RFE/RL's bank accounts in Russia have been frozen following a visit by court bailiffs to the U.S. agency’s Moscow bureau. Agents of the Federal Court Bailiffs Service on May 14 initiated enforcement proceedings against RFE/RL's Russian branch over unpaid fines accrued because of violations of Russia's controversial "foreign agents" laws.The bailiffs service sent RFE/RL a court resolution authorizing it to search for the organization's bank accounts and to freeze them. RFE/RL's Moscow-based bank was ordered by the bailiffs service to block access to the agency's accounts in order to provide payment for unpaid fines of 5 million rubles ($68,000).
Over a thousand students up to high-school age attend School No. 175 in Kazan, Russia, the site of a gunman's attack on May 11 that killed nine people, including seven children. RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service spoke with this 6th-grader eyewitness about what she saw during the attack. Also read -- Russia Debates The Online Challenge Of 'Turning Off' Its “Culture Of Violence.”
Budapest is set to become the first European city to host a Chinese university, expected to open in 2024. The plans come soon after Hungary forced out another foreign-backed institution, the Central European University. Some Hungarians, including the mayor of Budapest, fear the new university has the potential to be a source of Chinese propaganda.
Humanitarian groups are calling on Romanian authorities to help hundreds of migrants who are living in abandoned buildings in the city of Timisoara. The majority come from Afghanistan and say the squalid conditions are better than living in the local asylum center, where some have claimed they faced abuse.
In the Siberian city of Kiselyovsk, locals live within a stone's throw of gaping open-pit coal mines. The operations within the city limits are technically forbidden, but residents say clever legal language has allowed the mining companies to keep digging close to their homes. Some fear that their proximity to the mines puts their health and safety at risk.
European Union officials are calling for a stronger response by the bloc to Russian aggression toward Ukraine, warning that Moscow’s ultimate aim is to absorb parts of eastern Ukraine where a war has raged for seven years. The warnings came in a report written by the EU’s diplomatic office that was circulated earlier this week among EU members and reviewed by RFE/RL. Since erupting in 2014, the conflict pitting Kremlin-backed militias and Ukrainian government troops has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced more than 1 million.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service project Caucasus.Realities reports that an expanded Council of Commanders of the Union of Donbas Volunteers was held in Rostov-on-Don on May 10. Separatists signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling United Russia party. Alexander Borodai, who chairs the council of ministers of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, announced plans to run in the primaries for the Fall 2021 Russian State Duma elections. Borodai seeks to represent the Rostov region that borders Ukraine’s Donbas, where Russian passports have been issued to hundreds of thousands of residents of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. (Russian Service/Kavkaz.Realii)
Ukrainian investigators have searched the house of Oleksandr Tupytskiy, the former chairman of the Constitutional Court, amid a battle with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy over control of the country's highest court. The State Investigation Bureau carried out the search early on May 13 after Tupytskiy failed to show up for a bail hearing for the fifth time, citing health reasons, Ukrainian media reported. Zelenskiy suspended Tupytskiy in December and fired him in March after the Prosecutor-General's Office charged him with trying to bribe a witness into giving false testimony; Tupytskiy denies the charges.
President Vladimir Putin was hopeful in remarks on May 10 about the coronavirus pandemic in Russia. “The situation with the virus in the country, according to specialists, is stable,” he said in Sochi, urging Russians to get vaccinated. According to official statistics as of May 12, there have been 4,905,059 coronavirus infections in the country and 114,331 fatalities. Those numbers, however, are widely regarded as severely understated. Prominent Russian demographer Aleksei Raksha thinks even those numbers are unrealistic, indicating that the true scope of the pandemic in Russia may never be known.
It may be the highest-profile trial in Ukraine since Volodymyr Zelenskiy won the presidency two years ago -- and possibly the most consequential since another major political court case roiled Ukrainian politics a decade ago. But the treason trial of Viktor Medvedchuk is also shaping up to be a political, and legal, trip wire for Zelenskiy, who's struggling to clean up a notoriously corrupt judicial system, while also sidelining the powerful Russian interests; interests that, in some cases, have thwarted that effort, and undermined his administration.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will temporarily resume consular services following the Russian government's move to postpone a ban on employing foreign nationals. "Consequently, through July 16, U.S. Embassy Moscow will temporarily resume routine U.S. citizen services, including passport services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, and limited notarial services," according to a May 14 statement, adding that it "will also provide immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases." The statement does not say that it will resume issuing nonimmigrant visas, an issue that was widely discussed by those in Russia who planned to travel to the United States in the coming months.
RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports about a recent meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Central Asian counterparts Abdulaziz Kamilov (Uzbekistan), Sirojiddin Mukhriddin (Tajikistan), Mukhtar Tleuberdi (Kazakhstan), Ruslan Kazakbaev (Kyrgyzstan), and Rashid Meredov (Turkmenistan), which resulted in a signed program for bilateral relations between 2022-2023. Raffaello Pantucci, an associate fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London, says that China is not only becoming a key economic player in Central Asia, but is also becoming involved in the fields of security and military relations. (Kyrgyz Service)
Belarusian opposition figure Maryya Kalesnikava has been presented charging papers, eight months after her arrest last year for urging people to protest against the disputed presidential election that left Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power. Kalesnikava's associates told RFE/RL on May 13 that, according to the documents, Kalesnikava was charged with conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means, public calls for action against national security, and creating and leading an extremist group. If found guilty, Kalesnikava faces up to 12 years in prison. Also read -- Young Belarusian Activists Go On Trial Over Unsanctioned Protests and 'I Wanted To See My Mom And Granddad:' Belarusian Doctor Speaks After 105 Days In Prison.
A captain in the Belarusian armed forces' General Staff accused of leaking a government document on the use of troops to crack down on peaceful protesters has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. Belarus’ Supreme Court on May 14 found 29-year-old Captain Dzyanis Urad guilty of high treason and sentenced him the same day. Belarusian courts have been meting out tough punishments to protesters and officials like Urad who support them in a bid to quash mass opposition to Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka's brutal 27-year rule.
Russian intelligence services spied on and filmed Jehovah's Witnesses in a bathhouse, in the latest example of persecution against the outlawed Christian group. The snooping, carried out by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), was revealed at a trial in the Urals city of Perm, where five Jehovah's Witnesses received suspended sentences for “illegal” religious activities. The video of the group's members in the bathhouse was used as evidence against the defendants in the trial, which has lasted for almost three years.
Russia's space agency says a famous actress and an award-winning director have been picked to star in what is being described as the first fictional movie to be filmed in space. Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko are scheduled to be launched on a Russian Soyuz MS-19 craft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 5 to be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS), Roskosmos said on May 13. The announcement comes after NASA confirmed last year it was teaming up with actor Tom Cruise to make a movie at the ISS.
A court in Siberia has sentenced an Orthodox priest to 25 days in jail for taking part in an unsanctioned rally in April to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Journalist Tatyana Khlestunova told RFE/RL that a court in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk sentenced Andrei Vinarsky on May 13. Vinarsky has already been sentenced twice in recent months for taking part in protests to support the former governor of the Khabarovsk region, Sergei Furgal, who was arrested and taken to Moscow last summer for alleged involvement in murders more than a decade ago, which he and his supporters have rejected as politically motivated. Also, Russian court cuts jail term of former Russian lawmaker, Navalny supporter, former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman, to one day.
A St. Petersburg court has upheld the legality of the Russian Justice Ministry's decision to designate feminist performance artist and activist Darya Apakhonchich a "foreign agent." The Leninsky District Court wrote in a press statement on May 13 that Apakhonchich's lawsuit had failed to satisfy requirements for a case to be heard. Apakhonchich was among the first individuals in Russia to be included on the Russian government's list of "media organizations fulfilling the functions of foreign agents." Also read -- Russia Labels VTimes Media Outlet As Foreign Agent.
The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service investigative program Schemes spotted Yuri Aristov, the head of Ukraine's parliamentary Committee for Budget, in a restaurant with Oleksandr Boyko, a government program subcontractor involved in major highway reconstruction programs. When Schemes reached out to confirm the meeting, both Aristov and Boyko denied knowing each other. Boyko is an Odessa businessman, the founder of Shlyakhovyk-97, which is the largest supplier of construction materials and construction equipment for Highway-Pivden [South]. Since the beginning of 2020, Highway-Pivden has won tenders for the construction of roads across Ukraine for a total of about $1.34 billion, and another $289 million for the road maintenance. (Ukrainian Service)
Armenia has formally appealed to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to hold consultations on its border dispute with Azerbaijan, which emerged months after the two countries ended a war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian invoked Article 2 of the CSTO founding treaty committing the bloc to "immediately launch the mechanism of joint consultations" on a collective response to threats facing a member state, his office said on May 14. Besides Armenia and Russia, the grouping also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- but not Azerbaijan.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has signed into law a bill that will allow the government to temporarily manage the Kumtor gold mine, a move the mine's Canadian operator says is a thinly veiled attempt to push it out. The bill was signed into law on May 14, eight days after it was approved by the Central Asian state's parliament. According to the law, if a company operating a concession agreement in Kyrgyzstan violates environmental regulations, damages or endangers the local environment or lives of people, or causes any other significant damage, the government has a right to take the company under its control for three months.
The authorities in Turkmenistan's capital have temporarily restricted traffic in an effort to give its nearly 900,000 residents a two-week respite from a growing air-pollution problem. Beginning on May 10, most private vehicles have been banned from the streets and residents have been advised to use public transport. Some Ashgabat streets are off-limits to cars, with exceptions for government vehicles. Turkmen media reported that city residents support the campaign, which is part of measures to mark Ashgabat's 140th anniversary this month. But while many residents might agree with the campaign's environmental benefits, they also complain of poor planning that they say is severely disrupting their lives.