This week Internet news sites in Uzbekistan have been blocked for unknown reasons, the independent news site fergananews.com reports.
While for the last five years, some sites devoted specificially to news from Uzbekistan, such as fergananews.com itself, uznews.net, uzmetronom.com and others have been blocked from view, this latest problem affects sites that have been accessible in the past.
Local Internet service providers (ISPs) do not have the capacity to block sites, telecommunications experts told fergananews.com. Yet the national state provider of telephone lines, Uzbektelekom, could do so. Even so, if the blockage were being made by this state company, all the ISPs would show the same list of blocked sites -- and they vary.
On August 9, fergananews.com reported that users of Beeline, a Russian mobile phone service, have been unable to open the Russian news sites gazeta.ru, newsru.com, utro.ru, ruvr.ru, sovsport.ru and an Uzbek news site, uzreport.com. Access to lenta.ru was blocked for a time then reopened.
Beeline denied reports that any sites were blocked by their affiliate services in Uzbekistan. The company said that as a service provider, it is not authorized to block access to web sites on the basis of content, and did not receive any orders from any state agencies to deny access to any sites.
Meanwhile, users of other services including Sharktelekom were also reporting problems accessing news sites and Live Journal, the blogging platform, Google, and rambler.ru. These sites have been reached in recent days only by proxy servers and anonymizers, fergananews.com reports.
As part of its ongoing chat with the opposition, the Armenian government on August 8 received an 87-page manifesto, which boils down to a single message for President Serzh Sargsyan: "Serzh jan, please resign and let me have a shot at the presidency. Yours truly, Levon Ter-Petrosian."
Ter-Petrosian, the ex-president and current opposition leader, has tried many avenues in the past to bring that message home. He has led people into the streets to protest and delivered fiery speeches, but his perseverance has been matched by Sargsyan’s stubbornness.
Now it's time to see if prose can succeed where other means of expression have failed.
At first glance, Ter-Petrosian, a philologist reportedly comfortable with dashing off scholarly works in Russian and French, as well as Armenian, might seem more than suited for this manifesto task.
In separate chapters, his Armenian National Congress (ANC) lists the alleged falsification of the 2008 presidential elections, corruption, mistrust of the judiciary system as among the reasons for early presidential and parliamentary elections (otherwise due in 2013 and 2012, respectively).
Levon Zurabian, the Armenian National Congress' chief negotiator, commented that the government's delegation listened "very attentively" to the opposition's complaints, RFE/RL reported. A response is requested by mid-August.
Nonetheless, whatever the ANC's writing skills, it seems fairly unlikely that Sargsyan, after reading its opus, will come out and say: "OK, you got me. Have your early election."
Websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of External Economic Liasions, Investment and Trade and the Jahon information agency of the Foreign Ministry were all attacked by hackers on July 28.
Interestingly, only the Russian version of these sites, which are also available in Uzbek, Arabic, and English, were the pages subject to tampering. Their regular texts were substituted with a banner:
Moscow prosecutors say that Georgia refused to cooperate with the Russian investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Now, who saw that coming?
The investigators' miffed spokesperson, one Vladimir Markin, said that Tbilisi, for some bizarre reason, would not help provide Moscow with proof of Georgia's alleged crimes during the two countries' 2008 war. “Despite repeated requests … the Georgian Ministry of Justice refused to cooperate with Russian law enforcement agencies on this criminal case,” said Markin on August 8, the conflict's third anniversary.
This is after Russian investigators, in Markin's telling, have done all the due diligence. They even found no proof of “any illegal actions on the territory of Georgia or South Ossetia” by the Russian military. Surprise, surprise.
But how closely Moscow's meticulous sleuths examined the wartime situation on the ground in South Ossetia remains unclear. Without assigning specific blame, a European Union-funded international investigation, which blamed Tbilisi for lighting the match that led to full-scale hostilities, concluded that ethnic cleansing of Georgians, rather than South Ossetians, was “practiced both during and after the August 2008 conflict.”
Georgia, for its part, took Russia to the International Court of Justice over Moscow's ethnic- cleansing charges, but the court ruled that the two sides have not exhausted the means among themselves for smoothing things over.
Long story short, everyone violated the law, some more than others, and need to “make good for it,” as the EU-financed report suggests. Somebody tell Markin.
That's the provocative question that Anton Lavrov asks in the most recent issue of Moscow Defense Brief, and the answer is basically, don't do half-measures.
The events in Libya, which NATO has had to get involved in since early 2011, are reminiscent of another recent conflict, the Five Day War between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. Leaving aside the complex legal issues, it seems that Russia and the NATO allies have had to face similar tasks during these two conflicts. But their approaches have been very different – as have the results.
The most obvious parallels can be drawn between the events in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and the city of Misrata in Libya. Both of these rebel-controlled cities were besieged by “government” forces which used artillery, MRL [multiple-launch rocket] systems, heavy armor and aviation. Misrata is linked to the outside world by a single vulnerable port road, Tskhinvali by a tunnel and a narrow mountain road. Shelling and fighting in the streets led to many casualties among civilians, forcing thousands to flee and triggering a humanitarian crisis. In Libya, as in Georgia, there was also a separate theater of combat action, which did not attract much attention. In Libya it was a large rebel-held area from Ajdabiya to Tobruk, with a much greater concentration of rebel forces than in Misrata. In Georgia, that area was Abkhazia.
The separatists in Abkhazia and Ossetia had received military support from extremely powerful outside forces, just as the Libyan rebels have. But the rapid success achieved by Russian troops in Georgia contrasts sharply with the protracted and floundering NATO operation in Libya.
Tajikistan has gone on a but of a small-arms buying spree, and Ukraine has been selling lots of weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Those are some of the early returns from the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, to which countries are supposed to report all the weapons imports and exports they have engaged in over the previous year. The 2010 register has been published. Most of the big transfers -- of aircraft or ships, for example -- tend to make the news before this comes out, but lesser deals, like small arms, don't.
Tajikistan hasn't bought much over the last decade, but in 2010 it bought a number of small arms from Serbia and Bulgaria. According to the register, Tajikistan's purchases from Bulgaria:
A German non-governmental organization using an innovative approach to try to get companies to cease participating in the use of forced child labor in Uzbekistan has received a disappointing response from European cotton traders. Yet the process has shed light on the issue and enlisted a pledge from the traders to cease buying cotton from Uzbekistan -- if it can be proved child labor exists.
ECCHR was joined by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights and other organizations in Europe trying to get traction for their allegations that these corporations had violated OECD guidelines. The OECD accepted the complaints for review at different focal points in the EU countries where the various companies were located.
The invitation was made in a televised summary of a presidential speech, yet the full text of the speech published later on the government website and state newspapers contained no reference to the opposition. The implication was that opposition leaders in exile could return to their homeland.
Opposition members abroad greeted the announcement with skepticism regnum.ru reported, citing the emigre publication Oazis. A law on presidential elections passed on June 1 is stricter than past laws and stipulates that candidates must be must be between 40 and 70 years of age, have resided in Turkmenistan for the last 15 years, have no prior convictions, and collect at least 50,000 signatures.
Quite a macho act here by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. In a televised interview on Russia’s ties with Georgia, released on the eve of the third anniversary of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, he did everything short of blowing smoke off a gun.
Often seen as Moscow's good cop (with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the role of bad cop), Medvedev claimed that the 2008 conflict with Georgia was his war, not Putin’s. He also, per tradition, had some unflattering descriptive adjectives for his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Medvedev described the Georgian president as a “sticky” man, who stalked him at the pair’s last, pre-war meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, when the Russian president just wanted to enjoy a glass of wine. Medvedev said that Saakashvili repeatedly approached him about talks on breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He denied allegations that he had been trying to ignore Saakashvili and claimed he would have been happy to hold those talks.
But then, one fateful day, an American woman came to Tbilisi and Saakashvili had a change of heart. “He stopped writing, stopped calling, stopping getting in touch,” Medvedev reminisced, a tad bitterly. This woman’s visit served perhaps as an unintentional incentive for Georgia to choose a different course of action toward South Ossetia, he continued.
Viktoriya Panfilova, who frequently writes on Central Asia for Russia's daily Nezavisimaya gazeta ("Independent Newspaper"), has an article posted this week quoting Azeri and Russian sceptics about the European Union reaching any kind of gas deal with Turkmenistan. Of course, Russians have every reason to be skeptical of the Europe-bound pipelines -- they will circumvent Russia.
Pierre Morel had an upbeat takeon his trip to Ashgabat last month, but as we noted, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had little comment beyond saying that the EU's proposals "would be studied" and that cooperation was "a strategic priority" for Turkmen foreign policy. As Panfilova notes, Morel's goal of getting a firm agreement from the Turkmen president to supply gas to the EU, and getting Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to resolve their differences, has still not been met. The Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has said that negotiations will take place in Warsaw in September -- Poland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.