Plus: HBO woes, Romania’s drought worsens, Russians flock to Montenegro, and more.
The big story: Breakthrough at the Armenian-Turkish border
What happened: Almost 30 years after Turkey closed its land border with Armenia in the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, the two sides have agreed on a partial reopening. A statement issued on July 1 both sides said they would allow third-country nationals to cross the border “as soon as possible”.
More context: As Eurasianet writesAnkara and Yerevan slowly began to mend ties after Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 war, when Azerbaijan regained most of the territory it had lost in the first war, leaving only a rump island inhabited by Armenians in Azerbaijani territory. “Armenia is now engaged in complicated and complex affairs two-track diplomacy: continue negotiations with Azerbaijan and a process of normalization of relations with Turkey”, Armenian analyst Richard Giragossian written for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.
To note: Armenia is also making overtures for Iranwhich supports its position by opposing Azerbaijan’s demand for an extraterritorial land corridor linking Azerbaijan proper to the enclave of Nakhitchevan, Armenian service reports from RFE/RL.
News from the Regions
Central Europe and Baltic States
- Considering the huge costs of rebuilding post-war Ukraine, the European Union’s lending arm, is offering to raise €20 billion for Ukraine in the form of grants, loans and guarantees from member states and the EU budget. The European Investment Bank expects the initial investment to skyrocket 100 billion euros by a multiplier effect, Reuters reports. The European Commission could also try to funnel frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to Ukraine, according to Newsweek.
- Any future development of the original HBO Max productions in ten Central European and Balkan countries was discontinued, the streaming platform confirmed, Filter Daily Reports. The move, which also affects Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Turkey, is part of a global review after the recent merger of original HBO Max owner WarnerMedia and Discovery.
- Romanian Environment Minister Barna Tanczos urges people to reduce their water use amid severe drought in the east of the country hitting the country’s wheat crop, Bloomberg reports. Tanczos on Wednesday asked Romanians to conserve drinking water and limit the use of water for gardens and swimming pools. The wheat harvest could fall by 15% this year, according to Bloomberg. Romania is one of the largest cereal producers in the EU. In the neighbor Serbiadrought and other factors could see wheat yield 30% droppredicts an agricultural expert.
- War or no war, Russians continue to buy businesses and property in Montenegro. The Russians bought more real estate since February than citizens of any other country and also lead the total foreign investment, reports the Central Bank of Montenegro, according to Overview of the Balkans. The news site notes that “For years, Montenegro has been called the ‘Russian VIP resort’ – the favorite destination of Russian oligarchs.”
Eastern Europe and Russia
- Russian forces pushed further into Ukraine’s Donetsk region, seeking to leverage their takeover of the neighboring Luhansk region. Airstrikes on the city of Kramatorsk yesterday killed at least eight people, AFP reports, and Russian forces continue to threaten Sloviansk, a few kilometers to the north. Russia is probably preparing a fresh assault aimed at taking the entire Donetsk region, British defense chiefs said today, according to the evening standard.
- Sharp increases in the cost of food, fuel and fertilizers linked to the war in Ukraine “threaten to push countries around the world towards starvation”. David Beasley, Director of the United Nations World Food Program has warned. On Wednesday, Beasley said the organization’s latest data shows a 25% increase this year, to 345 million, in the number of “acutely hungry people” at risk of “starvation”. NPR reports. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary General Antonio Guterres was continuing to work on a package that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments and free up Russian grain and fertilizer exports. affected by the sanctions.
- The cargo ship which, according to Ukraine, is loaded with stolen grain returned to Russian waters after Turkey rejected Kyiv’s request to confiscate the ship. Turkish sources said the Zhibek Zholy left the Turkish port of Karasu on Wednesday, apparently heading for the port of Kavkaz in the Kerch Strait, Report France 24 and AFP. Kyiv yesterday summoned the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine to explain the incident. Russia has made conflicting statements about the ship’s cargo and final destination, according to France 24.