News Summary

The Vostok Report

The news to 8 September 2013

Photo sourced from DBDuophotography http://www.fotopedia.com/redirect?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flickr.com%2Fphotos%2F61926883%40N00

Photo sourced from DBDuophotography

The government’s candidate won mayoral elections in Moscow, with an expected 52% of the popular vote. Turnout, however, appeared significantly lower than in previous elections, at around 30%. Opposition candidate, Alexei Navalny, won between 29-32% of the vote – a better than expected showing. With a prison sentence due to start soon, the elections have been seen as a test of how hard Russia’s rulers could come down on the opposition. An opposition rally will be held later on Monday 9 September. There have not yet been widespread accusations of fraud. Sergey Sobyanin will be the new mayor, having received sufficient votes to avoid a run-off.

Source: Financial Times

Russia’s opposition to military intervention in Syria dominated discussions at the G20 summit in Moscow. Eleven countries signed a joint statement condemning the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, but Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, told the media that only four countries backed military intervention.

Source: BBC

Armenia’s government announced that it would join a putative trade bloc led by Russia. The European Union has said that membership of the Eurasian Union excludes the possibility of EU membership because of different tariff arrangements. Ukraine and Belarus, by contrast, appear more attracted by potential trade agreements with Western Europe. International relations expert, Dmitri Trenin responded to Vostok Cable’s questions in a Twitter Q&A.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, said it was important to avoid escalating a diplomatic row with Belarus over the detention of Russian businessman, Vladislav Baumgartner. Baumgartner is the CEO of the Russian potash company, Uralkali. The arrest has been attributed to Urualkali’s withdrawal from a Russo-Belarus potash consortium, and President Putin’s less-than-categorical statements suggest that he is more interested in repairing a potential rift in the Eurasian Union, an international trade association with Moscow as its driving force.

Source: Reuters

Ukraine’s Supreme Court ruled out hearing Yulia Tymoshenko‘s appeal against a seven-year prison sentence. The former Prime Minister was sentenced in 2011 under a Soviet-era law for an abuse of office. Earlier this year, a member of her cabinet was pardoned by President Victor Yanukovych.

Source: Interfax

Poland’s government nationalised a chunk of the country’s pension fund assets, suggesting that it is planning a pre-election spending binge. Alcohol taxes were also raised. Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk – the first Polish Prime Minister to be re-elected since the end of communism – has seen his popularity fall in recent months.

Source: Reuters

Bulgaria’s former-Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, said that his party would seek to put forward a no-confidence motion on the government’s hundredth day in office. However, Borisov expressed pessimism at the likelihood of the motion passing, given the government’s ‘unnatural majority’. Protests are approaching their ninetieth day. Earlier in the week, protesters attempted to storm Sofia’s parliament building, but were easily repelled.

Source: Sofia News Agency

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