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Norouz Exclusive with Shimon Peres, Afghanistan's Elections, and Crimea's Fallout

Journalist Farnoush Ram (L) interviewing Israeli President Shimon Peres for Radio Farda, 21Mar2014
Introducing RFE/RL's Weekly Rundown, a concise look at our top stories and events this week, and what's coming up next:

# On the occasion of the Persian New Year, Norouz, Israeli President Shimon Peres has sent a message of peace to Iranians. In an exclusive interview with Israel-based journalist Farnoush Ram for Radio Farda in Jerusalem this week, Peres called for peaceful relations between Israel and Iran, insisting his country is against war. The Israeli president also said he was disappointed when Iranian President Hassan Rohani failed to mention Israel as one of the countries with whom Iran should make peace.

# To mark Norouz, Radio Farda ran 12 hours of special programming that included a New Year edition of Pas Farda, the Service's signature satire show, an interview with the famed singer Googoosh, musical segments, and a special edition of its Midnight Magazine program. Radio Farda aired Norouz messages from dozens of distinguished Iranian cultural figures, and received hundreds and hundreds of phone, text, email, and Facebook wishes from its audience.

# As part of its Norouz celebrations, RFE/RL’s Afghan Service recognized Ihsanullah Bayat as its seventh annual "person of the year."

# Afghanistan's complex ethnic politics means presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, who is part ethnic Tajik, would surely struggle to win a second round face-off with any of his rival candidates, all of whom are Pashtun. For more on the elections, see, our new website that provides reporting, analysis, and commentary direct from our local correspondents in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the aim of promoting peace in the region.

# Live Blog reports from our Central Newsroom and Ukrainian and Russian Services offer continuous coverage from Ukraine and Crimea, and #UkraineUnspun fact-checks the war of words and images. See also reports on the U.S. sanctions that reach far into Russian President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle," pros and cons of propaganda, Maidan's missing, uncertainty in Moldova, a Russian editor who made a joke at Putin's expense that not everyone found funny, and The Muppets enter the fray.

# INFOGRAPHICS: A breakdown of the ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia in neighboring countries, as well as the distribution of ethnic Russians living in post-Soviet countries by number and percentage.


# Correspondent Rikard Jozwiak is attending the Brussels Forum today through Sunday. Watch for his reports here and on Twitter.

# As news breaks in Ukraine, Russia, and the surrounding area, RFE/RL correspondents are available for comment and interviews.

For news from all of RFE/RL's broadcast regions, follow us online and on Twitter and Facebook.

-- Karisue Wyson