Politics • European • Germany
Russian Covid-19 vaccine possibly "dangerous" according to German Health Minister
Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

In a radio interview with Deutschlandfunk, the German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn has stated: "it is not about being first somehow, but about having an effective, a tested and therefore safe vaccine, which - and this is the important part - will vaccinate 100 million, if not billions of people".

According to his judgment, Russia has not been transparent enough about the studies, trials and science behind the Covid-19 vaccine that has already been approved.

He stated that "at least we now know that there have been no phase 3 studies" adding that it could be "dangerous to start vaccinating millions". Possible negative effects could "be quite fatal to the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong" as the approved Vaccine "has not been sufficiently tested here".

Politics • American • Brazil
Brazilian state in talks with Russia to produce Covid-19 vaccine
Brazilian state in talks with Russia to produce Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: Tecpar (Public Domain)

Brazil’s Parana state announced the intention to locally produce the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. The Parana Technology Institute (Tecpar) would be responsible for tests and later the production of the Russian vaccine.

An agreement should be signed by the governor of Paraná, Ratinho Júnior, and by the Russian ambassador, Sergey Akopov, this Wednesday.

Tecpar’s spokesman João Pedro Schonarth stated earlier Tuesday, "This signature of the Government of Paraná and Russia is important for the exchange to be made possible. Each step at its proper time. We cannot skip steps. We cannot make leaps when dealing with an extremely serious matter"

The announcement took Brazil’s regulators and health experts by surprise, with some raising doubts about the institute’s capacity to produce large volumes of a new vaccine from scratch.

Russia approves Covid-19 vaccine without completing phase three clinical trials
Russia approves Covid-19 vaccine without completing phase three clinical trials
Credit: Screenshot of the website for the Russian Covid-19 vaccine

According to an announcement from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the country has registered and approved the world's first Covid-19 vaccine.

Multiple experts have stated that it is still unclear if the vaccine is safe, as phase three clinical trials are still underway. These phase three trials have the goal of determining if the vaccine is safe and works in the general population.

Multiple experts from around the world have voice their concerns and criticism of this rushed approval process including the executive director of the Russian nonprofit Association of Clinical Trials Organizations, Svetlana Zavidova. She has asked "why are all corporations following the rules, but Russian ones aren’t? The rules for conducting clinical trials are written in blood. They can’t be violated" and added that "this is a Pandora’s Box and we don’t know what will happen to people injected with an unproven vaccine".

Politics • Asian • Russia
Russia approves world's first coronavirus vaccine
Russia approves world's first coronavirus vaccine
Credit: Kremlin (Public Domain)

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday the approval of a coronavirus vaccine developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. The vaccine is named Sputnik-V, and it has yet to go through Phase 3 trials.

Putin said, "A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning, I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity."

The announcement came despite a caution last week from the World Health Organization(WHO) that Russia should not stray from the usual methods of testing a vaccine for safety and effectiveness.

Politics • Middle Eastern
US pressures Assad with new round of sanctions

The US has introduced new sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions fall under the Caesar Act, which went into effect in June, 2020 and targets industries and entities that deal with the Assad administration, including those in Iran and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the purpose of the sanctions is to pressure Assad into ending the war, which has entered its ninth year.

Syria is currently facing an economic crisis, with many struggling to find food and other basic goods. Syrian officials have blamed the worsening conditions on American and EU sanctions.

Kelly Craft, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated the sanctions are not meant to harm civilians, nor do they target humanitarian efforts.

Politics • Asian • Russia
Protests in east Russia continue
Protest in Khabarovsk, July 18 2020
Protest in Khabarovsk, July 18 2020 Credit: teamnavalnykhv

For the third week, protestors in Khabarovsk have gone to the street to demand that their governor is tried in Khabarovsk after he had been detained and flown to Moskow over murder charges. Protestors say that he possibly has been set up by the government in Moskow.

The reported number of protestants varies widely with the city authorities reporting 6,500 and the protest organizers 50,000 participants.

Politics • World
US Space Comnmand warns of possible armed Russian satellite
Representative picture of a NASA satellite
Representative picture of a NASA satellite Credit: / Nasa

The US Space Command has stated that they have evidence of Russia testing an anti-satellite weapon in space. According to them "a projectile was launched from" the Cosmos 2543 Russian satellite, that has been tailing a US spy satellite.

Russia claims the object that has been dispatched from the satellite was an inspector satellite. Stephen Kitay, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, rejected that explanation and stated that "the behavior of that satellite looked nothing like an inspector satellite and looked like something much more concerning".

Politics • Asian • Russia
Alexei Navalny announces closure of anti-corruption foundation over fines from Russian courts
Alexei Navalny announces closure of anti-corruption foundation over fines from Russian courts
Credit: Evgeny Feldman (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Alexei Navalny has announced that he'll close his Anti-Corruption Foundation, stating that fines imposed by a Russian court force him to make that decision. The politician opposing the Russian president Vladimir Putin has stated that "Everything we had was already seized in previous police raids. Now they’re going to take away the organisation itself" and added that he will try to re-launch the foundation under a new name.

Science • Medicine
UK, US & Canada warn of Russian spies trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine research
UK, US & Canada warn of Russian spies trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine research
Credit: Reed

American, British and Canadian governments have warned of Russian hackers trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine research by exploiting software flaws to access computer systems. While the UK's National Cyber Security Centre is "almost certain" that the attack came from a "part of Russian intelligence services", Russia has denied these claims.

"We do not have information about who may have hacked into pharmaceutical companies and research centres in Great Britain. We can say one thing - Russia has nothing at all to do with these attempts," so Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson of President Putin.

Politics • Asian • Russia
Russian parliament drafts ban of same-sex marriage after constitutional change
Russian parliament drafts ban of same-sex marriage after constitutional change
Credit: unsplash/Thomas AE

During the Russian constitutional referendum, voters backed a constitutional change that would ban same-sex marriage by defining marriage as a union of a woman and a man only. Lawmakers in the Russian parliament have now introduced a legislation draft to implement this change.

In addition to explicitly banning same-sex marriage, couples of the same sex will be prohibited from adopting children. While this is no explicit change in the current practice,s it explicitly outlaws the option. According to one of the Senators, Yelena Mizulina, the changes will also affect transgender people.

Politics • World
The German Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee calls the new UN agreement for aid to Syria as a "failure of the West all along the line"
Norbert Röttgen in 2021
Norbert Röttgen in 2021 Credit: Wolfgang Henry / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

On Saturday the UN Security Council agreed to continue the humanitarian aid to Syria only in a limited way. Due to the new regulation, only one border crossing for aid deliveries from Turkey to Northern Syria is planned, before there were two. According to aid organizations, this new regulation could endanger the care of millions of people in need.

Norbert Röttgen, the german chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, calls this decision a "failure of the West all along the line".

He further said to the newspaper "Die Welt": "This failure is due to the withdrawal of the United States and the subsequent vacuum that Russia was happy to fill. And it is the utter reluctance of Europeans not to represent their own interests in the region. The consequences of the displacement and killing of civilians by Assad and Putin, now with China's support in the UN Security Council, affect Europe. The displaced persons will seek protection from us through Turkey."

Politics • American • US
Roger Stone commuted by Trump, no prison time
Roger Stone
Roger Stone Credit: Victoria Pickering (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The president of the United States Donald Trump has commuted his long time ally Roger Stone days before he was scheduled to go to prison.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has stated that "Roger Stone is now a free man" adding that there allegedly was "never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia". Stone was sentenced to prison as a part of the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign over lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.

Technology • Games
Users allegedly abusing VPNs cause Horizon Zero Dawn PC prices to skyrocket
Users allegedly abusing VPNs cause Horizon Zero Dawn PC prices to skyrocket
Credit: Guerrilla Games

Horizon Zero Dawn prices on PC have increased in some countries most likely as a result of people using VPNs to buy the game from a different country where the game was cheaper due to regional pricing.

Some example include Argentina, Turkey and Russia where the prices increased by 389%, 351% and 301%, respectively.

Politics • Asian • Russia
Putin wins constitutional referendum and will be able to stay in power until 2036
Archive Vladimir Putin 2018
Archive Vladimir Putin 2018 Credit: (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

The Central Election Commission has announced that the Russians have voted in favor of adopting the proposed constitutional changes. According to the commission, 77.9 percent of the voters were in favor and 21 percent against. With the changes, Putin will be able to run for two more six-year terms after 2024, thus being able to stay as the head of the country until 2036. Multiple countries have called for Russia to investigate possible irregularities with the voting process.

A spokesperson for the United States state department stated that "We are troubled by reports of Russian government efforts to manipulate the result of the recent votes on constitutional amendments, including reports of voter coercion, pressure on opponents of the amendments and restrictions of independent observers of the vote".

Politics • American • US
Business Insider report: Taliban sources confirm that Russia put bounties on US soldiers

According to a report from Business Insider two active Taliban commanders and one former commander have confirmed that Russia pays for bounties to attack and kill soldiers of the United States in Afghanistan.
All three sources stated that they had not participated in the program and disparaged the practice, but confirmed the existence. According to one source the groups that associate with the Taliban but are not close to the central leadership the Quetta Shura "will do anything for money, and Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and other countries will hire them for operations".

He stated that he wasn't approached by Russia himself as he was based in a different region of Afghanistan as they operate in, but regularly by Iran. According to Business Insider, an official of the NATO military intelligence has also confirmed that the practice is well-known.

Politics • American • US
Nancy Pelosi demands answers for "congress and the country" on Russian bounty operation
Nancy Pelosi at #ProtectOurCare, 2019
Nancy Pelosi at #ProtectOurCare, 2019 Credit: Senate Democrats / CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

On Monday, Nancy Pelosi has asked the Trump administration to brief all members of the House on recent reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Trump has denied he had any knowledge of the Russian bounty operation.

In her letter, Pelosi wrote that both "Congress and the country need answers now" and that "Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable."

According to Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, members of the congress will be briefed on Monda,y but it's uncertain whether the brief would be open to all members.

Politics • European • European Union
European Union will bar most travelers from dozens of countries, including U.S. and Russia
European Union will bar most travelers from dozens of countries, including U.S. and Russia
Credit: Ángel Sanz

A European vacation won't be happening for many this summer. On Friday, E.U. officials announced that most travelers from a list of dozens of countries that still haven't contained the coronavirus outbreak wouldn't be allowed into the E.U. as they are considered a risk.

Among those countries are Russia and the United States. Chinese travelers will be allowed to visit but only if E.U. travelers won't be barred from entering China.

Politics • Asian • Russia
Russia passes 600,000 Covid-19 cases one day before referendum
COVID-19 Girl in mask on the street.
COVID-19 Girl in mask on the street. Credit: (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Russia has reported 7,176 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the nationwide total number to 606,882 confirmed Covid-19 cases. The country remains the third most infected in the world one day ahead of the constitutional referendum.

Politics • Asian • Russia
Russia stages military parade one day ahead of referendum to extend Putin's rule until 2036
2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade
2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade Credit: (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Russia is showing it's military in a parade on Wednesday one day ahead of the constitutional referendum that would enable President Vladimir Putin to extend his reign until 2036. The military parade is happening in honour of the 75th anniversary of the World War II defeat of Nazi Germany. The annual parade was originally scheduled for the beginning of May but delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year 14,000 soldiers and different kinds of weapons will be shown in it.

Technology • Internet & Web
Messenger app Telegram announces that it will develop anti-censorship tools for Iran and China
Messenger app Telegram announces that it will develop anti-censorship tools for Iran and China
Credit: / Christian Wiediger

The co-founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov, has announced that the company will direct "anti-censorship resources into other places where Telegram is still banned by governments — places like Iran and China". In the past Telegram has already developed and provided users with tools to circumvent the Telegram ban in Russia.