Aierken Saimaiti led an operation to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars out of Central Asia. What he revealed to reporters about the scheme and the powerful people involved in it may have cost him his life.
Kazakh security officials detained at least 50 protesters in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and around 40 demonstrators in the country's commercial capital, Almaty, on December 16, the day the country marks its independence, and the anniversaries of 1986 anti-Soviet demonstrations and the 2011 deadly police crackdown against protesting oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen. Protesters called for increased rights, the release of political prisoners, and jobs and opportunities for youth.
Afghans have been returning to their ruined homes in Nangarhar Province after officials claimed they had cleared it of remaining Islamic State fighters and showed captured militants to the media.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 16 signed legislation authorizing hefty fines for violating the controversial law on "foreign agents," which critics say is used to muzzle dissent and discourage the free exchange of ideas and a free press.
Three U.S. senators have asked Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, to conduct an impact assessment of how Russia and China would react if Washington withdraws from the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Rambler Group, once the most visited Russian website, has asked law enforcement bodies not to pursue a criminal case regarding its dispute with the Moscow-based unit of Ngnix, a web server owned by a U.S. technology company.
Russian media reports that companies linked to businessman and close Putin associate Yevgeny Prigozhin, popularly known as “Putin’s Chef,” received almost all government catering contracts for Moscow regional hospitals in 2020 and 2021, totaling just over $59 million. Another 13 companies linked to Prigozhin received state catering contracts for Moscow schools. (Russian Service)
An investigation by Current Time TV has found that Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov retains control of the tourism business in Russia-annexed Crimea, bypassing EU sanctions. His companies, which include a sanitorium, a lavish residence, and a children’s camp, regularly receive state contracts from Russia and Russia-backed Crimean authorities. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
A selection commission has named Oleksandr Novikov the new chief of Ukraine's National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPZK), an independent body set up to combat fraud. Novikov is a prosecutor in Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office.
On December 12, Ukrainian law enforcement officials named five people they said have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet, who died when an explosive device affixed to the bottom of the car he was driving went off at a Kyiv intersection as he was heading to a studio to host his radio program on July 20, 2016.
Ukraine’s president has expressed support for Ukrainian soccer player Roman Zozulya after fans of the opposing team during a league match in Spain accused him of being a Nazi. Zozulya has denied ever belonging to a far-right group and has defended his support of Ukrainian troops in the country’s conflict with Russia-backed separatists. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has denounced the insults, claiming they resemble terminology used by some Russian pundits and media to describe the current government in Kyiv.
Belarus plans to borrow $500 million from China to pay down existing debt as talks about a loan from Russia drag on. The country had sought to borrow about $600 million from Russia, its largest trading partner and ally.
Yury Havarsky, a former officer with a Belarusian police special unit, has told the foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he participated in the murder of opposition activists and that he was now seeking political asylum in an unnamed European country. Security forces overseen by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have long been accused of involvement in the disappearance of opposition leader Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and two other men in 1999 and 2000.
Czech authorities have deported four foreigners who were residing in houses used by the Russian Embassy in Prague, and whose presence in the city was not registered by the embassy with Czech police. They were not accredited Russian diplomats and were living in the country without residence permits.
A United Nations court at The Hague said it will hear the appeal of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, sentenced to life in prison for his role in the mass killings at Srebrenica, in March.
A Bishkek court on December 13 accepted a motion to unfreeze the bank accounts of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, locally known as Azattyk, one if its correspondents, and the news site Kloop, which were blocked when the influential Kyrgyz family at the center of an alleged corruption ring exposed by the media outlets filed a libel suit against them.
Farmers in Uzbekistan say President Shavkat Mirziyoev's latest decree over the tightly controlled agricultural sector will force them to become subservient contract employees of new private "cluster" firms. The system resembles the "hidden" or "secret privatization" schemes used by corrupt officials and their private-sector cronies in Eastern Europe during the 1990s to plunder the assets of state-owned companies.
Reporters Without Borders’ annual report released on December 17 finds that the number of journalists killed in 2019 is “at its lowest in 16 years.” But, the report cautions, "More and more journalists are being deliberately murdered in connection with their work in democratic countries,” and while fewer journalists overall were killed, more ended up behind bars.