Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Week Ahead: July 7-13

July 13: The soccer World Cup final takes place in Rio de Janeiro.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, July 7:
Armenia: Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits Argentina (to July 8).
Georgia/RussiaGeorgian and Russian diplomats meet in Prague to discuss trade and economic relations. 
NATO/U.S.NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visits Washington, meets on July 8 with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the events in Ukraine (to July 9).
Russia/Bulgaria: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Sofia to discuss the South Stream gas pipeline project.
Serbia/Russia: Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic visits Moscow (to July 8).
Ukraine: Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini visits Kyiv.
TUESDAY, July 8:
Armenia: Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits Uruguay (to July 10).
Georgia: UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva reviews Georgia.
Media: "The Wall Street Journal" celebrates its 125th anniversary.

Russia: Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini visits Moscow (to July 10).
Slovenia/RussiaRussia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Maribor to discuss the South Stream gas pipeline project.

THURSDAY, July 10:
Armenia: Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits Chile (to July 12).
BelarusInternational arts festival Slavianski Bazaar opens in Vitebsk (to July 14).
EU/Balkans: Dubrovnik hosts the 2014 Croatia Summit, with the participation of senior European officials and think-tank representatives (to July 12).
Georgia: The UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva is scheduled to review Georgia (to July 11).
UK/Russia: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled "The Eurasian Economic Union in the New International Context."
FRIDAY, July 11:
EU/Russia/Ukraine: Brussels hosts a three-party ministerial meeting.
Russia/Cuba: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Cuba.
UkraineOdessa International Film Festival opens (to July 19).
UK/Ukraine: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled "Ukraine Crisis: The International Law Perspective."

SATURDAY, July 12:
Russia/Argentina: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Buenos Aires.
SUNDAY, July 13:
ArmeniaInternational film festival Golden Apricot opens in Yerevan (to July 20).
Brazil: The sixth summit of heads of state and of government of BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Brazil: The soccer World Cup final takes place in Rio de Janeiro.
Montenegro: Statehood Day.
Serbia:  U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is scheduled to visit Belgrade.

Russia/BrazilRussian President Vladimir Putin makes an official visit to Brazil (to July 16).

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

Pro-Russian Separatist Supporters Seek Western Support On Social Media

The pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are attempting to refine their message to English-speaking audiences.

Over news agency footage of a signing ceremony in Brussels a narrator speaking in English reports drily that Ukraine has agreed to a series of trade agreements with the European Union.

The voice, heavily accented in Russian, then adds a point of context seemingly apropos of nothing:  "Recall you that the Palestinian Authority has signed the Association Agreement with the EU in 1997."

It is one clip in a daily video news roundup created by "South Front," a group supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The video, which begins with an unsubstantiated claim that "mass murder of civilians [by the Ukrainian Army] continues," is part of a growing effort by separatist supporters to expand their reach beyond Russian-speakers.

Since mass pro-EU protests began last December in Kyiv, supporters of the pro-Western Euromaidan movement have used English-language social media to spread their message. The @EuromaidanPR English-language Twitter account has over 34,500 followers and several English Facebook pages supporting the movement have tens of thousands.

The pro-Russian point of view in English has largely been left to RT, Russia's state-run foreign-language news channel, which is also known as Russia Today.

Recent social-media efforts, though, show expanded reliance on campaigns meant to draw greater grassroots appeal. Since early June, tens of thousands of people -- largely separatist supporters -- have tweeted using the #savedonbasspeople hashtag. The tweets often come with photos of children holding handwritten signs in English that blame the Ukrainian Army for violence in eastern Ukraine.

Since April, when armed pro-Russian separatists began occupying buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, over 400 people -- including military personnel, separatist fighters, and civilians -- have died in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and rebels, according to UN estimates.

The English-language Facebook page for South Front, which has slightly more than 11,500 subscribers, is a mix of carefully selected "news" from the region -- usually from sources like LifeNews, a video news outlet believed to have ties to Russia's security services -- and anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western memes.

The post below, which seems to imply that the Ukrainian Army only targets schools, factories, homes, old women, and children, had been shared 283 times at writing.

The South Front page is also used as a tool to organize sympathetic volunteers from outside Russia and Ukraine.

Content is currently translated into at least three other languages, including Polish, Hungarian, and German. And a recent call for help drew offers from social-media users to provide pro-Russian translations in Slovak, Czech, French, Spanish, Italian, Lithuanian, and Norwegian.

It is not clear who runs the group or whether it receives outside funding. Administrators did not reply to an RFE/RL reporter's requests for comment sent through Facebook and Twitter.

Supporters who comment on the page appear to be largely based in Europe and have a radically anti-EU bent.

Moscow has publicly courted fringe Euroskeptic and far-right parties. And several, including France's National Front and Hungary's Jobbik, have defended Russia's actions in Ukraine.

In one page thread, anti-Semitic language is rife when users from Serbia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, and Hungary discuss their support for Russia and disdain for the EU.

"I am from Europe, but I don,t love europe [sic]" writes Nikolo Lovric, who says his real love is for Russia and the self-proclaimed separatist republic of "Novorossia."  He then warns users not to trust Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who he claims is a "cionistic [sic] player" for Israel and the United States.

But in a message to RFE/RL, a user from France who had earlier volunteered to provide French translations, said he had become convinced of accusations from Moscow that it is Ukraine that "relies on many fascists."

"So I am not pretending that west of Ukraine is evil and east is good guys," said the 29-year-old teacher, who asked that his name not be provided. "But that is certainly closer to the truth than what I hear in western medias."

-- Glenn Kates

The Week Ahead: June 30 - July 6

July 4-12: Karlovy Vary hosts the 49th International Film Festival.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, June 30:
Azerbaijan/China: Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov visits Beijing (to July 2).
Sweden/Moldova/Georgia: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt travels from Chisinau to Tbilisi.
TUESDAY, July 1:
EUEuropean Parliament's Plenary Session opens in Strasbourg (to July 3).
Russia: A law comes into force that bans the use of profanity in theater, film, and other cultural events.
Ukraine: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visits Kyiv.
U.S./Azerbaijan: Atlantic Council in Washington hosts a discussion titled "NATO in the Caucasus: The Case of Azerbaijan."
U.S./Iraq: Carnegie Endowment in Washington hosts a discussion titled "The Future of Iraq."
U.S./Russia/Ukraine: Wilson Center in Washington hosts a discussion titled "Russia, Ukraine and Energy Security."
WorldGlobal Media Forum 2014 starts in Bonn (to July 2).

Iran: Vienna hosts another round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, which includes the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany. 
Tajikistan: Dushanbe hosts Kazakhstan-Tajikistan business forum (to July 4).

EU/Ukraine: The European Commission's Support Group for Ukraine begins its work in Brussels.
FRIDAY, July 4:
Czech Republic: Karlovy Vary hosts the 49th International Film Festival (to July 12).
SUNDAY, July 6:
Kazakhstan: Astana hosts day of the capital, which coincides with the birthday of current Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

Ukraine's Crisis In Internet Memes

One of the many Ukraine-related memes that have been doing the rounds on social media

The crisis in Ukraine has spawned a steady stream of Internet memes, some lighthearted, others biting, all deeply political.

Here are some of the most popular. 

"Neo-Nazi" Ukrainian leaders

A favorite meme of pro-Russian Internet users, centered on Moscow's claims that the new authorities in Kyiv are cozy with neo-Nazi groups.



Yes, in Ukraine even doormats are being drawn into politics. This one invites Kiyv residents to wipe their feet on ousted President Viktor Yanukovych:


"So the doormat doesn't get stained," it says in the tweeted pic below. People living here are obviously peeved with Washington, which has staunchly backed Ukraine's new Western-leaning leadership.



Gas Crisis

Ukraine is currently embroiled in its third "gas war" with Russia, which dramatically raised tariffs following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and has now halted supplies.

This rather unfeeling meme advises Ukrainians who have "no gas and are cold in winter" to get outfitted for the chilly weather. 

Although Moscow itself has denied any irregularities, rumors persist that the new Ukrainian leadership is siphoning off Russian gas transiting through the country to Europe are proving resilient. 


"Putin is a d***khead (khuilo/huilo)"

The battle cry of hardened pro-Ukraine activists, given a recent boost by Andriy Deshchytsya, until recently Ukraine's acting foreign minister, has inspired many a meme-maker, such as this one


David Cameron

The British Prime Minister posted a very serious photo of himself discussing Ukraine with U.S. President Barack Obama over the phone...


...leading to a fair amount of ridicule.


Jen Psaki

U.S. State Department spokeswoman has been a favorite target of Russian social-media activists, who have ridiculed her for condemning "carousel voting" during a separatist referendum in Ukraine before admitting she did not know what the term referred to.

Her detractors have even come up with a new word, "psaking," or talking through one's hat.

This one says: "At home with Jen Psaki"


"We all know what's happening in eastern Ukraine," says another VKontakte post. "Separatists are separating with a separator."


Yarosh's Business Card

A hugely popular meme referring to Russian claims that the business card of Ukrainian ultranationalist Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the group Right Sector, was found at the scene of a deadly shootout in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians have been poking fun at the accusation.

Here, Yarosh's Right Sektor group is "blamed" for the fall of a Russian satellite in May.


"It's even in Putin's chest pocket!" says this tweeter:


"Save Donbas People" (from Ukraine)

Eastern Ukrainians who oppose the Ukrainian army's operation against separatists in the east have been posting pictures of themselves – or their kids -- holding "Save Donbas People from Ukrainian Army" placards.


"Save Donbas People" (from Russia)

Pro-Ukraine activists have started their own spinoff of the "Save Donbas People" placard meme.


Separatist Pets 

Separatist sympathizers, using the #сепаратяка ("little separatist") hashtag, have been rallying their pets to the cause. 

This mostly involves donning them with the black-and-orange St. George's ribbon.


There's even rabbits!

-- Claire Bigg

The Week Ahead: June 23-29

June 27: The European Union signs Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova, and completes the signature process with Ukraine.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, June 23:

Armenia/Russia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Yerevan.

Azerbaijan/Russia: Gabala hosts the fifth Azerbaijan-Russia Interregional Forum (to June 24).

EU: Foreign Affairs Council begins in Luxembourg.

Iraq: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Baghdad.

PACE: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Summer Session begins in Strasbourg.

World: International Olympic Day.

World: Mozambique hosts the Mine Ban Treaty’s Review Conference (to June 27). 

TUESDAY, June 24:

: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is scheduled to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

Russia: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Austrian President Heinz Fischer in Vienna.

NATO: Brussels hosts a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting (to June 25).

Ukraine/IMF: The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) mission visits Kyiv to conduct the first review of the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA).


Russia: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow.

Germany/Ukraine: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visits Kyiv.

THURSDAY, June 26:

EU: The EU heads of state or government attend the European Council meeting in Brussels.

Ukraine: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

UN: International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

UN: International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

FRIDAY, June 27:

EU: The European Union signs Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova, and completes the signature process with Ukraine.

Tajikistan: National Reconciliation Day.

SATURDAY, June 28:

OSCE/Azerbaijan: Baku hosts the annual session of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly (to July 2).

Ukraine: Constitution Day.

SUNDAY, June 29:

: Repeat elections to be held in those seven precincts where the June 15 local election results were either annulled or the voting process disrupted on polling day.

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

The Week Ahead: June 16-22

June 20: World Refugee Day.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, June 16:

Armenia/Germany: Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian visits Berlin (to June 17).

Armenia/PACE: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Armenia visit Yerevan (to June 18).

Azerbaijan/Greece: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visits Athens to discuss the construction of the TAP pipeline (to June 17). 

Belarus/Russia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Minsk.

Iran: Vienna hosts another round of talks on the Tehran's nuclear program (to June 20).

Moldova/France: Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca visits Paris.

Moldova/Czech Republic: Czech Senate Vice Speaker Premysl Sobotka visits Chisinau (to June 19).

NATO/South Caucasus: The NATO Parliamentary Assembly's 86th Rose Roth seminar titled “South Caucasus: Challenges And Opportunities” opens in Baku.

Russia: Moscow hosts the 21st World Petroleum Congress (to June 19).

Russia/Serbia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Belgrade (to June 17).

U.S./Europe: The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosts a discussion with U.S. Assistan Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on the current state of the U.S.-European partnership.

Uzbekistan: South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Tashkent and Samarkand (to June 18).

WorldStockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) releases its World Nuclear Forces 2014 report.

TUESDAY, June 17:

: The 28th round of the Geneva International Discussions between Georgia and Russia begins in Switzerland (to June 18).

Russia/AzerbaijanRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Baku (to June 18).

Tajikistan: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visits Dushanbe (to June 18).

UN: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.


Kazakhstan: South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Astana (to June 20).

Ukraine/Czech Republic: Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek visits Kyiv (to June 19).

U.S./UkraineAtlantic Council in Washington hosts a discussion titled "The Ukraine Crisis And NATO."

WorldThe Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) releases its annual Global Peace Index.

THURSDAY, June 19:

Russia: International film festival opens in Moscow (to June 28).

FRIDAY, June 20:

Turkmenistan: South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Ashgabat (to June 21).

U.K./Russia: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled "From The Kremlin To Kyiv: Russian Security Services."

UN: World Refugee Day.

SATURDAY, June 21:

Belarus/Russia: Brest hosts the 46th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union State of Russia and Belarus (USRB) under the chairmanship of Russian State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin.

SUNDAY, June 22:

: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Yerevan (to June 23).

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

Bosnia And Croatia Find Support In Unlikely Quarters For Soccer World Cup

Throngs of young people jumped with joy after Croatia went ahead against Brazil in their World Cup opener in Sao Paolo.
"Yes!" many of them screamed, while others pumped fists in the air, some of them clad in the red-and-white checkered jersey symbolizing Croatia's historic coat-of-arms.
A chance visitor would be forgiven for thinking that he or she was in the middle of the soccer-mad Croatian capital of Zagreb.
Actually, this was happening in the center of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, Croatia's "arch-enemy" in sports, politics and -- two decades ago -- on the battlefield as the former Yugoslavia collapsed in a series of wars.
Football rivalries, sometimes reflecting historical relations, often run very deep -- just ask your average English, Irish, or Scottish fan.
In the light of recent bloody history, however, they are taken to the extreme in the Balkans. Deep antagonism, even hatred, especially among the young, seemed to be the rule and supporting the "others" is anathema.
But for several dozen young Belgrade residents, as well as a growing number of people throughout the region, this attitude just does not make sense at all.
That's why big-stage debutants Bosnia and relative tournament veterans Croatia, the only teams from the region in Brazil, can count on noisy support from some unlikely quarters this time around.
"I can only say that I cheer from the bottom of my heart for the neighbors, a little bit more for Bosnia than for Croatia, I have to say, but tonight for Croatia," a woman in her twenties told RFE/RL's Balkan service in a cultural center in Belgrade to the sound of almost frantic cheering for Croatia in the background.
The shared viewing of this and other games, under the slogan "Cheer for Your Neighbor," was organized by the "Youth Initiative for Human Rights,"a Belgrade-based non-governmental organization with a reputation for breaking ethnic-based taboos in Serbian society.
"We have to support each other. After all, we belong to the same culture," another woman said, standing against a wall adorned by the Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian flags.
One of those who could be credited with helping this thaw is Novak Djokovic, the world's  number two tennis player.

Util recently, he was seen outside of Serbia as someone who allows himself to be too easily used by politicians when it comes promoting a nationalist Serbian identity.
But, after massive floods hit Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia last month, "Nole" did not spurn the opportunity to appeal for assistance to the three countries, saying that, when disaster strikes, there is no difference between these peoples.
He also didn't do any harm by saying that, in the absence of Serbia at the World Cup, he would cheer for Bosnia and Croatia.
Still, this may not be enough to persuade most Bosnian Serbs and Croats to support "the Dragons" as Bosnia's national team is affectionately known.
The team has been dominated by Bosniak Muslim players, but over the two decades since it first came into existence, Bosnian Serb and Croat coaches and players have played very important roles.
The western part of the ethnically divided city of Mostar looks no different than most Croatian cities these days -- Croatian flags and banners in support of "the Fiery Ones" adorn the town's streets and buildings.
Unlike Sarajevo, which awaits Bosnia's first game against Argentina on June 15 in a state of euphoria, in Banja Luka, the capital of Bosnia's Serb Republic, the World Cup does not seem to arouse any passion -- apart from those who say that, in the absence of Serbia, they would support any team except Bosnia and Croatia.
But even there, after years of  widespread open contempt for the Bosnian team, there are signs that things are changing.
"I will support Bosnia, why not? After all, our players from Banja Luka and from Republika Srpska are on the team," one young man told RFE/RL.
 -- Written by Nedim Dervisbegovic in Prague based on reporting by Zoran Glavonjic in Belgrade, Selma Boracic in Sarajevo, and Erduan Katana in Banja Luka
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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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