Violence in the Caucasus, the last stand of the world's one remaining communist government, and teaching the French to cook.
Following last August’s war in South Ossetia, Russia is battling a rise in violence across the Caucasus. Dozens of attacks and high-profile assassinations have rocked the region, from the mountains of Kabardino-Balkaria to Dagestan on the Caspian Sea. Alexander Kliment, an analyst with The Eurasia Group, believes militants are emboldened by the sense that Russia is weakened by the global financial crisis.
“Violence in the Caucasus is a kaleidoscope of political, criminal, and ethnic conflicts,” he says. “I think there is some degree of uncertainty about Russia’s economic and political resilience amid the financial crisis, and I don’t doubt that militants understand this and are weighing their options.” Moscow has sent thousands of troops into Ingushetia to tackle a surge of violence involving Islamic insurgents. But Kliment warns this is like “splashing water on an electrical fire”. Previous Russian attempts to meet violence with violence – as in Chechnya – have inspired fresh recruits.
Lawless Chechnya, despite recent security gains under strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, appears to be exporting its hardened militants around the region and even as far as central Europe. An internal UN security briefing says violence has increased in five of the seven north Caucasus republics. Expect more.
The trouble spots:
Dagestan – In February five people including a senior government official and a policeman, were mown down by gunmen outside a café.
Ingushetia – In February at least four police and five militants were killed in a gunfight and ensuing explosion in Nazran.
Austria – In January a former Kadyrov bodyguard turned refugee was shot dead.
One of Europe’s poorest countries, Moldova, will vote in parliamentary elections on 5 April that could see Europe’s last communist government swept out of power.
The new parliament will choose a new president, and though the Communist Party of president Vladimir Voronin is favourite to come out on top, it may not get enough parliamentary seats to keep him in power.
A united opposition coalition could result in a new president who ends Voronin’s policy of “neither East nor West” and moves away from Russia and towards Europe.
Is your six-year-old a whizz with a wok? Your child a maestro with the mixer? If not, get them to Paris, where cookery courses for the under-12s are booming and a kids’ food magazine, Lucullus Succulus, has piled on new readers since its launch last year to reach a circulation of 18,000.
With almost one in five French children overweight, experts are agreed that instilling the values of healthy eating at an early age is a good thing – especially if it also helps reinvigorate a national cuisine that critics have accused of losing its lustre in recent years.
“This is a generation that loves fast food but we try to teach them how to eat well. It’s an education in how to achieve a balanced diet,” says Catherine Boyer of cookery school L’Atelier des Sens. Here children can learn recipes such as chicken with peanut sauce, brioche and even curry. French cuisine could be heading for a revolution when these little chefs grow up.
After voting for greater independence from Denmark last year, Greenland will take control of its natural resources in June.
What is going to change for Greenland in practical terms?
We will have jurisdiction in more areas. Our intention is to start larger-scale mining activities. We still have a lot of hunters and fishermen in our society. But if mining and oil drilling become bigger, that will create jobs.
Is this all about who controls the natural resources?
It is very important for us to secure ownership of minerals and oil, as we cannot depend on the resources from our seas as we could a few years ago.
Will Greenland ever become fully independent?
It is important to be recognised as Greenlanders and no longer as what I would call northern Danish. But if self-governance was introduced it would cost us DK350m [€47m] a year. It’s not realistic to talk about independence now.
How much do wars cost? And how long does it take to pick up the pieces? Over 10 years after the ethnic conflict over Kosovo, the EU is spending around €1.5bn between 2008 and 2010 to keep 2,000 police, lawyers and bureaucrats in the new nation.