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COVID-19 REPORTING

COVID-19: Moldova Reports First Death; 7,000 Romanians Blocked At Border

RFE/RL’s daily roundup has news about the pandemic in Iran, which has reported another spike in infections, Romania, and Hungary. Kyrgyzstan reported its first three cases.

Russia Series: Hospital In The Fields: Building A Treatment Facility For COVID-19

Efforts in Moscow to stand up emergency hospitals to treat patients with the coronavirus are eliciting complaints from local communities about compliance with local laws. Residents in New Moscow, the site of one new facility, have raised concerns about waste disposal, the screening of construction companies, and the dearth of public information about the project. Pediatrician Fyodor Katasonov said the selected site is too far away to provide for the efficient transport of patients, or speedy access by doctors in an emergency. (Russian Service)

Orthodox Priests Bless Tbilisi Streets In Bid To Halt Disease

Orthodox clergymen blessed the streets of central Tbilisi, praying for Georgia's protection from the COVID-19 pandemic.They loaded plastic drums full of holy water onto trucks and doused some of the roadways of the capital on March 17.The country has registered more than 30 cases of the disease, with no reported deaths.

Armenian Volunteers Team Up To Make Thousands Of Face Masks

A pair of brothers, declaring it is “absolutely wrong to make masks and sell them for a profit,” has gathered volunteers and materials and set to work.

OTHER NEWS

Russian President Sets Date For National Vote On Constitutional Amendments

Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the date for a constitutional referendum that could extend his power for April 22, but the battle to stem the coronavirus pandemic may delay his plans.

Controversial Head Of Moscow Election Authority Resigns

Moscow Election Commission chief Valentin Gorbunov has resigned the post he held since 1995 due to health reasons. Activists have long demanded his ouster, most recently after he banned opposition and independent candidates from the ballot in last year’s Moscow city council election.

Putin Characterizes Over Seventy Percent Of Russians As Middle Class

In an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, President Vladimir Putin cited methodology he attributed to the World Bank to claim that people in Russia whose income is 1.5 times higher than the country’s $138 monthly minimum wage, or about $214, are considered middle class. According to official state data for the first six months of 2019, more than 20 million Russians live below the minimum wage. (Russian Service)

Two Views Of The Latest Minsk Talks: Ukraine Vs. Russia

Following the recent round of negotiations on March 1 in Minsk, Ukrainian presidential administration head Andriy Yermak said Ukraine has had no discussion about direct talks with the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and that no steps have been taken to recognize them. By contrast, Russian state media outlets claimed that the recent negotiations open a path for direct dialogue between Ukraine and the separatist republics. (in Russian, Current Time)

New Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Raises Concerns

Iryna Venedyktova, who has been named as Ukraine’s new prosecutor-general, is a top investigative official who has clashed with reporters and civil society activists. Her appointment, as have others, has caused concern among civil-society activists who fear President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is backsliding on reforms.

Agricultural Executive Takes Over As Ukraine’s New Economy Minister

Ukraine’s parliament has approved as 44-year-old executive Ihor Petrashko as economy minister. Petrashko's management career has been in large-scale farming, investment banking, and consulting.

Crimean Tatar Activist Describes Six Years Under Russian Rule

Since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula six years ago, Crimean Tatars have been targeted for repressions. Earlier this month, Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova announced that 86 Crimean Tatars are on the government’s list of some 200 names for the next prisoner exchange with Russia.

Bulgarian Investigative Journalist Hospitalized After Being Savagely Beaten

Bulgaria's Interior Ministry says veteran investigative journalist Slavi Angelov has been attacked by unidentified assailants near his home in Sofia. Angelov, the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper 168 Hours, was beaten with metal pipes late on March 17 and is now in the hospital. He told the media from his hospital bed that he was attacked by two men wearing masks, while a third masked man filmed the assault on a mobile phone.

Azerbaijani Journalist Muxtarli Released After Court Commutes Prison Sentence

An Azerbaijani court in Baku on March 17 ordered the release of reporter Afqan Muxtarli from prison, commuting a six-year sentence and transferring him to Germany the same day. Muxtarli was abducted in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, on May 29, 2017, and subsequently transferred to Azerbaijan, where he was convicted of smuggling, illegally crossing the border, and using force against a government official.

Gulnara Karimova Sentenced To Prison

The Supreme Court of Uzbekistan reports that the Tashkent City Criminal Court has completed its trial of Gulnara Karimova, and that she has been sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison. Karimova and several associates have been convicted of crimes related to extortion, embezzlement of state funds, money laundering, and participation in an organized crime group. (in Russian, Current Time TV)

OBITUARY: Russian Nationalist Eduard Limonov Dies

PRESSROOM: OSCE Calls On Russia To Drop Terrorism Charges Against Journalist Prokopyeva

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