Taiwan Fears Chinese Attack, Extraordinary Tax Slapped on Banks and Retailers in Hungary

While Covid-19 takes all the headlines, deals are made and laws are passed, with hardly anyone noticing. Many will change our lives for years or forever. UnderCovid keeps track of these stories.

Czechia

The European Commission canceled a decision to suspend subsidies for Agrofert Holding, an industrial conglomerate that is controlled by Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister. As a result, the Czech government withdrew its suit against the Commission that it started last February.


Taiwan

A journalist from South China Morning Post says that they have information from Taiwanese officials that an attack by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Taiwan is “imminent.” Last Sunday, a Chinese naval flotilla passed by the eastern and southern coasts of Taiwan. They were carrying out drills, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.


Bulgaria

The Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office started a nationwide search for Volen Siderov, a Bulgarian politician and chairman of the nationalist party Attack. He is charged with threatening investigators and inciting people to violate public-health measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Among other things, Siderov asked people to attend Orthodox Easter mass on 19 April to prove that God is stronger than the head of the national group in charge of the country’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.


Moldova

The European Investment Bank (EIB) intends to support investments envisaged by the Government of Moldova in infrastructure and may attract co-financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

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Thousands of Moldovan citizens, who are currently in Russia, are preparing to return home by bus following a decision the Commission for Exceptional Situations in Moldova to allow the repatriation of citizens by land. The move seems to be politically motivated in the context of the upcoming presidential elections. The decision was allegedly made at the behest of Igor Dodon, the Moldovan president. Moreover, the transport companies that will receive the necessary permits to bring more than 5,000 people back to Moldova, known to be preferred by the government, are going to benefit financially as it will cost the Moldovans some €250 to buy a bus ticket to their home.

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The first remotely managed medication-based abortion service was launched through telemedicine in Moldova. The service was launched by the Reproductive Health Training Center (CIDSR).


Russia

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Russia’s non-banking sector during Q1 2020 reached only US$ 200m. That was massive decline, of nearly 98%, compared to the US$ 10.3bn in FDI registered in Q1 2019.

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Russian banks are failing to approve the majority of appeals for financial support from consumers and businesses seeking emergency financing allowed by government schemes aimed to ease economic damage stemming from the coronavirus.

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For the third year in a row, Russians’ opinions about President Vladimir Putin worsened as he pursues constitutional changes that will allow him to extend his rule through 2036, according to a survey from Levada Center.

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Erik Prince, a security contractor with close ties to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, offered military services to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in Libya and Mozambique earlier this year, The Intercept, a website, reported on Monday.

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Following a wave of imported coronavirus cases, a province in northeastern China began to offer rewards of up to US$ 700 for those who help authorities to catch people who illegally cross the Russian border.

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Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov threatened an investigative journalist Monday after the publication of a “provocative” story about the region’s strict anti-coronavirus measures. The story was authored by Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Milashina.


Romania

The same day president Klaus Iohannis announced the extension of the lockdown for 30 days, the ministry of interior announced a deal struck with the Romanian Orthodox Church to organize the distribution of the holy light and the consecrated bread to Romanian population during the upcoming orthodox Easter holiday. The distribution will be made with the assistance of the army and police. Individuals under 65 will be allowed to go to church on Friday and on the Easter night.

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At the initiative of the political parties PSD, Pro Romania, ALDE and UDMR, key provisions in the emergency ordinance regarding the postponement of local elections were binned. They included the possibility of making a financial contribution as a way to run in elections.


Hungary

WizzAir, a Hungarian low-cost airline, dismissed 1,000 employees or 19% of its workers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fidesz, the political party in power for a decade in Hungary, has launched an English-language website with a view to providing credible information about its decision-making, according to the party’s deputy leader, Katalin Novák. The website seeks to act as a corrective to “the mass production of fake news”, Novák said.

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Two government decrees levying extraordinary taxes on banks and large retailers were published on Tuesday. They are expected to raise a combined HUF 91bn (€259m) to fund the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Both decrees are to take effect on 1 May 2020.

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Danish household retail chain Jysk plans to invest HUF 65bn (€184.8m) in its logistics centre in Hungary and to create 300 new jobs. The center, with an area of 143,000 m2, is to supply goods to seven countries from 2022.


Ukraine

A top official from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was detained on suspicion of collaborating with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Major General Valeriy Shaytanov is likely to be indicted for high treason and terrorism.

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Tactical military exercises are planned to begin in western Ukraine, involving the Airborne Assault Forces, infantry units and the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.


Poland

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based NGO, accused the Polish government of taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to debate new limits on abortion and sexual education.

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A campaign in support of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline opposed by Poland used information from a fake survey showing that Germans support the gas project. Warsaw and Washington both slammed the project saying that the pipeline will make the EU even more dependent on Russian gas. The survey was conducted by Forsa Politik-und Sozialforschung AG, a German agency.


Montenegro

Conditions in Montenegro’s prisons are poor, detainees’ health amid the coronavirus outbreak being at high risk, according to local civic activists.


Croatia

Thirteen people in Croatia, two of whom displayed the WWII fascist Ustasa movement’s insignia, were charged by authorities for breaching coronavirus restrictions when they expressed support for a priest who urged worshippers to attend Easter mass despite the lockdown.


Estonia

An attempt to gain access to University of Tartu email accounts through phishing emails was made in 2019 as part of a campaign that was likely the work of the government of Iran, according to the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS).

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BLRT Grupp, one of the largest industrial companies in the Baltic Sea region, needs to urgently extend the visas and temporary work permits of its foreign specialists, to avoid losing new orders and not being able to finish its ongoing projects.


Serbia

Pavel Melnikov, a Russian investor, unveiled plans to invest in Serbia. Melnikov founded Valtec, a Russian manufacturer of sanitary solutions. Melnikov also owns trademarks such as Brixis, Tenram, Minkor, VESTAtrading and Tenahtherm.


China

“Miners, the Horsekeeper and Pneumoconiosis” (矿民、马夫、尘肺病), a documentary describing the lives of coal workers afflicted with a fatal lung disease can now be watched online. The documentary was shot over eight years by Jiang Nengjie. It depicts the illegal mine shafts in Hunan, a central province in China. Mr Jiang has promoted his work online, trying to escape the Chinese censorship machine. The documentary attracted the fury of nationalists, some of whom demanded Mr Jiang’s arrest on Chinese social media for failing to show “China’s good side,” as the Economist reported.


Spain

The central government intends to appeal the decree-law of the Andalusian Government that in one move modified a total of 21 laws and six autonomous decrees that regulate economic activity.

Photo: SCMP


At the moment, our capacity allows us to monitor news only in Europe and several CIS countries. As of mid-April, our coverage extended to China and several countries in Southeast Asia. We are interested in expanding the coverage to countries from other continents. Those interested in joining our efforts should contact us on email.


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