Regional Press Review (6-11 August)
Siberian fire limits Gazprom exports to Europe.
- Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom declared on August 6 it had slowed gas shipments abroad after a fire struck a processing plant in western Siberia. No one was hurt in the fire, which happened at a facility near Novy Urengoy. (Radio Free Europe, August 6)
Ukrainian President Zelensky stated that peace is dependent on President Putin.
- President Zelensky declared his will to end the war with Russia-backed separatists but that peace and control of territory in the so-called Donbas depends “90 percent” on President Putin. Representative from Kyiv and Moscow have sparred over the site and agenda of a face-to-face presidential meeting. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that President Putin is prepared to discuss bilateral relations with his Ukrainian counterpart, but not the situation in Eastern Ukraine. (Radio Free Europe, August 6)
Chechen convicted over killing of Chechen asylum seeker in Austria.
- A court in Austria has sentenced a Chechen man to life in prison after he was convicted of murdering a 43-year-old Chechen dissident in a Vienna suburb last year. The case drew international attention amid claims the killing had been politically motivated. Members of the Chechen exile community in Austria had suggested that the victim of the July 2020 slaying might have been targeted for criticizing Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. (Radio Free Europe, August 6)
China and Russia showcase growing ties with joint military exercises.
- In the latest display of deepening ties between Beijing and Moscow, Chinese and Russian troops began five days of military exercises in northwestern China on August 9. More than 10,000 troops from the Chinese and Russian militaries are participating in the Zapad/Interaction 2021 drills in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region that will involve large numbers of aircraft, weapon systems, and vehicles. (Radio Free Europe, August 9)
Sergei Kovalyov dies at 91.
- Kovalyov, one of the most prominent Soviet and Russian human rights activists, died in his sleep in Moscow on August 9, his son Ivan wrote on social media. He was one of the last surviving members of a Soviet generation that championed human rights in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Among Kovalyov’s many achievements, he was the principal author of Chapter Two of the Russian Constitution, which enumerates “the rights and freedoms of man and citizen” based on international law and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Radio Free Europe, August 9)
British national detained in Germany on suspicion of spying for Russia.
- German authorities have detained a British citizen suspected of spying for Russia while working at the British embassy in Berlin. The man, identified as David S., was arrested on August 10 in the city of Potsdam, near Berlin, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office declared in a statement. According to the German authorities, the suspect has allegedly cooperated with Russia’s intelligence services since November 2020 and on at least one occasion passed documents linked to his job to Russian agents in exchange of financial compensation. The arrest was the result of a joint investigation by German and British authorities. (Radio Free Europe, August 11)
Azerbaijani activist Alizamin Salaev achieves transfer to colony medical unit.
- On August 10, Salaev, an activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), was transferred to the medical unit of the colony where he is serving his term, his son has informed. However, the medical unit has no equipment and facilities for treating serious diseases, but the custody conditions there are better, human rights defenders have explained. (Caucasian Knot, August 10)
Azerbaijani journalists condemn abuse by police.
- Three Azerbaijani journalists who were detained while covering a protest against femicide have claimed to have been verbally and physically abused by police officers. Ulviyya Ali, Nargis Absalamova, and Elnare Gasimova told OC Media that they had been punched, insulted, and had equipment broken by police despite identifying themselves as journalists. The three journalists stated that police had initially attempted to force them to delete their photos and videos before they were informed that images of the protest had already been broadcast online. (OC Media, August 9)
Bulgaria’s winning party withdraws proposed cabinet, paving way for new vote.
- Trifonov, leader of There Is Such a People (ITN) party, declared in a video statement released from Sofia on August 10 that the party decided not to propose a cabinet after two apparently sympathetic protest parties said they would not support it. “We will not present our proposed cabinet for a vote, as we have clearly declared that we will not be presenting a cabinet without the support” Trifonov stated. (Radio Free Europe, August 10)
Deputy Prime Minister Pekanov: Bulgaria not required to introduce the euro once Bulgaria’s incomes reach EU-average.
- In an interview for BTA on Tuesday, Deputy PM for EU Funds Management Atanas Pekanov stated that there is no formal requirement that Bulgaria introduce the euro once Bulgaria’s revenues come close to the average in the EU. “I see no reason for such a condition but I agree that it is important to discuss when the best moment for joining the common currency is,” Pekanov declared, adding that this moment depends on the economic situation. (BTA, August 10)
USAID launches program to engage the Georgian private sector in developing skills of local workforce.
- Aiming to reduce unemployment, the USAID-funded industry-led Skills Development Program is a five-year initiative implemented by the International Executive Service Corps (IESC). The initiative aims to promote the sustainable development of the economy by matching the knowledge and skills of high-paying job opportunities and job seekers. (Georgiatoday, August 7)
Georgia register record high COVID deaths in a single day.
- Georgia has registered a record 54 deaths due to the coronavirus in a single day as the number of infections in the country continues to spiral. On Tuesday, the authorities announced that 5,697 people had tested positive for the virus in 24 hours, breaking the previous record of 5,450 in November. (OC Media, August 10)
Large corruption cases and the activity of the Prosecutor’s office are on the Supreme Security Council Agenda.
- CSS will present a set of recommendations to law enforcement agencies, especially the General Prosecutor’s Office and to those in profile, in order to assess and rectify the situation regarding large corruption cases and prevent people from fleeing the country. President Maia Sandu made the statement after today’s CSS meeting. (Moldpres, August 10)
Deputy Prime Minister announces priority zero for Moldova’s integration in the European Union.
- The integration into the European Union is the zero priority in foreign policy, Deputy PM Nicu Popescu, stated in a meeting with representatives of embassies accredited to Moldova on August 10. Priorities include the fight against corruption and constructive, non-conflict regional investments. (IPN, August 11)
Prime Minister Citu stated that Romania is steadily exiting the ‘low-wage country’ spectrum.
- PM Citu declared, , that the data regarding inflation presented on Monday by the National Bank of Romania (BNR) represent an estimation, yet there are “interesting” figures regarding wages, which show that Romania is going in the direction in which “it is no longer a low wage country.” The National Bank of Romania (BNR) increased to 5.6 pct the inflation forecast for the year’s end and to 3.4 pct for the end of next year, according to a presentation held on Monday by Governor Mugur Isarescu. (Agerpres, August 10)
President Erdoğan discussed ties and regional matters with Georgian and African leaders.
- Turkey’s Directorate of Communications stated that in the two dialogues, the leaders discussed how to collaborate on joint energy and transportation projects. President Erdoğan also expressed his gratitude to his counterparts, on the solidarity in Turkey’s battle against forest fires. (Hurriyet, August 11)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed observations on the Russian actions against Ukraine in the Black and Azov Seas. U.S.
- Secretary of State Blinken declared that the United States is observing the ongoing aggressive actions by Russia against Ukraine in the Black and Azov Seas, as well as in the Kerch Strait. The statement was made during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on maritime security. The head of the U.S. diplomacy stressed that the United States supports the integrity of Ukraine and that Crimea is Ukraine. (Interfax, August 10)
Minister of Energy declares that in the upcoming visit to the United States, the energy dialog should be deepened.
- Ukraine and the U.S. should deepen the strategic energy dialog, which will enhance cooperation to build an efficient and sustainable energy system, accelerate decarbonization processes, enhance energy security and develop mutually beneficial nuclear energy partnerships. Minister Herman Haluschenko declared that the issue is closely related to climate change and stressed on the importance of the subject, given the meeting between the states’ representatives. (Interfax, August 10)
Czech firefighters arrived in Greece for 10-day mission.
- The Czech Republic is among the 22 countries providing aid to Greece, which has been ravaged by forest fires. 36 Czech firefighters and 15 vehicles dispatched over the weekend arrived on Monday in Megalopoli for a 10-day mission. (Radio Prague International, August 9)
Czech Foreign Ministry calls on Belarus to release all political prisoners.
- On the anniversary of the contested election in Belarus, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called on Minsk to release all political prisoners, end repression and engage in dialogue with citizens. The Ministry also stated that there are almost 600 political prisoners in Belarus, many of whom have already been sentenced to long prison sentences. Czech Republic has supported several rounds of sanctions adopted by the EU Council to punish those responsible for violent repression and intimidation. (Radio Prague International, August 9)
Hungarian universities to offer courses throughout Carpathian Basin.
- The Hungarian Government will support Hungarian universities offering courses in neighboring countries as they play an important role in the country’s strategy for supporting ethnic Hungarians communities abroad. The Hungarian universities involved in the scheme will offer courses in Komarno in Slovakia, Berehove in Ukraine, Miercurea Ciuc, Oradea, Odorheiu Secuiesc, Targu Mures, Sfantu Gheorghe, Ilieni in Romania, and Subotica, Senta, Sombor in Serbia. (Hungary Today, August 7)
Hungary anti-LGBTQ law to apply around churches.
- The Hungarian Government has announced that provisions of its controversial new anti-LGBTQ law will apply around churches as well as schools. The “Anti-Paedophilia Act” was passed in June and was originally aimed at toughening punishments for child abuse, but amendments were added banning the “promotion of homosexuality” to children. The law regulates the “display or portrayal” of products which “express homosexuality” or represent a “deviation from the identity corresponding to the sex at birth”. Shops will be banned from selling such products within a 200-metre radius of churches, as well as schools and child protection institutions. (Euractiv, August 9)
Poland to disband contested judge disciplinary system.
- Poland will dissolve a contested disciplinary system for judges which the EU has said breaches the bloc’s law, head of the country’s ruling PiS party has said in a statement. The European Union’s executive arm gave Poland until August 16 to comply with a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which states that Poland’s system for disciplining judges violates EU law and should be suspended. According to the EU, the system is being used to exert political control over rulings. (Polskie Radio, August 7)
Agreement party leaves ruling United Right coalition.
- Jan Strzeżek, the Agreement’s Deputy Spokesman, announced on Wednesday that by the decision of the National Board, Jarosław Gowin’s Agreement will leave the United Right [Poland’s ruling coalition]. The parliamentarians of the Agreement will leave the Law and Justice [PiS – senior party in the United Right] club and form a parliamentary group. (Polandin, August 11)
Korčok: Slovakia will continue to support the citizens of Belarus in their desire for democracy and freedom.
- The Slovakian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Ivan Korčok, has publicly condemned the regime of Alexander Lukashenko for prevented democratic, free and honest elections, as well as the gross violation of human rights, following the elections. Korčok called upon the authorities of Belarus to immediately stop the persecution of its own citizens, release the political prisoners, restore respect for fundamental human rights and observe its international commitments. (Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, August 9)
Slovenian Government: Slovenia is in compliance with EU directive on non-EU citizen’s right to buy property.
The Government has adopted a response to the European Commission’s warning that Slovenia does not comply with a directive on the status of non-EU citizens who are long-term residents and their right to buy property. The Government argues the Slovenian law is not in breach of the directive as it allows this group to rent housing. The Commission admitted that EU member states have discretion to set such conditions for the purpose of integration, but they must be proportionate. (Total Slovenia News, August 9)