Belarusian security forces used pepper spray and physical force against protesters during an event called The March Of Grannies on October 12 in Minsk. Hundreds of women chanted slogans against the continued rule of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka and denounced police actions a day earlier. On October 11, thousands of people took part in rallies in the capital and elsewhere to demand that Lukashenka step down. More than 700 protesters were detained and 570 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.
On October 12, security forces in Belarus launched their most violent crackdown in weeks on protesters demanding an end to Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s authoritarian rule, one day after he met with imprisoned opposition figures. The same day as that meeting, Lukashenka's main rival in the disputed August presidential election, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, told her husband, jailed blogger Siarhey Tsikhanouski, "We will get tougher" during her first phone call with the one-time presidential candidate in four months.
Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other after numerous breaches of a humanitarian cease-fire signed on October 10. Caucasus expert Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, and Aleksei Malashenko, the chief researcher at the Dialogue of Civilizations think tank, explain what obstacles exist to a lasting peace. Also -- a truce in tatters: fighting flares over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Kosovo's LGBT Pride Parade took place in the capital, Pristina. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, activists paraded in their brightly colored cars during the event on October 12. A crosswalk was given a special paint job and the mayor's office flew a rainbow flag.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has demanded Alyaksandr Lukashenka step down in the next 12 days or face a nationwide strike. "If our demands aren't fulfilled by October 25, the entire country will peacefully take to the streets," Tsikhanouskaya said on October 13 in a statement that also demanded the release of all political prisoners and an end to the crackdown on protesters calling on Lukashenka to leave office after 26 years in power.
Belarus’ media report that former presidential candidate Viktar Babaryko does not consider Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s meeting with him and other jailed opposition leaders in the KGB detention center a dialogue. A dialogue, as Babaryka said to his lawyers, should be accompanied by equal access of its participants to information, and more civil society representatives should be at the negotiating table, so no agreements were reached during the meeting. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue to exchange fire in and around the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region despite international calls for both sides to implement and stick to a Russian-brokered humanitarian cease-fire. Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said on October 13 that the situation in several sectors of the conflict zone remained tense overnight, and accused Armenian armed forces of shelling the Tartar district in the morning.
An anti-corruption watchdog has ranked Russia, Bulgaria, and Hungary among 19 leading global exporters that are doing little or nothing to enforce rules meant to prohibit companies from paying bribes in foreign markets. In a report released on October 13, Berlin-based Transparency International said that only four of the world’s 47 leading exporters -- the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and Israel, which account for 16.5 percent of global exports -- actively enforced legislation against foreign bribery in 2019.
Russian media reports cited Sevastopol city administration spokesman Vladimir Bazarov, who announced that only 16.8 million cubic meters of water remain in the Chernorechensky reservoir, which supplies Sevastopol, of which 7 million are an emergency reserve, which one cannot go below. If the region’s precipitation situation does not improve by the end of the year, this water will only be able to supply the city sufficient water for another 81 days. (Russian Service)
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports that, according to the country’s Health Ministry, 90% of hospital beds in Russia are occupied with Covid-19 patients. The Ministry also announced that on October 13, Russia registered its highest daily mortality rate of the pandemic -- 244 people. A total of 1,326,178 people in Russia have been infected with coronavirus since the pandemic began. (Russian Service)
A Russian historian charged with murdering and dismembering his student lover has pleaded guilty at the resumption of his trial in the city of St. Petersburg. In answering questions in the courtroom on October 12 about whether he is pleading guilty to charges of murder and the illegal possession of a weapon, Oleg Sokolov replied "yes."
Russia says it is expelling two Bulgarian diplomats nearly three weeks after two staff at the Russian Embassy in Sofia accused of military espionage were told to leave. Describing Bulgaria's move last month as groundless, Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Bulgaria's ambassador to Moscow, Atanas Krystin, on October 12 to inform him that the two diplomats based in the Russian capital had been declared "personae non gratae."
A single-person picket has been held in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Tatarstan region, to protest against a decision to cancel a planned rally to commemorate Tatars who fell while defending Kazan during a 1552 siege by Russian troops, an event marked annually in the city since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Activist Kashif Gatin held a poster in downtown Kazan, saying "October 15 is Commemoration Day! A nation without memory has no future!" during the picket.
President Donald Trump has indicated his Balkan engagement would continue should he win a second term on November 3, telling Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti that he looked forward to visiting both countries "in the not-too-distant future." He would be the first U.S. president to visit Serbia since Jimmy Carter went there several weeks after the death of Yugoslav ruler Josip Broz Tito in 1980. Nonetheless, some regional analysts question the administration's dedication to being deeply involved in the complicated politics of the Balkans.
A former U.S. State Department official said he is stepping down from the supervisory board of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company amid concerns about a slowdown in reform and creeping corruption. Amos Hochstein, who served as the U.S. special envoy for international energy affairs during former President Barack Obama's administration, made the announcement in an October 12 opinion piece in the Kyiv Post.
Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has rejected a decision by a group of lawmakers to appoint Sadyr Japarov, a convicted kidnapper released from prison last week in the wake of mass protests that ousted the government, to the post of prime minister. Jeenbekov's office said he rejected the nomination because of the lack of a quorum at the meeting of a group of lawmakers at which the decision was made after thousands poured into the streets on October 5, throwing the country into chaos over contested parliamentary elections. Also -- A Hidden Force In Kyrgyzstan Hijacks The Opposition's Push For Big Changes
Among the 75 people whose portraits gaze out from a makeshift memorial to medical workers who have died of COVID-19 in St. Petersburg since the pandemic began, the youngest is 30-year-old Maria Tyshko. For eight years, Tyshko worked as a nurse’s aide at a veterans hospital and dreamed of one day becoming a nurse. But after she died of COVID-19 on April 15, hospital and city officials refused to recognize her as a medical worker or to offer her family the compensation promised to front-line health-care personnel who fell victim to the illness.
Ukraine is preparing to lay a special claim to borscht – the hearty, soothing beet soup that's been a salve to people across a broad swath of Eurasia, and to their descendants around the world, for centuries. A Kyiv-based celebrity chef, who cites neighboring Russia's proprietary feelings about one of the ultimate comfort foods as a motive, is helping cook up a bid for recognition of borscht on an Intangible Cultural Heritage list maintained by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).