Russian Foreign Ministry Demands Retraction From Financial Times And The New York Times Over Covid-19 Death Toll
The Russian Foreign Ministry has called articles published by the Financial Times and The New York Times casting doubt on official fatality figures linked to the coronavirus “groundless speculation” and “sensational anti-Russian fake[s],” and demanded their retraction. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that further steps relating to the publications are possible. The outlets have found that Russia may be underreporting the number of deaths from the coronavirus in Moscow and St. Petersburg by as much as 70 percent. (Russian Service)
The World Health Organization’s representative in Russia has downplayed doubts about the country’s coronavirus statistics even as new public data suggests authorities may be undercounting the death toll from the pandemic. In an interview on May 13 with Current Time, Melita Vujnovic said the organization trusted the Russian official figures.
Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has asked Google to block an article about the controversy over official data on coronavirus deaths in the country on the website of MBKh Media independent online publication. MBKh Media said late on May 14 that its article was based on a report by the Financial Times.
New legislation introduced in the Russian Duma would expand the rights of police to open cars and enter residential and other premises to detain individuals, and extend the list of circumstances authorizing officers’ use of firearms. The bill adds that “a police officer is not subject to prosecution for actions committed in the performance of assigned duties.” The Duma also passed a bill on electronic voting, allowing Russians to vote in elections and referendums by mail and via the Internet. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russian cybersecurity magnate and the CEO of the Moscow-based cybersecurity Kaspersky Lab Yevgeny Kaspersky has told the TASS news agency in an interview that cybercrimes have risen during lockdowns resulting from the coronavirus, adding that the majority of cybercriminals are Russian-speakers.
Russia has suspended the use of a model of domestically-made ventilators after they were linked to hospital fires that killed COVID-19 patients in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Aventa-M ventilators were also included in a high-profile delivery of Russian medical equipment sold to the United States last month but have not been used there. (video)
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says the coronavirus outbreak will deal a "massive" blow this year to the 37 countries it invests in, but the economies of Central and Eastern Europe are positioned to bounce back quickly.
EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova expressed deep concern to EU lawmakers on May 14 over the situation in Hungary, where right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban was granted sweeping powers under a package of emergency measures aimed at fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Some two thousand supporters of an ultra-nationalist and pro-Russian party protested in Sofia against the Bulgarian government and its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the Vazrazhdane party called on people to "get their country back" and demanded the resignation of the "criminal government.”
Volunteer cyclists in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, have been delivering critical insulin to diabetes patients self-isolating in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (video)
Uzbekistan Eases Some Restrictions But Extends Lockdown; Kazakhstan Lifts State Of Emergency
A Moscow court of appeals ruled on May 14 to uphold a decision to keep former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in detention until mid-September while his trial on espionage charges is ongoing.
A Russian military court has rejected an appeal by Crimean Tatar blogger Nariman Memedeminov to overturn his conviction on charges of inciting extremism, leaving him to serve the rest of his sentence in prison. Rights groups have denounced what they call a campaign of oppression targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority and others who opposed Moscow's 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Ukraine’s military reported on May 15 that the country has received night vision devices, thermal imagers, radio devices, and medical equipment valued at $25 million from the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tweeted that the U.S. “stands strongly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression.” (Ukrainian Service)
Ales Asiptsou has declared a hunger strike after being arrested on May 9 for an alleged administrative offense. In a proceeding held in the judge’s office, instead of a courtroom, he was sentenced to 10 days in prison. Asiptsou told the judge that he was detained while taking pictures of people who were going to hold an "anti-parade." He said he was carrying a press card and was on assignment, and was guilty of no offense. He was the third reporter arrested over a period of several days in Belarus’s Mogilev region. (Belarus Service)
The European Parliament has given its green light -- via email votes -- to a visa-facilitation agreement and a readmission agreement, making it easier and cheaper for Belarusian citizens to enter most EU countries.
Georgia's opposition parties have warned they will abandon a foreign-brokered deal on election reforms if "political prisoners" are not released. The ruling and opposition parties on March 8 signed a memorandum of understanding on electoral changes ahead of parliamentary elections set for October.
The European Court of Justice ruled on May 14 that Hungary circumvented EU law by holding Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers in prison-like conditions at a border transit zone. Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga responded to the decision, saying that "Hungarian legislation and practice is in line with EU and international law."
Uzbekistan says it has received from France assets worth $10 million illegally acquired by Gulnara Karimova, the imprisoned elder daughter of late President Islam Karimov. The assets represent a fraction of the more than $1 billion Tashkent has sought from foreign jurisdictions since announcing Karimova's imprisonment in 2017.
Uzbek authorities say they are probing the cause of the May 1 collapse of the Sardoba dam, which killed at least four people and drove tens of thousands from their homes. Officials blame the incident on "anomalous severe windstorms." But it has prompted questions among Uzbeks about potential corruption and cronyism, and shone a spotlight on a wealthy senator, Abdughani Sanginov, who was closely involved in the project through a private company he owns.
IRAN: New Radio Farda Documentary, From Executioner To Supreme Leader, Examines Rise Of Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi (470,000 views on Instagram in Persian)
PRESSROOM: RFE/RL Ukrainian Service Photojournalist Andriy Dubchak Wins Gold Medal At LifePressPhoto Competition For Breaking News/Single Photo Of Disabled Ukrainian War Veteran.