House Arrest Ordered For Kyrgyzstan's Powerful Oligarch Raimbek Matraimov
Matraimov was implicated earlier this year in a high-profile investigation by RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, Kloop, and Bellingcat that revealed how he and his family benefited from a massive money-laundering & corruption scheme worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Renewed Fighting Strains Nagorno-Karabakh Cease-Fire
A cease-fire in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on October 20 after new clashes between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces, despite a plea by the UN Security Council for both sides to respect the truce. The cease-fire, agreed on October 17, has done little to slow the fighting that began last month, amid concerns it could spark a wider conflict involving Russia and Turkey and fears over the security of gas and oil pipelines in the South Caucasus.
Pensioner Power Boosts Protests In Belarus
Marches by senior citizens have become a regular feature on the streets of Minsk. They are boosting anti-government protests that have occurred daily since the August 9 Belarusian presidential election, which was widely seen as rigged. As one participant put it: "If they arrest me, I'll be proud in front of my grandkids."
Two Dozen Villages In Russia’s Bashkiria Region Left Without A Hospital
With coronavirus cases steadily increasing in Russia, Current Time traveled to the remote Russian region of Bashkortostan to document the impact on 80,000 local residents of the closure of a regional hospital amidst the pandemic. The inhabitants of 24 settlements now must travel up to 130 kilometers to receive proper hospital care for pneumonia or suspected COVID-19; one activist, Sergei Petrov, fears such trips -- longer than an hour -- could have fatal consequences. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Students, Artists Protest Government Takeover Of Famed Hungarian Film School
Hundreds of students, celebrities, and faculty of Hungary's University of Theater and Film Arts (SZFE) protested outside the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) in Budapest on October 19, urging the government to restore the autonomy of SZFE following last month's imposition of a government-appointed board of trustees.
Scrap Metal For Food Scraps: A Tajik Widow's Struggle To Survive
Mahbuba Ghanieva, a 45-year-old widow, says she was kicked out of her house in Tajikistan by her husband's family after he died in 2012. She and her two daughters now survive by collecting scrap metal and other trash along mountain paths and dusty roads. They earn $3 per day and receive no support from the government. But she still wants an education for her children.
U.S. Ready To Meet 'Immediately' With Russia Over Extending Nuclear Weapons Accord
The United States says it is prepared to meet "immediately" with Russia to finalize a deal to extend their last major arms-control treaty, New START, by one year after Moscow backed a U.S. proposal to freeze its total number of nuclear warheads if Washington does the same. "We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a brief statement on October 20.
U.S. Charges Six Russian Military Officers With 'Destructive' Global Hacking Campaign
The United States has charged six Russian military officers with a "destructive," global criminal cyber-campaign that included the worldwide distribution of destructive malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine. The indictment, announced by the Justice Department on October 19, also accuses the men of hacking French elections, the PyeongChang Olympics, and an international organization investigating Russia's use of a deadly nerve agent.*
Tsikhanouskaya Calls On Police Officers In Belarus To 'Take People's Side'
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on the country's law enforcement officers to join those taking part in ongoing protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whose claim to power has not been recognized by Western governments. In an October 20 statement on Telegram, Tsikhanouskaya said that orders by police commanders and other law enforcement structures to use violence against protesters are "illegal." Also read -- Belarus labels popular Telegram channel Nexta “Extremist.”
Ukraine’s Naftogaz Welcomes U.S. Decision To Expand Sanctions Against Nord Stream-2
Ukraine’s state oil and gas company Naftogaz has welcomed a U.S. government decision to expand sanctions against the Russian gas pipeline project Nord Stream-2, following the publication of U.S. State Department recommendations on sanctions against additional entities that assist Russian vessels in building the underwater pipeline. The sanctions will now apply to companies that provide services or financing for the installation of equipment on the ships involved in the project. (Ukrainian Service)
Restrictions On Belarusian-American Political Strategist Shkliarov Eased
The restrictions on Belarusian-American political strategist Vitali Shkliarov have been loosened, according to his lawyer, who says his client must now remain in the Belarusian capital instead of being confined to house arrest. Anton Hashynski said on October 20 that the terms of Shkliarov's pre-trial restrictions were most likely changed because of his mother’s health condition. Due to the change, Shkliarov was able to visit his mother in a Minsk clinic where she is being treated for an unspecified "serious" illness, Hashynski told the Tut.by website.
Finance Ministry Proposes To Cut Nearly 100,000 Positions From Russia’s Military
Russian media reports that Russia’s Finance Ministry has prepared a military spending reduction proposal and submitted it to the country’s Security Council. One of the proposal’s top recommendations is to reduce the number of military personnel by 10%, or about 100,000 positions. To do this, the Ministry proposes that the number of vacancies be cut, and that non-combat jobs be transferred to the civil service, including doctors, teachers, personnel officers, lawyers, and finance and logistics experts. (Russian Service)
Zelenskiy Says Those Who Gave Up Crimea Without A Fight Must Be Held Responsible
In his annual address to parliament on October 20, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said those who allowed Russia to illegally annex Crimea in early 2014 must be held responsible. Zelenskiy did not name anyone in particular, but appeared to be taking clear aim at officials who assumed power after mass anti-government protests toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in late February 2014. "Those who gave up on Crimea without a fight must be held responsible," Zelenskiy said, adding that his government is doing "everything possible" to return Crimea to Ukraine's control.
Moscow To Begin Mass Coronavirus Vaccinations In Weeks
The mayor of Russia's capital says the city will begin mass vaccinations against the novel coronavirus disease "in December-January" as he prepares to open two more field hospitals to deal with a surge in cases. Sergei Sobyanin made the announcement in a statement on his website on October 19, without giving details on how the city would go about administering the vaccinations.
Moscow State Technical University Is Shutting Down Due To COVID-19 Cases
The Moscow municipal coronavirus prevention operational headquarters reports that Bauman Moscow State Technical University is closing due to the large number of coronavirus cases on campus and non-compliance with the sanitary and epidemiological regime. Inspectors from the Moscow department of the federal consumer protection bureau (Rospotrebnadzor) reportedly arrived at the university after receiving information about a spike in the number of coronavirus cases among students. While on site they documented non-compliance of anti-covid measures and decided to close the university. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Moscow Court Starts Appeal Hearing For Actor, Kremlin Critic Yefremov Over Deadly Accident
A court in Moscow has started hearings into an appeal filed by actor and outspoken Kremlin critic Mikhail Yefremov, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol. At a hearing in the Moscow City Court on October 20, Yefremov said he was ready to pay compensation to the relatives of Sergei Zakharov, the man whom he killed in June. Lawyers for Zakharov's relatives said their clients are ready to accept the compensation.
In Turkmenistan, Subsidized Food Comes With Strings Attached
Shoppers in Turkmenistan complain that state-run grocery stores have informally adopted a rule that is making it even harder for them to endure the country's protracted economic malaise. When they turn up to buy the subsidized staples -- bread, cooking oil, rice -- that have become a necessity for many of Turkmenistan's 6 million people, customers say they're being forced to buy locally made products, like fruit juices and carbonated sodas, that they don't want or need.
Two Ethnic Kazakhs From Xinjiang Obtain Rare Temporary Refugee Status In Kazakhstan
In a rare occurrence, two ethnic-Kazakh men from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang who were convicted of illegally crossing the border a year ago have obtained temporary refugee status in Kazakhstan. Abdulla Baqbergen, a lawyer for Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly, told RFE/RL over the weekend that the Aqmola region's migration commission granted his clients refugee status for one year.
INFOGRAPHIC: COVID-19: As Russia Braces For Second Wave, 2 In 3 Medics Say The Country’s Not Ready
MAJLIS PODCAST: What Just Happened In Kyrgyzstan And Where Is It All Headed?
COMMENTARY: Poster Boy For Alleged Corruption In Kyrgyzstan Detained By New Authorities