Three U.S. senators say President Joe Biden should warn his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at a summit this month that he will be held accountable for his actions against the United States. The three U.S. senators -- Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) -- told RFE/RL in Kyiv that while Washington and Moscow have areas where they agree, such as the New START treaty and denuclearization efforts, Biden should press the point during the meeting with Putin that his subversive actions against the United States will not be overlooked.
The Open Russia pro-democracy organization dissolved last week due to pressure from Russia's authorities. Here are five things you should know about the group and the measures the government took against it and its members.
Blogger Aleksei Garshin says he hiked across a mountainous region in Uzbekistan to shoot video of a secret presidential resort revealed in an RFE/RL investigation in February. Video he posted online provides a closer look at the luxury residence, complete with landscaped gardens and an artificial lake which, until now, has only been visible via satellite images.
Just over a month after deadly clashes erupted along the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, people on both sides are rebuilding ruined homes and trying to return to normal life. Residents of the border region said they hope the two governments will reach an agreement so that friendly relations between neighbors can resume.
An attempt to “nationalize” so-called “ownerless” real estate in parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Russian separatists has become the latest challenge for Kyiv’s struggle to exert authority over the area. Many of these residences are owned by those who fled to Ukrainian-controlled territory, and did not or will not register their property with the de facto separatist authorities. As in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova’s own territorial disputes, the fate of these houses could prove a further source of bitter division between the two sides.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that laying the pipes for the first of two lines of the prospective Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany has now been "successfully completed." Addressing an economic forum in St. Petersburg on June 4, Putin also said that "work on the second line is continuing." While the underwater section still needs to be linked to the section on German territory, Russian energy giant Gazprom "is ready to start filling Nord Stream 2 with gas," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that would ban supporters and members of organizations deemed by authorities as "extremist" from being elected to any post -- a move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny from gaining public office. The law endorsed by Putin on June 4 bars leaders and founders of organizations declared extremist or terrorist by Russian courts from running for elective posts for a period of five years. Other members or employees of such organizations will face a three-year ban.
The European Union has strengthened restrictive measures against Belarus by introducing a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers, in response to Minsk's forced diversion of a passenger flight last month and the arrest of a dissent journalist. The 27 member states will be "required to deny permission to land in, take off from, or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers," the EU said in a statement on June 4. Enforcement of the EU ban, due to take effect at midnight Central European Time, will fall on member state governments. Several EU members have already implemented such a ban.
In late April, a court in Arkhangelsk sentenced a former coordinator of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's local office in the northern city to 2 1/2 years in prison for sharing a music video in 2014 that the Russian government later deemed to be pornographic. "It is astonishing that cases like this even make it to court," defense attorney Natalia Zvyagina said shortly before defendant Andrei Borovikov heard his sentence. What seemed astonishing just a few weeks ago, however, now looks like a trend, as the government prepares for elections to the State Duma, the lower house of the legislature, that must be held by September 19.
Russian opposition politician and former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov was released from custody on June 3 without being formally charged. Gudkov was detained in Moscow two days earlier over an allegedly unpaid debt on a rented property dating from several years ago. A court had been expected to consider the terms of his pretrial detention, but the hearing did not take place.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service project, Sever Realii, about the Kremlin-sponsored St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that opened on June 2nd, Andrei Zaostrovtsev, a researcher at the European University in St. Petersburg, said “the main thing today is to show that some of our close businessmen and even politicians are still friends with [Russia].” Additionally Zaostrovtsev said that truly global issues and questions of coexistence of civilizations will not be discussed, including the rise of China and aspirations to impose its system on the whole world through economic projects, including the Belt and Road initiative. (Russian Service/Sever.Realii)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and more than 20 other groups have encouraged Ukraine’s parliament to address shortcomings in a proposed law to reform the country’s security service before its adoption. HRW is among 23 civil society groups that on June 3 sent a letter to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the co-authors of the draft legislation to change “problematic” parts of the proposal, which is being prepared for passage, possibly later this month. The reform is essential to help the security service, known as the SBU, transform into an effective agency that respects and upholds international human rights norms, HRW said in a news release.
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service investigative program Schemes revealed that Ukrainian Constitutional Court judge Oleksandr Tupytsky has visited Crimea three times since Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. Tupytsky himself denies having visited the occupied peninsula. According to lawyer and former Public Integrity Council member Roman Maselko, visiting Crimea after the occupation without an urgent need is a "violation of a judge's ethical rules." Schemes previously revealed that Tupytsky has purchased land in Crimea since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. (Ukrainian Service)
That a prisoner in Belarus would rather kill himself than face the "pressure chamber" is not isolated to activist Stsyapan Latypau, who tried to do so in a Minsk courtroom on June 1 after being jailed for more than six months on charges he denies. According to rights watchdogs and former inmates, "pressure chambers" in Belarusian jails and prisons are literally torture chambers, and the threat of being sent there is enough to drive many to take drastic measures.
Belarus says it is reducing the permitted number of diplomats and other staff at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk and tightening visa procedures for American citizens, in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on the Eastern European country over a sweeping crackdown on the opposition. Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz made the announcement on June 3, without providing specifics. Glaz said that permission for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in the country has also been revoked.
Dilshodbek, a migrant laborer from the eastern Uzbek city of Qoqand, has worked in Russia for more than a decade. But this year he is going to neighboring Kazakhstan instead."The pay is much lower in Kazakhstan, but I calculated that there won't be much difference in the end," the 42-year-old Dilshodbek says. Unprecedentedly high prices for plane tickets amid the coronavirus pandemic and costly work permits in Russia have forced many Central Asian migrants, like Dilshodbek, to look for jobs in Kazakhstan, the region's wealthiest country.
The isolated and tightly controlled Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, where no coronavirus cases have been officially registered since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, will not host the 2021 Track Cycling World Championships due to COVID-19 restrictions. The championships were scheduled to be held in Turkmenistan despite concerns about the authoritarian rule of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. In a June 3 press release, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said that the October 13-17 event that was to take place in Ashgabat was canceled "at the request of the organizers, as the health constraints and restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic make it impossible to stage the event in the country."