Russia's telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor has drawn up its first eight administrative protocols -- all against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty -- for violating the country's controversial foreign agents law. Roskomnadzor said in a statement on its website on January 12 that the offenses are "for noncompliance by the media performing the functions of a foreign agent with the requirements of the law on labeling information disseminated by them."
Darigha Nazarbaeva, the eldest daughter of Kazakhstan's first president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, is one of the 76 lawmakers from Nur Otan, the party led by her father, to win a seat in the newly elected parliament. On January 12, the party published its list of members entering the 107-member lower chamber, the Mazhilis, as a result of the January 10 elections, which were called “uncompetitive” by international observers. Also read: Kazakh Ruling Party Keeps Tight Grip In 'Uncompetitive' Vote.
In the early hours of January 13, 1991, hundreds of Lithuanians headed to the TV tower in Vilnius, determined to stop Soviet troops from taking control. Soviet tanks plowed into the unarmed demonstrators, who had been using their bodies to try to protect the building, according to media reports, before soldiers fired on the crowd. More than a dozen died, and hundreds were wounded. Critics of the Kremlin charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin is now trying to rewrite the past -- and for many Lithuanians, that includes the January events of 1991.
Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union for 28 years, overseeing a personality cult and a brutal regime. But a Moscow shawarma stand named after him lasted just one day. After complaints from angry local residents, Stalin Doner -- which owner Stanislav Voltman said was a tongue-in-cheek tribute not meant to cause offense -- closed after just 24 hours in business last week. Voltman said officers carted him off to a police station for a three-hour interrogation about the controversial fast-food joint.
For the 22nd Sunday in a row, opposition supporters took to the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, to protest against the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Snow and low temperatures have brought more misery for migrants living in a makeshift camp in a forest above the town of Velika Kladusa in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. They set up the camp because they say they have been denied access to an official temporary shelter for migrants in the area. They say they're struggling to find food, drinking water, warm clothes, and firewood.
Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who last year survived a poison attack he says was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, has said that Russia's prison authority has asked a court to switch his suspended prison sentence to jail time. "Putin is so enraged that I survived the poisoning that he ordered the FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service) to demand that the court changes my suspended sentence into actual time in jail," Navalny tweeted on January 12.
The United States says it has imposed sanctions on seven Ukrainians and four Ukrainian entities for attempting to interfere in the November U.S. presidential election. According to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, all the sanction targets were "part of a Russia-linked foreign intelligence network associated with Andriy Derkach," a member of the Ukrainian parliament who was sanctioned in September and "has been an active Russian agent for more than a decade."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has hosted a trilateral meeting in Moscow with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, nearly two months after a Russia-brokered cease-fire agreement ended six weeks of fierce fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Following the talks on January 11, Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian issued a joint statement on the Kremlin website announcing the creation of a trilateral working group to oversee the "unblocking of all economic and transport links" in the region.
Russian media reports that Moscow’s Department of Information Technologies has published a tender worth about $2.5 million, to modernise the state information system. The winning contractor is expected to be announced on February 1. The database is to contain a large amount of personal data including passport numbers, place of residence, relatives, transport, place of work, data on pets, and their chilldrens’ performance in school -- including their results in the state final certification exams. Some experts compare it to the system of social rating that has been established in China. (Russian Service)
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service cites Ukraine’s Customs Service in reporting that China was Ukraine’s #1 trade partner in 2020, with $8.3 billion worth of Chinese imports entering Ukraine, and Ukraine exporting $7.1 billion in goods and services to China. Ukraine imports $5.1 billion from Germany, the second-largest import market, while Russia is in third place with $4.6 billion of imports into Ukraine. The second and third largest export markets for Ukraine goods and services are Poland and Russia, at $3.3 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively. (Ukrainian Service)
On December 29, the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences held its annual New Year's gathering for researchers and other employees. The institute's director and his deputy duly greeted the crowd with traditional seasonal speeches and well-wishes. But at one point during the proceedings, an unknown man appeared on the dais. He calmly introduced himself as the institute's "curator," or resident agent, from the Federal Security Service (FSB). The incident reminded many of the researchers of the Soviet era, when KGB agents were routinely stationed at academic institutions and other workplaces.
The Moscow City Court on January 12 slightly reduced prison terms handed to two men convicted in the high-profile case of the so-called New Greatness political movement -- which later was revealed to have been inspired by an FSB special agent. The court reduced the seven-year prison term of Ruslan Kostylenkov by three months, and the 6 1/2-year prison term of Pyotr Karamzin by two months.
A former commander of the Belarusian riot police says Berlin security officials warned him in 2012 that they have information about a plan by the Belarusian KGB to kill him. Uladzimer Baradach spoke to RFE/RL about the alleged plan,, commenting on a recently published audio tape from 2012 that apparently spells out plans to murder Baradach and two other opponents of Belarus's authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Germany. Also read: “Hello, My Dear”: Lukashenka's Warm Hug For International Ice Hockey Chief Leaves Belarusian Opposition, Activists Steaming Mad.
The Parliament of Bealrus has approved amendments to the law “on operational-search activity,” allowing law enforcement agencies to access information systems and resources, as well as computer information, including through remote access. Law enforcement officers can now copy and confiscate materials when researching objects, documents and computer information. In addition, the new law allows investigators to check phone calls and email correspondence, if the person under investigation uses a different phone number or email, without seeking additional permission.. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
A court in Sweden has sentenced two Russian citizens from Chechnya to lengthy prison terms for their roles in last year's attempted killing of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an exiled Chechen blogger and outspoken critic of Chechnya’s Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. Swedish media reports said on January 11 that a court in the city of Gavle sentenced Ruslan Mamayev and Elmira Shapiayeva to 10 and eight years in prison, respectively. Abdurakhmanov, who fled Russia in 2015, said he survived the February 26 attack by overpowering a suspect armed with a hammer.
Billionaire businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who founded the ruling Georgian Dream party in 2012, says he has decided to leave politics for good. Ivanishvili announced on January 11 that he was stepping down as the chairman of Georgian Dream and will quit the party, after proclaiming that he’d accomplished his “mission.” He said the fact he will turn 65 next month also was a factor in his decision.
Kyrgyz nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov -- who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for kidnapping just a few months ago -- has called for national unity after winning a January 10 presidential election that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) said "generally respected" fundamental freedoms even though the vote was not "fully fair," in a preliminary report on January 11.
Four human rights organizations are calling for immediate humanitarian support for nearly 2,500 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers who remain without basic shelter in dire winter conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as "durable solutions" to meet the needs of people transiting through the country. In a statement on January 12, Amnesty International, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Medecins du Monde Belgique, and Refugee Rights Europe said that Bosnian authorities had failed to provide adequate accommodation to migrants and asylum seekers, while the European Union has spent tens of millions of euros in assistance to the Balkan country focusing on "short-term" solutions.
Women in Uzbekistan's eastern region of Jizzakh have been offered cheap coal after they blocked a highway to protest the lack of natural gas and electricity amid an unusually cold winter. Local authorities in Paxtakor district on January 11 met with the women and urged them to unblock the highway ahead of a visit by President Shavkat Mirziyoev to the region. The women ended the blockade of the highway after the local government secured the immediate delivery of one ton of cheap coal to the district.
RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service and Current Time TV report that state employees and students in Turkemnistan’s Lebap region are required to carry with them a licorice syrup as part of every personal first aid kit. The move was initiated by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who suggested during a government meeting on December 25 that licorice root could be an effective drug in the fight against coronavirus. Turkmenistan has yet to report a single coronavirus infection in the country and prevents doctors from diagnosing any patient with COVID-19. (Tukmen Service/Current Time TV)