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Belarus - How authorities built the detention camp for protesters near Slutsk, undated

Detained Belarusian Protesters Describe August Stay In Internment Camp

Prisoners packed into barracks deep in the forest near the town of Slutsk, ringed by meters-high fencing, topped with barbed wire, and complete with guard dogs and watch towers. What sounds like something from the pages of World War II appears to have been the actual fate of more than 100 Belarusians in August 2020, when protests erupted across the country after a presidential election that tens of thousands believe was rigged to extend the decades-long rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Also read: Belarus Supreme Court To Hear Babaryka's Case, Removing Chance To Appeal.

VISUAL REPORTS

Navalny Calls On Russians To Not Be Afraid Ahead Of Weekend Protests

Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has called on his supporters to come out in droves for a second weekend of nationwide demonstrations as authorities crack down on the Kremlin critic's associates and warn protesters against taking to the streets. In a letter posted on his website on January 28, Navalny called on Russians to cast aside fear and stage fresh protests. "Come on out, don't be afraid of anything. Nobody wants to live in a country where tyranny and corruption reign. The majority is on our side," Navalny said. Also -- Russian Court Rules To Detain Navalny's Brother Until March 23 & Navalny Supporters Prepare For More Nationwide Protests Amid Kremlin Crackdown.

Gelendzhik’s Palace ‘Aqua Disco’ -- Hit Parade From Renowned Russian Music Critic Artemiy Troitskiy

Check out a hit parade of songs trolling the “aqua disco” that allegedly can be found at the so-called “Putin’s palace” in Gelendzhik, by renowned Russian music critic Artemy Troitsky. (Current Time TV)

The Odyssey Of The St. Nicholas Icon

A chronology of the diplomatic, cultural, and legal tug-of-war over a 300-year-old Orthodox artifact at the center of an international scandal.

Trash And Ash: Battle Rages In Bulgaria Over 'Green' Power Plant

A new Bulgarian power plant that will use trash to generate heat and electricity for tens of thousands of people is being hailed by its supporters as a green solution for Sofia's mountain of waste. But critics say the EU-funded incinerator will make the city's already-polluted air even worse.

'Excrement Everywhere': Chinese Miners In Serbia Protest Living, Working Conditions

A protest by Chinese workers at Serbia's Cukaru Peki copper and gold mines has raised questions about the living and working conditions at the site. Three workers who asked for their identities to be protected corresponded with RFE/RL's Balkan Service about their life in eastern Serbia.

TOP NEWS

President Putin Signs New START Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law that ratifies the extension of the bilateral New START treaty with the United States that further reduces and limits strategic offensive arms. Both houses of the Russian parliament approved the corresponding documents on January 27. A statement on the Kremlin’s website says “the extension of the treaty meets the national interests of Russia and allows transparency and predictability to be maintained in strategic relations between Russia and the United States.” Also read: U.S.-Russia Arms-Treaty Agreement Is 'Reason For Optimism' About Opening Dialogue, Envoy Says (Russian Service)

Inside The 'Propaganda Kitchen' -- A Former Russian 'Troll Factory' Employee Speaks Out

The money wasn’t bad, but the work was demanding: posting up to 120 comments a day, over an 11-hour shift -- in chat rooms, on websites, and in social-media profiles belonging to specific Russian-language news outlets such as the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and RFE/RL’s Russian Service. “There were people who really flew at [the work] with enthusiasm, and then some who came to work just realizing that all they were doing was nonsense,” Sergei K., a former employee of a Russian company that became known as the “Russian troll factory,” told RFE/RL in an interview.

Were We On The Same Call? Why The Readouts of Biden's Talk With Putin Differed -- A Lot

White House and Kremlin statements about phone calls between the U.S. and Russian leaders often differ substantially, and the readouts that followed President Joe Biden's first conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin were far from an exception. Here's a look at how the U.S. and Russian statements about the January 26 call differed -- and why.

U.S. Navy Sends Third Ship Into Black Sea, Largest Presence In Three Years

The U.S. Navy has sent a third warship into the Black Sea as it steps up its presence in the strategic region. The destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on a routine patrol on January 28, joining destroyer USS Donald Cook and replenishment oiler USNS Laramie, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. It is the largest U.S. Navy presence in the Black Sea in three years, according to Breaking Defense, and comes days after President Joe Biden spoke for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine Launches Criminal Probe Into 2020 U.S. Election Meddling

Ukraine has launched a criminal investigation into attempts to interfere in the November 2020 U.S. presidential election. Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on January 28 that Ukraine would do everything in its power to bring to justice forces within the country and outside it who attempted to damage relations between Ukraine and the United States. "The State Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal case," Yermak was quoted as saying in an interview to the Ukrainian news outlet NV that was posted on the presidential website.

A House Owned By The Son Of The Head Of Russia’s National Guard Is The Most Expensive On The Russian Market

A house in Barvikha near Moscow that is owned by the son of Russia’s National Guard head, Viktor Zolotov, is the most expensive home on sale in Russia, with an asking price of more than $19.8 million. Russian media reports that Zolotov’s son, Roman Zolotov, has owned the property since the age of 23, also noting that the younger Zolotov doesn’t seem to own any profitable companies. Currently, his only asset is a stake in the unprofitable enterprise “Quantum Technologies.” The elder Zolotov, a former bodyguard of Vladimir Putin, has headed the Russian National Guard since its inception in 2016. In 2018, Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation accused him of corruption. (Russian Service)

Armenian Ex-President Kocharian Plans To Take Part In Early Elections

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, currently on trial on charges stemming from his alleged role in a 2008 crackdown on the opposition, says he will participate in early parliamentary elections if they are called. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has come under heavy public criticism and pressure to step down after signing a cease-fire accord with Azerbaijan that ceded control over parts of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts after a 44-day war.

Date Set For Trial Of Kyrgyz Tycoon Placed Under U.S. Magnitsky Sanctions

The trial of the former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, who was placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his alleged involvement in the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad, will start on February 3. The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan said on January 27 that the case will be tried in the Bishkek Birinchi Mai district court. Matraimov was detained on corruption charges in October 2020 and placed under house arrest.

Completing Transformation From Prisoner To Kyrgyz President, Japarov Sworn In

Sadyr Japarov, serving time in a Kyrgyz jail following conviction on hostage-taking charges just three months ago, has been sworn in as Kyrgyzstan's president after his landslide election victory earlier this month. In a decidedly low-key inauguration ceremony due to coronavirus concerns, the 52-year-old Japarov was sworn in on January 28 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Bishkek. Also read: Kyrgyz Ex-President Jeenbekov Summoned As Witness In Corruption Case.

Tashkent Mayor's Decisions On Land Linked To President's Son-in-Law Ruled Illegal

A court in Tashkent has found the mayor of the Uzbek capital, Jahongir Ortiqhojaev, guilty of breaking the law over decisions to hand city land to a company affiliated with the president's son-in-law. The Chilonzor district court on January 27 ruled that two such decisions made in 2018 and 2019 by Ortiqhojaev were unlawful.

Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry Trains Informers To Monitor Foreigners

RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service reports that Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry is training informers to watch after foreigners during international sports competitions scheduled this year in Ashgabat, to make sure they don’t record video or take photos. Students of the Turkmen State Pedagogical Institute named after Seyitnazar Seydi in Turkmenabat will be used as hired translators and guides to closely monitor athletes from abroad and report what they see and hear to the appropriate authorities. (in Russian, Turkmen Service)

Tajik Opposition Politician Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison

Tajik opposition politician Mahmurod Odinaev has been sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of hooliganism and "calling for extremism." The Rudaki district court in Dushanbe convicted and sentenced Odinaev, a deputy head of the Social Democratic Party, on January 28. Odinaev's son Habibulllo Rizoev was also convicted of hooliganism and fined 58,000 somonis (more than $5,000).

Oil Workers On Strike In Kazakhstan's Northwest

More than 60 oil workers have gone on strike in Kazakhstan's northwestern region of Aqtobe as they seek a salary increase. The workers at the AMK-Munai company's Bashenkol field walked out on January 29, saying that their monthly salaries of about $160 should be doubled as they currently fail to allow them to provide for their families. One of the strikers told RFE/RL that the workers have been demanding a salary increase since March last year, but nothing has been done.

INFOGRAPHIC: How Corrupt Is Your Country?

PRESSROOM: REGISTER For February 4 -- Atlantic Council Event: Free Media Faces Off Against Dictatorship In Belarus.

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