It has been a dozen years since local elections were held in the beautiful Bosnian city of Mostar, but that will change on December 20. Here's a dazzling look at Mostar's messy situation and the upcoming vote.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he alone cannot decide to call early parliamentary elections, even as he faces mounting opposition calls to step down over last month's cease-fire deal with Azerbaijan. Pashinian made the comment during an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service on December 16 in Yerevan.
Opposition activists in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, marked the Central Asian nation's Independence Day with an unauthorized rally. Hundreds of activists gathered in the city's central Republic Square on December 16 to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, fair parliamentary elections on January 10, and the registration of opposition parties.
Britain's ambassador to Turkmenistan, where an authoritarian post-Soviet government has yet to officially register a single coronavirus infection, has said he "need[s] to recuperate" from COVID-19. British Ambassador to Turkmenistan Hugh Philpott tweeted the news of his apparent infection on December 16 while talking about a quirky YouTube video in which he performs a song in Turkmen in front of a green-screen backdrop of that Central Asian country's natural beauty.
When 29-year-old Symbat Kulzhagharova fell to her death from her 11th-floor apartment in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, the police said it was suicide. Kulzhagharova's social-media posts claiming she was being beaten by her husband have raised doubts about this, and some 70,000 people have signed a petition demanding tougher punishment for domestic violence.
RFE/RL Belarus Service web editor Yuliya Kockaya offers personal insight into covering the massive anti-government protest movement in Belarus, and her experience of being put behind bars for the simple act of reporting the facts.
At his year-end press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated long-standing complaints about the West and avoided direct answers to several questions, steering clear of even uttering the name of poisoned Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny. But he did address that issue and others, including a report that chipped away at the secrecy surrounding his own family, the future of ties with the incoming U.S. administration, and prospects for arms control. Also read: Tomsk lawmakers demand investigation into Navalny's poisoning.
Bulgarian authorities on December 18 gave a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave Bulgaria, alleging involvement in espionage in the EU and NATO member state. It is the sixth case of a Russian diplomat or official at the Russian Embassy in Sofia being declared “persona non grata” and expelled for suspected espionage since October 2019.
Azerbaijan’s victory in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh has transformed President Ilham Aliyev’s political stature -- boosting his popularity to levels he has never experienced during his 17 years of authoritarian rule. The return of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan’s control, along with all seven occupied districts around the breakaway region, has changed the way many in the country view Aliyev’s leadership. Experts say Aliyev’s historical legacy has been transformed.
Leaders of former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have met online for a virtual summit to discuss issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the situation the South Caucasus region following the war over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Other topics included cooperation on security issues and how CIS members can achieve greater integration.
Russian and Belarusian authorities last month signed a new cooperation agreement that allows for police and security operations in Belarus by troops from the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), which is controlled directly by the Kremlin, according to a copy of the deal just made public. An official Belarusian legal portal published the four-page agreement between the Belarusian Interior Ministry and the Federal Service of the Rosgvardia on December 18; the document is dated November 19 and states that it went into immediate effect.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service project Siberia.Realii reports that Khabarovsk residents in Russia’s Far East are protesting against Chinese investment in building a new chemical plant. The regional prosecutor's office has ruled out a referendum on the plan, which residents of the Ayano-Maisky district where the “gas and chemical park” is to be built are trying to organize. The 1,800 residents who reside in the district are mostly worried about a proposal the plan to bring in three times more Chinese workers than the total number of local residents. (Russian Service/Siberia.Realii)
An investigation by the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service investigative program Schemes reveals that companies linked to pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk are involved in a project to build a cable-car service across the Amur River between Russia’s Blagoveshchensk and China’s Heihe. The project is described as the world's first international service of this type, and it appears that its implementers will receive tax breaks from the Russian authorities following completion. Schemes has previously reported on Medvedchuk-linked projects in Russia involving oil production and refining, construction, land and sea transportation, as well as business consulting. (Ukrainian Service)
Prosecutors in Sweden are said to be seeking lengthy prison terms for two Russians on trial for allegedly trying to kill an exiled Chechen blogger with a hammer as he slept. Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who fled Russia in 2015, reportedly survived the February 26 attack by overpowering one of the suspects. Abdurakhmanov then posted a YouTube video in which he said he had just fought off the attack and is seen questioning a bloodied man lying on the floor.
Prosecutors in Moscow asked a court on December 18 to sentence a local opposition politician to three years in prison over her involvement in anti-Kremlin rallies. The case against Yulia Galyamina, who sits on a Moscow district council and is an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was launched in late July. Investigators say Galyamina repeatedly violated rules about public gatherings when she organized and staged unsanctioned rallies and protests.
Notorious organized crime boss Levan Abuladze -- known in the criminal underworld by the nickname Levan Sukhumsky -- has reportedly escaped from a Russian court building where he had been brought for a pretrial hearing. Russian media reports quote police sources in the city of Vladimir, about 200 kilometers east of Moscow, as saying that Abuladze's handcuffs were removed inside the Oktyabr District Court building shortly before his December 16 hearing so that he could use a toilet. The sources said Abuladze went missing after going into the toilet and that guards have been unable to find him.
Kyrgyzstan has announced the introduction of long-awaited biometric passports for its citizens -- passports embedded with a microchip containing information that can be read and authenticated electronically. The move comes after months of speculation that Kyrgyzstan's inclusion on a U.S. partial travel ban list may have been linked to delays in fully switching to a biometric system.
Tajikistan has deployed additional troops along its southern border with Afghanistan after Afghan authorities claimed a group of militants from Tajikistan played a major role in the Taliban's capture of an Afghan district last month. Afghan officials said the majority of the militants who overran the Maymay district in the northeastern Badakhshan Province in November were foreign fighters, including militants from Tajikistan. They said the fighters belong to Jamaat Ansarullah, a militant group founded in Afghanistan by Tajik national Amriddin Tabarov in 2010.
The deputy leader of an association of Kosovar war veterans declined to enter a plea before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on December 18 in a hearing related to witness endangerment and other charges in connection with investigations of possible war crimes. Nasim Haradinaj accused the prosecutors of “selective, political, and biased" prosecutions and "trying to place the blame on Kosovo'' for atrocities during the former Yugoslav province's war of independence from Serbia in 1998-99.