A few weeks ago Russia announced that it was deploying new missiles to South Ossetia, eliciting an angry response from Georgia. And at the time, the unnamed Russian official who was leaking the news didn't try to avoid making it sound like a provocation; he said the missiles were "capable to effectively repel any aggression from Tbilisi."
But now, Russia seems to be walking that announcement back, saying the deployment would just be temporary. Via Civil.ge, quoting RIA Novosti:
"Tochka-U installations were deployed on the territory of South Ossetia for participation in the military exercises of our military base; they were deployed there temporarily," he said.
Karasin, however, did not specify when the rockets would be withdrawn.
That's a positive move. The recent Center for American Progress report called the missile deployment (along with another rocket deployment) the "most obvious contributing factor to Georgian insecurity." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is on his way to Moscow, and that's the sort of thing that a diplomatic partner does as a friendly gesture. So can we thank the reset for this?
Charlie Sheen’s father, Martin, played a president on American television. Ever wonder how the loquacious, outrageous Charlie might behave as a chief executive? All you have to do is look to Belarus to get a preview.
Belarussian leader Alexader Lukashenko, who does not run from the moniker Europe’s last dictator, was really sheening in a recent interview with The Washington Post. He ended the talk on a particularly high note, tweaking Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by describing him as America’s “son of a bitch.”
Saakashvili, who is carrying on a long-running feud with Russia’s supreme leader, Vladimir Putin, is not known as one who turns the other cheek. Not long ago, Saakashvili vowed that Georgia, which got a certain part of its anatomy kicked in its 2008 conflict with Russia, would never “lick” Moscow’s posterior.
Given the way Saakashvili has responded to Putin, look for the sparks to start flying between Tbilisi and Minsk.
One would imagine that marketing anything as it being "Stalin's favorite" would be the kiss of death for that product, but apparently not so for the Georgian semi-sweet wine Khvanchkara. According to an AFP report, the Georgian patent office is "in negotiations with US-based company Dozortsev and Sons, which it said currently has the exclusive right to sell the semi-sweet Georgian wine called Khvanchkara in the United States.
"A monopoly for Georgian wines' trademarks in one private company's hands may damage the interests of our winemakers," the head of the patent office, Irakli Gvaladze, told AFP.
The full report here. For those who would like to drink like a tyrant, more information on the wine here.
After they were interrogated, anyone who was filmed in music videos with the two performers was also summoned for questioning; the round-up included a pregnant woman.
At the end of the 15 days, the case unfortunately turned for the worse late in February. Apparently some officials decided more severe punishment was required, and Ovezov was sentenced to two years in prison. Authorities then dug up an old case against Karakbayev as well as his father, brother, and brother-in-law regarding a dispute with a neighbor over a satellite aerial, and sentenced all the family members to two years of prison. Relatives do not know where they were taken. Their only hope now is that the men may be released in an amnesty tied to a state holiday.
Maybe the protesters had lost faith in Kyrgyzstan’s justice system and figured they had a better chance of being heard if they took their anger into the street: On March 3, a group of 40 tried to storm the Bishkek office of noted human rights activist Toktaiym Umetalieva. Her offense? Invoking the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty.
The crowd, held back by police, was reportedly made up of relatives of four police officers shot dead in early January. Umetalieva had sparked her detractors’ anger by doubting the official account of the standoff, which identified the suspects, arrested soon after the shootout, as Islamic radicals. She has pointed out that, after two months, no one has produced proof and said, as other independent analysts have, that Kyrgyzstan’s security forces are exaggerating the threat of radical Islam.
“By defending killers, Toktaiym Umetalieva becomes a killer herself!" read a banner held by one of the protesters, according to 24.kg. Someone in the crowd demanded she be prosecuted, “otherwise we will pull her out and perform our own justice!”
In what appears to be Azerbaijan's second Facebook-related imprisonment in less than a month, a court in the city of Ganja on March 4 sentenced youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev to one month in prison. Details about the charges against Hajiyev were not immediately clear.
Twenty-nine-year-old Hajiev, a former parliamentary candidate, is one of the organizers of a youth demonstration against the government planned for March 11. Police in Ganja summoned him twice on March 4 to question him about statements he had posted on Facebook, another youth activist told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani service.
“We learned from the developments in the Arab world that when people
demand freedom, they achieve it. We call on you to stand on the right
side of history, not to resort to force against your own citizens, to
build a fair, happy, and free society in Azerbaijan together with
ordinary people," reads one of those statements, directed to police.
Hajiyev's prison sentence follows a February 17 ruling by a Sumgayit court that put opposition youth activist Jabbar Savanly, another active Facebook user, in prison for one month, pending trial for alleged marijuana possession.
Meanwhile, other anti-Facebook tactics have also emerged. In an apparent attempt at guilt by association, news website Qaynar.info, seen as pro-government, this week posted a list of Azerbaijanis (including EurasiaNet.org contributor Khadija Ismayilova) who have Armenian friends on Facebook.
The ongoing investigation into Ergenekon -- the name given to an alleged plot by ultranationalists to topple the Turkish government -- has led to the arrest of several journalists since it started a few years ago. Many of these were controversial figures from less savory corners of the Turkish media, so there was muted outcry about their arrest.
But the arrest yesterday of a group of some 10 journalists has led to protests and strong denunciations by international observers. Among those arrested were Nedim Sener, an award-winning investigative journalist at Milliyet, one of Turkey's leading newspapers, and Ahmet Sik, another investigative journalist who is well respected in human rights circle for work that exposed several years back military plans to overthrow the government. Sener, who has done important work investigating police involvement in the 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, was declared a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI) this past summer for his investigation of the Dink case.
Turkish government officials have denied that the arrests of the journalists have any political motive.
Turks are an entrepreneurial nation. Case in point: Isbir Holding, a Turkish mattress manufacturer which has just unveiled its latest product -- a bed for cows.
According to the company, the "Ranchbed" is going to revolutionize the dairy world. As company official says, through sleeping on the bed, "the milk production of the cows will increase drastically. Also the productivity per cow, which depends on it spending the half of the day resting and ruminating, increases, because an animal that rests for 8 only hours at most in a traditional ranch environment could extent its resting time on the Ranchbed to 12 and even 14 hours. This results in an approximately 30 percent increase in productivity per cow.”
Russia has been strengthening its Caspian Flotilla, adding anti-ship missile units on the southern part of its border, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. It's another sign that the Caspian arms race is continuing:
Russia has significantly reinforced the army and navy forces on the Caspian coast in Dagestan. According to a Defense Ministry source, a separate coastal missile battalion was made part of the Caspian Flotilla in the city of Kaspiisk.
Additional positions for coastal missiles have been created on an elevation near the city of Izberbash, i.e., not far from Caspian Sea oil deposits and close to the border with Azerbaijan. Furthermore, all missile boats from the Caspian Flotilla were redeployed from Astrakhan to the Makhachkala and Kaspiisk area to create an integrated naval task force there.
(And yes, this article is more than two months old, but I only just came across it...) The unit in Izberbash will be equipped with Bal coastal defense missiles with a 130-km range, the paper says.
One expert the paper quotes, Georgy Kovalyov, deputy general director of the Russia's Institute for Cooperation in the Caspian, said Russia was responding to the other countries on the Caspian:
"In accordance with the Caspian countries' armament programs, by 2015, some of them will increase the number of warships. Nevertheless, right now, the number of warships is less than what it was during Soviet times. However, a trend toward militarization is evident. It's perfectly obvious that [Caspian] countries are arming themselves against one another in anticipation of some kind of future military threat. But exactly why this is being done remains unclear," the expert concluded.
Azerbaijan on March 4 kick-started the manufacture of unmanned aircraft, most probably to peek into the goings-on in Armenia and Armenian-guarded, breakaway Nagorno Karabakh.
Defense officials yesterday updated Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on their progress with the domestic production of Israeli-designed drones. The two models, Orbiter 2M and Aerostar, both manufactured by a local company, AZAD Systems Co., can cruise for five and 12 hours at altitudes of six and 10 kilometers, respectively.
Armenia, which occasionally exchanges gunfire with Azerbaijan, in the past has complained about Baku reportedly flying drones over disputed Karabakh.
Drones have become a popular defense toy elsewhere in the South Caucasus, too. Some two months before the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, a Russian jet shot down an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance aircraft that was hovering over breakaway Abkhazia. Since the war, Moscow has offered to sell Abkhazia Russian-made drones.
The Azerbaijani models, financed by a $3.12-billion defense budget, may not have attack capabilities, but their presence similarly promises to add tensions to an atmosphere already charged with war rhetoric.