Home featured Trump’s Positive Coronavirus Test, Belarus Sanctions, Aleksei Navalny: Your Friday Briefing

Trump’s Positive Coronavirus Test, Belarus Sanctions, Aleksei Navalny: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering President Trump’s positive coronavirus test, Aleksei Navalny’s accusation that Vladimir Putin ordered his poisoning and how the East-West dividing line in Germany became a park.

ImagePresident Trump initially dismissed the threat of the virus by likening it to the common flu.
Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

President Trump said early Friday that he and the first lady had tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and devastated the economy.

Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he and his wife, Melania, would “begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.” The president had said late Thursday that they were awaiting their test results after one of his most senior advisers, Hope Hicks, tested positive.

The president’s physician said Mr. Trump was “well” without saying whether he was experiencing symptoms and added that the president would stay isolated in the White House for now. “Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,” the physician, Sean P. Conley, said in a statement.

We have the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other coronavirus developments:

In his first long interview since his discharge from a Berlin hospital, Aleksei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned in August, said that the attack had been ordered at the highest level of Russia’s security or intelligence services because a military-grade nerve agent was used. Those services answer to President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is behind the crime,” Mr. Navalny told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in the interview published on Thursday. “I have no other versions of the crime. I am not saying this to flatter myself, but on the basis of facts.”

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Waiting for him to die: Mr. Navalny and his team say they believe that he was poisoned in his hotel room in the city of Tomsk, in Siberia. He was hospitalized for two days in Omsk before being flown to Germany for treatment. The Russians had initially been determined not to let him leave the country, he said, adding, “They were waiting for me to die.”

Related: “The Salisbury Poisonings,” a four-part drama on the 2018 poisoning of the former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, focuses on the ordinary Britons whose lives were upended. Even for our reporter who followed the saga closely, the series contains revelations.

Credit…Sergei Bobylev/TASS, via Getty Images

European Union leaders broke a longstanding impasse to impose sanctions on Belarus. The delay had been a huge embarrassment for the bloc.

The breakthrough came after Cyprus agreed to go along with sanctions to punish Belarus for its crackdown on protesters after flawed elections on Aug. 9. Cyprus had resisted because it wanted penalties imposed on Turkey for its energy explorations in Cypriot and Greek waters.

On Friday morning, after eight hours of talks, the leaders agreed on language that urges Turkey to enter serious negotiations with Cyprus and Greece on disputed waters and energy rights, and threatens sanctions against Turkey.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Crossing the militarized border that split Germany into East and West once meant risking death. Now? It is, literally, a walk in the park. After a long-running battle among landowners, the authorities and environmentalists, the federal government announced last month that the entire former border zone would be designated a nature reserve.

Our reporter takes us to a patch of this green oasis, 30 years after reunification.

“It is hard to believe that this peaceful place was once the frontline between NATO and the Warsaw Pact,” said an ecologist who campaigned for the park. Above, an old border watchtower in the village of Mödlareuth.

New Belgian government: After two years of paralysis, a fragile coalition government finally took power on Thursday. The partnership keeps a growing far-right movement at bay for now and should allow Belgium finally to pass a budget and consider a Covid-19 recovery package.

Trump and refugees: The Trump administration said it would cut its already rock-bottom refugee admissions still deeper, to no more than 15,000 for the coming year. Ahead of the Nov. 3 election, President Trump has returned to anti-immigrant themes in his campaign.

London Underground: The city’s transportation system will need another 5.7 billion pounds, or $7.3 billion, to get through the next 18 months, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said on Thursday. The system has been decimated by the pandemic, travel restrictions and orders to work from home.

Credit…Susan Wright for The New York Times

Snapshot: Above, Michelangelo’s David and members of an Italian team that plans to make a 3-D print of the 17-foot statue. The reproduction will be the centerpiece of the Italy Pavilion at the next world fair, Expo 2020 Dubai, which was postponed until next October because of the pandemic.

Ella Fitzgerald: “Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin,” from 1960, is widely considered one of the singer’s greatest live albums. Now there’s more to enjoy. Today, the Verve Label Group will release “Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes,” documenting a concert that she gave there two years after her famed first appearance.

What we’re reading: This Atlantic article about the career costs of our new offices. “This thoughtful piece got right to the heart of why endless working-from-home can leave one feeling so adrift,” writes Natasha Frost, on the Briefings team.

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Read: We’ve compiled a list of 17 new books to watch for in October. New biographies shed light on Malcolm X, Sylvia Plath and the Beatles, and there’s new fiction from Tana French, Martin Amis, Sayaka Murata and others.

Let us help you find fun ways to stay safe with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do.

Our Moscow correspondent Andrew Kramer has covered the simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for years. We drew on his current and past reporting, and other Times articles, to help explain the dispute.

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian separatist enclave in a remote mountain area of Azerbaijan, is threatening to pull in two major powers in the region, Russia and Turkey.

Ethnic tensions have long divided predominantly Christian Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan, which are both former Soviet republics. In 1921, Stalin attached the Armenian-dominated Karabakh to its hostile Azeri neighbor, using the ethnic conflict to consolidate overall control from Moscow, now needed to keep the peace.

Credit…The New York Times

In 1988, the enclave’s governing body petitioned President Mikhail Gorbachev to unite it with Armenia. Instead, he sent Soviet troops to try to force out its ethnic Armenian population, and Azeri forces encircled the enclave with a punishing military siege.

Starting in 1992, ethnic Armenian troops pressed the offensive, creating a land corridor to Armenia and pushing outward to occupy nearly one-fifth of Azerbaijan. Open war had broken out as the Soviet Union fell, and the clashes claimed 20,000 lives. A cease-fire was declared in 1994, but there was no final settlement, and periodic border skirmishes have broken out ever since.

The fighting that began last weekend stands out for two reasons. First, it is on a much larger scale than previous clashes. Dozens of people have been killed as the two sides launched missile strikes. Second, Turkey is openly backing Azerbaijan, a fellow Muslim and Turkic-speaking country.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared all-out support for the Azerbaijanis and castigated Armenia for ignoring efforts to negotiate a resolution. He also demanded that Armenia withdraw from lands it occupied 30 years ago. Armenia has a mutual defense treaty with Russia, but so far has not asked that it be activated.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Carole

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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