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Russia Adds Carrot to Stick for Ukraine, Life Sentences for Moscow Airport Bombers

Plus, thugs beat a Sofia man unconscious in an apparent anti-migrant attack, and Poland welcomes a coal conference as it hosts the UN climate talks.

by Barbara Frye, Ioana Caloianu, and Karlo Marinovic 11 November 2013

1. Russia dangles carrot in pressing Ukraine to drop EU trade pact


Russia has offered to deepen its cooperation with Ukraine if Kyiv does not sign a political association and free trade agreement with the EU as planned at the end of November, RIA Novosti reports.


Sergei GlazyevSergei Glazyev
In an interview with a Russian business magazine cited by RIA, presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev said Moscow would invite Ukraine to participate in joint projects on space, nuclear power, and aviation, helping to make Ukraine’s economy “more diversified, science-based, and stable.”


Specifically, the countries could build aircraft jointly and Russia could provide the technology for Ukraine to produce fuel rods for its nuclear power plants, Glazyev said. 


The offer is a sharp departure from the bullying and hectoring rhetoric that has come out of Moscow as it seeks to prevent Ukraine from signing the EU pact at a summit in Vilnius. In September, Glazyev warned that siding with the EU would lead to Ukraine’s default, and that Moscow “would consider the bilateral treaty that delineates the countries’ borders to be void” and possibly intervene on behalf of separatist movements in pro-Russian areas.


Russia has banned the import of a brand of Ukrainian chocolate and has instituted painstaking checks of Ukrainian cargo at their common border, causing huge delays and losses.


In the recent interview, Glazyev warned that strict customs controls for Ukrainian goods would become the norm if Kyiv signs the EU agreement.


Trade between Russia and Ukraine has fallen by 25 percent since the beginning of the year, according to Interfax. Ukraine’s transport infrastructure, chemical, metallurgical, and food industries are particularly vulnerable to a drop, according to the news agency.


On the other hand, many analysts predict that if Ukraine goes ahead with the EU agreement – and implements the reforms that are required as part of the deal – it could see a massive improvement in its business climate.


“The amount of investment by both domestic and international companies will be staggering,” Jorge Zukoski, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, told the Financial Times. He said the first industries to feel the lift would probably be agriculture, food processing, and energy.


Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s prime minister, said the government “is doing everything possible” to sign the EU agreement and to resolve differences over trade with Russia. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was in Moscow this weekend to discuss trade and economic relations with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.


2. Three get life in deadly 2011 bombing at Moscow airport


Four men have received long prison terms after being convicted of involvement in the 2011 attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people, RIA Novosti reports.


Bashir Khamkhoyev and brothers Islam and Ilez Yandiyev were sentenced to life in prison. Akhmed Yevloyev received 10 years in a penal colony because he was a minor at the time of the attack, according to Reuters.


Doku Umarov, leader of an Islamist insurgency against Russian rule in the North Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the attack.


Prosecutors said the men had helped organize travel from Ingushetia to Moscow for the bomber, identified as Yevloyev’s brother Magomed, and supplied him with the bomb, RIA Novosti reports. Only Islam Yandiyev “admitted his guilt,” according to the news agency.


The North Caucasus republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia have replaced Chechnya as the epicenter of the region’s insurgency, although a researcher at George Washington University recently argued that the violence in Ingushetia springs less from radical Islam than from “the high level of state repression imposed on the ordinary population.”


Umarov has threatened to attack the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in the Black Sea city of Sochi, Russia. 


3. Sofia man left unconscious as anti-migrant feeling takes a violent term


A man is in a coma in a Sofia hospital after being beaten over the weekend by a group of men who were targeting refugees in the Bulgarian capital, according to various reports.


The men set upon Georgi “Metin” Dimitrov, 28, on the evening of 9 November after trying to break into a building that housed refugees, The Sofia Globe reports.


The victim, who is reportedly a Bulgarian of Turkish descent, was returning from evening prayers at a nearby mosque, according to the Focus Information Agency. The news service says Dimitrov’s “life is at risk” and The Globe reports that he suffered “severe head injuries.”


Tensions are high in Bulgaria as the country struggles to cope with an influx of refugees from the Syrian civil war. In September, the number stood around 2,000, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but Bulgarian authorities warn it could reach 11,000 by the end of the year. The country has sought EU aid.


Anti-migrant rallies were held in Sofia and elsewhere in Bulgaria last week, leading to prosecutions of some speakers for using racist hate speech.


The attack on Dimitrov “followed other recent xenophobic assaults in Sofia, one of an African woman near a tram stop and an earlier stabbing and beating attack of a 17-year-old Syrian refugee,” The Globe reports.


Two men in their 20s have been arrested in connection with this weekend’s assault, and three more are being sought, according to The Globe.


The country’s grand mufti urged Bulgaria’s Muslims not to respond to the provocations, Focus reports.


4. Coal summit joins climate change talks in Warsaw


As the UN climate change summit kicks off today in Warsaw, the hosting Polish government will also be preparing for a global coal conference.


Delegates to the International Coal and Climate Conference will descend on the Polish capital next week. One prominent environmental activist said the timing was “a real provocation,” but a major coal industry group said the “summit is meant as a contribution, not an alternative, to the UN talks,” according to the Associated Press.


polandligniteplant_350Poland's massive Belchatow power plant has been tagged as the biggest carbon emitter in the EU. Photo by Morgre/Wikimedia Commons.


Europe’s second largest coal producer, Poland has resisted calls from Brussels to cut greenhouse gas emissions beyond the current targets. The coal and related industries account for nearly 600,000 jobs in Poland, according to AP.


The defense of coal has taken on a nationalist tinge in the country, AP notes.


“Rich European nations are imposing short-term goals on us which they took some 50 years to achieve,” said Krzysztof Bosak, whom AP calls “a prominent member of the right-wing National Movement.”


More than 75 percent of the country’s power plants were coal-fired in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with plans for two more on the books, the Guardian writes.


The Guardian notes that “the world’s leading economies” seem to agree on the need to target coal emissions for reductions. That trend, combined with a lack of proven technology for carbon capture in coal plants, will make Poland’s defense of coal increasingly untenable, the newspaper writes.


5. Croatian vote slated on constitutional ban on same-sex marriage


Croatians will vote next month on a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, the BBC reports. Voters will be asked, "Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?" If most say “yes,” gay marriage would become unconstitutional. 


More than two-thirds of Croatia’s legislators voted last week to hold the referendum. In the Name of the Family, a Catholic group, had collected more than 700,000 signatures in support of the measure. Gay rights activists say they will mount a legal challenge to the referendum at the Constitutional Court, the Associated Press reports.


Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said the issue “does not belong in the constitution,” adding that “a nation is judged by its attitude toward minorities," according to AP.


Croatia has been one of the most gay friendly countries in the Balkans, but gay rights have sometimes been a difficult sell to its nearly 90 percent Catholic majority. In 2007 a man was arrested for carrying homemade bombs to the annual Zagreb Pride parade, resulting in the country's first hate crime conviction. 

Barbara Frye is TOL's managing editor. Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Karlo Marinovic is a TOL editorial intern.
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