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THE INDEX — August 3, 2009

Fourteen parliamentary representatives for the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe have been charged with criminal offenses over the past few weeks, in what many see as a plot by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party to challenge the majority that the MDC secured just six months ago. The parliamentary balance currently sits at 100 to 99 in MDC's favor, with Morgan Tsvangarai, as prime minister, leading the party. But if the MPs are convicted of the apparently bogus charges (ranging from rape and corruption to playing pro-MDC music and stealing cell phones) the balance could swing back towards Mugabe, who has seemed increasingly dissatisfied with his role in the coalition government. An op-ed in Monday's Zimbabwe Guardian accused the judiciary of being in cahoots with Mugabe, as many judges were appointed by the president and thus subject to removal by him as well. Calling Zimbabwe a country "of the judiciary, by the judiciary and for the judiciary," the op-ed warned Zimbabweans of a return to dictatorship if the recent attacks on the MDC are not protested. Almost a year after the Georgian military reignited tensions with Moscow over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, government leaders in Tbilisi accused the Russian military on Sunday of trying to annex new parts of its territory. Just a day earlier, Russian officials claimed that Georgia had again fired mortars into South Ossetia, something they warned would provoke a military response if continued. Since the 5-day war ended between Georgia and Russia last August, Russian troops have been stationed along the borders of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The alleged push (of only a few hundred yards) by Russian troops would bring the village of Kveshi under South Ossetia's control. Moscow has denied any advance and, thus far, the EU Monitoring Mission (which has surveyed action along the border since the war) could not substantiate the Tbilisi's claims. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has approved a proposal that will allow Russian forces to station more troops in the Central Asian nation. On Saturday, Bakiyev and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed a joint memorandum detailing an additional Russian "military contingent" in Kyrgyzstan to combat international terrorist groups and protect Kyrgyz sovereignty in the region. The memorandum, which also grants diplomatic immunity to Russian troops stationed in Kyrgyzstan, places Moscow one step closer towards the establishment of a second military base in the former Soviet state. In November, Kyrgyz and Russian officials are expected to sign a formal agreement on the status of the existing Russian base in Kant and a proposed second base in the southern city of Osh or on Kyrgyzstan's western border with Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan is the only nation that hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases. Less than two months ago, Kyrgyzstan allowed the United States to continue usage of the Manas airbase near the capital of Bishkek—a move then seen as a blow to Russian influence in the nation. Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has promised to step down from office if indicted on charges of corruption. His announcement came after Israeli police suggested on Sunday that the minister be indicted, citing a "body of evidence" that ties Lieberman to money laundering, public fund embezzlement, and "obstruction of justice." Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, told journalists this morning that if indicted by the attorney general, he would step down and quit as a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Lieberman has been accused of receiving $25 million in campaign donations through illegal bank accounts opened in Cyrus by his daughter. The Jerusalem Post has noted, however, that Lieberman's indictment would have "minimal" effects on Israeli foreign relations since his involvement in diplomatic negotiations with the United States and Arab nations has been limited.

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