European Union foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on September 21 failed to agree on sanctions against Belarus, despite a plea from the country’s self-exiled opposition leader. Cyprus has demanded the EU also take measures against Turkey in an unrelated dispute before agreeing to the Belarus sanctions package.
Joint Russia and Belarus military exercises have resumed in Belarus, with more than 600 pieces of military equipment and 7,000 soldiers participating. The annual “Slavic Brotherhood” exercises usually include Serbian forces as well, but after the massive protests that followed the August 9 presidential election in Belarus, the European Union demanded that Belgrade does not take part in the exercises. (Russian Service)
A chemical industry expert tells Current Time that fertilizer that was stored in the open at a major Ukrainian port this summer posed a dangerous fire risk. Authorities in Yuzhne, 50 kilometers from Odesa, say the ammonium nitrate, which has been blamed for the recent catastrophic explosion in the Lebanese port of Beirut, was stored in accordance with local regulations and posed no risk; it has since been removed.
Nina Bahinskaya, a frail but resolute figure amid the crowds protesting presidential election results in Belarus that are widely seen as rigged, was among those detained at a September 19 protest in Minsk. A regular participant in various demonstrations since 1988, Bahinskaya has ignored unprecedented police brutality against protesters and been seen telling off security forces on the streets of Minsk. Also watch: Man Recounts Rape By Police In Belarus.
Russia says it hasn't given the U.S. any new deadlines in talks over the New START treaty, the last remaining bilateral nuclear-arms pact, but there can't be any pause in discussions, as time is running out. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on September 22 that Moscow saw the chances for extending the treaty as minimal, given the conditions put forward by Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the introduction of "military-political work" for members of the country's National Guard, paving the way for Soviet-style political education within its ranks. A decree signed by Putin on September 21 gave no details about what the new practice would entail, but comes after National Guard (Rosgvardia) head Viktor Zolotov announced plans to introduce "an institute of military-political instructors" within the service.
On September 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the U.N. General Assembly for the first time since 2015. Speaking of the coronavirus pandemic, he predicted a “long” economic recovery and rising unemployment, and pledged Russia’s readiness to provide the U.N. a free supply of its’ Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine “for its employees.” Separately, Putin proposed to “clear” the world economy of “illegitimate sanctions,” without specifying which sanctions were meant. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
With Belarus facing a shaky future after a disputed election sparked a wave of protests and a brutal crackdown by authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s government, Russia appears eager to keep the smaller country, a longtime ally, firmly in its orbit. But the spoils of tighter control, if Moscow manages to achieve it, could also include industrial assets in Belarus, whose Soviet-style economy has long been propped up by Russian subsidies.
The editor-in-chief of the independent Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva says it has been told it may be fined for failing to report to authorities injuries suffered by one of its correspondents, who was shot in the leg by police during anti-government protests last month. Officials "warned us that Nasha Niva should be fined because it didn't report the injury and didn't conduct its own investigation," Yagor Martsinovich wrote on Facebook on September 21.
As soon as Belarusian protesters wrap up their daily demonstrations on the streets, the movement goes online to assess tactics and to begin planning their next course of action. Also read: Assistant To Belarusian Leader's Son Denies She Left Job Over Police Brutality, Father's Arrest
Following a meeting with Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on September 22, EU foreign minister Josep Borrell said the EU is willing to give Ukraine 1.2 billion Euros of macro-financial assistance if Ukraine “constructively cooperates with the IMF, and meets all the requirements related to strengthening the rule of law in Ukraine.” (Ukrainian Service)
Russian media reports citing the country’s Health Ministry that over 80 percent of hospital beds in Russia are occupied with coronavirus patients, due to a new wave of coronavirus pandemic. Last week, for the first time since the end of July, the number of registered cases in a day exceeded 6,000 people. (Russian Service)
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry has said that one of its soldiers was killed in a late-morning incident near the border with arch-foe Armenia. It called the death of the junior sergeant in the Tovuz region of northwestern Azerbaijan the latest "provocation" amid a rise in violations. Last week, Armenian officials announced that one of their soldiers was killed by gunfire and shrapnel in roughly the same region.
Russia’s Far East Hectare program, now in its fourth year, has fallen short of expectations. If the hope was to inspire an eastward migration on par with the westward push ushered in by the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862, it instead spurred some people to leave the urban bustle and build a second home.
Federal Security Agency (FSB) agents in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region have arrested the head of an isolated messianic sect in a raid on the group’s remote settlement. Dozens of law enforcement vans, buses, ambulances, and helicopters participated in the September 22 raid at the City of the Sun settlement, in which Church of the Last Testament leader Sergei Torop, known as Vissarion, and his assistants Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, were taken into custody and whisked away by helicopter.
In an interview with RFE/RL in the Kosovar capital of Pristina, U.S. ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett stressed Washington's commitment to the goal of "full, normal relations" between Serbia and its former region of Kosovo while encouraging compromise on both sides to turn "pledges into the reality." Ambassador Kosnett also said regional economic development in the Balkans was "a high policy priority of the Trump administration."
INFOGRAPHIC: What Russians Think About Belarus