News Summary

The Vostok Report

The news for the week ending 15 February 2013

A meteorite has caused extensive damage and injured over 900 people in Chelyabinsk region, in the Russian Urals. The nationalist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, called the meteorite an American weapons test, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for Russia and America to work together to establish an early-warning and defence system.

Source: Guardian

Russia’s sales of military hardware to Syria doubled to $37bn. Primarily comprising anti-aircraft missiles, Russia’s arms deals with the country have come under the spotlight due to the worsening humanitarian situation there, and Russia’s reluctance to approve a more active programme of support for the opposition.

Source: Moscow Times

The Russian Duma has passed a law banning smoking in public places. The law was introduced as part of Russia’s obligations to the World Health Organisation to improve public health standards.

Source: Washington Post

The Moscow city administration has moved to established volunteer groups with the declared aim of uncovering illegal migrants. In 2010, the city suffered race riots after a Russian football fan died in a brawl with men originally from the Caucasus.

Source: Radio Free Europe

The coalition government of Moldova split after the Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, accused a member of the Democrat Party, current Prosecutor General, Valerii Zubco, of corruption. The country had been considered a success story for EU conditionality in recent years, and had made strides towards legal reforms.

Source: Reuters

Ukraine has signed a deal with the government of Turkmenistan to purchase the latter’s surplus gas reserves. The deal will be subject to the de facto approval of transit countries, Kazakhstan and Russia. That looks less likely with the deepening conflict between the Ukrainian state and the Russian gas company Gazprom over a contested $7bn penalty clause.

Sources: Moscow Times Financial Times (£)

Ukraine’s government issued a statement announcing its agreement to continue with reforms designed to show its suitability for the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU. Leaders of EU member states rejected a compromise proposed by the current holders of the presidency, Lithuania, that would have initiated liberalisation of trade measures to encourage Ukraine to take the process seriously. Progress is currently stunted by the Ukrainian government’s perceived unwillingness to undertake political reforms and the continued imprisonment of opposition leaders.

Sources: Interfax Bloomberg

Ukraine was also hit by a tragedy, in the form of an aeroplane crash that killed five passengers, and a scare, as a section of the roof of the superstructure containing radiation around Chernobyl collapsed. Radiation levels in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant were not said to be showing signs of increased radiation.

Sources: Guardian BBC

The Republics of Serbia and Kosovo took a step toward the normalisation of relations with the exchange of liaison officers. Although Serbia has not referred to the officers as ‘ambassadors’, its tolerance towards Kosovar officials’ extensive use of the term is seen as a positive indicator.

Source: Balkan Insight

The European Court of Human Rights held a public hearing on a case relating to the massacre of Polish officers at in 1940, for which the Russian state admitted responsibility on behalf of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The case will focus on whether Russia’s investigation into the affair was adequate and will address the issue of compensation. Future hearings will be held in camera.

Source: Polish Radio

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