Sunday, July 31, 2011

Russia and China's interaction with Central Asian states in this week

Russia-Kyrgyzstan - The bilateral relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan were discussed in Bishkek during State Secretary - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin's visit to Kyrgyzstanon Friday. The close cooperation between the two foreign ministries were discussed in the context of further development of Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation, the situation in Central Asia. Kyrgyz interlocutors informed about the political situation in the country and the preparation for the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, scheduled on October 30.

China-Kazakhstan - Central banks of Kazakhstan and China July 25 agreed to open special accounts as part of their agreement on currency swap yuan / KZT. This agreement was reached in the course of the seventh meeting of Kazakh-Chinese Subcommittee on Financial Cooperation in Astana, which was held in Astana on Monday. The two sides noted during the meeting that the sales turnover between the two countries had been growing steadily, which meant that the two countries could use their national currencies for payments.

China-Kyrgyzstan - Kyrgyz and Chinese officials on Friday began construction work on a power station that will boost electrical output of southern Kyrgyzstan’s power grid. The project is named "Datka 500 kilovolts power transmission station". Signed by Kyrgyz National Grid Company and Xinjiang Tebian Electric Apparatus Company (TEBA) in February, the contract amounts to 208 million U.S. dollars, and the whole project will be finished in 18 months.

China provided Kyrgyzstan with more than 200 tractors to facilitate agricultural production in the Central Asian country. The Kyrgyz Prime Minister Atambayev stressed that this program was launched as a result of successful agreements between the governments of Kyrgyzstan and China. At the same time, Atambayev pointed out the need for state support of agricultural producers in matters of technical equipment and modernization of machines and tractors. The two sides stressed that there are significant prospects for economic cooperation between the two countries.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Россия и Кыргызстан обсудили двусторонние отношения" (Russia, Kyrgyzstan discuss bilateral relations)

"Центробанки Казахстана и Китая откроют специальные счета в рамках соглашения по валютному свопу юань/тенге" (Central banks of Kazakhstan and China open special accounts in the framework of currency swap agreement)

"Алмазбек Атамбаев: Строительство подстанции «Датка» – большой шаг к обеспечению энергетический безопасности страны" (Atambaev: Construction of substation "Datca" - a big step toward ensuring energy security)

"Длинная дорога к энергии будущего" (A long road to future energy)

"特变电工中亚地区又一座500 kV变电站开建" (Construction work on a 500 kv power station started in Central Asia)

"Фермеры Кыргызстана будут работать на китайских тракторах" (Kyrgyz farmers will work on Chinese tractors)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Observations on Russia's 2012 Presidential Elections

Predictions about the 2012 Russian presidential elections continue to flood cyberspace from official news outlets to independent perspectives from well-known actors from Russian civil society. The continuation of the Medvedev-Putin tandem seems (to this observer) to be the most likely outcome of the 2012 elections considering the benefits each has on certain spheres of Russia’s social, political, economic, and military institutions. The “managed pluralism” approach to governing Russia under the Medvedev-Putin mandate has had its share of ups and downs, which has caused considerable disenfranchisement in Russian civil society. Medvedev has called for an end to “government manipulation of the economy” and “for the devolution of power to the regions and municipalities” in partial hopes of filling these positions by public elections rather than the current Kremlin-appointed system.

Despite Medvedev’s ‘call to arms’ against the continuation of government meddling in the economic sectors and civil society, Russian citizens agree (71 percent) that they have no bearing on state matters. In addition, 63 percent of Russian citizens expect that the major threats to Russia in the future will come from within, as opposed to the 37 percent who see the main threats coming from abroad. Pavel Felgenhauer, independent Moscow-based defense analyst and contributor to the Eurasia Daily Monitor of the Jamestown Foundation, wrote at the end of June 2011 that “if drastic social/political reforms that may defuse the situation are not introduced immediately, a violent rebellion in Moscow seems highly probable, and, as in the recent ‘Arab spring’ revolutions, virtually any pretext may become the trigger.” Considering that the pretext is likely in the opinion of the Russian populace to come from within, the Kremlin must take action against subversive elements that might foment revolution against the ruling tandem and the current system of governance employed by the Kremlin. Unfortunately, in recent months, weeks, and days the state authorities’ actions against ‘subversive’ elements has targeted civil activists protesting for environmental preservation, historical preservation, and human rights. While a threat to the image of the authority of the Kremlin these civil activists do not represent the greatest threat to the Russian state. Dialogues rather than crackdowns could prove more beneficial for the tandem and civil society’s relationship with the Kremlin, especially if the Putin-led All-Russia People’s Front is, in fact, constructing its electoral program on “liberal” issues.

The state of fear and disenfranchisement Russian civil society feels is further precipitated by the unwillingness of either Medvedev or Putin to formally announce their intents to run for (re-) election in 2012. To some observers, this unwillingness is producing greater fear in society and political institutions that there is disorder in the tandem. Igor Jurgens and Eugene Gontmakher of Vedomosti posed what sounds like a troubling question for greater numbers of Russian citizens: “What happens if Dmitri Medvedev, for some unknown reason, refuses to publicly lay claim to the presidency in 2012?” In response they wrote, “It is safe to assume that the mere failure of the current president to continue his operation would cause large-scale crisis in the country.” Jurgens and Gontmakher continue, noting that the resignation of Medvedev would inevitably lead to the emergence of another candidate; however, they note that the candidate would “inevitably emerge from the prime minister’s cage.” While Jurgens and Gontmakher cast their votes for Medvedev’s reelection, viewing it as a positive and beneficial event for the future of Russia, they believe Putin will maintain a position of primacy in the Kremlin due to his maintenance of stability during his tenure as prime minister. Gleb Pavlovsky is less keen on Putin, and critical of the tandem’s silence about the future. He questions the tandem as a model for modern political governance, calling it an “involuntary agreement in a society where ‘everyone can agree about everything.’” Pavlovsky seems to be calling for Russian citizens to more closely scrutinize local government and Kremlin activities so passivity does not undermine participatory democratic institutions that might emerge after the 2012 elections. Pavlovsky identifies the inherent problem of silence in civil society and from political actors, “[The involuntary social contract] is captured, to usurp the space of a forced agreement, where it is impossible to formulate any interest out loud, or to offer a compromise, or even just to provide guarantees. The symbol of this: two people who keep silent in front of the whole country” [emphasis added].

What are Medvedev and Putin waiting for? Is the matryoshka doll model (evidenced by Pavlovsky) for the structure of power and property keeping the tandem at bay, relegating their actions to the directives of Aleksei Ulyukayev and the Bank of Russia and, ergo, creating a less transparent regime? Or is the tandem waiting to find more suitable replacements that could serve as a tabula rasa for Russia, dusting away the allegations of corruption and poor policy-making that have marred the tandem’s reputation with certain civil and political groups? From early observations one thing is certain: the 2012 presidential elections are representative of the major changes made in Russia since 1991, a fitting recent-history lesson for the anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. The question remains whether Russia will face its domestic challenges with democratic reforms or continue to address civil social and political concerns with a heavy hand. Serious evaluation from all levels of Russian society is a necessity otherwise jokes such as Kommersant correspondent Oleg Kashin’s, “We’re all going to die under Putin [My vsem umrem pri Putine],” that tend to materialize more frequently than serious assessments, might become a reality.

Articles referred to in this post:

«Мы хотели стабильности – мы её получили» (“We wanted stability – we got it”),

«Партстроительство: Вхождение в народ» (“Party Building: Engaging the people”),

«Президент должен заявить о себе» (“President should declare himself”),

«Путин готов стать президентом?» (“Putin ready to become president?”),

«Расстройство тандема» (“Disorder of the tandem”),

«Тандем как фактор риска» (“Tandem as a risk factor”),

Pavel Felgenhauer, “The Majority of Russians Feel Disenfranchised,”

“Russia Readies 2012 Pres Elections, but Who is Running?”

“The Power Vertical: The 2012 Shadowboxing Intensifies,”

“The Power Vertical: The Popular Front’s Liberal Platform,”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

China-Uzbekistan - China and Uzbekistan called for further cooperation between the two parliaments in an aim to step up bilateral relations. Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, made the remarks in his meeting with the visiting President of the Uzbek Senate Ilgizar Sabirov on Friday in Beijing. Wu urged the parliaments of the two nations to take full advantage of their legislative functions to establish solid legal foundations for the two nations to expand their pragmatic cooperation. On Thursday, the Uzbek Senate president also conferred with Vice Premier Li Keqiang on bilateral ties. Sabirov said his country is ready to make joint efforts with China to promote sustained, healthy and stable development of bilateral ties and further enhance coordination with China in the SCO.

Russia-Kyrgyzstan - Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev has secured an agreement with Russia that will allow for the resumption of Russian gasoline deliveries to Kyrgyzstan. But prices for the gasoline, which rose steeply due to the shortages, are likely to remain high. Atambaev has called for Kyrgyzstan to join the customs union, but many Kyrgyz politicians are against it.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary speaker Ahmatbek Keldibekov was met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karasin and the post-Soviet affairs head in the Upper House of the Russian Parliament Andrei Molchanov on Friday, when he claimed that Kyrgyzstan in former Soviet Central Asia would quickly fall on hard times if it were not for support from Russia. They also discussed cooperation and preparations for Kyrgyzstan’s next presidential elections on October 30th.

Russia-China - Heixiazi Island has long been a thorn in the side of peaceful Sino-Russian relations. With the demise of the USSR and the rise of economic activity between China and Russia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the time was right to put the longstanding border dispute to rest. In November of 2010 the premiers of China and Russia issued a joint communique pledging to develop the islands together for mutual benefit. On July 20th of 2011, veteran China-watchers and local villagers witnessed an event they never thought they'd see when 150 Chinese tourists disembarked on the first official tour of Heixiazi Island. More will soon follow: authorities have approved a 6-hour boat tour and a separate land tour. Chinese officials claim that the development of Heixiazi Island demonstrates that China and Russia are capable of resolving border issues peacefully.

Articles referred to in this post:

"吳邦國:中烏兩國立法機構應為兩國務實合作提供更有力的法律保障" (Wu Bangguo: China, Uzbekistan need further inter-parliamentary cooperation)

"Россия обеспечит Кыргызстан топливом" (Russia will secure Kyrgyzstan's fuel)

"Спикер ЖК А.Келдибеков обсудил с делегацией Федерального Собрания РФ внутриполитическую ситуацию в КР в преддверии выборов" (Parliamentary speaker Ahmatbek Keldibekov discusses about domestic political situation with the delegation of the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation ahead of presidential elections)

"中俄邊境黑瞎子島開放旅遊" (Border Island between China and Russia to Become Tourist Zone)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Week in the News

‘Silent Protests’ Amid Russia-Belarus Investment Talks

Belarusian protesters and journalists continue to be detained after the latest weekly protest against authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk and across the country. The police force continues to heavy-handedly deal with the opposition through the violent dispersal and detaining of protesters. Court hearings for detained protesters vary in penalty, issuing jail sentences from 5 to 15 days to as long as 3 ½ years in a high security prison (20-year-old Nikita Likhovid). Some observers fear the protests are dwindling due to the violent crackdowns of the Belarusian security forces, but as one protester in Minsk stated, “Every demonstration on our part is a big success. The country is rising up!” Belarusian civil society need not worry, however, about smaller showings at the weekly demonstrations, as the size and severity of the crackdowns at protests in late June and early July have garnered global attention to Belarus’ economic crisis and Lukashenka’s repression of the ‘silent’ protesters. Claire Bigg of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports that while facing “growing international isolation” Lukashenka described the protests as “part of a foreign-inspired plot to topple him.” Recent arrests come as Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich met with Russian investors in Moscow about the possibility of selling state-owned shares in key enterprises such as gas pipelines, oil refineries, mobile phone carriers, and a carmaker, attracting interest from Gazprom, LUKoil, Rosneft, and others. In addition to the $800 million Belarus has received as “stabilization funding” from the Eurasian Economic Community, Moscow has promised additional support as a result of Minsk’s willingness to privatize nearly $8 billion in state-owned shares in national enterprises.

Crackdown on Opposition Protests in Moscow

On July 19 two civil activist groups, Ecological Defense of the Moscow Oblast (Ekooborona: Ekologicheskaya oborona Moskovskoi oblasti) and opposition party The Other Russia (Drugaya Rossiya) held protests in the center of Moscow and were met with numerous arrests. Evgeniia Chirikova, leader of Ekooborona explained that their actions were a response to the corruption surrounding the construction of the Khimki Forest highway. The group attempted to hold a ‘flash mob’ entitled “Who is guilty?” (Kto vinovat?) on Slavanskaya Square in which they carried puppets representing Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and businessman Arkady Rotenberg on their shoulders. Five activists were arrested in connection with the short-lived flash mob but were all released by that evening. While Chirikova is a frequent critic of the Kremlin her status among similar organizations worldwide seems to protect her from likely harsher punishment. While protection based on the repute of civil actors cannot be considered a trend, due to the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorovsky and the killing of numerous reputable journalists throughout the post-Soviet period, the status of activists such as Chirikova leads to continual give-and-take with the authorities. On the other hand, the Medvedev-led Kremlin has moved away from the heavy-handed repression of oppositional voices that typified Putin’s administration. While it is obvious that even under Medvedev’s mandate civil activists are publicly limited in their challenges to the Kremlin, civil society’s freedoms have largely increased.

Actions taken by members of The Other Russia were equally short-lived, as activists were quickly detained after climbing the fence into Lubyanka Square, which had been cordoned off by police before an organized protest could occur. The sit-in protests were to be carried out at the Solovetsky Stone—the monument to victims of political repressions in the USSR—as part of the larger actions taken in support and demanding the release of opposition activist and political prisoner Taisiya Osipova. Some observers and fellow activists believe Osipova has been detained on false charges of drug possession and intent to sell as a “clumsy frame-up aimed at punishing her husband (Sergei Fomchenkov), an associate of outspoken Kremlin critic Eduard Limonov.” Both Fomchenkov and Limonov are members of the Other Russia party, which Voina activist Leonid Nikolaev describes as “obsessively haunted by the authorities.” When Kremlin pressure failed to break Fomchenkov, Nikolaev contends, they turned their sights to Osipova “so that the husband and the party would be more compliant.” Osipova’s case has received considerable attention from the global community, especially the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT: Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture) which sent an open letter to President Medvedev on June 21 demanding her immediate release from the Smolensk pretrial detention center and adequate treatment.

The Other Russia party faces greater Kremlin scrutiny in the wake of the completed investigation into the riots at Manezhnaya Square in December 2010, which concluded that Other Russia party members were involved if not responsible for the 32 injuries and the murder of Yegor Sviridov. These conclusions have opened a new case against the Other Russia party that is attempting to prove the party is an extremist organization, ergo giving the Kremlin a reason to ban it. Though the group draws members from the National Bolshevik and communist-leaning groups, it includes members from Russian-based human rights movements and notable left and right-wing opposition leaders such as Garry Kasparov of the United Civil Front, Liudmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and aforementioned Eduard Limonov (the most radical of the three). While elements of the Other Russia party have a history of extremist views and actions it is currently a symbol of opposition to Putin and the damages they feel his administration caused to electoral democracy in Russia.

Brief Observations on 2012 Presidential Elections

With the 2012 presidential election campaign on the horizon actions taken against oppositional parties in Russia generate greater concern about the future of democracy in Russia. Though democratic institutions in Russia are considerably different from those found in the west, actions taken to limit rights to assembly and speech are cause for concern. Putin’s presidency was marked by a semi-authoritarian approach to managing society that appears to have continued during his tenure as prime minister, which according to Lauren Goodrich, allowed Medvedev to represent the face of Russian modernization and democracy while Putin maintained the stability of the nation via firm control over the population and the economy:

“It is managed pluralism underneath not a president or a premier, but under a person more like the leader of the nation, not just the leader of the state. In theory, the new system is meant to allow the Kremlin to maintain control of both its grand strategies of needing to reach out abroad to keep Russia modern and strong and trying to ensure that the country is also under firm control and secure for years to come.”

Despite the changes that Medvedev’s presidency has brought to Russia’s political and economic institutions Putin continues to hold considerable sway in the operations of the nation vis-à-vis his close relationship with the military and security forces (what Brian Whitmore calls the “Deep State”). The tandem or team-approach to governing Russia pioneered by Medvedev and Putin, i.e. “managed pluralism” in Goodrich’s words, allows the elite to remain firmly in control and influential while maintaining the visage of a more democratic system. Such observations make Putin’s exit in 2012 highly unlikely and the continuation of the Medvedev-Putin regime all the more probable given recent allusions to plans for post-2012 Russia that involve “the team.”

Articles Referred to in this Post:

«Белорусской « революции» требуется перезагрузка? (“Belarusian ‘revolution’ needs to be rebooted?”)

«В Минске задержаны несколько десятков участников очередной молчаливой акции протеста» (“In Minsk, dozens of participants of the silent protests detained”)

«Женева требует немедленного освобождения Таисии Осиповой» (“Geneva demands the immediate release of Taisiya Osipova”)

«Завершено расследование беспорядков на Манежной площади» (“Investigation of riots on Manezhnaya Square Completed”)

«Защитников Химкинского леса задержали с куклой Путина» (“Defenders of the Khimki Forest detained with doll of Putin”)

«Леня Николаев в Смоленске на суде Таисии Осиповой» (“Leonid Nikolaev in Smolensk in court hearing of Taisiya Osipova”)

«Минск готовится не доспустить проведения очередной молчаливой акции протеста» (“Minsk Prepares to Prevent Another Silent Protest”)

«На Лубянке задержаны 20 активистов «Другой России» (“On Lubyanka Square 20 activists of ‘The Other Russia’ detained”)

«Путин» задержан, Чирикова свободна» (“Putindetained, Chirikova free”)

«Путин перенес президентские выборы» (“Putin postponed presidential elections”)

«Сидячая забастовка с требованием освободить Таисию Осипову» (“Sit-in demands the release of Taisiya Osipova”)

“Belarus Protests Continue as Minsk, Moscow Sit Down for Share-Sale Talks”

“Belarusian Protesters Detained After Latest Weekly Protest”

“The Power Vertical: Putin’s Plan”

“Russia’s Evolving Leadership”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Russia-China Gas Deal - Russia’s “News” said on Tuesday that Gazprom hopes China to prepay $40 billion in 2012-2015 for 30-year supply of natural gas. However, CNPC claims that they have not received such notice from Russia and indicates that such a deal is not realistic.

On the other hand, a senior Chinese diplomat on Thursday expressed his optimism that China and Russia will strike deals on natural gas cooperation ahead of the next prime ministers' regular meeting in autumn. Assistant Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said he was upbeat on the Sino-Russian energy cooperation, while replying to a question at a press briefing on the 10th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation.

China-Kazakhstan - Kazakhstani Prime Minister Karim Massimov said ceding Kazakhstani land to China is impossible, but he predicted speculation about the issue would continue, Novosti-Kazakhstan reported July 15. No secret programme exists to surrender territory to China, he said in answering questions posed by internet users in an online news conference. Several media reports had suggested Kazakhstan had secretly agreed to a long-term lease of 1m ha of farmland to China, Russia’s Vzglyad reported July 15.

Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan - President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the last governmental meeting mentioned "the increasing dynamics of Turkmen-Kazakh cooperation", the press service of the Turkmen government reported on Saturday. The report said that the country's leader said that "cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan is important not only for the two countries, but also in the context of regional relations."

Articles referred to in this post:

"中俄天然气谈判陷僵局 俄气希望中方预付费" (Sino-Russian negotiation on natural gas in deadlock, Russia hopes China to prepay)

"程国平:对中俄达成天然气合作协议有信心" (Cheng Guoping: confident in Sino-Russia gas deal)

"Казахи не уступят Китаю землю, говорит Масимов" (Kazakhs won’t cede land to China, Massimov says)

"Взаимодействие Туркменистана и Казахстана имеет важное региональное значение - президент Бердымухамедов" (Cooperation of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan assumes great regional importance - President Berdymukhamedov)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

China-Russia-Mongolia - Mongolia has announced the winners of a long-fought contest to develop part of Tavan Tolgoi, one of the largest coking coal deposits in the world. Chinese coal miner Shenhua will own the lion’s share of the venture with a 40 per cent stake. A Russian-Mongolian consortium will own a further 36 per cent. Peabody, the biggest US coal miner, will have 24 per cent. The decision underscores the challenges for Mongolia as it seeks to balance ties between larger neighbours China and Russia while developing its vast resources.

China-Russia - Bilateral ties between China and Russia have reached a new height thanks to a treaty signed 10 years ago, Assistant Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said Monday. The cooperation between the two countries is extremely conducive to building a multipolar world and a fairer international order, and benefits world peace and stability, according to the assistant foreign minister.

China-Kyrgyzstan - Kyrgyzstan is one of China’s main Central Asian partners, Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Wang Kaiwen told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty July 7. Kyrgyz-Chinese co-operation peaked in 2008, he said, adding that bilateral trade exceeded US $9 billion (410 billion KGS) that year. Trade decreased after 2008 and started to grow again only in the first half of 2011, he remarked. Top-level talks on a Chinese-Kyrgyz-Uzbek railway continue, he said. Construction will cost about US $2 billion (91 billion KGS), and the three are discussing whether a joint venture or a foreign firm should build the railway, Wang added.

China-Kazakhstan - As China became Kazakhstan’s leading economic and investment partner in 2010, concern about the threat of those ties with China grew. One factor that is contributing to the so-called fears about China is its ties to the fossil fuel industry. “China is entering into Kazakhstan’s oil business very skilfully and progressively, not just into refining and mining, but also into pipeline transport,” Almaty Public Antimonopoly Commission Chairman Peter Svoik said. “China not only has (oil) fields but also its own pipes crossing Kazakhstan’s territory.”

Caspian Pipeline Consortium - Construction has begun on a project to increase the capacity of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC)’s main oil pipeline, CASPIONET reported July 5. The project is meant to raise annual capacity to 67m tonnes from 28m tonnes by 2015. The CPC is a multi-national consortium for transporting oil from the Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak oil fields to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, Russia.

Articles referred to in this post:

"中俄争世界最大未开采煤矿开发权 可能联合中标" (China and Russia compete for Mongolia coal)

"中国获最大煤矿40%股权" (China aquires 40% stake in largest coal mine)

"外交部部長助理:中俄關係達到前所未有的高水平" (Chinese official: bilateral ties between China and Russia have reached a new height)

"Китайский посол: Кыргызстан - ключевой партнер" (Chinese envoy: Kyrgyzstan - China's key partner)

"Казахско-китайское экономическое партнерство вызывает обеспокоенность" (Kazakh-Chinese business partnership elicits concern)

"Казахстан увеличит экспорт нефти по КТК" (Kazakhstan to increase CPC oil exports)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Round of Applause from the Belarusian Opposition

More than four hundred participants have been detained in Belarus in connection with the “Revolution Through Social Networks” protests from June 23 through July 3. The protests are motivated by civil opposition to the economic policies pursued by Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government that have put the country in an economic crisis. Unable to make payments in a timely fashion the state of Belarus’ civil society has worsened in recent weeks as the government cracks down on the protesters, their tools of organization, and civil liberties. Despite the high number of arrests the ‘silent protesters’ continue to be a thorn in Lukashenko’s side, prompting the Belarusian authorities to restrict access to social networking sites, namely Facebook, Twitter, and the Russian Vkontakte. This action represents a traditional approach to silencing the opposition; severing protesters’ means of organization before dissident actions can take place.

This method is not commonly reserved for limiting Belarusian citizens’ access to the Internet, but instead contributes to the various government actions taken in the global war on terrorism. The April 11, 2011 Minsk Metro bombing at the Oktyabrskaya station is a recent example of the realistic threat terrorism plays in Belarusian policy and its proclivity for meddling in civil liberties. The Internet restrictions imposed by the Belarusian government play a role in the cyber security that is included in the political and military security of many nations at present, which these states adopt for all intents and purposes to protect its social, political, economic, and military interests. While this arrangement generally has positive implications for civil society, Belarusian citizens now face greater scrutiny, repression, and restricted access to technologies that hold great capabilities for keeping the public well-informed and well-developed democratically.

The media has also faced greater scrutiny in the wake of Belarusian crackdowns on protestors, as large numbers of journalists have been detained prior to routine credential checks (according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports and the Committee to Protect Journalists, many of these journalists have been released excluding nine others that are serving sentences and will appear in Belarusian courts. The charges against these nine journalists remain unclear). Though journalists are often constrained by their editors or the media’s owners, they continue to play a crucial role in post-Soviet politics and power dynamics. A trend in the former Soviet Union seems to be developing, that of a double (or possibly triple) standard for mass media. On one hand, traditional media and its online counterparts contribute to the development of civil society in the former authoritarian states, providing greater access to ideas and opinions. On the other hand, these media provide governments with valuable information that officials can use to improve the lives and liberties of civil society. In a discussion of Russian security measures taken in advance of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Andrei Novikov, head of the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center, noted “that 80 percent of all the valuable information is obtained from the media. In these times, maybe more.” When asked what was being ‘stored’ (skladirovat’), Novikov replied “We’re not storing anything – we’re analyzing.” While this analysis contributes to the security of the CIS as Russia continues its preparations for the Sochi Olympics, a third standard emerges. This trend involves the continued use of the media as a source for governing, but instead of improving civil society it contributes to new methods for governments to police their citizens.

Articles referred to in this post:

«Более 400 человек задержаны во время акций протеста в Белоруссии» (“More than 400 people detained during protests in Belarus”)

«В Минске ограничен доступ на площади, где собираются протестующие» (“In Minsk, limited access to the area where protestors gather”)

«Взрыв в минском метро» (“Explosion in Minsk Metro”)

«Интеллектуальный ответ террористам» (“Intellectual response to terrorists”)

«Минск: массовые задержания через социальные сети» (“Minsk: Mass arrests through social networks”)

«Почему Лукашенко forever» (“Why Lukashenko forever?”)

«Разрешите затолкать вас в автозак» (“Let me shove you into the paddy wagon”)

“Belarusian Opposition Plans More Protests as Economy Weakens”

"Dozens of journalists detained in Belarus crackdown"

Затрыманьні актывістаў і журналістаў па ўсёй Беларусi (“Detention of activists and journalists across Belarus”)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Eurasian News This Week

Russia-China - Russian gas giant Gazprom is "completely ready" to start the construction of a natural gas pipeline to China, CEO Alexei Miller said after an annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday. Miller said that another round of talks will be held soon. "In regard to the price, it's not about the difference between absolute prices, it is the equal profitability with Europe which is of principal importance to us," Miller said.

China and Russia held a meeting on labor service cooperation here Tuesday, signaling the launch of the bilateral labor cooperation mechanism. Chen Jian, visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce, and the Russian Federal Migration Service deputy chief Yegorova Yekaterina, exchanged views on promoting and regulating the labor cooperation between the two countries. The two sides agreed on three principals for enhancing cooperation in this field - to crackdown on illegal migrant workers, to educate migrant labors to comply with local laws, and to protect the labors' rights and interests.

Russia-Kazakhstan - Kazakhstani and Russian forces are staging various ground and air exercises in Kazakhstan, Novosti-Kazakhstan reported June 27. The June 20-29 “Shygys-2011” drills in eastern Kazakhstan involve more than 3,000 troops from the two countries, more than 500 ground vehicles and more than 30 aircraft, the Kazakhstani Defence Ministry said.

Kazakhstan has cut gas flaring associated with oil production by a third in just five years, according to satellite estimates, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by almost six million tons. The country's remarkable achievement is closely matched by its neighbor, Russia, which has also seen significant reductions in gas flaring. Together, the two countries lead the list of countries which in 2010 worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting gas flaring. This Kazakhstan result has been achieved by projects like the one undertaken by Tengizchevroil (TCO). In 2010 the company completed a four-year $258 million Gas Utilization Project which has eliminated routine gas flaring in the giant Tengiz oil field.

Russia-Turkmenistan - During the Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov’s meeting with Russia 's Union of Oil & Gas Producers, cooperation was discussed in processing of raw hydrocarbon material, Chairman Yuri Shafranik told Turkmen media outlets on Wednesday. According to media reports, Shafranik "informed the President on work done recently and the concrete steps taken to achieve these goals." He voiced his willingness to provide the best experience and the latest technological developments. In addition, he "expressed interest in Russian business circles in expanding its presence in the promising Turkmen market, where preferential treatment has been established for foreign businesses."

Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline - The China-Central Asia Natural Gas Pipeline, the major line of China's second west-east natural gas transmission pipeline, was officially put into operation on June 30. The pipeline, which has been watched closely at home and abroad, transfers natural gas from the shore of Turkmenistan's Amu Darya River directly to the Pearl River Delta after passing through China's 15 province-level regions. Composed of eight sub-lines and one major line, the second west-east pipeline project starts from Khorgos, Xinjiang in the west and reaches Shanghai in the east and Guangzhou and Hong Kong in the south. It runs across China's eastern and western ends and passes through 15 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. It has the capacity to annually transmit 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas with a minimum service life of more than 30 years.

Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe Railway - A cargo train filled with laptops and LCD screens has left Chongqing, a mega-city in China's less-developed western regions, starting its 13-day trip to Duisburg, Germany, which marks the official launch of the new transcontinental rail freight route. The cargo train is set to travel 11,179 kilometers across the far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, before finally reaching Germany. Last year, China signed a strategic agreement with Russia and Kazakhstan to open the new freight route, as the country is trying to build the inland labor-rich municipality into an international high-tech hub, especially for laptops.

Articles referred to in this post:

"Миллер: Газпром готов к началу строительства газопровода в Китай" (Miller: Gazprom ready to lay gas pipeline to China)

"中俄啟動勞務合作工作機制" (China, Russia launch labor service cooperation mechanism)

"Казахстан, Россия провели военные учения" (Kazakhs, Russians stage joint military exercises)

"Казахстан и Россия лидируют в сокращении сжигания газа на факелах и снижении выбросов" (Kazakhstan and Russia lead in reducing gas flaring and emissions)

"Гурбангулы Бердымухаммедов и Юрий Шафраник обсудили вопросы сотрудничества России и Туркменистана в нефтегазовой сфере" (Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Yuri Shafranik discussed cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan in oil and gas sector)

"西气东输二线东段昨贯通" (Second west-east gas transmission project begins operations)

"渝新欧铁路联运开启中国西部对外开放新通道" (Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe Railway opens new route abroad in western China)