As Armenia prepares to join the Russia-led Customs Union, a surprise decision to erect a statue in the capital Yerevan in honor of the Soviet-era political leader Anastas Mikoian is raising hackles among intellectuals and rights activists.
Armenia’s four competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics didn’t come close to winning a medal. But a joke making the rounds in Yerevan goes that since the athletes made it into Russia, they should at least stick around and look for work.
Armenia's last-minute decision to join a Russian-led customs union at the expense of much closer ties with the European Union has been widely attributed in the West to strong pressure and bullying by Russia.
Sitting in his office, surrounded by marketing materials, Dastan Omuraliev voices lots of confidence in his new startup: “Kyrgyzstan has some of the best fruits and vegetables in the world,” he says. Once processed and packaged into colorful three-liter boxes of organic apple juice, “they can compete anywhere.”
Kremlin kingpin Vladimir Putin’s pet project to drive former Soviet states back into Moscow’s embrace – via the Customs Union -- is gathering momentum. But the possibility of expansion doesn’t thrill all the union’s current members.
Central Asian states are becoming entangled in a trade spat involving Russia and Ukraine. Ostensibly, the dispute’s origin can be traced to Russian concerns over the quality of Ukrainian chocolate. But Russia’s real aim, according to some observers, is enhancing the viability of the Kremlin-led Customs Union.
Kyrgyzstan is moving decisively to join a Moscow-led trade body, but the process will take time as Bishkek seeks preferences that would protect its garment industry and legions of migrant laborers, says a top Kyrgyz official.