zondag 21 maart 2010

Armenia vs Azerbaijan

Armenian President Serge Sargsyan has appealed to Azerbaijan to sign a non-aggression pact which he hopes would prepare the ground for continued talks about the future of Nagorno Karabakh - an Armenian enclave which declared its independence from Azerbaijan in the wake of the 1992 Soviet breakup.

In an interview with Euronews Sargsyan said that non-use of force is an underlying principle of international law, which holds the key to a lasting settlement of the long-running territorial dispute.

In an earlier conciliatory move towards Baku, the Armenian leader said he was ready to accept the modified Madrid Principles of solving the conflict. Azeri President Ilkham Aliyev responded by saying the negotiations were already in their final stage but insisted on the return of all Karabakh territories and the withdrawal of the Armenian forces stationed there.

All this meaning that Armenia is ready for a compromise, to give back the areas around Nagorno Karabakh it seized during the brief war of the early 1990s, and also to give the region a temporary status as stipulated by the Madrid agreements the Armenian and Azeri president were handed during the 2007 OSCE summit.

Simultaneously, President Sargsyan reiterated his country's longstanding premise about the people of Nagorno-Karabakh having every right to self-determination, adding that Karabakh was artificially appended to Azerbaijan during the Soviet times and Armenia could not just give it up.

"In Moscow Carnegie Center expert Alexei Malashenko does not believe the conflict will be settled any time soon. An economically successful Azerbaijan sees itself as a South Caucasus superpower, which can use its enormous material, human and military potential to achieve its goals - hence its consistent refusal to give any ground on the Nagorno Karabakh issue".

At the same time, Malashenko does not think a new war is imminent because neither Russia nor Europe will let it happen. Neither will Turkey, which 17 years ago broke off diplomatic relations with Armenia precisely over Nagorno Karabakh. Which means that the international community should show maximum understanding for the two sides' positions on the issue, no matter how different they may be, and work hard to get the settlement process going.

Russia, both independently and as part of the OSCE, plays an active mediatory role here having already hosted several trilateral summits to deal with the matter. In 2008 Russian, Armenian and Azeri presidents signed a declaration underscoring their shared desire to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law. The latest such meeting was in January in Sochi where the sides agreed to offer their own proposals in addition to those made in Madrid.

zaterdag 6 februari 2010

5 Russian soldiers killed in Chechnya

Militants have killed five Russian soldiers in the troubled North Caucasus region of Chechnya, officials say.
The gunfight broke out on Thursday night in forested mountains south-west of the region's capital Grozny, Russia's interior ministry said.
Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said six more soldiers were wounded in the skirmish against some 15 militants.
Unrest continues in Chechnya despite Russia saying last year normality had returned after a decade-long campaign.
The troops' platoon commander, the section commander and a sniper were among those killed, in one of the worst single incident death tolls suffered by Russian security forces in recent months.
Five insurgents were also killed in Thursday night's gunfight, according to pro-Moscow officials in Chechnya.
Russian forces have fought two wars against separatists in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya since 1994. The conflicts claimed more than 100,000 lives and left the region in ruins.
Although Chechnya has in recent years been more peaceful, sporadic violence continues, and President Dmitry Medvedev says violence in the North Caucasus remains Russia's biggest domestic problem.
In recent years the fighting has spread to nearby Dagestan and Ingushetia, where correspondents say a violent Islamist insurgency is growing.

Russia signs new military doctrine

MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed the country's new military doctrine regulating the stance the country takes in conflict situations.
The doctrine, which Russia is adopting through 2020, does not include a provision for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, as officials had previously suggested might have been present.
The document says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear force in response to a nuclear attack or one of equivalent magnitude.
Russia's conventional military forces are in dilapidated shape, increasing Moscow's dependence on its Cold War-era nuclear arsenals.
The expansion of Western military alliance NATO is named first in a list of main external threats to the country.

maandag 1 februari 2010

Nevsky Prospect - Russia breaks up protest with riot police

Russia breaks up protests with riot police

Russian police broke up anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday, and detained more than 100 demonstrators, including several opposition leaders.
In Moscow, several hundred demonstrators gathered in a central square, defying a ban imposed by authorities.
They denounced the policies of President Dmitry Medvedev and his predecessor and mentor Vladimir Putin, who continues to wield broad powers as Russia’s powerful prime minister.
Protesters shouted “Shame!” and “Down with Putin!” as Moscow police in riot gear pushed them into buses. Police quickly dispersed a similar rally in St. Petersburg, detaining most of several dozen protesters who gathered on a downtown Nevsky Prospect. Some of the demonstrators were beaten with truncheons.

woensdag 11 november 2009

Russia holding 5 Georgian fishermen

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia on Wednesday accused Russian authorities of illegally detaining five Georgian fishermen and demanded their immediate release.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said five men were detained Tuesday while fishing in Georgian territorial Black Sea waters off the town of Anaklia. It said the Russian authorities accused the men of illegal fishing.
"A chain of Russia's extremely dangerous and dirty provocations still continues, and it has acquired a clear form of hunting people," the ministry said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said that Russian coast guard detained nine fishermen off the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia and handed them over to Abkhaz authorities. He said those detained lacked proper IDs and fishing permits.
Neither Russian nor Georgian officials offered any explanation of the differing figures.
Moscow has recognized Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations following a five-day Russian-Georgian war last year. Russia has deployed its troops to both regions, and Russia's coast guard also patrol Abkhazia's Black Sea coast.
Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only nations that have followed suit in recognizing of the two regions' independence. The U.S., the EU and the rest of the world consider them part of Georgia.
Georgia also accused the Russian troops in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia of firing on a minibus that carried a four-year-old child to a hospital along with several other people. The ministry cited local residents as saying that several people were wounded during the incident that occurred early Wednesday. The claim could not be independently verified, and the Russian Foreign Ministry didn't comment on that.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over South Ossetia and Abkhazia last year.
Russia recognized Georgia's breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations after the war. Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only nations that have followed suit. The U.S., the EU and the rest of the world consider them part of Georgia.

donderdag 5 november 2009

Swedish approval for Russian pipe line

Sweden became the second country to grant final approval for OAO Gazprom’s Nord Stream AG natural- gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, ending almost two years of Swedish opposition and wrangling over the energy project.
The country approved the 506-kilometer (314-mile) Swedish stretch of the 1,220-kilometer link that will pump gas from Russia to Germany, Zug, Switzerland-based Nord Stream and the government in Stockholm said today.
Opposition to the project was widespread in Sweden, where the public, politicians, media and fishermen questioned its impact on fish breeding grounds and the environmental risks of laying pipes on a seabed littered with mines and chemical weapons dumped during two world wars. Russia’s motives behind the project were also questioned, including concerns that pipeline facilities may be used for espionage.
“The government has made tough demands to secure that the sensitive environment in the Baltic Sea isn’t jeopardized,” Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said today.
Denmark gave permission on Oct. 20 and Germany, Russia and Finland also have to give a go-ahead for the project on which construction is planned to start early next year. The venture, which also includes BASF SE’s Wintershall Holding AG and E.ON Ruhrgas AG, seeks to transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year when completed in 2012 and is designed to ease supplies from Russia to Western Europe by avoiding Ukraine.

All Permits
“Nord Stream is aiming to obtain all required permits by the end of 2009,” the company said today.
Sweden got the formal application in December 2007 and two months later requested more information about the environmental impact and asked the company to evaluate alternative routes. Nord Stream withdrew plans for a maintenance platform off the coast of the island of Gotland amid concern over Russian presence in Swedish territory.
“The starting point for the government’s decision is that all states has a right to put pipes in international waters and on a coastal state’s continental shelf,” Sweden said. “The government’s room for maneuver has therefore been significantly more limited than it’s in evaluations of applications regarding Swedish territorial waters or projects in Sweden.”
Nord Stream today cleared the second of three steps in the Finnish permitting process for the gas pipelines after that country’s government said the company may use its economic zone in the Baltic Sea. The venture requires a separate permit in Finland in order to begin construction.

dinsdag 27 oktober 2009

Another Human Rights Activist Killed in Russia

A prominent human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia has been shot dead in at least the third killing of an opposition figure in the volatile North Caucasus region in as many months.

An opposition activist and businessman from Russia's Ingushetia region in the country's southwest was shot and killed in his car on Sunday. Local authorities reported that Maksharip Aushev was driving near the town of Nalchik in the nearby region of Kabardion-Balkaria when his car was sprayed with automatic-weapon fire. The attack also seriously wounded a passenger.
According to the opposition website, the attack took place on a main road, but the full circumstances remained unclear. Aushev was a strong critic of the region's former president, Murat Zyayikov, and had led protests to publicize human rights abuses allegedly committed by government security forces.

Colleagues of the slain activist are shocked and many have spoken out, including Yunus-Bek Yevkorov, the Kremlin appointee who took over the position of regional president a year ago. In a statement on his website, Yevkorov said the killing was an attempt to destabilize the situation in Ingushetia and that he would personally take charge of the investigation.
Alexander Cherkasov, from the human rights group Memorial, told Echo of Moscow radio that Aushev had received threats and that in recent weeks he feared the secret services would take revenge.

Attacks on the rise

This is just the latest in an increasing number of attacks over the past few months in the North Caucasus. In July, Natalya Estemirova, a prominent human rights activist, was found shot dead in Ingushetia. A month later, Zarema Sadulayeva, a Chechen woman who helped injured children, and her husband were kidnapped and killed.
The Russian government has blamed the attacks on Muslim insurgents, who it says are backed by foreign cash which threatens Moscow's control over the volatile southern region. The worst hit areas have been Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya. Russia has fought two wars against Chechen separatists since 1994.

Aushev had close ties with another prominent local opposition activist, Magomed Yevloyev, who was detained and killed by local police in August 2008. The website Ingushetia.org, which Aushev owned at one time, said the deaths of the two men were linked and that anyone who dared to speak against the authorities or speak the truth, is doomed to the fate shared by Magomed and Maksharip.

Tatiana Lochkina, director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, agreed. She told Interfax that the killing "illustrates very clearly the atmosphere of impunity" in the region. She added that participating in opposition politics or defending basic freedoms in the North Caucasus has become "almost a form of suicide."