariff paid by the citizens for natural gas will remain unchanged. The Government said the negotiations with the Russian Federation and Gazprom on the signing of a long-term contract for the supply of gas continue. As the pressure in the national natural gas pipeline network is low, the purchase from alternative sources is made to maintain the transmission of natural gas to consumers. (IPN, October 26)
Prime Minister-designate sends party leaders truce proposal to support minority Government.
- PM-designate Nicolae Ciuca sent to the leaders of the parliamentary parties a document proposing a political truce to support a minority Government for a limited period, announced the National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Florin Citu. The PNL leader stressed that if this approach is not successful, the Liberals will go further to negotiate a parliamentary majority. (ActMedia, October 27)
President Iohannis to pay a state visit to Egypt.
- The visit takes place within the very good bilateral dialogue of recent years, as well as in the context of the anniversary in 2021 of 115 years of diplomatic relations between Romania and the Arab Republic of Egypt. Discussions are focused on the concrete possibilities to dynamize and deepen the political-diplomatic dialogue and cooperation at all levels, expand and diversify the Romanian-Egyptian cooperation at the economic level, including by stimulating trade and investments, as well as in new sectoral areas of interest for the two states. (ActMedia, October 27)
Romanian Orthodox Church condemns anti-vaxxer cleric.
- The Romanian Orthodox Church came out against the statements of the clergyman of Durau Monastery, Teodosie Paraschiv, who allegedly spoke to the faithful about the fact that there are chips in the vaccine and about a so-called World Government created by aliens. Spokesman Vasile Banescu emphasized that “the Church strongly denies these absurd messages that have nothing to do with authentic Christian realism, with the love of fellow human beings, but only with the defiance of an immediate reality imbued with suffering and death.” (ActMedia, October 27)
Romania received medical assistance from Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the WHO.
- Romania has received assistance from several European countries – Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) consisting of drugs, equipment, tests, transfers of COVID-19 patients, head of Romania’s Department for Emergency Situations (DSU) Raed Arafat announced. “Hungary’s support continues to take over patients. There are already over 30 patients there and the support continues, we are conducting talks with our colleagues at the Response Coordination Centre and the border counties to send patients when needed, “Arafat added. (ActMedia, October 25)
Turkey stakes its claim over the F-35 payment.
- Turkey and the United States are in talks over the latter’s supply of warplanes the Turkish army needs after it was excluded from the F-35 joint fighter jet program, President Erdoğan has declared, vowing that Turkey will certainly claim $1.4 billion it paid to the U.S. for the fifth-generation jet fighters. (Hurriyet, October 21)
Turkish Foreign minister speaks with Iranian and UAE counterparts.
- Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu spoke over the phone with his counterparts from both Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Çavuşoğlu and Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian discussed regional issues, especially developments related to Afghanistan and Syria, as well as bilateral relations, said a Foreign Ministry statement. During the conversation, the issue of negotiations over the future of Iran’s nuclear program were also discussed. (Hurriyet, October 21)
President Erdogan is expelling the Ambassadors of United States, Germany, France and seven other countries.
- Turkish President Recep Erdogan has created a diplomatic scandal by ordering the Foreign Ministry in Ankara to declare 10 Ambassadors persona non grata, including the United States, Germany and France. The reason is their call for the release of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala. Kavala was initially arrested in connection with the protests over Gezi Park in 2013, but later the charges against him were expanded to include espionage and an attempt to overthrow the government during the 2016 coup attempt. European Court of Human Rights ordered his release in December 2019, yet he remains imprisoned. Council of Europe declared it would launch infringement proceedings against Ankara if Kavala is not released before the next meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in November. (Novinite, October 24)
Erdogan says he is “likely” to meet Biden in Glasgow with the F-35 issue as top on agenda.
Erdogan said he will discuss with the U.S. leader the $1.4-billion payment plan for the F-35 fighter jets that Washington refused to deliver to Turkey after Ankara purchased Russian-made S-400 defense systems. The most important subject in this meeting would be the F-35 issue, he said, noting that there are signals from Washington to deliver the F-16 warplanes in return for Turkey’s money paid for F-35 program. (Hurriyet, October 27)
Ukrainian and Moldovan Foreign Ministers meet in Kyiv.
- Both Ministers will pay special attention to the topic of European integration and further cooperation in the format of the Association Trio. Earlier reports said that the key topics of talks between the chief diplomats of Ukraine and Moldova would be the implementation of agreements reached by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and President of Moldova Maia Sandu, as well as increasing trade, developing border infrastructure, countering common security challenges, and combating the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ukrinform, October 22)
TRT World Forum: Turkey does not recognize temporary occupation of Crimea by Russia.
- “We do not recognize and accept the annexation of Crimea by Russia. We say that Ukrainian territorial integrity has to be protected,” Head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Akif Çağatay Kılıç said speaking at a TRT World Forum 2021 panel. (Ukrinform, October 21)
Ukrainian parliament speaker and Chinese ambassador discuss inter-Parliamentary cooperation.
- “Together with the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, we discussed the improvement of inter-Parliamentary cooperation, cooperation at the level of foreign affairs committees, friendship groups of legislative bodies of the two countries, and trade and economic cooperation between Ukraine and China,” Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk stated. He added that China has become Ukraine’s largest trading partner and he was convinced that cooperation has the potential for development and requires significant intensification (Ukrinform, October 27)
Ukraine receives 600 million EUR in macro-financial assistance from EU.
- The European Union has provided Ukraine with the second tranche of € 600 million in macro-financial assistance. EU and Ukraine signed the memorandum of understanding on the allocation of this sum on September 29, 2020. The document contained a number of conditions, including progress in reforms and successful cooperation between Ukraine and the IMF. (Ukrinform, October 25)
China angered by the Taiwanese Foreign Minister’s trip to Prague.
- China has expressed anger over the planned visit of a Taiwanese delegation of government officials and business people to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania, the Reuters agency wrote on Thursday. The 65-member group, led by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, will visit the three countries between October 20 and 30 to promote trade ties and investment. (Radio Prague International, October 21)
Constitutional Court ruling strengthens rights of demonstrators to peaceful assembly and privacy.
- The Constitutional Court has strengthened the rights of participants in peaceful gatherings, including protest demonstrations. Under the decision announced on Wednesday, police cannot seek proof of identity of participants ahead of such events without having an objective reason to do so (Radio Prague International, October 20)
Taiwanese trade mission signs memoranda on closer cooperation with the Czech Republic.
- Representatives of a Taiwanese trade mission visiting the Czech Republic signed a series of memoranda on expanding bilateral cooperation in internet security, the space industry, the development of catalyst technologies, and precision engineering. During his visit to the Czech capital, the Taiwanese Foreign Minister is due to meet with Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and with the Chairman of the Senate, Miloš Vystrčil. (Radio Prague International, October 25)
Interior Minister Hamáček resigns as Social Democrat leader.
- Hamáček resigned in response to the party’s crushing defeat in October’s general elections when it failed to win seats in the lower house for the first time in the country’s modern history. (Radio Prague International, October 25)
Senate to consider the possible transfer of the powers of the Head of State to other Constitutional Officials.
- The Senate’s Committee for Organizational Matters will consider November 9 as a possible date for an extraordinary meeting of the upper chamber on the health of President Miloš Zeman and his ability to fulfill his duties as Head of State. (Radio Prague International, October 25)
The Hungarian Government wants to bring back “Transit Zones” for migrants.
- Hungary will ask Brussels to amend European Union regulations to enable bringing back transit zones for migrants, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff has declared. According to the Hungarian proposal, all requests for refugee status should be assessed outside the EU because it is very difficult to deport anyone who has already entered the bloc. (Hungary Today, October 21)
Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina sign an agreement on mutual protection of classified information.
- Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Security Cikotic signed an agreement on the exchange and mutual protection of classified information, in Vienna on Tuesday. The bilateral agreement was signed on the sidelines of a panel discussion the two Ministers participated in during the international conference on migration (Hungary Today, October 20)
Supreme Court annuls one of the Government referendum questions.
- The question “Do you support the availability of sex reassignment therapy for minor children?” was annulled by the Hungarian Supreme Court, stating that “ it gives the false impression that sex reassignment surgery for minors is available today,” even though it is not. Moreover, the questions “conflate transsexuality and intersexuality, so in many cases, it is not clear what exactly voters are voting on.” (Hungary Today, October 25)
Court says the two Hungarian Parties in Romania cannot merge.
- The Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania (Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt) and Hungarian Civic Party (Magyar Polgári Párt) planned to merge into one party, which would have been called Hungarian Association of Transylvania (Erdélyi Magyar Szövetség). According to the reasoning just issued, the registration of the Hungarian Association of Transylvania is not possible because its official name includes the word “Hungarian.” (Hungary Today, October 25)
Merkel appeals for an amicable solution in the EU’s dispute with Poland.
- The German Chancellor has called on the EU to seek a compromise in the ongoing rule of law conflict with Poland. The EU has accused Law and Justice, Poland’s ruling party, of politicizing the justice system, but the country’s conservative Government maintains its overhaul of the judiciary is merely a way of re-organizing the system in Poland. (Poladin, October 21)
The European Parliament adopts a resolution on Poland’s Constitutional Court ruling.
- The resolution was prepared by five factions in the European Parliament – European People’s Party, Socialists and Democrats, Greens, Renew Europe and the Left. The EP expressed its “deep concern that this decision may constitute a dangerous precedent”. It draws attention to the growing challenges “posed by national constitutional courts and some politicians in this regard” and calls on the Member States to “respect the key role of the CJEU and adhere to its judgments”. (Polandin, October 21)
Polish President to visit Paris.
- President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit Paris for talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. The talks are expected to focus on bilateral business ties in areas including energy, as well as on security policy and “the cooperation of both countries within the European Union and the protection of the EU’s border”. This comes as France’s state-controlled utility EDF has offered to build up to six nuclear reactors in Poland, with a total installed capacity of up to 9.9 GWe. (Polskie Radio, October 27)
The European Commission asked the Polish Government to shut down the Turów mine.
- The European Commission has asked the Polish authorities to urgently provide proof of the halting of lignite mining in Turów, as ordered by the Court of Justice of the EU. In the absence of evidence of such cessation, the EC will start issuing regular requests for fines, spokesman Tim McPhie has declared. The Polish PM has replied that “It would be hard to imagine that Poland, on command or upon the recommendation of a certain judge of the EU’s Court of Justice, would deprive dozens of thousands of its citizens of heat, thousands of workers of their jobs and millions of Poles of electricity,” (Polandin, October 26)
The Slovenian and Russian agriculture Ministers sign cooperation plan.
- Slovenian Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Patrushev discussed possible forms of cooperation in the field of agriculture and rural development at the bilateral meeting and signed an action plan to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. The documents highlight cooperation in the areas of beekeeping, animal health, organic farming, family farming, young rural entrepreneurs, and digitalisation in agriculture. (Slovenia Times, October 21)
Slovenia joins the initiative pushing for EU rapid reaction force.
- Slovenia and four other EU countries have drawn up a proposal to transform the EU’s existing battle groups into a rapid reaction force in an initiative prompted by the experience of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan where the EU had to rely on the US (STA, October 21)
EU Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel visits Slovenia.
- The European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education, and youth spoke at the opening of the EU Next Generation Innovators Summit & Investment Conference in Ljubljana. National recovery and resilience plans will lay the foundations for a pan-European innovation ecosystem that is competitive, smart, sustainable, cohesive, inclusive, and fair, Commissioner Gabriel has stated. (SloveniaTimes, October 26)