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RUSSIA -- Russian opposition candidate Dmitry Gudkov gestures during his interview with the Associated Press in Moscow, March 11, 2020
RUSSIA -- Russian opposition candidate Dmitry Gudkov gestures during his interview with the Associated Press in Moscow, March 11, 2020

Russian Police Detain Opposition Politician Gudkov, Ratchet Up Pressure On Open Russia

Russian opposition politician and former State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov said law enforcement officers had searched his cottage and the homes of some of his close associates. Gudkov said in a post on his Telegram channel on June 1 that the search occurred at his cottage in Kolomna, about 100 kilometers southeast of Moscow. "There is a search at my dacha near Kolomna. The same for my former assistant Aleksandr Solovyov. The same for my chief of staff Vitaly Venidiktov. I don't know the formal reason. The real reason, though, is clear," he wrote.


On-Board Arrest In Russia: Kremlin Critic Nabbed From Plane

Russian authorities have detained another prominent opposition figure -- the latest step in an increasing crackdown on dissent. Andrei Pivovarov was taken off a plane as it was preparing to depart from St. Petersburg to Warsaw on May 31, days after announcing he was closing down the Open Russia opposition group he ran due to "harassment" by the authorities. He says he was detained for alleged violations of the law on so-called "undesirable organizations."

Belarusian Activist Cuts Throat At Hearing, Saying Authorities Threatened His Family, Friends

A Belarus activist has cut his own throat during a court hearing after being warned that if he didn't plead guilty to participating in mass protest, his family and neighbors would face prosecution. Stsyapan Latypau, who has been in detention since September 2020, cut his throat at the hearing on June 1 and was rushed to hospital, where local media said he is still alive. "Father, after meeting with you, GUBOPiK [the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption] came to me and warned that if I didn't admit my guilt, then I would be thrown in a cell with hardened criminals and criminal cases would be launched against my relatives and neighbors," he said before cutting himself.

Belarusian Opposition Leader Leads Rally In Lithuania

Hundreds of supporters of the Belarusian democratic opposition answered exiled presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya's call to join a rally on May 29 in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius. The date marked the first anniversary of the arrest of Tsikhanouskaya's husband, vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski. Rallies in support of democracy in Belarus took place in several countries on the same day. Also watch Belarusian Protesters In Canada: 'Putin, Hands Off Belarus!' & Hundreds Rally In Warsaw In Support Of Belarusian Journalist Pratasevich

INFOGRAPHIC: Russia's Alcohol Dependency Problem

A recent report by OECD reveals several disturbing facts about alcohol consumption in Russia, a country where people consume on average 11.2 liters of pure alcohol per capita per year and almost one in 10 adults has a dependency problem.

Dyatlov Pass: 1959 Deaths In Russia Still Spark Speculation -- And Tourism

The mysterious deaths of nine Soviet hikers in the Ural Mountains in 1959 has inspired many movies and documentaries. To this day, journalists and tourists come to Russia's Sverdlovsk region to follow the expedition's route and reach the infamous Dyatlov Pass.


Germany, U.S. Discuss Nord Stream 2 In Washington, Berlin Says

Germany and the United States are holding talks in Washington to try to settle a dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters on June 1. "As you know, talks are currently being held between the German government and the administration in Washington," Maas said, adding that Germany had an interest in reaching agreement with the United States. "This will be the topic of the talks in Washington," Maas said without giving further details. "I am confident that we will succeed in finding a way, even though it will certainly not be easy and may not happen quickly."

Russia Announces Arctic Military Drills In Further Sign Of Increasing Presence

Russia says it will conduct strategic military drills in the Arctic this autumn, in another sign of the Kremlin's drive to assert its presence in the region. The command of Russia's Northern Fleet announced the "strategic military exercise" on June 1 to check the "readiness of the forces and troops" serving in and around the Arctic. It added that the exercises will also "ensure the safety" of the Northern Sea Route. The growing accessibility of natural resources and navigation routes in the Arctic as climate change makes it more accessible has attracted global competition.

Ukrainian Military Reports Banned Russian Mines In Donbas

The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service project Donbas Realities reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff, that additional POM-2 landmines [prohibited by the Geneva convention] were found near Pivdenne Village in war-torn eastern Ukraine, indicating new tactics by the Russian-backed hybrid forces. Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, EOD specialist Vitaliy Baranov told RFE/RL that the “anti-infantry POM-2 [mine] is one of Russia’s new innovations. It can operate in a tensioned manner or respond to movement (using a seismic sensor). It has a circular range. Several thousand fragments are encased in its body, which explode in a circle, forming a radius of total damage.” POM-2 is thrown with a hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher (RPG), setting a mine instead of a fuse. Although it is banned by the Geneva Convention, it is in service with the Russian armed forces. (Ukrainian Service/Donbas.Realii)

With Kremlin Tight-Lipped About Putin's Talks With Lukashenka, Some Are Instead Asking: 'Where Did He Get That Yacht?'

The Russian public is used to being left in the dark about what President Vladimir Putin discusses with high officials and the heads of other former Soviet republics. Official photos of Putin and his guests provide the fodder for headlines -- and countless memes -- that often follow. Putin’s latest meeting with Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus -- his fourth since August -- was no exception. More than five hours of talks yielded only seven minutes of official footage, in which Putin comments on the weather and Lukashenka fingers a briefcase of documents that, he claims, expose unspecified Western machinations. But with few details forthcoming, many observers focused instead on the venue for the informal second day of talks on May 29: a 54-meter luxury yacht complete with a sumptuous dining area boasting panoramic views of the sea.

NATO Restricts Access Of Belarusian Officials To Its Headquarters After Ryanair Incident

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said personnel at Belarus's diplomatic mission to the alliance will have their access restricted at its headquarters in the wake of the forced landing of a passenger plane by Minsk and the arrest of an opposition journalist who was on board the plane. "We have decided to restrict the access of Belarusian personnel to the NATO headquarters based on our assessment of security measures at the headquarters," Stoltenberg told reporters on May 31 on the eve of a NATO defense and foreign ministers meeting. The move is said to involve a Belarusian ambassador and four other diplomats.

Navalny Asks Russian Court To End Nighttime Prison Security Checks

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny asked a court on May 31 to halt the hourly nighttime checks he has been subjected to in his penal colony, saying the measure amounts to “torture.” Speaking to the court in a video link from prison, Navalny said that he has done nothing that would warrant the authorities' decision to designate him as a flight risk that has resulted in the checks. “I just want them to stop coming to me and waking me up at night,” he told the Petushinsky District Court in the Vladimir region. “What did I do? Did I climb the fence? Did I dig up an underpass? Or was I wringing a pistol from someone? Just explain why they named me a flight risk!"

Maria Butina Wins State Duma Primary In Kirov

The RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Service project Idel.Realities reports that 32-year-old Maria Butina, founder of the public movement "Right to Arms" who served 18-months in a U.S. prison after admitting to working as an unregistered foreign agent, has won a primary election for the ruling United Russia party in the city of Kirov. Officials report "high turnout," while polls show the opposite. At the same time, Butina won with a high margin with 27,518 votes, while chief physician of the Kirov ambulance station Sergey Odnoshivkin was in second with 7,853 votes. Butina assured that she would “shape her program based on the wishes of the residents of the region.” (Tatar-Bashkir Service/Idel.Realii)

Russian FSB Hides Income/Asset Declarations Of Its Leadership

Russian media report that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has hidden income and asset data for agency chief Aleksandr Bortnikov and his deputies covering the period of the last ten years. A source close to the leadership of one of the FSB departments told reporters that “they are not planning to publish declarations yet.” According to the source, the FSB took advantage of a recently adopted law that prohibits the disclosure of information about the operational investigative activities and private life, including property owned by, law enforcement officers, regulatory agencies and military personnel. (in Russian, Current Time TV)

Why Donbas Separatists Are Heading To The Russian State Duma

Former Donbas separatist leader ​Aleksandr Borodai is planning to run for Russian State Duma elections. Additionally, it's been reported that the former deputy commander of the special forces battalion of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic army, writer Zakhar Prilepin, plans to run in the Rostov region in one of the single-mandate constituencies, although Prilepin himself denies this. Current Time TV spoke to Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin who says that the Kremlin simply has “no other cards to play.” The economy is suffering, people have problems with purchasing food and basic necessities, and economic growth is not expected anytime soon. Therefore, the United Russia party is trying to “strengthen its position through patriotic content.” (in Russian, Current Time TV)

To Russia, Without Love: Expulsion Of Diplomats Hampers Kremlin Spy Work In Prague

Russia is facing a cut in staffing at its diplomatic missions in the Czech Republic so severe that it will likely deal an irreversible -- although not fatal -- blow to Kremlin espionage efforts in the country. The development comes amid the worst diplomatic row between the two former communist countries in decades, and centers on the Russian Embassy in Prague -- long suspected of being a nest of spies -- and consulates in the cities of Brno and Karlovy Vary. Prague has given Moscow until the end of May to send home most of its diplomatic staff -- orders that came in response to Czech intelligence findings that two agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency were responsible for a deadly explosion in 2014 at an ammunition depot on Czech soil.

Domestos Lifts The Lid On 'Scary' State Of Russian School Toilets

Cleaning-product brand Domestos has announced the winners of a competition for the worst school toilets in Russia, unleashing a wave of online criticism over the creaking condition of bathrooms across the country. Dozens of pictures of school toilets were submitted to the British brand's marketing campaign, ranging from decrepit squat toilets from Soviet times to numerous toilets offering users little-to-no privacy. "These are scary photos," Andrei Pivovarov, the executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian Court Frees Former Far-Right Leader From Prison

A Ukrainian court on May 31 commuted the prison sentence of a controversial former leader of a far-right paramilitary group and set him free on probation. Serhiy Sternenko, who once led the Right Sector group in the city of Odesa, was found guilty in February of kidnapping, robbery, and the possession of an illegal weapon in the case of the abduction of a local lawmaker in 2015. At the time, the court ruled that due to the statute of limitations, Sternenko could not be sentenced for the kidnapping. It did, however, sentence him to seven years and three months in prison on the other two charges.

Russian Jehovah's Witness Found Guilty Of 'Extremism'

A Jehovah’s Witness in the western Russian republic of Mari El has been found guilty of extremism and given a suspended 6 1/2 year prison sentence. Ekaterina Pegasheva, who was convicted by the Gornomariskiy district court on June 1, denied the charge and vowed to appeal the ruling. “The only victims in this criminal case are me, my mother, [and] my elderly sick bedridden grandmother. We have suffered significant damage -- property, physical, emotional, mental, as well as damage to our reputation,” Pegasheva told the court before the verdict was issued.

Kyrgyz Ex-President's Brother Among Politicians Arrested In Gold Mine Probe

Kyrgyz authorities say they have detained at least five prominent politicians as part of an investigation into corruption during the development of the Central Asian country's largest gold mine. The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said that members of parliament Asylbek Jeenbekov, whose brother Sooronbai Jeenbekov stepped down as president last year, and Torobay Zulpukarov were detained on May 31 on corruption charges for two months. On the same day, former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, as well as ex-deputies Iskhak Pirmatov and Talantbek Uzakbaev, were detained on similar charges for 48 hours.

MAJLIS PODCAST: Central Asia's Prospects As U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan

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