Eurasia News Week in Review

A round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the last week:

Central Asia:

  • A U.S. Congressional subcommittee held a hearing examining the threat of “resource wars” in Central Asia. “When new sources of supplies are opened, as is the case with Central Asia, there is still fear that there is not enough to go around and thus conflict emerges,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The experts who testified, however, downplayed the threat of conflict over resources in the region.

  • A shootout between border guards of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan left two Uzbekistani guards dead. The two countries offered differing explanations of events; both said the other side’s guards had illegally crossed the border near the Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan. And while Uzbekistan’s media reported that Kyrgyzstan’s government apologized for the incident, Kyrgyzstan denied that, saying they were not at fault. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan carried out joint military exercises in the Batken region of southern Kyrgyzstan.

  • A Washington, D.C., law firm is representing Kyrgyzstan in an effort to reopen the securities fraud case against Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the country’s former president. The law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, said it is working pro bono, and leading the effort from the Kyrgyzstan side is Roza Otunbayeva, who succeeded Bakiyev when the latter was overthrown. The U.S. Department of Justice dropped the case against Bakiyev in June, without explanation. The lead lawyer on the case for Akin Gump said that the subsequent move by the government to evict the U.S. Air Force from the base it operates in Kyrgyzstan was a result of the dropping of charges.

  • Human rights groups in Tajikistan released a summary of the findings of a long-awaited report on the military operation in the eastern city of Khorog last year. On the occasion of the one-year anniversary, they also presented the report to the government, and plan to release it to the public after receiving government comment. The report noted that there is still no exact information on the number of casualties, either on the side of the town or the security forces, or on the conduct of the military operation.

The Caucasus:

  • A Kremlin public health official has called a U.S.-funded laboratory in Georgia a threat to Russia, saying it has “a powerful offensive potential” and that “Russia deems it to be a direct violation of BWC [Biological Weapons Convention.” Georgian and American officials, however, say that the $150 million lab, named after former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, “aims at protecting public and animal health through dangerous pathogens detection and epidemiological surveillance,” according to Civil.ge.

  • A delegation of high-ranking Georgian government officials visited Washington to lobby against an amendment to the U.S. defense budget bill that criticized the new Georgian government’s human rights record. The amendment, approved last month by the House of Representatives, criticized recent arrests of former government officials for being “in part motivated by political considerations” and said that “political, economic and security” ties between the U.S. and Georgia could be harmed as a result. The delegation was led by Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and also included the chief prosecutor, finance minister and a number of members of parliament. The representative who introduced the amendment, Michael Turner, a Republican from Ohio, said after meeting the delegation that he still had concerns about the arrests.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Armenia is developing its new Strategic Defense Review with the help of U.S. and U.K. officials.

  • The White House nominated USAID official Nisha Biswal to be the new Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, replacing Robert Blake.

  • General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, visited Tashkent and discussed Afghanistan with the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov.

  • Kazakhstan and Ukraine agreed to expand cooperation on defense industry, in particular with respect to naval forces.

  • Defense officials from Armenia and the unrecognized republic of Nagorno Karabakh met in the latter’s capital, Stepanakaert, in what the article called an “unprecedented” effort to coordinate military readiness.

  • Russia’s claim that a recent military exercise involved 160,000 was most likely highly exaggerated, a Russian military analyst argued.

  • Armenia announced that women would for the first time be allowed to enroll in the country’s military academies. 

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