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Russia 2018: Kremlin Countdown

RFE/RL is live-blogging the countdown to Russia’s March 2018 presidential election. Today, the blog provided live coverage and commentary on President Vladimir Putin's annual state-of-the-nation speech. It is updated throughout the day, with short reports, commentary, visuals, and links to what our Russia team is watching.


Poroshenko Expects Sophisticated U.S. Weapons 'Within Weeks'

At a press conference in Kyiv on February 28, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that the first delivery of lethal defensive weaponry from the United States is expected in weeks. The press conference drew swift reaction on social media, where posts mocked the president’s recent reported vacation in the Maldives, and pressed journalists’ questions about poverty and inequality in the country, corruption, the slow pace of reforms, and the death of journalist Pavel Sheremet.

Escape To Crimea: Who Helped Yanukovych?

Four years ago, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned his post in Kyiv and began his life in exile, escaping first to Crimea. RFE/RL’s Crimea Realities unit has tracked every hour of the escape, drawing upon research and information gathered from witnesses in the former president’s treason trial to reconstruct the story. (Crimea Realities website)

A Nursing Home Near Ukraine's Front Lines

The separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine has displaced thousands, including some of the region's most vulnerable. One small, volunteer-run nursing home in the Donetsk Region takes in elderly residents who have nowhere else to turn.


Putin Declares Development Of Unrivaled Weapons

In his annual address on March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country has developed and successfully tested new nuclear weapons, including a cruise missile and an underwater drone, that would be immune to enemy intercept.

German Government Computers Hacked; Reports Point To Russia

German media reported earlier today that a Russian hacking group had penetrated the country’s Foreign and Defense ministries' secure computer networks and had stolen data.

Exxon, Citing Sanctions, To Abandon Joint Ventures With Rosneft

Exxon Mobil Corp has cited U.S. and European sanctions against Russia in announcing that it is abandoning its joint ventures with Russian state-run oil giant Rosneft.

Putin Calls On Interior Ministry To Counter Unsanctioned Rallies

Russian President Vladimir Putin cited a 5 percent rise in “extremist crimes” over the last year in a February 28 appeal to the Interior Ministry to “decisively suppress the activities of such groups.” He accused them of spearheading unsanctioned public rallies, and “attempting to involve young people in their ranks.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)

Powerful Russian Deputy Faces Fresh Sexual Harassment Charges

Television journalist Yekaterina Kotrikadze has directly accused powerful Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of forcing himself on her during a discussion about an interview request, claiming that journalists covering the Kremlin often face sexual harassment but are afraid of coming forward.

EU Moves Closer To 1 Billion Euro Aid Package For Ukraine

The European Commission is moving closer to approving a 1 billion euro ($1.22 billion) financial package to Ukraine, although officials are awaiting further signs from Kyiv to ensure that its reform process remains on track before the funds will be delivered.

Ukraine Passes First Vote On Anticorruption Court

Legislation creating an anticorruption court demanded by protest groups and the country’s external backers passed its first reading in the Ukrainian parliament on March 1.

Ukraine's Naftogaz Claims $2.5 Billion Win In Legal Battle With Gazprom

Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz says Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom will have to pay it $2.56 billion after a Swedish court ruled in Naftogaz's favor in the final stage of a long-running legal battle.

Belarus Vlogger In Trouble For Mocking 'LukaSHERLOCK'

After cybercelebrity vlogger Stsipan Svyatlou posted a video that appeared to mock Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, authorities are reportedly investigating whether he insulted the president’s "honor and dignity.”

EU's Juncker Urges Kosovo To Reach Border Deal With Montenegro

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called on Kosovo to ratify a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and seek better ties with Serbia.

U.S. Arrests Son Of Ex-Kyrgyz Ambassador On Gun-Smuggling Charges

The United States has arrested the son of a former Kyrgyz ambassador to Washington on charges including firearms trafficking and smuggling.

BLOGGING CENTRAL ASIA: Amid Reform Talk, Notorious Zakir Almatov Is Back

Perhaps more than any other Uzbek official, Zakir Almatov’s name is linked with the violent events -- some say massacre -- that took place in Uzbekistan’s eastern city of Andijon on May 13, 2005.

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