This year's Victory Day parade and celebrations on May 9 were meant to unite Russia. They were also meant to cap off a political season orchestrated to reinvigorate President Vladimir Putin's government, culminating in an April 22 plebiscite cementing constitutional changes granting the 67-year-old leader a chance to rule until he's 83. Now that plebiscite has been indefinitely postponed, and the parade is in jeopardy.
Pskov Governor Mikhail Vedernikov last week inspected the infectious diseases department of the city hospital clad in a proper protective suit -- one of only a few such suits kept in a hospital vault. The medics, wearing simple gowns and masks, were irate. Artur Gaiduk, an ambulance doctor and a deputy in the Pskov regional assembly of deputies, commented that the medics themselves who are in contact with infected patients have no such suits. “I've never seen such wonderful suits in the ambulance unit,” he said. (Russian Service/Sever Realities)
Some cities have ordered public areas to be sprayed with disinfectant in an effort to curb the coronavirus, which can be spread by contact with surfaces. In the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, engineers repurposed jet engines to create a powerful antiviral blast.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica, quoting a solicitation posted to WhatsApp, has reported that Russians living in Italy have offered their Italian friends up to 200 Euros to appear in videos broadcast by Russian media and posted to social networks thanking Russia and President Vladimir Putin for humanitarian assistance sent to help counter the coronavirus. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Ukraine’s war-weary soldiers have fought a grinding trench war against Russia-backed forces for six years. But the deadly coronavirus that is sweeping the globe makes no sound, and no bulletproof helmet or vest can protect the soldiers from it. Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation that oversees military action in the Donbas region announced last week that it was imposing stricter health measures and preparing for a potential surge in coronavirus cases in the war zone.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has made disparaging comments about victims of the coronavirus, dismissing his country's caseload as "miniscule" and insisting it is "no catastrophe." Yet throughout April, the number of officially confirmed cases has roughly doubled every three days.
At least 16 activists have been detained in Azerbaijan since the outbreak of the coronavirus, leading human rights defenders to claim that authorities are using the pretext of non-compliance with quarantine rules to crack down. Amnesty International has stated that persecution of activists due to alleged non-compliance with the quarantine is happening more and more often. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
In Mostar, a city divided by war in the early 1990s in nearly every respect between mostly Catholic Bosnian Croats and mainly Muslim Bosniaks, twin facilities that have mostly served their respective ethnically homogeneous communities are cooperating.
Media freedom watchdogs have expressed concern regarding the alleged pressure authorities in Kosovo are putting on KoSSev, an online news portal based in the Serb-majority town of North Mitrovica. OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Harlem Desir said in a statement on April 12 that journalists play a “key role” in the coronavirus crisis by providing “vital information” to the public, and, accordingly, a free working environment for them is “essential and need[s] to be ensured at all times.”
Garlic and lemon prices have tripled amid shortages in markets in Tajikistan. The rise is reportedly due to a belief among some that they offer protection against the coronavirus. The World Health Organization says it's not just fighting a pandemic, but also "an infodemic of misinformation." (video)
Around the world, new rules implemented by governments to counter the spread of the coronavirus are raising questions as to whether they are also being used to gain further control over their populations. Erica Marat, associate professor at the National Defense University; Edward Lemon, assistant professor at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security; and Farruh Yusupov, director of RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, discuss.
Putin Says He May Bring In Defense Ministry; Iran's Death Toll Surpasses 4,500
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on April 13 asked the Moscow court trying him on espionage charges to allow a doctor from the American Embassy to examine him at his detention facility, saying his groin hernia had worsened, according to his lawyer. The court will announce a decision on the request at the next hearing, scheduled for April 20.
The Washington-based Jamestown Foundation said in an April 9 statement that its operations, including its reporting about the North Caucasus region, will not be affected by Russia's decision to add it to its list of "undesirable organizations." Russia’s Prosecutor-General's Office said last week that the Foundation’s publications were aimed at fanning separatism and constituted a security threat.
Arsonists have attacked a synagogue in Russia's northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, the latest attack on the property since 2015. Anatoly Obermeister, the leader of the local Jewish community, told RFE/RL that the culprits used car tires and a combustible substance in the attack, which took place during the early hours of April 13.
Firefighters have contained wildfires burning in the area of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. The blaze burned through over 3,000 hectares in a week and reportedly elevated radiation levels in the region.
Officials in Minsk say a nuclear power plant being constructed in the country’s western region of Hrodno will be launched during the summer and start producing electricity in the autumn.
A court in Georgia has sentenced opposition leader and former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili to five years in prison following the outbreak of violence during mass protests in Tbilisi last June, raising concerns from the United States over political interference in the judiciary.
De facto authorities in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh are holding a second round of elections for the disputed region’s leader on April 14 amid international criticism and safety concerns due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A recent Levada Center poll has found that 38% of respondents, the highest number measured since 2000, believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin expresses the interests of oligarchs, bankers, and large entrepreneurs. 37% said he represents the interests of security officials, and 18% said he represents the middle class. (Russian Service)