Russia in Review, Oct. 9-16, 2020
This Week’s Highlights
- Russian President Vladimir Putin offered on Oct. 16 to extend New START by one year without preconditions, but the White House quickly rejected the call as a “non-starter,” the Financial Times and AP report.
- Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s arms control department Fu Cong was quoted by Kommersant Oct. 16 as saying that he cannot see China joining Russia and the U.S. in nuclear arms control in his life, but that China is interested in a bilateral dialogue with the U.S. on missile defense.
- An improved missile attack warning system is expected to be put on combat duty in Russia next year, Sergey Boyev, general constructor of the missile attack warning system said, TASS reports. The improved missile attack warning system includes command communication devices and ground and space-based echelons. However, Russia’s expenditures on national defense will decrease from 2.7 percent to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2023, said head of the Russian Accounts Chamber, Alexei Kudrin, according to Interfax.
- The EU has imposed sanctions on six top Russian officials over their alleged involvement in the chemical weapon poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, the Financial Times reports. Lavrov warned Oct. 13 that Moscow could freeze its contacts with the European Union in response to the sanctions, according to the AP.
- Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes on Oct. 16, defying hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, Reuters reports. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 15 said Turkey’s involvement in the conflict has increased the risk in the region, reiterating his call for the issue to be resolved through diplomacy, according to Reuters. On Oct. 12, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised the issue of Syrian fighters in the conflict zone in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart. Hundreds of fighters from Syrian militias allied with Turkey have joined the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Wall Street Journal reports, and hundreds more are preparing to go.
- Russia’s population decline in 2020 will be 1,100 percent greater than that of 2019, according to government projections, The Moscow Times reports. The government forecasts a 352,500 drop in Russia’s population this year, according to the report, leading to a population of 146.4 million by the end of 2020.
- Sadyr Japarov, a nationalist firebrand and a man convicted of kidnapping, said he had “taken over as head of state” in Kyrgyzstan on Oct. 15, hours after President Sooronbai Jeenbekov resigned, the Financial Times reports.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
- Rosatom Technical Academy as become the first IAEA Collaborating Center to extend its work with the IAEA into three different programmatic areas: nuclear sciences and applications, nuclear security and nuclear energy. (Electronic News Publishing, 10.16.20)
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- Oct. 18 marks the end of a decade-old U.N. arms embargo against Iran. In Tehran, it is already being celebrated by Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rohani. Restrictions on weapons supplies to Iran were not linked with the settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program and all the parties to the talks were aware of that from the very beginning, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Oct. 15. The Russian diplomat stressed that Iran was Russia’s reliable partner in many areas of cooperation. (TASS, 10.15.20, RFE/RL, 10.16.20)
New Cold War/saber rattling:
- Russia is the largest state-based threat to the United Kingdom but China's intelligence actions "will be shaping the world," the new head of British intelligence service MI5 has said. Head of MI5 Ken McCallum said that Moscow delivered "bursts of bad weather" but China was responsible for "changing the climate" when it came to security activity and intelligence. (Newsweek, 10.14.20)
- Russia says it is expelling two Bulgarian diplomats, nearly three weeks after two staff at the Russian Embassy in Sofia accused of military espionage were told to leave. (RFE/RL, 10.12.20)
- A missile has been fired into the sky on Turkey’s Black Sea coast where the military was expected to test its Russian-made S-400 defense systems, according to a video seen by Reuters. Turkey was widely expected to test the system this week, after issuing notices warning vessels and aircraft to avoid the area in the Black Sea. A Haber television, an outlet close to the Turkish government, also reported the test on its website. Other Turkish media carried similar reports. (Al Jazeera, 10.16.20)
- An improved missile attack warning system is expected to be put on combat duty next year, Sergey Boyev, general constructor of the missile attack warning system, said. The improved missile attack warning system includes command communication devices and ground and space-based echelons. (Interfax, 10.15.20)
Nuclear arms control:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin offered on Oct. 16 to extend New START by one year without preconditions, but the White House quickly rejected the call as a “non-starter.” Putin told his security council on Oct. 16 that “it would be exceedingly sad” if New START were to expire on Feb. 5. “Try to get some sort of coherent answer out of them [Americans] as soon as possible,” Putin told his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Oct. 16, however, the White House called Putin’s offer a “non-starter” on the same day. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said the U.S. approach “would have been a win for both sides.” (Financial Times, 10.16.20 AP, 10.16.20)
- Trump had a pre-election plan to show he had gotten something out of his mysteriously friendly relationship with Putin. In the weeks before the election, the two men would announce that they had reached an agreement in principle to extend New START. On Oct. 13, Marshall Billingslea, Trump’s lead negotiator, announced that the two leaders had an “agreement in principle, at the highest levels of our two governments, to extend the treaty.” Billingslea described an added “gentleman’s agreement” to cap each country’s stockpile of weapons not currently deployed on missiles, submarines or bombers. Then Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov shot back that this was a figment of someone’s election-season imagination. “Washington is describing what is desired, not what is real,” he said in a statement. For example, he said, Moscow would not freeze the number of tactical weapons it possesses. “If the Americans need to tell their bosses they supposedly made a deal with Russia before their election, then they won’t get one,” Ryabkov said. (Financial Times, 10.15.20, New York Times, 10.14.20)
- Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s arms control department Fu Cong was quoted by Kommersant Oct. 16 as saying that he cannot see China joining Russia and the U.S. in nuclear arms control in his life because China’s nuclear arsenal is much smaller than that of the U.S. and Russia. He also said it was China’s initiative to have arms control discussed by the P5 and that China would like that group to also discuss missile defense and space. He said China is also interested in a bilateral dialogue with the U.S. on missile defense. The Chinese official refused to disclose how many nuclear warheads China possesses, saying this refusal is in line with China’s policy of maintaining ambiguity, which he said is an important element of Beijing’s minimal deterrence. (Russia Matters, 10.16.20)
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- Russian military police and Turkish servicemen have carried out their 100th joint patrol mission in the northwest of Syria. (Interfax, 10.15.20)
- A Russian military transport helicopter has been filmed dispersing protesters rallying against Russia’s expansion into northeast Syria on Oct. 11, local independent media reported. Dozens of residents of Ayn Diwar village near the Turkish border took to the streets to oppose the Russian forces’ fifth attempt to establish a military outpost there, according to the North Press Agency. They reportedly blocked 11 armored vehicles from a Russian military police patrol. (AFP, 10.11.20)
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Syrian government and its Russian ally have shown “callous disregard” for the lives of millions of civilians during their military offensive to retake the last rebel-held enclave in northwestern Syria. In a report released Oct. 15, the human rights group said indiscriminate air and ground attacks on civilian areas in Idlib Province may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. (RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- No significant developments.
- U.S. Attorney General William Barr has told top Republicans that the results of a wide-ranging inquiry into the origins of the FBI's 2016 Russia investigation won't be made public before the election, according to people familiar with the matter. (Wall Street Journal, 10.10.20, The Washington Post, 10.11.20)
- Trump’s denunciations of Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe, his unsubtle talk of pardons and his labelling of one witness as a “rat” all broke norms of behavior for U.S. presidents. But they successfully deterred both witnesses and the crack team of investigators responsible for uncovering the truth about Russia’s role in Trump’s shock victory in 2016, according to Andrew Weissmann, who led one of the three teams in the special counsel’s office. (Financial Times, 10.10.20)
Energy exports from CIS:
- Key OPEC+ members Saudi Arabia and Russia have urged fellow oil producer countries to stick to supply cuts agreed earlier this year. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Putin spoke by telephone Oct. 13, and “agreed on the importance of all oil-producing countries to continue cooperating and abiding by the OPEC+ agreement to achieve these goals for the benefit of both producers and consumers,” according to the kingdom’s state media outlet. (Financial Times, 10.15.20)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- U.S. health and beauty online giant iHerb is planning to invest some $100 million in Russia in the next two years. (bne IntelliNews, 10.11.20)
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- Trump is said to have been warned that his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, was conveying Russian disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential bid. (New York Times, 10.15.20)
- “No, I don’t owe Russia money,” Trump said during his townhall event Oct. 15. (New York Times, 10.16.20)
- U.S. Attorney John Bash, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents, has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing. (The Washington Post, 10.13.20)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- Russia confirmed 15,150 new COVID-19 cases Oct. 16, bringing its official number of cases to 1,369,313 and breaking its record for new infections. The country's hospitals have become overwhelmed, with health officials reporting Oct. 13 that bed capacity is nearing 90 percent. (The Moscow Times, 10.16.20, Newsweek, 10.14.20) Here’s a link to RFE/RL’s interactive map of the virus’ spread around the world, including in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia. For a comparison of the number and rate of change in new cases in the U.S. and Russia, visit this Russia Matters resource.
- Russia’s population decline in 2020 will be 1,100 percent greater than that of 2019 amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to government projections cited by the RBC news website Oct. 15. The government forecasts a 352,500 drop in Russia’s population this year, according to the report, leading to a population of 146.4 million by the end of 2020. (The Moscow Times, 10.16.20)
- Russia has cleared two antiviral drugs called remdesivir for coronavirus treatment after doctors used the drugs to treat Trump, the Russian Health Ministry announced Oct. 14. (The Moscow Times, 10.15.20)
- Foreign-born parents of Russian citizens over 18 years old can now obtain Russian citizenship through a simplified naturalization procedure, according to a new amendment that comes into force Oct. 12. (The Moscow Times, 10.12.20)
- Putin wants to enact changes that would ban Russian authorities from recognizing gay marriages registered outside the country, Vedomosti reported Oct. 15. (The Moscow Times, 10.16.20)
Defense and aerospace:
- Russia’s expenditures on national defense will decrease from 2.7 percent to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2023, which is a rather significant decrease, said the head of the Russian Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin Oct. 15. (TASS, 10.15.20)
- Military actions in the complex situation of a modern military conflict were practiced during the Caucasus 2020 exercise, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. The military practiced using new reconnaissance attack and fire systems, as well as automatic command systems, and found them to be highly efficient, he said. (Interfax, 10.12.20)
- Military attaches from 14 countries attended the final stage of the Unbreakable Brotherhood-2020 peacekeeping drills of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Belarus. (TASS, 10.16.20)
- Russian and Abkhaz troops have started a joint battalion tactical exercise in the mountains and on the sea coast in Abkhazia. (Interfax, 10.16.20)
- Naval drills involving six Russian warships, seven aircraft and over 400 troops kicked off in the Caspian Sea, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Oct. 16. "The exercise will run in the central part of the Caspian Sea north of the Absheron Peninsula," the ministry said. (TASS, 10.16.20)
- The oxygen supply system has failed in a module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) but the crew is in no danger, Russian space agency Roscosmos said Oct. 15. (The Moscow Times, 10.15.20)
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- Some 36 terrorism-related crimes, including 19 terror attacks, have been thwarted in the North Caucasus since 2019, the press center of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said. (TASS, 10.13.20)
- Four militants allegedly planning a series of terrorist attacks in the republic of Chechnya have been killed in a counterterrorism raid, Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee said Oct. 13. The suspected militants had arrived in Chechnya from abroad, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his official Telegram channel. (The Moscow Times, 10.13.20)
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- The EU has imposed sanctions on six top Russian officials over their alleged involvement in the chemical weapon poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Those named by the EU on Oct. 15 include Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, as well as Sergei Kiriyenko and Andrei Yarin, Putin’s top domestic policy officials. The EU also imposed sanctions against Yevgeny Prigozhin, a caterer known as “Putin’s chef.” The EU has also imposed sanctions on the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology in Moscow, which it said has responsibility for destroying Soviet-era chemical weapons stocks and had also previously developed Novichok compounds. The officials also include two deputy defense ministers, Aleksei Kirivoruchko and Pavel Popov. (Financial Times, 10.16.20, RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- Lavrov warned Oct. 13 that Moscow could freeze its contacts with the EU in response to its sanctions over the poisoning of Navalny—an unprecedented threat that reflects a bitter Russia-EU strain. (AP, 10.13.20)
- Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Putin, told reporters Oct. 15 that the EU move on the Navalny case “had harmed relations with our country.” Russia plans to “analyze the situation and act in accordance with its own interests” in response, Peskov added. (Financial Times, 10.16.20)
- Russia says it has decided to halt consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight over eastern Ukraine more than six years ago, after the Dutch government took Russia to court in July for its alleged role in the tragedy. (RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- Berlin-based Transparency International has ranked Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary among 19 leading global exporters that are doing little or even nothing to enforce rules meant to prohibit companies from paying bribes in foreign markets. (RFE/RL, 10.13.20)
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
- Asked for his comments to Lavrov's assertion that "ideas that Russia and China will play by sets of Western rules under any circumstances are deeply flawed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Washington is trying to drive a wedge between Beijing and Moscow. "Certain countries are seeking to create clashes in the Chinese-Russian ties out of nothing," he told a regular briefing. (Business Insider, 10.16.20, TASS, 10.16.20)
- The turnover of agricultural products between Russia and China for nine months of 2020 increased by 9 percent compared to the same period last year and amounted to $3.8 billion, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture said. (TASS, 10.16.20)
- BRICS member states managed to maintain positive dynamics of cooperation even amidst the pandemic, Ryabkov said. (TASS, 10.16.20)
- China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the U.N.'s premiere human rights body Oct. 13 despite opposition from activist groups over their abysmal human rights records. Russia and Cuba were running unopposed. (AP, 10.14.20)
War in Karabakh:
- Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes on Oct. 16, defying hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. There were signs on Oct. 16 that a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreed last Oct. 10 to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed had all but broken down. Armenia and Azerbaijan each accused the other of launching attacks, and each said it had the upper hand. As of Oct. 15, according to Armenian officials, 604 Armenian and Karabakh soldiers had been confirmed killed. Azerbaijan does not release details of its military casualties, but it is widely understood the death tolls across the board are higher than what has been officially recorded so far. (Reuters, 10.16.20, Al Jazeera, 10.15.20)
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 15 said Turkey’s involvement in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has increased the risk in the region, reiterating his call for the issue to be resolved through diplomacy. “We now have the Turks, who have stepped in and provided resources to Azerbaijan, increasing the risk, increasing the firepower that’s taking place in this historic fight,” Pompeo said. (Reuters, 10.15.20)
- Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a telephone call on Oct. 14 to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin press service said. "It was stressed that consolidated efforts were needed to end the bloodshed as soon as possible and switch to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," it said. The presidents also discussed the situation in Syria and Libya. Turkey has increased military exports sixfold this year to its close ally Azerbaijan. (Interfax, 10.15.20, Reuters, 10.16.20)
- Lavrov on Oct. 14 criticized Turkey for pushing the line that a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is acceptable. “We do not agree with the position voiced by Turkey, that was also expressed several times by [Azerbaijani] President [Ilham] Aliyev,” Lavrov said. “It is not a secret that we cannot agree with a statement that a military solution to the conflict is permissible,” he added. (bne IntelliNews, 10.15.20)
- On Oct. 12, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised the issue of Middle East fighters in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar. And on Oct. 13, Russia warned of the possible “transfer of terrorist fighters” from the Middle East to Nagorno-Karabakh. (Wall Street Journal, 10.14.20)
- Families gathered around a refrigerated truck at a Syrian-Turkish border post, waiting earlier this month for the drivers to dispense their awful cargo: the bodies of 52 Syrian men. The dead were mercenaries, recruited by Turkish-backed militias in Syria to fight on behalf of Azerbaijan against Armenia, relatives said. Hundreds of fighters from Syrian militias allied with Turkey have joined the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and hundreds more are preparing to go, according to two Syrians involved in the effort. A Syrian rebel involved in deployments said fighters had been traveling there since mid-September—before the latest round of clashes—in groups of up to 100 at a time. Multiple sources from the SNA have told different Western news organizations they were promised pay ranging from $1,200 to $2,000 per month for work in Azerbaijan. Liz Cookman, an Istanbul-based journalist, said sources within the Turkish-based SNA had confirmed that at least 1,500 Syrian fighters have been deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh. (The Washington Post,10.14.20, Wall Street Journal, 10.14.20, RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- Turkish as well as Israeli and cheaper Russian-made drones are being used to powerful effect during Azerbaijan's attacks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. (RFE/RL, 10.16.20)
- Iran's Foreign Ministry has issued a fresh warning to Armenia and Azerbaijan after stray fire from their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh reportedly wounded one person on the Iranian side of the border. "If there is any repetition of such fire, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not remain indifferent," Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh tweeted Oct. 16, without elaborating. (RFE/RL, 10.16.20)
- Election campaign officials for Biden have dismissed a report in The New York Post that he met a senior official from a Ukrainian energy firm at the center of a controversy over the dismissal of a prosecutor investigating the company. Social-media platforms Facebook and Twitter restricted sharing of the article pending third-party fact-checking over concerns of misinformation with just three weeks left until the Nov. 3 election. (RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- U.S. businessman and former diplomat Amos Hochstein has resigned as an independent director on the supervisory board of Ukrainian national gas company Naftogaz, complaining of opposition to reforms and of political interference. (bne IntelliNews, 10.12.20)
- U.S. Air National Guard (California) supplied a batch of newly issued fighter helmets, including masks and support equipment, for the Ukrainian Air Force five years ago. These helmets go unused. Ukrainian officials at first assured that they would use American systems that are easier and more convenient than Soviet ones. But then made a decision that the American systems do not comply with standards adopted in the country and cannot be used by military pilots. (Defense Blog, 10.11.20)
- Ukraine is going to join the EU in the imposition of sanctions against Belarus, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during a briefing. (112 Ukraine, 10.13.20)
- Ukraine and Poland intend to cooperate in order to further deepen Ukraine’s relations with the EU, according to a joint statement by presidents of both countries released on Ukraine’s presidential website following their meeting in Kyiv Oct. 12. (Kyiv Post, 10.12.20)
- The EU has denounced forced military conscription of residents in Russian-occupied Crimea. (RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- Some 16.8 percent of Ukrainians expect the results of reforms within four to five years, 15.6 percent in two to three years, while 14.3 percent believe the consequences of reforms can be expected only in 10 or more years, according to a poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. Some 46.7 percent of respondents said that they have not yet felt any consequences of the reforms. (Interfax, 10.12.20)
- Ukrposhta has climbed to the 30th spot in a U.N. ranking of the world’s 170 national postal operators. (Ukraine Business News, 10.13.20)
- EU foreign ministers agreed on Oct. 12 to impose sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, widely seen as having stolen the recent election—but they also appeared to offer him a way out of the penalties. Meeting in Luxembourg on Oct. 12, foreign ministers of the 27 members of the bloc reiterated that Belarus's August election was “neither free nor fair” and that Lukashenko “lacks any democratic legitimacy.” Lukashenko will be targeted with a travel ban and an asset freeze as part of a broader sanctions package, diplomats said. The EU will scale back financial support it gives to Belarus's government, the foreign ministers said in a statement. (Wall Street Journal, 10.12.20, New York Times, 10.12.20, RFE/RL, 10.12.20)
- Britain has recalled its ambassador to Belarus, joining a growing number of European countries who have pulled their diplomats amid the continuing impasse over the August presidential election in Minsk. (RFE/RL, 10.10.20)
- Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on Lukashenko to resign as president within the next 12 days. In a statement on Telegram on Oct. 13, Tsikhanouskaya said that protesters in Belarus were declaring a so-called "people's ultimatum," the conditions of which must be met by Lukashenko by that date. (RFE/RL, 10.13.20)
- Russia says it put Tsikhanouskaya on its wanted list in line with regional agreements after Belarus first made the move claiming she had called for overthrowing the constitutional order in the country. Russian media on Oct. 16 quoted Russia's Interior Ministry as confirming the move, made within the framework of the Russia-Belarus Union State. (RFE/RL, 10.16.20)
- Belarusian state media have reported that Lukashenko met with jailed Belarusian opposition leaders in a detention center run by the country's KGB security service—ostensibly to discuss plans for constitutional reforms. (RFE/RL, 10.10.20)
- The Belarussian Interior Ministry has threatened to fire on protesters to break up demonstrations against Lukashenko. First Deputy Interior Minister Henadz Kazakevich said in a video statement Oct. 14: "We will not leave the streets and will guarantee the law in the country. Law enforcement personnel and interior troops will use special equipment and lethal weapons if need be." (RFE/RL, 10.12.20)
- Belarusians are emptying their accounts of money in the face of a rapidly escalating political and economic crisis. Since April, Belarusians have taken out $1.428 billion from banks, mostly from their dollar and euro currency accounts. At the end of September, the total balance in retail foreign currency accounts was $6.199 billion, down by $706.2 million from the end of August. (bne IntelliNews, 10.16.20)
- Technicians have achieved a chain reaction in the No. 1 reactor of the controversial Belarusian nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, the last step before connecting it to the electrical grid, Russian media have reported. (Bellona, 10.12.20)
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- Sadyr Japarov, a nationalist firebrand and a man convicted of kidnapping, said he had “taken over as head of state” in Kyrgyzstan on Oct. 15, hours after President Sooronbai Jeenbekov resigned. Jeenbekov said he was stepping down in an attempt to end the political turmoil that has racked the central Asian country since this month’s disputed parliamentary election. He is now the third president of the former Soviet state of 6.5 million people to be toppled by popular revolt since 2005. Japarov appointed a close ally as national security chief Oct. 16. Japarov's appointment of Kamchibek Tashiyev as head of the State National Security Council (GKNB) was confirmed by the government press service. (AFP, 10.15.20, Financial Times, 10.15.20)
- Russia has suspended its financial assistance to the cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan until political stability is restored there. (The Moscow Times, 10.15.20)
- Tajikistan's authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon officially won 90.92 percent of the vote, securing him a fifth presidential term, according to preliminary results announced by the Central Election Commission Oct. 12. Elections in the mountainous republic have never been considered free or fair. The largely ceremonial day at the ballot box grants 68-year-old Rahmon another seven years at the reins of the country, Central Asia’s poorest. (bne IntelliNews, 10.13.20)
- Seven senior former Italian police and immigration officials have received prison sentences for their roles in the "unlawful" deportation of the wife and daughter of fugitive Kazakh banker and opposition organizer politician Mukhtar Ablyazov seven years ago. (RFE/RL, 10.15.20)
- No significant developments.