Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on Russia to back "the will of the Belarusian people" and said that it was "a pity" that the Kremlin was on the side of the country's authoritarian president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
A bipartisan group of 13 U.S. senators has introduced a resolution calling for targeted sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for a crackdown on peaceful protesters in the country. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), said in a September 14 news release that the continued violence and repression against Belarus’ opposition is “unconscionable.”
During a September 10 interview with Current Time TV in Prague, leading Belarus opposition figure Paval Latushka said current President Alyaksandr Lukashenka knows that most people oppose his 26-year-long authoritarian rule, in comments about the ongoing protests in the country that erupted after Lukashenka won an August 9 election that was widely seen as rigged. Latushka is on the opposition's Coordination Council and left Belarus after several of its members were detained by authorities.
Protesters in Belarus are responding to police brutality by singing. The tunes they choose tell a story about the values the demonstrators stand for.
As Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny fights Novichok poisoning in a Berlin hospital, his teams are continuing their battle against election fraud in a series of municipal votes across Russia. Navalny was poisoned after campaigning in Novosibirsk, and his team there has also been attacked. Navalny posted a photo to his Instagram account from his Berlin hospital bed, saying he “generally feels like himself.”
President Vladimir Putin has agreed to provide his embattled Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka a $1.5-billion loan, though the Russian leader said the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference. Putin, in comments broadcast on television from the talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 14, said he thought a proposal by Lukashenka to carry out constitutional reform was logical and timely. The UN Human Rights Council is set to hold an urgent debate on Belarus this week.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree on reopening the de facto border with Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia. The Russian government’s press service said on September 15 that Mishustin's decree also lifted limitations for crossing the de facto border by maritime and river vessel crews, and Russian experts involved in checking the quality of Russian aircraft and equipment at nuclear stations. The de facto border was closed in early April to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, speaking at the European Parliament, has proposed to name the impending sanctions regime for human rights violations after Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny. “Analogous to what Americans call the “Magnitsky Act,” we can introduce our own “Navalny sanctions regime,” said Borrell. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
The Moscow City Court has upheld the extension of pretrial detention for former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, to December 7. The appeal of a September 2 ruling by Moscow's Lefortovo district court to extend Safronov's detention was held on September 15 behind closed doors, as the case is classified. Safronov took part in the hearing via a videolink, the court said in a statement.
Speaking to Belarus State TV, an official in the country’s Prosecutor's Office Aleksei Podvoisky threatened to remove minor children from families if their parents take them along to protest rallies. According to Podvoisky, the participation of a child 16 years of age and older is punishable by a fine, but bringing younger children to the rallies is punishable under Article 9.4 of the Administrative Code -- “failure to fulfill the duties of raising children,” which in some cases may warrant the removal of the child from a family. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Belarus's State Border Guard Committee says the leader of Belarusian Catholics, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, was barred from entering the country because his passport has been annulled. The Belarusian Catholic Church said in a statement on September 14 that it had received an official answer from the ministry last week after Kondrusiewicz requested an explanation as to why he could not return to the country.
Despite the Kremlin’s management efforts and a fresh clampdown on opponents, there remains some wiggle room for the Russian electorate, and local issues -- landfills, for example -- have motivated voters in some locations to push for election results that don’t always fit into Moscow’s governing plans. Layered on top of that is the reality that the country’s ruling political party is deeply unpopular and Putin’s sheen is tarnished. Navalny Allies Win Seats In Siberian City As Ruling Party Claims Sweeping Victory.
Russian media reports that 390 facial-recognition camera systems are to be installed in the Moscow trams, according to a contract worth roughly $2.6 million. Earlier in July it became known that Moscow authorities plan to install facial-recognition cameras in the metro system as well. There are currently 200,000 cameras installed throughout Moscow, but not on the houses of officials. According to some reports, police sell the data from facial-recognition cameras on the black market. (Russian Service)
A court in Russia's Ural city of Yekaterinburg has upheld a fine imposed on an ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who was stripped of his religious rank in July after he took control of a convent in the Urals with help from Cossack guards. The Sverdlovsk regional court on September 15 ruled as valid a lower court’s decision in July to fine excommunicated Schema-Hegumen Sergiy (Nikolai Romanov) 18,000 rubles ($240) for inciting hatred and discord in his sermons.
Civil society groups working in Southeastern Europe are calling on the European Union to step up its actions on violations of EU law by Chinese state-owned enterprises in Europe. The CEE Bankwatch Network made the plea on September 14 as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Council President Charles Michel, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met online with China's President Xi Jinping to discuss a planned investment agreement.
Yulia Ilchenko hasn’t seen her imprisoned husband since March, when Kazakhstan locked down its 82 penitentiaries as part of nationwide measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Her husband is in a prison in the southern city of Taraz, where several inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent months. Ilchenko fears he could also be infected as he shares an overcrowded cell with some two dozen others.
The grand mufti of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Salakh Mezhiyev, has approved a sentence of torture and humiliation for a 19-year-old Chechen blogger and warned of consequences for an exiled member of the Chechen separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, who condemned the penalty. In a video statement posted on Instagram on September 13, Mezhiyev called the teenager "a dirty creature, who received what he deserved."
Switzerland and Uzbekistan have reached an agreement on returning more than $130 million to Tashkent that was seized in connection with criminal proceedings against Gulnara Karimova, the oldest daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The Swiss government said on September 11 that, according to the nonbinding framework agreement, any returned assets "shall be used for the benefit of the people of Uzbekistan." Transparency and the creation of a monitoring mechanism are among the requirements for the restitution to take place, the statement said.
Amendments that introduce a simplified way to obtain Uzbek citizenship came into force on September 15. According to the bill, signed into law by President Shavkat Mirziyoev on March 13, individuals born on the territory of Uzbekistan but who have resided out of the country and are not Uzbek citizens may obtain citizenship without meeting the usual requirement of residing in the country for at least five years before applying.
Kazakh civil rights activist Erbol Eskhozhin has been fined for publicly calling police officers "Nazarbaev's puppies," in a reference to longtime Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev who ruled the Central Asian nation for almost 30 years before resigning in March 2019. He continues to control the country as the leader of the ruling Nur-Otan party and the lifetime chairman of the powerful Security Council.
On September 14, Russia (with illegally-annexed Crimea) registered 5,529 new COVID-19 cases, including 150 fatal cases -- the highest number since July 31. Over the course of the pandemic, Russia has officially suffered 18,785 COVID-19 deaths, but many have raised questions about the official statistics. According to Rosstat, more than 10,000 people infected with coronavirus died in Russia in July, although COVID-19 was listed as an official cause of death in only 4,863 cases. (Russian Service)
MAJLIS PODCAST: How Do The Belarus Protests Resonate In Central Asia?