Nagorno-Karabakh

This Week in European Conflict… March 3rd-10th, 2012.

  • The European Union pulled a TV ad from circulation and apologized after many considered it racist. The ad featured several non-Western martial artists who confront a white brunette (symbolizing Europe) with weaponry and ends with her surrounding them.
  • President Lukashenka of Belarus lashed out at the European Union for expanding sanctions against his country last week, specifically at the openly homosexual German Foreign Minister, reportedly saying it is “better to be a dictator than to be gay”. Prison authorities reportedly prevented a pastor from visiting jailed opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka in a bid to persuade him to end his hunger strike on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the leader of the opposition United Civic Party was reportedly blocked by officials from coring into neighbouring Lithuania.
  • Sweden has reportedly been secretly helping Saudi Arabia plan the construction of an arms factory to produce anti-tank missiles since 2005.
  • President Sarkozy said on Tuesday that there are too many immigrants in France, defending his re-election campaign promise to cut the number of new arrivals by half. On Thursday, Sarkozy promised Armenians he will eventually secure the adoption of a law that would make it a crime to deny the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. On Friday, authorities said they wanted the Basque separatist group ETA to completely disarm and would continue to work with the Spanish government to end the last major guerrilla conflict on the continent.
  • The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England tried to ambush the PM’s attempt to legalize same-sex marriage when he launched his “no” campaign from the pulpit on the weekend. The British government is planning to launch a formal consultation document on allowing homosexual couples to marry. Some disturbing statistics were revealed on Friday, citing that more than half of young black men available for work in the country are now unemployed and that women are being disproportionately affected by government funding cuts.
  • The President of Armenia accused leaders in neighbouring Azerbaijan of seeking to block progress on resolving the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday. Armenia is set to engage in its first ever joint military exercises with the United States.
  • Three police officers and one gunman were killed in Dagestan on Sunday as unknown gunmen reportedly attacked them near a polling station for the Russian Presidential elections. On Tuesday, a female suicide bomber killed five police officers during an attack on a police station. On Friday, Russian forces reportedly used helicopters and artillery fire to pursue a group of 15 suspected terrorists in the Dagestan region.
  • Around 3,000 coal miners blocked a major road in southwestern Romania on Thursday, demanding a pay raise that was promised to them by the previous government.
  • Slovakia held its Parliamentary elections amid widespread public anger over a major corruption scandal on Saturday.  Exit polls suggested that a leftist opposition party appeared to be winning.
  • Voters in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia held their Parliamentary elections on Sunday, despite Georgia not recognizing them as valid.
  • The Parliament of Moldova voted to legalize chemical castration for convicted pedophiles and some rapists on Tuesday. The law will also apply to foreign nationals. On Wednesday, the acting President set the Presidential elections for March 16th, as the Parliament had failed to agree on a candidate amid prolonged disagreements between political factions.
  • Vladimir Putin won a third term as President in Russia, amid reports of voting irregularities and fraud during Sunday’s vote, though the ruling United Russia party said the elections should serve as “a model for other countries” in terms of transparency. On Monday, the United States urged the Russian government to conduct “an independent, credible investigation of all reported electoral violations” from the Presidential vote, after international elections monitors say the election was clearly skewed in favour of Putin; riot police detained opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny during an anti-government rally; while thousands of Russians joined a mass protest against Putin’s return to the Kremlin, resulting in the detention of hundreds. Two of the members of the feminist band “Pussy Riot” who were arrested on the weekend started a hunger strike in protest. On Tuesday, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was troubled by Putin’s claiming victory and called for a discussion on whether to hold a new election. On Wednesday, authorities granted permission to opposition activists to gather up to 50,000 people on the weekend to protest Putin’s win; while the Russian League of Voters condemned the Presidential election as an “insult to civil society”. On Thursday, wives of retired military officers marked International Women’s Day by staging a protest and a hunger strike outside the defense ministry to demand better housing for their families; Putin announced plans to start consultations immediately on the composition of a new government; while NATO’s Secretary-General phoned Putin to congratulate him on his victory and agreed to meet in the “not-too-distant future”. On Friday, police in Moscow announced they will take any necessary measures in the instance of violations at a critical opposition rally on Saturday; the Kremlin said they had dismissed Russia’s ambassador to Qatar in the wake of an altercation between the ambassador and airport authorities; a group of major Russian human rights organizations criticised US Secretary of State Clinton over her response calling Putin the “clear winner” in the Presidential election;  while American President Obama called Putin, in the first conversation between the two men since Putin won his controversial third term. On Saturday, about a dozen protesters were arrested by police as several thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators rallied to denounce the elections.
  • A bomb exploded near the Prime Ministry building in Ankara, Turkey, lightly injuring one person on Monday; while the Turkish authorities were reportedly exploring paths to end the Kurdish conflict. On Friday, authorities expelled members of a Ukrainian feminist group from the country after they staged a topless protest to mark International Women’s Day; while state prosecutors sought permission from the PM to question spy chiefs over their secret contacts with Kurdish militants, challenging the government’s move to cub the investigation.
  • The interior minister of Macedonia condemned a recent wave of ethnically motivated violence, including a series of attacks over the week that left nearly a dozen people injured.
  • Prosecutors at the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes court asked for a 28-year sentence for Vojislave Seselj of Serbia on Wednesday, accusing him of incitement to commit atrocities in the 1990s Balkan wars; while mayors of ethnic Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo said they had received assurances from the Serbian Parliament speaker that local and Parliamentary elections will be held in Kosovo as well. Former Bosnia politician and warlord Fikret Abdic was released from prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence for crimes against Muslims during the 1992-5 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday and was met by some 3,000 supporters.
  • The Parliament of Croatia unanimously ratified a treaty on the country’s entry into the European Union on Friday.
  • The European Union announced that Hungary had not answered all the questions raised by the bloc about its respect for democratic rights and freedoms, with the EU threatening legal actions on Wednesday.
  • The President of the Ukraine ordered the government to work on a series of new reforms that he says are aimed at improving social welfare and public trust in the government on Wednesday during a televised cabinet meeting.

This Week in European Conflict… February 25th-March 3, 2012.

  • European Union leaders confirmed that Herman Van Rompuy will serve a second term as President of the European Council on Thursday. Van Rompuy has served as the President since December 2009.
  • A remote-controlled bomb injured 15 police officers and one civilian on Thursday in Istanbul, Turkey targeting a police bus close to the headquarters of the ruling AK Party. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
  • A controversial system of mobile euthanasia units were started on Thursday in the Netherlands. The scheme will send teams of specifically trained doctors and nurses to the homes of people whose own doctors have refused to carry out patients’ requests to end their lives.
  • The government of Ireland passed into law controversial copyright legislation that Internet freedom groups called a new form of censorship.
  • Serbia took a large step towards integrating with mainstream Europe on Monday as European Union foreign ministers called for the country to be made a candidate for union membership; while the European Union mission in Kosovo said six suspected operatives of Serbia’s Interior Ministry were arrested in Kosovo and five of them ordered held for 30 days. On Thursday, EU leaders formally endorsed Serbia as a candidate for membership into the bloc.
  • Hundreds of angry protesters forced President Sarkozy to take refuge in a cafe during his campaigning in France’s Basque country. Sarkozy denounced the “violence of a minority and their unacceptable behaviour”.
  • Senior EU officials agreed on fresh sanctions against Belarus on Monday in response to the President’s continued repression of his political opponents. On Tuesday, jailed hunger-striking opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka received a visit from his wife at the detention centre, who said he looked “half-alive”; while EU members announced they would recall their ambassadors to Minsk—a move Belarus said was “escalating tensions”— after Belarus asked the ambassadors to leave and recalled its own envoys “for consultations” in a tit-for-tat response to an expansion of sanctions. On Friday, EU officials expressed their “serious” concern over the “deterioration of the situation” in the country, as the European Council adopted a statement endorsing the recent EU sanctions and called on the bloc to continue work on “further measures”.
  • Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Russia on Sunday, wearing white scarves and ribbons or carrying white balloons or flowers, and lined the Garden ring holding hands to form a human chain to protest the likely return of Putin to the Presidency. On Monday, the opposition accused the Kremlin of playing up a purported assassination attempt against PM Putin to boost his popularity ahead of the Presidential elections; while an activist in the opposition Solidarity movement was reportedly arrested and sent to a psychiatric clinic for alleged antigovernment action. On Tuesday, authorities announced their plans to modernize the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle to include detachable equipment, such as an optical sight and a lamp. On Wednesday, PM Putin said his enemies were planning dirty tricks including ballot stuffing and even murder to tarnish the elections; opposition political blogger Aleksei Navalny said that he and other opposition protesters would not recognize the results of the March 4th Presidential election if Putin wins; while the Legislative Assembly in St. Petersburg passed a bill banning propaganda to minors about homosexuality or pedophilia, angering critics by tying sexual violence against children to homosexuality. On Thursday, Putin said he had not yet decided whether he wants to stay in power beyond 2018, when the Presidential mandate he is expected to win expires, showing his confidence in an upcoming win; the top investigative body says it launched an investigation into several video clips allegedly containing fake evidence of vote-rigging; authorities accused the US of trying to influence its election process by funding opposition groups; while Human Rights Watch says authorities are cracking down on critics during the protests. On Friday, the Guardian ran an article suggesting that although anti-Putin protests are rampant in Moscow, outside the capital, his support is much greater; election monitors complained of harassment and revealed alleged plans for mass fraud, prompting the opposition to plan protests no matter the results on Monday; Russia expressed a willingness to restore diplomatic relations with neighbouring Georgia, after the Georgian President offered to established visa-free travel to Georgia for Russians; Putin said that protests made him a stronger candidate; while the Russian Interior Ministry announced it plans to send 6,300 police officers from central Russia to Moscow for the election and subsequent days.
  • Police and protesters fought in the streets of Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday as more than 30,000 people joined students in demonstrations against cuts in education spending.
  • Police in London, England announced they arrested 20 people in an operation to dismantle the Occupy protest camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday. The protesters were refused permission to appeal against a High Court decision to allow their eviction to proceed.
  • Two dozen Azerbaijani and Turkish protesters gathered outside the Armenian Mission near the UN on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s war with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and to demand an apology for what Baku calls“genocide” in the village of Khojaly. On Tuesday, France’s Constitutional Council ruled that the recent law concerning the mass killings of Armenians a century ago violates the country’s constitution, a move Turkey welcomed.
  • An inactivated explosive device was discovered on an empty subway train at an Athens metro station in Greece on Saturday. Police say they believe the device was likely linked to a far-left group.  
  • A former interior minister and close ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in the Ukraine was sentenced to four years in jail for embezzlement and abuse of office. Critics dismissed the charges as politically motivated. On Monday, the EU criticized the court decision, saying the verdict casts doubt on the independence of the judiciary.

This week in conflict… November 27th- December 3rd, 2010

World

  • Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks released some 250,000 diplomatic cables from the US government this week, amid much controversy. The site then faced cyberattacks, attempts to shut it down, attempts to arrest its spokesman Julian Assange, and the blocking of its paypal financial account. Ecuador offered Julian Assange refuge within their borders.
  • Foreign Policy came out with its 2nd annual Top 100 Global Thinkers list. In my opinion, the list leaves much to be desired as I would like to see more peacemakers or revolutionary thinkers, instead of the heavy focus on bankers, corporate leaders and policy makers who have a knack for spreading and continuing cultural violence under a false guise of humanitarianism.
  • Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDs day. Around 2.7 million new HIV infections still occur each year, and despite scaled-up treatment, there are still five new HIV infections for every two who gain access to treatment.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was in favor of adding more members to the UN Security Council this week, and that it was the prevailing view among UN members that the current format is in need of reformation. If only reformation meant removing the veto and the privilege of permanent membership in favor of a more balanced, equal system…
  • The two week long UN Climate Change conference is underway in Cancun, Mexico, and many are hoping that real change can be negotiated this time around, though most are still doubtful. Canada stepped up to win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Fossil of the day awards, which are given to those who have done the most to disrupt or undermine negotiations, on Tuesday.

Africa

  • Egypt’s November 28th parliamentary elections were marred by widespread allegations of fraud that eventually led to the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd opposition groups withdrawing. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud allegations. Turnout was said to be only around 15%, although other sites claimed as high as 35%. On Monday, protesters clashed with police and setting fire to cars, tires and schools and riots broke out in several cities.
  • Cote’s D’Ivoire’s elections were marked by violence and coup allegations. Please read my recent articles about the elections and the international response.
  • The UN issued a warning that armed groups in the eastern Congo, including the army, have formed criminal networks to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The UN sought to extend its mandate of the Group of Experts in the country who are monitoring the arms embargo and sanctions. The UN Group of Experts have also released their latest report on the troubles in the DR Congo. The UN Security Council ordered sanctions and blacklisting of an army commander in the DRC on Wednesday, which amounted to a travel ban and freeze of their financial assets.
  • Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga ordered the arrest of gay couples on Sunday on the grounds that their behaviour is “unnatural”. The PM asserted that a recent census showed that there were more women than men and that there were “no need” for same sex relationships. On Friday, two Kenyan police officers were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Nairobi by two men on a motorbike.
  • At least 1,500 south Sudanese civilians have fled the north-south border area fearing aerial attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces. The SPLA accused Khartoum of using newly-acquired Chinese planes to try and disrupt the upcoming referendum, which is to happen on December 8th. On Thursday, the south accused the northern-backed militias of killing 10 soldiers and 2 civilians in an ambush, which the north denied.
  • Two Islamist fighters are said to have died in a clash with the Algerian army on Sunday. Algerian troops are said to have surrounded the group and made an assault after residents alerted them to the presence of armed elements in the wooded region.
  • Guinea’s Supreme Court has declared Alpha Conde as President, finally confirming the results after a two-week wait. Rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters had taken to the streets claiming the vote was tainted by fraud.
  • At least 40 people were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia in three consecutive days of fighting this week between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam against the troops from the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeepers. The Bakara Market was heavily shelled in the fighting, killing and injuring many civilians. On Thursday, it was reported that another at least 35 people were killed in intense violence after two insurgent groups fought each other.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria has announced that they will be charging former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over the bribery scandal involving an engineering firm, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton when the KBR firm had admitted to bribing Nigerian government officials over the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.

Asia

Americas

  • Haiti voted on November 28th in an election that was denounced as a “massive fraud” by 12 out of 18 presidential candidates, although international observers considered the vote “valid” despite the irregularities. Protests and demonstrations flared across the capital, resulting in the death of at least 2 people. Results are to be made public starting December 5th, with the official tally announced December 20th. The UN and international support are rumoured to leave Haiti if the government fails to honour the elections results.
  • Brazilian security forces seized control of Rio’s most notorious slum on Sunday following a week of attacks by drug gangs in retaliation for the pacification campaign. The police say they confiscated 40 tons of marijuana, 50 assault rifles and 9 antiaircraft guns.
  • A 15-year-old student armed with a handgun held nearly two dozen students and a teacher hostage in a Wisconsin school on Tuesday. The standoff ended when the gunman shot himself, and there were no other reported injuries.
  • A new report released by Disability Rights International revealed tragic conditions in Mexican institutions for the mentally and physically disabled that included lobotomies performed without consent, children missing from orphanages, widespread filth and squalor and lack of medical care. The report has been called particularly galling because Mexico had championed human rights for the disabled and helped to write the international standards in response to earlier damaging reports. On Monday, Mexican soldiers found the bodies of 18 people buried on a ranch near the Texan border, and gunmen killed a female police chief.

Middle East

  • Bomb attacks killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran on Monday. Iranian President Ahmadinejad accused Israel and Western governments of the assassinations. A new round of nuclear talks on Iran are to begin on December 5th. 
  • Israel’s cabinet voted to build a facility to hold thousands of illegal immigrants who enter the country, mostly from Africa. The centre, which Israel stipulates is not a jail, would provide the basic needs for the migrants until they can be expelled from the country.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement this week labeling Houthi rebels in Yemen as “legitimate targets” and claiming that new attacks were being prepared against them. The statement vowed to kill Sunnis, destroy their homes and displace their families and are said to have increased Sunni-Shiite tensions in the northern areas.
  • In Iraq, on Sunday, a sticky bomb killed one person and wounded four in western Baghdad; three people were wounded in another sticky bomb attack in southern Baghdad; and US forces opened fire and killed an Iraqi engineer on a road after he allegedly failed to slow down at the US patrol. On Monday, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of a policeman and a member of a government backed militia north of Baghdad; police found the bullet-riddled body of a woman in Mosul; police found the body of a policeman shot in the head south of Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a taxi driver in Mussayab; gunmen shot dead a man near his home in Mosul; and militants bombed three electrical transmission towers in Anbar province, cutting power to numerous cities and towns for months. On Tuesday, a sticky bomb killed a driver in western Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded at least three civilians in central Baghdad. On Thursday, Iraqi soldiers killed three armed men and arrested another in Mosul; Iraqi soldiers killed an attacker who allegedly tried to throw a hand grenade at an army patrol in eastern Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian near his house in western Mosul; gunmen stormed a house and killed a teenage girl in western Mosul; a roadside bomb at an Iraqi police patrol wounded one policeman and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a human rights ministry employee in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police patrol wounded two policemen in Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded and wounded three civilians in central Baghdad and a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northern Baghdad.

Europe

  • On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a plan for automatic deportation of foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud. Anti-racism groups complained of racist posters showing white sheep kicking black sheep off a Swiss flag.
  • Moldova voted on November 28th in its general elections. The ruling pro-Europe alliance was reported as ahead of the opposition Communists, but it is still unclear whether the three-party Alliance for European Integration will gather enough mandates to allow it to elect a president and end a long-running political deadlock.
  • Two explosions in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi killed at least one person on Sunday. No cause or possible motive have yet been released.
  • Government security forces killed two suspected militants in Daghestan. The militants were described as ideologues of an underground terrorist group.
  • Russian President Medvedev warned on Tuesday that if the West and Russia cannot agree upon a joint European missile defense program, it will trigger a new arms race. The President also pledged his support for the NATO suggestions of an alliance missile shield that will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit. However, on Wednesday, Vladmir Putin warned that Russia would be forced to deploy new nuclear weapons if the US does not agree to a partnership with Russia over the plans for a missile defense shield. On Wednesday, police in Moscow detained 10 HIV-positive protesters who were congregated outside the government buildings holding placards demanding medical care to mark World AIDs day. On Thursday it was reported that the prosecutor’s office in a central Russia city has asked the local Muslim leader to provide detailed information about the people who attend the local Islamic centre following a months-long court battle to build a mosque in the city.
  • Belarus has announced it will give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons materials by 2012. Belarus gave up its Soviet-era inherited nuclear weapons in 1994, but still retained highly enriched uranium stocks.
  • Immigrants in Greece have been subject to increasing violent attacks by suspected right-wing extremists in recent weeks. Experts say that this reflects a growing general trend of hate crimes against Muslims throughout Europe. On Thursday, police fired teargas at protesting university students demonstrating against increasing tuition fees and austerity reforms, injuring at least 3 demonstrators. A controversial bid to build a mosque in Athens have increased tensions as open-air services resulted in clashes between police and protesters from the extreme-right.
  • British students continued their demonstrations against proposed university tuition hikes amid hundreds of arrests.