An Azeri court ordered the release of prominent journalist Rauf Mirqadirov on March 17. Mirqadirov was convicted of spying for Armenia last year in a case that has been widely criticized as politically motivated. Other political prisoners were also released as part of a Novruz holiday pardon.
Members of the "No Peace" movement sketched and painted outside a Moscow courthouse on March 16 to demonstrate support for a group of artists who were arrested on March 13 for protesting Russia’s military actions abroad.
A military parade marched through the Crimean capital of Simferopol on March 16 marking the second anniversary of the referendum that formalized Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The referendum is not internationally recognized. (Ukrainian Service)
Scientists and workers with the National Academy of Sciences protested in Lviv against 30 percent cuts in funding this year, with similar protests expected in Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv. (Ukrainian Service)
On March 17, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev pardoned some 148 men and women, including several political prisoners, democracy activists Rasul Jafarov and Anar Ammadli among them.
In an e-mail conversation with RFE/RL on March 15 about her decision to represent imprisoned Azeri investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said, ‘This is about a government that is abusing its power to silence journalists like Khadija, as well as other critics of the ruling regime." Ismayilova was not among the political prisoners pardoned on March 17.
News media are reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama and the world's leading economic powers have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko.
Andrei Piontkovsky, Pavel Felgenhauer, Vladimir Frolov, and other prominent Russian analysts are divided on what the goals were and whether Putin has achieved them.
Russia-backed separatists have begun issuing their own self-styled passports in separatist-held parts of the Donetsk region.
Were Ukraine to hold presidential elections this month, a poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology finds that 21 percent of respondents would vote for former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, 18 percent would vote for President Petro Poroshenko, and 12 percent would vote for Radical party leader Oleg Lyashko. (In Russian)
Prominent economist Igor Nikolaev spoke with RFE/RL about the short-term economic forecast for Russia, claiming inflation has slowed down, but even low consumer demand will not prevent massive price hikes if the ruble continues to lose value because of falling oil prices. (In Russian)
Yelena Sablina has been waging a legal battle to change Russia's law on organ donation since discovering two years ago that her deceased daughter's organs had been removed without her knowledge.
The latest UN Happiness Report, an annual survey of 156 countries, gives Uzbekistan a rating of 49, the highest score among CIS countries. Rankings for Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia are 56,123, and 126, respectively. Denmark is the happiest country. (Current Time TV)
Opposition activists discussed official reactions to the Free Russia Forum, a meeting of activists that took place in Vilnius March 9-10, which was portrayed by Russian state media as a so-called fifth column that gathered to discuss “a future American occupation administration,” and ways to destabilize and divide Russia. (over 52k on Russian Service website)