Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov used his Instagram account to threaten a person who called him "Satan" during a live broadcast, saying, "You won't sleep at night. You'll be writing your will.... I will destroy you." Two days later, Chechen state TV broadcast a video in which a man apologizes for his 15-year-old son, who also appears on camera and is named in the report.
An 83-year-old Russian street artist's murals of people killed during the 1930s have been vandalized, and authorities have rejected his proposals for an official monument. He wants the names of Stalin's victims to be publicly honored.
A Belarusian man faces two years of forced labor after being accused of insulting a policeman in an online chat room, while a 19-year-old arrested for putting an opposition flag in his student dorm window could now go to prison for seven years on extremism charges. After a monthslong crackdown on the opposition following a presidential election widely seen as rigged, Belarusian authorities are now ramping up repressive measures against the smallest signs of dissent.
A Hungarian woman, Szilvia Bedo-Nagy, gave birth the day she was admitted to an intensive-care unit with COVID-19. She was put on a ventilator and then on an artificial lung and kept in an induced coma for 40 days, but defied expectations and recovered. Mother and baby Napsugar (“sunshine” in Hungarian) are now doing well.
In Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, people from across the country were blocked by police as they marched toward the presidential palace to protest against rising interest rates and crippling personal debt. The May 17 demonstration came on Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev's 68th birthday. The demonstrators shouted out birthday wishes and requests for help.
Andrei Sakharov is best remembered today as one of the foremost human rights advocates of the 20th century, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his outspoken opposition to the Soviet Union's darkest totalitarian impulses. But he was also the conflicted "father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb" and helped accelerate an arms race that left humanity on the brink of annihilation. Here is a pictorial look, using photographs from the Sakharov Archives and other sources, at how this brilliant and loyal physicist of the U.S.S.R. ultimately became its strongest and most celebrated voice of moral dissent. Sakharov was born in Moscow on May 21, 1921.
A group of Russian lawmakers has introduced a bill to parliament that would require foreign IT companies to set up local units or face penalties, including a possible ban, as Moscow continues to tighten its control over the flow of information on the Internet. The bill, presented to parliament on May 21, comes as the Internet rapidly gains clout in Russia, offering a vehicle to challenge the Kremlin narrative and prompting President Vladimir Putin to turn his sights on social-media companies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called Moscow’s recent move to distribute Russian passports to residents in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk -- jointly known as the Donbas -- "a big problem" and the first step toward the annexation of the area. Speaking at a wide ranging press conference on May 20 to mark his second year in office, Zelenskiy said resolving the ongoing conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbas, the "de-occupation" of Russia-annexed Crimea, and the continuation of the fight against oligarchs remain his priorities. Also: RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reports on Zelenskiy’s two years in office -- which promises did he keep?
The Kremlin has said that what it called constructive talks between the top U.S. and Russian diplomats were a "positive signal" for holding a potential summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Iceland on May 19, with both stressing that their countries had "serious differences," but can still find ways to work together. The meeting was held on the sidelines of a two-day Arctic Council meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Russia's lower house of parliament is planning to tighten a bill ahead of its second reading to ban supporters and members of "extremist" organizations from being elected to any post. The draft law that first passed in the State Duma on May 18 barred individuals involved in the activities of an organization that has been recognized by a court as extremist or terrorist from running in elections for the lower house for up to five years. The measure appears aimed at neutralizing the foundation of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny that Russian authorities are seeking to have declared extremist ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
U.S. lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to reconsider his decision to waive some sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, saying the move was against "both U.S. national and transatlantic security interests." “We firmly believe it is in the U.S. national interest to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty [and] to protect Europe’s eastern flank from Russian aggression,” the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus said in a joint statement released on May 20. It is also in the U.S. national interest to “limit Russia’s malign influence and energy coercion in Europe” and to “stop the spread of strategic corruption by malign actors in Europe to protect the integrity of democratic institutions and the transatlantic relationship,” the statement added.
A court in Moscow has sentenced an activist to four years in prison for allegedly attacking a police officer during unsanctioned rallies supporting jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in January. On May 20, the Tver district court found Yevgeny Yesenov guilty of punching a police officer at least five times during a pro-Navalny rally on January 23. He was sentenced the same day. Yesenov pleaded guilty to the charge but said that he just happened to be in the area and was not a participant in the rally, nor "does not support the views of its organizers." It was not clear why he attacked the policeman.
In an interview with Current Time TV, Oleg Stepanov, the former head of Aleksei Navalny’s headquarters in Moscow said he plans to run in the State Duma elections this fall. Stepanov has put forward his candidacy despite the fact that he remains under house arrest for breaching covid-19 pandemic rules, may already have been jailed by the fall, and Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and headquarters may have been named “extremist” organizations by then, which would prevent people associated with the organizations from running for office. “There are people in our district who do not like United Russia. Moreover, they go to the polls. Our task is quite simple - to go through the entire district, get to know them, tell what needs to be done to kick the United Russia member out of parliament,” says Stepanov. (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Belarusian media reports that 50-year old political prisoner Vitold Ashurok died in a prison colony in Shklov, in Belarus’ Mogilev region. The official cause of death is cardiac arrest. Accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, and violence or threat of violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies, Vitold Ashurk was sentenced to five years in a colony in January 2021. At that time, it was the most severe sentence for protesters in Belarus. The Belarusian human rights center Viasna reported that the trial was closed, initially due to the Covid-19 pandemic and later for alleged “state secrets.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)
Russian officials say 10 people have died of suspected poisoning while involved in sewage treatment activities in the southwestern region of Rostov. Local authorities said in a statement that the accident took place on May 21 at a pumping station in the village of Dmitriadovka outside Taganrog. Ten people died and eight others were hospitalized, they said. The Investigative Committee said they were exposed to a noxious substance and a criminal investigation was launched into potential violations of safety rules.
The Memorial Human Rights Center says it has recognized four Crimean Tatars being tried for their alleged association with a banned Islamic group as political prisoners. The Moscow-based group said the four are being illegally persecuted for political reasons after being arrested "in connection with their non-violent exercising of their rights to freedom of religion and association." "The Memorial Human Rights Center, according to international criteria, considers Seytumer Shukrievich Seytumerov, Osman Seytumerov, Amet Suleimanov and Rustem Seytmemetov political prisoners, and Seytumer Veliyevich Seytumerov -- illegally persecuted for political reasons," the group said in a statement released on May 20.
A 73-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Russia's Far Eastern Primorye region has been handed a four-year suspended sentence on extremism charges amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group that has been banned in the country since 2017. On May 19, a district court in the town of Volno-Nadezhdinskoye found Lyudmila Shut, an elderly woman who can hardly move due to her medical condition, guilty of taking part in the activities of an "extremist organization." In her final statement at the hearing, Shut denied taking part in the activities of any extremist groups.
Members of Russia's Mari minority have voiced concern over what they see as efforts to restrict the practice of their ancient pagan religion. Mikhail Danilov, the minister for domestic development in the western Russian republic of Mari El, has instructed local authorities not to allow "radically-inclined followers of the Mari traditional religion" to worship on municipal property. The written instructions were issued in April but only became known to the public on May 19. Local residents told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that they were "offended" by the instructions.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service project Donbas.Realities turns the spotlight on Transnistria, the breakaway piece of Moldova where Russian troops hold joint drills with illegally armed militia groups of the so-called “Moldovan Republic of Transnistria,” despite being formally neutral. Ukraine shares nearly 250 kilometers of border with Transnistria. Domnytsia is the closest Ukrainian settlement to military depots in the village of Kolbasna in Transnistria that, according to various sources, store more than 20,000 tons of ammunition guarded by Russian servicemen. (Ukrainian Service, Donbas Realii)
Builders working in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, say they have formed an independent labor union, the first to do so since the country last year amended its organized labor law to streamline the union-registration process. The union, called Umit, said it received documentation confirming if was officially registered with the city's Department of Justice on May 20. The head of the union, crane operator Kairat Aidar, said the move was prompted by the failure of crane operators in several cities to receive a wage increase given the inherent danger of the work.