In the North Caucasus preparations for the new year celebrations are well under way. Despite the fact that most republics in the region have largely Muslim populations,and therefore do not celebrate Christmas, the tradiution of new year celebrations left over from Soviet times remains strong.
In recent years celebrations were particularly poignant in Chechnya, where under the iron fist of Ramazan Kadyrov, firmly backed by the Kremlin, the islamist insurgency that gripped the region after the end of Soviet rule, has been largely, but not completely contained. New year celebrations in the capital Grozny are widely reported by the Russian media to project an image of normality.
photo: The new year tree and the main Mosque in Grozny, all lit up ahead of new year festivities. (picture courtesy of Tass news agency, Moscow)
"Let us work together constructively because the endeavour is a united and strong Europe," Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs after they confirmed her in the post. She will take up her new role on November 1.
On Monday, 15 July, yet another incident occurred in the vicinity of the David Gareji Monastery which lies on a disputed area of the Georgian-Azerbaijani border. The monastery has turned from a place of worship to a flashpoint, with Georgian religious zealots trying to state their claim on the land as Georgian territory, and Azerbaijani border guards stopping them.