George Kent, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, spoke with RFE/RL ahead of Belarus’s August 9 presidential election about U.S.- Belarus relations, the lack of international observers for the upcoming vote, and the need for free and independent media in the country.
Two protest movements are 9,000 kilometers apart: one in Russia and one in Belarus -- but they're united by their desire for basic democratic norms. Current Time reporters tracked down the protesters in Khabarovsk, in Russia's Far East, who reached out to their counterparts in Belarus.
Ukraine is one of the few countries in the world that allows commercial surrogacy. But when something goes wrong, human lives hang in the balance, and critics say the business should be stopped or at least regulated. The case of a baby named Brigit, born with disabilities and abandoned, highlights the risks involved.
Medical staff in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan say they are continuing to struggle to treat COVID-19 patients amid a lack of critical medicine, equipment, and staff. In a local hospital, most staff have been infected and several have died.
Belarusian authorities have again canceled campaign events by presidential contender Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya ahead of the August 9 election, claiming that repair work needed to be carried out where the political rallies were to be held. Tsikhanouskaya was also forced to cancel a rally scheduled for the evening of August 4.
Early voting has begun in Belarus in a contentious presidential election that pits authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka against an opposition united around a political novice. Lukashenka has accused his opponents of attempting a return to “chaos.” Valer Tsapkala, a prominent businessman and former ambassador who was seen as a serious challenger to Lukashenka before leaving the country for fear of arrest, says he believes the president will flee the country if faced with massive protests.
Media reports say a large supply of ammonium nitrate that exploded on August 4 at a warehouse in the port of Beirut was likely unloaded there years earlier from a cargo ship that had been seized from its Russian owner, businessman Igor Grechushkin. Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local TV station the blast that killed more than 100 people and injured thousands appeared to be caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate.
RFE/RL has spoken to the former captain of the Russian-owned cargo ship Rhosus, which has been linked to a massive explosion in a munitions warehouse in Beirut. The ship was seized by Lebanese authorities in 2013 for non-payment of port dues. The captain said that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were unloaded in 2014 to a warehouse regulated by the Lebanese Transport Ministry. The ship sank several years ago. (Russian Service, Siberia Realities)
The FBI has raided the offices of U.S. companies belonging to Ukrainian oligarchs Ihor Kolomoyskiy and Hennadiy Boholyubov in Cleveland and Miami. FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson-Gregg said she could not discuss the details of the investigation as the case "is under seal right now,” but that no one had been detained.
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges that he rejects, has been transferred to a penal colony in the region of Mordovia, historically known for Russia's toughest prisons, including Soviet-era labor camps for political prisoners.
Russian actor and outspoken Kremlin critic Mikhail Yefremov pleaded not guilty to killing a person while driving under the influence as his high-profile trial started in Moscow on August 5. If convicted, Yefremov, who in recent years has been criticizing the Kremlin in his one-man performances, may face up to 12 years in prison.
A court in the Russian city of Volsk has sentenced a teenager to seven years in prison for attacking students and teachers at his school with homemade firebombs and an ax in the latest in a series of cases over school attacks by teenagers in Russia.
Moscow made wearing a mask and gloves on public transportation mandatory as of May 12 and immediately began handing out fines. Amid a rise in coronavirus cases in some countries, police increased monitoring of public transport, including all subway stations, starting on August 1.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on Russia's small businesses, leaving many struggling to stay afloat amid state support that pales in comparison with packages offered in many Western countries. Businessman Alexander Zatulivetrov estimates his losses at 5 million rubles ($68,000) and puts the blame squarely on government mismanagement of the crisis.
Dozens of Central Asian migrants trapped in Russia amid the coronavirus pandemic were pushed back by guards when they tried to cross the border into Kazakhstan. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, told members on August 3 that about 40 percent of migrants in Russia lost their jobs during the pandemic, and that this “creates a breeding ground for the growth of crime.”
Current Time correspondent Anushervon Aripov has been refused accreditation by Tajik authorities after he reported on campaign trips by President Rahmon ahead of elections expected, but not yet scheduled, for the fall. RFE/RL has repeatedly accused Tajik authorities of withholding credentials from its journalists in retaliation for their reporting, which often deviates from the government’s official line. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
An activist in Kazakhstan has been sentenced to 15 days in jail after staging a one-man protest outside the Chinese consulate in Almaty over recent statements on Chinese-Kazakh military cooperation made by Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xiao.