Russia, Belarus Hold Joint War Games

Putins bullying is not limited to Moldova. Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine also have been the target of a mix of punitive measures and bribes in the last several months. The Kremlins zero-sum aim is to block those countries from completing association agreements with the European Union and compel them to join a Moscow-led customs union that would be an E.U. rival and a means of realizing Mr. Putins dream of recreating something like the Soviet Union. Mr. Putin scored a victory earlier this month when Armenia, a small country that is dependent on Russia for both energy and security, capitulated and said it would join the would-be Eurasian Union, which so far includes only dictatorships Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. But Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been holding firm, saying they will proceed with their E.U. agreements, which fall well short of E.U. membership, at a regional summit scheduled for November. The choice is a courageous one for all three governments. To qualify for E.U.

Russia pressures former Soviet republics to join his economic union.

Sent! A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. Join the Nation’s Conversation To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs Russia, Belarus hold joint war games AP 1:21 p.m. EDT September 26, 2013 Story Highlights Massive joint military exercise involved more than 22,000 troops Russia and Belarus are allies and have close ties Thursday’s joint exercise was their biggest so far SHARE 1 CONNECT 17 TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE MINSK, Belarus (AP) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart have watched a massive joint military exercise of the two ex-Soviet neighbors that involved more than 22,000 troops. The West 2013 exercise conducted Thursday near the city of Grodno in western Belarus and in Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad region also involved more than 500 armored vehicles and about 90 aircraft along with ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Russia and Belarus are allies and have close economic, political and military ties. Russia has several military facilities in Belarus, and the two nations operate a joint air defense system. The two armies have regularly conducted joint maneuvers, Thursday’s exercise being the biggest so far. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attended the exercise along with his nine-year old son, who donned full combat fatigues. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. USA NOW

Russia missing at UN meeting on LGBT rights

Cognizant of the urgent need to take action, we therefore call on all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, participating members of the group said in its declaration. Organized by and for this cross regional groupknown as the LGBT Core Group at the U.N.Russia was not explicitly invited. Neither the Russian Embassy, nor the Russian Mission to the U.N. claimed to have known about the meeting. While it was limited to this core group, however, the meeting was announced, said Charles Radcliffe, head of the global issues section at the UN human rights office in New York. The fact that it was happening was not secret, he said. Any country could have requested to join. Russias absence underscores a wave of criticism engulfing the country for its anti-gay policies, the most contentious of which bans propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors. That law, along with two othersone banning the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples and to individuals in countries that allow gays to marry, and another classifying homosexual propaganda as pornographyhave sparked worldwide protests, as well as calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Over the summer, President Obama criticized Russias anti-gay posture, saying such discrimination violated basic morality. But on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee declared the propaganda law was not in violation of the Olympic charters anti-discrimination clause. Participants at Thursdays ministerial meeting adopted a declaration stating their countries strong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Many countries have embarked on historic reformsstrengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crimes against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in her remarks Thursday.