COVID-19: Russia Says CSTO Should Focus On Biosecurity; Georgia Marks Subdued Independence Day

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The global death toll from the coronavirus is almost 350,000 with more than 5.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

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

Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — should beef up their capacity to repel biosecurity threats such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking after an online conference with his CSTO counterparts on May 26, Lavrov said the five countries had agreed to develop further mutual assistance in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak that “fully reflects the principled and consistent position of our organization.”

Lavrov also said that Russia and other CSTO members will react “without hysteria” to a recent U.S. decision to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty because of what it says are violations of the agreement by Russia.

“Our approach to the situation will be very balanced and we will analyze it, relying primarily on our national interests and on the interests of our allies, including first of all the Republic of Belarus, which, within the framework of this agreement, together with us forms one group of countries,” Lavrov said.

Washington said it was withdrawing from the Open Skies agreement because of violations by Russia, mainly blocking the United States from conducting flights over the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad and near Georgia, which are permitted by the agreement.

The treaty aims to increase international stability by allowing the 35 signatories to conduct surveillance flights over one another’s territories to observe military installations and other objects.

Lavrov also said the issue of border problems between two CSTO member states, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, was also discussed at the conference.

Russia is “ready to provide mediator services to the two countries,” Lavrov said, calling on Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to avoid using force in solving the border-related problems.

Some border sections between former Soviet republics in Central Asia have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The latest incident along the Tajik-Kyrgyz border took place on May 24, when border guards opened fire. Dushanbe and Bishkek accused each other of escalating the tensions.

Georgia

Georgia has marked its Independence Day without public events due to restrictive measures imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia marked the day when the Act of Independence was adopted in 1918 by the First Democratic Republic of Georgia by visiting the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi, where he congratulated all the citizens of the South Caucasus nation, including residents of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“Today we are all combating a global pandemic together. We all must remember the contribution that the Georgian Army, together with all our citizens, made to the successful management of the pandemic. Now, Georgia can say that we were able to localize the risk and manage the situation effectively,” Gakharia said.

The First Democratic Republic of Georgia ended after communist forces took over the country in February 1921.

Georgia regained its independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Georgian Service, TASS, and Interfax

News – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

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