Directed by Russian filmmaker Andrey Silvestrov, the 13-part series will take audiences inside the world of Russian prisons, through the eyes of 40 former inmates of one of the world’s harshest penal systems.
Belarusian authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka met in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as EU foreign ministers debated possible targets for new economic sanctions against Minsk in response to its diversion of a commercial plane and the arrest of a journalist on board. Greeting Lukashenka on May 28, Putin emphasized that the one-day meeting was scheduled prior to the “outburst of emotions” prompted by the MAy 23 plane diversion. “We have topics to discuss without these developments,” he told Lukashenka. “Yes, it is an outburst of emotions,” Lukashenka agreed. Also, fact check reveals false claims in Lukashenka's speech on Ryanair interception.
Hundreds of activists in Georgia blocked Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue, to protest the construction of the Namakhvani hydropower plant by a Turkish company. At the May 24 rally, protesters condemned what they described as the negative environmental impact of the project and declared that they will continue to block streets in Tbilisi until the contract for the construction of the plant is canceled.
The city of Krasnoyarsk is considered to have some of the most polluted air, not just in Russia, but on Earth. For several weeks each year, the city announces an environmental alert they call "Black Sky."
Thousands of people camped out in the ruins of largely abandoned Bosnian villages ravaged by war in the 1990s, take their chances and try to cross the border into EU member Croatia. Many of them are Afghans who, despite being turned back dozens of times, are determined to keep trying.
Microsoft says Russian hackers have launched a new assault on government agencies and think tanks using an e-mail marketing account of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The “wave of attacks” targeted about 3,000 e-mail accounts at more than 150 different organizations, Microsoft Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post. At least a quarter of the organizations are involved in international development and humanitarian and human rights work, and the targeted victims are in at least 24 countries, Burt said, without saying whether any of the attempts led to successful intrusions.
Russia says Washington's decision not to rejoin an arms control deal that has allowed unarmed aerial flights over dozens of participating countries clouds the outlook for arms control discussions during next month’s planned summit between the presidents of the two countries. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the comments on May 28, a day after Washington informed Moscow that it would not rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, with the State Department saying the accord "has been undermined by Russia's violations" and its failure to return to compliance. Russia, which denies the allegations, is also expected to withdraw from the arms control and verification agreement this year.
When Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced in April that he had been the target of a failed assassination plot allegedly backed by the CIA, few outside the country batted an eyelid. That's because the outspoken former collective farm boss who has ruled the ex-Soviet state since 1994 has peddled various outlandish theories since protests erupted over his widely disputed reelection in August. But Russia took note. State TV channels there quickly picked up on Lukashenka's claim, devoting studio discussions to the alleged plot and featuring a lengthy report on it during a flagship Sunday night news show.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has approved the third and final reading of a bill that would ban supporters and members of "extremist" organizations from being elected to any post, a move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny from gaining public office. Under the draft bill approved on May 26, leaders and founders of organizations declared extremist or terrorist by Russian courts will be banned from running for elective posts for a period of five years. Other members or employees of such organizations will face a three-year ban.
The European Union is aiming to provide at least 3 billion euros to Belarus once the country starts on a democratic path with a focus on rule of law and justice reform, restructuring state-owned enterprises, and spending on infrastructure, according to a proposal seen by RFE/RL. The leaked draft -- titled Outline Of The Proposed Comprehensive Plan Of Economic Support To Democratic Belarus -- is likely to be presented on May 28 and states that “once Belarus embarks on a democratic path, the EU will ensure as a priority to offer immediate and longer-term support to Belarus to help it stabilize its economy [and] reform its institutions to make them more democratic and able to contribute to delivering benefits for citizens and society as a whole.” Also, Lithuania is expelling two Belarusian diplomats amid uproar over plane arrests.
A wedding reception was scheduled for the Hotel Rossia in central Novgorod on the evening of May 22, but guests arrived to find police blocking the door. The young couple's first step into the future had become collateral damage in the Russian government's increasingly ruthless war on dissent ahead of elections to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, later this year. In two neighboring banquet rooms at the hotel, a gathering of independent local lawmakers from 30 Russian regions was just getting under way, with the aim of coordinating tactics for the ballot. Organizers were still welcoming participants when officers entered the venue and declared the event in violation of local pandemic restrictions that, among other things, restricted gatherings to 30 people.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service project Sever.Realii reports that local authorities & officials across Russian regions pressure state employees to vote for the Kremlin-sponsored, ruling United Russia party. Employees are afraid to speak out openly on this topic, because they are afraid of layoffs or other reprisals from their bosses. Moreover, some people say that when they vote, they have to take a screenshot and send it to the management. Violetta Grudina, an opposition politician from Murmansk, told RFE/RL that she had heard many complaints about the coercion of preliminary voting and the willingness of people to speak only anonymously. Grudina says that people are in a desperate situation, as many of them work for state-owned or municipal enterprises, the only employers in their city, and must sacrifice their free choice to keep their jobs. (Russian Service/Sever.Realii)
Open Russia, a pro-democracy movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, says it has decided to end its operations. The decision by the Russia-based civic organization was made to protect its supporters from further "harassment" by the Russian authorities due to a bill toughening the law on "undesirable organizations," Executive Director Andrei Pivovarov said on May 27. "We do not need new fines and criminal cases, and we want to protect our supporters," Pivovarov told the independent news website MBKh Media, which was also founded by Khodorkovsky.
An American imprisoned in Russia has tested positive for COVID-19 after prison officials denied a U.S. Embassy request to vaccinate him, his family said on May 25. Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed began experiencing a cough and fever on May 17 and those symptoms worsened throughout the week, including loss of smell. “Despite having been obviously symptomatic, jail officials cleared him to travel to court yesterday to review documents and the judge hearing his appeal refused to order any additional medical tests,” his family said in a statement.
RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports that residents of Tsivilsky district in Russia’s Chuvash Republic have come out against a proposed agribusiness project in their area that some fear will be financed by a Chinese investment company. Regional administration head Sergei Bekker assured residents that the agricultural park will be financed from the federal budget. However, local deputy from the communist party Alexander Andreev says that authorities are trying to transfer the land from agricultural to industrial use, which is not necessary. Locals want to know who the actual investor is and who will be the general director. They are certain that if it is a Chinese investor, locals will not be hired. Read more about the relationship between the Chuvash Republic and China here. (Russian Service/Idel.Realii)
Engineers from Ukraine’s "Pivdenne" design bureau put finishing touches on the "Sich-2-30" satellite, the 1st satellite to be launched by Ukraine in the last 10 years. The satellite will be able to obtain digital images of the Earth's surface and monitor the planet's magnetosphere. "Pivdenne" hopes to launch the satellite using the facilities of Elon Musk's SpaceX, but negotiations are still ongoing. (Ukrainian Service)
The prospect of an invasion, unimaginable for most Europeans, has for the past seven years hung like a specter over Mariupol, an industrial port city located just 50 kilometers from Russian territory. Amid increasingly strained ties between Moscow and the West, a massive buildup of Russian troops along the border last month fueled fears of a military offensive, as well as speculation that the Kremlin was simply sending a signal of strength to Kyiv and its backers in the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
Azerbaijan says one of its soldiers was wounded after Armenian forces opened fire along the border between the two South Caucasus neighbors, an accusation Yerevan rejects. The sides have blamed each other for a number of recent border incidents, heightening regional tensions following last year's war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on May 28 that its positions in the Babek district of the country’s Naxcivan exclave on the border with Armenia and Turkey "came under fire from Armenian armed forces" overnight.
According to the independent climate and energy think tank Ember, Ukraine tops the list of the biggest air polluters in Europe with its coal-fired power plants. Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans follow very closely behind. At the same time, the study notes that emissions data for Ukraine include only government-controlled territory; there was no data from the territories held by Russia-backed separatists. (Ukrainian Service)
Sixteen people have gone on trial in southern Kazakhstan in a high-profile case related to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. A court in the city of Shymkent officially began considering the case on May 27. The defendants are facing charges including creating and participating in a transnational criminal organization, trafficking in persons, including minors, and money laundering. Twelve women are among the accused, who also include citizens of Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Rahmatillo Zoirov, the leader of Tajikistan's opposition Social Democratic Party for more than two decades, has stepped down citing lingering health issues stemming from an attack he suffered last year. "My health has been wrong for a few years," the 64-year-old lawyer told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service on May 26. "Last September, I was severely beaten. The pain in my legs has not disappeared since then. So I wrote a letter to the Political Council asking that the conference not take place and release me. I have to be treated. "