Russians were voting Sunday in local elections seen as a test in the popularity of President Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party that supports him ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.
Why it matters: The polls come weeks after Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny was found to be poisoned with nerve agent Novichok — a calling card of the Russian security services. Navalny had backed United Russia's "key challengers" and was promoting a tactical "smart voting" system before he fell ill, the BBC notes.
European diplomats have begun keeping round-the-clock guard at the home of Belarusian opposition activist Svetlana Alexievich, who says masked men attempted to break into her apartment on Wednesday.
Why it matters: The 72-year-old Nobel laureate is the sole original member of the opposition council formed to facilitate a peaceful transition in Belarus who has not been detained, exiled or disappeared.
The U.S. Treasury on Thursday added Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach to its "Specially Designated Nationals" list for alleged efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, including by promoting "false and unsubstantiated" allegations targeting Joe Biden.
The big picture: Derkach has been "an active Russian agent for over a decade," maintaining close ties to Russian intelligence services, according to a statement by the Treasury. The designation will freeze Derkach's assets in the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "there is a substantial chance" the order to poison Alexei Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, came from senior Russian officials, while speaking with conservative commentator and personality Ben Shapiro on Wednesday.
What he's saying: "I think people all around the world see this kind of activity for what it is," Pompeo said on "The Ben Shapiro Show." "And when they see the effort to poison a dissident, and they recognize that there is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials, I think this is not good for the Russian people. I think it’s not good for Russia."
The House Intelligence Committee received a whistleblower complaint from a former senior Department of Homeland Security official who alleges he was instructed to "cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States" because it "made the president look bad," Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday.
The big picture: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Russia is actively seeking to denigrate Joe Biden to assist President Trump ahead of the election.
Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats could not shake his "deep suspicions" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "had something" on President Trump, seeing "no other explanation" for the president's behavior, according to Bob Woodward's new book "Rage," which was obtained by CNN ahead of its publication next week.
Why it matters: Coats was the president's top intelligence official from March 2017 until August 2019. Woodward reports that Coats and his staff examined the intelligence regarding Trump's ties to Russia "as carefully as possible" and that he "still questions the relationship" between Trump and Putin despite the apparent absence of intelligence proof.
The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday requesting an investigation into the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and leading critic of President Vladimir Putin.
Why it matters: Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) note that U.S. law requires the administration to determine within 60 days whether an accused country has used chemical weapons in violation of international law. If this is the case, U.S. sanctions must be imposed.
The White House on Wednesday joined other world governments to condemn the apparent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The state of play: The German government announced that the poisoning was conducted with Novichok, a chemical typically associated with Russian security services.
Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist, was attacked with the nerve agent Novichok — a calling card of the Russian security services — Germany's government announced on Wednesday.
The state of play: Navalny remains in a coma in a Berlin hospital two weeks after falling ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. He is the latest in a string of Kremlin critics to have been poisoned, though Russia denies that any crime took place.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to only conduct a criminal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, secretly curtailing an FBI counterintelligence probe into President Trump's ties to Russia, the New York Times' Mike Schmidt reports.
Why it matters: Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had approved the opening of the counterintelligence investigation out of concerns that Trump's decades of personal and financial dealings in Russia posed a national security threat. Rosenstein, concluding that the probe lacked justification and that McCabe had conflicts of interest, never informed him of the decision.