Ventilators sent to the United States by Russia to help treat COVID-19 patients are the same model that reportedly caused two deadly fires in Russian hospitals, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on May 12. The devices were never deployed to U.S. hospitals and are being returned to the federal government “out of an abundance of caution," a FEMA spokeswoman said in a statement. (video)
The massive Kola Yard project in the town of Belokamenka on the western shore of the Kola Bay has been a flagship of Russia’s effort to develop the Far North and open the Arctic region for economic exploitation. The project by natural-gas firm Novatek will build gas platforms that can be towed out into the relatively shallow waters along Russia’s Arctic coast to boost Novatek’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) production to some 34 million tons a year. In recent weeks, however, Belokamenka -- which reported a population of just 84 people in the 2010 census -- has acquired a new renown as a major hotspot in Russia’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The owner of a private zoo in Ukraine is struggling to protect his animals from hunger, cold, and depression. Mykhaylo Pinchuk has had to modify feed for animals to save costs after the zoo closed to visitors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (video)
Activists in Turkmenistan say authorities are preventing the distribution of aid they've collected from foreign sources to give to residents of the country's storm-ravaged eastern regions. The activists say the blocked aid was donated by Turkmen citizens in other countries to help residents in the regions of Lebap and Mary who are not receiving government assistance. The activists told RFE/RL that security officials have detained aid workers who were trying to identify people in the east who need aid.
Iran Allows Mosques To Open Temporarily; Russia Reports Nearly 11,000 New Cases.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations says Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms embargo on Iran and reimpose UN sanctions against Tehran. Vassily Nebenzia’s comments on May 12 made clear that the United States will have difficulty extending the embargo past its expiration in October through the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power.
A specter is haunting Vedomosti, threatening to undermine the independence of one of Russia's most respected business newspapers. Russia's biggest oil company may be behind it. A joint investigation published on May 12 by reporters from Vedomosti and three other media outlets found that the newspaper's debts now appear to be held by a bank owned by Rosneft.
Russian special police have detained Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia who gained notoriety in 2019 after declaring that he wanted to drive President Vladimir Putin from power. On May 12, at least 20 officers from an OMON police unit of the National Guard reportedly stormed into Gabyshev's home in the city of Yakutsk. Gabyshev was taken away barefooted and in handcuffs.
Instagram has once again blocked the accounts of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Chairman of Chechnya’s parliament Magomed Daudov, Deputy Prime Minister Abuzayd Vismuradov, and Russian State Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov, citing international sanctions brought against them. Kadyrov protested that the accounts are personal ones. His Facebook and Instagram pages were previously blocked in December 2017, after he was added by the United States to the Magnitsky Sanctions list. (in Russian, Kavkaz Realities)
The Ukrainian parliament has passed a banking bill that is required for approval of a new IMF program. The new law establishes regulations and procedures for compensating current and former owners whose banks have been removed from the market by the state. (Ukrainian Service)
The U.S. and European Union ambassadors have called on Georgia's political parties to uphold a foreign-brokered deal on election reforms after more than two months of failing to move forward. In a statement, the facilitators of the deal said it was intended to "depolarize" Georgia's political system and "create a better environment" for October parliamentary elections following the failure of promised constitutional amendments to move to fully proportional parliamentary elections in 2020.
Media-freedom watchdogs are urging the Tajik authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack on Abdulloh Ghurbati, a reporter for the Asia-Plus news agency, and bring the perpetrators to justice.
On May 13, Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court is set to hold its final hearing in the appeal of ethnic Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov against his life sentence. Askarov, who also contributed to independent news websites, has been behind bars for nearly 10 years on what human rights and media-freedom watchdogs described as trumped-up charges.
During May 11 - 18, Current Time is screening the world TV premiere of State Funeral, the award-winning, immersive documentary film by Ukrainian filmmaker Serhiy Loznytsia, about the mass mourning that followed the 1953 death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The funeral ritual was in many ways the apotheosis of the Soviet leader’s personality cult. (In Russian)