The government of Azerbaijan sentenced eight opposition activists to 6-8 years in prison for protesting the death of Jeyhun Gubadov at a barracks in January. A conscript of the Azerbaijani military, he officially died from a heart attack but photos shared with the press indicate otherwise.
The ruling party of Azerbaijan, “Yeni Azerbaijan” (YAP) endured protests for weeks on the streets of Baku thanks to dissemination of the photographs through social media. Gubadov’s case has been seized upon by analysts who accuse the Azerbaijani military of being rife with bullying and hazing rituals, blaming those for the deaths. Popular calls for military reforms, however, have mostly gone unheeded by the government.
Head of opposition “Popular Front” party, Ali Kerimli, expressed his anger that the deaths of soldiers were being ignored. Human Rights Watch issued its own warnings about the government of Azerbaijan, as it cited “activists are increasingly falling victim to official efforts to limit dissent.” The increased international attention to this matter is apparent with French Prime Minister Francoise Hollande visiting the country on May 11, probably to open discussion about Azerbaijan’s rich offshore reserves of energy in the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijan maintains a strong military presence on its border with Armenia due to a long runing dispute over the Karabakh region which has yet to be resolved, even by the multinational conference set to arbitrate a peaceful solution called the Minsk Group.
- Talks between the presidents of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan ended with the two Central Asian states agreeing to renew collaboration on an array of energy projects and transportation projects, including natural gas transit network Line D, which will traverse Tajik territory in route from Turkmenistan to China. Similarly, the two sides discussed a railway network that is intended to link Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Unsurprisingly, Tajik representatives took advantage of the opportunity to criticize historical rival Uzbekistan for complicating efforts to complete regional infrastructure projects and for imposing high transit fees on Tajik companies wishing to cross through Uzbek territory.
- The United States has threatened Russia with a third wave of economic sanctions should officials in Moscow approve of or encourage a referendum in eastern Ukraine. Russia has publicly requested that separatist forces in eastern Ukraine postpone any efforts to carry out a referendum, but thus far rebels have ignored requests from the Kremlin to put off an action that some fear will lead to greater violence or even civil war.
- Uzbekistan has curbed the flow of light petroleum products destined for Afghanistan via Uzbekistan Railways. Uzbek authorities blamed the cutback on inefficient unloading practices at Afghan rail stations and the inability to handle a steadily growing amount of Uzbek light tanker cars, leading to long queues and, in some instances, price fluctuations due to the long waiting periods and the ever-changing amount of oil flowing in and out of Afghanistan.
- China’s People Daily speculates on the origin of separatist groups responsible for terrorist attacks throughout China’s western Xinjiang province. In a paper steeped in the fundamentals of international development, quality of life and social cohesion are labeled as the catalysts, and it is argued that, once western China catches up to the quality of life in other parts of the country, that groups that prey on disillusioned youth to replenish their ranks will no longer have a viable source from which to draw.