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Thursday, 06 March 2008

5 March 2008 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (3/6/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Foreign ministers of breakaway territories to meet in Moscow 22 February The Foreign ministers of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria are set to meet in Moscow on Friday. "The Abkhaz, South Ossetian and Trandniestrian foreign ministers plan to discuss issues related to preparations for a meeting of the presidents of our breakaway republics," Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax on Friday. "We will also discuss the situation after the recognition of Kosovo's independence by a number of countries," he said.

Foreign ministers of breakaway territories to meet in Moscow 22 February The Foreign ministers of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria are set to meet in Moscow on Friday. "The Abkhaz, South Ossetian and Trandniestrian foreign ministers plan to discuss issues related to preparations for a meeting of the presidents of our breakaway republics," Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax on Friday. "We will also discuss the situation after the recognition of Kosovo's independence by a number of countries," he said. The three leaders will meet in Moscow, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity told Interfax. "We are planning to meet in Moscow, and I think that the meeting will take place within two weeks," he said. (Interfax)

Sargsyan elected Armenian president – CEC 24 February Serzh Sargsyan was elected Armenian president at the February 19 presidential election, chairman Armenian Central Elections Commission (CEC) Garegin Azarian at an extraordinary session of the commission presenting official results of the election. Sargsyan won 52.82% of votes. Levon Ter-Petrosian came second with 21.5%. Artur Bagdasarian was the third with 17.7%. The election results protocol was signed by all six members that attended the Sunday session. CEC members from the Heritage and the Rule of Law opposition parties did not come to the meeting. Twenty-four complaints about the election submitted to the CEC could not influence the final results of the election, Azarian said. (Interfax)

Putin pledges more Fuel For Tajikistan Emergency 25 February Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to help Tajikistan battle what the Central Asian nation’s leader called “catastrophic” cold weather that has left only the capital, Dushanbe, with regular power supplies.“There has never been anything like it in our country’s history,” President Emomali Rakhmon told Putin at the Russian leader’s residence outside of Moscow on Thursday. “In the east now it is minus 25 degrees.” Putin promised additional aid on top of the diesel fuel and mobile power generators Russia has sent, according to a transcript on the Kremlin’s web site. Rakhmon said his country of 7 million people has no regular power supplies outside Dushanbe, where electricity is available only eight hours a day. As many as 1 million children under the age of five are in danger from the cold weather, the United Nations Children’s Fund said last week. Aid agencies estimate at least 260,000 people in rural areas are in need of immediate food supplies and as many as 500,000 may face shortages in the future. Tajikistan, a mountainous country and former Soviet republic, shares borders with Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The third straight month of freezing temperatures has caused $1 billion of damage, destroyed the country’s winter crop and killed almost 70 percent of livestock, Rakhmon said. Cases of respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, doubled this winter compared with the same period last year, the UN cited Tajikistan’s Health Ministry as saying. Power cuts and the cold weather contributed to the deaths of several newborn babies in hospitals, the UN said, citing reports. The Tajik leader wants assistance to build a hydroelectric power station to address the country’s shortage. “There is no other way,” he told Putin. “Tajikistan’s electricity deficit in winter amounts to 20.5 billion kilowatt-hours.” (Bloomberg)

TAJIK OFFICIAL ANNOUNCES ENERGY CUTOFF BY UZBEKISTAN25 FebruaryRashid Gulov, an official of the Tajik state-owned energy company Barqi Tojik, announced in Dushanbe on February 25 that Uzbekistan unexpectedly cut off exports of electricity the previous day. Gulov said that Uzbek energy officials informed their Tajik counterparts that the cutoff was due to unidentified "technical problems" in their thermoelectric power plants. He added that the delivery of electricity from Uzbekistan will not resume until March 1 at the earliest. Until the February 24 cutoff, Uzbekistan was supplying Tajikistan with roughly 5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity daily. But Gulov also stressed that Tajikistan is also able to import increased amounts of electricity from other neighboring states, including 10.7 million kWh daily from Turkmenistan and another 200,000 kWh daily from Kyrgyzstan to the northern Sughd region. The UN's World Food Program also announced on February 25 plans to issue an appeal for an additional $8.3 million in emergency aid to help alleviate the ongoing energy crisis in Tajikistan, according to the Avesta website. (Asia-Plus) OSCE holds border talks in Tajikistan 26 February The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held a task force meeting with officials from Tajikistan to discuss border security concerns. Top officials met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tuesday to develop border-related assistance activities for the country including initiatives that would train tactical border patrol and surveillance groups along with ways of combating the illegal arms trafficking and drug trade coming from Afghanistan, the OSCE reported. "We had very productive discussions today on the relationship between the host country and the OSCE, and on the activities of the Center in Dushanbe," Ambassador Herbert Salber, the head of the OSCE Center in Dushanbe, said in a statement. "The Task Force is a form of privileged cooperation with Tajikistan; it helps strengthen joint consultations in response to questions earlier raised by the host country's delegation to the OSCE." The OSCE has been working out a comprehensive approach to security in region and how Tajikistan can play a role in intercepting shipments of drug paraphernalia used for the production of heroin in Afghanistan which borders Tajikistan directly to the south. Recent reports from the United Nations have cited Afghanistan as one of the largest suppliers of opium in the world. Critics argue the Afghan drug trade goes largely to fund the Taliban insurgency along with other terrorist organizations. "This is the second task force and it has proved to be a very useful tool in the cooperation and coordination between the OSCE and Tajikistan," an OSCE official said. (UPI)

FUNERAL OF LABORER KILLED IN RUSSIA HELD IN KYRGYZSTAN26 FebruarySeveral hundred people on February 25 attended the funeral of a Kyrgyz migrant laborer killed in what is suspected to be an ethnically motivated murder in Moscow last week, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The funeral of 28-year-old Tayir Jarkynbaev was held in his hometown of Kochkorata in the Jalal-Abad region. The funeral is likely to further aggravate public feeling over a recent wave of ethnically motivated killings of Kyrgyz nationals in Russia. A lawmaker from the ruling Ak-Jol Eldik (Best Path Popular) Party, Melisbek Myrzakmatov, on February 22 threatened to force the eviction of the Russian military from the Kant air base outside of Bishkek in retaliation for the killings. (RFE/RL)

Bagapsh: no talks with Tbilisi until Kodori Gorge militarised zone 26 February Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh has ruled out an opportunity of meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili until all of Georgia’s military units are withdrawn from the Kodori Gorge. “Until the issue of the Kodori Gorge remains unresolved, there will be no talk about any meetings or contacts with Georgia,” he told a news conference in Sukhumi on Tuesday. “If Georgia is ready to sign an agreement on peace and guarantees for the prevention and for the non-resumption of hostilities, the issue of the Kodori Gorge will make the cornerstone,” Bagapsh said. “It is necessary to return to the framework of the Moscow agreement on a ceasefire and separation of forces of May 14, 1994, in compliance with which the territory of the Kodori Gorge is a demilitarised zone,” he said. (Itar-Tass)

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT PROPOSES RECONCILIATION, COALITION GOVERNMENT27 FebruaryAddressing some 10,000 supporters in Yerevan on February 26, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who according to official results won the February 19 presidential election with almost 53 percent of the vote, appealed to his defeated rival candidates and their supporters to cooperate, and possibly form a coalition government, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. "One of my aims is to use all constructive forces for the sake of Armenia's development," he affirmed. In an allusion to disparaging comments by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian about Armenians born and brought up in the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast when it was a constituent part of the Azerbaijan SSR, a group that includes both Sarkisian and outgoing President Robert Kocharian, Sarkisian warned against dividing society "into 'our own people' and 'strangers,'" and he expressed regret that some voters "have unwittingly become tools for a few individuals' political ambitions and penchant for revenge," a clear allusion to those who for the past week have rallied in Yerevan in support of his defeated rival, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. (RFE/RL)

ARMENIAN EX-PRESIDENT CALLS ON PRIME MINISTER, PRESIDENT TO RESIGN27 FebruaryJust hours Sarkisian's appeal for cooperation, former President Ter-Petrossian told a far larger gathering of supporters in Yerevan that both Sarkisian and outgoing President Kocharian should resign, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Speaking the same day on national television, Kocharian warned that the authorities will not permit the unauthorized mass protests by Ter-Petrossian's supporters to continue indefinitely. Meanwhile, visiting Finnish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman in Office Ilkka Kanerva congratulated Sarkisian on his election win and praised the Armenian authorities for showing "restraint" in the face of the mass protests, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kanerva also met on February 26 with Ter-Petrossian, but no details of that meeting were divulged, and with Bako Sahakian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic (NKR). Kanerva and Sahakian both stressed that the Karabakh conflict can and should be resolved by exclusively peaceful means; Sahakian also argued that the NKR should be formally represented at the ongoing OSCE-mediated talks on the search for a formal solution to the conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. (RFE/RL)

CHINA AIMS TO MAKE YUAN CONVERTIBLE IN KYRGYZSTAN

21 May

China is in discussions with Kyrgyzstan's central bank to make the yuan fully convertible in the central Asian country to promote bilateral trade and investment, the Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday. A delegation from the People's Bank of China's branch in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, visited Kyrgyzstan last week. They found that a key reason for the absence of interbank transactions between the two countries is that the yuan is not convertible on the capital account, according to the ministry's Web site. "The Chinese side then suggested making the yuan fully convertible in Kyrgyzstan in a step-by-step manner," it said. The yuan is convertible on the current account for trade in goods and services but China still keeps a tight grip on non-trade-related financial flows on the capital account. The yuan is being used increasingly as a means of settling trade deals in neighbouring countries such as Mongolia and Vietnam, partly because the currency has been rising steadily since it was revalued by 2.1 percent in July 2005. It has now appreciated a further 16.5 percent since then. (Reuters)
 
Medvedev s visit to Astana shows Kremlin s foreign political priorities – Nazarbaev’s advisor
21 May
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's first foreign visit to Kazakhstan indicates the main foreign political priorities of the Kremlin, Yermukhamet Yertysbaev, an advisor for the political affairs of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, said. "It is quite logical and at the same time symbolic that Kazakhstan is the first country, which Medvedev will visit as president, and then he will visit China. Therefore, Russia has demonstrated its main foreign political vector," Yertysbaev said in an interview with Interfax. There are almost no problems in Kazakh-Russian relations, he said. "Strategically, these are the most powerful partners, friends and neighbors. Russia is highly interested in dynamically developing Kazakhstan - the length of our border is over 7,000 kilometers. It is very important for our neighbors that the whole southern direction starting from Afghanistan is shielded by a prosperous country. Kazakhstan protects Russia from the flow of refugees and drug trafficking as a strong shield," the advisor said. "Kazakhstan in turn understands that it is impossible to develop dynamically without the support of such powerful state, because Russia is accounted to 70% of the country's imports and 80% of the country's exports," Yertysbaev said. Medvedev will visit Kazakhstan on May 22 - 23. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)
 
Kazakhstan getting ready for OSCE chairmanship in 2010 - foreign affairs ministry
21 MayKazakhstan is getting ready for its chairmanship in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, said Eldar Kunaev, the deputy director of the Almaty office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Kazakhstan is going to work in all OSCE areas to further develop the organization, Kunaev told a round table conference called Role and Future of OSCE in the Modern World organized in Almaty on Wednesday by the Kazakh President s Institute of Strategic Research, OSCE Center in Astana and the Kazakh Al-Farabi National University. According to him, Kazakhstan is now dealing with organizational issues. Thus, the working group has developed a presidential draft decree to form a Kazakh permanent representative office in OSCE, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will increase the number of its employees who will work in OSCE. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)
 
Kazakhstan hosts security workshop21 MayThe Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Kazakhstan defense officials launched a regional security workshop Tuesday. The four-day workshop is being held in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty. Officials say the workshop is an effort by the OSCE and the Kazakh Defense Ministry to promote stability and transparency in Central Asia through enhanced military cooperation and implementing arms controls. The confidence and security-building workshop is part of an initiative from the Regional Arms Control Center in Almaty and includes representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Arms control experts from Belarus and the United States are also participating. "The confidence and security-building measures developed within the framework of the 1999 Vienna document contribute to a greater transparency, and help promote trust and confidence among OSCE participating states," Jeannette Kloetzer, OSCE Center in Astana deputy head, said in a statement. "Our goal is to support this process, encouraging full implementation of the relevant commitments and promoting a secure and stable security environment at the regional level," she said. (UPI)
 
Agriculture Ministry hails ban on oil product exports
21 MayIntroduction of the ban on oil product exports will allow domestic farmers to meet their demand in fuel, Kairat Koskin, chief of technical department of Ministry of Agriculture said. "It s a necessary step, as the domestic market is experiencing a deficit of diesel fuel," he told in Interfax-Kazakhstan on Wednesday. The ban will ensure accumulation of the reserve stock of fuel at refineries terminals and give them a chance to sell what they have in stock, but not what has just rolled off the line. Oil products shipped abroad would remain on the domestic market and be available for the farmers to purchase, he said. Koskin reminded that the three refineries in Atyrau, Shymkent and Pavlodar pledged to supply 330,000 tons of fuel to the farmers for the spring sowing campaign. "We are monitoring the supply and at the moment 284,000 have been already shipped to farmers, he said. However, he said, in summer the faming sector will generate the need for 400,00 tons more of fuel for harvesting. Therefore, without the ban that shortage would be hard to cover. As reported, Kazakhstan imposed export duties on crude oil, which led to a jump in oil product exports, which created a shortage for oil products and high prices on the domestic market. In response, the government imposed a temporary ban on the export of oil products. Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Sauat Mynbaev announced on Monday that the ban on export of oil products would remain in effect until September 1. However, he did not specify the date for its official introduction. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)
 
Kazakhstan reduces oil production forecast to 67.6 ml tons for 2008
21 MayKazakhstan has reduced the forecast of oil production in 2008 to 67.6 million ton, said Kazak Minister of Economics and Budgeting Bakhyt Sultanov. Taking into account this year s scheduled maintenance work, the actual production(of oil - Interfax-Kazakhstan) in the four months they (the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources - Interfax-Kazakhstan) have adjusted the forecast reducing it to 67.6 million tons vs. the originally planned 70 million tons, Sultanov told a Wednesday press briefing in Astana. The statistics say that in 2007 Kazakhstan produced 55,550,700 tons of crude oil and 11,905,600 tons of gas condensate or up 2.2% and 11.6% year-on-year respectively. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)
 

China aims to make yuan convertible in Kyrgyzstan 21 May China is in discussions with Kyrgyzstan's central bank to make the yuan fully convertible in the central Asian country to promote bilateral trade and investment, the Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday. A delegation from the People's Bank of China's branch in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, visited Kyrgyzstan last week. They found that a key reason for the absence of interbank transactions between the two countries is that the yuan is not convertible on the capital account, according to the ministry's Web site. "The Chinese side then suggested making the yuan fully convertible in Kyrgyzstan in a step-by-step manner," it said. The yuan is convertible on the current account for trade in goods and services but China still keeps a tight grip on non-trade-related financial flows on the capital account. The yuan is being used increasingly as a means of settling trade deals in neighbouring countries such as Mongolia and Vietnam, partly because the currency has been rising steadily since it was revalued by 2.1 percent in July 2005. It has now appreciated a further 16.5 percent since then. (Reuters)

 

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT TRIES TO PREVENT FOOD DEFICIT 23 May A year ago Kyrgyzstan first encountered a serious threat to its food security when the country saw skyrocketing prices of flour and bread. The government is still concerned with the reasons that caused that sharp inflation growth. Prime Minister Igor Chudinov has announced a plan of action by the government, which has learned lessons from last years crisis. According to Chudinov, the government should grant preferential financing to large grain producers. This will make them socially responsible, prevent speculation that hits citizens' pockets, and make the grain business more attractive. Government agricultural economists have said that saturating the domestic market with domestic and imported grains to bolster the flour-milling industry remains their primary task for the imminent future. This goal can be achieved by lowering taxes for grain importers and by increasing domestic grain production. The government has already established simplified rules for the import of wheat and flour, as well as reduced the VAT for flour producers and vegetable oil importers to 10 per cent. In the past, Kyrgyzstan didn't have any state-initiated definite strategy for agricultural development. Farmers grew this or that crop, depending exclusively on the previous years demand, not taking into consideration forecasts for change of demand on the market. This year the Kyrgyz government plans to increase the area designated for wheat cultivation to 400,000 hectares, a boost of 45,000 hectares more than last year. Experts forecast that if the weather is good, the yield of wheat may increase by 300 kg per hectare, which will allow a gathering of 920,000 tons of grain. This year the area designated for oil-bearing crops is 41,000 hectares, up 5,700 hectares from 2007. An increased harvest of oil-bearing crops will allow a rise in the production of vegetable oil, whose price has doubled over the past 10 months. The decision to expand the area under oil-bearing crops in Kyrgyzstan is also partially in reaction to Kazakhstan's decision to prolong its ban on vegetable oil exports. Even as more and more Kyrgyz citizens demand that their government take the domestic food market under control, Prime Minister Chudinov is against non-market methods, saying that direct regulation of bread prices may negatively affect local businesses, increase corruption, and cause another increase in bread prices. However, the prime minister thinks it is possible to introduce a mechanism to limit the profitability rate for all participants in the food market, though this requires amendments to the anti-monopoly law. For this purpose, the government has submitted a draft Law on Food Security to Parliament. (Asia Pulse)

 
S.Korea STX says to build shipyard in Azerbaijan23 MaySouth Korea's STX Group said on Friday it had agreed to build a $430 million shipyard in Azerbaijan with local partners. STX said in a statement that the group would hold a 25 percent stake in the shipyard and Azeri state oil company Socar would own 65 percent, with the remainder to be held by an Azeri state investment firm. STX said the dockyard would be completed by 2011. (Reuters)

 

Russia's parliament ratifies long-term SCO treaty 23 May Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, ratified on Friday a treaty on long-term cooperation between member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The SCO, a regional bloc comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace various economic and social projects. The treaty was signed in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital, at a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State in August 2007. The agreement is aimed at developing strategic partnership relations between members to strengthen peace, security and stability, expand economic cooperation, and improve contracts in culture, education, healthcare and science. (RIA Novosti) Russians, militants clash in Caucasus 24 May Trouble flared in the North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia Saturday when Russian troops and militant separatists engaged in a shootout, state media reported. No one was killed in the exchange, which happened about 10 a.m. Moscow time, RIA Novosti reported. Quoting local sources, the Russian news agency said Russian Interior Ministry personnel first clashed with a group of nine gunmen near the town of Gandalbos, then engaged a larger group of 30 militants at another location nearby. Two Russian troops were wounded Friday when an explosive went off in the republic's Sunzhensky District, a local official said. Ingushetia has frequently seen spillover violence from Russia's long war with mainly Islamic separatists in the neighboring North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. (UPI) Dagestani policeman killed in line of duty 25 May

Deputy chief of the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s economic crime department Col. Akhmedudin Absaludinov was killed in Makhachkala at about 1:00 a.m. local time on Sunday. A unknown masked man wearing camouflage uniform opened submachine gunfire at the colonel when he was leaving the Teatro restaurant together with his friends. About 20 shots were fired. The assailant escaped from the crime scene. His car with Rostov plates was found charred several blocs away within 90 minutes. A criminal case was opened. The main theory of the police is that Absaludinov was killed in the line of duty. He was the head of a district anti-corruption unit for a long time and solved dozens of crimes. Slightly more than a month ago the colonel was promoted to the department investigating real estate and land crimes. (Itar-Tass)

 

Saakashvili accuses Moscow of encroachments on Abkhazia, S-Ossetia 26 May Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has once  again  accused Russia of encroachments on Georgian territorial integrity and sovereignty."We will meet with European Union representatives later in the day. We are expecting  their  suggestions  concerning  current  processes  in Georgia  and  Russia's  encroachments  on the Georgian jurisdiction over Abkhazia  and South Ossetia," he told a joint press briefing with Polish President Lech Kaczynski. On  Sunday  "Georgia  received  the first-ever UN confirmation to a Russian  act  of  aggression,"  the  president  said. "The international reaction must be firm and timely." The  rotation of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is particularly  topical  against  the  backdrop of the establishment of Russian direct relations with the unrecognized republics, he said. "Time has come to change the format of the peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia.  That is necessary because of the Russian actions. We must speed up this process," Saakashvili said. (Interfax)

 

Georgia holds military parade on occasion of Independence Day 26 May A military parade devoted to the 90th anniversary of Georgia’s independence has been held in Rustaveli Prospect in Tbilisi on Monday. The parade, in which 2,600 servicemen and 400 servicemen in reserve took part, was held under command of Georgian Chief of Staff Zaza Gogava. Georgian Supreme Commander-in-chief President Mikhail Saakashvili congratulated participants in the parade upon Independence Day. "Today’s celebration should be a symbol of Georgia’s freedom and unity, the great future of all the people living in Georgia and its future European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Saakashvili said. Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who attended the parade, underlined that Poland supports Georgia in its aspirations for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The Polish president expressed solidarity with Georgia in its aspirations for integration into NATO and restoration of its territorial integrity. The military parade ended in Tbilisi at 11.50 a.m. Moscow time. After the parade participants in a march of the Georgian opposition moved down Rustaveli Prospect. There were no incidents during the march. The joint opposition, that won sixteen out of 150 seats in the Georgian parliament, does not recognize the results of the parliamentary election held on May 21. (Itar-Tass)

 

Russian suspends Ingushetia opposition Web site

26 May A court in Moscow suspended the main opposition website in the troubled south Russian region of Ingushetia on Monday while prosecutors investigate regional government's accusations it spreads extremist material.

The government of Ingushetia brought the case against the ingushetiya.ru website owned by local businessmen Magomed Yevloev. Ingushetia has tried to control media outlets as it struggles to contain growing violence in the region. "Today the Kuntsevsky district court in Moscow upheld a motion by the Republic of Ingushetia ... to order Magomed Yevloev to close his Internet activities," the court's statement said of the investigation. Yevloev's lawyer, Kaloi Akhigov, said the accusations were political. "The website shows Ingushetia as it really is and they don't like it," Akhilgov said. "We are going to challenge this court order." Akhilgov said the ingushetiya.ru website is hosted in the United States, meaning that the court has to order all Internet providers in Russia to switch off the website -- a logistical challenge by the June 5 deadline, he said. Ingushetia borders Chechnya, a scene of two separatist wars since 1994. While Chechnya has calmed, violence has increased in the neighbouring regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan. Ingushetia's government wants to present a picture of normality in the region and control the information flow. Eyewitness said police beat journalists at anti-government meetings and confiscated cameras earlier this year. (Reuters)

Turkmenistan to substantially boost gas supplies to Russia 27 May Turkmen  President  Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow  on Monday visited the largest gas field in the country, Dovletabat, to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Dovletabad-2 gas compressor  station  and  the  commissioning of the Dovletabad-3 booster compressor. The construction of both facilities is entrusted to Belgium's ENEX, which has already implemented a series of important projects in the country. Once all construction is completed, gas supplies both to Russia and further to  Europe  will increase substantially, which will undoubtedly help boost  the  energy security of the countries consuming Turkmen gas, the president said. "This  region,  which  is  a  testament  of Turkmenistan's enormous economic  potential and its status as an energy power, is what will help us increase the production of natural gas," Berdimuhammedow said, adding that, according to independent international experts, Turkmenistan leads the world  in the amount of potential natural gas reserves, estimated at more than 24.6 trillion cubic meters. "In order to calm skeptics  who  question these figures we have invited  the UK audit firm Gaffney, Cline & Associates Ltd to assess the resources  in  these deposits and they will soon perform a certification procedure  for  hydrocarbon resources in the southeastern region in line with the  international standards classification for natural resources," the president said. (Interfax)

 

World Food Programme To Help Tajikistan 27 May The UN World Food Program (WFP) has started a long-term operation to assist the population of Tajikistan, Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, reported. The WFP office in Tajikistan said in a statement published on Wednesday that 700,000 citizens of the Central Asia republic, or each tenth, need emergent food aid. Tajikistan has a population of 7 million. The office's head Zlat Milisic said an unusually cold winter, the growth of prices of food and other causes had worsened the situation with the food supply. Milisic stressed that the aid, which is worth over US$8 million, would first of all be distributed to school students, ailing people, including with tuberculosis, and to residents whose homes had been damaged by natural disasters. The UN WFP budget for Tajikistan this year is US$26 million. (bernama.com)

 

US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 432 27 May As of Tuesday, May 27, 2008, at least 432 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures May 17 at 10 a.m. EDT. Of those, the military reports 298 were killed by hostile action. Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 64 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, two were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen. There were also four CIA officer deaths and one military civilian death. (AP)

 
Georgia says downing of drone over Abkhazia an act of aggression byRussia27 MayRussia must agree to an international inspection of the Gudauta military base, a statement by the Georgian Foreign Ministry published on Tuesday says. The Georgian side has the right to demand such an inspection on the basis of a report by the UN observer mission following the investigation of the incident involving  the Georgian drone downed over Abkhazia, the statement says. The  UN  mission acknowledged videotapes and radar data provided by the Georgian side as authentic, the ministry said. "It  was  noted in the report that the configuration of the body of the jet  fighter  involved  in the incident unambiguously indicates that this was  either  a  Mikoyan  MiG-29 or a Sukhoi Su-27. According to the radar data, the jet fighter left the Georgian airspace and headed toward Russia,   Maikop/Krasnodar   specifically.   The   investigative   group established  that  it  was a jet fighter of the Russian Air Forces," the statement says. According  to the report, "Russia violated Clause 4 of Article 2 of the UN Charter,   which  prescribes  non-violation  of  the  territorial integrity of any state." "At the same time, in line with Clause 3 of an article in the annex to the 1974   UN   General  Assembly  resolution,  this  is  an  act  of aggression," the statement says. (Interfax)
 

Iran eyes Azeri Shakh-Deniz gas from Caspian Sea 28 May Iran is interested in buying significant amounts of gas from the second phase of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan's largest gas field, Shakh-Deniz, in the Caspian Sea, an Azeri government source told Reuters on Wednesday. The second, $10 billion phase of Shakh-Deniz is expected to come on stream towards the end of 2013.   "Iran's deputy oil minister and the general manager of its state gas company spoke to the management of (Azeri state oil firm) Socar over importing some seriously large volumes from Shakh-Deniz's second phase," the source said.The source, who said that the talks were held in Baku over the last two days, added that Iran could continue discussions with Shakh-Deniz's operators.Norway's Statoil and oil major BP control Shakh-Deniz, which produces around 15 million cubic metres of gas per day and has reserves of 1.2 trillion cubic metres. It sells output to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey via Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline. Socar is a partner in Shakh-Deniz, along with Russia's LUKOIL , France's Total and Iranian and Turkish state firms. (Reuters)

Russian peacekeeper stabbed in Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone 28 May A Russian peacekeeper from the Collective  Peacekeeping Forces in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone has been taken   to  hospital  after  sustaining  a  stab  wound,  Alexander Diordiyev, an aide to the Collective Peacekeeping Forces commander, told Interfax on Wednesday. "The  Collective  Peacekeeping  Forces command confirms that one of the peacekeepers   sustained   a  non-penetrating  knife  wound  through disorderly conduct of so-far unidentified individuals," Diordiyev said. The  incident  occurred  in  a community in the Zugdidi district of Georgia,  Diordiyev  said.  "The  serviceman's  life is not in jeopardy. Georgian law enforcement agencies are now conducting an investigation to establish those guilty," he said. Rustavi-2   television  reported  on  Wednesday  that  Pvt.  Andrei Kostenko had received a knife wound at a Russian peacekeeping checkpoint in the village of Saberio in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone. Kostenko was taken to a hospital in Zugdidi and, after receiving medical aid, was transported to Sukhumi. (Interfax-AVN)

 

Amnesty highlights racism in Russia, Chechnya rights violations 28 May Amnesty International highlighted in a report on Wednesday a rise in race-hate attacks in Russia, the authorities' increasing intolerance of dissent, and ongoing human rights violations in the North Caucasus. "The number of racist attacks that came to the attention of the media rose; at least 61 people were killed across the country," the organization said in a 400-page human rights report. The international rights group said Russian authorities have recognized the problem, and that the number prosecutions for racially motivated crimes has increased, but that these measures have failed to curb racist violence. Russia's non-governmental organizations called on Tuesday for drafting a national program to counter racism and xenophobia. The Moscow Human Rights Bureau, citing its data at a news conference, said 126 race-hate crimes were committed in the first five months of this year, in which 66 people were killed and 132 injured. Racist attacks occur mainly in big cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, where the majority of foreigners and ethnic minorities live. Voronezh in western Russia, which has a large number of foreign students, has also seen a large number of attacks. Amnesty International also traditionally criticized Russia for strict media control and arrests of protestors, human rights activists and political opponents, some of whom have suffered beatings. Amnesty said there were fewer reported cases of disappearances in Chechnya last year, as "individuals were reluctant to report abuses fearing reprisals." The group said serious human rights violations were still frequent in the North Caucasus republic, which has remained unstable since the end of the second military campaign against separatism in the early 2000s. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia was responsible for enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions in 15 judgments relating to the second Chechen conflict. Neighboring Ingushetia saw an increase in serious violations, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, Amnesty said. (RIA Novosti)

 

Aliyev: Karabakh conflict our country’s only serious problem 28 May The only problem our state faces is the unsettlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani President said.“My position is well known. The issue should be resolved in the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The talks are protracted because Azerbaijan doesn’t digress from its principal position,” Ilham Aliyev told an event dedicated to the 90th birthday of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. “Although there are forces trying to compel Azerbaijan to greater concessions, alleging problems with democracy development, our people know what it all means. However, any pressure on our country makes no sense. Our policy is open and supported by the population,” Aliyev said. “We will present our exact position on the Karabakh problem within coming months and in 2009, since protraction is inadmissible. Extra concessions on our part are impossible. Participating in talks, we manifest good will. Despite some progress, there is no result yet. But thanks to strengthening of our positions, Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and liberation of the occupied regions is the key provision in the talks. Nagorno Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan is not discussed. We can achieve soonest resolution of the conflict of Armenia demonstrates constructivism,” the Azeri President said, Day.az reports. (PanArmenian.net)

 

Russia carried out its obligations on the withdrawal of military bases from Georgia – Lavrov 28 May Russia carried out its obligations on the withdrawal of military bases from Georgia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “We carried out our obligations on the withdrawal of military bases from Georgia’s territory even ahead of time and Georgia has not begun to carry out its obligations in order to create an anti-terrorist centre with Russia and adopt a legislative initiative, which says there will be no military foreign bases on Georgia’s territory,” Lavrov told journalists on Wednesday. “I don’t foresee that Georgia will carry out its obligations on the creation of the anti-terrorist centre with Russia under the current rule in Georgia,” the Russian minister said. “This proves once again of the authorities’ negotiability,” Lavrov pointed out. (Itar-Tass)
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