Pro-Kremlin media outlets are actively spreading disinformation about coronavirus in an attempt to "undermine public trust" in Western countries, according to an internal European Union document.
As more countries close borders due to the coronavirus, the self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have closed the border with Georgia, but made an exception on the Russian side. Similarly, the so-called Donetsk People's Republic has restricted travel with Ukraine, but not Russia. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on March 18 that the government “will do the maximum” to help people get back home, in response to reports that hundreds of Russian tourists are stuck in Peru, India, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Morocco and elsewhere because of quarantine measures. Some enterprising travelers have used crowdfunding to finance their trip home. (Russian Service/Siberia Realities)
A massive construction effort is under way in Golokhvastovo, 50 kilometers southwest of Moscow, to build a hospital for the treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The site is expected to have 500 patient beds and separate dormitories to house a staff of 1,000. City officials say the hospital could open its doors within a month.
The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18. Deputy Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group recently traveled to an unspecified EU member state.
Today’s roundup focuses on Central Asia and the North Caucasus.
The trial of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in a Moscow prison on espionage charges, will start on March 23, his lawyers say, and will be held behind closed doors as the case materials are classified.
Russian media reports that Roman Putin, the son of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor, plans to launch a political party. The younger Putin says the party will be a “right-wing conservative project” that will protect entrepreneurs, reduce taxes on small businesses, fight monopolies, and give cheap loans. Previously, he worked for the Federal Security service and served as advisor to the mayor of Ryazan. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
In an interview with TASS, Russian President Vladimir Putin demurred from those who call him a “tsar,” saying “he works, not reigns.” When Putin was asked if he is “with us forever,” he replied, “If you want me to.” (Russian Service)
The former head of the Moscow branch of Russia's Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Drymanov, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for accepting a million-dollar bribe from Zakhary Kalashov, a notorious crime boss popularly known as Shakro Molodoi.
U.S. officials have confirmed that Vlad Plahotniuc, a powerful Moldovan oligarch and political figure linked to a massive bank theft, is in the United States despite being subject to a visa ban earlier this year. The confirmation raises questions about the circumstances surrounding his travels to the country, and the visa ban in particular, which was imposed in January on him and his family.
Former Kazakh state nuclear company head Mukhtar Dzhakishev, whose conviction on corruption charges in 2010 was criticized by many as politically motivated, has been released from prison. Dzhakishev, widely considered a political prisoner, was released under parole-like restrictions until his 14-year term is over.
Schemes, the investigative program of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, has reported that Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk is the sponsor of an event known as the Ukrainian Breakfast held annually at the Davos International Economic Forum. Pinchuk reportedly uses his private foundation to finance the attendance at the event of numerous Ukrainian parliamentarians. It is not clear whether this qualifies as a gift, or a breach of the country’s anticorruption law. Some of these parliamentarians have voted for legislation favoring Pinchuk’s business interests. (Ukrainian Service)