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MONITORING COVID-19: Serbia Declares State Of Emergency; Iran Warns Of Overwhelmed Health System

MONITORING COVID-19: Serbia Declares State Of Emergency; Iran Warns Of Overwhelmed Health System

VISUAL REPORTS

Concerns In Kosovo Over Threat Of U.S. Troop Withdrawal

U.S. officials are pressuring Kosovo to drop its punitive tariffs against rival Serbia -- and some have warned that U.S. troops might leave the country if it doesn't comply. Kosovars told RFE/RL's Balkan Service they fear a withdrawal could put them in danger.

The Tomsk Tomcat With Titanium Paws

A Russian veterinary surgeon has successfully fitted four titanium feet to a stray cat who lost his paws to the Siberian cold. Sergei Gorshkov implanted the prosthetics into the leg bones of Ryzhik, a tomcat found on the streets of Tomsk.

PHOTOGALLERY: Prague In Lockdown During Coronavirus Scare

Life on the street photographed after the Czech government declared a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. RFE/RL is headquartered in the Czech capital.

Inside Iran’s MEK Opposition Group

The Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) is an exiled Iranian opposition group with a sprawling complex in the hills of Albania. The United States labelled it a terror group until deciding to delist it in 2012. But while the MEK now has influential friends in Washington, others warn that the group is not to be trusted.

OTHER NEWS

Russia Announces $4 Billion Fund To Prop Up Economy

Russia, hit by falling oil prices and the coronavirus outbreak, has announced the formation of a $4 billion fund to support the economy. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on March 16 that the new measures would include tax breaks for airlines and tourism companies, along with preferential loans to businesses. State companies, such as Gazprom and Rosneft, may be allowed to delay dividend payments by six months.

U.S. Regulator Charges Russian National With Defrauding Millions From American Investors

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Russian national with scamming American investors out of at least $26 million over the past five years by allegedly offering fake, high-yielding deposits. Denis Sotnikov, 36, has been accused of purchasing Internet ads that directed people searching for certificates of deposit to websites mimicking legitimate financial firms.

EU Slams Russia For Militarization, Human Rights Violations in Crimea

The European Union has slammed Russia for its increasing militarization of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and human rights transgressions six years after its “illegal” annexation.

Approved By Putin, Constitutional Changes Move To High Court

In an urgent session convened on March 14, Russia's Constitutional Court convened to begin a review of constitutional amendments that would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to run again for president in 2024. A ruling is expected this week. In his popular weekly program on Rossia 24 last night, Russian state media boss Dmitry Kiselyov told his audiences that “Russia without Putin is still not viable.”

Kremlin Reportedly Considers Postponing Constitutional Vote

Russian media reports that the Kremlin may postpone a planned April 22 referendum on constitutional amendments because of the spread of the coronavirus. Currently, the possibility of remote voting is only technically possible in Moscow. (Russian Service)

RFE/RL Contributor Prokopyeva Charged With ‘Publically Justifying Terrorism’

RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports that the Pskov prosecutor’s office has indicted contributor Svetlana Prokopyeva with “publicly justifying terrorism.” The charges relate to comments Prokopyeva made for the Ekho Moskvy broadcaster in November 2018 in which she sought to provide insight into a suicide bombing of a Federal Security Service office in Arkhangelsk the week before. (Russian Service/Sever Realities)

Dozens Arrested In Moscow Pickets Against ’Lawlessness’ And 'Repression'

Dozens of people holding single-person pickets near the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service on March 14 were detained by Moscow police. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has called on Russian authorities to "thoroughly" investigate the police beating of 78-year-old veteran human rights defender Lev Ponomaryov, who attended the protests.

In Ukraine, Smuggling Of Masks Overtakes Cigarettes

The head of Ukraine’s State Customs Service has said that, in numerical terms, the attempted illegal smuggling of medical masks from Ukraine last week exceeded the smuggling of cigarettes. 130,000 medical masks were confiscated at borders, in violation of a government ban on the export of anti-epidemic supplies. (Ukrainian Service)

U.S. Offers 'Competitively' Priced Oil To Belarus

The U.S. State Department has announced "the willingness of U.S. companies to begin immediately selling oil to Belarus at competitive market prices" in a clear signal to Minsk -- and neighboring Russia -- of Washington's desire to expand trade ties with the country.

U.S. Aid Agency 'Pauses' Kosovo Programs Over Tariffs

In a March 13 press release, the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corporation said it would "pause implementation" of a so-called threshold program to help boost prospects for economic growth until Pristina "resolves" its "tariff issue" with neighbor Serbia.

Romanian Deputies Back New Orban Government

Lawmakers in Romania backed center-right Prime Minister Ludovic Orban's government in a vote of confidence on March 14 to end a month of wrangling and allow officials to try and combat the global coronavirus pandemic.

Turkmen President Orders Harmala Smoke To Fend Off Coronavirus

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered that public premises be fumigated with harmala, an herb also known as wild or Syrian rue. Berdymukhamedov reportedly explained to government officials that harmala smoke is effective in guarding against “viruses invisible to the eye.” Turkmenistan has officially reported no cases of the coronavirus, however, sources at the Ashgabat Infectious Disease Hospital told RFE/RL that three people have been diagnosed and are being held in quarantine. (in Russian, RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

COMMENTARY: Do Oil Price Cuts Signal Bad Economic Times Again For Central Asia?

AFGHANISTAN: Government Postpones Plan To Release Taliban Prisoners

SYRIA: Syrian Civil War Enters 10th Year As Russia, Turkey Struggle To Maintain Truce

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