Opposition Candidate Flees Belarus as Violence Continues

The main challenger to incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the disputed election for president of Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has fled Belarus and is now in Lithuania, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the Guardian. Tsikhanouskaya was detained by Belarusian authorities for seven hours after filing a complaint against alleged vote rigging; she left the country after her release, and arrived in Lithuania this morning, Linkevicius said. In a video posted this morning on YouTube, a visibly distressed Tsikhanouskaya, a mother of two, said she had taken a very difficult decision alone, without counsel from friends, associates, or her jailed husband, and concluded, “Children are the most important thing in our lives.” Official results released yesterday credited Lukashenka with more than 80 percent of the vote; Tsikhanouskaya won around 10 percent, according to the Guardian. A second night of violent anti-government protests on the streets of Minsk led to the death of a protester, Euronews writes, when an explosive device detonated in his hands during a rally. Lukashenka claimed that the protests were being directed from abroad, and singled out Poland, Britain, and the Czech Republic, the Guardian writes.

Slovakia Expels Three Diplomats Allegedly Linked to Berlin Murder

Slovakia announced yesterday the expulsion of three Russian diplomats, which Slovak media linked to the murder of a Chechen in Berlin last year, Euronews writes. “According to information from the Slovak intelligence services, their activities were in conflict with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Foreign Ministry media head Juraj Tomaga told AFP, as cited by Euronews. Tomaga said “a serious crime” had been committed on the territory of another NATO and EU member state. In August 2019, the murder of a former Chechen fighter in Berlin sparked a diplomatic row between Germany and Russia. Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who had fought in the second Chechen war against Russian forces in the North Caucasus, was shot dead in a Berlin park. Police apprehended the suspected killer, a Russian national. According to the BBC, Slovak media, as well as investigative website bellingcat.com, wrote that one of the suspects in the murder case had traveled to the EU on a Slovak visa. The three diplomats must leave Slovakia by 13 August.

Bosnian Islamic Community Backs Away From Imam’s Anti-Gay Stance

The office of the Bosnian grand mufti told RFE/RL that a Sarajevo imam’s statement welcoming the cancellation of a gay pride parade did not reflect the position of the Islamic community. Sarajevo imam Muhamed Velic wrote in a Facebook post earlier this month that he was glad the parade in Sarajevo had been called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Thanks to Allah for everything. Let dear Allah gift that corona and gay parade never return to our city and the state!” he said, according to Balkan Insight. The Bosnian capital was among the last in the Balkans to host a gay pride parade, staging its first in 2019. Velic has been known to take controversial stances in the past. In January, he claimed the coronavirus pandemic was God’s punishment on China for its harsh treatment of Muslim Uighurs. Sarajevo is one of the coronavirus hotspots in Bosnia, with around 2,900 infections and 42 deaths at the moment, according to Balkan Insight.

Sarajevo pride parade 2019
Sarajevo’s first pride parade took place in 2019. Photo by Kristina Millona / Wikimedia Commons

Tashkent to Restore Flights to Isolated Exclave

Uzbekistan has announced plans to resume flights to its Sokh exclave for the first time since the 1990s, Eurasianet writes. The exclave, surrounded by Kyrgyz territory, was back in Tashkent’s focus after clashes in May over the right to access spring water pitted Sokh’s mostly ethnic Tajik residents against Kyrgyz in a nearby village, Eurasianet reported at the time. Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, who visited Sokh following the clashes, promised sizable investments in the exclave, including the restoration of an airfield linking it to Uzbekistan. In Soviet times, Antonov An-2 light aircraft, known popularly as kukuruzniks, linked the territory with Uzbekistan proper. The Sokh airfield also underwent a makeover at the hands of locals, who converted it into plots for growing potatoes, tomatoes, and corn. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev gave the Ferghana regional governor one month to restore the landing strip to its original state, Eurasianet says.

Fresh Potato Vending Machine a Hit in Czech Region

A company located in the Klatovy region in the southwestern Czech Republic has come up with an ingenious way of selling its potatoes, according to iDnes. Local company Vesa installed a vending machine in the town of Velhartice that allows people to buy up to 2 kilograms of fresh potatoes, depending on the variety currently in season. “We adjoin Velhartice Castle and breed varieties of potatoes, which we also sell,” company director Viktor Kopacka said. “There are a lot of people going to the castle around us, so we took it as promotion of our varieties.” Kopacka added that about 60 people per day use the machine, tourists and locals alike. “Of the range of varieties that are on the Czech market, about 80 percent are foreign and only 20 percent Czech,” Kopacka said. The machine dispenses 2 kilos of potatoes for 30 crowns ($1.35), denik.cz reports.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu