Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been placed in a cell in Moscow's notorious Matrosskaya Tishina detention center after a judge at a hastily arranged hearing ruled to keep the Kremlin critic in custody for 30 days following his dramatic airport arrest upon arrival from Germany.. Also read -- Navalny Investigation Shines Light On 'Putin Palace' & In A Response To Navalny's Arrest, Clues to Biden's Russia Policy.
In 2020, Russia ranked third in the world in terms of the number of CCTV cameras on its territory. The country also invested millions of dollars in facial-recognition software and launched one of the world's most comprehensive surveillance systems in Moscow. While authorities say this will increase public safety and help fight the coronavirus pandemic, human rights activists have raised concerns about the lack of regulation and possible violations of data privacy.
All of Ukraine's statues of Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin should have been taken down under a law passed in 2015. But in three small villages, indomitable Lenins still hold out -- due to lack of money for demolition, apathy, and, in one case, a road so bad they couldn't get a crane to it.
In Russia's Urals region, towns that once churned out industrial chemicals and coal are now largely abandoned. Verkhnyaya Gubakha was once a thriving city of more than 30,000, but the population has dwindled, and the landscape is returning to forested taiga.
In the Russian city of Novovoronezh, a poorly designed statue was so widely loathed that officials had it dismantled -- but not before it became a joke on social media. In other cities, some residents wish their own local monuments would meet the same fate.
The people and spectacular cityscapes of tsarist Georgia captured in vivid color by a world famous photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky.
A police officer in the Russian city of Samara has been placed under house arrest on suspicion of leaking data that may have helped the Bellingcat investigative group identify the alleged poisoners of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, the RBC business daily reports, citing its sources. Police officer Kirill Chuprov was detained in December and charged with abuse of power, according to an RBC report from January 19.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has expelled two Dutch diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after the expulsion for espionage of two Russian diplomats from The Hague last month. The ministry said in a statement on January 18 that, "guided by the principle of reciprocity," the Dutch acting charge d’affaires, Joost Reintjes, had been summoned to a meeting where he was informed of the decision to expel the two diplomats.
Nord Stream and TurkStream are strategically important political and economic projects, possibly Russia’s last best chance to remain Europe’s main gas supplier. But other projects, such as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing gas from Azerbaijan and increasing supplies of liquid natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. are challenging Gazprom’s drive for dominance in the Balkans. (Russian Service)
Arrests, beatings, forced exile, and even death. Belarusians have paid a high price for raising their voices in opposition since authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed a landslide victory and a sixth presidential term in an August 2020 election that hundreds of thousands of citizens contend was stolen. And now a leaked audio recording has emerged of what is said to be a senior Belarusian Interior Ministry official discussing plans to build an internment camp -- complete with barbed wire -- for political prisoners. Also, experts confirm Belarus ex-KGB chief’s Vadzim Zaytsau voice on leaked audio plotting murders.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who left her country for Lithuania following a disputed presidential election that she and her supporters claim she won, has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to assist her and other exiled opposition politicians to safely return home. In a January 18 post on her website, Tsikhanouskaya said she made the request during an online meeting with European Union Ambassadors to the OSCE a day earlier.
Belarusian authorities say the country’s new nuclear power plant has been taken offline during testing procedures after the generator protection system was triggered. At 7:02 p.m., Unit 1 at the Astravets plant was “disconnected from the network after the generator protection system was activated,” the Energy Ministry said in a statement on January 16. This occurred “during the pilot industrial operation of Power Unit 1, as part of which the systems and equipment are being tested," the ministry said, adding that radiation levels in the area were “normal.”
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service project Crimea.Realii reports that the Crimean office of Russian internet company Yandex is hiring on the peninsula -- a potential violation of sanctions imposed following Crimea’s annexation by Russia in 2014. The office officially opened in Crimea in 2006, but apparently did not stop its operation after the annexation in 2014. The information about the personnel action was confirmed to Crimea.Realii by Yandex’ Moscow office. Yandex is already under Ukrainian sanctions, but could potentially be in violation of western sanctions as well. (Ukrainian Service/Crimea.Realii)
The U.S. Department of Commerce has added the Chinese state-owned aviation firm Skyrizon to the Military End-User (MEU) list for haing “significant ties with China and the People's Liberation Army of China.” Skyrizon also owns shares in Ukrainian aircraft engine manufacturer Motor Sich. However, the company cannot dispose of them: in 2018, the court arrested the shares at the request of Ukraine's state security service, SBU, which has been investigating the legality of buying shares purchased by the Chinese investor. (Ukrainian Service)
As Russian athletes prepare for the day when they again hoist Olympic medals to the sound of an unfamiliar anthem and a generic flag, they are calling on Katyusha - the Warld War II-era ballad of a Soviet woman yearning for her partner fighting on the front lines -- to help assuage their loss.
The Siberia Desk of RFE/RL's Russian Service spoke with lawyer Galina Arapova, head of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defense Center, about the government's latest moves and what impact they could have on Russian civil society. Arapova told RFE/RL that in “November and December we saw a literal fusillade of bills introducing new restrictions on journalists and civil society. Taken together with the existing practices, these will practically bury civil society, and journalists won't even be able to cover that.”
A Ukrainian court has rejected a request by a jailed suspect in the high-profile 2016 killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet to be transferred to house arrest. Kyiv’s Shevchenko district court on January 19 ordered Andriy Antonenko to be remanded in pretrial detention. Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving his apartment when an improvised explosive device planted under his vehicle exploded on July 20, 2016, killing him.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has convicted Romania of violating the rights of two transgender people by refusing to recognize their gender identity because they had not undergone sex-change operations. The Strasbourg-based court on January 19 ruled that the Romanian state violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which upholds the “right to respect for private and family life,” and ordered the country to pay a total of nearly 26,000 euros ($31,525) in moral and nonpecuniary damages, costs, and expenses.
Aibek Tokoev, the brother-in-law of former Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, has been arrested on corruption charges. The State Committee for National Security (UKNK) said on January 19 that Tokoev, a directorate chief at the Service For The Fight Against Economic Crimes, was arrested for illegally obtaining property in the capital, Bishkek and the Central Asian nation's second-largest city, Osh. According to the statement, a financial police major was arrested after documentation showed he owns properties worth $4 million, an amount not in keeping with his legal income.
A 71-year-old Turkmen journalist has been nominated as one of three finalists for a prestigious human rights award for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva said on January 18 that Soltan Achilova "documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting the Turkmen people in their daily lives." Achilova has in the past worked as a reporter for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service.
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports that Tajikistan, a net importer of food, saw unprecedented cost increases for many food staples in 2020 – vegetable oils up 42%, sugar 40%, potatoes 19.8%, eggs 18.9%. Tajikistan also experienced 9.4% inflation for the year, above the initially expected 7%. Many experts believe that the economy was seriously undermined by the closure of foreign markets due to Covid-19 pandemic, which reduced the demand for goods produced in the country. (in Russian, Tajik Service)