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Ingush Security Chief Dead in Ambush, Gas Pipeline Breaks Ground in Moldova

Plus, a case of plague rattles Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia reviews restrictions on foreign investments in the vital mining sector.

by Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Sintija Treimane 28 August 2013

1. Ingushetia’s security chief killed


The security chief of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, Akhmed Kotiev, died in an ambush on his car 27 August, RIA Novosti reports.


Akhmed Kotiyev
Kotiev’s car was fired on in the village of Nizhniye Achaluki as he was being driven to the town of Magas. The driver was fatally injured.


Ingushetia leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov tied the attack to Kotiev’s success in the campaign against Islamist militants.


“In recent years Akhmed has very successfully been dealing with this issue,” he said, according to RIA Novosti. “Always expressing his opinion, he wasn’t afraid to openly communicate with relatives of the militant underworld, and called on the bandits to lay down their guns and return to peaceful life.”


Law enforcement officials were working on the hypothesis that local Islamist militant leader Artur Getagazhev was involved in the attack, Radio Free Europe reports.


The Russian Investigative Committee today blamed the attack on Getagazhev’s armed group, according to RIA Novosti.


Kotiev survived an assassination attempt last year, RFE writes. Dozens of officials have been assassinated in the North Caucasus in recent years as extremists and gangs have been forced out of Chechnya into Ingushetia and Dagestan. Yevkurov survived an assassination attempt in 2009.

2. Moldova breaks ground on new link to Europe


The construction of a gas pipeline, perhaps symbolically scheduled to start on Moldovan Independence Day, 27 August, signals the end of the country’s energy dependence on Russia and a step closer to Europe, reports.


Günther Oettinger
Inaugurated by the Moldovan and Romanian prime ministers and the EU’s energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, the pipeline will link the Moldovan town of Ungheni to Iasi in Romania and the gas distribution network of the European Union.


The pipeline’s annual capacity of 1.5 billion cubic meters could supply 15 percent of Moldova’s gas needs. Construction is expected to last 17 months, with 7 million euros ($9.4 million) of the 27 million euro project financed by Brussels, Balkan Insight writes.


According to EurActiv, Oettinger said of the pipeline, “This will enhance [Moldova’s] energy security and reduce its dependence from the only supplier it has now” – in other words, Russia’s Gazprom.


Russia has already told Moldova to choose between cheap gas and further steps toward European integration, notes.


Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta announced another linkup between the two countries during his visit to Moldova for the pipeline opening, promising that Romanian public television would resume broadcasts to Moldova “in a few weeks.”


A dispute with Moldova’s media regulator led the TVR public station to pull out of Moldova in 2007, at a time of poor relations between Bucharest and the then communist-led government.


3. Kyrgyzstan moves to control plague outbreak

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev has taken charge of the government’s response to a case of bubonic plague, according to Radio Free Europe.


A 15-year-old boy died last week of the disease, possibly as a result of contact with an infected marmot, the Guardian reports. A woman and two children who came into contact with the boy were hospitalized with plague-like symptoms, and 131 people, including 33 health workers, were put into isolation to dampen the likelihood of further infection.


The government said 26 August that Satybaldiev had ordered vaccinations and disinfection treatments for residents of the Ak-Suu district in eastern Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Kazakhstan.


Health Minister Dinara Sagynbaeva said “there is no danger of an epidemic.”

"As soon as the diagnosis was made, all necessary measures in accordance with international standards were carried out," Sagynbaeva told RFE.


The Guardian cited a Russian television report that officials at the Yekaterinburg airport were carrying out checks of travelers arriving from countries with a high bubonic plague risk. Izvestia cited a Russian health official as saying that cases were recorded in Kazakhstan every year and that it existed naturally in parts of Kyrgyzstan and Russia.


4. Minaret controversy reignites religious tension in Georgia


Georgia’s influential Orthodox Church is appealing for calm, two days after the removal of a minaret from a mosque sparked tension and arrests in a village in Samtskhe-Javakheti province.


Residents of Chela tried to prevent authorities from removing the minaret 26 August, reports. Residents clashed with police and at least 11 people were reported arrested. The 24-meter (80-foot) tower was dismantled and driven away on the back of a truck.


A truck carrying the dismantled minaret drives away from Chela. Photo from a video by samkhretiskaribche/YouTube


In a statement, the Orthodox Patriarchy said the protests in Chela were “an attempt to incite religious strife” and compared them to similar communal conflicts in three other villages.


“We request the Muslim leaders in Georgia to oppose provocative actions both in [Chela] and in other parts of Georgia and not to contribute to it,” the patriarchate said.


Hundreds of Muslims staged a protest against the removal of the minaret in Tbilisi 27 August, Radio Free Europe reports.


The social structure in Chela resembles that in the village of Tsintskaro, where residents clashed last year over local Muslims’ use of a building to hold collective prayers. writes that Chela and other villages in the area saw an influx of Muslim and Orthodox migrants from other parts of Georgia. The Muslims came from Adjara, the western province where many Georgian-speaking Muslims live.


Muslims in Chela brought in the parts of the minaret from Turkey and erected it at the village mosque in July. On 20 August, the local council passed a decision saying the minaret had been erected without official permission. Its removal, though, came at the request of the revenue service of the Finance Ministry, according to Revenue officials said 26 August they had removed the minaret to verify if the value of the construction materials had been properly declared when imported.


5. As mining sector slows, Mongolia may rethink foreign investment law


The Mongolian government plans to revise a 2012 law that tied the hands of foreign investors in the country’s vital mining industry, Reuters reports.


Oyu Tolgoi mine 350The Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine.


Foreign investment tumbled by 43 percent in the first half of 2013, which analysts attributed in part to the effects of the law. The law forces investors to get government approval to buy 33 percent or more of a company in a “strategic” sector, including telecommunications and banking, in addition to mining.


The economic boom of recent years was due in large part to exploitation of the country’s almost untapped gold, copper, and coal deposits by foreign mining companies.


The policy of attracting foreign money took a sharp turn in May 2012 when parliament passed the law to block a Chinese bid for a majority stake in a coal mine, Reuters writes.


"There's no doubt [the law] led to a more uncertain environment for foreign investors," Ulaanbaatar-based analyst Nick Plummer said.


The government now wants to revise the law to eliminate the distinction between strategic and non-strategic industries, the Economic Development Ministry’s director of foreign investment, Sereeter Javkhlanbaatar, said.


Parliament will be recalled from its summer recess for an emergency session on an “economic crisis sparked by uncertainty over its biggest mining project and falling foreign investment,” Reuters reported 17 August.





Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane are TOL editorial interns.
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