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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 19, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Kremlin Critic Freed Pending Appeal

Russian activist Alexei Navalny, a candidate in Moscow's mayoral election, was freed on Friday, just one day after he was sentenced to five years on embezzlement charges. The court ruled that detention would deprive Navalny of his right to stand for election (AFP). Supporters, who believe his conviction was ordered by the Kremlin as retribution for accusing President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party of corruption, rallied in several of Russia's largest cities by the thousands. Navalny's release, though temporary, may defuse widespread anger (NYT). Russia observers questioned if the immediate reversal reflected concern over revived protests, infighting among Kremlin elites, or the desire to first discredit Navalny at the polls before he is sent to prison (Guardian).


"Officials are giving political legitimacy, even martyrdom, to a divisive figure. Aside from being a fearless activist and powerful orator, Navalny also displays xenophobic tendencies that have made many middle-class liberals hesitant to support him. Earlier this month, he signed on to a nationalist statement supporting riots in which residents of the small town of Pugachev targeted darker-skinned people from the southern Caucasus region," writes Bloomberg's editorial board.

"The west must now rethink how it deals with Russia. The U.S. 'reset' delivered some foreign policy successes, but did little to counter Russia's more repressive turn since Mr. Putin returned as president. The EU seems incapable of a response beyond (faintly) anguished words. Yet the Putin circle may be harming its own future prospects more than any western response could," writes the Financial Times' editorial board.



Australia Takes Hard Line on Refugees

Refugees arriving in Australia by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea (AAP) for assessment and resettlement, part of an agreement signed between the two governments on Friday. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's hard line comes as elections are expected within months.

CHINA: A Pew global public opinion poll found that China is widely seen as outpacing the United States as top superpower (WSJ), a reflection of the global reach of China's economic expansion.



Kashmir Faces Shutdown After Civilian Killings

Religious and separatist leaders in India-administered Kashmir called for a three-day strike after four civilians were killed by paramilitary forces (al-Jazeera). India ordered an inquiry into the shooting, which left more than forty wounded.

BANGLADESH: The World Bank announced that Bangladesh reduced the number of people living in poverty (Time) by sixteen million between 2000 and 2010, and will achieve its first Millennium Development Goal ahead of schedule.



Kerry Makes Effort to Revive Mideast Talks

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Amman on Friday, hoping to gain concessions that might allow a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks (Haaretz). Palestinian leaders concluded a separate meeting without reaching a decision on the U.S. plan (BBC), concerned that talks would not be premised on acceptable borders.

IRAQ: A bomb blast inside a Sunni mosque in central Iraq killed at least twenty people on Friday (Reuters).



Nigeria to Partially Withdraw from Mali

Nigeria is planning to pull out some of its troops from the UN peacekeeping force in Mali, saying the soldiers are needed to combat militant Islamists at home (BBC). The UN coalition is charged with keeping the peace ahead of elections on July 28.

In this blog post, CFR's John Campbell discusses the potential for political violence ahead of Mali's elections.

KENYA: The International Criminal Court's prosecution of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta faces a setback as two witnesses have withdrawn their testimony (All Africa) due to security concerns.



G20 Set to Act on Tax Avoidance

G20 finance ministers meeting in Moscow will discuss an OECD plan to synchronize national tax systems (FT) on Friday and Saturday. Eliminating loopholes that allow multinational corporations to keep their tax bills low is of particular concern.

This Backgrounder explains the U.S. corporate tax system and prospects for reform.

ITALY: UN human rights experts condemned Italy's "unlawful" deportation of the wife and child of a dissident Kazakh (FT), and urged Rome to facilitate their return. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano faces a no-confidence vote in the matter on Friday, which could jeopardize the governing coalition.



Former CIA Officer Detained by Panama

Robert Seldon Lady, a former Milan CIA station chief, is being detained by Panama (WaPo) after Italy convicted him in absentia for the torture and kidnapping of a terror suspect.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolas Maduro demanded that the United States apologize (Reuters) after Samantha Power, President Obama's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she would challenge "the crackdown on civil society" in Venezuela and elsewhere at a Senate confirmation hearing.

In this blog post, CFR's Shannon O'Neil considers whether Maduro's election will mark a new era in U.S.-Venezuela relations.



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