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Russia

From Jail, Khodorkovsky Predicts Trouble For Putin

AL JAZEERA (Qatar)

KABUL/KRASNOKAMENSK - When asked if he thought Vladimir Putin might change now that he's returned to the Kremlin, jailed former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky replies: "No." But he also offers a caveat.

Commenting just two weeks after Putin was sworn in for a third presidential term (after an interim as Prime Minister), the jailed former oil magnate predicts that "tensions will increase with each year." The comments were made in a written reply that Khodorkovsky sent to Al Jazeera's Afghanistan Correspondent Sue Turton.

Khodorkovsky, 48, who lost yet another appeal of his case last week, takes a look back at the state of Russia since Putin first came into office in 1999: "True development of state institutions was replaced by the creation of simulacra, a dependable court and parliament, regulated by the executive powers replaced by rigged elections, directly appointed regional authorities and a limitation of the freedom of mass media."

Still, Khodorkovsky, who has been locked up for nine years in the Siberian labor camp of Krasnokamensk on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion, thinks the return to the Kremlin of his nemesis takes place in a very different context this time around: "Inside the country there is now a demand for change: for modern state institutions and for political competition. The ability of the authorities to respond to this demand is doubtful, if it sticks with this archaic regime."

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Coronavirus

As COVID Explodes, An Inside Look At China's Gray Market Of Generic Drugs

COVID infections have skyrocketed since China eased restrictions as public health policy has not been able to keep up. Unable to find medications, many have turned to generic drugs of questionable safety. It's the culmination of a longstanding problem.

Photo of a pharmarcist walking past shelves with medication in Yucheng, northern China

A pharmacy in Yucheng, northern China

Xian Zhu and Feiyu Xiang

BEIJING — When her grandfather joined the millions of infected Chinese, Chen quickly decided to buy COVID-19 drugs to limit the effects of the virus. She woke up early to shop on Jingdong, one of China’s biggest online shopping websites, but failed in snatching the limited daily stocks made available.

Fearing COVID's effect on her grandfather, who suffers from dementia, she contacted an independent drug agent and bought a box of generic pharmaceuticals.

With China having suddenly ended its zero-COVID policy, infections have peaked. According to the latest estimates by Airfinity, a British medical information and analysis company, severe COVID outbreaks happened over Chinese New Year with 62 million infections forecast for the second half of January.

In a press conference held by China's State Council on Jan. 11, COVID-19 pills were mentioned as part of the new epidemic control mechanisms. In late 2021, Pfizer developed Paxlovid, the world's first potent COVID drug, with one 100 mg white ritonavir and two 150 mg light pink nirmatrelvir tablets taken every 12 hours. China imported the first batch of Paxlovid for clinical use in March 2022 and included it in the ninth edition of the treatment protocol.

But the first 21,200 boxes of Paxlovid were dispersed to only eight provinces, and no further information is available on where the drug ended up and how much it was used.

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