World Moscow partially shuts down as Russia sees record COVID cases
Russia suspends its NATO mission as Defense Secretary visits NATO aspirant countries
The U.S. Defense Secretary's itinerary to Eastern Europe was bound to anger Moscow, which announced it was shuttering its NATO mission and kicking NATO diplomats out of Moscow. "We don't have proper conditions for basic diplomatic activities," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow blames NATO for not being interested in "equal dialogue or joint efforts to defuse military-political tension." The decision comes after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission earlier this month, saying they were working as undeclared intelligence officers.
Russia has reported record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths as Moscow shut down non-essential services for 11 days to fight the surge in infections.
The country hardest-hit in Europe by the pandemic, Russia has struggled with low vaccination rates despite developing several of its own jabs.
Recent weeks have seen daily numbers of cases and deaths hit the highest of the pandemic, with the official government tally on Thursday reporting new records of 40,096 infections and 1,159 fatalities in the past 24 hours.
Russia hosts Taliban for talks after warning against IS threat
Russia hosts the Taliban for talks in Moscow on Wednesday, seeking to assert its influence on Central Asia and push for action against Islamic State fighters which it says have massed in perennially volatile Afghanistan. The Russian president cautioned last week that some 2,000 fighters loyal to the Islamic State had converged in northern Afghanistan, adding that their leaders planned to send them into neighbouring Central Asian countries disguised as refugees.After the Taliban's takeover, Russia ran military drills alongside ex-Soviet countries neighbouring Afghanistan.
Authorities have shied away from the kind of severe lockdowns imposed in many countries, but have shut down all non-essential services in the capital, Moscow, from Thursday until November 7.
Retail outlets, restaurants, and sporting and entertainment venues are all closed, along with schools and kindergartens. Only shops selling food, medicine and other essentials are allowed to remain open.
President Vladimir Putin’s government has been pinning its hopes on homegrown vaccines like the Sputnik V jab, but Russians have proven stubbornly resistant to being inoculated.
As of Thursday, only 32 percent of Russia’s population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies COVID-19 data.
Daka nets four as Foxes fight back at Spartak
Patson Daka scored four goals as Leicester came from two goals down to boost their Europa League qualification hopes with a vital 4-2 win at Spartak Moscow. Leicester travelled to the Russian capital joint-bottom of Group C after two matches and in desperate need of three points to keep their destiny of reaching the knockout phase in their hands but endured a nightmare first half.
Putin last week ordered a nationwide paid holiday between October 30 and November 7 in a bid to reverse rising infections, and Moscow authorities followed suit by ordering the shutdown of non-essential services in the capital from Thursday.
Roads in Moscow on Thursday morning were slightly less congested than usual, but the city’s sprawling Metro network was as busy as ever, with many passengers not wearing masks.
Authorities have not required Russians to stay at home during the non-working period and many were planning to use the days to travel across the country and abroad.
The mayor of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi has warned of a huge influx of tourists, and demand in Russia for flights bound for Turkey and Egypt has soared.
Russia has recorded totals of nearly 8.4 million cases and more than 235,000 deaths, though independent experts say authorities have downplayed the severity of the pandemic.
Figures published by statistics agency Rosstat in October suggest that more than 400,000 people have died in the country from the coronavirus.
After a severe months-long lockdown early in the pandemic, Russian authorities have been hesitant to impose further restrictions that would hurt the economy, instead urging Russians to get vaccinated.
US warns Moscow embassy could stop functioning due to visa row .
The US embassy in Moscow could stop performing most functions next year unless there is progress with Russia on increasing the number of visas for diplomats, a US official warned Wednesday. The United States earlier this month stopped processing visas in Moscow, with Russians obliged to head to the US embassy in Warsaw. "We need to make progress soon," a senior State Department official told reporters. "We're going to confront the situation -- not next month, but sometime next year -- where it's just difficult for us to continue with anything other than a caretaker presence at the embassy," he said.