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Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is around 680,000, with more than 17.6 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.


Russia plans to implement “extensive vaccinations” against the coronavirus in October, the country’s health minister said on August 1.

Speaking to journalists in Nizhny Novgorod, Minister Mikhail Murashko added that teachers and medical workers would be given priority for the vaccination program.

Murashko did not provide any other details about the vaccine or the vaccination program.

Earlier in the week, Reuters reported that an unnamed source had said Russia’s first COVID-19 vaccine candidate should secure government approval in August.

Russia reportedly has two vaccines – one developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and one by the Vektor state research laboratory in Novosibirsk – undergoing approval.

In testimony before the U.S. Congress on July 31, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases official in the United States, expressed concern about reported COVID-19 vaccines being developed in Russia and China.

“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” Fauci said.


Serbia’s government has been urged to collect and share data on COVID-19 infections and deaths inside institutions for people with disabilities.

Six organizations representing people with disabilities and human rights groups wrote to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on July 31, saying that understanding the impact of COVID-19 on people in institutions is impossible without transparent and complete data.

“It is not known how many people with disabilities living in institutions across Serbia have died or been infected with COVID-19,” said Milan Sverepa, director of Inclusion Europe.

The government said in April that 574 people living in institutions had been infected. Sverepa said it is “deeply worrisome” that how many of them may have died remains unknown.

Based on government figures for 2019, more than 14,512 adults and children, including people with disabilities, live in state-run institutions in Serbia.

The groups that sent the letter to Brnabic are Inclusion Europe, the European Network on Independent Living, Validity Foundation, Disability Rights International, Mental Disability Rights Initiative Serbia (MDRI-S), and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Since April, Human Rights Watch and MDRI-S have sought information on what steps the government has taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in residential institutions, HRW said in a news release.

The government has not provided the information sought, HRW said.

“An important part of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is understanding the scale and circumstances of infections and deaths,” said Emina Cerimovic, senior disability rights researcher at HRW.

“Collecting this data is necessary to inform government policy, decision-making, and response. Publishing this data helps the wider public understand the impact of the outbreak on social care institutions.”

With reporting by TASS, Reuters, and AFP
Russian opposition politician Yulia Galyamina (file photo)

Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against Yulia Galyamina, an opposition member of a Moscow district council and an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, over her involvement in anti-Kremlin rallies.

MOSCOW -- Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against Yulia Galyamina, an opposition member of a Moscow district council and an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, over her involvement in anti-Kremlin rallies.

Galyamina repeatedly violated rules on public assembly when she organized and staged unsanctioned protests, rallies, and pickets, the Investigative Committee said on July 31.

If found guilty, she could face up to five years in prison and a ban from running for office for up to five years.

Galyamina told RFE/RL that the case had been launched to “pressure” her.

Amnesty International condemned the case as “appalling and reprehensible,” saying it was aimed at “silencing a major dissenting voice and threatening to ban her political activities.”

Demonstrations of more than one person require advance consent from the Russian authorities.

Galyamina has been involved in a campaign against what she described as Putin's illegal plans to remain in power.

The campaign planned a peaceful rally on July 15 in central Moscow against constitutional reforms that gave Putin the option to remain in power for another 16 years.

Dozens of people were detained by police during the protest.

Law enforcement officials also searched the homes of Galyamina and other opposition activists ahead of the demonstration.

Galyamina is accused of participating in several other peaceful rallies, including protests against electoral violations in Moscow in the summer of 2019.

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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