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South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

It was a piece of surreal political theatre of the sort that have become increasingly popular with the choreographers of the Kremlin. On Tuesday (24 May ) the liliputian self-declared Republic of South Ossetia, a de facto Russian protectorate, got a new president. Alan Gagloev was sworn-in at the theatre on Tskhinvali's main square. The choreography was perfect: a military guard of honour, a swearing in ceremony, and delegations of "foreign countries", except they represented other self declared entities such as Abkhazia, Lugansk, Donetsk, Nagorno-Karabakh etc. Most of the world still recognise South Ossetia as part of Georgia. Gagloev came to power unexpectedly, having defeated the incumbent Anatoly Bibilov in elections on May 17. The number of people who voted for him was 16,134 (representing 56.09% of the electorate). Bibilov left his successor a time bomb, due to go off on 17 July, in the form of a referendum calling for South Ossetia's unification with Russia. The Kremlin does not seem to be impressed. Gagloev made no reference to the referendum in his inauguration speech today, but he did heap praise on Russia and promised eternal friendship.
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Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

A third round of meetings between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan hosted by the European Union in Brussels have resulted in progress on a range of issues as the two countries work to resolve the long standing conflict between them. European Council president, Charles Michel welcomed president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and prime minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia for another meeting in trilateral format on Sunday (22 May). He later described the talks as "frank and productive". In a statement to the media late on Sunday night Michel said the talks focused on the situation in the South Caucasus and the development of EU relations with both countries as well as the broader region. Summarising the meeting, Michel said "the discussion was frank and productive. We reviewed the entire set of issues. We had a detailed discussion on humanitarian issues, including demining, and efforts to free detainees and address the fate of missing persons." He listed a number of outcomes from the meeting including on border issues, connectivity, on a future peace agreement and on socio economic development. In conclusion president Michel said that he also stressed the importance of preparing the populations for long-term sustainable peace. The EU is ready to step up its support. "We agreed to remain in close contact and will meet again in the same format by July/August." 
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Kyiv says it will not give up territory in return for a cease fire

Kyiv says it will not give up territory in return for a cease fire

The Ukrainian government says it won't agree a ceasefire deal with Russia that involves giving up territory. Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said Kyiv would not follow calls in the West for an urgent ceasefire that involved Russian forces remaining in territory they occupy in the south and east of the country. He said making concessions would result in Moscow starting an even larger, more bloody offensive in the longer term. His comments come as Russia continues its attempts to encircle Ukrainian forces defending the eastern city of Severodonetsk. Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula in 2014,and annexed it to its territory. It also took de facto control of parts of the Donbas region around the same time. Immediately before launching the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February of this year, Russian president Putin formally recognised the territories, which it calls the  Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics, as sovereign countries. After failing to occupy Kyiv and overthrow the Ukrainian government as part of its invasion plan, the Kremlin is now concentrating on expanding the territory under its control in the Donbas. The internationally community recognises Crimea and the Donbas region as an integral part of Ukraine.
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Russia steps up its support for the military government of Mali

Russia steps up its support for the military government of Mali

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday (20 May) received in Moscow his Malian counterpart Abdoulaye Diop with promises of Russian support for the the Malian military government across a range of areas, including defence, security and energy. Lavrov speaking at a press conference with Diop accused France of trying to dictate to Mali who they can or cannot communicate with. "This is unacceptable and does not make the French Republic or French manners look good", the Russian foreign minister said. The meeting came on the same day that the German parliament agreed on a reconfiguration of its military contingent in Mali.
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Enchanting but distant Tajikistan says it is ready for increased co-operation with Europe

Enchanting but distant Tajikistan says it is ready for increased co-operation with Europe

At a recent promotion forum in Brussels senior Tajik officials emphasised that their country was business friendly and tourist welcoming. Young and eager Tajik entrepreneurs also highlighted that both country and society were ready for qualitative step-change in relations with Europe. On its part the EU has signalled it is ready to increase co-operation with the strategically located country, including through enhanced partnership agreements.