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Kemerovo Finds Fun In Face Masks

COVID-19 REPORTING

Out Went Ukraine’s Cabinet, In Came The Coronavirus And Pressure For Reforms

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading globally, Ukraine may need $10 billion to keep the country afloat. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s recent dismissal of a government that had the confidence of Ukraine's Western backers could not have come at a worse time. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on March 22 about a three-year, $5.5 billion loan.

Russian Demand For Consumer Credit Jumps As Ruble Weakens, COVID-19 Spreads

Russians have been applying for consumer credit and mortgages in greater numbers due to fears that prices and rates will soon increase, the business daily RBC reported. The Russian ruble has fallen nearly 20 percent over the past month after oil prices collapsed March 9 following a disagreement between Moscow and Riyadh on production cuts.

Russian PM Warns Companies Against Firing Employees During Crisis

Russia's prime minister has warned companies to keep people employed and pay them their salaries even as they struggle amid a growing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and the plummet in global oil prices.

Perm Opera-Ballet Stays Open -- For One Spectator At A Time

The famed Perm Opera and Ballet Theater in Russia's Urals region plans to continue performances despite restrictions forced by the coronavirus crisis -- by allowing one lucky spectator at a time to attend.

Minsk Priests Deploy Helicopter And Holy Water To Purify City Against Virus

RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports that, following a prayer service over the coronavirus, priests from the All Saints church in Minsk blessed the water and sprinkled it over the city from a helicopter so that “the Lord could pacify the virus.” The country’s health ministry has reported 76 infected patients. (Belarus Service/Current Time)

Virus? What Virus, As Turkmenistan Seals Off Capital

Turkmenistan has sealed off its capital, Ashgabat, ostensibly due to the coronavirus, without any public announcement by authorities or state media in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation. Turkmenistan hasn’t officially recorded any coronavirus infections and authorities have vehemently denied reports in early March that at least two people were quarantined with the infection.

COVID-19 Roundup:

Today’s roundup from RFE/RL’s coverage region reports on rising Russian cases, and Montenegro’s first death.

OTHER NEWS

Russian Tests Facial-Payment Technology

Russia is testing facial-payment technology at supermarkets and could roll it out on a large scale by the middle of the year.

Rosneft Chief Downplays Rift With Saudis

Igor Sechin, the powerful head of Russia's largest oil company, has downplayed the disagreement with Saudi Arabia that led to a dramatic fall in oil prices, and predicted a quick rebound sometime this year as U.S. shale production is knocked out. Sechin told state media in a televised interview on March 20 that the so-called OPEC+ group had lost its significance in balancing the global oil market.

Baikonur Launches OneWeb Rocket With 34 Satellites

Russian media reports that a Soyuz rocket with 34 British satellites belonging to communications startup OneWeb was launched on March 21 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. The first six OneWeb satellites were launched in June 2019. The Pentagon has announced it will stop utilizing commercial satellites launched with Russian rockets beginning in 2023. (Russian Service)

Ukraine Tests Turkish Bayraktar Drones

Ukraine’s military has tested Turkish Bayraktar drones for the first time, amid speculation they would be deployed to the country’s eastern Donbas region. The Bayraktar has effectively destroyed Russian air defense systems in Syria, but experts say its large size and slow cruising speed make it an easy target for Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. (Ukrainian Service/Donbas Realities)

North Macedonia's President Signs NATO Accession Document

President Stevo Pendarovski of North Macedonia has signed the final accession document for the small Balkan country's entry into NATO. Spain ratified the former Yugoslav republic’s membership on March 17, the last alliance member to do so.

Kosovo Approves Partial Lifting Of 100 Percent Tariffs Against Serbia

The government of Kosovo has approved the decision to partially lift a politically divisive 100 percent import tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, at least on a temporary basis.

Trial Of Former Kyrgyz President Atambaev To Begin

The trial of former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev and 13 co-defendants over deadly clashes with security forces last year at Atambaev's compound in a Bishkek suburb is set to begin behind closed doors on March 23.

SCHEMES: Viktor Pinchuk’s Davos Breakfast Club

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)

OBITUARY: Former Actor, RFE/RL Russian Service Broadcaster Ernst Zorin Dies In New York

AFGHANISTAN: How The Taliban Went From International Pariah To U.S. Peace Partner

PRESSROOM: RFE/RL Counters Disinformation To Help Combat Coronavirus In High-Risk Countries

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