Russian peacekeepers have been deployed on the road connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the terms of a Moscow-mediated truce signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan that put an end to 44 days of deadly fighting. RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent Sarkis Harutyunian drove up the strategic road, a lifeline for the Armenians still living in Azerbaijan's breakaway territory.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says his troops have taken control of the first of three districts bordering Nagorno-Karabakh as part of a Russian-brokered peace agreement that ended a six-week war with Armenian forces over the breakaway region.
Thousands of Belarusians have bid farewell to Raman Bandarenka, the slain anti-government protester whose killing intensified ongoing protests demanding the resignation of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka over the disputed August 9 presidential election. Many in the crowd outside of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Minsk on November 20 raised their arms and chanted, "You are a hero!" and "Long live Belarus!"
The first canister of spent nuclear fuel from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine was loaded on November 18 into a new, more modern storage site. The Interim Storage Facility 2 (ISF-2) is inside the exclusion zone around the reactor that exploded in 1986. One double-walled canister contains a total of 93 spent fuel assemblies from three reactors that were not destroyed in the disaster. More than 21,000 spent-fuel assemblies will make this journey over the next several years. The ISF-2 has an expected lifespan of at least 100 years and is the largest dry-spent-fuel storage facility in the world.
Amnesty International has slammed a bill circulating in the lower house of Russia’s parliament that would identify individuals receiving funds from abroad as “foreign agents,” saying the proposed legislation signals a “new witch hunt of civil society groups and human rights defenders.” Under the bill introduced in the State Duma on November 18, individuals labeled as “foreign agents” would be banned from joining the civil service or holding a municipal government position. They would also be forced to mark their letters to authorities and other material with a “foreign agent” label.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service compiled reactions from Russians on social media to newly proposed, more restrictive “foreign agent” legislation, some of which include statements like “next stop is ‘enemies of the people,” while others write that the “mad [legislative] printer” is back at work. (Russian Service)
The Minsk city court has upheld an extension of pretrial detention for opposition leader Maryya Kalesnikava, who is facing national-security charges. Kalesnikava's lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, questioned the legality of the court's November 20 hearing, noting that it was held behind closed doors in violation of the Criminal Procedural Code. All hearings concerning appeals filed by people held in pretrial detention and the decisions on such appeals must be open to the public, Kazak said.
A Russian man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempting to hand classified material to U.S. intelligence. The Federal Security Service (FSB) said on November 20 that the Bryansk regional court had found that Yury Yeshchenko had illegally collected secret material related to electronic equipment developed for the Russian Navy, while working for a company involved in maintaining military vessels in the northwestern city of Murmansk in 2015-2017.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has urged the International Ice Hockey Federation "to be firm" as they consider pulling the 2021 World Championships from the country amid a row with co-host Latvia over ethical and security concerns because of Belarus’ post-election crackdown. The Zurich-based IIHF has said it is having " serious discussions" over the status of the tournament because of issues surrounding the protests, Latvia's threat to withdraw as co-host, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belarus' nuclear power plant, which officially went online earlier this month, has resumed operations after suspending electricity production for several days. The Energy Ministry said on November 19 that the Astravets plant is sending electricity to the power grid and the first power unit is working at 40 percent of its 1,200-megawatt capacity. Just days after it was inaugurated, Belarus's first nuclear plant halted electricity production on November 8 after voltage transformers were said to have exploded.
Georgian officials say they have arrested an unidentified gunman who was holding nine people hostage at a microfinance lending institution in the capital, Tbilisi. Vazha Siradze, Tbilisi's police chief, told reporters late on November 20 that all the hostages held at the offices of the microlender MBC had been released. Police officers earlier blocked off the area around the building on the central Tsereteli Avenue.
In Chechnya, the images of Marvel heroes displayed at childrens’ playgrounds have been replaced by Chechens who battled the Russian Empire -- Sheikh Mansur, Beibulat Taymiyev, Baysangur Benoevsky, as well as Ramzan Kadyrov’s father Akhmat Kadyrov. The move came after Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov last week “made minor adjustments” to the design of such play areas in a newly constructed residential complex he visited. He demanded that the images of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man be placed with “photographs of our [Chechen] real heroes.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Eleven former prison guards in the Russian city of Yaroslavl have been convicted and handed prison terms in a high-profile case of inmate torture. The Zavolzhye district court on November 19 sentenced the former guards to prison terms between three years and four years and three months; six were then released from custody, as the court said their pretrial detention had been long enough to satisfy their sentences. In a separate ruling, the court acquitted the former warden of Correctional Colony No. 1, Dmitry Nikolayev, and his ex-deputy, Igit Mikhailov.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says deadlocked EU budget negotiation will eventually reach an agreement despite vetoes by Hungary and Poland over the 27-member bloc's plan to make funding dependent on respect for the rule of law. "Many kinds of solutions are possible, it's just a question of political will," Orban told public radio on November 20. The EU's 1.8-trillion-euro ($2.13 trillion) long-term budget and coronavirus rescue package was vetoed on November 16 by the right-wing governments of Hungary and Poland, both of which have been singled out by the bloc for rolling back democratic freedoms.
The wife of former Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has died after being infected with the coronavirus. She was 58. Sarkisian’s office said Rita Sarkisian died on November 20, days after being hospitalized in critical condition with COVID-19 on November 16. She was born in 1962 in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave that is inside Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. It was the site of weeks of recent fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan until a truce was brokered by Russia.
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has died after being infected with the coronavirus, President Aleksandar Vucic said on November 20. The 90-year-old Patriarch Irinej had been intubated the previous day. Vucic wrote on his Instagram account that he was honored to have known the patriarch. "People like you never leave," Vucic wrote with a black-and-white photo of Patriarch Irinej. Leader Of Orthodox Christians In Russia's Tatarstan Dies Of Coronavirus.
Kazakhstan's Military Court has replaced prison terms for four men convicted for their roles in deadly ethnic clashes with parole-like restrictions known as freedom limitation. The court said in a statement issued late on November 19 that it had concluded that Rustem Bezhibai, Erlan Buralqynov, Ulan Atambaev, and Almat Tleughaliev must be released immediately and their prison terms replaced by freedom limitation for the period of their initial sentences.
Seven European countries that are not members of the EU have aligned themselves with the sanctions imposed by the 27-member bloc on Belarus in response to a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests triggered by a disputed presidential election in August. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on November 20 that the seven countries included EU candidates North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Ukraine.