Regional Press Review (26 Mai-1 Iunie)
Biden, Putin agree to June 16 summit in Geneva.
- The first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin will take place in Geneva on June 16 to “discuss the full range of pressing issues” as the White House seeks “to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.–Russia relationship.” Biden will add the meeting to his first international trip as president when he visits Britain for a meeting with the Group of Seven leaders and Brussels for a NATO summit. (VoA News May 26)
Russia deplores U.S. decision not to rejoin Open Skies Treaty.
- On May 28, Washington informed Moscow that it would not rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, stating that the accord “has been undermined by Russia’s violations” and its failure to return to compliance. Russia has criticized the decision, stating that it clouds the outlook for arms control discussions during next month’s planned summit between the two countries’ presidents. (Radio Free Europe May 28)
Biden says Nord Stream 2 sanctions would damage relations with European allies.
- President Biden has explained that U.S. sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were waived because they would have harmed relations with European allies over a project is almost finished. Biden added, however, that he was against the project since its inception. (Radio Free Europe May 26)
Kremlin “regrets” European plans to avoid Belarus airspace.
- The Kremlin stated on Tuesday that it regrets Europe’s plans to cut air links with Belarus and impose fresh sanctions on the country after a Ryanair Athens–Vilnius flight carrying an opposition activist was forced to land in Minsk after a supposed bomb threat, causing a global outcry. Russia has retaliated against the ban on carriers entering Belarus’s airspace by refusing to grant permission to some European planes flying to Moscow. (The Moscow Times May 25; BBC May 27)
Russia brands three German NGOs “undesirable”.
- Russia has designated three German NGOs as “undesirable,” claiming their activities threaten its constitutional order and security. Two of the organizations were involved in the St. Petersburg Dialogue, a German–Russian forum bringing together CSOs, think tanks and decision-makers from the two countries. (Euronews May 27)
Russia-based hackers launch new cyberattack through USAID agency e-mail.
- Russian hackers have launched a new assault on government agencies and think tanks using an USAID e-mail marketing account on May 27. The “wave of attacks” targeted about 3,000 e-mail accounts at more than 150 different organizations in at least 24 countries. (Radio Free Europe May 28)
Armenia, Azerbaijan trade blame for new border shoot-out.
- Azerbaijan and Armenia have blamed each other for a border shoot-out that Yerevan says claimed the life of one of its soldiers amid renewed tensions between the two neighbors. The Armenian Defense Ministry claims the serviceman was killed on May 25 “as a result of a shoot-out that followed the opening of fire by Azerbaijani troops” in Armenia’s Gegharkunik district, whereas Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused Armenian forces of firing across the border at its troops, insisting that they did not return fire and that there were no casualties. (Radio Free Europe May 26)
Armenia insists on conditions for border deal with Azerbaijan.
- Armenia has set two conditions for embarking on a demarcation of its border with Azerbaijan proposed by Russia last week: Azerbaijani army units must pull back beyond Armenian borders and Baku must release the Armenian prisoners remaining in Azerbaijani captivity. The Azerbaijani side has not accepted these conditions so far. Baku insists that its troops took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the border and did not cross into Armenia. Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are urging the two countries to resolve this issue by political means, drawing criticism from PM Pshinyan for not publicly siding with Armenia and not moving at a satisfactory speed, leading Yerevan to consider turning to the U.N. Security Council. (Azatutyun May 26; Azatutyun May 26)
Armenian FM steps down amid tensions with Azerbaijan over border issues.
- FM Ayvazian stepped down on May 27 after a Security Council emergency meeting where acting PM Pashinyan called for the deployment of international observers along the contested Armenia–Azerbaijan border area. Local media reported on May 21 that Ayvazian disagreed with Pashinyan over a draft trilateral agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia to set up a joint committee to demarcate the border. Ayvazian’s resignation follows an announcement that Azerbaijani forces captured six Armenian servicemen—Azerbaija claims the soldiers were seized trying to cross the border to place mines on supply routes leading to Azerbaijani Army positions; meanwhile, Armenia rejected claims that their actions were a provocation, stating that the servicemen were planting mines to strengthen the border on Armenian territory and installing warning signs. (Radio Free Europe May 28)
Caretaker PM replaced chairman of state national security agency.
- Chairman of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) Georgiev was relieved of his post following a decision of the Council of Ministers. Caretaker PM Yanev has proposed one of the regional directors of the Agency, Plamen Tonchev, to take over the office. Georgiev’s was dismissed for creating a precedent that harmed the reputation of DANS and over suspicions of undertaking politically motivated acts while occupying a position that is de-politicized by law. (Novinite May 26)
Russia expels Bulgarian diplomat in tit-for-tat move.
- Russia on Wednesday expelled a Bulgarian diplomat in what it said was a response to a “baseless” move by Sofia to expel one of its diplomats on April 29 over suspicious that six Russians were involved in several explosions between 2011 and 2020 at Bulgarian arms depots. (Reuters May 26)
Amid criticism, High Council of Justice elects four judge-members.
- An extraordinary Conference of Judges on May 26 elected four judge-members of the High Council of Justice, the body overseeing the judiciary in Georgia, amid criticism and protest by the civil society organizations and the opposition. CSOs argue that the move goes against the “spirit” of the April 19 EU-brokered deal and that new members may not have high public confidence if elected before the “ambitious reform of the judiciary” envisaged in it are endorsed. (civil.ge May 26)
Georgians protest construction of hydropower plant.
- Hundreds of activists blocked the main avenue in Tbilisi on May 23–25 to protest the construction of the Namakhvani hydropower plant, declaring that they will continue to block streets in Tbilisi until the contract is canceled. LGBT groups expressed support for the protest, but called on the protest leaders to explicitly denounce “acts of violence” by far-right individuals attending the rallies who tore up rainbow flags and threatened activists for wearing rainbow armbands. Protest leaders declared that they “disavow violence,” but appealed to supporters not to bring emblems other than state symbols to the protests, “to prevent any similar confrontations from taking place.” Protesters returned to Gumati village on May 26 vowing to disrupt preparatory works for the project in the Rioni Valley, with eight people detained on May 27 over administrative offenses. (Radio Free Europe May 24; civil.ge May 25; civil.ge May 28)
Lips sewn shut in Chiatura’s sinking village.
- In a village on the outskirts of the mining hub of Chiatura, ten residents are on hunger strike and eight have sewn shut their mouths in an extreme form of hunger strike. The residents are demanding compensation from Georgian Manganese and are asking the government to properly assess the situation. Georgian Manganese are willing to work with the National Forensic Bureau to assess the situation only if the negotiations move into a legal framework. The protests have continued on and off since 2019. (OC Media May 26)
Pavel Filip calls failure to get money from U.S. disrespect for citizens.
- The Democratic Party (PDM) has stated that the Cabinet’s inability to approve two agreements with the U.S. Government for the allocation of $90 million USD in grant funding represents disrespect for the citizens. PDM added that the action forms part of PSRM’s electoral strategy to shift full responsibility for the chaos in the country onto President Sandu. The Government must approve amendments to the two agreements with the U.S by May 31—however, the amendments were blocked by PSRM representatives. (IPN May 28)
Romania’s opposition to submit no-confidence motion against the government.
- PM Cîţu unveiled the Relaunch and Resilience Plan (PNRR) to lawmakers in Parliament on May 26 in a bid to defuse opposition pressure. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) pledged to file a motion of censure on the PNRR issue on June 14. The PNRR itself, including an attached list of reforms demanded by the European Commission, will be made public before June 2, but not before it is sent to the European Commission. (IBNA May 27)
Green diplomacy network launched by MAE with 18 diplomatic missions in first stage.
- Romania’s climate diplomacy pilot network was launched on Tuesday, with its objectives of structured around four pillars: identifying and implementing bilateral projects and stimulating cooperation; promoting national priorities and perspectives on climate issues; supporting the objectives agreed upon at the EU level; supporting the implementation of national policy for international development cooperation. The pilot network currently brings together the Romanian diplomatic missions to the EU, NATO, New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Kuwait, London, Copenhagen, Rome, Bern, Stockholm, The Hague, Vienna, Paris, Warsaw, Oslo, Islamabad, and Washington. (Actmedia May 26)
Turkish FM to visit Greece on May 31.
- FM Çavuşoğlu will visit Greece on May 31 for talks with his Greek counterpart to prepare for a possible meeting between Greek PM Mitsotakis and President Erdoğan. The visit comes nearly one month after the two foreign ministers had talks in Ankara followed by an argument at a joint press conference. Meanwhile, the fourth round of a meeting on confidence-building measures between the delegations of the Turkish and Greek defense ministries was scheduled for May 26–27. (Hurriyet Daily News May 26)
Ukraine bans electricity imports from Russia and Belarus, suspends air travel with Belarus.
- Ukraine will limit electricity imports from Russia and Belarus until October 1, 2021, stating that it might extend the ban depending on Ukraine’s level of preparation in the autumn and winter periods. On May 25, Ukraine also suspended air travel with Belarus, ordered Ukrainian airlines and planes to avoid Belarusian airspace, and instructed the State Border Guard Service to stop the registration of passengers traveling to or from Belarus at airport customs checkpoints. (Ukrinform May 26; Kyiv Post May 25)
Ukraine unhappy with lack of progress in joining NATO as Kyiv is not invited to summit.
- Ukraine has decried the lack of progress in NATO’s “open-door” policy to Ukrainian membership after it was not invited to the June 14 NATO summit in Brussels that hopes to improve transatlantic ties amid growing tensions with Russia. President Zelensky earlier this month called on NATO to beef up its presence in the Black Sea region and asked Washington to back Kyiv’s bid for a NATO membership action plan at the summit. “We understand the desire of the allies to hold a closed summit … but we do not understand how it is possible not to invite Ukraine,” FM Kuleba declared. (Radio Free Europe May 26)
Prosecutors investigating whether Ukrainians interfered in 2020 U.S. election.
- U.S. prosecutors are investigating whether Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by spreading claims of corruption about President Biden during the campaign through a number of channels, including Rudolph Giuliani, personal lawyer to then-President Trump. The inquiry, which began during the final months of the Trump administration, is separate from an ongoing criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine. (Radio Free Europe May 28)
Czech PM under fire for bungling call for EU solidarity.
- PM Babiš’s call for EU solidarity over the 2014 Vrbětice blasts was heavily criticized after a letter was leaked in which British PM Johnson expresses regret that Czech allies were not informed in advance about the outcome of the investigation before making it public. Chancellor Merkel had directed a similar rebuke to Babiš, stating that the matter and response to it should have been coordinated with EU partners. Although EU leaders have backed the Czech Republic in its row with Russia, only five other Member States expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity. (Radio Prague International May 26)
Hungary signs up to huge EU COVID recovery fund, moving deal a step closer.
- Hungary on Wednesday approved a bill essential to the EU recovery fund, bringing the bloc a step closer to putting the deal into operation. Hungary was one of the handful of the 27 countries who had yet to ratify a decision to raise the upper limit for national contributions needed for the plan to go ahead, alongside Romania, Austria and Poland. (Reuters May 26)
Hungary PM laments loss of U.K. from EU ahead of Johnson meeting.
- PM Orbán declared on Friday ahead of a meeting with his U.K. counterpart that Hungary is missing Britain’s presence within the EU and that the two countries need to build new bilateral ties. Orbán met with Spanish far-right leader Santiago Abascal on Thursday and called him an important up-and-coming ally in the bloc, adding that Britain would also form an important plank in Hungary’s future foreign policy strategy. (Reuters May 28)
U.K. calls Orbán’s views on Muslims “divisive and wrong,” ahead of Johnson talks.
- Britain’s government has condemned comments made by PM Orbán about Muslims and migrants on the eve of a bilateral meeting between the Hungarian leader and PM Johnson, stating that Orbán’s 2018 comment to a German newspaper about “Muslim invaders” and his later description of migrants as “a poison” were “divisive and wrong,” and assuring that Johnson would not shy away from raising human rights issues during Friday’s meeting in London, which takes place as Hungary is set to assume the presidency of the so-called Visegrad group of Central European nations later this year. Britain’s opposition Labour Party has declared that Orbán’s visit undermines the values the U.K. government claims to defend. (Euronews May 28)
Two Belarusian women start hunger strike in front of EC office in Warsaw.
- Two Belarusian women Stanisława Glinnik and Bażena Szamowicz started a hunger strike in front of the European Commission (EC) office in Warsaw on Wednesday, calling for further economic sanctions against the Łukaszenka regime from the EU. (Poland.IN May 26)
Slovakia’s president to take part in Crimean Platform summit.
- President Čaputová will take part in the August 23 inaugural summit of the Crimean Platform, a new consultative and coordination format initiated by Ukraine to improve the efficiency of the international response to the occupation of Crimea, respond to growing security challenges, step up international pressure on Russia, prevent further human rights violations, protect victims of the occupation regime, and achieve the de-occupation of Crimea. The Slovak government reiterated its position of support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine during the announcement. (Ukrinform May 28)
Slovenia to hold first referendum in nearly four years on July 11.
- Slovenians will head to the polls for a referendum on July 11 to vote on amendments to the Waters Act, the first referendum in the country in almost four years. Green NGOs gathered the 40,000 signatures required for a popular vote over a series of provisions that they claim will loosen rules and allow construction of hotels and malls in coastal areas and on river and lake banks. (Euractiv May 26)
PM Janša survives impeachment vote.
- PM Janša survived an impeachment vote in Parliament over accusations of violating several articles of the constitution and laws pertaining to healthcare, media, and the state prosecution. Janša dismissed the accusations as absurd. (STA May 26)
NGOs call for inquiry into targeting of Palestinian protesters in Ljubljana.
- Several NGOs warned that police identified and fined mostly foreigners during last week’s protests in Ljubljana, which they see as inadmissible ethnic profiling and a violation of the right to protest. The Human Rights Ombudsman is investigating the matter. (STA May 26)
#Te-ar mai putea interesa și
#Buletin de știri