According to Russia’s Channel 1,“They say people will be buried in mass graves...The bodies of the dead are already being stored in Central Park...Trailers intended for transporting food are being hastily converted to storage for dead bodies...The country is expecting a new September 11th and Pearl Harbor combined.” Scenes of overcrowded hospitals and cemeteries are combined with claims about the incompetence of American medicine and the failed policies of American authorities to create a mood of apocalypse and panic and suggest the entire country is falling apart. (in Russian, Footage Vs. Footage, Current Time TV)
Since early April, the coronavirus has taken a firm hold in Russia, with the confirmed cases exceeding 42,000 and the number of infected rising every day. “We have many problems and nothing to brag about here. And there’s no point in relaxing,” President Vladimir Putin said on April 13 in a video call with regional governors from his official residence outside Moscow. “We have not passed the peak of this epidemic.”
With the country’s COVID-19 infections spiraling upward, critics charge that denial is not an effective response. (video)
Global tallies of coronavirus cases don’t include Ukraine’s eastern regions, a war-torn territory roughly the size of Belgium and occupied by around 4 million people. Yet health experts warn the situation there is bad and likely to grow worse. The number of infections is rising, there is no personal protective equipment to be bought anywhere, and doctors are in short supply.
Senior citizens flocked to shops in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, in the early morning of April 17 to stock up on supplies before stricter COVID-19 lockdown measures came into effect for the Orthodox Easter holidays. Stores were open from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. before a strict curfew for seniors came into effect. (video)
An Orthodox priest used a microphone to involve a neighborhood in an Easter Vigil. People stood in their windows with candles lit to the sound of litanies and church bells in the city of Cluj-Napoca on the night of April 18-19. Romania is no exception to the rules of physical distancing adopted around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. (video)
Kazakh officials are working to guide the country through the health crisis caused by the coronavirus and the dramatic economic effects of a drastic drop in global prices for oil, the country's major export. But former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the official Leader of the Nation, and the Security Council he leads, have pulled a major vanishing act.
Kazakh political activist and government critic Arman Shuraev has been detained by police in connection with allegedly spreading "false information" during a state of emergency. A police statement issued on April 18 said Shuraev had used social networks to "repeatedly spread knowingly false information," although it offered no details.
As the coronavirus forces lockdowns across the world, several hundred soccer fans gathered in a stadium in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, to attend a domestic league match. The Sports Ministry said the decision to reopen the soccer season “pleased the army of fans” and was welcomed by players.
With borders closed and most flights, trains, and buses canceled, Central Asia’s migrants are unemployed and far from home. Damelia Aitkhozhina, a Moscow-based researcher for Human Rights Watch; Aruuke Uran Kyzy, a journalist for TRT World in Istanbul; and Tohir Safarov, a multimedia producer with RFE/RL’s Tajik Service discuss.
U.S. military officials have complained that a Russian fighter jet on April 19 came dangerously close to a U.S. surveillance plane in the Mediterranean Sea, the second such encounter in four days in the region. Several aircraft tracking sites said the incident occurred in the eastern Mediterranean, not far from the Syrian coast.
The Kremlin has formally protested the April 2 detention of a Russian fishing boat by Norway's coast guard near the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The islands, 850 kilometers north of mainland Norway, are seen as a potential flashpoint between Moscow and the West, as climate change has opened up the resource-rich region.
A military court in the western Russian region of Pskov has suspended a scheduled hearing in the case against RFE/RL contributor Svetlana Prokopyeva, who is accused of using a mass media platform to justify terrorism. Prokopyeva and rights monitors have rejected the charges, which carry a potential 7-year sentence, calling them a blatant effort to silence an independent journalist. (Russian Service)
Russia's Embassy in the Czech Republic has reportedly changed its formal address in Prague after the square where the embassy is located was renamed for slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The move comes amid diplomatic skirmishing between the two countries over World War II statues and other remnants of the Cold War period.
A court in Kyiv has placed former lawmaker Tetyana Chornovol under house arrest on suspicion of murder during deadly antigovernment protests that took place in February 2014. Chornovol, a member of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party, was informed after police searched her home on April 10 that she is a suspect in the murder of an employee with the pro-Russia Party of Regions.
New fires have broken out near the former Chernobyl power plant, site of the 1986 nuclear catastrophe. Firefighters had earlier said they had extinguished the wildfires after heavy rain aided their efforts. Several abandoned villages and a Soviet-era youth camp were destroyed, with the damage to nature deemed much greater. (video)
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said on April 17 it was "deeply troubled" by reports that Russian-led “security actors” have resumed “borderization” activities along the administrative boundary line of the Georgian-breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's eldest son has become the chairman of the parliament's upper chamber. Lawmakers on April 17 approved the appointment of Rustam Emomali, who is also mayor of the capital, Dushanbe, making him the country’s second-highest-ranking political figure.
U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff and Steve Chabot have addressed a bipartisan letter to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon about the government’s continuing refusal to accredit RFE/RL journalists and other harassment, urging the Tajik authorities to let RFE/RL's operations "continue unabated."
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PRESSROOM: As Coronavirus Spreads, Authorities Target RFE/RL Journalists In Effort To Control Information