Russia in Review, Oct. 16-23, 2020
This Week’s Highlights
- The U.S. has said it will resume talks with Russia “immediately” over the extension of New START after Moscow agreed to consider a mutual freeze on atomic warheads, the Financial Times reports. On Oct. 20, Russia’s foreign ministry signaled a concession by saying it was ready to consider freezing both sides’ “existing arsenals of nuclear warheads.” During a Valdai Club video conference with international foreign policy experts Oct. 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of extending the treaty, the AP reports, but he added that Russia can ensure its security without it, pointed at Russia’s perceived edge in hypersonic weapons. Meanwhile, Russia is preparing to resume test flights of its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile at a launch site above the Arctic circle, according to Arms Control Wonk.
- While senior Trump administration officials said this week that Iran has been actively interfering in the presidential election, many intelligence officials said they remained far more concerned about Russia, which in recent days has hacked into state and local computer networks in breaches that could allow Moscow broader access to American voting infrastructure, the New York Times reports.
- The U.S. has charged six Russian military intelligence officers with a hacking spree that included France’s ruling party, the Olympics and the U.K. government lab that investigated the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the Financial Times reports, while the EU and Britain imposed sanctions Oct. 22 on senior Russian intelligence officers for their alleged role in hacking the computer network in the German parliament in 2015, according to The Moscow Times.
- NATO is to build a headquarters for space operations at its airbase in Ramstein in Germany to counter a rising Russian and Chinese threat, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, according to Defense Post.
- Asked during a Valdai Club video conference with international foreign policy experts Oct. 22 whether a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible, Putin replied that “we don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it,” the AP reports. Putin also told the Valdai Club: “China is moving quickly toward superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction… The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer.”
- Putin said Oct. 22 that he hoped that the U.S., where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to meet the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Oct. 23, would help Moscow broker a solution to the Karabakh conflict, bne IntelliNews reports. Both ministers held separate meetings with Pompeo that lasted around 30 to 40 minutes, Reuters reports. The State Department said Pompeo stressed to both sides the importance of entering negotiations. Asked how his talks went, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told reporters “very good” as he exited the State Department, and added that work on a ceasefire would continue, according to Reuters, which did not report any comments from Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
- No significant developments.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant developments.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- A U.N. arms embargo on Iran expired on Oct. 18, in a blow to the Trump administration that failed in its attempts to extend it. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said the expiration of the embargo was a “momentous day” for the international community, which had defied the U.S.’s “malign” efforts and protected the nuclear accord. Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, said Washington would sanction “any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran.” (Financial Times, 10.19.20)
New Cold War/saber rattling:
- New satellite photographs taken by Planet Labs and analyzed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies show that Russia is preparing to resume test flights of its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile at a launch site above the Arctic circle. (Arms Control Wonk, 10.20.20)
- Russian MiG-31 and Su-35 fighter jets intercepted U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers over the Bering Sea and escorted the planes until they turned away from the Russian border. (Defense Blog, 10.22.20)
- U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said during the final presidential debate: “I don't understand why this president is unwilling to take on Putin when he's actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, when he's engaged in activities that are trying to destabilize all of NATO.” (USA Today, 10.23.20)
- NATO is to build a headquarters for space operations at its airbase in Ramstein in Germany, to counter a rising Russian and Chinese threat, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 22. (Defense Post, 10.23.20)
- U.S. President Donald Trump said during the final presidential debate: “Between the sanctions, nobody tougher than me on Russia. Between the sanctions, between all of what I've done with NATO. You know, I've got the NATO countries to put up an extra 130 billion, going to $420 billion a year, that's to guard against Russia. I sold—while he was selling pillows and sheets—I sold tank busters to Ukraine. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.” (USA Today, 10.23.20)
- No significant developments.
Nuclear arms control:
- The U.S. has said it will resume talks with Russia “immediately” over the extension of a nuclear arms control deal between the two countries after Moscow agreed to consider a mutual freeze on atomic warheads. The White House last week rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the treaty by one year because it did not cover the smaller so-called tactical warheads. But on Oct. 20, Russia’s foreign ministry signaled a concession by saying it was ready to consider freezing both sides’ “existing arsenals of nuclear warheads.” (Financial Times, 10.20.20)
- During a Valdai Club video conference with international foreign policy experts on Oct. 22, Putin emphasized the importance of extending the New START treaty that expires in February. At the same time, he added that Russia “wasn’t clinging to the treaty” and will ensure its security without it. He pointed at Russia’s perceived edge in hypersonic weapons and indicated a readiness to include them in a future pact. (AP, 10.22.20)
- No significant developments.
Conflict in Syria:
- Last week, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Samah entered the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. After a few miles, the 900-foot-long ship stopped reporting its position and destination. Evidence suggests the ship sailed to Syria, escorted by two Russian Navy ships, including a destroyer. (USNI, 10.21.20)
- Moscow has evacuated 27 Russian children from Syria’s infamous Al-Hol camp where the displaced family members of former Daesh fighters are being held. (Middle East Monitor, 10.16.20)
Cyber security and elections interference:
- The top U.S. intelligence official warned at an impromptu news conference on Oct. 21 that Iran and Russia were attempting to influence American voters just two weeks from the Nov. 3 presidential election. John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said both countries had obtained “voter registration information” and that Iran had sent emails designed to “intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President [Donald] Trump.” (Financial Times, 10.22.20)
- While senior Trump administration officials said this week that Iran has been actively interfering in the presidential election, many intelligence officials said they remained far more concerned about Russia, which in recent days has hacked into state and local computer networks in breaches that could allow Moscow broader access to American voting infrastructure. So far, there is no evidence that the Russians have changed any vote tallies or voter registration information, officials said. Russian government hackers have also targeted aviation computer networks. The hacking group linked to these attacks is known under various names including Energetic Bear and Dragonfly, the alert said. Government officials have previously linked the group to attacks on U.S. electrical infrastructure. (Wall Street Journal, 10.22.20, New York Times, 10.22.20)
- Russia and Iran have rejected U.S. claims that the two countries have been interfering with the 2020 presidential election next month. Iran said Oct. 22 that it had summoned the Swiss envoy in Tehran, who represents U.S. interests in the country because Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties, to protest against what it called the "baseless" U.S. accusations. Similarly, the Kremlin said the accusations are "absolutely groundless." (RFE/RL, 10.22.20)
- The U.S. has charged six Russian military intelligence officers with a hacking spree that included France’s ruling party, the Olympics and the U.K. government lab that investigated the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The indictment announced on Oct. 19 tied a string of high-profile cyber attacks across the world in recent years to a group of current and former Russian military officers who worked for the GRU. Among the incidents pinned on the group was a 2017 “hack-and-leak” effort against En Marche!, French President Emmanuel Macron’s party; attacks on the 2018 Winter Olympics, from which Russia was banned; and the destructive 2017 malware NotPetya. (Financial Times, 10.19.20)
- The EU and Britain imposed sanctions Oct. 22 on senior Russian intelligence officers for their alleged role in hacking the computer network in the German parliament in 2015. The head of the GRU military intelligence agency, Igor Kostyukov, and intelligence officer Dmitri Badin have been banned from EU soil and are subject to an asset freeze. (The Moscow Times, 10.22.20)
- The FBI notified Congress late Oct. 20 that it has "nothing to add at this time" to a statement made by the director of national intelligence disputing the idea that Russia orchestrated the discovery of a computer that may have belonged to Joe Biden's son. (The Washington Post, 10.21.20)
- Biden said during the final presidential debate: “It has been overwhelmingly clear in this election—I won't even get into the last one—this election, that Russia has been involved. China has been involved to some degree, and now we learned that, that Iran is involved. They will pay a price if I'm elected… They're interfering with American sovereignty… And to the best of my knowledge, I don't think the president said anything to Putin about it.” (USA Today, 10.23.20)
- Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray after election day—a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William Barr. House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows expressed frustration that Wray will not declassify more documents relevant to the FBI's 2016 probe of Russia's election interference, though federal law enforcement officials have not been told specifically what documents Meadows wants. (The Washington Post, 10.21.20)
Energy exports from CIS:
- Trump said during the final presidential debate: “We got Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Russia to cut back, way back. We saved our oil industry and now it's very vibrant and everybody has very inexpensive gasoline.” (USA Today, 10.23.20)
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant developments.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
- Russia has granted permanent residency to Edward Snowden after his current permit expired, his lawyer told state media. (The Moscow Times, 10.22.20)
- The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has thrown out ventilators shipped from Russia this spring as part of a coronavirus aid exchange. (The Moscow Times, 10.20.20)
- The U.S. has charged 10 Russian nationals with smuggling $50 million worth of mainly stolen iPhones and other Apple products, the Justice Department said Oct. 19. The investigation has led the State Department to revoke 113 visas of current and former employees of Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot suspected of participating in the smuggling scheme. (The Moscow Times, 10.20.20)
II. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
- Russia confirmed 17,340 new COVID-19 cases Oct. 23, bringing its official number of cases to 1,480,646 and setting a new record for one-day infections. A total of 283 people have died in the past 24 hours. (The Moscow Times, 10.23.20) 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.
- A number of Russian regions risk facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that is 10 times worse than the first, a senior Russian vector-borne disease expert said Oct. 20. “The situation in the regions is very different,” Alexander Lukashev, who heads Martsinovsky Institute of Medical Parasitology, Tropical and Vector-Borne Diseases, told state television. (The Moscow Times, 10.21.20)
- Moscow will not return to a full coronavirus lockdown like it did in spring as long as residents abide by current restrictions, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. (The Moscow Times, 10.19.20)
- Putin says he personally intervened to ensure that opposition politician Alexei Navalny could be evacuated to Germany for treatment. Navalny told U.S. broadcaster CBS that he is determined to go back in a couple of months and take up his work fighting corruption where he left off. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20, RFE/RL, 10.19.20)
- At least 15 women at an assisted-living facility in Russia’s fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg have been subjected to forced sterilization over the years, media outlets and officials reported this week. (The Moscow Times, 10.23.20)
- Russia's minister of natural resources says the mass death of marine life off the coast of the Kamchatka region in the Far East is due to "natural causes" and excluded any manmade causes. (RFE/RL, 10.23.20)
- The Central Bank of Russia has announced plans to introduce "the digital ruble" as an alternative to cryptocurrencies that are banned in the country. (bne IntelliNews, 10.21.20)
- Russian gold miner Polyus has said its undeveloped Siberian deposit Sukhoi Log is the largest in the world, with 40 million ounces of proven reserves. (Financial Times, 10.22.20)
Defense and aerospace:
- Russia's Defense Ministry says it has rejected austerity measures proposed by the Finance Ministry, such as reducing of the number of military personnel. In a proposal submitted to Russia's Security Council earlier this month, the Finance Ministry suggested cutting the country's military personnel by 10 percent, which would amount to some 100,000 members of the armed forces. (RFE/RL, 10.20.20)
- Russia plans to develop a new highly specialized aircraft to replace the Cold War-era Il-80 “doomsday” plane. New Airborne Command Post aircraft will be built on the basis of an Il-96-400M long-range airliner, TASS reported. (Defense Blog, 10.19.20)
- Russia has launched the Oniks anti-ship cruise missile during military exercises in the Arctic. The missile firings from the coastal defense missile system deployed on the Alexandra Land Island. (Defense Blog, 10.22.20)
- The International Space Station is now working normally with no danger to its occupants after the crew managed to resolve a series of technical issues overnight, Russia's space agency said Oct. 20. The crew aboard the ISS had reported issues with the oxygen production system, a toilet and the oven for preparing food. (The Moscow Times, 10.20.20)
- An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts have safely returned to Earth following a six-month mission on the International Space Station. The Soyuz MS-16 capsule carrying astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed in Kazakhstan on Oct. 22. The trio had spent 196 days in orbit since arriving at the station on April 9. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20)
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- French police have detained 11 people after a Chechen Muslim decapitated a history teacher near Paris on Oct. 16 for having shown his pupils satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson about freedom of speech. On Oct. 17, Jean-François Ricard, the national anti-terrorist prosecutor, said the attacker, who was shot dead by police shortly after the attack, was an 18-year-old Chechen refugee born in Russia. He had been granted a 10-year permit to stay in France in March this year. The suspect had no links to Russia, a Russian diplomat said. (Financial Times, 10.17.20, The Moscow Times, 10.17.20)
- A court in Moscow has cut by six months the eight-year prison term of actor Mikhail Yefremov, an outspoken Kremlin critic, who was sentenced for killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol. (RFE/RL, 10.23.20)
III. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
- The Russian Defense Ministry is planning to open an office in Serbia as Moscow pushes to expand military ties with its traditional Balkan ally. The goal of the office would be to "provide support and faster resolution of issues related to military-technical assistance, military and military-technical cooperation," Serbia's Defense Ministry said in a statement. (RFE/RL, 10.20.20)
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
- During the Valdai Club video conference:
- Putin said when asked whether a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible: “We don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.” “Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” he said, adding that the future could see even closer military ties between the two countries. “The time will show how it will develop,” Putin said, adding that “we won’t exclude it.” (AP, 10.22.20)
- Putin said: “The Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly toward superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction… At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes. The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism?” (The Kremlin, 10.23.20)
- China placed a new order with JSC Russian Helicopters for additional rotorcraft, the aerospace group Rostec said in its newly released annual report. According to the company’s annual report, earlier in 2019, JSC Russian Helicopters, a Rostec subsidiary, signed a record contract for the supply of new helicopters to China. The contract covers 121 new aircraft. (Defense Blog, 10.22.20)
War in Karabakh:
- The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia held separate meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that lasted around 30 to 40 minutes on Oct. 23 in Washingon. The State Department said Pompeo stressed to both sides the importance of entering negotiations. Asked how his talks went, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told reporters “very good” as he exited the State Department, and added that work on a ceasefire would continue. No comments from Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov were reported. Speaking to reporters Oct. 21, Pompeo said he would focus on sealing a cease fire, describing a “complicated situation on the ground.” (Reuters, 10.23.20, Financial Times, 10.21.20)
- Putin said Oct. 22 that weeks of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh province had left close to 5,000 people dead. Putin also said he hoped that the U.S. would help Moscow broker a solution to the conflict. “I very much hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and will help the settlement,” Putin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, adding that he speaks to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times a day by phone. (bne IntelliNews, 10.22.20, The Moscow Times, 10.22.20)
- Armenia and Azerbaijan on Oct. 18 announced a second attempt to establish a humanitarian ceasefire in their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, but it did not hold long. The first truce, brokered by Russia to take effect from a week ago, entirely broke down, with both sides accusing each other of mounting attacks within minutes of the ceasefire commencing. (bne IntelliNews, 10.17.20, bne IntelliNews, 10.18.20)
- Russia’s Kommersant published an expose of Turkey’s alleged involvement in the Karabakh war based on information it had obtained from Russia’s military-diplomatic sources, which is an euphemism for the country’s military intelligence. According to the report, 600 Turkish armed forces servicemen were deployed to Azerbaijan to participate in wargames in July-August and stayed on to provide support for the Azerbaijani offensive. Turkey’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, and commander of the Turkish ground forces Gen. Ümit Dündar were in Azerbaijan Sept. 28-30 to exercise general command of the combat operations against Karabakh, according to these sources. The paper also detailed multiple flights allegedly carried out to deliver military cargos and personnel from Turkey to Azerbaijan. (Russia Matters, 10.23.20, Kommersant, 10.16.20)
- Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million last month alone before fighting broke out over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. (bne IntelliNews, 10.16.20)
- Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activists have confirmed that the Turkish government has transported a new batch of mercenaries from Syria to Azerbaijan. The recent batch has comprised over 400 fighters of “Sultan Murad,” “Al-Hamzat Division” and other factions, who were supposed to be sent earlier to Azerbaijan. The total number of Syrian fighters sent to Azerbaijan has risen to at least 2,050. (Syriahr, 10.18.20)
- Russian forces brought down nine Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drones that flew near Russia’s military base in Gyumri, Armenia, located near the Turkish-Armenian border, according to an Oct. 21 report out of Yerevan. (bne IntelliNews, 10.21.20)
- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Oct. 20 referred to his defense officials stating that they had found Canadian components on a downed Turkish drone as he urged the international community to follow Canada's example by suspending military technology exports to Turkey. (bne IntelliNews, 10.21.20)
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Azerbaijan of "repeatedly" using widely banned cluster munitions in residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh. HRW on Oct. 23 cited four such incidents. (RFE/RL, 10.23.20)
- ''Their war effort against the Armenians is principally an attrition fight,'' Michael Kofman, a military analyst at CNA, said of Azerbaijan's campaign. ''It's not really well organized with a clear theory of victory.'' (New York Times, 10.18.20)
- From Oct. 8–15, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted a nationwide poll asking Ukrainians about the state of the country and their perceptions of its parties and politicians. As it turns out, 69.5 percent of respondents believe Ukraine is heading in the wrong direction, while just 21 percent believe the country is on the right track. Moreover, this negative sentiment was the majority consensus across all regions: 72.7 percent felt this way in the West, compared with 67 percent in central Ukraine, 75 percent in the South, 67.2 percent in the East and 68 percent in the government-controlled areas of the Donbass. (bne IntelliNews, 10.22.20)
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says those who allowed Russia to illegally annex Crimea in early 2014 must be held responsible. "Those who gave up on Crimea without a fight must be held responsible," Zelenskiy said, adding that his government is doing "everything possible" to return Crimea to Ukraine's control. (RFE/RL, 10.20.20)
- Turkey supports the prospect of Ukraine's membership in NATO and welcomes Ukraine's recognition as an enhanced partner, the presidents of Ukraine and Turkey said in a joint statement following their meeting in Istanbul Oct. 16. (Interfax, 10.16.20)
- “Engine construction, development of air defense systems, joint production of a ‘corvette’ class ship—the potential for cooperation is huge,” Zelenskiy told a Turkish news agency upon meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We are definitely interested in joint production,” he said of Turkey’s military drones. The two sides also discussed joint production of Ukraine’s AN-178 short range military transport aircraft. (Ukraine Business News, 10.19.20)
- A New York tabloid’s puzzling account about how it acquired emails purportedly from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags. One of the biggest involves the source of the emails: Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani says foreign sources didn’t provide the Hunter Biden emails. That hasn’t stopped the FBI from investigating whether the emails are part of a foreign influence operation. (AP, 10.18.20)
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
- Belarusian police on Oct. 18 detained more than 200 people as tens of thousands marched against strongman Alexander Lukashenko in defiance of police threats to open fire after weeks of demonstrations. Thousands of Belarusian citizens took to the streets on Oct. 18 to protest the authoritarian rule of Lukashenko. Then Belarusians with disabilities peacefully paraded through the streets of Minsk on Oct. 22. Participants demanded the resignation of Lukashenko and that a new, fair presidential election be held after the Aug. 9 vote was widely seen as being marred by irregularities and fraud. (RFE/RL, 10.23.20, The Moscow Times, 10.18.20, RFE/RL, 10.18.20)
- Kyrgyzstan's newly appointed Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev says that the recent political upheaval that toppled the Central Asian nation's government and prompted the president to resign won't impact relations with Russia, its "major partner and ally." Speaking in Moscow after holding talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Oct. 23, Kazakbaev told reporters that the new government will continue to "support close contacts on all levels and strengthen political dialogue" with Russia. (RFE/RL, 10.23.20)
- Kyrgyzstan's parliament has rushed through a bill to delay a rerun of parliamentary elections, set just a day earlier for December, until after constitutional reforms. The Oct. 22 move comes as the republic’s acting president Sadyr Japarov has advocated for constitutional changes to consolidate power following more than two weeks of political chaos. Japarov says he will run for president in an upcoming election if lawmakers approve constitutional amendments to allow it. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20, RFE/RL, 10.19.20)
- The Russian and Kazakh defense ministers signed an agreement in the Kazakh capital on Oct. 16 on bilateral military cooperation to replace a deal that has been in place since 1994. It is said to cover issues including military education and training, arms and equipment deliveries. (RFE/RL, 10.16.20)
- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has set the date of elections for the lower house of parliament, or Majlis, for Jan. 10, 2021. (RFE/RL, 10.21.20)
- In a rare occurrence, two ethnic-Kazakh men from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang who were convicted of illegally crossing the border a year ago have obtained temporary refugee status in Kazakhstan. (RFE/RL, 10.19.20)
- The U.N. Security Council has extended sanctions against Col. Gulmurod Halimov, a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's Special Forces, known as OMON, who joined the Islamic State in Syria in May. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20)
- Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoev has issued a decree to hasten the full transition of the Uzbek language from the Cyrillic to Latin alphabet. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20)
- With just days left before the end of this year's enrollment season in Turkmenistan, a handful of schools in the capital and other cities sharply curbed their offerings in Russian. (RFE/RL, 10.21.20)
- Pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu is likely to defeat incumbent Moldovan President Igor Dodon in the second round of the Nov. 1 presidential elections, according to a poll conducted for WatchDog.MD organization. (bne IntelliNews, 10.20.20)
- Armenia's main opposition party leader has been released on bail nearly a month after his detention in a vote-buying case he calls politically motivated. Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessman and leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), has been accused of electoral bribery during the 2017 parliamentary elections. (RFE/RL, 10.22.20)
- No significant developments.