With COVID-19 cases rising in Russia, President Vladimir Putin went on TV on March 25 to announce measures he said were aimed at lending young families, workers, and small business owners financial support. Toward the end of his surprise 17-minute speech he said the assistance would be financed in whole or in part by taxes on the well-to-do.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's plan to defend the country from the coronavirus by decree has been branded a power grab by opposition groups and human rights activists. The Council of Europe has warned against an "indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency." (video)
The trial of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, held in a Moscow prison on espionage charges, has been postponed until April 13 because of restrictions related to the coronavirus, the Moscow City Court has announced.
Ecologists in Russia’s southeastern Siberian city of Khabarovsk have reported sharp ecological improvements due to a decrease in industrial production in China and a reduction in harmful emissions into the region’s atmosphere. One researcher says levels of carbon monoxide in the border areas have decreased five times, but fears the benefits are short-lived and will decline as the spread of the virus does. (Russian Service/Siberia Realities)
Ukraine’s parliament is meeting on March 30 consider legislation required by the IMF that would unlock $8 billion in assistance and additional support from the European Union, World Bank, EBRD, and other foreign backers.
A roof-riding Tbilisi man bicycles to stay fit amid Georgia's coronavirus lockdown. (video)
Uzbekistan Expands Lockdown; Iranian Prisoners Riot, Thousands Released
With Aigerim Toleukhan, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service; Shirin Aitmatova, founder of the Kyrgyz anti-corruption movement Umut (Hope) 2020; Nikita Makarenko, a journalist at gazeta.uz, Uzbekistan; and RFE/RL’s Bruce Pannier.
On March 25, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned parliament that a "pro-Western opposition division” was sneaking into the country’s military bases and hospitals and publishing classified information about the Russian Army. Many saw the remarks as a veiled dig at Svetlana Prokopyeva, a journalist in Pskov who is awaiting trial on extremism charges that rights groups have decried as politically motivated. The defense minister’s comments came amid government pledges to prosecute persons publishing “fake news” about the coronavirus, and one day after state-funded TV channel Rossia-24 alleged that Prokopyeva had illegally filmed a Russian military base near Pskov in 2018 at the behest of foreign handlers.
The European Union said in a March 27 statement that it rejects Russia's decision earlier this month to designate the Brussels-based European Endowment for Democracy (EED) an "undesirable" organization. The EED is a joint initiative of EU institutions and member states.
Andrei Lipov, as an official in the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was previously in charge of overseeing the project to create a “sovereign Internet.” As the newly named head of the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, he will now be responsible for implementing it. The son of Sergei Kiriyenko, Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, is one of the project’s main suppliers. (Russian Service)
Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, has announced that it is halting operations in Venezuela and selling its assets there to a company “100 percent owned by the government of the Russian Federation,” it said in a statement on March 28.
Ukraine’s parliament has voted to dismiss Finance Minister Ihor Umansky and Health Minister Ilya Yemets, both of whom were appointed to their positions earlier this month. No replacements have been named. (Ukrainian Service)
North Macedonia has become NATO's newest member with the presentation of its "instrument of accession" to the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C.