Crimean Journalist Mykola Semena Officially Freed
A Russian court in Simferopol on January 28 officially vacated the conviction of RFE/RL Crimea contributor Mykola Semena. Semena was convicted of “separatism,” sentenced to house arrest, and banned from journalism in 2017 after publishing an opinion piece criticizing Russia’s forcible annexation of the peninsula.
The Unique Auschwitz Sketches That Were Buried By Soviet Censors
Unique images of Auschwitz were sketched by a Soviet Jewish artist who arrived with the Red Army in the hours after the camp was liberated. The images were quickly exhibited across Poland, but the artist, Zinovy Tolkachyov, was accused of "Zionism" by Soviet media and unable to work for 20 years.
Ice Ice Baby: Kazakh Boy Raised To Become Winter Swimming Ace
An 8-year-old boy from Kazakhstan has been swimming in nearly frozen water for much of his life. Alan Ghabdulov is training to be a world-class winter swimmer while his father borrows money to take him to international competitions.
PHOTOGALLERY: Kazakhstan Struck By Snowpocalypse
Authorities in the Kazakh capital declared a state of emergency after a winter storm pummeled the city with strong winds and heavy snowfall. Transportation links to and from Nur-Sultan were cut on January 27, while all schools in the capital were closed. A spokesman for Nur-Sultan International Airport, Zhenis Akhmetzhanov, told reporters that all flights had been postponed on January 27 for safety reasons.
Draft Constitutional Amendment Envisions Russian ‘Supreme Ruler’
Russian media reports that one of the dozens of new constitutional amendments being developed by a working group envisions the position of “supreme ruler” to replace the presidency. Other amendments would establish Orthodox Christianity as the country’s main religion, and consolidate Russia's status as a “victor” in World War II. (Russian Service)
Former Imprisoned Ukrainian Film Director To Address U.S. Officials On Crimea
Oleh Sentsov, the Ukrainian film director who was imprisoned in Russia for more than five years, will meet with officials on Capitol Hill this week as he seeks to persuade the United States to take a tougher stance on human rights abuses in Crimea and the militarization of the peninsula.
NPR Reporter Barred From Pompeo’s Ukraine Trip
The U.S. State Department has removed National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Michele Kelemen from the press pool for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Ukraine and four other countries. Pompeo angrily responded to NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly’s questions about Ukraine days earlier.
France Says Eastern Partnership Doesn’t Mean EU Partnership
France has rejected suggestions that the Eastern Partnership could lead to European Union membership for participating countries, which include the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. An October 2019 discussion paper states that the bloc must avoid “fostering illusions or ambiguity” among its partners, and that the partnership excludes “all prospects” for EU integration or membership.
Russian Court Fines Navalny Over Allegations Involving Russian National Guard
A court in Moscow has issued a 5,000 ruble fine ($80) to anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny for refusing to retract an investigation posted on his website accusing the Russian National Guard of purchasing supplies at inflated prices. The report alleges that then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev or someone in his immediate circle might be a beneficiary of the over-priced contracts. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Dozens Detained In Chechnya In Connection With Kadyrov Collage
At least 25 people, among them many teenagers, have been detained in several regions of Chechnya for distributing or receiving a photo collage depicting leader Ramzan Kadyrov as an Orthodox clergyman. RFE/RL’s Kavkaz Realities reports that detainees have been subject to beatings. (In Russian, Kavkaz Realities)
Ukraine Billionaire Akhmetov Buys Quarter-Billion-Dollar French Estate
Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov has bought a lavish, 14-bedroom mansion for 200 million euros ($221 million) in the French Riviera town of Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat. The property adds to Akhmetov’s growing real-estate portfolio, which includes a penthouse in London at One Hyde Park purchased for a then-record $221 million in 2011.
Romanian Judge Denies ‘Systematic’ Persecution By Ceausescu’s Securitate
A judge in Romania has infuriated the son of a victim of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime by ruling that the communist dictator's feared secret police did not "systematically exterminate" imprisoned political dissidents after the mid-1980s. A Bucharest appeals court judge found that the 1985 death in custody of anti-communist dissident Gheorghe Ursu could not have been the work of Securitate agents because Ursu was not really a dissident.
Bulgarian Court Arrests Ukrainian Suspected Of Planning Attack
A court in Bulgaria on January 27 sent Ukrainian national Oleksiy Moskalenko (Levin) to jail for 40 days based on a red Interpol notice issued by Ukraine on suspicion of co-organizing an attack on Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk, who died three months after being savagely attacked with acid.
North Macedonia Announces Urgent Measures Due To Severe Pollution
North Macedonia’s government says it's imposing urgent measures in the country’s capital, Skopje, and the western city of Tetovo in order to shield inhabitants from dangerously high levels of air pollution. Levels of toxic particles in the air were reportedly about 11 times higher than safe levels on two consecutive days.
Tajikistan Arrests More Than 100 Suspected Muslim Brothers
Tajik police have arrested 113 people on suspicion of being members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group. The country’s prosecutor-general has described the group, which is banned in Tajikistan, as aiming “to forcibly overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state.”