Moscow appears to have had it with South Ossetian politicians who undermine the Kremlin’s influence in the breakaway Caucasus territory and besmirch its image. Days after South Ossetian politician Jambolat Tedeyev renewed his claims to the region's de-facto presidency, Russian Federal Security Service agents showed up at his door.
Russia recognizes South Ossetia as an independent country from Georgia, and the authority by which Tedeyev would be charged is not clear.
But such legal niceties matter little when a power struggle is at hand. Last September, when South Ossetia’s de-facto authorities barred Tedeyev from running in the region's de-facto presidential election, his supporters took to the streets in the capital, Tskhinvali. South Ossetia's then de-facto leader, Eduard Kokoity, accused Tedeyev of trying to stage a color revolution.
In response, Tedeyev, who belongs to an influential local clan, threw his support behind another opposition presidential hopeful, Alla Jioyeva. Jioyeva gained international name recognition late last year when her supporters took to the streets, and stayed there, over canceled de-facto runoff results which showed her the winner over the Russian-endorsed candidate, Anatoliy Bibilov.
And so we come to the present. With a third attempt to elect a new (de-facto) leader now scheduled for March, Tedeyev has declared that he wants to run again. But Moscow appears to be wearying of the surprisingly boisterous pace of South Ossetian politics.
Obviously feeling the pressure,the Iranian embassy in Baku hinted on January 26 that Tehran may reconsider its commitment to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan (meaning recognizing breakaway Nagorno Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan) if Azerbaijani officials let outside forces sow discord between the neighbors.
It's a photo shoot on a grey January day, and Sarkozy, wrapped in diapers and swaddled in blankets, is happily snoozing away. We are not talking about the actual French President Nicolas Sarkozy here, but, rather, his newborn namesake in faraway Armenia.
An Armenian couple has named their baby boy Sarkozy in gratitude to the French president for backing a bill that criminalizes the assertion that the World War I slaughter of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey was not an act of genocide.
Little Sarkozy Avetisian weighs three kilos and is 50 centimeters tall. You can see him in all his cuteness here. With an eye to ties with France and voters (Armenia's parliamentary elections are in May), Armenia’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia joined the baby shower, and donated $200 to the Avetisians.
But this is not the first instance of a French president inspiring baby names in Armenia. In 2001, when France under President Jacques Chirac recognized the Armenian killings as genocide, one grateful couple called their newborn twins Jacques and Chirac.
Meanwhile, Turkey, which denies that any genocide was committed, is quite literally slamming the French president in its rage over the bill. An online game, “Slap Sarkozy,” has been released that allows irate Turks (or anyone) to vent their anger at the legislation by smacking the French leader silly.
The Azerbaijani developer Avesta plans to stick the 1,110-meter-high (about 3,642- feet-high ) building on a chain of artificial islands off Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea shore. Completion date: by 2019. The tower -- named, not surprisingly, "Tower of Azerbaijan" -- is expected to house hotels and business centers. It may not compensate for endemic corruption, a spotty civil rights record or any other of the Azerbaijani government's oft-cited deficiencies, but it surely will attract gaping onlookers and tourism money.
France's approval of a bill making it a crime to deny that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against ethnic Armenians during World War I has not only enraged Turkey, but also proven de trop for Turkey’s regional cousin, Azerbaijan. As a result, an Azerbaijani campaign is now building for the French to stop mediating Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Baku, which has long maintained if-you-love-me-you-must-love-Turkey stance, believes that France has undermined its status as an impartial negotiator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by passing the bill. France, along with the US and Russia, has long led the effort to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the territory through a negotiations mechanism called the Minsk Group.
As of yet, no public sign that President Aliyev also expressed such views during his recent peace pow-wow in Sochi with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, but the remarks no doubt occurred with Aliyev's sanction.
Last week, EurasiaNet.org reported on plans to turn breakaway Nagorno Karabakh into a correctional facility for Armenian convicts. To some, mindful of Armenia's extensive presence in and support for the predominantly ethnic Armenian territory, that may bring to mind the colonial-era relationship between Great Britain and Australia, the British Empire's convict colony of choice. But the Australia references do not end there.
Just as was the case with British convicts in Australia, outcasts from Armenia can also find ostriches in their new homeland. These are not going to be the squint-eyed Australian emus, but, rather, their taller African cousins.
Karabakhi entrepreneur Ararat Bagirian imported the birds from Kenya last August and plans to farm them for eggs, meat and feathers, the Russian news agency Regnum reported. New businesses in Karabakh are not a dime a dozen, so, to encourage the venture along, the de facto government gave Bagirian a 25-million-dram (about $65,000) credit for his new business.
After all, as the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Like anyone else, looks like breakaway South Ossetia's onetime de-facto presidential hopeful Alla Jioyeva made a few New Year's resolutions for 2012. Resolution #1: Don't put up with any perceived funny business.
Jioyeva says that her representative was not appointed a deputy prime minister in the de-facto provisional government, as the agreement stipulated. “We never got those two or three ministerial portfolios that could have helped decrease the public tensions…and media remains closed to us,” Jioyeva told Ekho Kavkaza news service.
She said that she called up de-facto Prime Minister Vadim Brovtsev to seek a meeting, but was surprised to get “Let me think about it” for an answer. A letter to Brovtsev, which was cc'd to the rest of the region’s population, was also ignored, she said.
Azerbaijan continues to take the flak for roughshod treatment of the media and political critics. But sitting on an embarrassment of hydrocarbon wealth, the country is in no hurry to change its ways. Behind the maquillage of spruced-up buildings and streets in Baku, rights groups see a ruling political dynasty plagued by rampant nepotism and corruption.
Ever since Azerbaijan won the right to host Europe's main music powwow, the big question has been whether or not next-door Armenia would opt to send singers to the event. After the Nagorno-Karabakh war, the bloodiest of the post-Soviet world's conflicts, many Armenians and Azerbaijanis can barely stand the sight of one another.
Although Azerbaijan promised a safe, open-to-all show, safety concerns persisted in Armenia. Now the two countries have an opportunity to rise above their endless feud and deliver a positive message. Or, at the very least, to shelve the conflict for a few, brief, sequin-studded minutes.
Granted, the contest is unlikely to resolve the deep-running grievances over the still-smoking Karabakh fight. Yet with the right act, it could help break the ice.
But things could also go wrong if the two sides choose to deliver rebukes to one another through their songs. And don't think it couldn't happen. Eurovision generally tends to be highly political, but even more so in this part of the world. Neighboring Georgia’s entry for the 2009 Eurovision in Moscow got cut when the Georgians tried to poke fun at much-hated Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
In any case, with the Armenians in it, the contest is shaping up as the event of the year in the South Caucasus, and one that no war, riot or election can overshadow.
Georgia’s richest housewife has set aside the cares of hearth and home and walked onto the political stage in a big way. Make way for Ekaterine Khvedelize, the wife of billionaire-cum-opposition-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The little-known Khvedelidze last week became the commander-in-chief of the Ivanishvili political army -- known as the Georgian Dream movement -- that hopes to give the boot to President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement party in this year's parliamentary elections.
Ivanishvili cannot chair his own political movement because his Georgian citizenship has been revoked by the government, which argues that his Russian and French citizenship violated Georgia's laws on citizenship. Khvedelidze’s Georgian citizenship, though similarly revoked, was reinstated late last month. And a political career was born.