Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny arrested on arrival as he returns home
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OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
EBRD says loan to Estonia’s controversial Porto Franco project was never disbursed
Estonian premier quits after Tallinn development scandal
Czech Pirates and Mayors approve final coalition agreement for 2021 elections
OUTLOOK 2021 Czechia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
OUTLOOK 2021 Hungary
Hungarian government remains silent after Capitol riots
World Bank expects modest recovery for Europe and Central Asia in 2021
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
Slovakia to invest €1.2bn in digitisation
BALKAN BLOG: The controversial recipe for building up Albania
Heavy flooding causes chaos in parts of Southeast Europe
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OUTLOOK 2021 Albania
Turnover rose on Bosnia's two stock exchanges in 2020 while prices fell
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
Kyiv accuses Bosnian President Dodik of lying about icon gifted to Russian foreign minister
Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures holds first close of new fund on €44mn
ING THINK: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
OUTLOOK 2020 Bulgaria
Labour demand down 28% y/y in Croatia in 2020
Zagreb Stock Exchange's Crobex10 index at highest level since March 5
OUTLOOK 2021 Kosovo
Arrera Automobili aims to launch Albania’s first supercar
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Moldova’s PM resigns to prepare the ground for early elections
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75% of Montenegrins want EU membership
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OUTLOOK 2021 Montenegro
North Macedonia's manufacturing confidence indicator down by 8.5 pp y/y in December
OUTLOOK 2021 North Macedonia
Transparency International warns of high corruption risk in CEE defence sectors
OUTLOOK 2021 Romania
Romania’s central bank cuts monetary policy rate by 25bp to 1.25%
Romanian construction companies' activity slows in November after intense 2020
OUTLOOK 2021 Serbia
Slovenia’s opposition files no-confidence motion against Jansa cabinet
Slovenia’s government to release funds to news agency STA after EU pressure
UK Moneyhub picks Slovenia for post-Brexit European base
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OUTLOOK 2021 Armenia
Armenia’s PM cautions conflict with Azerbaijan “still not settled” after trilateral meeting with Putin
COMMENT: Record high debt levels will slow post-coronavirus recovery, threaten some countries' financial stability, says IIF
OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Georgia’s political kingpin Bidzina Ivanishvili quits politics
Modern-day “Robin Hood” inspires Georgians drowning in debt
Iran’s navy conducts missile drill while analyst argues Trump even capable of nuclear strike in final days
TEHRAN BLOG: Who’s more credible? Johnson backing Trump’s Nobel chances or Iran applauding arrest warrant for US president?
Central Asia vaccination plans underwhelm, but governments look unruffled
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OUTLOOK 2021 Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
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Mongolia fears economic damage as country faces up to its first local transmissions of coronavirus
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OUTLOOK 2021 Tajikistan
China business briefing: Not happy with Kyrgyzstan
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
Turkmenistan: The dammed united
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
OUTLOOK 2021 Uzbekistan
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Is the genie out of the bottle where protests in Kazakhstan are concerned? Ever since demonstrators surprised the authorities and the outside world with the extent and vigour of their street demonstrations during the shoo-in snap election of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev to replace long-ruling Nursultan Nazarbayev in early June, the former Soviet state has seen protests hit the headlines almost every week.
At the weekend, law enforcement authorities in the country moved to try and nip nationwide demonstrations in the bud, quickly detaining 57 people as they broke up rallies held in several cities, including the capital Nur-Sultan and commercial capital Almaty. Rallies also took place in smaller cities such as Shymkent. The interior ministry on September 23 said around 100 people were detained in all, with nine given several-day jail sentences, six fined and the others released without charge.
Following the election period protests, during which around 4,000 people were officially taken into custody, Tokayev moved to quell tensions by, in early September, announcing that sanctioned anti-government rallies would be tolerated. But the weekend’s demonstrations were organised by the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) opposition movement, meaning officials would have looked weak if they had permitted them to take place unhindered.
“Wake Up, Kazakhstan”
Among the small-scale rallies lately ‘licensed’ by the authorities was a pro-democracy movement event in Almaty, featuring, for instance, youth members of the “Wake Up, Kazakhstan” (“Oyan, Qazaqstan” in Kazakh) group formed this year. Their event was not disturbed by any police or security force action.
The protesters at the weekend drew on the recent anger that has broken out in Kazakhstan over what are seen as inequitable Chinese investment projects, while some ire was directed at the continued influence the 79-year-old Nazarbayev is said to still wield in ruling the country from behind the scenes.
Reuters reported that in Nur-Sultan, police detained a man with a banner reading “Let’s not give way to Chinese expansion” and “The old man is the enemy”, an anti-Nazarbayev slogan. Several people chanted: “Freedom to political prisoners”. Some protesters tried to escape as police moved in and smashed the windows of a police bus, while in Almaty protesters were quickly taken away to police vehicles as they began chanting slogans against Chinese expansion and “Old man, go away!”
China is a major investor in Kazakhstan’s energy and mining sectors, but critics accuse some Chinese companies—as well as Western ones—of hiring too few local staff and paying them less than foreign workers. Rumours of corruption indulged in by Chinese investors and Kazakh officials also often result from Chinese investments.
The DVK is led by fugitive Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of the Kazakh government who lives in self-imposed exile in France. Former banker Ablyazov is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5bn.
Teenage girl detained “going to the store”
Protest scenes captured by RFE/RL in Nur-Sultan included an unidentified woman who was filmed raising her hands in the air and saying: "We are peaceful, our hands are free." She was then taken to a police vehicle. Another scene shows a teenage girl being forcibly detained against her mother’s insistence that she was merely “going to the store” alongside her younger siblings.
Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General’s office had cautioned that people should stay away from the coordinated event, warning that law enforcement officers would take "strict measures to prevent illegal rallies".
"Destructive forces are... provoking a threat to social security by trying to incite social and ethnic discord. The Prosecutor-General's office calls on the citizens to strictly follow laws, stay away from provocations and abstain from taking part in the illegal actions and activities of organizations banned on our country’s territory," Deputy Prosecutor-General Berik Asylov said in a statement.
The Almaty-based Coalition of Civil Initiatives human rights group said on September 20 that about 50 activists had been fined or sentenced to jail terms between 7 and 15 days in the last five days in Nur-Sultan, Almaty and several other cities. They were sentenced on charges of organising or taking part in unsanctioned rallies earlier this month.
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