Freedom House says internet freedom in the world has declined for the 10th consecutive year, and that governments are using the Covid-19 pandemic as a “cover” to expand restrictions.
One day after resigning as Kyrgyzstan's president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov spoke to members of the country's parliament at the state residence in the capital, Bishkek. During his October 16 speech, Jeenbekov explained his decision saying that he did not want to be remembered as a leader who caused bloodshed by shooting his own people.
Turkish as well as Israeli and cheaper Russian-made drones are being used to powerful effect during Azerbaijan's attacks in and around the country's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has also reportedly deployed unmanned aerial vehicles in conflicts in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. But it's now facing an international backlash over their deployment in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, with civilian deaths rising.
The owner of a shop in Belarus who handed out flowers to protesters was beaten so severely that he was barely able to walk and left a police station in an ambulance. He said he suffered a head injury and a broken nose. Flowers have become a symbol of the peaceful protests against longtime leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the disputed results of the August 9 presidential election, which have been brutally repressed by security forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed extending the New START bilateral nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States for one year without preconditions to keep it from expiring early next year and allow talks to revive it to continue. Putin also instructed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a meeting with permanent members of Russia’s Security Council on October 16 to work out Russia's position on the accord and inform the United States of developments.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament on October 16 approved the transfer of presidential powers to recently elected Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov after days of uncertainty and political crisis amid massive post-election protests that led to former President Sooronbai Jeenbekov's resignation. Japarov had already told the country after Jeenbekov’s farewell statement a day earlier that "all power is in my hands" and urged demonstrators in Bishkek to go home.
Russia says it has decided to end consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight over eastern Ukraine more than six years ago, after the Dutch government took Russia to court in July for its alleged role in the tragedy. "Such unfriendly moves by the Netherlands make further trilateral consultations and our participation in them senseless," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on October 15. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a tweet that the Netherlands "greatly regrets this decision. It is extremely painful for the survivors"
The European Union and Britain have moved quickly to impose asset freezes and travel bans against six senior Russian officials and one entity for the "attempted assassination" of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August. The EU Official Journal on October 15 published the names of the targeted individuals believed to be responsible for the poisoning that nearly took Navalny’s life, as well as the entity involved in the program that has produced a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok.
Russia says it put Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya on its wanted list in line with regional agreements after Belarus first made the move claiming she had called for overthrowing the constitutional order in the country. Russian media on October 16 quoted Russia's Interior Ministry as confirming the move, made within the framework of the Russia-Belarus Union State.
Iran's Foreign Ministry has issued a fresh warning to Armenia and Azerbaijan after stray fire from their conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region reportedly wounded one person on the Iranian side of the border. "If there is any repetition of such fire, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not remain indifferent," Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh tweeted on October 16, without elaborating. Also read -- Are Syrian Mercenaries Helping Azerbaijan Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh?
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reports, citing the Office of the President of Ukraine, that a number of agreements in the military-defense sector have been signed with Turkey, during an official visit by a Ukrainian delegation led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Istanbul. A memorandum signed by Ukraine’s Defense Minister and head of the State Agency for Defense Industry of the Republic of Turkey calls for both parties to collaborate on construction of warships, UAVs and turbine engines. (Ukrainian Service)
The Kavkaz.Realii project of RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service writes that Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov has appointed his adoptive brother Visita Kadyrov (Viktor Piganov) as deputy head of Chechnya’s Rospotrebnadzor (consumer rights agency). It’s not the first time this year that Kadyrov family members have been rewarded. On September 23, Kadyrov appointed his nephew, Chechen traffic police department head Idris Cherkhigov as governor of the Gudermes and Shelkovsky regions. On February 13, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin appointed Ramzan Kadyrov's cousin, Odes Baysultanov, as Russian Deputy Minister of Sports. On February 12, Ramzan’s 23-year-old nephew, Khamzat Kadyrov, was appointed head of Chechnya's Security Council, and on February 6, Kadyrov appointed a maternal cousin, medical Dr Idris Baysultanov, Chechnya’s Minister of Education and Science. (North Caucasus Service/Kavkaz.Realii)
Thirty years ago this month, Ukraine witnessed a wave of protest that many in the country had never seen before. At the heart of it all were a group of students in the Ukrainian capital, who occupied what was then called October Revolution Square, later known as Independence Square or Maidan Nezalezhnosti. They pitched tents on the central Kyiv plaza on October 2, 1990 and began a hunger strike, which they said would not end until the authorities fulfilled a list of demands.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s population may decline by 352,500 people in 2020, the most since 2006. The forecast was published in an updated version of the government’s unified plan to achieve national goals by 2030. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
As is the case with many countries across Europe, Russia's official COVID-19 statistics show a decisive upward trend over the last month. Hospitals are struggling with a lack of available beds. One patient who spoke to RFE/RL said her mother developed a fever of 40 degrees Celsius and her CT scan showed 13 percent lung infection. However, a doctor told her that the hospital would not admit her: “only those who are completely suffocating are hospitalized -- with lung infections no less than 30 percent.” As Russia's COVID cases spike, the approved Sputnik V vaccine has yet to enter mass production.
Azerbaijan will close all educational institutions, including kindergartens, for two weeks starting on October 19 due to a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country. Authorities said on October 16 that the use of Baku's metro system will also be closed during that period. Only one-third of public-sector employees will continue working at their workplaces between October 19 and November 2, while the rest work from home.
Informed sources said on October 16 that a "very big" outbreak of what is thought to be COVID-19 struck a women's prison in northern Turkmenistan, in the latest blow to local authorities' insistence that the Central Asian republic has no infections despite the global pandemic raging all around it.