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Special podcast: View from "fully blockaded" Nagorno-Karabakh during Armenia's conflict with Azerbaijan

Listen: The people of the small Armenian enclave known as Nagorno-Karabakh have no way to get out. Recently, the long-simmering conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has once again heated up with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of blocking the only road that connects the disputed region with Armenia. The Azeris deny this and blame Russian peacekeepers. There are extremely heated opinions on both sides to this issue. Regardless of where the blame lies, the humanitarian risks to the region are growing. 30,000 kids cannot go to school as roads and gas have been cut off.

Food can't be brought in because the airport is closed. In a special edition of the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer speaks to Ruben Vardanyan, who last month became state minister in charge of Nagorno-Karabakh, which the Armenians refer to as Artsakh.

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Annie Gugliotta

What's happening in Nagorno-Karabakh?

The long-simmering conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has once again heated up, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of blocking the only road that connects the disputed region with Armenia.

The Azeris, of course, deny this and blame Russian peacekeepers. But what's clear is that the longer the area remains cut off from Armenian supplies, the higher the risk of a humanitarian crisis in a land that's been embroiled in an unresolved conflict for decades.

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Supporters of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu demonstrate as a Turkish court reaches a verdict in his trial.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

What We're Watching: Turkish political verdict, Nagorno-Karabakh flareup, Sunak's immigration plan, Lula's military

Bombshell ruling in Turkey

On Wednesday, a Turkish court sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to 2.5 years in prison for the obviously heinous crime of calling election officials "fools" after they annulled the result of the May 2019 race he won. Context: Imamoglu's slim victory then was questioned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Law & Justice party, which forced a rerun only to see Imamoglu win again by a wider margin. The double loss was a slap in the face for Erdoğan, who is running for re-election just six months from now — with Imamoglu favored to be his main rival. On the one hand, Erdogan is trying to pull the oldest authoritarian trick in the book by getting loyalist judges to throw his enemy in jail. On the other, since Imamoglu will surely appeal, the snail-pace legal system won’t confirm his conviction ahead of the presidential vote. Will Erdogan’s move further boost the mayor in the polls, convincing an alliance of six opposition parties to pick Imamoglu as their candidate? Throwback: in 1997, when Erdoğan himself was mayor of Istanbul, he did time in jail and was banned from political office for … reciting a controversial poem. Five years later he was elected as Turkey’s first Islamist PM.

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People walk as Tower Bridge is reflected in a tribute to Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Bidding farewell to a queen, mass graves in Kharkiv, Pelosi in Armenia

UK bids farewell to Elizabeth II amid trying times

Some 2,000 people attended the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, including several hundred current and former world leaders, royals, and other dignitaries. US President Joe Biden, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and leaders from much of the Commonwealth, attended the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth II was married and crowned. (Invitations to attend the state funeral, the first since Winston Churchill died in 1965, were sent to heads of state or government of nearly every country except Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Russia, Belarus, and Myanmar.)

Hundreds of thousands visited the British capital for the queen's lying-in-state to pay their respects and thank her for her 70 years on the British throne. Once the ceremony is over, all eyes will turn to her son and successor, King Charles III, who takes over at a moment of deep uncertainty in the UK. While the monarch’s role is not political, a worsening cost-of-living crisis and energy crunch – combined with the revolving door of prime ministers since 2016’s Brexit vote – have left many Britons feeling disillusioned with the country’s leadership. What’s more, the 73-year-old Charles is hardly as popular as his beloved mother, and his ascent to the throne has already ignited a debate about the future of the British monarchy, both at home and in Commonwealth nations where he is now the nominal head of state.

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Kenya's new President William Ruto stands during his swearing-in ceremony.

Baz Ratner via Reuters

What We’re Watching: Kenya’s new leader inaugurated, conflict flares between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Kenya's new leader already stirring controversy

More than a month after winning a nail-biter presidential election and a week after the Supreme Court upheld the result – which had been challenged by his rival – William Ruto was sworn in Tuesday as Kenya's fifth president. Unfortunately, the inauguration ceremony in a Nairobi stadium was overshadowed by two things. First, a stampede outside the gates left at least 60 people injured, some reportedly beaten by cops. Second, Ruto's comms team barred Kenyan media outlets from carrying the event on live TV. Instead, it gave exclusive broadcast rights to a South African pay-TV company — not a good omen for press freedom under Kenya's new leader. During the campaign, Ruto promised to be the champion of the poor — especially what he calls Kenya's "hustlers," young people working multiple gigs in the informal economy. But he faces a stagnant economy and high inflation, with three-quarters of Kenyans struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto's predecessor and former boss, has agreed to be the president’s envoy for peace talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

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Editions of Taiwanese newspapers reporting on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's historic visit to Taiwan.

Kyodo via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: Tensions in Taiwan, violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, Erdoğan in Russia

(More) trouble in Taiwan

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait are now at their highest level in a quarter-century after China fired ballistic missiles at waters near the self-governing island on Thursday. The launch was part of broader live-fire drills scheduled to conclude on Sunday — Beijing's furious answer to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan earlier this week. So, what might happen next? We're keeping an eye out for three things. First, whether China escalates even further by shooting missiles into waters off eastern Taiwan — thus violating the island's airspace, tantamount to declaring war. (By the way, the Chinese might need a bit of target practice after five projectiles landed inside Japan’s EEZ.) Second, how the drills will impact navigation and trade in the region, with many flights cancelled and cargo ships now avoiding the Taiwan Strait. Third, how the US will respond: 26 years ago Bill Clinton ended the last major US-China standoff over Taiwan in one military fell swoop, but it's unlikely Joe Biden will have the appetite to risk all-out war with China. Sanctions? Strong-worded statements blasting Beijing and supporting Taipei? You bet. But that'll be the end of it. Meanwhile, 23 million Taiwanese people will spend the next few days frantically awaiting China's next move.

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GZERO Media

Other pressing issues to discuss in Munich

Much of the media attention on the Munich Security Conference will focus, understandably, on the Russia-Ukraine standoff. But other important security questions will be discussed. Here are three of the most important.

The Balkans. Bosnia now faces its most worrisome threat since the end of the Yugoslav civil war in 1995. To keep warring factions apart, the peace agreement ending that war created a special enclave within Bosnia for ethnic Serbs. The leader of that enclave, Milorad Dodik, has threatened secession over a new law banning the denial of the genocide that Serbs inflicted on Bosnian Muslims during that conflict. A breakup of Bosnia could trigger a new war.

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A rebel fighter holds a Kingdom of Libya flag and a knife during shelling by soldiers loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a battle near Ras Lanuf, March 4, 2011.

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

What We’re Watching: Libya’s future, Azeris and Iranians bicker, Shakira fights wild boars

Will Libya's elections go ahead? Should they? Libya, mired in a decade-long civil war, is set to hold elections for a new president and parliament later this year. The US, along with Italy and France, say that elections should go ahead no matter what. But other Western players have pushed back, saying that ongoing civil war means the country isn't yet ready for democracy, and the result of an election won't be deemed legitimate. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000-20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries are still lurking in Libya, mostly deployed by Russia and Turkey, neither of which are in any hurry to recall their mercs, perhaps just in case the election doesn't work out and Libya slides back into civil war. Complicating matters further, last week the lower house of parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the UN-backed government over misuse of public funds. The interim government has been accused of stalling elections, instead calling for a "stabilization initiative" that would help lay the groundwork for a free and fair vote later on. But that is unlikely to fly with general Khalifa Hafta, who heads the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army and has long been vying for control of the oil-rich country.

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