Newly obtained phone records reveal that Russian military intelligence was in close contact with state research institutes known for their work on chemistry, medicine, and nanotechnologies in the weeks before a military-grade nerve agent was used in the 2018 poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces continued to clash in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on October 23 as the top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan traveled to Washington for separate meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the decades-long conflict over the breakaway region. The two sides traded accusations about the fresh violence that was said to include some shelling of residential areas, as attempts to broker a cease-fire shift to Washington after the collapse of two Russian-brokered truces.
Belarusians with disabilities carried flowers and the banned white-red-white flags of the opposition as they peacefully paraded through the streets of Minsk on October 22 during an opposition event called the "March of People With Infinite Possibilities." Also, Belarusian opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize by European Parliament.
The Uzbek company Enter Engineering has started paying overdue salaries to workers after they rioted on October 21 over back wages owed from the construction of a large gas-to-liquid facility in Uzbekistan's southern region of Qashqadaryo. Video obtained by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service showed workers storming administration buildings and ransacking offices.
The Bukhtarma Reservoir is the biggest artificial body of water in Kazakhstan. There's no bridge across it, so in warmer months, local residents must often wait for hours for a ferry crossing. In colder months, many risk their lives crossing the ice by car. Officials announced a $70 million bridge project some years ago and claim foreign investors will help finance it, but no deals have been signed and local residents are still waiting.
The Kremlin says a possible one-year extension of the New START arms-control treaty beyond its current expiration in February would be aimed at buying time for the two sides to reach a new agreement instead of prolonging the current accord. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also reiterated on October 23 Moscow's insistence that the U.S. side "avoid any extra conditions" in the current bid for a 12-month extension.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he personally intervened to ensure that Aleksei Navalny could be evacuated to Germany for treatment after the opposition politician was poisoned with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August. Speaking in a televised appearance on October 22, Putin also said that if the Russian authorities had wanted Navalny dead, Moscow would not have allowed him to be flown to Berlin, where the 44-year-old is recovering from the poisoning that nearly took his life.
International watchdog group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Azerbaijan of "repeatedly" using widely banned cluster munitions in residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh since its war with Armenian forces over the enclave dramatically escalated last month. HRW on October 23 cited four such incidents based on "an on-site investigation" in the breakaway Azerbaijani territory, which is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians and has been at the heart of post-Soviet Europe's longest running "frozen conflict." Also read: Armenia's main opposition leader Gagik Tsarukian freed on bail.
Kyrgyzstan’s acting President Sadyr Japarov has signed changes to the elections law that will delay parliamentary and presidential votes, a move the convicted kidnapper's critics call a power grab. Japarov moved quickly, signing the changes into law late on October 22, just hours after parliament approved them to pave the way for further legal changes that would allow him to run for the presidency.
Kyrgyzstan's newly appointed Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev says that the recent political upheaval that toppled the Central Asian nation's government and prompted the president to resign won't impact relations with Russia, its "major partner and ally." Speaking in Moscow after holding talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov on October 23, Kazakbaev told reporters that the new government will continue to "support close contacts on all levels and strengthen political dialogue" with Russia.
Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Belarus authorities canceled a pro-Lukashenka demonstration planned for October 25. Most observers do not believe the official excuse, with some saying authorities feared that there would be fewer people at the demonstrations than at a separate rally organized by Lukashenka's opponents. Another possible reason for the decision was to avoid clashes between opposing groups, as well as the possibility of people taking part in the pro-government rally chanting anti-Lukashenka slogans and joining with the opposition. (Belarus Service)
Russian media reports that the outflow of migrants from Russia due to the #Covid19 pandemic has resulted in a shortage of labor at 40 percent of Russian companies and a lack of taxi drivers and couriers in Moscow, according to a new study by the Center for Strategic Research (CSR). Approximately 40 percent of companies cite low wage costs as the primary advantage of hiring migrants, while 35 percent of respondents cited higher productivity by migrants over their Russian counterparts. Every fourth employer noted that migrants have a more responsible attitude to work. (Russian Service)
A court in Moscow has cut by six months the eight-year prison term of actor and outspoken Kremlin critic Mikhail Yefremov, who was convicted of killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol. The Moscow City Court late on October 22 ruled that Yefremov's sentence could be shortened because he paid financial compensation to the relatives of Sergei Zakharov, the man whom he killed in an auto accident in June. Yefremov's lawyers said the ruling will be appealed.
A brand new publishing house in the Tajik capital has been awarded a lucrative government contract to print more than 1 million copies of a history book, following the conclusion of a dubiously-conducted tender by the public procurement agency. The firm, Modern Publishing, won the contract despite submitting a contract bid more than 25 times as high as that made by runner-up Er-Graf, a reputable firm known in Dushanbe for high-quality work and competitive prices. An investigation by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service found that the company is linked to Shamsullo Sohibov, the wealthy son-in-law of President Emomali Rahmon.
A town in North Macedonia that became famous for spreading "fake news" to U.S. voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election is back at it in 2020. Internet researchers at Stanford University say "partisan clickbait" websites in Veles, North Macedonia, are once again posing as conservative U.S. news outlets in order to gather online advertising revenue.
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