CERES News Digest Vol.5 Week 10-; Nov.3-7

CERES News Digest is a weekly publication that collects blurbs and article links of the top news headlines from 33 countries in Eurasia.
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    11/3/14 –   11/7/14                Russia celebrated National Unity Day on Tuesday, which involved nationalist parades and rallies throughout the country. However, in Moscow this year, the parades drew only a few thousand participants, rather than the anticipated 10,000. Many noted that the rally was split between nationalists who support the Kremlin’s policy towards Ukraine, and those who do not. National Unity Day commemorates the battle in 1612 that expelled the Polish army from Moscow. RFE/RL  New York Times Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the new presidential palace. Called the  Ak Saray , or White Palace, its covers 3.1 million square feet and exceeds the world’s current largest residential palace, the Sultan of Brunei’s Istana Nurul Iman palace. The palace’s price -tag of $615 million and environmental impact have sparked criticism in mostly opposition circles. Bloomberg BBC  Kiev announced on Friday morning that 32 Russian military tanks, 30 trucks, and 16 howitzers have crossed the Russian  border into Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said the incursion  began on Thursday. Russia has denied the claims, saying that they are “provocative reports aimed at fueling tensions.” Fightin g in southeastern Ukraine has been constant, despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in early September. Reuters CNN  Western-leaning Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania was dismissed from his position on Tuesday by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili after the former defended his employees against what he called a politically-motivated corruption inquiry. In solidarity, Georgian Foreign Minister   Maia Panjikidze and Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alex Petriashvili resigned as well. Since then, the Free Democrats party, headed by Alasania, has splintered away from the Georgian Dream coalition. RFE/RL  New York Times  At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU pledged to  provide between 140 and 170 million euros for private sector, public administration, and judicial reforms in Armenia over the next three years. In addition, a budgetary assistance agreement was signed that will provide 25 million euros to assist Armenian agricultural growth. The deal represents the most significant agreement between the EU and Armenia since the latter joined the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. RFE/RL  The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced this week that it will provide $25 million to Moldovan corporation Trans-Oil Group. The loan will finance the expansion of Trans- Oil’s grain terminal in the  port of Giurgiulesti, on the Danube River, and the acquisition and modernization of a grain facility in the port of Reni, in Ukraine. Trans- Oil is Moldova’s largest agrobusiness and an international commodities exporter. Ukrainske Radio Romania Insider   ITAR-TASS Belta Khalid Bagirov has become the second lawyer to be banned from defending jailed Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus. Bagirov was allowed to meet the client, however he was denied permission to defend her by the  prosecutor- general’s office. No explanation was provided. Yunus, a harsh critic of Azerbaijan’s human right violations, was arrested in July. Western government and human rights groups have called for her release. RFE/RL Index of Censorship The Foreign Ministry of Belarus issued a statement expressing its readiness to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis in every possible way. Spokesman for the Ministry Dmitry Mironchik said that Belarus considers continuation and successful completion of the peace negotiations as its priority task. “We reaffirm our commitment to provide all kinds of assistance,” Mironchik said. The Minsk Protocol was signed in Belarus earlier in September, creating a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine.     According to reports in Western media, Iran has tentatively agreed to send a significant portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia to be turned into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor. This agreement would ensure that Iran cannot use the uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons and would alleviate Western concerns about Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium. Marziyeh Afkham, spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, dismissed these reports as  politically motivated speculation.   Tasnim News  New York Times  On Wednesday, the Tajik Embassy in Cairo reported that four Tajik nationals who were detained in Egypt in September have now been charged with having links to the Islamic State. The men were arrested on September 19 near the Giza pyramids for allegedly recruiting fighters for the Islamic State but deny any wrongdoing. The Tajik government estimates that around 200 Tajik citizens have  joined militant groups fighting in Syria and Iraq. RFE/RL Central Asia Online Turkmenistan announced that it has signed an agreement to  become the first Central Asian country to host a World Bank Group permanent office in its capital. The World Bank Group includes several international financial institutions, such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. At the signing ceremony, World Bank officials praised Turkmenistan’s rapid economic growth under the leadership of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.   Central Asia Online Azer News On Wednesday, the Mongolian Great Hural legislature voted to oust Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag due to his alleged nepotism, corruption, and economic mismanagement in a time of economic downturn and falling prices due to a slump in the mining industry. Fifty-four percent of Mongolia’s 66 members of parliament voted to remove Norov, including members of his own Mongolian Democratic Party. BBC Deutsche Welle  On October 31, the International Labour Organization  praised Uzbekistan for tentative progress in the fight against child labor in Uzbeki stan’s cotton  industry. Eight working groups monitored 172 rural areas from September 18 to October 25 and found 49 cases of child labor, down from 53 cases last year. This year, Uzbekistan also carried out its own monitoring of government-led efforts to stop child labor. In a speech to the Defense Council of Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambaev warned that the radical Islam espoused by ISIS poses “a special threat to the identity of the resurgent Kyrgyz ethos.” Atambaev elaborated that Islamization would force the Kyrgyz people to “abandon their national characteristics, national dress, spiritual wealth and national identity.” The Kyrgyz media has  devoted extensive coverage to the problem posed by ISIS recruitment since the summer. EurasiaNet RFE/RL  UzNews Malay Mail  On Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Kabul, where he reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to  preserving the gains made in Afghanistan after the end of the foreign combat mission this year. This will entail providing $4.1 billion annually to Afghan forces, along with training and support missions. The Taliban continues to be a near daily threat, carrying out attacks and regaining control of several provinces. Reuters ABC  The worldwide decline in oil prices threatens stability in Kazakhstan. Although officials claim that the government has enough resources to grapple with fiscal problems that may arise, revenues from oil industry account for 25 percent of Kazakhstan ’s  GDP and 60 percent of its balance of  payments. The price of oil decreased from $106 to $80 since June 2014. Analysts project that the decline might have implications for Kazakhstan ’s economy in the long run. EurasiaNet   of-cease-fire-deal?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world     Poland’s  natural gas company, PGNiG, has initiated talks with Gazprom to cut gas prices under a long-term supply contract. The contract would provide for the delivery of up to 10.2  billion cubic meters of gas to Poland annually. PGNiG released a statement claiming that “significant changes on the European   energy market” necessitated the renegotiation of the gas prices. The company reported that it may seek court arbitration if it is not able to reach an agreement with Gazprom within six months.    Nation XinhuaNet Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak signed an agreement with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh on Tuesday to further promote bilateral trade ties and energy cooperation  between the two countries. The agreement was signed during Lajcak’s three -day official visit to Vietnam. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang emphasized that there will be even more opportunities for cooperation once the Europe-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is signed. Lajcak also stated his support for the early conclusion of EVFTA negotiations. Vietnam Net Global Post  Romania’s current Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, won the first round o f Romania’s presidential elections on Sunday,  November 2. Ponta won approximately 40% of the votes in the first round. His nearest challenger, Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu, won approximately 30% of the votes. A run-off vote between Ponta and Iohannis will be held on  November 16. Washington Post Bloomberg  The Moscow Times Baltic Times   According to the Latvian army, NATO fighters intercepted a Russian surveillance plane in the Baltic Sea, near Latvian territorial waters, on Thursday. The interception comes in the wake of a series of similar incidents, with NATO intercepting 100 planes this year alone, more than three times last year’s total. Al though many of the sightings have  been near the Baltic Sea, Russian military ships and planes have been spotted throughout Europe in recent months, including as far west as Portugal. Bloomberg    Newsweek Bloomberg Belta   Daily Star  Hungary Today Baltic Course On Sunday, President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman in a live radio interview shocked the audience with extensive use of vulgar language. Zeman used crude and vulgar terms when translating the name of Russian dissident punk group “Pussy Riot” into Czech. President’s extensive use of swearwords drew criticism from the media and politicians. Zeman has caused controversies in the Czech Republic and abroad since he took office last year. Belarus and Lithuania held the tenth annual joint economic forum in Mogilev, Belarus, where the issues of mutual economic cooperation, trade, and investment were discussed. The prime ministers of the both countries expressed their interest in further developing economic relations between them . “Not only do we share a  common history and cultural heritage, but also the long- standing economic relations,” said Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevicius. Estonia is the third state to ban Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin from entering the country. Okhlobystin was declared persona non-grata after his comments on sexual minorities and Ebola victims caused an international scandal. Although the Ministry of Interior has not explained its decision for blacklisting Okhlobystin, it is believed to be connected to his comment from earlier this year that said all homosexuals should be burned alive. Okhlobystin is an open supporter of Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Washington has pressured Hungary over the latter’s support of the Russian-backed South Stream pipeline and desire not to cut energy ties with Russia despite the Ukraine crisis. However, Orban insisted Hungary is pursuing a “Hungary - friendly,” not “Russia - friendly” policy, notwithstanding international accusations. In the last months, the U.S. has issued entry bans on six Hungarian officials, and in September, President Obama criticized Hungary for the crackdown on the NGOs.
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