Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for a new round of economic sanctions on Moscow to make it clear that there will be “dire consequences” if it continues its buildup of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea. “Moscow should hear from every corner that it's not two sides, Ukraine and Russia, who bear responsibility for the escalation,” Kuleba said on April 20 in a conference call with reporters. "History proves that only painful economic sanctions can make a difference.” Also, EU Warns Russian Military Buildup Could 'Spark' Conflict As Ukraine Talks Yield Few Results.
Revelations that two Russian spies accused of a nerve-agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 may have been behind explosions at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014 that killed two people sparked outrage and anger in the Czech Republic. The allegations by Czech intelligence have plunged relations between Prague and Moscow to their lowest level since the end of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1989. Also read: A Czech Explosion, Russian Agents, A Bulgarian Arms Dealer: The Recipe For A Major Spy Scandal In Central Europe.
Amidst growing international concerns over treatment of jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, a Moscow court on April 15 sentenced Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, to a one-year suspended sentence of correctional labor and a fine of 10 percent of her salary for trespassing. In December 2020, Sobol had attempted to speak with a presumed Federal Security Service employee who was allegedly involved in Navalny’s 2020 poisoning. In excerpts from an interview with Current Time’s Newsday, Sobol responded to the sentence and addressed whether she plans to leave Russia.
Unemployment, a perennial problem in Georgia, has now become a problem that outranks even the coronavirus pandemic as a concern for most Georgians, according to a recent survey by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute. Some 20 percent of the South Caucasus country’s workforce are jobless. For Ana Chalidze, a single mother in the southern Georgian town of Tsalka, an employment program with Germany that started this month provides the sole “point of light.”
Current Time visited the intensive-care unit of a COVID-19 hospital in Kyiv, where a recent surge in infections means every single bed is full. Many patients arrive in critical condition and require mechanical ventilation of their lungs. Medical staff say they're battling difficult conditions and fatigue, while surviving patients speak of the trauma they have experienced.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan says he will be returning to the United States for consultations this week amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow, following U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement of punishing sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference, and threats against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Further souring the mood has been the issue of the health of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Russia's buildup of troops along the border in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and new allegations of Russian involvement in a deadly explosion at a munitions depot in the Czech Republic in 2014.
Allies of ailing, imprisoned Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny have not held back in delineating the stakes of their latest standoff with the Russian state. A wave of protests planned for April 21, they say, represents the "final battle between good and neutrality." Members of Navalny's embattled opposition movement, many of whom have fled Russia under the threat of incarceration, had planned not to announce new anti-government rallies until 500,000 people had registered online to take part. Strength in numbers, they said in viral clips posted online, was the only sure way to protect participants from police beatings and arrest.
A team of doctors seeking to examine Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has again been turned away from the prison where he is being treated at an infirmary, amid concerns his health is failing badly as he ends the third week of a hunger strike. Anastasia Vasilyeva, Navalny's personal doctor and the head of the Alliance of Doctors union, said on April 20 that the group of physicians came to the penitentiary and requested to see the Kremlin critic, only to wait several hours without success. Also read: Russian Prosecutor Blasted For Calling Navalny Organizations 'Extremist' and Russian Clergy Quarrel Over Navalny After A Priest Speaks Out In His Support.
In an exclusive on-location report from Russia-backed separatist-controlled Donetsk, the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service project Donbas.Realities reports that, with pictures of sandbagged windows and "go-bags" appearing in social media, local residents are increasingly worried that the active warfare of 2014-2016 may resume -- but say they will not leave their homes even in the event of a full-scale war. (Ukrainian Service/Donbas.Realii)
The U.S. State Department said on April 19 it would not renew a special license authorizing transactions with nine state-owned Belarusian companies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the action is a consequence of a "flagrant disregard for human rights and Belarus's failure to comply with its obligations under international human rights law." The U.S. Treasury Department first issued the license to the nine state-owned companies in 2015. Also read: Lukashenka Claims Assassination Plot; Russia Links Two Belarusians To 'Coup'.
Russia on April 20 declared two Bulgarian diplomats "personae non gratae" in a tit-for-tat response to Sofia's expulsion of two Russian diplomats last month over suspected espionage. The announcement, made in a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, came shortly after Bulgaria's ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the ministry a month after Sofia expelled the two Russian diplomats. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the expulsion of its diplomats from Bulgaria "baseless."
Current Time TV spoke with political scientist Anna Shelest about how far the U.S. and Russia can push sanctions regimes amid escalating tensions. In an interview, Shelest said that Russia’s sanctions are always asymmetric, because it has fewer levers of influence on the U.S. and EU countries. Shelest also called the possibility of disconnecting Russia from SWIFT “the sword of Damocles.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s investigative program Schemes revealed that, despite a massive Covid-19-related lockdown in Ukraine in which restaurants are not allowed to host guests and public transport is available only with special passes, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party Servant Of The People, Mykola Tyshchenko, threw a party at a five-star hotel in Kyiv to celebrate his wife's birthday. The celebration lasted more than five hours and guests were without protective masks. (Ukrainian Service)
According to RFE/RL Russian Service project Kavkaz.Realities, which cites an official report from the Russian Finance Ministry, the budgets of republics in the North Caucasus are among the least open across all Russian regions. Experts have drawn attention to the large increase in financial assistance to Dagestan and Chechnya in 2020, despite the fact that many other Russian regions suffered heavy losses due to the pandemic and the economic crisis. Despite the efforts of the authorities to redistribute funds from rich regions to poor ones, the North Caucasus remains one of the poorest in Russia. (Russian Service/Kavkaz.Realii)
An outspoken environmental activist who has been looking into illegal gold mining in Russia's Bashkortostan region says he was viciously beaten by unknown attackers in the town of Baimak. Ildar Yumagulov was hospitalized with two broken legs after three men attacked him 200 meters away from a police station on April 18. He told RFE/RL that two masked men in black clothing beat him with baseball bats and that when he managed to escape the attack, a third masked man appeared and knocked him down to allow the attack to continue.
Georgia's ruling party and part of the opposition signed an EU-mediated deal on April 19 to end months of political crisis in the Caucasus country. Georgia was plunged into political paralysis after the ruling Georgian Dream party won parliamentary elections in October 2020, in a vote the opposition said was unfair and fraudulent. The opposition has boycotted the new parliament and staged protests demanding new elections.
A Kyrgyz man suspected of consuming a toxic root that had been promoted by President Sadyr Japarov as an "effective" cure to treat COVID-19 has been hospitalized. Officials from the Bishkek Ambulance Center said on April 20 that a 63-year-old resident was rushed to the National Cardiology and Therapy Center (UKTB) in serious condition after possibly ingesting aconite root. On April 15, Japarov said on Facebook that the root has proven to be an "effective" method to treat COVID-19.
Rafoat Hoshimova and her family moved out of their house in the northern Tajik city of Khujand six years ago after it was announced their neighborhood would be demolished. City officials and private Chinese investors had signed an agreement to build a massive residential and leisure complex called Chinatown in the neighborhood, replacing its one-story houses with modern apartment blocks and recreational facilities. Six years later, more than 300 people are still waiting for new apartments, while stranded in rented homes or living with relatives. Khujand officials say the Chinese investors abandoned the project in 2018 after complaining the area wasn't suitable for a major construction project because of its proximity to the river.