Sunday the 21st of September witnessed according to some the largest anti-Kremlin rally since the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine started in April of this year. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities to protest against what they say is a covert Russian war in eastern Ukraine. The marches coincided with the United Nations’ (UN) annual International Peace Day.
Yesterday on September 16 the European Parliament (EP), as well as the Verkhovna Rada – the Ukrainian Parliament, - ratified the European Union (EU)-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA). Last year this issue triggered the outbreak of a political crisis in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of then President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, and a war with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that has to date killed more than 2,600 people. As a concession to Moscow the AA’s trade rules will not enter into force on 1 November as originally planned, but will be delayed until 31 December 2015.
Today, on 12 September, a new wave of sanctions against Russia that the European Union (EU) agreed upon during a Council meeting on 8 September will enter into force. In light of the decisive role that Russia has played in intensifying the conflict in eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian, Kyiv-wary separatists, Brussels finds it necessary to impose additional sanctions on Moscow.
Afgelopen weekend organiseerden wij een campagnetraining voor jonge sociaaldemocraten uit Belarus. De training vond plaats in Vilnius (Litouwen), omdat het in Belarus zelf niet veilig zou zijn, gezien het feit dat ze van de oppositie zijn.
Afgelopen weekend (29-31 augustus) organiseerden wij in samenwerking met onze lokale partner Ettakatol een campagnetraining in Tunesië. De training vond plaats in Gabès (oostkust) voor het communicatieteam van Ettakatol en regionale campagnemanagers. Parlementsverkiezingen worden op 26 oktober gehouden en Ettakatol zit momenteel midden in de voorbereidingen. In januari organiseerden wij al een campagnetraining en in maart een mediatraining. Deze training diende om in de beginnende, maar inmiddels hete fase van de campagne, met Ettakatol leden te werken aan een aantal belangrijke campagneonderdelen.
Yesterday Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of sending troops into Ukrainian territory and opening a new southern front in the Ukrainian army’s fight with pro-Russian separatists, capturing the strategic coastal town of Novoazovsk. The reports have been confirmed by NATO and the US, and other Western leaders also seem to have little doubt at this point of Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine.
A ceasefire agreement was eventually reached between Israeli and Palestinians on 26 August. Fifty days after the beginning of Israel’s “Protective Edge” military operation, the Cairo-brokered peace deal was welcomed by Gaza’s inhabitants who demonstrated in Gaza’s streets last night. However, it should not bring much improvement in comparison to the previous ceasefire negotiated in 2012.
One day after the country’s independence day parade on 24 August, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dissolved the Parliament and announced that early elections would be held on 26 October. The announcement is a strong signal on the eve of Poroshenko’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk, and as Russian soldiers have been arrested on Ukrainian soil today. It raises concerns about a potential escalation of the conflict as the political and economic situation deteriorates in Ukraine.
The breakaway region of Abkhazia has held early presidential elections on Sunday, August 24th. Allegations of corruption and misrule had forced the former President Aleksandr Ankvab to resign in early June, consequently rescheduling the date of presidential elections from 2016 to August 2014. The election of a KGB academy graduate has raised concern from the European Union and Georgia about the Kremlin’s involvement in the area.
Azerbaijan has increasingly been criticized for its massive crackdown on human rights activists by international organisations and NGOs. On 19 August, the United Nations issued a report condemning their prosecution, underlining that the “criminalization of rights activists must stop.” The report came as the list of political prisoners was revealed and an Azerbaijani Court presided over an appeal trial of a young activist on August 20, in a case denounced as “politically motivated” by his followers.