Thursday, April 23, 2009

FEATURES: RFE/RL Caucasus Report (

23.04.2009 A review of RFE/RL reporting and analysis about the countries of the South Caucasus and Russia's North Caucasus region. For more stories on the Caucasus, please visit and bookmark our Caucasus page .

Koranic Verses To Appear On Chechen Roads Traffic police plan to install boards with verses from the Koran in Chechen and Russian on major roads in Chechnya, a spokesperson for the State Inspection for Road Traffic Safety has told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. More

Terrorism Trial Opens In Karachayevo-Cherkessia Twenty-nine men went on trial in Cherkessk last week on multiple charges of plotting to overthrow the republic's leadership and seize power; membership of illegal armed formations; and the attempted murder of Russian police officers. Twenty of those accused were reportedly apprehended in the course of half a dozen counterterrorism operations in 2007. More

U.S. Envoy Says Karabakh Talks Entered 'New Phase' A U.S. mediator says that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has entered a "new phase" after Armenian officials and fellow mediators from France and Russia discussed the issue in Yerevan. More

Russia, NATO At Odds Over Planned Georgia Exercises Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says a NATO-led military exercise scheduled for May in Georgia would be dangerous and hinder efforts to rebuild relations between Moscow and the Western alliance. But NATO insists it will go ahead with the long-planned exercises, despite Russian demands to call them off. More

Azerbaijan Continues To Eschew Genuine Democracy The passage largely unopposed last month of a referendum to allow Ilham Aliyev unlimited terms as president shows how he and his father before him have largely destroyed the conditions for Azerbaijan to develop into a democratic society. More

Waiting For A Breakthrough Speculation has been rife that Turkey may be close to reopening its border with Armenia and restoring the diplomatic ties it broke over the Armenia-Azerbaijan war. But Ankara's desire to include progress over Nagorno-Karabakh could signal a more go-slow approach. More

Are Predictions That Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement Doomed Overstated? The publication in the Turkish daily "Hurriyet" in late March of a report that Armenia and Turkey had reached the final stage of drafting a protocol on the conditions and time frame for establishing formal diplomatic relations and opening their common border gave rise to widespread euphoria and unrealistic expectations that such a deal could be finalized within weeks. That euphoria was swiftly tempered by skepticism when Azerbaijan, which has historically regarded Turkey as its closest ally, reacted with anger and outrage. More

Chechnya Still Bound To Moscow By Economic Weakness Despite its seemingly arbitrary decision to call an end to the Chechnya counterterrorism operation, the Kremlin could equally arbitrarily launch a new one, even if it's just to remind Ramzan Kadyrov which side his bread is buttered on. More

Georgia Protests Resume, But Deadlock Persists Opposition protests resumed in Tbilisi after the four-day Easter break, but the number of participants -- some 10,000 -- fell far short of the 200,000 that protest leaders hope to mobilize over the next 10 days in what one of them last week termed "the final stage" of the campaign to pressure President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. Meanwhile, the prospects for dialogue between the authorities and the opposition appear as remote as ever, with the two sides insisting on mutually exclusive agendas. More

Moldova Vote Highlights Monitoring Doubts The monitoring arm of the OSCE has long been seen as the gold standard for judging whether elections were free and fair. But in a series of recent cases, most recently in Moldova, the group's judgment has been called into question after it gave its stamp of approval to votes that were later revealed to be flawed. More

Radical Opposition Barred From South Ossetian Parliament Ballot Eight months after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev formally recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, South Ossetia's Central Election Commission (CEC) has barred the radical opposition People's Party from participating in the parliamentary elections to be held on May 31. More

'We Are Concerned' About Russia In Former Soviet Space Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives spoke with RFE/RL about how they view Russia, the struggle for democracy in the former Soviet space, and the challenges in Afghanistan and Iran. In Prague to take part in the Trans-Atlantic Legislators' Dialogue with lawmakers from EU member states, Representatives Shelley Berkley (Democrat-Nevada) and Phil Gingrey (Republican-Georgia) sat down with RFE/RL. More

Georgian Opposition Pledges To Renew Protests, Denies Reports Of Disunity Georgian opposition leaders have announced that they will suspend mass public rallies to mark the Orthodox Easter holiday. They will, however, continue picketing government sites in Tbilisi. At the same time, two prominent opposition figures have rejected media speculation of tactical disagreements among the various opposition forces that have aligned to campaign for the president's resignation and early presidential elections. More

EU Envoy Urges Government-Opposition Dialogue In an effort to facilitate a peaceful end to antigovernment protests in Georgia, European Union special envoy Peter Semneby traveled to Tbilisi on April 16 to hold separate meetings with opposition leaders. More

Kadyrov's Takeover There's an old anecdote about Chechnya that runs: "How soon after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the republic will Ramzan Kadyrov be killed?" The answer: "He will be killed several hours before the withdrawal." More

Chechnya's Independence Of Sorts Russia has declared an end to its antiterrorist operations in Chechnya. At least some Russian troops are expected to be withdrawn as a result. It's not clear, however, when the withdrawal will start and how many Russian servicemen will be pulled out. More

EU Envoy In Tbilisi, As Opposition Appears Split A European Union envoy is in Tbilisi to try to mediate an end to a week-long political standoff between President Mikheil Saakashvili and opposition leaders who are demanding his resignation. Street protests continue in the Georgia capital, but some opposition leaders are hinting that they might be ready to negotiate. More

The Meaning Of Chechnya's New 'Independence' Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's April 16 decree formally ending the counterterror operation in Chechnya is being touted as a major propaganda victory for Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, and possibly even as heralding the republic's de facto independence from the Russian Federation. In fact, however, it will change very little on the ground. More

Nalchik Indictment Rewrites Recent History The prosecution at the trial of 58 young men charged with participating in the October 13, 2005, multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik, capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, has begun to read out the formal indictment against them. The document contains a number of factual errors. More

Georgia's 'Cage Revolution' These days, it seems, you can't have a revolution, without having a snappy, but evocative adjective: it started with the Rose Revolution, then came orange, tulip, and cedar, and last week, a tad prematurely, Moldova's "Twitter Revolution." More

Azerbaijan's Eurovision Hopes Ride High Aysel Teymurzade, a 19-year-old Azerbaijani singer, is confident that she and her stage partner Arash are going to win the 2009 Eurovision song contest in Moscow and bring Eurovision to her native Azerbaijan next year. More

Russian Roulette In EU Neighborhood Russia has six bullets with which to wound or kill the European Union's Eastern Partnership, and put the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy out of its misery in the process. More

Georgian Opposition Rejects Coalition Government Four days after the Georgian opposition launched mass protests in Tbilisi with the stated objective of forcing President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign, parliament speaker David Bakradze floated at a meeting with civil society representatives and political analysts the possibility of inviting the opposition to form a coalition government. The opposition, however, which insists that the only possible topic for dialogue with the authorities is Saakashvili's resignation, immediately rejected that proposal. More

Armenian Of French Extraction Jailed For Alleging Plot To Kill President A Yerevan district court handed down a 3 1/2-year sentence to Sarkis Hatspanian, a French citizen of Armenian descent, on charges of false denunciation, after he claimed in an interview to have information about an imminent attempt to assassinate Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. More

Population Census Gets Under Way In Azerbaijan The second census since Azerbaijan became an independent state is expected to confirm current trends with regard to the age structure and ethnic composition of the population. What's not clear is whetherit will confirm and clarify two disturbing demographic trends that have been highlighted over the past few years in the Azerbaijani media: the increasing number of marriages involving girls under the age of consent, and a corresponding steep rise in the illegitimacy rate. More

Azerbaijan Left Out Of Turkey-Armenia Love Fest U.S. President Barack Obama's recent visit was a big boost for Turkey. But a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement was in the works even before Obama was elected president. More

Moscow's Tactics In Chechnya Draw On Stalinist Legacy Josef Stalin is dead, but his spirit lives on in Ramzan Kadyrov. The Chechen leader and his Kremlin backers seem to have closely studied Stalin's methodology: propaganda, information warfare, internments, mop-up operations, and the creation of a personality cult. More

Format, Agenda For Political Dialogue In Georgia Remains Unclear The Georgian opposition parties that launched a wave of protest on April 9 to demand the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili decided on April 11 to suspend further actions for 24 hours to mark Palm Sunday. More

Armenian President Takes Stock After First Year In Office Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on April 10 to mark the first anniversary of his inauguration as president of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian acknowledged that the police were partly to blame for the 10 fatalities that resulted from the violent standoff in Yerevan on March 1-2 2008 between police and security forces and angry supporters of defeated presidential challenger and former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. More

Unrest In Georgia, Moldova? Blame Kosovo The streets of Moldova and Georgia are boiling with protest and anger, while Kosovo continues to grapple with its self-proclaimed statehood. We are witnessing the repercussions of the "Kosovo precedent," and they're not pretty. More

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