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The News in Brief

Wednesday, June 1
Any change in editorial policy in pre-electoral season very damaging – U.S. Ambassador

As U.S. Ambassador Ian Kelly has declared, any change in editorial management or editorial policy is not acceptable during the pre-election season.

“It would not be appropriate for me to talk about the specifics of the case which is under appeal. I’ve commented often about the case. I would like to reinforce one thing: any change in editorial management or editorial policy of Rustavi 2 in the pre-electoral season will be very damaging,” Ian Kelly has remarked. (IPN)

Abkhazia hosts football ‘championship’ for ‘unrecognised’

Teams from twelve stateless peoples and regions without international recognition will compete in a football championship in Abkhazia’s capital of Sukhumi; however, ordinary Abkhazians have expressed polarised opinions about the event.

The ConIFA World Football Cup opened on Saturday in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, marking the first time an international sporting event has been held in the ‘republic’.

The competition brings together twelve teams from territories which aren’t internationally recognised as independent countries, making them ineligible for FIFA membership — the gateway to major international football events, like the UEFA Super Cup which was held in Tbilisi last year.

All matches will be played on the newly-built Dinamo Stadium in Sukhumi, bringing together teams from Abkhazia, Chagos Islands (a British Overseas Territory), Kurdistan, Northern Cyprus, Padania (a region of north Italy), the Punjab (the region in India and Pakistan), Raetia (the borderland between Austria, Germany, and Switzerland), Sapmi (also known as Lapland), Somaliland, Szekely Land (the Hungarian-speaking region of Romania), United Koreans in Japan, and Western Armenia. The final match will be played on 5 June.

Three teams were unable to participate in the competition. The Isle of Man withdrew due to the UK’s advice against travelling to Abkhazia, the last year’s winner County of Nice declined to participate due to ‘organisational restructuring’, while the South American people of Aymara couldn’t participate due to financial difficulties.

The official song We are free was composed by the Abkhaz performer Alexander Shoua for the event, with lyrics both in English and Abkhaz saying ‘We are free, play with us, show the world seven stars’ which is a reference to the seven stars in the Abkhazian flag symbolising the republic’s seven historical regions.

The event attracted major media attention within Abkhazia and provoked heated debates comments in Abkhazian social networks. It received official endorsement from de facto President Raul Hajymba (better known by the Russian version of his name, Khadzhimba), who participated in the opening ceremony.

Some users of social networks voiced concerns regarding the ‘unrecognised’ format of the competition given Abkhazia’s strong independence aspirations and partial recognition by four UN members, including Russia.

Other users pointed out the high cost of the construction of the stadium, the lack of transparency in its funding process, and the fact that it is located in a residential area close to the Christian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral.

Positive opinions seem to prevail, though. Many Abkhazian internet users argue that the competition gave the people a chance to engage in festivities and briefly forget about the political and economic hardships of daily life in the republic.

Georgia considers Abkhazia a part of its sovereign territory under Russian occupation. According to Georgian legislation, entering Abkhazia through the border with Russia is punishable by an administrative fine. In case of a repeated offence, the punishment is regulated by the criminal code and may include a prison sentence. (DF watch)

Black Sea will never be 'NATO's lake' - Russian NATO envoy

Moscow says the Black Sea will never be "NATO's lake”. Russia is accusing the alliance of conducting a confrontational policy near the country's borders, according to Russia's permanent rep to NATO, Alexander Grushko.

"Today, NATO is seeking to transfer confrontational schemes into the Black Sea waters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said recently that the Black Sea has nearly turned into a ‘Russian lake' because of NATO's absence there. But NATO understands it perfectly well that the Black Sea will never be a NATO lake,” Grushko said in an interview with a Russian media outlet.

Grushko said that Moscow would do its best to neutralize possible threats from the south. He also blamed NATO for using the Ukrainian crisis to "depict Russia as a big enemy".

"Today, we see that the image of a big enemy is used to solve absolutely different geopolitical tasks of placing NATO back in the center of global politics and proving that the only way to ensure security is NATO-centrism based on strategic linkage between Europe and the United States. And for these ends the alliance needs a big enemy confronting it," Grushko claimed.

At the same time he rejected the idea of cancelling the Russia-NATO founding act as it could possibly lead to a new spiral in the arms race.

The rift in NATO-Moscow relations has been going on since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The alliance has said it continues to reinforce its eastern flank in response to the Kremlin's aggression. (IPN)