Thousands of Georgians took to the streets of Tbilisi, the nation’s capital on February 26 to protest a police raid on the headquarters of the country’s main opposition party and the arrest of its leader. Participants, waving Georgian and NATO flags and carrying signs, rallied outside the Georgian parliament building to call for new snap parliamentary elections and the release of political prisoners. “We will not leave until our demands are met,” a protester who traveled 300 kilometers from the town of Zugdidi to participate in the rally told RFE/RL. Also read -- Mikheil Saakashvili Says Political Crisis In Georgia Has Deep Roots.
Tensions remain high in Armenia one day after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian rejected calls by top military officers to resign and warned of "an attempted coup," prompting world powers to urge all sides to deescalate an intensifying political crisis. Pashinian has faced mounting protests and calls from the opposition for his resignation following a six-week conflict last fall between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. See also this photogallery -- Explosive Rhetoric: The Russian Missile At The Heart Of Yerevan Unrest.
Despite U.S. sanctions that halted construction for a year, Russian ships are now getting closer to completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. What is it and why do the United States and other countries want to stop it from being built?
In a rare move, environmental authorities in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, have fined dozens of citizens and businesses for dumping plastic and other waste into the city's rivers and canals and along their banks. They've also promised to beef up the monitoring of waterways in an effort to deter polluters.
Current Time TV’s Footage of the Day – with passenger traffic banned at North Korea’s borders due to Covid-19, Russian diplomats must push a human-powered rail cart for several kilometers to cross the North Korea-Russia frontier and get home. (Current Time TV)
The United States is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Kremlin-friendly Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin in connection with alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The FBI’s announcement said that Prigozhin is wanted for alleged “involvement in a conspiracy to defraud the United States…for the purposes of interfering with the United States political system, including the 2016 President Election.” Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians added to the FBI’s wanted list in connection with the alleged election interference.
Russia's prison authority has confirmed that opposition political leader Aleksei Navalny has been moved from the Moscow detention center where had been held since mid-January to another prison. Aleksandr Kalashnikov, the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), did not specify on February 26 where the Kremlin critic was being taken, nor was it clear whether Navalny had arrived at the facility or if he was still in transit to begin serving a 2 1/2 year sentence. "He has been transferred to where he is supposed to be under the court ruling," Kalashnikov told reporters. Also read -- Navalny's Failure To Renounce His Nationalist Past May Be Straining His Support and 'Enemy Of My Enemy:' In Ukraine, Mixed Feelings About Kremlin Foe Navalny.
U.S. President Joe Biden's nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has told lawmakers that the "biggest geopolitical test" the United States faces comes from China, but that Russia remains a disruptive and potent threat, although it is in many ways a declining world power. William Burns, a former ambassador to Russia and Jordan, spoke on February 24 during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He called China "a formidable, authoritarian adversary" that is strengthening its ability to steal intellectual property, repress its people, expand its reach, and build influence within the United States.
Philippe Delpal, a French national and an associate of prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey, has reiterated his innocence as a high-profile embezzlement trial involving the two men, along with five others, resumed in Moscow. Delpal told the court on February 24 that accusations against him, Calvey, and five other businessmen over the alleged illegal allocation of loans in 2015 were baseless, and that all of the financial operations in question had the goal of saving Vostochny Bank. Last week, Calvey, the founder of the private-equity group Baring Vostok, also proclaimed his innocence, saying he planned to continue investing in Russia after the trial is over, "but everything depends on the end of the process."
Ukraine has announced a fresh set of sanctions against 10 individuals close to ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, the latest in a series of moves by incumbent President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration against actors with ties to Russia. Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council on February 26 announced sanctions against former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, former Security Service Chief Oleksandr Yakymenko, and eight other individuals.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has officially appointed former Finance Minister Oksana Markarova as the country’s new ambassador to the United States as he seeks improved ties with Washington. In a February 25 statement announcing her appointment, Zelenskiy called Markarova a "high-caliber professional" and said he hoped she would not only strengthen political relations with Washington but help attract foreign investment to the country. Markarova’s appointment comes as Zelenskiy seeks to build strong bonds with the new Biden administration following troubled relations with his predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden and Zelenskiy have yet to speak.
The European Union has extended for one year sanctions targeting dozens of Belarusian officials, including longtime authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The announcement appeared on the website of the European Council on February 25, saying the sanctions targeted “officials responsible for the violent repression and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators, members of the opposition, and journalists in Belarus, as well as those responsible for electoral fraud.” Also read -- Belarusian Protester Killed By Soldier Found Guilty Of Disobeying Police.
A recent Levada Center poll found that 41 percent of Russians do not want to see Vladimir Putin as President after 2024, half of them say that the president has stayed for too long, they are tired of him and it is time for him to retire. Only 8 percent of respondents said that they want to change the President because of corruption. At the same time, the majority of Russians still don’t see an alternative to Putin. (Russian Service)
The RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Service’s Russian-language reporting project Idel.Realii reports that Russian-made UAZ jeeps, pickups and vans are now being sold in China. An eyewitness reports from a showroom where Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant vehicles are on sale for twice the cost of Chinese-made products. The UAZ press service did not confirm or comment about a possible contract with China. Last year, the governor of Russia’s Ulyanovsk region, Sergei Morozov, announced a trial delivery of 600 UAZ Hunter SUVs to China. (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s investigative program Schemes reports that leaders of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s "Servant of the People" party have failed to explain who's been funding their U.S. lobbyists Finsbury Glover Hering, who were hired on a monthly $50,000 retainer for “strategic consulting and support” in order to “establish Ukraine’s relations with the United States and EU countries.” Leadership of the party claim they did not hire lobbyists directly, however, they acknowledge that the contract was signed by an organization founded by aides to MP’s representing “Servant of the People.” (Ukrainian Service)
Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) says investigations have been launched against an unspecified number of guards at a prison in Siberia following reports of brutal mistreatment of inmates. The FSIN said on February 25 that probes were also begun against 10 inmates who allegedly tortured Tahirjon Bakiev, adding that it had yet to confirm the incidents were motivated by his ethnicity. The Gulagu.net human rights group reported in December and then again this month about two other cases of torture at correctional facilities in Irkutsk.
An online trend involving lewd challenges for viewer donations is gaining fans in Russia, but a spate of deaths and assaults on air has prompted action from lawmakers. The idea is fiendishly simple: Invite some friends over, get drunk on whatever is at hand, and broadcast the ensuing debauchery live through a computer webcam or smartphone. But what sets trash-streams apart are the lewd challenges carried out in exchange for small donations from viewers -- sometimes humorous, but often harmful dares that earn performers instant credit exchangeable for cash, or the digital equivalent of coins dropped in a busker's guitar case.
Chechnya's top court has ruled that the arrest of two young gay men was legal amid growing concern over their safety and the lack of legal representation in the North Caucasus region know for abuses against LGBT people. The court ruling on February 24 comes after Salekh Magamadov, 18, and a 17-year-old companion were abducted by security agents earlier in the month from Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia and driven back to Chechnya. RFE/RL is not revealing the identity of the second teenager because he is a minor.
A Russian court has sentenced a mother and her son to prison as part of ongoing persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious group. A court in Abakan in the Siberian region of Khakassia on February 24 sentenced Roman Baranovsky to six years in prison and his mother, Valentina Baranovskaya, to two years, the group said. Baranovskaya, 69, is the first woman to be imprisoned from the religious group. Last year, she suffered a stroke.
A shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia, who has been stopped several times by authorities as he attempted to reach Moscow on foot "to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin," has now been accused of attacking a police officer. Aleksei Pryanishnikov, legal coordinator for the opposition group Open Russia, said on February 24 that police in Yakutia's capital, Yakutsk, had launched a probe against Aleksandr Gabyshev, accusing him of a "violent act against a police officer" when he was forcibly taken from his home to a psychiatric clinic in late January. Further details were not immediately available.
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has proposed a ban on the purchase and rental of farmland by foreigners ahead of the expiration of a moratorium on land sales. Toqaev said on February 25 that "in order to stop rumors" he had ordered the drafting of an outline of a law "banning the buying and renting of Kazakhstan's farmland by foreign persons and companies." Said Toqaev, "The land issue has always been very important for our nation. It is a fundamental and sacred symbol of our statehood.... I also ordered the formation of a commission on land reform by March 25."