Thursday, June 19, 2008

Window on Eurasia Shorts for 19 June

MOSCOW MAY BE FORCED TO HOST ‘SOCHI OLYMPICS’ IN OTHER CITIES. The Sochi Olympics may have to become the Russian Olympics, with the venues for many of the competitions shifted away from that North Caucasus city, Moscow officials now say. The reasons? Construction of the necessary facilities has fallen behind schedule, and the Sochi games are now recognized as being “a black hole” into which Russian government money is being poured only to be diverted by corruption (

KADYROV THREATENS TO RESUME MILITARY OPERATIONS ON HIS OWN. In an explicit acknowledgement that the situation in Chechnya is not as calm as he has said and an implicit criticism of Russian force structures operating there, republic President Ramzan Kadyrov said this week that he was prepared to launch his own military offensive against Grozny’s enemies ( Meanwhile, yet another of the groups opposing him, the Vostok Battalion, has announced plans to set up its own website because, as its leaders told “Gazeta,” Kadyrov is keeping the Chechens from learning the truth about them and about the situation in Chechnya more generally.

TWO ETHNIC GROUPS CLASH IN DAGHESTAN. Members of two ethnic groups in Daghestan, the Lak and the Nogai, clashed on June 17. Details are still sketchy, but apparently the fight escalated to the point that one or both sides used firearms. Such violence threatens to combine with religious and social problems there to spark a broader conflagration beyond the capacity of the regime to control it (

80 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN INTERNET TRAFFIC PASSES THROUGH SWEDEN. Four-fifths of all Internet traffic going to and from Russia passes through cables across Swedish territory, a pattern “Dagens Industri” says makes that Scandinavian land “the best place in the world for bugging” Russian Internet users. That, Barents Observer said, explains the current controversy surrounding the Swedish government’s plans to give its own electronic espionage agency, Stockholm’s National Defense Radio Establishment, expanded powers to do so

Concerned that its political opponents might enter China from Central Asia during the Olympic Games, Beijing has signed a protocol with Kyrgyzstan to step up border control efforts from now through the end of those competitions. The two sides among other things have agreed to share information about and thus prevent the travel of “suspicious” persons during that period ( The Chinese are talking to other regional states including Russia about this and related matters (

SHAIMIYEV SEEKS BROADER TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN. Having challenged the Kremlin in one way by calling for the heads of federation subjects to again be subject to election, Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiyev has challenged Moscow in yet another way. Earlier this week, he received Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and said that it is “necessary” to strengthen “the economic and cultural ties” between the two “fraternal” countries (

RUSSIA OFFERS NON-CITIZENS IN ESTONIA AND LATVIA VISA FREE ENTRANCE. President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree allowing those without citizenship in Estonia and Latvia to travel visa-free to the Russian Federation, a step that might lead some of them -- mostly ethnic Russians who moved into those two Baltic countries during the period of the Soviet occupation -- to consider remaining there, but one that could create problems with the European Union (

LITHUANIA, RUSSIA CLASH OVER SOVIET SYMBOLS. The Lithuanian parliament has passed a new law banning the use of Soviet symbols in public demonstrations just as it earlier banned the use of Nazi regalia in such settings ( That action has infuriated many Russians, especially those in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) (

MOSCOW DEPLOYS OLD METHODS AND NEW AGAINST OPPOSITION MEDIA. One of the oldest and one of the newest means of Moscow’s efforts to silence its opponents were on view this week. In Vyatka, Russian officials pressured a printing house to refuse to publish “Narodnaya gzeta Vyatki” after the paper wrote an expose of government misconduct there ( Meanwhile, in Ingushetia, prosecutors announced that they would go after Russian Internet providers who host mirror sites for, an independent news portal that embattled republic leader Murat Zyazikov has long been trying to shut down (

RUSSIANS DON’T WANT ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS. Russians appear to have adopted the NIMBY [“Not in my back yard’] principle when it comes to religious groups. While many Russians have long objected to the appearance of mosques or Protestant churches in their neighborhoods, an increasing number are objecting to the construction of Russian Orthodox churches there as well, according to “Novyye izvestiya” (

As a result of dramatically rising prices for food, Russians are increasingly turning again to their own dacha gardens, with one in every three of them now relying on those small private plots as their primary source for fruits and vegetables (

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