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RUSSIA -- Aleksei Navalny stands outside the building of a district court before the announcement of a verdict in case of Vladimir Emelyanov, charged with public appeals for extremist activity in Moscow, December 6, 2019
RUSSIA -- Aleksei Navalny stands outside the building of a district court before the announcement of a verdict in case of Vladimir Emelyanov, charged with public appeals for extremist activity in Moscow, December 6, 2019

Navalny Says He Will End Hunger Strike

Jailed Russian opposition politician Navalny says he is ending a hunger strike he launched last month over his medical treatment in prison saying he had "achieved enough." The Kremlin critic, who began his hunger strike on March 31, confirmed in an Instagram post on April 23 that his health is ailing and that he continues to demand that he be examined by his personal doctors for acute pain in his back and legs. Also read: Navalny Expresses 'Pride And Hope' After Protests As Concerns About His Health Mount.


A Day In The Life Of A Ukrainian COVID Hospital

Most Ukrainian hospitals are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The number of hospitalizations over the past month has increased dramatically and many medical facilities are suffering from an acute oxygen shortage. In the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytsky, the main designated COVID-19 hospital is running out of beds and some have even been placed in an operating room.

Ten Short Films About COVID: Pandemic Inspires Kyrgyz Directors

In Kyrgyzstan, five directors are making a series of short films about the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the country in the spring and summer of 2020. Ten different stories will tell about how ordinary people experienced quarantine, how they fought for other people's lives, and how the local health-care system was unready for the outbreak.

'A Stubborn Tatar': Activist Vows To Fight On After Being Sentenced For Trying To Preserve Culture

Farit Zakiyev, the head of an organization that promotes Tatar language and culture, was sentenced to community service for taking part in Tatarstan's annual Commemoration Day to honor Tatars who died during the 1552 siege of Kazan by Russian troops -- an annual event that municipal officials banned for the first time since 1989.. The crackdown on Zakiyev's group appears to be part of a larger pressure campaign against ethnic minority activists in Russia.

Newlywed's Death Puts Spotlight On Domestic Violence In Uzbekistan

Nineteen-year-old Mukhlisa Kadambaeva was found dead after what her parents said was brutal abuse by her husband's family. The in-laws of the victim said she had hanged herself. The case has called attention to domestic violence in Uzbekistan, where such crimes are often seen as private matters and are rarely prosecuted.

Deep Inside Chernobyl's Radioactive Ruins

On April 26, 1986, a routine safety test at a nuclear power plant near the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl spiraled out of control, leading to the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster. This is what the inside of the plant looked like in 2018, when RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Yevhen Solonyna ventured into the concrete sarcophagus of Reactor No. 4 for a rare and risky glimpse at its radioactive ruins.


'Red Lines' And Rosy Promises: Five Takeaways From Putin's State-Of-The-Nation Speech

President Vladimir Putin thundered about Russia's "red lines" in warnings aimed westward, extolled the virtues of parenthood, elaborately hailed the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for cash support for citizens struggling with stagnant incomes. His April 21 state-of-the-nation address came at a precarious moment: Putin now has the right to seek to remain president until 2036, but basement ratings for the ruling party could pose trouble in a September parliamentary vote. More Russian troops are deployed on the border with eastern Ukraine than at any time since 2014, and the plight of imprisoned Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny is one of many factors drawing the opprobrium of the West. Here are five takeaways from the annual address.

Russia Labels Independent Media Meduza A 'Foreign Agent'

The Russian government has designated the Latvia-based independent news outlet Meduza as a foreign agent -- a move that will require it to label itself as such and subject it to increased government scrutiny. The Russian Justice Ministry made the announcement on April 23 on its website, while Meduza confirmed the news in a tweet. "Hi, everyone! We’re Russia’s latest 'foreign agent!'" the media outlet wrote, though in a later post it said it rejected the designation and will appeal the move, adding that its chances of success "are slim."

U.S. Report Says Russia Among 'Worst Violators' Of Religious Freedom

An independent, bipartisan U.S. advisory body has reiterated its call for the U.S. State Department to add Russia to its register of the world's "worst violators" of religious freedom, a blacklist that already includes Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and six other countries. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), created by Congress to make recommendations about global religious freedom, proposed in its annual report, released on April 21, that Russia, India, Syria, and Vietnam be put on the "countries of particular concern" list, a category reserved for those that carry out "systematic, ongoing, and egregious" violations of religious freedoms. The blacklisting paves the way for sanctions if the countries included do not improve their records.

Russian Military Court Sentences Former Top Security Agent To Prison For Massive Fraud

A Moscow military court on April 22 sentenced a former senior officer in the Federal Security Service (FSB) to seven years in prison after he and two others were caught with tens of millions of dollars worth of cash in 2019. Kirill Cherkalin, a former lieutenant colonel in the security service’s so-called banking department, was arrested in April 2019, along with two other FSB officers, Dmitry Frolov and Andrei Vasilyev, on charges of bribe-taking and fraud. The case gained prominence after investigators said they had found 12 billion rubles ($157 million) in cash hidden in the trio's properties at the time. Investigators also found 3.2 billion rubles in cash ($42 million) in the apartment of Cherkalin's parents.

Amid A Czech Spy Scandal, A Meltdown Of Moscow's Atomic Ambitions?

It’s one of Russia’s major exports, a source of symbolic pride and commercial revenue: atomic energy, in the form of civilian technology to build and maintain nuclear reactors around the world. The state-owned company Rosatom is the driver of that policy, with ambitions for nearly $15 billion in revenues from outside Russia by 2024. Now, a snowballing spy scandal in the Czech Republic, involving a pair of 7-year-old explosions and Russia's military intelligence agency, threatens to pull the plug on one of Rosatom’s higher-profile international forays: a new $7 billion-plus nuclear power facility in the Czech Republic.

'No One Is Leaving': Navalny's Backers Defiant As Threat Of 'Extremist' Label Looms

On April 16, the Moscow prosecutor's office appealed to the Moscow City Court with a request that three Navalny organizations -- the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), the Citizens' Rights Defense Foundation, and his regional network -- be officially labeled "extremist organizations." If the Navalny organizations are deemed "extremist," all of their employees could face arrest and prison terms from six to 10 years. In addition, the organizations' donors -- tens of thousands of Russian citizens who have made donations -- could also face prosecution for purportedly funding extremism.

Moscow Expels Five Polish Diplomats After Russians Expelled By Warsaw

Russia has expelled five staff members at Poland's embassy in Moscow in a tit-for-tat move after Warsaw declared three Russian diplomats in Poland persona non grata for violating their diplomatic status. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 23 it had summoned Poland's ambassador to Russia, Krzysztof Krajewski, to the ministry in Moscow where he was informed of the decision. It said the move, which gives the Polish diplomats until May 15 to leave Russia, was made because Warsaw was "consciously pursuing a course toward the further degradation and destruction of our bilateral relations."

Russia's FSB Detains Members Of Islamic Group In Siberia

Security authorities in the Siberian cities of Kemerovo and Novosibirsk say they have apprehended an unspecified number of alleged supporters of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group. The Federal Security Service (FSB) said on April 21 that alleged members of the group that was banned in the country in 2003 "carried out anti-constitutional activities based on the doctrine of the creation of a world caliphate." Human rights groups have criticized the government's "abuse" of counterterrorism laws and the use of "secret witnesses" and other methods in prosecuting critics and religious groups to silence dissent.

Data Shows Alleged Russian Agents In Bulgaria Around Time Of Arms-Depot Blasts

On the evening of March 21, 2015, the skies over Iganovo burst into fiery shades of red and orange, and the windows of homes in the tiny Bulgarian village rattled and shook from explosions at the Vazov Machine-Building Plant, a state-owned facility where anti-tank munitions, antiaircraft missiles, and other weaponry is manufactured. Only three weeks later, just before dawn on April 14, the village was again rattled by blasts at the same plant, partially destroying one part of the sprawling complex. In the wake of this week's revelations about an ammunition-depot explosion in 2014 in the Czech Republic that has been blamed on Russian military intelligence, as well as another suspicious blast at the same depot later that year, one former Bulgarian defense minister called for investigations into the Bulgarian blasts to be reopened.Also read: Tajikistan Says It Didn't Issue Passport Allegedly Used By Russian Agent.

Russia-Backed Separatists In Donbas Use Drones To Target Ukrainian Soldiers

A report by the Donbas.Realities project of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reveals that Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region use drones to target Ukrainian positions. Military experts note that the current activity is more seasonal as there are no rains and strong winds, and therefore drones are more likely to be used. But, in 60-70 percent of cases throughout the entire war, when separatists firing mortars or barrel artillery have used drones for fire correction. (Ukrainian Service/Donbas.Realii)

Tatarstan’s Close Trade Relations With China Include Surveillance Technology

An interactive investigation by the Idel.Realities project of RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service examines the local impact of Chinese-Tatarstan business and humanitarian cooperation, as well as Tatarstan’s use of Chinese surveillance technology. Since 2017, there has been a sharp increase in imports of goods from China to Tatarstan; among Chinese exports to Tatarstan are facial recognition cameras, used widely in China’s western Xinjiang region as tools of repression. (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)

Senior Ukrainian MP Parties On, Despite Strict Covid-19 Lockdown

Despite Ukraine’s strict Covid-19 lockdown, the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s investigative program Schemes reports that the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People Party, Mykola Tyshchenko, threw a five-hour party at downtown Kyiv’s 5-star Fairmont hotel to celebrate his wife's birthday; guests were not seen to be wearing protective masks. At the same time, the lockdown requirements ban restaurants from hosting any guests and public transportation is only available with specially issued passes. (Ukrainian Service)

POLL: More Than Half Of Russians Support Issuing Food Ration Cards

A recent Levada Center poll found that 54 percent of Russians support a proposal by the head of the Russian Public Chamber's commission for the development of the agro-industrial complex to introduce food rationing coupons in the country. Most of those who support the initiative said that there are many impoverished people in the country who need help from the state; 39 percent of those surveyed view the idea negatively. (in Russian, Current Time TV)

Azerbaijan's 'Ethnic Hatred' Theme Park Draws Ire

Many countries have war museums, paying tribute to a conflict's combatants and chronicling the battles that usually resulted in a great victory for the nation. What's less usual is for such a museum to open mere months after the war and to feature cartoonish-like mannequins of the enemy soldiers. Yet that is what is on display in downtown Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in a museum that was inaugurated on April 12 by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Kazakh Victim Of Attempted 'Bride Kidnapping' Fights For Justice

A 27-year-old Kazakh woman is fighting traditional attitudes in seeking justice against five men she accuses of trying to kidnap and force her into marriage. Bride kidnapping is a common practice in Kyrgyzstan and parts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, even though the long-standing practice is prohibited by law. Among the men that Aruzhan -- who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy -- accuses of trying to abduct her in July 2020 is a co-worker at a military unit in Kazakhstan’s southeastern Almaty Province.

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