As Russia pursues vigorous "vaccine diplomacy," offering its Sputnik V vaccine to other countries, its own citizens can't get the much-needed shot in the arm. Russia has fully vaccinated just 1.5 percent of its population, and people around the country told Current Time that their appointments had been canceled as vaccines had run out.
Russia's remote Kurgan region, near Kazakhstan, is the location of about one-sixth of the country's uranium reserves. A subsidiary of the state nuclear agency is expanding its operations there, using sulfuric acid to leach out the uranium ore. But for many local residents, the growth of the mines means not greater wealth, but greater dangers.
Two Bulgarian friends, one of whom grew up with deaf parents, have launched an online video series with sign-language interpretation of poetry and films. It's meant to raise the visibility of the deaf community and allow different groups to come closer together through culture.
A protest procession of around 200 buses from transport companies across Kosovo made their way through the streets of the capital, Pristina, on March 19. The owners of the bus companies are asking for government support, financial or otherwise, to save their companies from bankruptcy during the pandemic.
One hundred years ago, a treaty now forgotten by many was signed in the Latvian capital, Riga. It formally ended an undeclared war between Poland, just reemerging on the map after being wiped out centuries earlier, and upstart Bolshevik Russia, which was preaching world communist revolution. The Treaty of Riga redrew the borders of much of Eastern Europe, but for many it came to be seen as an unmitigated disaster -- in particular among Lithuanians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians whose hopes for democratic independent states were largely dashed as a result of the pact.
A senior Afghan official says the government and the Taliban have agreed at a meeting in Moscow to try to accelerate talks aimed at ending decades of war in the country. The March 19 meeting followed an international conference in the Russian capital on the intra-Afghan peace process, just six weeks before a deadline for the United States to pull out troops that have been in the war-torn country for nearly 20 years. The gathering was aimed at breathing life into negotiations that started in September between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which have stalled over government accusations that the insurgents have done too little to halt violence.
Bulgaria says it has detained and charged six people suspected of passing classified information to Russia. A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, Siika Mileva, said on March 19 that the suspects were part of an espionage group led by "a former senior member of the Defense Minister's Military Intelligence Service.” He had recruited Bulgarian officials who had access to classified information about Bulgaria, NATO, and the EU, Mileva said, adding that his wife had dual Russian-Bulgarian citizenship and "played the role of intermediary” between the ex-officer and an employee of the Russian Embassy.
A Russian citizen who was arrested in the U.S. last summer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to introduce malware into the computer network of automaker Tesla. The U.S. Justice Department said on March 18 that Yegor Kryuchkov pleaded guilty in federal court "for conspiring to travel to the United States to recruit an employee of a Nevada company into a scheme to introduce malicious software into the company’s computer network." According to the statement, in the summer of 2020, the 27-year-old Kryuchkov and his accomplices tried to bribe a company employee, offering him $1 million to install malicious software to get access to the firm's network so that Kryuchkov could extort cash from Tesla by threatening to make the stolen data public.
In late January 2020, as the U.S. presidential campaign started to take shape, a video documentary appeared on U.S. television -- part of an effort, according to the U.S. intelligence community, to bolster Donald Trump's reelection bid and denigrate one of his strongest challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden. Neither the documentary nor the network on which it aired is identified in a new report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But the source of the information is.
The head of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's network in Russia says police have swept through the Far East city of Khabarovsk and detained several Navalny activists, local opposition politicians, and journalists. Leonid Volkov wrote on Twitter on March 19 that Aleksei Vorsin, the head of Navalny's team in Khabarovsk, was arrested and that his pretrial restrictions will be decided by a local court on March 20. Vorsin, Artyom Mozgov, a coordinator of the Libertarian party in Khabarovsk, and Andrei Pastukhov, a candidate for the city council, said earlier in the day via Telegram that police had searched their homes. Also -- Moscow Court Prolongs House Arrests Of Four Navalny Supporters.
The United States and European Union have reiterated their condemnation of Russia's increasing repression of independent media, including RFE/RL. Courtney Austrian, the U.S. charge d' affaires to the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said on March 18 that Russia's new requirements for outlets branded "foreign media agents" were in some cases technically impossible and were being "used against entities and individuals associated, sometimes only tangentially, with U.S. Agency for Global Media, or USAGM, funded programming in Russia."
Russia will help Armenia extend the life of its nuclear power plant in Metsamor for another 10 years, according to the director of the station. Addressing a conference in Yerevan on the development of nuclear energy in Armenia on March 18, Movses Vardanian said that a working group is being set up jointly with Russia’s Rosatom Corporation for that purpose. Vardanian said the extension will add 10 more years to the life of the station, which is currently due to be decommissioned in 2026.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has made good on promises to reignite the effort to topple Alyaksandr Lukashenka, announcing a nationwide online vote on possible mediated negotiations to end the crisis and calling for renewed protests over the disputed August 2020 presidential election, as well as more sanctions from the U.S. to pressure the authorities. In a video statement released on March 18, Tsikhanouskaya called on Belarusians to initiate a "second wave of protests" next week against Lukashenka, the authoritarian leader who was declared president for a sixth-straight term despite the opposition's belief that Tsikhanouskaya was the rightful winner. Also -- Belarus Man Hit By Police Vehicle During Rallies Gets Two-Year Prison Term.
Seven years ago, Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula was illegally annexed by Russia. Mass celebrations titled “Crimean Spring. Seven Years at Home” have been organized in Crimea as well as in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, with participation of numerous celebrities and Russian President Vladimir Putin. These festivities are taking place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, while opposition activists have been jailed for violating sanitary and epidemiological safety precautions. Speaking to Current Time TV, political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov said such large-scale celebrations are occurring because “the Crimea effect has worn off” and the government is trying to generate a “rally ‘round the flag” effect. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Ukraine’s National Security And Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov announced sanctions against nearly 30 former high-ranking officials from the era of the ousted President Victor Yanukovych, as well as Yanukovych himself. Danilov said that while some of the former officials had been citizens of Ukraine, today 99 percent of them are citizens of the Russian Federation. According to the Security Council, the sanctioned individuals contribute to bolstering the occupation regime in Russia-annexed Crimea and separatist-held Donbas, among them former Crimea prosecutor and now Russian MP Natalia Poklonskaya, as well as Russia-backed Crimea leader Sergei Aksenov. Additionally, the Security Council enacted "maximum sanctions" against 19 companies exploiting Ukraine’s subsoil resources. (Ukrainian Service)
In 2017, Sergei Krasikov won a national competition for Russia’s best young forest ranger. Now Krasikov is the target of a criminal case on charges that he exceeded his authority during an October 2020 arrest of five alleged poachers in a protected area within the ecosystem of Russia's world-famous Lake Baikal. Krasikov's case, observers say, reflects the enormous challenges facing those who have dedicated their lives to protecting Russia's natural heritage. Rangers across the country face sometimes lethal danger from poachers and others who often turn out to have connections with local police, prosecutors, or politicians.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev says a secretive mountain retreat that was allegedly built for him belongs to the state and is used to entertain "high-ranking guests." An RFE/RL investigative report lifted the curtain on the luxurious mansion allegedly built for Mirziyoev in the protected Ugam-Chatkal National Park about 100 kilometers northeast of Tashkent.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Azerbaijan to investigate all allegations of ill-treatment against Armenian prisoners of war from last fall’s war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, and to hold those responsible to account. Azerbaijani forces subjected POWs to “cruel and degrading treatment and torture either when they were captured, during their transfer, or while in custody at various detention facilities,” the New York-based human rights watchdog said in a statement on March 19. It said Azerbaijan should also immediately release all remaining Armenian POWs and civilian detainees and provide information on those who were last seen in Azerbaijani custody. Also read -- Political Prisoners Among Individuals Pardoned By Azerbaijani President.
Baibolat Kunbolatuly is one of the millions of Muslims from China's western Xinjiang region who has a family member imprisoned or in an internment camp amid Beijing’s oppressive campaign against Muslims. The 40-year-old Kunbolatuly has been staging protests in front of the Chinese Embassy in Nur-Sultan and the consulate in Almaty since early 2020, but was detained in February and sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention. While in custody, Kunbolaty told RFE/RL after his release, he came under pressure from officials who demanded that he end his campaign: “An official told me, 'Your heart might stop, too.'”