Cities around the globe held marches, flew flags, and made other symbolic gestures in a show of support for pro-democracy demonstrators in Belarus. It came after Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya designated February 7 as a Day of Solidarity with Belarus. Since August's presidential election, which was widely seen as rigged, Belarusian protesters have faced violent crackdowns and mass arrests after demanding the resignation of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Eight Kazakhs, mainly women, picketed outside the Chinese Consulate in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, on February 9 to demand the release of their relatives in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. The demonstrators held pictures of their relatives, who they say are either being kept in prisons and reeducation camps in Xinjiang or not allowed to travel to Kazakhstan to join their families. The picketers also held up posters in Kazakh, English, and Chinese demanding the release of their loved ones.
The European Union says Bosnia-Herzegovina has the continent's deadliest pollution. The district of Bukinje is so badly affected by a local coal-fired power station that its mayor says nobody wants to live there.
Charting over time the locations with the most confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
Germany, Sweden, and Poland are each expelling a Russian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move after Moscow's expulsion last week of diplomats from the three EU countries for allegedly taking part in protests in support of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny. "Today the Federal Foreign Office has declared a staff member of the Russian Embassy in Berlin persona non grata," the German Foreign Ministry said. Also, Russia expels Albanian diplomat in tit-for-tat move.
A picture taken at a police station by noted Russian photographer Dmitry Markov, which turned into an online symbol of the mass rallies in support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been sold for 2 million rubles ($26,800). Markov wrote on Facebook over the weekend that the picture showing a riot-police officer sitting at a desk with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin hanging on the wall behind him had been sold at an online auction to a person, whom he named only as Yekaterina.
The leader of the network of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's teams across Russia has called for new anti-government protests in courtyards and backyards across the country, a change in tactics from mass street rallies that resulted in thousands of arrests. Leonid Volkov, who last week said there would be a temporary halt in the mass protests demanding Navalny's release from detention, announced the new action on February 9, saying it will take place on February 14. Volkov said the protest will begin at 8 p.m. local time and last for 15 minutes. During the action, people will gather and shine lights into the sky, then post pictures of the protests on social media. Also, Memorial Human Rights Center recognizes Navalny's associates, supporters as political prisoners.
The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, says his visit to Moscow last week showed that Russia is heading down a "worrisome, authoritarian route" that closes off democracy and the rule of law. Speaking to the European Parliament to report on his trip to the Russian capital, Borrell said on February 9 that the Kremlin has no intention of developing constructive relations if human rights are part of the conversation. “They are merciless," Borrell said after visiting Moscow from February 4-6.
Well-known Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, who was convicted in a controversial embezzlement case last year which many considered politically motivated, will leave the Gogol-Center theater in Moscow after city authorities refused to extend his agreement. Serebrennikov, whose contract expires on February 25, wrote about the situation on Instagram on February 9, expressing his gratitude "to all my friends, students, and enemies for the unique experience that helped me to learn many things."
In the aftermath of anti-government protests that swept Russia in late January and early February, a very different trend is emerging. In numerous cities across the country, students and worker collectives are coming together to record choreographed video clips in support of President Vladimir Putin. But testimonies from participants suggest that the performances, which in most cases defy all rules on social distancing and mask wearing, are hardly a spontaneous outpouring of love for the country's leader of 21 years.
An environmental and consumer protection group says the German government offered U.S. President Donald Trump's administration financial support of up to 1 billion euros ($1.21 billion) in a bid to prevent Washington from sanctioning the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. According to a document published by Environmental Action Germany (DUH) on February 9, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz offered the funds for the import of U.S. liquefied natural gas in a personal letter addressed to his counterpart at the time, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. It was dated August 7, 2020, and included the offer in an attached "non-paper."
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports that the chairman of the United Russia party’s State Duma faction, Sergei Neverov, believes that individuals designated as “foreign agents” should be banned from running in elections to any government body in Russia. Earlier on February 8, Rakhman Yansukov, leader of the Association of Entrepreneurs for the Development of Business Patriotism "AVANTI", had also expressed a similar call to parliamentary leaders to prohibit “foreign agents” from participating in elections at all levels, as well as their close relatives (such as Yuliya Navalnaya, the wife of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny) to “prevent a Belarusian scenario.” (Russian Service)
The number of Russians killed by COVID-19 last year was twice as high as previously thought, amounting to the world's third-highest death toll for 2020, according to figures released by the country's national statistics agency. A total of 162,429 Russians died of the virus in 2020, the Rosstat agency said on February 8, the same day as the government coronavirus task force's data said 77,068 people had died since the beginning of the pandemic. Rosstat's count of coronavirus-linked deaths includes cases where the virus wasn’t the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed. The task force's figures only include cases where COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, was confirmed as the cause of death, a counting method which has been repeatedly criticized in the West.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service project Crimea Realities reports that two former state villas for Soviet political elite in Russia-annexed Crimea, owned by the Ukrainian State Administration before the peninsula’s annexation in 2014, have now been converted into residences for Russian President Vladimir Putin and include seawater pools, a sea-based helipad, an ice palace and nearly a 20ft fence around the territory. FSB head Alexander Bortnikov is one of Putin’s neighbors at the site in the seaside town of Olyva. (Ukrainain Service/Crimea Realii)
Ukraine is calling on Twitter to remove a "blue check" verified account of the Russian Foreign Ministry's office in Crimea, accusing the social-media giant of promoting Kremlin propaganda. Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Volodymyr Yelchenko, sent a letter to Twitter asking the company to deactivate the Russian account, the embassy in Washington said on February 8. The account of "Russian occupation authorities in Crimea cannot be described as official and legitimate," the diplomatic mission said on Facebook.
A paper seen by RFE/RL, developed by the diplomatic representatives from European Union states who are based in Belarus together with the bloc's delegation in Minsk, assesses the current political situation in the country and provides suggestions on policy options, including sanctions. The paper, "EU Heads Of Mission Report: February 2021 Review Of The EU Restrictive Measures Against Belarus," is set to be discussed in Brussels in the coming weeks. It is not guaranteed that all of the recommendations will be taken into account. The paper spells out four different paths that Brussels can take when it comes to its eastern neighbor: "Wait and See," "A Pragmatic Equi-Distant," "Decisive Continued Downgrading of Relations," and "A Near Total Freeze of Relations."
Azerbaijan has filed a lawsuit against Armenia with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), accusing Yerevan of human rights violations during its almost 30-year occupation of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts, and during the 44-day conflict over the disputed region in 2020. A member of Azerbaijan's parliamentary committee on legislation policies, Kamal Cafarov, said on February 8 that Baku also accused Yerevan of not undertaking measures to find out the fates of some 3,800 Azerbaijani nationals who went missing during the initial war over the breakaway region in the 1990s. Also read -- Fear And Loathing Vs. Trade Across The Armenian-Azerbaijani Border.
Tajik authorities have increased pressure on opponents of the government, both at home and abroad, in recent weeks. Several activists, government critics, and suspected supporters of banned opposition groups have been jailed. By the government's own admission, 10 people were arrested in January alone for allegedly "collaborating" with Tajik opposition groups based abroad. Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon said those detained had provided "deceitful" information to "agitators abroad" -- information that he said was critical of the government and aimed at destabilizing the country.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has signed into law a bill approved by parliament on moving up the presidential election to October. According to the new law, signed on February 8, presidential, parliamentary, and general elections will be held on the first Sunday during the last 10 days of October, which this year falls on October 24. Previously, elections were held every five years on the first Sunday to fall during the last 10 days of December.
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