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Around the Bloc - 6 June

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: Xi’s visit to Russia; riot in Bosnian migrant center; Bulgaria buys U.S. jets; Slovenian hatmaking; Lithuanian baby race. 6 June 2019

‘Putin is My Best Friend’


Chinese President Xi Jinping cozied up to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a three-day visit to Moscow, the BBC reports. During a press conference, Xi said he had a “deep personal friendship” with Putin, having visited Russia 30 times over the past six years, while the latter reciprocated, saying he was "pleased to say that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level. It is a global partnership and strategic cooperation." The meeting’s aim was to deepen military and economic ties, and also had a “panda diplomacy” component, with Xi unveiling two pandas at the Moscow Zoo, according to the BBC. On the sidelines of the meeting, Chinese information and communications company Huawei signed a deal with Russian telecoms company MTS to develop a 5G network in the country in 2019- 2020, The Guardian reports. Since last month, Washington has banned U.S. companies from selling high-tech equipment to Huawei due to suspicions that the company has been spying for China.



Bulgaria to Buy U.S. Fighter Jets



Sofia and Washington have reached a deal over the sale of eight F-16 jets produced by Lockheed Martin, as well as various pieces of support equipment and weaponry, a statement from the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency read, as quoted by Inside Defense, an online news service for defense and aerospace professionals. After the U.S. State Department announced that it had approved the potential $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euro) deal, Bulgarian Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said that he had expected to get a lower price, in the ballpark of $1 billion, Balkan Insight notes. Bulgaria had also received offers from Swedish manufacturer Saab, whose offer for Gripen fighter jets had been top-ranked by a previous interim government; from Italy for secondhand Eurofighter Typhoons; and from Portugal for secondhand U.S. F-16s. Some opposition parties criticized the selection and acquisition process, while President Rumen Radev called it a "game of democracy" and a "triumph of lobbying," according to the Tasnin News Agency.



Migrants Riot in Bosnia


Bosnian police stepped in and arrested 20 people after a riot involving at least 100 people broke out at a migrant center, Reuters writes. Located in Velika Kladusa, a town near the border with Croatia, the shelter experienced a fire last Saturday, most likely an accident caused by a cooking device, according to a police spokesperson quoted by The Guardian. Tensions have been running high since then, given that many migrants were forced to sleep outside after the fire. Bosnia’s security agencies estimate that around 6,000 migrants have arrived in the country this year, out of which 3,500 are accommodated in transit centers.



Lithuania Hosts Adorable Race



Vilnius celebrated international’s children day – held across many post-Soviet countries on 1 June – with a time-honored tradition of the past two decades: a race to crown the fastest-crawling baby in the Lithuanian capital, according to Euronews. Although their parents stood by the finish line, luring them with toys, cookies, and mobile phones, some of the little racers, aged seven months to a year, lost their momentum along the way. The winner of the race was 11-month-old Ignas Dovydaitis.



A Tip of the Hat to Slovenian History


While hats might no longer be an essential wardrobe staple, straw hats are still celebrated in Domzale, a town in central Slovenia that has a museum dedicated to the trade, according to Atlas Obscura. This is understandable given that the town itself owes its development to the straw hatmaking industry, and was even the location of 25 straw making factories around the turn of the 20th century, employing around 1,000 people. As a result, Domzale’s population almost doubled from 1,200 in the mid-1800s to over 2,100 by 1920, Altas Obscura writes. Later on, in the 1970s it was the richest city (per capita) in Yugoslavia, tourism and travel website THE Slovenia writes, noting that another local tourist attraction is “the strongest, most powerful radio transmitter in all of Slovenia, built in 1927.”

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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