Russia

Regional News • Asia • India
Russia's Sputnik V Coronavirus vaccine approved in India
Russia's Sputnik V Coronavirus vaccine approved in India
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

India's Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved use of Russia's Sputnik V Coronavirus vaccine. India is said to produce 750 million doses of the Russian vaccine.

"India, the world’s 2nd most populous nation, became the 60th country to register #SputnikV after positive results of local Phase 3 clinical study. Sputnik V is now authorized in 60 countries with a population of over 3 [billion] people," the Sputnik V official Twitter account wrote.

Regional News • Europe
Russia threatens to intervene in eastern Ukraine

The Kremlin has threatened military intervention in eastern Ukraine. In the event of a flare-up of fighting, Russia will not stand idly by and watch a possible "human catastrophe", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax agency.

Russia will take measures to protect its citizens, he added. Peskov also said there was a concentration of Russian troops in the region because the country's security was at stake.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Putin signs law allowing him 2 more terms as Russia's President
Vladimir Putin has been sworn in as President of Russia (2018)
Vladimir Putin has been sworn in as President of Russia (2018) Credit: The Presidential Press and Information Office (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law allowing him to potentially hold onto power until 2036, a move that formalizes constitutional changes endorsed in a vote last year.

Putin, who turns 69 this year, is currently serving his fourth presidential term, set to end in 2024. The new legislation, announced on Monday, could allow him to serve two more six-year terms, should he choose to stand for and win reelection both times.

Regional News • Asia • India
Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V to be produced by India Indian drugmaker

The Russian sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) has concluded another agreement for the production of the Corona vaccine Sputnik V in India. The agreement with the company Stelis from the Indian pharmaceutical group Strides provides for the production of at least 200 million doses of the vaccine from the third quarter of 2021, as the sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday. In November, RDIF had already signed an agreement with Indian group Hetero for 100 million doses annually.

In contrast to dozens of other countries, the Russian vaccine has not yet been approved in India, where clinical trials are still underway. At the same time, Moscow is counting on broadening the production of the vaccine due to the high international demand in the pandemic.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany could imagine signing deal for Sputnik V shot, minister says
Sputnik V delivered to Argentina
Sputnik V delivered to Argentina Credit: Casa Rosada (Public Domain)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday he would be in favour of signing a national supply deal with Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine for Covid-19.

"I can also well imagine that we conclude contracts - and conclude them quickly," Spahn told a weekly news conference, adding that Germany was in close contact with Russia on questions to do with the vaccine. A prerequisite, however, is that there is more detail on how many doses could be delivered, he said.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Russia restricts Twitter access over 'illegal' content
Russia restricts Twitter access over 'illegal' content
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

Russia's media regulator says it will block Twitter if it does not remove 'illegal' content. The measures will only apply to images and video, not text. The regulator cites 2,569 cases of users inciting minors to commit suicide and 149 cases of child pornography.

In December, the Russian Parliament's lower house passed two bills that would give the state greater power to punish Facebook and Twitter companies.

Science • Space
China and Russia to build lunar space station
China and Russia to build lunar space station
Credit: William Andrus (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Russian space agency Roscosmos says it has signed an agreement with China's National Space Administration to develop research facilities on the moon's surface, in orbit or both. Both countries' space agencies say the facilities will be available for use by other nations.

The news comes as Russia prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first-ever crewed space flight.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
EMA urges EU not to grant emergency authorization for Russian Covid-19 vaccine
EMA urges EU not to grant emergency authorization for Russian Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: Mos.ru, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

An official of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is cautioning the European Union to hold back on granting emergency authorization for Sputnik V, Russia's Covid-19 vaccine until its effectiveness has been reviewed.

“We need documents that we can review. We also don’t at the moment have data...about vaccinated people. It is unknown. That’s why I would urgently advise against giving a national emergency authorization,” EMA managing board head Christa Wirthumer-Hoche said. “We can have Sputnik V on the market here in future when the appropriate data have been reviewed. The rolling review has begun now at EMA.”

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Washington and Brussels have imposed sanctions against Russian officials over Navalny poisoning
Washington and Brussels have imposed sanctions against Russian officials over Navalny poisoning
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Christo Grozev

After the US intelligence officials concluded that the Russian government was behind the attack on Navalny, the Biden administration slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities

Tuesday's sanctions mark the first of several steps by the Biden administration to "respond to a number of destabilizing actions,'' said one of the White House officials.

Brussels imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecutor general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service

Regional News • Americas • United States
US set to impose sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning on Tuesday
Oppositionist Alexei Navalny, February 2020
Oppositionist Alexei Navalny, February 2020 Credit: Michał Siergiejevicz, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The United States is set to impose sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as early as Tuesday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The sources declined to provide details on specific targets and or authorities involved.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany: Man charged with passing Bundestag blueprints to Russia
Germany: Man charged with passing Bundestag blueprints to Russia
Credit: Herman (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Federal prosecutors have charged a German citizen with passing blueprints and building plans of the Bundestag parliament to a suspected GRU agent in the Russian Embassy.

In a press release, Germany's federal prosecutor's office said the suspect worked for a company hired to check the electrical equipment by the Bundestag. In that role, the German national used his access to collect data and pass it on to "an employee in the Russian Embassy in Berlin, who mainly works for the Russian military secret service GRU," between late July and early September 2017.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany expels Russian diplomat in tit-for-tat move
Russian Embassy in Berlin
Russian Embassy in Berlin Credit: Fred Romero (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The German government has declared a Russian diplomat "persona non grata" in response to Moscow's expulsion of EU diplomats last week. Poland and Sweden have made similar announcements.

Russia said the expelled diplomats had participated in a demonstration in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but Germany disputed this.

"The German diplomat was merely carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal fashion," the Federal Foreign Office of Germany wrote on a statement.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Russia sends gay men back to Chechnya
Russia sends gay men back to Chechnya
Credit: unsplash.com / Tim Bieler

Russian rights group The Russian LGBT Network has come forward saying that Russia has sent two gay men, who fled to Russia to escape torture, have been returned to Chechnya.

The group said that the men are in "mortal danger".

Reports say the pair were forcibly returned to Chechen authorities.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Three European diplomats expelled from Russia
Sergei Lavrov (left) and Josep Borrell
Sergei Lavrov (left) and Josep Borrell Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

Three diplomats from the EU have been expelled from Russia over their alleged participation in protests in support of Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition activist who was jailed this week.

The expulsion of the diplomats, from Germany, Sweden and Poland, comes only hours after the EU's foreign affairs chief - Josep Borrell - met his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

In response to the expulsion, Sweden called it "totally unfounded" and denied their diplomat had participated in any demonstration, and German's foreign ministry said that it was "in no way justified" and would retaliate if Russia did not reconsider the action.

Russia's foreign ministry said that the 3 diplomats allegedly took part in "illegal demonstrations" on 23 January.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Doctor who treated Navalny in Russia suddenly died
Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny Credit: Evgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

Sergei Maximishin, the deputy chief physician at the clinic in Omsk, Siberia, has died "suddenly" at the age of 55. The hospital's administration said so "with regret" in an official statement, U.S. broadcaster CNN reported. No details were given on the cause of death.

The hospital treated Alexei Navalny last summer immediately after he was poisoned. The Kremlin critic had collapsed on a flight from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow in late August. Initially, he was then treated at the hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing of the plane. Two days later, still in a coma, he was taken to Berlin's Charité University Hospital for treatment.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Navalny has been sentenced to serve 3,5 years in a penal colony
Navalny has been sentenced to serve 3,5 years in a penal colony
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Christo Grozev

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been sentenced to serve 3,5 years in a penal colony for violating his probation rules after leaving Russia for medical treatment in Germany following his poisoning.

Multiple landmarks in Moscow such as the Red Square had previously been blocked off by police in expectation of the verdict.

Health
Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6% effective
Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6% effective
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

According to The Lancet results on Tuesday, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19. Independent experts said the publishing allayed transparency concerns over the jab, that is already being used in Russia and Argentina.

The effectiveness calculation was based on the analysis of data of 19,866 volunteers. In volunteers aged above 60, the efficacy rate was 91.8 per cent. Among adverse events, 94 per cent were mild and included flu-like symptoms, reactions in the vaccine site, headache and asthenia. However, no serious adverse events were reported.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Moscow closes metro stations amidst pro Navalny protests
Representative image of a Moskow metro station
Representative image of a Moskow metro station Credit: unsplash.com / David Torres

Seven metro stations have been closed amidst pro Navalny protests in Moscow that demand the release of the opposition leader from prison. The announcement of the public transportation services stated that this has been done at the request of the police. In addition, several streets near the Kremlin have been closed.

Regional News • Europe • Russia
Navalny's brother arrested during raids in Moscow

In raids against relatives and associates of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, his brother was among those arrested. Oleg Navalny was initially detained for 48 hours, Navalny's associate Ivan Zhdanov announced on Twitter. The reason given was a violation of Corona hygiene regulations, Navalny's team wrote on Telegram. Lawyer Lyubov Sobol, a close confidant and associate of Alexei Navalny, and an employee of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation were also detained, he added.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Ex-KGB spy claims Trump was cultivated as Russian asset for 40 years
Ex-KGB spy claims Trump was cultivated as Russian asset for 40 years
Credit: Kremlin.ru, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Former KGB spy Yuri Shvets has told The Guardian that Russia has cultivated former president Donald Trump as a Russian asset for over 40 years. Shvets serves as a source for journalist Craig Unger who's currently working on his new book 'American Kompromat' which explores Trump's relationship to Russia and Jeffrey Epstein. Trump allegedly appeared on Russian's radar after his marriage to his first wife Ivana Zelnickova in 1977 and was later identified as a potential asset by so-called spotter agent Joy-Lud who sold television sets to Trump for his Grand Hyatt New York hotel.

When Trump visited Russia with Ivana in 1987, he was allegedly approached by KGB operatives who suggested he'd go into politics.

"For the KGB, it was a charm offensive. They had collected a lot of information on his personality so they knew who he was personally. The feeling was that he was extremely vulnerable intellectually, and psychologically, and he was prone to flattery," Shvets recalls. "This is what they exploited. They played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality and believed this is the guy who should be the president of the United States one day: it is people like him who could change the world. They fed him these so-called active measures soundbites and it happened. So it was a big achievement for the KGB active measures at the time."